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Righteousness

The other night at our home group we talked about Noah and the ark. Talk about a Bible story that everybody knows but not many really take the time to truly think about. I’m not quite sure why people paint murals of Noah and the ark on children’s walls, because if you really take a look at the story, it is one of the most terrible things that has happened in the history of the world. Everyone on earth died except for one family. What an incredible tragedy, but this story truly shows a stark contrast between sinfulness and righteousness.

I was praying this morning and God revealed something in my life that I would so much rather he wouldn’t have. He showed me that I think about and aim to please others more than I aim to please Him. Ouch. It was an interesting revelation, especially at the place in life I am in, because there is not a huge difference between the two. I am a missionary, and when I do the things of God, I generally please those I work with. God truly showed me, however, that what I am doing is not wrong, but the intent of my heart is off target. There may come a point in time when God may ask me to do something that doesn’t necessarily bring me praise and may seem a bit odd. If it doesn’t aid in boosting people’s opinions of me, will I still so willfully obey God? That is a tough question that we are talking through.

The story of Noah is so fascinating to me for several reasons. Probably the thing that jumps out at me the most is how in Genesis 6:9b, it says: “Noah was a righteous man, the only blameless person living on earth at the time, and he walked in close fellowship with God.” Can you imagine being the ONLY person who is following God in the whole entire world? It’s one thing to be a missionary in a country whose religion is different than yours. It’s another thing entirely to be the oooooooonly person alive who has a relationship with God. This Scripture says that Noah not only had a relationship with God, but that he walked in close fellowship with God. They were best buddies. They were so close that when God decided that the sin in the world was so great that maybe He should wipe it clean and start over, He devised a plan for Noah and his family to survive.

There are some questions that I have to ask myself after reading this story: Could I truly stand alone? Is my relationship with God so personal to me that I could walk in close fellowship with Him even when everyone around me lived in rebellion to Him? Would I obey God’s crazy request to build a giant boat because God told me it was going to rain and I had no idea what rain actually was? Here is the absolute question of my heart: Does God call me righteous?

When I think about righteousness, I tend to think about people who are truly good. I think about people who have sacrificed much to do great things. However, righteous is not something one person calls another person; it is something God calls His friend. Could I believe that righteousness isn’t defined by good actions, but by the type of relationship I have with God? You see, Noah wasn’t said to be righteous because he built the ark; he was called righteous before it was ever recorded that he did anything. It’s not like God took a microphone to the world and said, “Hey everyone, it’s gonna rain. Anyone wanna build a boat?” And Noah didn’t step up and say, “Oh, pick me!” God wanted to save Noah and his family BECAUSE of his righteousness.

This seems like such an elementary concept until we take it to our own lives and turn on a microscope. What is the driving reason for our existence? If having a deep relationship with God displeased the person I wish to please the most, would I still JUST AS WHOLEHEARTEDLY do it? Would I still seek God’s face with the same amount of fervor and passion?

I want to be respected and admired, and I have a bit of a competitive spirit, so sometimes I want to be respected and admired more than the people around me. If someone else is getting attention for something, I am thinking about what I can do to get attention for something too. God has really been working on this bad attitude on my heart for a while, showing me how once again, my righteousness is not defined by what I do and has nothing to do with how others see me. Even the most wonderful Christian I know doesn’t have to think anything of me. My righteousness is between God and me. Period. Exclamation point. And they all lived happily ever after. The end.

Do I seek God’s favor above anything else? Do I only seek His favor? What does God say about me? Tough questions. How about you?

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Desires

This morning I have been so convicted and challenged by God to pray that He might change my heart. I am praying that He would cause me to care about the things He cares about. During my time in Peru, there have been several moments when it has hit me all of a sudden that God loves the person I am speaking to SO MUCH. Then I wonder what would happen if I could understand in that moment the depth of love that God has for that person. Would I be able to continue talking to them? Or would I be so overwhelmed that I couldn’t even stand?

As a missionary, there is a lot of responsibility placed on my shoulders as a representative of the Gospel and a minister of Christ. It would be incredibly easy to be busy 24/7 and never sleep. One of the difficult things to weigh is: how do I defend my boundaries and needs while still taking advantage of every divine opportunity? That is the constant struggle in my life. The only solution I know is to do my best to live in a constant state of prayer.

There are so many times that I am tired but I know that God has led me into a situation where I am called to minister. So I do, and God does amazing things. It is easy for me to use my tiredness or a myriad of other things as excuses to avoid these moments. God has convicted me this morning that I am losing sight of His desires and His heart amidst the details and crazy schedules. Once again, I need to be reminded the depth of God’s love for His people and my place in humble service in His Kingdom.

It is an amazing thing to just sit and ponder for a while about what truly pleases God. What does He delight in? I read Jeremiah 9:23-24 this morning and it really touched my heart:

“This is what The Lord says:
‘Don’t let the wise boast in their wisdom,
or the powerful boast in their power,
or the rich boast in their riches.
But those who wish to boast
should boast in this alone:
that they truly know me and understand that I am The Lord
who demonstrates unfailing love
and who brings justice and righteousness to the earth
and that I delight in these things.
I, The Lord, have spoken!'”

God delights in demonstrating unfailing love, justice, and righteousness. Wow. So how do I become a person who demonstrates unfailing love, justice, and righteousness? That is my prayer for today.

What is it like? Some Pictures To Share

Hey, everyone!  Here is another photo tour of our work and enjoyment time in Peru!
 
This is CJ playing happy birthday on the guitar for our host dad’s birthday.

This is some of us celebrating our host dad, Jesus’s birthday.  All close relatives and friends.

Birthdays get a little wild and fun here.  Good times!!

This is David buying fruit at a local market.  LOTS of fruit there.

This was also at the market…didn’t smell great but looked good.

Fish!
 
I think this is…pig?

More meat.

Picture inside the market.

It doesn’t look like it, but this is cheese!  Soooo good.

I was shocked at how many eggs were here…and this is just half of the tables at this one booth!
 
This is one of our Spanish teachers, Manolo and David and Brandon.  They bought these sunglasses from a tienda on our morning tour of downtown.

This is our other Spanish teacher Julissa with CJ and I.  We were at a coffee shop.

Random unintentional pose.  If we ever record an album, this could be the cover.

CJ and I arm wrestling by a fountain.  Pretty much exactly what it looks like.

CJ and a stuffed Alpaca.

My Spanish teacher Julissa and me.
 
Brian, the director of Extreme and me this past Sunday night.

This is Megan and me.  Megan is one of my mentors who is a current 40/40.

This is Jessica.  She is also a current 40/40 and one of the ones training us.

Sammy and Patrick leading worship.

Learning the choreography for some of the kids songs.  This is Brenda, Sheena, David, and Heyner.

Our service this past Sunday night.  Good stuff.  Good worship.

This is little Fergie squeezing CJ’s face.  This picture cracks me up every time.

Volcano Misti.  We took a four hour bus tour of Arequipa a couple days ago and the following pictures are some of the sights.

Me with a statue.

Me with Chichani in the background.

Me with a creepy green stick person.

Me with a totem pole of some sort.

The parks here are gorgeous.

In the bus.  We got to sit on top of a double decker so we were so much higher than everyone else.

This lady let us take a picture with her pet hawk.

We were at the founder of Arequipa’s mansion which is now a museum.  So pretty.

Some field workers.

They posed for us to take pictures.

Alpaca.  Don’t make them mad by the way. They spit.

CJ on top of our double decker bus holding a doll that she bought from a lady also named Cristina.  The doll was entirely hand-made.

Mature Faith

Lately I have been thinking a lot about how little I know and understand about God. I am pretty sure that about four years ago I knew a lot more than I do now…or at least I thought I did. The more I have dived into Scripture and into being a part of God’s Kingdom, the less I feel that I have a grasp on concrete understanding of life and the way things truly are. Honestly, in some ways it is frustrating because as soon as a good theological statement comes out of my mouth, God looks at me and says, “Is that so?”

I have big time skepticism of those who claim have it all together and think they know what they are talking about. Maybe it is just the phase of learning I am in, but it seems impossible to me to get to that point in any amount of time less than eternity. I have read in so many places in the Bible where God says how much He hates pride, but blesses those who are innocent and pure. The entire Kingdom of God is so opposite of what one would think a Kingdom should be; it is upside down of anything that is natural or logical.

There is so much of the Bible that I used to understand, but now I read it from a completely different place in life. The Kingdom of God used to be so small to me. However, the past couple years God has truly been shaking up my theology and the little box that I am so tempted to put Him in. The box is growing, but the truth is that there is still a box. Verses like Matthew 17:20-21 are so confusing to me: “‘You don’t have enough faith,’ Jesus told them. ‘I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.'” How do you figure that? What does that even mean?

I have noticed that when Jesus has talked about great faith, He has not talked about faith that is huge, but He has always described it as something very small. He has often talked about children. I know that when I think about maturity, I often think about people who are old or who have been through a lot of things and have learned much. However, Jesus so often tells us to become like little children. He seems to value innocent and pure above learned and experienced. Matthew 11:25-26 says, “At that time Jesus prayed this prayer: “O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, thank you for hiding these things from those who think themselves wise and clever, and for revealing them to the childlike. Yes, Father, it pleased you to do it this way.'”

When I read Scripture, I pay special attention to passages that mention that God is pleased with something or someone. In my life, I not only want to satisfy God and obey everything that He had asked me to do, but I want to please Him. I want His smile. I want to live the best way possible with the best relationship with God that is possible. I want my life to bring Him joy.

I sat down to pray about this idea of maturity this morning with God because I was struggling with how immature I felt I was in my faith. I want to always be growing and learning from God. I want to be competent and equipped for the leadership that I know He has called me to. That’s what I want. However, is that what God wants?

Last night I felt very strongly that God was asking me to share my testimony at home group. So I did. And something amazing happened later in the evening: my host sister made a decision for Christ. And I can honestly say that at least in my observation, it had absolutely nothing to do with anything that I said. In fact, I don’t think it mattered what I said at all. But you know what? I don’t even care. I know that I did what God wanted me to do. I know that God did what He wanted to do. Whether the two are related or not really doesn’t matter. His will was done in everything, and in that I rejoice.

I feel that instead of making my faith more mature like I would want, God is making my faith more…for lack of a better word…stupid. Instead of things making more sense as time goes on, I am losing intelligence, at least in the world’s eyes. I understand less and less, but I have increasingly more joy and peace every day of my life. I am moving to the front of the auditorium toward the stage. I am seeing more and more of God’s activity and it just puts me to worship. Matthew 5:8 says, “God blesses those whose hearts are pure, for they will see God.” Forget mature faith who has no need anymore for God. I want a pure heart. God, I want to see You.

My theology is rocked absolutely every time I truly take the time to learn from God. I pray that God would give me the maturity to not desire maturity like I have always seen it. I pray that He would show me that a true mature faith looks like a child. It is as small as a mustard seed. Like John the Baptist said in John 3:30, “He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.” Lord, teach me how to be small and make my heart pure before You. I only want Your smile.

God Is Wild

The past couple days I have been struggling to desire to be in God’s presence. In fact, I have felt a bit fearful about it. I sat down today and tried to figure out what it was that was making me so afraid. I began to realize how many scripts there are that I have been carrying about God, myself, and the purpose of life. It is interesting because you would never guess it by looking at my life and the things that I have done so far. However, the truth remains that if I am fearful to have the relationship my Creator intended for me to have with Him, then there is a big misconception that I have believed of who He is.

Deep inside of us is the desire and thirst for adventure, and I believe that this is the image of God manifested inside of our very nature. If we look throughout Scripture, it becomes clear that God is incredibly unpredictable and powerful. Just reading the book of Joshua, my imagination runs wild of what it would have been like to be racing forward on the horses in the midst of battle. Battles then were not ordinary; rather God was fighting with His people. Hail rained down from heaven and the sun stood still for a whole day. Israel was greatly outnumbered, but it didn’t matter because Almighty Creator of the Universe was fighting on their side. Wild as ever, God came rushing in like a mighty lion to save His people.

What an amazing adventure, right? Sometimes our lives seem incredibly unexciting, and I wonder why that is? Even after Jesus came, great revivals took place as the Gospel spread throughout the land. What about the stories of the saints? Fantastic and true tales of people who had real life encounters and relationships with God that so transformed their lives that they were willing to die horrific deaths rather than turn their backs on their Lord. These things don’t seem to come about too often anymore, and I find it hard sometimes to imagine myself being in that place. The Bible says that God is unchanging. So what has changed? I propose that it is us who have forgotten what it means to have a simple and childlike faith that remembers what it means to stand in awe of utter majesty and beauty. I propose that perhaps we have not begun to grasp the utter wildness of God, nor have we taken the time to connect our deepest desires and passions with the personality of our Creator. Will you journey with me for a bit to the edge of the jungle? Will you consider breaching the perimeter with me? Perhaps when we discover the great adventure it truly is knowing God and living life with Him, we won’t have to think twice or be fearful about leaping into every moment of our lives with Him. This, in fact, is exactly what we were made for.

You climb into the boat preparing to head downstream and your skin is crawling just thinking about all that you may encounter along the way. With a swift step, your guide climbs into the small canoe and pushes away from shore. The current sweeps the small vessel quickly away from the place of embarkment; there is no going back now. The wind sweeps through your hair as you take in all the sights and smells around you. The environment is hot and humid, but the breeze sweeps away any discomfort there could be from the wet air.

“Quick! To the left!” The guide almost screams in a whisper. As you quickly look over, you see through the rustling leaves a jaguar black as midnight running alongside you on the shore. There is no fear, but only awe at the sleek strides of her muscular body keeping up with the quick pace of the canoe. The river takes a turn into rougher waters and the cat falls behind to return to her den. As the rapids pick up intensity, your eyes catch a beauty that takes your breath away. Never before did you believe you could see for so many hundreds of miles of unexplored wilderness, covered in dense jungle and filled with creatures that scientists have yet to discover. Huge boulders pass by on your right and your left, but your guide is an expert river man. In fact, He created the waters you are tossed to and fro in. He created the jaguar in all her sleek beauty and strength. He knows every inch of those unexplored jungle lands. He puts mere scientists to shame. How small they are! You are swept through passages lined with massive cliffs. Monkeys swing through the trees and giant snakes slide smoothly through the water. Who has tamed the great anaconda? No one. She is wild.

What would it be like to run alongside the cheetah in all her speed or ride the back of an elephant as he storms through the African Serengeti with unchallenged force? Could we but spend a day with the lion as he hunts the gazelle, or the eagle as she soars high above the earth to cliffs undiscovered, we would catch just a glimpse of the majesty of God. If we could ride the waters off the edge of a massive waterfall and fall through the air just waiting to plunge deep into the pool below; if we could chase the sun as it journeys below the horizon or fly into the edge of night only to land amongst the stars; maybe then we might start to understand a tiny piece that is the person of God. What if we could grab hold of the muscular fin of the great blue whale? What if we could ride to the depths of the ocean where no man has ever been and hear the songs sung by sea life beyond the tones the ears can register? Would we then have a grasp on the vastness of God? No, not even a finger.

“Shout that people are like the grass.
Their beauty fades as quickly
as the flowers in a field.
The grass withers and the flowers fade
beneath the breath of The Lord.
And so it is with people.
The grass withers and the flowers fade,
but the word of our God stands forever…

Who else has held the oceans in his hand?
Who has measured off the heavens with his fingers?
Who else knows the weight of the earth
or has weighed the mountains and hills on a scale?
Who is able to advise the Spirit of The Lord?
Who knows enough to give him advice or teach him?
Has The Lord ever needed anyone’s advice?
Does he need instruction about what is good?
Did someone teach him what is right
or show him the path of justice?

No, for all the nations of the world
are but a drop in the bucket.
They are nothing more
than dust on the scales.
He picks up the whole earth
as though it were a grain of sand.
All the wood in Lebanon’s forests
and all Lebanon’s animals would not be enough
to make a burnt offering worthy of our God.
The nations of the world are worth nothing to him.
In his eyes they count for less than nothing-
mere emptiness and froth.

To whom can you compare God?
What image can you find to resemble him?
Can he be compared to an idol formed in a mold,
overlaid with gold, and decorated with silver chains?
Or if people are too poor for that,
they might at least choose wood that won’t decay
and a skilled craftsman
to carve an image that won’t fall down!

Haven’t you heard? Don’t you understand?
Are you deaf to the words of God-
the words he gave before the world began?
Are you so ignorant?
God sits above the circle of the earth.
The people below seem like grasshoppers to him!
He spreads out the heavens like a curtain
and makes his tent from them.
He judges the great people of the world
and brings them all to nothing.
They hardly get started, barely taking root,
when he blows on them and they wither.
The wind carries them off like chaff.

‘To who, will you compare me?
Who is my equal?’ asks the Holy One.

Look into the heavens.
Who created all the stars?
He brings them out like an army, one after another,
calling each by its name.
Because of his great power and
incomparable strength,
Not a single one is missing.

O Jacob, how can you say The Lord does not see your troubles?
O Israel, how can you say God ignores your rights?
Have you never heard?
Have you never understood?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
The Creator of all the earth.
He never grows weak or weary.
No one can measure the depths of his understanding.
He gives power to the weak
and strength to the powerless.
Even youths will become weak and tired,
and young men will fall in exhaustion.
But those who trust in The Lord will find new strength.
They will soar high on wings like eagles.
They will run and not grow weary.
They will walk and not faint.”
-Isaiah 406b-8, 12-31

I think that I have a tendency to attempt to tame God into a safe version that I can live with and wrap my mind around. I like to have an answer for every thing that He does and a level of understanding that I might consider mature. That is all good and fine until I get in the boat and feel the current sweep me away from shore. It is then that I find there is much more to God than I could begin to know or explain. My little brain can only take in pieces of what my senses long to tell me. Whether I plunge into the ocean depths or I am catapulted into a limitless unknown filled with God’s heavenly bodies burning for Him, I only see in part; I only know in part.

And what if I were to try to understand the depths of His love? Even if I were to leap off the tallest waterfall and plunge deeply into the pool below, I could not grab hold of even the smallest understanding of His great passion for me. I could only rise to the surface and tread the waters of His grand desire. But even yet, sometimes I stand along shore just staring at the boat. My guide is standing next to me trying to describe what the journey is like, but all in all he beckons, “You have to experience it to understand. Come with me!”

I want to ride the current of His greatness. I want to marvel at the jaguar. I want to leap off the waterfall and feel the rush of the water all around me. I want to run with the cheetah and ride the elephant. I want to chase the sunset and be tossed through the air only to land among the stars. What great things could this adventure hold? 2 Corinthians 2:9b says: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” Why would I ever want to miss out on something so incredible, for this is truly what my heart was made to desire. Why would I stay standing by the boat? Lest I ever forget how amazing God’s love is for me, I need only to remember my Lord’s nail pierced hands and the cross on which He died. My love, how could I ever forget?

Our God is wild. He created wild things. He has placed restlessness and desire within our hearts. It makes no sense to think of Him as taming this wild horse; He created her to run fast across the plains and through the mountain valleys. And He runs alongside her as she feels the wind rushing through her hair. What glorious liberty will she find in the wilderness? Only her Creator knows. And He beckons her to come…come…

Living the Life! More Pics of Peru

Hey everyone!  Thank you so much for the prayers and support!  Here are some pics for you to enjoy!  More available on Facebook!
 
We had a short term team from Hermitage Church of the Nazarene in Hermitage, Tennessee. This was my church when I was living in Tennessee. They were planning on coming down quite a while before I was, and it was so neat to see my friends again. Here we are doing some street evangelism and acting out the song Everything by Lifehouse. I was able to join them for this one.
Here is the long awaited and promised picture of me dressed like a guinea pig (they call it cuy here in Peru).  My teammate CJ is on my left and one of the Peruvian 40/40s on our training team Sammy is on my right.

This is CJ dressed as a guinea pig with one of the babies at the street event.

What we did that day is we had a wheel with several different colors that corresponded to a Bible question.  We set up along the sidewalk and people who were walking by could stop and play and if they correctly answered the Bible question, they would win a candy bar.  We had at least 9 decisions for Christ on the morning we did this.
 

 Here we are sorting clothes into packages to give away at an evangelism event we had this past Wednesday.  We had to sort into men, women, teenager male and female, and child male and female.  CJ is in the front and my 40/40 mentor Megan is in the back.

This is CJ heading out to do laundry.  We have to carry our laundry for quite a ways to do it, and CJ’s style was on her back wrapped in a sheet.  The locals thought it was absolutely hilarious.  The cute little girl in front is our host sister Camila.

This is Haley and me with the guinea pig (Ray).
 

This is Tom, my teammates David and Brandon, and Brandi at our evangelism event on Wednesday.  We went to a community outside of Arequipa that does not have running water.  We did several different activities that will be shown in the pictures below.

This is one of the pictures of a town.  That is the outside wall of three people’s properties.  The people here are very poor and simple, but very very nice.
 
This is Katie and Robin doing balloon animals with the kids.

This is Haley, a Peruvian girl, Kelley, and CJ doing some face painting.

This is a picture of some of the kids.  We had a lot more there than this pictures shows, but I love how this shows how happy the kids are with their balloons.

Another picture of the kids.  So happy!
 
CJ and Haley showing off their facial artwork.  So cute!

Another pic of the kids.

This is some of the Cercado team leading songs.  Megan is on the left, Jessica is in the back, and Sammy is in front (in the clown face).

Ray (dressed as a clown) and some of the kids having a competition with a song.
 
This is Ray, one of the short termers Sophie, and Megan.  Sophie is teaching the kids how to properly brush their teeth and wash their hands.

Brenda is helping some kids put on their salvation bracelets.  She led the demonstration of what all the different colors meant and did a GREAT job.

Brandon, Jared, Jeremy, and David putting together the Jesus film screen.
 

Jared, Jeremy and Maddie.  Love these Tennessee peeps!

Me with a really cute kid.
 
CJ with our new friend Ernesto.  Ernesto was paralyzed a couple years ago when the university building he was attending collapsed on top of him.  What a sweet man.  Please pray for him and some tangible needs that we are in the process of praying about with him.

Some people who attended the event.  This picture was taken as it was starting to get dark and we were preparing to show the Jesus Film.

Some people watching the Jesus Film.  Afterwards, Pastor Elvin preached a great message of salvation and over 26 people accepted Christ.  This is just a little snapshot of what God is doing here!  So far in Peru, we have seen over 70 salvations.  The more challenging part is the follow-up and discipleship and people remaining serious about the decision that they made.  Please pray for the work all of us are doing here and thank you for your support!

Being Made New

It is so interesting to me the molding process that is taking place in my heart.  I’m at a point right now where it is not necessarily pleasant.  I don’t enjoy some of the emotions that I feel deep inside as I know that God is molding my heart.  Following God is NOT easy.  Salvation is free, but following God costs everything.  It is a very very good thing, but it utter death to my humanity.

I have known since I was a child that God called me to be a missionary.  I have sought to follow Him as best I knew how at the time ever since.  Even knowing God’s will for my life (at least the bigger picture), my strong personality shows through in my relationship with Him.  I am a fighter, and it is an inner battle to allow God to work in my life.  Sometimes I wonder why it is so difficult for me to want what He wants all the time because I know that He is good and I know that what He does is good.  I guess it is just not comfortable.

I am living in Peru right now as a missionary in training.  We will be in training until the end of March.  We are going through Spanish school and also training with a missionary team here in Arequipa.  We have been here for almost three weeks, and emotionally it is starting to become a reality that we are not going to be heading back to the States for a long time.  I cannot begin to describe how in every way but emotionally I am completely fine with it.  In fact, emotionally I am fine with it for the most part, but there is a nagging restlessness in my spirit.

I have come to find that in my relationship with God, restlessness is not a bad thing, but rather it is a good thing.  The greatest times of growth that I have experienced with God have been in the times of restlessness.  I guess it’s the pressure the dentist tells you that you’re going to feel as he pulls the bad tooth.  My teammate David gave a devotional today based out of Philippians 4:4 about rejoicing in the Lord always, and I am reminded of that in this situation.  This restlessness is not comfortable, but it is good.  It is good because God is at work and He always brings about things that are good.  I must learn to rest in Him, even through these times.  Just like the potter molds and shapes clay, so we are in the hands of God.  His masterpiece is always stunning.

We sang some songs today during our Bible study.  Some of the words really spoke to me.  Here are a few snapshots of lyrics:

Come Thou Fount
“O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness like a fetter
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it
Prone to leave the God I love
Here’s my heart, Lord, take and seal it
Seal it for Thy courts above.”

This verse is so rich with meaning.  I have learned more lately about my humanity and my tendency to want to run away or pull away from God, and it is my prayer that His goodness will bind my heart to Him.  I pray that He might seal my heart with His personal seal for His purposes and His Kingdom.

Jesus Paid It All
“I hear the Savior say, ‘Thy strength indeed is small;
Child of weakness, watch and pray,
Find in me thine all in all.’

Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe
Sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow.

Lord, now indeed I find Thy power and Thine alone
Can change the leper’s spots and melt the heart of stone.
And when before the throne I stand in Him complete,
‘Jesus died my soul to save’ my lips shall still repeat.”

I have found that the only thing that has kept me going over the past couple months has been the time that I have spent in prayer.  There is nothing like following the will of God that makes you realize more your need for God Almighty.  I used to get upset when I heard the phrase that God is all that we need, but I know now that this is absolutely truth.  He has to be.  When He is all you have, you find that He is all you need.  He is the source of my strength.  I am looking forward to the day when I stand before Him complete; nothing lacking.  I want to be completely HIS.

Throughout this amazingly uncomfortable molding process, I choose to trust in God’s goodness.  I choose to give Him access to my heart, even though I may find that I do not want to.  Mark chapter 14 talks about Jesus’ time in the garden of Gethsemane praying to the Father just hours before His crucifixion.  He prayed that God might take the cup from Him, that if it were possible in any way for Him not to have to suffer what He knew was coming, He wanted that.  However, He said, “Not my will, but Your will.”  Even though He wanted more than anything to escape the suffering, He chose the will of the Father instead.  He took up His cross and surrendered Himself.  I want to follow Jesus, even when the road may be difficult.  I want to follow Him even when it requires that I take up a cross.  It is losing my life to Christ where I find the only true life.  One of my absolute favorite songs of all time is Hosanna by Hillsong.  I love the bridge of the song, and it is truly the prayer of my heart:

“Heal my heart and make it clean
Open up my eyes to the things unseen
Show me how to love like You have loved me.
Break my heart for what breaks Yours
Everything I am for Your Kingdom’s cause
As I walk from earth into eternity.”

Fan Into Flames

I have been praying and talking recently about some things that God has been encouraging me to do that I have been fighting.  One of the areas is with my writing.  There have been many times in the past when I have chosen not to sit down and write something that God was talking to me about simply because I was too tired, I was afraid to step out on a limb with an idea, or I knew it was going to be difficult.  All kinds of voices try to discourage in those times, but I know deep inside my heart the truth.  God has given me a gift and the desire to use it.  What I lack is the disciple to push me forward.

God is the absolute best coach anyone could ever have; however, He is also the most relentless.  He knows the potential that He has placed inside of me, and He simply will not settle for anything less than the best from me.  I can fool anyone else in the world, but I cannot fool my Creator who knows me better than I even know myself.  He is not the type of coach that beats His players over the head when they do something wrong or when they stumble; rather He is the great encourager that longs to see us become everything He made us to be.  I am learning more every day what that means.

There are moments that I am deeply convicted of my laziness.  This morning was one of those times.  During our break time at school, I opened up my Bible to 2 Timothy 1:6-7 and it hit me like a freight train:  “This is why I remind you to fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you when I laid my hands on you.  For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.”  I am not sure that I have ever put those two verses together in all the times I have read 2 Timothy, and here they are…together.  It was like God was saying, “Ok, Chelsea.  No more excuses.  No more fear.  No more laziness.  I gave you a gift, and now YOU must fan into flame that gift.  I am not the source of your fear or laziness.  I created you to be powerful, loving, and disciplined.  So do it.”

I read on into the chapter and Paul talked a lot to Timothy about being entrusted with the amazing truth of God.  Paul is writing from prison where he continued to defend the cause of Christ, and this is most likely the last documented letter that we have of his before his death.  He says in verse 12:  “That is why I am suffering here in prison.  But I am not ashamed of it, for I know the one in whom I trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until the day of his return.” 

As I read this verse, I was reminded of the two sides of the relationship that we have with God:  what God has entrusted to us, and what we have in turn entrusted to Him.  Everything is God’s.  Period.  Yet for some mysterious reason that I will never understand, God has chosen to entrust His message of grace and salvation to us.  What a privilege and an incredible responsibility.  In light of this amazing grace that He has given me in saving me and allowing me to be a part of His redemption plan, I have given Him everything.  I have entrusted to Him my hopes, dreams, and plans.  I do not take lightly the responsibility that God has given me; even moreso God takes serious care with our fragile hearts.  He may replace some dreams with His best and others He might return to me later, but the truth remains:  I have given all that I know so that I in turn might know Him more.

In verse 14, Paul encourages Timothy:  “Through the power of the Holy Spirit who lives within us, carefully guard the precious truth that has been entrusted to you.”  As I discharge the responsibilities that God has given me as a leader, I must be careful to guard the truth that God has entrusted to me.  I must make sure that the theology that I live by and preach is Biblical.  I must be responsible in my work.  I must not waste anything.  Lord, forgive me for the times when I have been less than obedient to Your leading or less than careful with Your precious gift.

God has asked me to step out and begin fanning into flames the gift that He has given me.  I know that it will be difficult and exhausting, but He has called me to do it and He will give me the strength and wisdom to do it.  I have not been giving God my best in the area of writing, and with His grace, I will step out toward Him in faith.

What gift has God been asking you to fan into flames?

Glory to God!

This morning at 4am prayer we had such an incredible time of celebration for all that happened this last week.  Just in the last few days through outreach events and worship services, we had at least 26 people choose to follow Christ for the first time.  We prayed for each one individually by name, that God would protect their families from spiritual attack and that God would continue to move and work in their hearts to draw them closer to Him.  What an amazing morning.  It was like we joined the heavenly party the angels were having.

How great is our God!  We have been praying since we came for a refreshing presence of the Holy Spirit, that He would revive those on our training team and for us.  What an encouragement it was this past week to see God just open the floodgates of blessing and fruit.  Our training team desperately needed to see the light break through, and this week we all were able to witness this together.

This week God has opened up some new doors for ministry.  We are very excited to walk through these doors, praising God for His faithfulness.  Please pray for us and for the city of Arequipa, that God would continue to move in big ways in the hearts of those we come into contact with.  Please pray for our training team that God would continue to give them energy and strength to serve Him day in and day out.  Thank you, God, for all You have done and all that You are doing and all that You are going to do.  We give you all glory and honor and praise forever and ever!  AMEN!

Hardest Thing For Me

I love living in Peru.  I love being busy and helping out with things and learning Spanish from excellent teachers.  I love being on a team.  However, there are certain challenges to being on a team that I struggle with immensely:  vulnerability.

Honestly, I have been having a tough day today.  It took me a long time to figure out how I was even feeling or what was wrong.  All I knew for a while was that I was in a funk and I didn’t like it.  I finally realized that this is the same spiritual attack I have whenever I am in the midst of ministry, and it is amazing how it works every time.  Satan knows that if he can convince me that I am not ok just as I am, he can keep me from being effective in ministry.

This entire last year I spent a lot of time growing and healing with God.  I have struggled with pretty intense depression in the past, and God has really helped me to be able to hear truth amidst the lies that seem so real to me.  I am ashamed to admit that I even struggle with this, but sometimes it just seems too thick to wade through.  Today it just seemed like a haze I couldn’t shake; it wasn’t quite darkness, but it wasn’t light either.

As I was sitting thinking about this, God reminded me of my devotions this morning from Ephesians 5:8-9:  “For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord.  So live as people of light!  For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true.”  Kari Jobe wrote a song based out of this passage called We Are, and I love the words to the first verse of the song:  “Every secret, every shame; every fear, every pain live inside the dark, but that’s not who we are.  We are children of the day!  So wake up sleeper, lift your head.  We were meant for more than this.  Fight the shadows, conquer death, make the most of the time we have left.  We are the light of the world; we are the city on the hill.  We are the light of the world and we gotta, we gotta, we gotta let the light shine.”

There are so many truths that God has given us to take a hold of.  One of the most well-known but amazing passages in the Bible is Psalm 139, and I love verses 1-18.  Please take the time to read them:

“O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me.
You know when I sit down or stand up.
You know my thoughts even from far away.
You see me when I travel and when I rest at home.
You know everything I do.
You know what I am going to say even before I say it, Lord.
You go before me and follow me.
You place your hand of blessing on my head.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to understand!

I can never escape from your Spirit!
I can never get away from your presence!
If I go up to heaven, you are there;
If I go down to the grave, you are there.
If I ride the wings of the morning,
If I dwell by the farthest oceans,
Even there your hand will guide me,
And your strength will support me.
I could ask the darkness to hide me and the light around me to become night—
But even in darkness I cannot hide from you.
To you the night shines as bright as day;
Darkness and light are the same to you.

You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
You saw me before I was born.
Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.

How precious are your thoughts about me, O God.
They cannot be numbered!
I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of the sand!
And when I wake up, you are still with me.”

I was talking to a friend this afternoon, and I told him that there is a battle going on inside of me right now.  It is a battle of wills between God and me.  I don’t know what it is about me that wants to fight God so strongly.  I want to want what He wants so badly.  However, I am intimidated by some of the things He wants me to do.  I know that it will be hard, and I want so desperately for it to be easy.  I can hear the voice of God cheering me on, “Come on!  I believe in you!  Keep pressing on!”  Sometimes I don’t want to.  Sometimes I simply want to sit down wherever it is that I am and let the world pass me by.  Sometimes I just want to ride the waves.  I am tired of swimming.  At times it feels that I am simply treading water, but I think it is the times that I know that I am going somewhere when I want to give up the most.  The closer I get to the life I know God wants for me, the more fulfilled I become and the more terrified I become of the added pressure, responsibility, and courage that I know it will take to accomplish the task.  It excites me, but at the same time I am becoming increasingly aware at how weak and helpless that I am.  I need God now more than ever because I can’t do this on my own.  It is in these moments that I see myself crumbling, I know that it is only my Maker who can put humpty dumpty back together again.

I know that a lot of it is just emotions, and emotions are just emotions.  However, I am the type that will stuff emotions as deeply as they will go inside of myself so no one will ever see them.  This is a struggle of mine, but I have kept it so private so that maybe it won’t bother anyone.  However, there is a major problem with that at this point in my life:  I am no longer alone in an apartment in Nashville.  I am on the mission field and I am serving on a team.  If even the little things can be a stumbling block in ministry, then I can’t afford to not take this to my team and be honest with them about where I am.  I need their prayers and support.  I also need for them to know that when I start to retreat inside, I need their help to come back out.  I can’t do it alone.  I don’t want anything to keep me from doing everything God desires, and I don’t want to hold our team back from any type of ministry.  I asked them the other day to pray for me for boldness, and that is exactly what this is about.  I need to overcome all of these petty little emotions and fears and insecurities so that I might be strong for Christ.

This is the hardest thing for me to do:  to be vulnerable with people.  It is especially hard for me to be vulnerable face to face.  I need to work on this, and my absolutely incredible team will help me with this, I know.  I am excited to be in Peru and I am excited to serve God in any capacity He brings my way.  I am asking for you to pray for me for the same thing that Paul asked the church in Ephesus to pray for:  “…that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel (6:19).”
Wherever Is Trevor

{ he asks himself the same }

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