Reflection: Acts, week 15

Suffer well.

It just sounds weird in your mouth if you say it out loud. This week, we heard Jason talk about Paul and Silas in Acts chapter 16. They were beaten and tortured… and all they did was free a slave woman. But because she was a fortune-teller, and she previously earned her owners good money, they were very upset when they realized their way of getting that money was gone.

While in jail, Paul and Silas sang praises and prayers to God. An earthquake shook the prison, and all the doors opened. Their chains came off. Paul alerted the jailer they were all still around and did not escape, saving the man from killing himself in fear they were all gone on his watch.Adobe Spark(25)

No doubt the jailer was watching Paul and Silas and probably wondering how they could sing during such a time… or why they would bother to stop him from taking his own life. Their response to their situation was different. How many other prisoners did he see act in such a way?

The jailer decided he wanted what they had. He wanted to be saved. So he was baptized.

One thing I feel I’ve learned is not only should we suffer well, but we should live well. You really don’t know when someone’s watching, but chances are, someone always is. God has put me in situations, and I later realize it was so purposefully designed.

I remember one cold, winter day in college I was walking outside back to my car because I forgot my wallet. I needed it because I had a lunch meeting with someone. I went to college in Wisconsin, so as you might imagine, it was not warm at all. I can remember I didn’t have much of a coat on, so I was freezing. The art and music building was right across from the parking lot where my car was, but I was so cold, I went inside to warm up before going back out. Continue reading

Words of life

2016 was a crazy year. I worked and lived in three different states. I had a bit of breakdown near the end. All of the changes suddenly caught up to me, and I was starting to hate where I was. I couldn’t even look out my window. And the crazy thing is, we have an amazing view. A view so grand, our apartment charges us extra for it. Adobe Spark(21)

But it’s true. I couldn’t look. Not only that, I could hardly eat. Everything sounded and tasted gross. All I wanted at the end of the day was to go to bed so I could close my eyes. And I’ve never experienced such feelings in my whole life.

One afternoon, I started to completely unravel. I grabbed my Bible and clutched it to my chest and read out loud, through tears, Psalm 23. I read it and read it, but didn’t feel any different. I was confused and devastated. Why wasn’t it working? Why wasn’t I better? Continue reading

Reflection: Acts, week 13

When I was in high school, we had at least one foreign exchange student each year. Typically, people were very excited and eager to get to know them. Every once in a while, if they looked/seemed “really” different, people would shy away from them until they got to know them (sometimes “getting to know them” meant watching others interact with them).

Do you know what it’s like to be the different one?

I do, at least a little. I was the exchange student a few times, and I can remember sitting in class and the teacher saying something to me… Even though I knew the language, I wasn’t as fluent as everyone else, and the way they spoke made it hard to pick up on what was being said. I didn’t know what she said, but I tried to reply anyway. Everyone laughed. I was so embarrassed. I don’t think they were making fun of me, but my answer had to be funny considering I wasn’t sure what was said to begin with.Adobe Spark(17)

I remember appreciating those who made a point to welcome me and sort of take care of me while I was on my adventures. When things were difficult, I felt encouraged. They would remind me everything was going to be ok, give me a hug or pat on the back.

It’s easy to pass judgment on people. I think we all do it in some ways. Without knowing them, it’s easy to find something about what they’re wearing or doing that forms an opinion in our minds. Not all of our opinions are necessarily bad. I’ve found myself thinking, wow, they must be wealthy or she just looks like she’d be niceContinue reading

Reflection: Acts, week 12

You’re out of your mind.

That’s what the people inside the house said to the housekeeper when she alerted them Peter was at the door. Peter had been in jail surrounded by several guards when an angel came and told him to get up. His chains fell off and he left unscathed.

The church had been praying earnestly to God for Peter. Earnestly. The Merriam-Webster online dictionary says the word earnest proceeds from an “intense and serious state of mind.” In other words, they weren’t praying lightly or casually. They were serious. And yet when Peter showed up at the door, they didn’t believe it.

As Warren asked us yesterday… What do we expect? When we come before the God of the universe, what do we expect?

I was thinking about that. I think some of us may be under the impression miracles are few and far between. They happened back then, but for us in 2017, they just don’t anymore. Or we come before God feeling insecure. We feel unworthy. Why would God want to do this for me? Sometimes when we’re praying, it’s like our hearts and minds are already made up. It’s hopeless. It’s over.

In Hebrews, it says to come boldly before the throne. Boldly. Courageously. It doesn’t say come timidly or fearfully. I once heard someone say they felt God was urging them to ask for bigger things. To expect more. As Warren mentioned, this doesn’t mean we should pray to win the lottery and expect it to happen. Or ask for a Ferrari and expect it to appear in our driveway. But it does mean we should be bold when we pray. After all, He is the God of the impossible. What’s impossible for us as humans is never impossible for God. He’s unstoppable. He’s the ruler of all.Adobe Spark(14)

On the flip-side of praying for something we consider highly important or pressing, I believe we should also pray and talk to God about the simple things. It may seem strange, but God cares about every aspect of our lives. He loves us. He wants to know us. For example, if I’m feeling under the weather and there’s something I need to get done, I ask God to help me. It took a little getting used to, and it felt even a little silly at times, but now I can’t imagine not doing those things.

So what is it you’d like to pray earnestly for? And what are you expecting? God doesn’t always say yes to everything, but he always answers.

Have you ever found yourself praying and you don’t notice any changes? I’ve been in that situation. It can be easy to get discouraged. As I’m starting to learn, those things all help grow our faith. We have to hold on even when it’s hard. We have to live by faith and not by sight.

If you didn’t hear Warren’s message yesterday, I’d encourage you to take a listen. The personal story he shared at the end was incredible. What a great testament to God’s faithfulness and how he develops us through difficult situations.

What Warren shared with you all inspired me to share something as well. And I tell you this because what happened to that young boy was a miracle. And what happened to me is a miracle as well. I want you to know miracles do happen! They absolutely do. I think there are more out there than we even know about. People might keep their stories to themselves because they worry others may respond the same way those inside the house did when Peter showed up. Don’t be afraid. We need to hear more of those amazing things. Continue reading

Reflection: Acts, week one

One of my best friends is an atheist. She didn’t grow up in a Christian home. They didn’t have any faith base at all. But she knows of the name of Jesus. In fact, she attended church here with me one Sunday when she was visiting (side note, she said it was one of her favorite places she’s been to).

How does she know this? Even though she doesn’t believe in God right now, how does she know that name? Jesus? How do any of us know that name? Jesus was crucified, died and buried years and years and years ago. And he wasn’t the only one who suffered such a horrible death. Thousands of other men were put to death in that way, but we don’t know who they are.Adobe Spark(13)

Luke acted as an investigative journalist and interviewed everyone he could who had anything to do with Jesus. He wanted to make sure he got every detail right so we would know the certainty of what we’re hearing today. Journalism done right is powerful. Luke was one of those writers. But here’s a question…why did he care so much? Why go through all the work? The apostles watched Jesus die in one of the worst ways possible. They watched professionals put him to death. He was buried, placed in a tomb with a gigantic stone in front. And then he came back to life. And he didn’t just disappear. He proved he was alive. He ate with them, let Thomas put his hand where they stabbed him with a sword. Continue reading

Reflection: Acts, week 10

I went to school for journalism, so I felt like a lot of my professors expected us to be “news junkies.” I wasn’t. Twitter was the only place I really got news since I didn’t read the paper, watch it on TV, etc. And typically, I would just read the headlines that appeared, not the actual story. I wouldn’t say I disliked the news…but I guess I did.

Most of you probably already know why. A lot of stuff on the news, especially these days, isn’t exactly positive. I was, and still am, a huge fan of feature stories. Human interest stories. One of my favorite projects was a story I wrote about a man who had cancer and was writing a novel. He was a husband and father. He worked tirelessly to help people at a hospital as well. It was, I thought, a feel-good story about a wonderful man.Adobe Spark(10)

A lot of the news lately involves “bad guys.” Saul was likely considered one of those, capturing men and women, taking them as prisoners because he thought they were blaspheming against God.

Doesn’t it kind of annoy you Saul essentially got a second chance? Here’s a guy who Acts 9:1 says “was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples.” That’s awful. His goal was to round up any and all followers of Jesus and eradicate them. Once he received permission to do this, he left for Damascus. Continue reading

Reflection: Acts, week three

You may have heard Netflix is raising the price of their subscriptions. Apple just released yet another new phone. There’s probably a new fitness program in the works about to hit the market, if not already. Why does any of this matter?

Well, it might not, depending on who you ask. It’s ok to enjoy technology, exercise, family time, etc. The question is, does it take up the majority of your time or thoughts? Are you devoted to it? According to the Merriam Webster online dictionary, devotion is characterized by loyalty. Devotion can be good and it can be bad. I personally think devotions can turn into addictions, in some ways, and again, good or bad. I can give you an example. A year or two ago there was a series on Netflix I started watching. I was completely sucked into it to the point where I wasn’t getting any sleep. It was pretty much all I did aside from necessary things. I was emotionally involved in the show. It was causing several issues for me. One day, God woke me up and I realized how ridiculous I was acting. I stopped watching the show cold turkey. I didn’t stop watching Netflix, but I was back to a healthy amount of watching instead of being addicted. Yes, I was addicted. I wasn’t sleeping. It was consuming my thoughts. You could also say I was devoted to it. It had my allegiance.Adobe Spark(9)

Obviously, it isn’t a good idea to be devoted to Netflix. What should we devote ourselves to instead? In Acts 2, we learned the new believers devoted themselves to four things. They put all their energy and attention into these things, the first being the apostles teaching. They heard the gospel and responded. And they weren’t experts. They were just starting out, but they devoted themselves to learning more. Are we hungry for more of God’s word? Do we long to understand it so we can apply it to our lives and obey it? It doesn’t take long to see why this would be a good idea. Continue reading

Living by faith

These last few months have been a whirlwind. God has been teaching me so many things.

I’m sure most of you have heard “live by faith, not by sight.” I didn’t entirely understand what that meant for a long time, and it’s still hard sometimes.

Have you ever been in a situation totally out of your control? A not so good situation?Adobe Spark(3) Something scary?

I’ve been there. The middle to end of September into October were some emotional times. God spoke something to my heart and continued to make things clear to me. But I still found myself scared at times. I felt weak because I knew what God said, but I crumbled under the weight of it all at times. This is why we’re human. We’re going to feel that way sometimes. Instead of sitting in those feelings, I decided to do something better. I decided to speak truth. I decided to say out loud what I believed, and it made me feel a lot better.

As you can imagine, when I went back to my appointment and heard words that described no change in what was going on, I felt confused. It was then I started learning what living by faith meant. I had to live every day, trusting in, hanging on, to what God told me. Even if my situation didn’t seem to change in that moment, I chose to believe. What I was seeing with my physical eyes was one thing, but my faith was in the power of God. I discovered one of my favorite verses during this time: “…your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power” (1 Corinthians 2:5). Human wisdom. It’s an odd concept when I think about it. Doctors seem wise. Wouldn’t it be wrong to disregard their words? Continue reading

Reflection: Acts, week seven

Ever since I can remember, I’ve loved public speaking. Of course I got nervous sometimes, but I was and am the kind of person who loved doing group presentations and speeches. I loved it so much, I competed in forensic speaking for several years.

It didn’t take me long to realize I was good at this stuff. It was kind of my thing. And while I didn’t always prepare for certain presentations as much as I should have, I typically found I could still wing it and do really well.

I’ve been going to church since I was little. When I was in middle school, I used to read Bible passages at my church and do communion, among other things. My favorite was reading the passages or being the service “leader.” My family and I ended up going to a couple different churches while I lived at home. After we left the church we spent several years in, I didn’t jump in to serve right away. I didn’t feel like I could because we were new. I remember feeling nervous like it would be too hard. After all, I had a routine before. I was good at it. It got to the point where I was very comfortable doing all those things. I hardly had to think about it anymore. It was almost automatic.Adobe Spark(2)

I learned a lot after listening to the sermon on serving from Acts 6. Did you know you can be good at something, even have a gift doing that particular thing, but still not be living up to your potential? God has given each of us gifts to use for the good of the church and the body of Christ. You might be thinking, well I don’t know what that is. That’s ok. What you shouldn’t do is refuse to serve just because you don’t know what you’re supposed to do. God has a funny way of revealing things to us when we least expect it. There’s nothing wrong with starting off easy. You may need time to pray and talk with a pastor to discover what God is leading you to, what He’s gifted you in. But just because you don’t know doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t do something. I actually think it’s the complete opposite. You have to start somewhere, and you shouldn’t be ashamed of that. Continue reading

Reflection: Acts, week six

When I was in college, I got on a plane for the first time. I flew all by myself for an immersion experience for my language major. It was an early morning, and we were running behind. My parents were trying to get me there, but I ended up missing my flight. Long story short, I was able to get on a different plane not too long after the other left. When I got to my destination, it was dark, I was hungry, tired and I missed home.

My trip was supposed to last a whole semester, but I came home after six weeks. It would take a long time to explain all that happened, but it wasn’t good. I ended up in some dangerous places. My roommate, a native to the area, was shocked when I told her where I’d been. Her eyes widened and she said, “You could have died.” I’ll never forget the goose bumps that crawled over my skin.  It was a private college, but the “Christian” leader on campus sexually harassed me several times. When I returned home, no one in the student exchange program seemed to believe me. They thought I suffered from culture shock and was imagining things.

Why am I telling you this? It’s certainly not for sympathy. This will become clear in a Adobe Spark(1)second. One night I was outside on campus with the leader because he was telling me about opportunities he thought I should take. This was before I ran into trouble with him. That night I discovered how dangerous he was.

It was one of the most amazing days of my life. What? Why? How? I can’t explain it, but I felt God with me and touch me in a way I never had before. And it was unmistakably God. God protected me. His power hit me like a freight train. If any of you have had such a moment in your life, you know what I mean. It can’t be explained; you do your best, but no words seem to express it. But you remember all of it completely, and you’ll never forget it.

When I think about that night, I don’t remember him. I remember the power of God. Continue reading