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