The Art of Losing Myself

I went to a worship service for college students tonight in Denton, TX. At the end of it, we sang “From the Inside Out”. A song I have sang in church a dozen and one times, but there’s a line in the song that struck me tonight. It says “your will above all else, my purpose remains, the art of losing myself in bringing you praise”,

The art of losing myself. The art. That word choice.

Art:
1. the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form; producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power
2. various branches of creative activity
3. subjects of study primarily concerned with the processes and products of human creativity and social life
4. a skill at doing a specified thing, typically one acquired through practice

Yeah, I looked up the definition, come at me bro. #wordnerd

Losing ourselves to praise God is an art. In a way, it’s all of these definitions of the word. Its an expression and application of praise. It’s not our own creative skill or imagination though, it’s God’s (thus praise). It’s expressed in various means. It’s a process; a beautiful, lifelong process. Its a product, but not of human doings, but of knowing Jesus. It’s acquired through practice, or rather, the daily act.

Romans 7: 22-25 talk about how, as humans, we tend to do the things we hate. We wage battle against our flesh, but praise be to Christ, because He’s won that war. Lamentations 3:22-23 tell us His mercies are new every morning. Because of these new mercies, we have the ability to lose ourselves in this art form. John 3:30 tells us we must decrease and He must increase. Colossians 3:1-7 tells us how we can do so, by stripping off what is messy and putting on what is glorifying.

Losing yourself to Christ; Him increasing while we decrease is an art. It’s a daily expression and application of praise expressed through various moments in life daily. It’s not a one time deal. It’s a daily walk with Jesus. That’s our purpose: Relationship with God through Jesus, glorifying Him. Out of that comes everything else.

I am humbled by the my lack of artistic ability in this department. I’m no Van Gogh when it comes to losing myself to Christ, I feel like I’m still in the finger painting stages. Honestly lately, I have struggled with laziness with God. I could list the reasons why laziness has come about, but they don’t matter. This ugly piece of me right now is inhibiting my daily life with Jesus, as well as allowing me to step into other junk. Just like with any art form, the beauty comes in the progression of the work. The gospel and reminding myself who Jesus is and what He did for me on the cross, as well as resting in the knowledge that the same power that rose Jesus from the grave is living in me is the drive to defeat laziness, or whatever the sin that happens to be tripping me up may be. I know this isn’t a very long, in depth, or deep theological post. Truthfully, this was just for me and writing is the best way for me to gather my thoughts, but nevertheless I hope God uses it to strike a chord with you as He did with me. Strip off whatever is keeping you from Jesus and leave it at the foot of the cross!

COLLEGE.

College. Whoop Whoop!

Well this chapter of my life is officially coming to a conclusion. With this, I find myself reflecting on my time in the wonderful world of university life. To chronicle this, I thought I would write about what I have learned in college.

Here a list of a few things (in no particular order) I have learned and my pearls of wisdom for the college newbies.

1. You know nothing.
Calm it down, I am not attacking you with words via the Internet. Realize at the start of things how much you DON’T know. Coming into college, you think you’ve got a handle on life. I’m going to warn you right now that you do not. The quicker you learn that, the easier and more fun this time of your life will be. Humbly learn all you can from your parents, professors, advisors and older students on campus. They’ve all been there and done that. Approach this time as a chance to explore and learn. You will fall down. You will screw up. Epically. But, that’s ok! That’s what these four (or more) years are for! So just go with the flow.

2. Caffeine is bae, but Jesus saves.
College: the time of no sleep. It’s all fun and games until you have to wake up for an 8 AM class. College is where you learn the beauty and magnificence of God’s nectar from heaven-coffee. Ok..maybe a little dramatic there. But on the reals, caffeine is great. Also, learn the beauty of coffee shops, and I ain’t talking Starbucks, but the little local joint in your town. Mine has you check in on Facebook to use the Wi-Fi so now everybody and their mother know how often I go there…awkward. #noshame. But more important than coffee is finding that sustaining power that is the gospel. I knew who Jesus was pre-university, but in college I learned to know Him. I learned the extent of Him dying on the cross and coming back to life and what that saving grae looks like to me. I learned to rest in Him and live through Him. I learned what it means to be a disciple. So while caffeine, whether your poison be coffee or Dr. Pepper, Jesus is really what gives life.

3. Don’t be so concerned with keeping a schedule.
Something God wrecked shop with on this Type A planner was sticking to my schedule as if my day depended on it. Go to class and work and make time for homework and whatever else may be important to you, but don’t be afraid of spontaneity or unplanned interruptions throughout the day. Learn the love language of quality time. Hang out for hours on end at a coffee shop or your friends apartment. Act like an overgrown child. Stay up late and watch movies. Alarm clocks were invented for a reason! Take a random road trip to a neighboring area. Make an ice cream or Whataburger run at 1 AM (dem honey butter chicken biscuits though). Don’t forget to have fun and make some memories along the way!

4. Get involved on campus.
Seriously, join something fool! Whether it is Student Government or the Quidditch Team, whatever your thing may be, join it. That is the best way to meet people and make those friendships. College is rough with nobody to do life with. You need those people to sit and do homework with, do random stuff with and just to live life with. College is a weird and awesome point in your life, make the most of it. Try something that’s out of your comfort zone. Step out and be bold. College is the only time where exchanging your phone number and where you live to 15 different people in a day isn’t totally weird. Just do it. Don’t be afraid to show a little school spirit while you’re at it! Join in on those school traditions at least once.

5. Go to the library.
I know…nerd alert *pushes glasses up nose*. Learn to love that place though. Means to do homework. Place to meet with classmates. Free Internet. Its great! It is the best place (and sometimes the only place) where you can get stuff done. Plus there are some really old book there that are kind of awesome.

6. Rock your guilty pleasures. *snap snap*
Own you! Be unashamedly whoever you want to be. The reputation you built in high school and that image your created means nothing in college. Do you boo boo. Whatever your quirk is, own it. I promise, you will find that you are not alone in that guilty pleasure. Plus, thanks to Pinterest and Tumblr, fandoms are totally in right now (shout out to the Doctor Who, Sherlock, Harry Potter, Marvel and Narnia lovers of the world). Don’t’ be afraid to be yourself! Listen to your favorite jam. Watch your favorite show or movie. Whatever your thang is-rock it!

7. Keep an open mind and heart.
God used my college experience to show me a lot about Him and a lot about myself. I pray the gospel and Christ’s love is revealed to you and meets you where you are at in college as well, but be open to whatever these few years of your life might hold. Learn something new. Try something different. Fall in love somehow. Learn patience with the ignorant yet opinionated people in your classes. Get to know your roommate, classmates, and professors-they may just end up being some of the greatest people you’ll ever meet. Don’t be so set in how you used to think or do things. I’m not saying you have to run off and become a hipster liberal college stereotype (I mean unless you want to of course), just learn why you think and believe the way you do.

8. Don’t go home all the time, but don’t burn those bridges.
Stay at school on the weekends you can. Campus is a lot more fun on the weekends and that’s where you really build friendships. On the other hand, don’t totally avoid home. Keep in touch with family and close friends from high school. College shows you just how much you value and appreciate them.

9. Spend a summer doing something you’ve never done.
I spent last summer as a camp counselor and it was one of the best things I’ve ever done (actually going back for round 2 this summer). Study abroad. Take a job you’ve never had. Stay on campus. Whatever!! Just spend those few months doing something new and different and getting outside your bubble.

10. Learn about you and find that independent woman deep inside.
Who are you? What do you like to do? What do you want to spend your life doing? Move out on your own. Find that independence in you. Learn how to be adult. Learn that you can do things like pay rent and change the battery in your car on your own. Its exhilarating learning you can do ting by yourself. Know that you can do this! You will learn to handle life as it comes and live this new stage out. You can do this! Will it be like the movies? No your life will not be like an episode of “Friends”, but it will be so much better, because you know what? It’s real and it’s your uniquely and intricately designed adventure that you get to live out. Embrace it. Celebrate it.

College is fantastic. I have absolutely loved it. Some moments will be better than others, but the good outweighs the bad ten folds when all is said and done. Have fun and good luck!! Please enjoy these cheesy yet true quotes.

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Celebrate the Gospel

A few weeks ago I went on my last spring break mission trip with my college ministry. Bittersweet indeed. It turned out to be one of the most outstanding mission trips I’ve been able to serve on. The joy that I felt the entire trip and all God showed me through it rivaled few points in my life.

The Friday we left, 145 of us loaded onto three charter buses and trekked it out to Los Angeles, California. We spent the week serving south LA, the Redondo Beach area. Last year, we went to this same site. Last year, God taught me how He beautifully orchestrates things. I was shown in timing and the “fruits of labor” of friends evangelizing how everything is uniquely and intricately designed for His purpose. This year, the theme seemed to be joy.

A recurring theme in my life presently has been grace. I’ve been reading a book by and about Dietrich Bonheoffer and he discusses the concept of cheap grace and costly grace and how the grace we possess as disciples is costly grace. Cheap grace abuses and takes advantage of grace. Costly grace was paid for with a cost and is a cost to us, but a cost that is worth it because the exchange is life; an abundant life in Christ. This concept of grace has carried over and resulted in God teaching me about celebrating the gospel. Before the trip, Imma be real, I had been super lazy. I had zero motivation for running the Jesus race, I just kinda sat there like Andy Dwyer when asked to run more. I was tired. I was worn and just felt stagnant. The trip definitely rejuvenated me.

First day there, I fell in love with my team and where God had placed me (if you ever find yourself in Hawthorne, CA hit up the New Rock of Ages Community Church and listen to the wonderful Pastor Carnell and Mr. James). We all just got along and this carried on throughout the week. You know how when you work with a group of people for an extended amount of time, you end up becoming unnecessarily irritable with everyone? This is especially prevalent on mission trips I have found (thanks Satan…NOT). Yeah, that did not happen this year! Like what the what, what’s up Holy Spirit! The first night of worship we hit on Gideon and moving where God calls you (oh hey there answered prayers, but that’s a whole ‘notha blog post). Paired with us singing “One Thing Remains”, I realized we are all put in places for a reason, a specific purpose. More times than I can count, I have epically failed at realizing and capitalizing on this and what God wants me to do wherever I am. Just like the song says, “His love never fails, never gives up, never runs out on me.” Never runs out. Constant. Always there. Starting with the cross, Jesus takes my place over and over again when I fail. “Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen!” Ephesians 3:20-21.

To my unfortunate human lazy tendencies, God answered…”I hear the Savior say thy strength indeed is small, child of weakness, watch and pray, find in me thine all in all.” I came into the trip lazy, unmotivated to go deeper, and therefore susceptible to tripping over the slightest road block. But news flash!! It’s not about me or my feelings. God gave me that motivation for the week. For life. #1 motivator in all eternity: the gospel. Learn it. Live it. Love it. CELEBRATE IT.

Celebrate:  publicly acknowledge, commemorate, observe, perform publicly or duly, honor or praise publicly

So many times, we dig into, preach and strive to live out the disciple life made possible by Jesus, but do we ever just stop and celebrate it?! Like seriously yall, check this out:

For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died for them and who raised again. So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us. We implore you on God’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made Him who knew no sin to be sin so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God. -2 Corinthians 5:14-21

God really hit me in the face with these verses while in LA. Because of the cross and Christ’s love (which is the greatest love of all b-t-dub, see Matthew 15:13), we have all died to who we were, but have new life via Jesus. We don’t see things from a worldly sense from that point on. Something the pastor at the church I worked at said was that Los Angeles is called the city of angels, and he remarked that it is, but the city of fallen angels. That broke my heart. LA is full of the rich and glamorous, but they’re missing the one, essential element for life in the fullest sense of the word. They have a life people look at and desire to have, even if they aren’t rich and famous, they live in LA, a place people dream to live in, but do they really have life? As the verse states, we are new. I am not the same person I was when I entered college (Praise God!). He has given me life. He has done a fantastic number on me that literally only He could have accomplished. With this new life, we are given the charge to not let that news remain there and die with us. We are given the ministry of reconciliation to spread the news of truth and grace and salvation from our jank, sinful selves given to us by God through His son. Stop and just think about that. The creator of the universe. The guy who literally spoke the world into existence, chooses to use us. We GET to be a part of His grand design. Like seriously?! How absolutely incredible is that?? Especially since all I’ve done to deserve that is rebel against Him and screw up every single day, and will continue to do so, yet He still chooses to use me as I’m running after Him. All thanks to Jesus who became the sin of the world so that we might know God. The SON OF GOD, becoming what His Father despised and what He had never done, to save us because He loves us (John 3:16). Can I get an Amen yall!

We are set free in Christ (Galatians 5:1). When doing life with Jesus, you can overcome the world (1 John 5:1-5). God is moving, move with Him. Celebrate the gospel!! Please don’t read this blog and think after turning the reigns over to Jesus that life is sunshine and rainbows, because it won’t be, the Bible says it (James 1:1-18 and pretty much all of Job haha). The beauty of this is, the cross meets you where you are, wherever you are. Whatever you may be going through, you have a Savior who loves you and is carrying you through that. If that’s not something to truly celebrate and declare to the world, then I don’t know what is. Find joy in the “menial” tasks of the day with the knowledge that God. Don’t let the Christianese-ness of “God is using you” be watered down. Realize who exactly God is and who you are and marvel that He uses us. Let God show you TRUE joy in who He is and what Jesus has done for you and the grace we continuously receive. That’s my goal now: Finding joy in God in everything while journeying life celebrating the gospel!

“This is the art of celebration, knowing we’re free from condemnation, oh praise the one, praise the one, who made an end to all my sin” -Rend Collective

We aren’t the measure of it all

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How many times in church, VBS, or while we are worshiping are we reminded of Genesis 1:1

“In the beginning God created the heavens and earth.”

Everywhere we look we see signs of beautiful things God also created when he created mankind. Wouldn’t that make us beautiful as well? Absolutely, but so many times people don’t see this. Society today demands that we be ten times faster, stronger, and prettier than we were yesterday. In such a fast changing world it gets harder and harder to keep up. What are we missing then?

We tend to forget that “He counts the stars and calls them all by name.” (Psalms 146:4). What this tells me is that God created us all with PURPOSE. He planned out each and everything that has and will happen to me in my lifetime. God knew what challenges I was going to face, he planned for…

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How the World Stole Christmas

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Tis the season. The season of what exactly though? This time of year can be a joyous, merry occasion, while for others a loathed, stressful period (I personally enjoy it immensely). Despite my absolute love of the season, it is no secret that it has been robbed of its original intent. While making ornaments with my four year old nephew and attempting to have a discipleship moment with him asking him about the true meaning of Christmas and who Jesus is, the thought hit me for this blog post. When exactly did things get off track? How did the world become the Grinch and steal Christmas? I did some research about the holiday and why we do the things celebrate the way we do.

According to history.com, Christmas is a Christian holiday honoring the birth of Jesus Christ that has evolved over two millennia into a worldwide religious and secular celebration, incorporating many Christian and pagan traditions into festivities and today it is a time for family and friends to gather together and exchange gifts. It became a federal holiday in 1870, but its origins date back to 4th century A.D. Christmas began in Europe and was celebrated during winter because of the end of harvest season, and that was when livestock had just been slaughtered,  therefore fresh meat was available. During the 4th century, church officials initiated the birth of Jesus as a holiday celebrated like Easter. Pope Julius I chose December 25th, and the first Christmas as we know it was celebrated then in Rome. It was originally called the Feast of the Nativity. By the Middle Ages, the holiday had been contorted to being celebrated like Mardi Gras, with attending church then partying and partaking in drunkenness. The Reformation changed the holiday. When Cromwell and the Puritans took over England in 1645, they vowed to rid England of decadence, including Christmas. Protests around this time against this ruling involved decorating with holly and shouting royalist slogans. When King Charles II took the throne, the holiday was restored and the Christmas ban was lifted. Many early Americans were Puritans, so the holiday was not really celebrated stateside until the 1680s, although Christmas was not declared a holiday until June of 1810 due to the disdain for English customs post Revolution. The writing and touring of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” revived the season and popularized “Merry Christmas.”

No doubt religion got in the way of a season meant for celebrating the birth of Christ. The Middle Ages arguably saw the biggest turn away from the true meaning of the celebration of Christmas until more recent times. The act of gift giving has historically distorted the true reason for Christmas as well, especially in America. The original celebration Christmas was based on, the Roman celebration of Saturnalia, began the act of giving gifts. The basis of gift giving was based on Jesus coming into the world, the act of God gifting us with his son (John 3:16), so in turn we give gifts to friends and family. It also originated from following the wise men’s lead in gift giving as they gave gifts to Jesus (Matthew 2:9-12). In the 1820s, newspapers began to advertise items for Christmas presents. In 1860 and 1870, the rise of shopping and gift giving was seen in New York and gift giving became a way to honor family relationships. During the mid-1800s entrepreneurs, like P.T. Barnum and R.H. Macy, seized the opportunity to sell holiday trinkets. The Friday after Thanksgiving was first considered the start of the holiday season since 1924 after the first Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Christmas and gift giving became a business and commercial venture. It became a show off of the wealthy. Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” encouraged this with at the time portraying being cheap and stingy as being a Scrooge.

The tradition of Santa Clause began with Saint Nicholas in 4th century Myra in Asian Minor. Nicholas was the orphaned son of wealthy parents (basically Batman of 4th century Turkey). With the money left to him, he used it to help the poor and secretly gave gifts to those in need. Legend has it that the act that gave him the title of Saint, was secretly dropping gold down a poor man’s chimney to pay for the man’s three daughter’s dowries for them to be married. During the 16th century, stories about him spread through Europe. Traditionally, Saint Nicholas would visit children and inquire how good they were during the past year and give gifts at Christmas based on their behavior. Stories like this with the children and recounts of his action of dropping gifts down chimneys morphed from the man to the image we know of Santa Clause today.  During the Reformation in the 16th and 17th centuries, Protestants changed the gift bringer of the holiday to Christkindl (Christ Child). The modern image of this evolved from Washington Irving’s writings and Thomas Nast’s drawings. Nast created the image of Santa we know today in the 1880s. Cultures around the world adopted their own Santa images and stories based on Saint Nicholas, with most countries pulling from various legends and images to create their traditions (wassup cultural diffusion). What began as a picture of giving spiraled into a larger than life Christmas character for children.

Smaller Christmas traditions have origins relating back to Christ that we have since forgotten. Legend has it that we put Christmas lights on trees because Martin Luther saw stars shining through an evergreen and it reminded him of Jesus coming to Earth, so he placed candles in his tree at home to recreate the moment for his family. The candy cane is rumored to have been “J-shaped”  to represent a shepherd’s crook like at the birth of Christ, or a “J” for Jesus, with the white and red representing purity and Jesus’ blood. Evergreen trees are said to have been chosen versus other trees that survive the winter because they point to heaven and are triangle shaped, representing the Trinity.

Please do not take this post as me bashing Christmas. My apartment is already decorated with a tree, lights, a Santa figure, a nutcracker, stocking, snowman, and other Christmas paraphernalia. I LOVE Christmas. I start it the week of Thanksgiving. I’m that white girl. It just breaks my heart to see what began as a holiday commemorating and remembering the coming of the Savior reduced to a commercial holiday idolizing a red-nosed reindeer and jolly old dude. These traditions are fun and I’m not saying we should stop them and all become Puritans. No. I love me some Rudolph and Bing Crosby as much as the next person, I’m just saying, lets take back our holiday from the world. Along the way, the world took it from us and spun it out of control and contorted a celebration to a commercial driven, meaningless fiasco. Buy gifts for friends and family. Gift giving is service, I support it, its Biblical. Don’t let it consume you though to the point of insane stress or bankruptcy. The meaning behind giving gifts is Biblical, just keep that mindset, base where your spending your time and money on what the Bible says. Santa Clause isn’t all bad either. It is based off Saint Nicholas and the act of giving, just keep that in mind as you hit the stores. (Also, keep in mind the fact that you are a disciple, a follow of Christ. Not to bring back the 1990s and a cheesy statement, but how would Jesus act at the mall…just saying.) Whether the meaning behind candy canes, trees, and lights is iffy and there is not certain information if Biblical references are true, but let’s let them remind us of these anyway.

Let Christmas lights remind you of the light of the world that we’re celebrating. John 1:1 says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John 1:4 says, “In Him was life, and that life was the light of men.” John 1:14 says, “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” When you see Christmas lights, let them remind you of Christ who made his dwelling among us, who literally changed the world and course of humanity with His birth. He brought light and hope to a world of darkness by just being who He was and by what He did on the cross-the entirety of why He came to Earth. Just as Christmas lights pierce through the cold winter night giving off a little Christmas magic, Christ’s birth pierced through the darkness, bringing a future for all of us. When you partake in Christmas traditions this season, let those trees point you to Christ. Listen a little more closely to the songs we sing and what those lyrics are proclaiming. Let the nativity scene (although not entirely Biblically accurate) remind you of Christ’s birth. Let the red and white candy canes remind you of the gospel. Let the lights be a reminder of who Christ is and how you are a little Christmas light now, shining Jesus into the world. Christmas is powerful. Its not just a time for happy songs and pretty ribbons. Luke 2:11 says, “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord.” Matthew 1:21 says, “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.” Celebrate the coming of your salvation. Celebrate your bounty being paid. Celebrate God being faithful and the Word coming to life this December. Come adore the newborn King!

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Response and Reflex

Something that’s really been hitting home with me is the concept of responding to the gospel. I feel like there is an epidemic among American Christians, especially in the Bible belt. There’s a stereotype that many unfortunately affirm: go to church as kid, sit through service until college, do your own thing through school, get married, have kids, start going to church again, they get involved and the cycle starts over. So many times we hear the stories, we know the facts, we know the Bible…but that’s it. Our faith is one of action. It calls and convicts response.

Initially upon hearing the gospel, a response is demanded. Romans 10:9-13,”That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in Him will never be put to shame.” For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile-the same Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on Him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Matthew 4, Mark 1, and Luke 5 all state “follow me.” Luke 9:23 and Matthew 16:24 instruct us to take up our cross daily. The Bible is full of verbs–actions. James 2:17 says faith without deeds is dead. Now don’t read this wrong: we are not saved by our works, we are saved through faith and through that comes works for God. A response is made. We respond to the gospel by turning our heart and life over to God. Through salvation and the cross we are given life and in turn we give that life back over to God to use for His glory.

Once saved, we strive after Christlikeness. Take a look at Jesus-He didn’t just sit and chill in all His awesomeness and bask in the fact that He was God and man. He came not to be served, but to serve (Matthew 20:28). He lived a life of action and faith, doing God’s will until the end of His life here on Earth as man (Luke 22:42). If we are disciples and have been saved by  grace, our response should be the same. Initially our reaction to the gospel will be a response of “yes” or “no”, once that answer is a yes to Jesus, then our response is one of faith, repentance, and handing over the control to God. We are free from the captivity of our old sins and respond by turning from continually living in them. Yes we will still sin, but that does not define our life anymore.

Even once we are saved, so many times we don’t respond daily. We make the one big response, say the prayer, tell the pastor, shake everyone’s hand, get dunked and call it done. NO. It is a daily decision. Continually we commit to Christ and not to our former sins and walking in them. On the flip side of this though, if we sit and study and are full of information about the Bible and who God is and know the gospel backwards and forwards yet do nothing, we are nothing more than some Jesus monk or a theologically knowledgeable hermit. Its selfish when you think about it also. If you know Christ and you get discipleship yet share nothing, what good is that doing God? How is that making great of what He has done? That is so NOT what he has called us to do. I know I’m on a soap box right now, but I’m in the dog house with this too. It gets so easy to just sit back and let you and God do your thing and be learning and growing, but if you’re not applying anything or doing what He’s calling you to do and simply being lazy, what message is that sending to God or the people that are following you and watching how you do life? *Slap to the face for ya girl here*

While digging into this and researching, I looked up the definitions of reaction and reflex. A reaction is an action performed or a feeling experienced in response to a situation or event. A reflex is an action performed to a stimulus and without conscious thought. A reaction is intentional, a reflex is automatic and involuntary. I think our initial response to the gospel is a reaction and every day we wake up we react to it and react to what God is teaching us or where He’s leading us. I think a reflex is the change within us that comes from this reaction. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says we are a new creation in Christ. That is automatic and involuntary. When God steps in and cleans house on your heart, that is His doing-not ours. God  graciously comes in and flips the switch because of what His Son did on the cross and. Aftermath of that also is we gain the Holy Spirit and our actions are produced from that.  We make the conscious decision everyday to life for God. Our reflex to this is progressing towards Christlikeness, godly traits, and God’s plan for how He wants to use you. We can’t change our hearts, that’s God’s doing-that’s a reflex to the stimulus of Him doing Him.

Now I don’t have all the answers or the best scripture references for this, but this has been a recurring topic with me and I think something that is vital and important and that I need to keep in the back of my mind always. Responding to God isn’t a one and done decision. This is an everyday thing, I think that’s why we call it walking with God. It is an consistent action, daily response of faith and repentance. Some days its an Usain Bolt paced run with God, while other times its more of a baby giraffe balance walk…either way, still moving. Wherever you are with God right now, you have a decision to make. Respond to the gospel through a reaction to how He’s convicting you, with the reflex of falling more in love with Him and a change of heart and life through Him. Jesus is meeting you where you are, wherever that may be. That’s the beauty of all of this. Respond in faith, because I mean, what good is having the key and never unlocking the door?

The Ultimate Fandom

By. Briscoe Burnett and Rachel Burnett

Tumblr. Pinterest. Instagram. Netflix. DVR. Hulu.

All catalysts for our not so guilty pleasures. We indulge in shows. We indulge in the fandoms that follow these shows. They consume our free time. We make connections with people through them. They turn into something bigger than could ever imagine. Just look at Doctor Who, Sherlock, The Walking Dead, Supernatural, Scandal, Gossip Girl, and SOOO many others just like them. Now don’t get us wrong, we are proud geeks too, I mean shout out to the David Tennant, Merlin, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tim Riggins, and Daryl Dixon lovers.

We get so involved in these media based communities and schedule our evenings around when “our shows” come on or have Netflix party marathons and spend hours watching them. Memes like the following float over the Internet and we laugh, but they’re true.

meme 4meme 2memememe 5meme 3

So sadly true.

We bug our friends to watch the show. We say just hang in there through season 1 and you’ll love it. We let out a victory cry when they FINALLY give it a shot because that’s all we seem to talk about and they’re sick of hearing about it. Then the big day: they watch it. They’re uncertain, but then they fall in love and you’ve created a (fill in the blank with a show) disciple.

Now question…what if we did that with the gospel?

What if Christ was your 10th Doctor or Michael Scott? What if you showed as much fervent love for the cross as you did your favorite show? What if your faith was your ultimate fandom?

Romans 1:16 says we are not to be ashamed of the gospel. Why keep grace and salvation under wraps is my question?? We  do it though because living the Jesus life is not the norm. We rock the geek flag when it comes to our love of Harry Potter or Narnia, but why do we suddenly become politically correct or uber sensitive of who’s toes were stepping and what we’re saying when it comes to what Jesus did and our love for God? Why aren’t we sharing the truth?

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. -Genesis 1:1
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and Word was god. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made. In Him was life, and that life was the light of men. -John 1:1-4
For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. -John 3:16
When Jesus spoke again to the people, He said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” -John 8:12
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. -Romans 6:23
God made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God. -2 Corinthians 5:21
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present not the future, not any powers, neither height nor depth, not anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. -Romans 8:38-39

When it comes to a show or movie, we do whatever is necessary to bring said individual to a liking of it. Why aren’t we that tenacious with wanting to entice people to come to Christ or partake in things that affect the kingdom?

Let’s get one thing straight though: you cannot make someone love Jesus. Just like something on TV, you can show Him to them. Present the truth, present your testimony, present who God is, present what Jesus did, but YOU cannot make them come to Jesus, just like you can’t make them love your favorite show. You can show it off just as it is in all its glory and hope. Their heart changing and them accepting the grace and salvation Christ paid for is up to them and God. Also, its not a matter of character transformation. Its a matter of the Holy Spirit taking root in you. We so easily become discipled by the world and in doing so lose sight of who we’re following into eternity. The same goes for when we’re sharing this “fandom”. Spreading the greatness should come from your love for Christ and your action of giving the life He’s given you back to Him and through that carrying out making disciples.

Heck, you can share the gospel while watching these shows! Get to know people, get on their level. Ask God to open some doors. Once you’ve got that common ground and relationship formed, drop the truth on em! Pray God will open their heart to hear it. Warning though: they may not hear it and not be interested, or you may get to witness God do His thang in someone right there before your eyes (you will cry, I promise, maybe not right then, but when you get home fo sho).

We claim to be believers. We claim to know the gospel. We claim to be taking up our cross daily. Well, let’s let God take over and let’s prove that. Ourselves included!! Let the gospel be your ultimate fandom. Fangirl (or boy) over Jesus. If there’s anything worthy a following and worthy of your love and attention, lemme tell its Him. He died for you. He died to pay the price for humanity’s sins. He died to bring life back. He took the wrath of God. He’s gifted you grace and access to God.  He’s coming back. Get pumped about that yall! Marvel in that. Just sit and let stew for a sec. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Let the gospel be your driving force. Watch how God can use you and speak through you.

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. -Matthew 28:19-20
And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.”
Declare His glory among that nations, His marvelous deeds among all peoples. -Psalm 96:3
For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved. Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ. -1 Corinthians 10:33-11:1
Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved. -Acts 4:12
But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. -1 Corinthians 6:11
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord in not in vain. -1 Corinthians 15:56-58
We are therefore, Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: be reconciled to God. -2 Corinthians 5:20

Fandom (Urban Dictionary): The community that surrounds a book/television show/movie/etc.

The church is a community of believers. As disciples and fellow Jesus lovers, we are a community that surrounds the cross and what Christ did there and what God’s done/doing/will do. Let’s run this race together and invite people into our fandom. We hear the ending of this is pretty great. #eternallifewithJesus

 

 

The Seller of Purple

Ok so tonight I read about Lydia. One of my college ministry leaders brought her up tonight and sparked my interest. Truthfully, I could have told you there was a woman named Lydia, but could have told you diddly squat about her. Let me tell ya, she was one fascinating and powerful lady.

Acts 16 is where we find her story. So background on our girl of the hour: she’s from Thyatira (16:14), but currently living in Philippi (16: 12), or at least somewhere just outside of it. She is a single, business woman. I think if she lived today, she’d be a hardcore business chick in New York, taking names and making deals. But in Philippi, she sold dye. Dye was a commodity only sold in parts of Eurasia at the time, according to a little research I did. It was also quite expensive, especially purple dye, which she happened to be a seller of. With this information, we get the picture that she was a more than likely a somewhat wealthy, confident business woman in Philippi.

At this point in the New Testament, Paul and Timothy are out doing their thing across Europe, spreading the Gospel. They came to Philippi and on the Sabbath, went just outside the city gate to the river. A group of women had gathered at the river (I’d have to guess they were getting water, washing clothes, etc.-wifey/womanly responsibilities). Paul and Timothy take this opportunity to talk to the women. One of the women was Lydia.

One of those listening was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who was a worshipper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. Acts 16:14

At face value, we see a woman who sold cloth becoming a Christian (Praise God!), but a little deeper than that, we see it is so much more.

Lydia is believed (through what is recorded in the Bible) to be the first European convert, the first person to respond to the Gospel in Europe. I love that the wording there is respond. I feel like this is such a critical part of the Gospel that we miss. You can have all the knowledge and know the facts, but its how we respond to the Gospel that really matters. I can know all the inner and outer workings of a car, but if I don’t stick the key in and turn it, that knowledge does nobody any good. Does that bring the car manufacturer any glory or honor through myself or others seeing the car work? Do I get a chance to fully experience the car and the joy it can bring me if its not on and I can’t drive it? Same with the Gospel. If you don’t respond out of faith and live in it, we’re not bringing God the glory He deserves and demands through the cross. If we don’t respond in faith and allow the Holy Spirit to come into our lives, we don’t get to fully experience or enjoy the life God has for us nor the grace given to us through Christ. Lydia heard and responded. Also, important side note: The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. The Lord. Not Paul. God spoke through Paul and gave him the means and words to lay the truth out on the table for Lydia, but it was God who worked in her heart and changed it to respond. It wasn’t Paul that changed her. You can speak the Gospel as eloquently as you can, but your words alone cannot save someone. God working in their heart, opening their mind and for them to respond to the truth you’re speaking changes lives.

lydia

Lydia was a seller of purple. I read about selling dye at the time, and historians say that purple was an extremely expensive and valuable dye. It was a coveted cloth. Purple also represents royalty. This description of her selling specifically purple dye hit me. She sold something extremely valuable and unique, a color representing power and royalty. Jesus is extremely valuable and unique, He is power, He is royalty-the King of Kings. I find it no coincidence she sold purple cloth and I think there is some symbolism we can learn from there.

Lydia’s story may be short, but she was impactful. In Acts 16:40, it states Paul and Silas went back to stay at Lydia’s house when they were released from prison, where the met up with “the brothers”, then continued on. Some time has passed in between this, so Paul and Lydia’s first encounter wasn’t a drive by, hit and run. She didn’t respond to the Gospel, then never speak to Paul again. There was some discipleship going on here, and obviously a continued relationship if Paul goes back to stay with Lydia and pow-wow with the other Jesus lovers in the area there. It is believed that Lydia is included in the women that Paul talks about in Philippians 4:3 in his letter to the church at Philippi. We see Lydia as a missionary in Philippi, helping spread the Gospel.

Lydia’s story is an example of the Holy Spirit working and how God wins hearts over through His word. It is an example of responding to the Gospel. I want to be known as a “seller of purple” and follow Lydia’s example. She was a confident, smart woman who responded in faith and was open to what God was doing in her. She listened to teaching. She helped spread the word. She lived out godly woman characteristics. She “sold” Jesus, the ultimate valuable, unique, royal object.

Be a seller of purple. Respond to the Gospel. Watch God change hearts and minds.

Letter to the Man Who Pursues Me

To the man who has decided to pursue my heart,

I want to inform you of a few things.

For starters, I am a child of God. I am a daughter of the King. I expect you to treat me as so, just as I will treat you as a son of the King. I have been created in the image of God, just as you were and I say we view each other in that light. I am pursing Christlikeness and God’s will and how He may use me. I expect you to be able to say the same about yourself. I am a growing disciple. I am learning to be a disciple maker. I promise to hold you to be doing the same.

I am a woman. Therefore, I will be your helper and encourager. Truthfully, it will be hard for me at times, but I desire to fulfill that role the way the Bible indicates and will work at loving you completely and being this woman for you as we grow in our relationship. In this though, I expect you to be a godly man, not a Christian dude. I will hold you accountable to that, just as I plead with you to hold me accountable and call me out.

Here is my view on marriage: if God intends for me to get married, it is because for whatever reason, said man and I will be more effective as disciples in partnership together and be more fruitful in sharing the gospel together than we would on our own. I think a husband and wife should be best friends and be able to be truly themselves with each other. Be growing together. Be silly together. Be doing life together. Be disciples together. I believe a marriage should look like Christ pursing us, and the love between and husband and wife should be a direct reflection of the gospel. Everything about a marriage is a reflection of God’s character and what Jesus did for the world.

I may not be the prettiest, smartest, funniest, or strongest woman you will meet, but I do have attributes to bring to the table. God has gifted me with certain traits and talents. Let me grow in and use in these to the fullest. Honestly, I hope they are what attracts you to me. Sometimes I forget them though, remind me of them from time to time, just as I will remind you of your strengths and how I see God using you. Know that I have friends and family who love me and care about me. I am of worth to God and of worth to them.

In a relationship, as already stated, I want to be your helper and encourager. I want to help you be the man the Bible says you should be and who God has called you to be. I want to be some positivity and uplifting in your life, reminding you of what Christ has done and what God is doing and of the good and beautiful things around us.  I will hold you accountable and let you be the man you strive to be in our relationship. I want to commit to loving you and meeting you where you are. I want to be your best friend. I want to do life with you. I want to talk about what’s going on in your head and heart. I want to be silly and act stupid with you. I want to have deep, Jesus real talk with you. I want to study God’s word with you. I want to lay around and watch movies with you. I want to make disciples with you. I want to share the gospel alongside you. I want to share in what you love to do and whatever your interests may be.

In a relationship I am expecting you to be the man the Bible calls you to be. Be that leader. Love me, but love Christ first just as I will be doing. Be honest with me. Keep pursing my heart. Keep running after Jesus. Keep making disciples.

If you have committed your life to Christ, are striving to be the man the Bible calls you to be and are ok with all of the above statements, initiate a conversation with me. I promise I don’t bite! If any of this you are not ok with, then I’m sorry, but a relationship between us is not probable.

I don’t know if I have met this man or if I will ever meet this man, but I am hopeful and expectant of God and until he comes around, I will keep leaning into the gospel, keep investing in those around me, and keep growing in knowledge of scripture as God makes me fall more in love with Him. I will not just sit around and wait for Prince Charming with my life on pause when I already know the Prince of Peace.

My reason for blogging this letter is not to advertise what I think or feel. I pray this letter makes you think. I pray it points you to the Bible when it comes to relationships. Ladies, who does the Bible call you to be? If you’re single, quit moping and beating yourself up. Find the life God has for you right now. If a man comes along, awesome! But guess what, the greatest man that ever lived is already desiring a relationship with you and wants to meet you right where you are-right now in the midst of your mess. Men, who does the Bible call you to be? Find out! Step up. Rely on the gospel as you work to try and figure these traits out. Ladies raise your standards, and men-you do the same of us, then let’s each try and reach those standards the Bible sets ourselves.

Sincerely,
Me