Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Greetings & Introductions

Have you ever read something that seems so simple and then once you actually READ into it you are just struck with a "WOW-ness" feeling?!

Last night my husband and I began reading Romans together. We decided to start with just the first 17 verses. The first 17 verses are titled as "Introduction". So, I actually told Steven before we started, "I want to read further than that, because this is just the introduction-greeting." Well, thankfully he looked past my ignorance and we began reading together the 17 verses and were amazed at what Paul's greeting was to the Romans.

I would just like to say, I am soooooo thankful for God's Word. It is so powerful! I wrote down the things that stood out to us after we read through the verses and talked about it.

Fantastic Eye-openers
He tells the Romans in v. 8 that their faith is being reported ALL OVER THE WORLD! That is fantastic! I would love to get a letter from someone in another state or country and see the words to my family, or to my church, or to my country saying, "Your FAITH is being reported ALL over the world!" It is so neat to see a group of people so on fire for God that their faith is spreading throughout the world fast!
2.) He tells the Romans in v. 9 & 10 that with God as his witness, he has been praying for them and thinking about them constantly. It reminds me how much my prayer life can only increase. I am never at a place where I can be content in how much time I spend talking to God about my heart, friends, church, family, those who are lost, and strangers! See, Paul had never met these people. He was praying for complete STRANGERS. I began imagining what would happen if our churches began praying for each other constantly with a desire to reach the world. Not only would we see change, but our faith would be reported around the world!
3.) In v. 12 he tells them he is looking forward to seeing them not just so that he can teach them new things, but that they can encourage each other spiritually! I have seen this first hand this year. God has definitely blessed me with a wonderful husband who wants me by his side in ministry. And I love it. I absolutely love serving beside him and helping him as much as I can. I have had the honor of leading a girls in-depth Bible study on becoming women of integrity. I am also now leading the 11th & 12th grade Sunday school class. All that to say, that encouragement is exactly how I feel with our students. As much as I am so ecstatic about teaching them and sharing God's Truth with them, they have taught me so much also. They have opened my eyes to what it must be like living in a home as the only Christian, or being faced with the pressures that they deal with at school, etc. They have encouraged me just as much as I have encouraged them. And how easy is it to get in the mindset that we don't just go to church to be fed or to feed, but we go to give & take together. People feed off of you just as much as you feed off of them.
4.) In v. 14, he tells them that he is obligated to both Greek and non-Greeks, both the wise and the foolish. So, basically he is saying, I am obligated to share my faith with those who are like me and those who are different, those who seem to have it all together, and those who don't. We don't have a choice in who we share our faith with. We are obligated to be the light to EVERYONE. And then he goes on to say in v. 16...
5.) "I am not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes." That says it all without explanation. I am thankful for God's WORD and for the power in His name. It would impact our cities and nation if every one who claims to be a Christian would stand up and say, "I am not ashamed of the Gospel..." and would go OUT and tell people! We shouldn't rely on our "Missions" ministries to get the job done. We each have a responsibility to share Christ with others.

So, introductions & greeting in the Bible are FABULOUS! :) All of God's Word is FABULOUS!

Paul is such an encouragement to me to just see how he was so absolutely in love with our Lord and Savior and that just makes me want to shout for joy! He didn't care what people thought about His faith. He was not ashamed! He wanted to shout it from the rooftops! And that is who I want to be. I am not ashamed of my Lord!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Dancing With Jesus

I am lost inside this mystery of God's love for me lately. And I pray it never ends. I feel like I am in a dance with my first love, Jesus, and I just keep twirling through this moment of His grace, mercy, and sacrifice for me. I love it! I am just so captured and speechless that Jesus wants my heart. That Jesus would die for me giving me the opportunity to choose eternity with Him. And even though I have accepted this precious gift of eternal life from Him, I can't help but to be consumed with checking where my heart is truly at in life.

The scriptures that I have been studying lately just remind me over and over again that the condition of my heart physically is just as important as the condition of my heart spiritually and emotionally. My heart reflects who I am. "As water reflects the face, so the heart reflects the person." Proverbs 27:19

I come no where near to being who you need to follow in example. You should follow the example of Jesus Christ. But, I do share this journey of surrender, obedience, relationship, and consistency in my Savior with you because it has become REAL for me. And it has changed my life!

It's easy to be focused on being that that person that people would "assume" is a GOOD Christian. But are we really good Christians? Are we just good at going to church, tithing, not missing attendance, etc. Shouldn't we be more concerned of what God sees. He sees everything! And eventually our "pretending" will be seen by our peers. Luke 6:45 "The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks."

I ask myself these questions....How would someone describe me that works with me, lives with me, sits in class with me, sits next to me in church, rides in my car with me, goes to lunch with me, runs into me at the grocery store, overhears my conversation on my cell phone, sees me working in my yard, looks at my facebook, etc. The list could just go on and on. How would someone describe you that knows you as a relative? How would someone describe you that goes to church with you? How would someone describe you that works next to you at your job?

As challenging as those questions seem, better yet, ask yourself this: What does God KNOW (not think) of me? Because in case you have forgotten, He doesn't have to meet you for lunch, He has been with you all day. He doesn't have to bump into you at the grocery store, He is in your heart and knows exactly what's going on with you. He knows how many hairs you have on your head. He thinks about you constantly. I John 3:20 "...for God is greater than our hearts, and He knows everything."

Last week in the book Crazy Love, Francis Chan makes the comment that every Sunday he sees hundreds of consistent church going people entering the church doors, and he wonders to himself out of those people, who will actually be in heaven. Is Jesus your everything? When you worship on Sunday mornings are you worshiping as though He is standing right in front of you? I sing from the stage most Sunday mornings and sometimes I wonder if we really mean what we sing. Sometimes I just have to close my eyes and imagine myself at the feet of Jesus. Who cares what the person next to you thinks when you are worshiping. We are not called to worship a congregation, but instead we worship a SAVIOR! Isaiah 29:13, "The Lord says, 'These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship is made up only of rules taught by men.'"

Our nation is full of lukewarm Christians just doing the "christian" thing week to week. Dad shared this in a sermon that Islam would call us a Christian nation. We know that we are far from that. But get this....because of the inconsistency of people who call themselves Christians, they choose to not be called Christians when they get saved. Instead they call themselves, "followers of Christ". And they know most of the time that as soon as they become a follower of Christ, they will be persecuted and most likely killed for their faith.

Christians in America think it's terrible if someone makes fun of them at work or school for being a Christian because it's not cool to them. Peter tells us in 1 Peter 4:12, "Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But REJOICE that you participate in the sufferings of Christ so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed". If someone is recognizing you are in love with your SAVIOR, then REJOICE, because apparently you are doing something right that they can see His glory revealed in you!

We should wear His name proud! It honestly leaves me speechless that I wear the name of Jesus. With honor I carry the name of Jesus with me everywhere I go. And I will continue to dance with my first love, Jesus, and I will continue to keep twirling through this moment of His grace, mercy, and sacrifice that He gave for me.

I heard these lyrics to a song this morning and this is truly what my heart cries out, "Jesus when you speak to my heart, I know that I am in love with a Savior, who gave everything just to know me. It leaves me speechless that You would want my heart. You leave me speechless that You would die just to be with me and I am lost inside this mystery. Oh Jesus, you leave me speechless."

Are you speechless?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Where is your treasure?

I can still smell the air of the mountains, smoke from huts, and trees that we would fly through on our way home to our tribe in the helicopter.

My helicopter ride to the tribe was 30 minutes of anticipation soaking in God's creation in the islands of Papua New Guinea and mostly longing to be in my mom and dads arms again. As soon as we would get over the last mountain, my brother would look back at me from the front passenger seat and say, "Kelli, we are here!" We would look down and I could not help but start waving my arms frantically out the small window. I knew that it was pretty promising my parents couldn't see my arms yet, but I would wave them all the way until we landed. There was no other way to get out all the excitement I had in my body! Tears would fill my eyes as I would see my mom smiling from ear to ear ready to embrace her kids! I didn't wait for the propeller to slow down, I undid my seat belt as fast I could and would run across the helicopter pad straight to my parents.

I think about how my mom must have felt when we would land, knowing our family was all together again. Or maybe how our pilot felt. It must have really meant something to him to see parents and kids reunite and feel complete again for a short time. What a rewarding job to land a helicopter safely and watch children run into their parents arms!

That makes me think about how God must feel when we feel complete in Him. His love is far better than we can comprehend, so just imagine what it must be like for a God who created you to see you give your life to him completely without turning back. When I see someone surrender to God, I can't help but cry knowing it is the best decision they will ever make. What a difference it would make if we get over everything else and GET INTO GOD!

I sat with my grandma as she was dying of cancer and she could barely talk because the cancer had spread to her brain. I would sit with a hymnal next to her bed and sing for her. Sometimes she would hum along and try to say the words to songs as best as she could. One day I began singing, " I have decided to follow Jesus, I have decided to follow Jesus, I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back." When I started singing this song, I wasn't two words into it and she opened her eyes, and with all she had in her, she sang those words as loud and clear as she could. I watched her suffer from cancer and yet be so grateful to God for her circumstances. She embraced herself in Him daily. I wish I could have witnessed her walking into the presence of God and hearing Him tell her "well done, June, my good and faithful servant."

I know from experience that when I am fully embraced in the Lord, that is when I am most happy. That is when I am most burdened for my lost friends. That is when I am most loving. That is when I get my priorities in order. That is when I have peace in the midst of my storms.

I guess what my thoughts sum up to be is that we need to soak up every moment here on earth and give it our best for Christ! We need to be a little more concerned about who might not know Jesus rather than wasting our time being the ones who have Him and don't share Him.

One more story. My grandma, like I said, was dying from cancer. Their youth group from church came and brought her cookies and cards one afternoon. They spent some time with her in the room giggling and having a great time together. After they had left, I went in the room and she was crying. I said, "Grandma, are you sad because you don't get to spend time with them at church as much anymore?" She said, "No. I am sad because some of them don't know Jesus." I just looked at her and my eyes welled up with tears.

I have to ask myself "Am I broken over the lost world?" I asked someone the other day if they had spent time with God at all that day. They said, "no, don't have time. My day is pretty much taken up." Is that you? Have you made time for God today? Or have you let everything else come as priority over Him?

I pray I find meaning to my life in HIM and not things of this world!

"For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Matthew 6:21

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Can You Grasp It?

I am starting a Bible study with the 11th and 12th Graders in Sunday school. We are doing a study called Crazy Love by Francis Chan. I am really nervous when it comes to teaching something. Especially since I don't feel like I know enough myself to be leading others, but I am just following in obedience to God telling me I need to teach this class. We have only done 1 chapter and I am already loving this study! Sometimes I get into a rut of allowing myself to only be learning things over and over that I already know (easy to do as a preachers kid - we have heard it all and know it all, right?! lol), and not asking God to show me something new. But when I actually take the time to learn something NEW, it's awesome to see my heart and mind begin to look at things a little more through God's eyes.

I was captured by this book immediately when I read the first sentence of the Preface: "To just read the Bible, attend church, and avoid 'big' sins -is this passionate, wholehearted love for God?" I think my old self that just let myself go through the routine of Christian church life would have said, "Yes! It is! Duh!". Are you one of those people that think that way? Does something in your heart long to break free from the status quo of "yeah, I go to church, I sing songs, I pray, I don't cuss, etc....."? I know I do.

I think immediately when we are faced with this question we think, "Well, here comes the list of do's and don'ts". But what Francis explains is the simplicity of just falling in love with God. That's all God is asking us to do. He just wants a passionate love relationship with us. It's not complex, it's not trying harder to be religious. It's not about being religious, but about having a relationship. When we grasp this concept, we will be blessed beyond measure!

There are several students in our youth group that come to me on a weekly basis feeling like they don't measure up to what they should be as a Christian. They are constantly dwelling on the fact that they don't do this or they do that but its not good enough. It breaks my heart! These are common things I am hearing from what they say, "Kelli, I need to pray more to be a better Christian. Kelli, I need to share my faith more, Kelli, I mess up too much, Kelli, I won't ever be good enough. Kelli, people at school don't like me, why would God?" Have you thought these things before? Some of these things are definitely things we need to be better at as Christians, but what we are missing is that God doesn't require us to be doing all of those things perfectly to love us!

I believe wholeheartedly that Satan has a way of making us think that just like the world feels/thinks towards us, that is how God feels/thinks towards us. Here are 3 Factors that we are always being pressured with in our world today. 1. APPEARANCE - Do you look good enough (are you acceptable in appearance to others, athletic ability) 2. WHAT YOU DO - (how much money you have, whats your intelligence) 3. WHAT DO OTHER PEOPLE THINK ABOUT YOU (do you measure up to their standards, is your car the newest style, do you own expensive things) We transfer these thoughts to our relationship with God. We are taking these messed up concepts we have and are hiding them in our hearts in place of where God's TRUTH and His WORD should be.

God LOVES your appearance. Did you forget He CREATED you? He is absolutely in love and amazed at your beauty, and He made your for HIS glory! Let that soak for a minute. God made you for HIS glory! Isaiah 43:7 "everyone who is called by My name, whom I created for My glory, whom I formed and made." The next time you feel like you don't measure up to the world, remember you measure up in a glorifying way to your Creator.

God has a purpose for you. The world tells you that you need to make a lot of money, have the best education, be the highest on the totem pole, make enough money to have the best house, the best vehicle, etc... God says, I created you for MY glory and I have a plan for you to be set apart from the world's standards. As a Christian, you are called to live a holy life. Also, one other thing is that you don't have to do anything for God to call you to live a holy life. He loves you so much that without a list of do's and don'ts, He gives you a purpose in life. Read this scripture: 2 Timothy 1:8-9 "So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord.........but join with Me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God, 9who has saved us and called us to a holy lifenot because of anything we have done but because of His own purpose and grace." The only purpose in life that you need to worry about is God's purpose.

God thinks highly of you!
Colossians 3:12 "Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved" God chooses YOU and loves YOU! What a wonderful thought. What would happen to us if we took this in and grasped His love for us.
Psalms 36:7 "How priceless is your unfailing love! Both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of your wings." We find purpose in ourselves, knowing that God has unfailing love. He doesn't give up or stop loving us when we fail Him.
John 3:16"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." He died for you!
Romans 8:35-39"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. Neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

There are so many more verses about how much God loves us, but I know for me as I am reading these right now and typing them out, I am becoming more and more confident in who I am already. Sometimes we just need to be reminded that we belong to the Lord who created us! Romans 8:31 "If God is for us, who can be against us!"

God, thank you for your Word. When we feel discouraged, we can turn to you for peace and understanding! Help us understand that You are not looking at what we do to be loved. You already love us.

Once we grasp God's love and we choose to have a personal, passionate relationship with Him, those things that we have a hard time doing, (praying, witnessing, being an example, etc) will come naturally!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Spiritual Eyes

Sometimes I wish I could close my eyes and reappear on the mission field where solid Christians surrounded me and God was being poured into my life constantly Sun-Sat.(dorm life-bible studies, school-bible class, Outreach - sharing our Faith in tribal villages every week & church) I didn't see it as being a struggle to serve God, bc it was a common lifestyle. We even focused on God through sports, choir, band, etc. Everything we did was circled around God.

On the other hand, I see the danger I had of not being prepared to shield myself under God's protection when the pressures of unfamiliar sins faced me here in America. What do I mean by that....well, I didn't have to work as hard at surrendering to the Lord everyday on the mission field like I do here. It wasn't as hard to be in love with the Lord bc no one made me choose otherwise. No one cussed in my face, no one asked me to do drugs or have sex, there was no temptation to wear inappropriate clothing, there was no temptation to listen to non-Christian music or watch ungodly movies & TV. I had no pressure of feeling like I needed to date a guy to be popular. I didn't have to stand up for my faith to non-Christians bc everyone in my school was already a Christian. And the village I went to weekly was so hungry for more and more Jesus! I didn't have to face too many situations with a secular mindset. I didn't care if I wore the same thing twice that week. I didn't have friends making fun of me if I didn't have the most popular "thing"! "Things" were not taught to be priority in life. I learned to live with nothing yet at the same time knowing I had everything already in Christ Jesus.

I am thinking about this today, bc I have been reminded today of how much God wants me to surrender to Him everyday in this lost world! I have no excuse to be lazy in my Christian walk just because my surroundings are different now. I don't live in the Christian bubble I did on the mission field. (Not that everything was perfect, but it was easier.) But, just because I'm not surrounded daily with Christian people doesn't mean I can become like world. I don't have a day off. I can't clock out when I walk out of church. It's a lifestyle!

As a 26 year old in America I am faced with a lost world that is pressuring me everyday and has been over the past 10 years. I have let the LIES slowly slip into my life! God says that as Christians, we are in the world, but we can't become like the world. Romans 12:2 says "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." I can't let man decide who I am or I will lose my identity that I have in Christ. How does this happen? So Simple! We live in a world that screams "TV is important, expensive jeans are what you need, you have to look good, you deserve things more than your husband/wife does, God can wait until the next church day, it's all about YOU and YOUR needs before anyone else, do what YOU want, live how YOU want, make YOURSELF happy!

I don't say this so you can feel overwhelmed, throw your hands up, and give up! No way! I say this to encourage you to look at life through God's eyes. Ask God to give you wisdom! Ways to find truth and meaning in your life can be found in His Holy Word. Proverbs 2:1-5 says "My son, if you accept My words and store up My commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God." Wow - God is telling us RIGHT HERE to search for understanding and wisdom as if searching for hidden treasure! This morning I heard on the Christian radio station that if we had just a glimpse of life through God's eyes, we would be SO moved and think SO differently than we do. The great thing about that, is WE CAN! All we have to do is ask Him! What a wonderful promise from the Lord!! I don't have to give up, I can just ask HIM for guidance!!!

My prayer: Lord, you are Maker of heaven and earth! WOW! Help me understand who You really are. That You are not a small God, but a Big, marvelous, all knowing, loving Creator! God, show me where You are at work in my life. Help me to see life through YOUR spiritual eyes and not my worldly eyes. Remove my pride! Remove the obstacles in my life that direct me down the wrong path. God, give me Your mercy because I have none without You, God, give me Your strength because I have none without You, God show me YOUR way because my way leads to destruction. Lord, forgive us for choosing our own route and for selfishly choosing ourselves over You!! Give us the desire to search for understanding and wisdom as if searching for hidden treasure!

God will use our messed up circumstances to grow us closer to Him if we allow Him! Lord help me to be that person you created me to be!