Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Dirty Jobs: Christian Edition

Mike Rowe has a TV show called Dirty Jobs. He dives into the messy, muddy and mucky jobs of everyday people, and from garbage men to sewage workers to shark taxidermists and maggot farmers, Rowe covers the dirtiest of the dirtiness.

But what if there was a Christian Edition?

Christians aren't perfect, the dirtiness of sin still remains, the difference in a true believer's life is their response (brokenness, grief and repentance) to the dirt. Our filth often includes (but is definitely not limited to) the "respectable sins" of pride and lust, gossiping and jealousy, anger and ungratefulness.

The dirty job isn't that we have those sins and struggle with them, no, that's the easy and natural part. The job comes in dealing with the root of the sin and breaking free of the bondage it enslaves us with.

It's hard to kill the flesh. It hurts. It's uncomfortable. And it isn't instantly gratifying. Besides, my mom has always told me God doesn't command things of us that come naturally. If it came natural for us, He wouldn't have to command it.

The dirty job of killing sin is pretty much a straightforward command:
"Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace." -Romans 6:12-14
It is our job as the church--the Body of Christ-- to come alongside each other and help each other continually present ourselves as slaves to righteousness. We don't need to be the TV host who just tells the viewers what the gross wild goose swabber or hot tar roofer is doing, but a host who actually gets his hands dirty and helps do the job. We should differ from Mike Rowe, however, in that we don't just stop after a few minutes of helping in order to check that off our "Christian To-Do List" but continually get our hands dirty in bearing the burdens of our brothers and sisters in Christ and helping them fight the battles in all its gory, disgusting, nastiness, always keeping in mind that we have those same gory, disgusting, nasty sins, too.
"But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses." -1 Timothy 6:11-12

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Shower heads, laughter and the presence of God

As I laid in the bathtub tonight (taking a gloriously long hot soak for the first time in months) looking up at the shower head I thought how funny it would be if the shower just turned on a started spraying me and my book down.

If that happened I would have shrieked then laughed and asked God to quit playing around.

Then it hit me.

What if God really did do stuff like that?

I mean, He can. But what if He did go all Herbie-Fully-Loaded on us and played practical jokes as a way to get us to notice and spend time with Him?

Maybe then we would start realizing He is ever-present and always at work around us.

I'd certainly laugh more.

But God, in all His sovereignty, waits for us to come to Him. He never begs, just patiently waits to have mercy on us (Isaiah 30:18).

Still. I like to imagine God playing practical jokes on us. But then again, maybe He does and I just don't realize it.

Just a thought.

Getting uncomfortable

It's after midnight and I can't sleep. I've been reading Katie Davis' book Kisses from Katie and am questioning what is holding me back from completely throwing myself at God in complete abandonment and giving up everything to follow Him as His disciples did when Jesus called.

I'm sitting in my comfortable sweats in my comfortable bed, in my comfortable home on my comfortable street in comfort town, USA. I have everything I could ever need within the walls of my home and if that still wasn't enough I have an iPhone that can connect me to anything else I could ever ask for or imagine. I have an amazing family, friends and almost endless resources. Next Monday I start a full-time job I'm ridiculously excited about, next season I'll be covering Murray State basketball for the Associated Press again and in just more than six months I'll have a college degree. It's the American dream: go to college, get married and settle down to make money and kids.

But all of that is nothing without Christ. Everything is empty and meaningless and has no significance apart from the Lord breathing grace into our vain lives and plans (even the best laid ones... but you know what they say about those).

I am completely confident God has me exactly where He wants me and I could not be happier than to love on the middle and high school girls at my church and point them to the cross day in and day out, but in doing so I've not been granted permission to get comfortable.

We were not called to comfort. We were called to obedience. And most often that means getting uncomfortable.

Here is an excerpt of Katie's book:
When I imagine God creating each one of us and planting a purpose deep in our hearts, I never imagine that purpose being mediocrity. While the Bible doesn't tell every person on earth specifically what his or her life's calling will be, it does include a lot of general direction: 
"You are to find Me in the least of these." Yes. 
"You are to leave your earthly possessions and come follow Me." Yes. 
"You are to love and serve the Lord God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself." Yes. 
"You are to go and make disciples of all nations." Yes. 
"You are to entertain strangers and lepers and tax collectors." Yes. 
"You are to show mercy." Yes. 
"You are to live a life of mediocrity and abundance, holding tight to your comfortable lifestyle, lest you lose it." No. 
I don't think so. "Mediocrity and abundance" aren't there. However, mediocrity and abundance, comfort and ease do seem to be safe choices for many people, myself included. In stark contrast, leaving our possessions, following Jesus when we don't have a well-defined plan, and entertaining strangers--well, that does sound a little scary. But what if, just beyond that risk, just beyond the fear is a life better than anything we have ever imagined: life to the fullest.

We are not called to a life of mediocrity because with Christ there is no such thing. We are called to get uncomfortable because when that happens we discover He is our source of comfort. We are called to be patient in affliction because when that happens we discover He is our source of help. We are called to sacrifice our lives because He sacrificed His.

Don't gain the world and lose your soul. Don't settle for a life of mediocrity and comfort. God is bigger than your comfort zone and He wants to use you in His glorious work of redeeming the nations, including the one you're in. You don't have to sell all your belongings, pack a suitcase and fly to a third world nation and live in poverty in order to be uncomfortable or make a difference for His Kingdom. No, He can use you right where you are, but you must be willing to be uncomfortable.

The funny thing is, when we are uncomfortable for His sake we soon find more comfort than we could ever have known. Crazy how obeying Jesus' commands brings more joy than doing things our own way. He really does know what He's talking about.

Videos to watch when you're ready to reject comfort:

Here's to getting uncomfortable. For His glory.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Change is in the air

Change is always happening; no two days are alike and each one presents a whole new adventure waiting to happen. You are different than you were yesterday and tomorrow you will be different than you are today. We are shaped by our experiences, each of which influences us in some way.

Sometimes change is slow and sometimes it happens like a light switch.

Right now I'm experiencing the latter.

I'm taking a break from cleaning and organizing my room at home. I've unpacked all my boxes from college and am figuring out how to make everything I have acquired from countless adventures and journeys fit into this room.

In the midst of tossing out a whole lot of junk and a whole lot of things I don't use anymore, I'm also trying to figure out how to settle into this new chapter God is writing in the book of my life. Transition and change is tough, I'm going to miss living in Murray and being so close to the people who have become my best friends. I'm going to miss walking across campus every day and seeing handfuls of people I know every time I walk out my door. I'm going to miss my desk and office at The Murray State News and being less than a five minute walk to the stadium and CFSB Center. I'm going to miss Campus Outreach and classrooms and making new friends every day. I'm going to miss lunch dates and coffee dates and driving around Murray with the windows down and music blaring and ending up at Hucks to get a fountain drink with the six floor girls. I'm going to miss D-Group and Bible Studies and being within walking distance of more than 100 people I love like my own family. 

But in the midst of the sadness, excitement is bubbling within my heart.

I know beyond a shadow of a doubt God wants me in Paducah and I am more than pumped to begin serving Him and joining the work He is doing in my hometown and in my home church. It never ceases to amaze me that God allows us to join Him in His redemptive plan of wrapping His arms around the nations and extending the very love and grace He has shown us to everyone around us. What a fantastic privilege. 

One of my best friends reminded me of one of my favorite quotes from Elisabeth Elliot this week as I tearfully processed saying goodbye to the body of believers in Murray. In this quote Elisabeth is talking about singleness but it can be applied to every situation in life.

"Single life may be only a stage of life's journey, but even a stage is a gift. God may replace it with another gift, but the receiver accepts His gifts with thanksgiving. This gift for this day. The life of faith is lived one day at a time, and it is to be lived - not always looked forward to as though the "real" living were around the next corner. It is for today we are responsible. God still owns tomorrow." - Elisabeth Elliot, Let me be a Woman

Despite the changes happening all around me, I know this: God isn't changing. He is still the same. He is the unwavering, unshakable, unmoving Rock that will never alter even if our circumstances do. He is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8) and knows all the plans that are ahead of us, plans to shape us into His Son's image and ultimately bring Himself glory (Jeremiah 29:11, Romans 8:28).

The joy that is breaking through the sadness of leaving Murray is something only found at the cross and I am so thankful God continues to lead His children there time and time again so that we may obtain mercy and grace to help in time of need. The cross never loses its power and God never tires of reminding us of that. What a sweet Father we have.

I'm ridiculously blessed. There is no way I could "count every blessing" as the song says to do, there are too many. His blessings are too great. But I will say that God has allowed this finals week, this final week living in Murray to be savored and enjoyed and one of the greatest weeks of my college experience.

Things I will always remember from this week:

Midnight breakfasts at Mary's Kitchen, listening to Cody and Kathy play piano, studying with Anna. Dinners with the six floor girls, all the power outages that happened while I was showering, late nights and early mornings spent making memories with the family. Sleepovers with Mitch, movie nights in my room and more laughter than I could ever dream up.

God is so good to give us these added benefits and pleasures even after giving us Himself. I am so humbled and thankful for these moments and the way He has worked in my heart and life through my time at Murray State. Because God promises to bring all of His children to completion, I know He is going to continue His work on me and I cannot wait to see what is going to happen as He continues to write my story.

God, You really are the best Author. Thank You for giving us Your Son and Your Word and for having a specific and unique story for each of us. May we trust you with the pen as you write this chapter and more to our stories. May we cultivate our hearts to fear You and grow our faith that it may be said of us as it was of Abraham, "No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what He had promised (Romans 4:20-21)." Use us, Lord, to make Your name famous. Consume us with a fiery passion for You that infiltrates every part of our lives. Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to Your name give glory. Here is my pen, God. May I fall in love with You more and more in this chapter of life and in all the ones to come. Amen.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Ian and Larissa Murphy's Marriage Story

This may be one of the most beautiful pictures of marriage I've ever seen. The couple used John Piper's This Momentary Marriage as a tool in pre-marital counseling and I highly recommend that book to anyone, married or single. I read it a couple years ago and it helped foster a right view of marriage and reminded me it is not about us, but like everything else in life, it's all about Him. Watch this short video and be blessed.  

A life of worship through trials, obstacles and fire

The Christian life is a battlefield and the war is real. We have a real enemy out to kill us and we have real trials and battles. If you are a true follower of Christ you have experienced this because He promised we would:

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” -John 16:33

I’m so thankful for that last half. We can take heart, we can have comfort despite trials, persecution and affliction because Christ has overcome the enemy and through Him we also share in the victory and are more than conquerors (Romans 8:37).

So, if we are to have a life of worship beyond the song service at church on Sundays how can we maintain that worship through trials, obstacles and fire?

1. Never take your eyes off God.

Satan will do everything he can to put your eyes on you. Don’t let it happen. You will always lead you astray so kill the sin of pride before it kills you and focus on the prize, the Author and Finisher of your faith who endured the cross for you. Whether or not your feelings tell you so, God is with you in the midst of the battle, His Word says so.

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through the fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.” –Isaiah 43:1-3
“It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; He will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” –Deuteronomy 31:8
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” –Matthew 28:19-20

2. Hold Him to His promises.

He has given us a book filled with His exceedingly great and precious promises and we need to hold Him to them, not for His sake but for our own selves. David did this numerous times throughout the Psalms as he beseeched God to “Remember Your word to Your servant, upon which You have made me hope. This is my comfort in my affliction, that Your promise gives me life” (Psalm 119:49-50). David wasn’t reminding God of this because He forgot, but because it helped his own heart remember that God and His promises were his only hope through affliction and they are the same for us.

Some promises to hold Him to:

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” –Romans 8:35-39
“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen and establish you.” -1 Peter 5:10
“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.” -2 Corinthians 4:8
“Blessed be the God of and father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.” -2 Corinthians 1:3-5
“I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” –Philippians 1:6

Reasons to trust Him for those promises:

The reason can be summed up in three words: He is faithful.

“Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.” –Hebrews 10:23
“If we are faithless, He remains faithful – for He cannot deny Himself.” -2 Timothy 2:13
“No distrust made (Abraham) waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave lorry to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what He had promised.” –Romans 4:20-21

3. Follow His example.

Find comfort in the fact that Jesus suffered the same as we have and can identify with every area of our Christian walk including our trials.

I suggest writing down some of the ways Jesus was persecuted, tried and tempted as well as the way He handled each of those situations, then pray for strength and discipline to handle each of your battles in the same manner. I guarantee you nothing you are facing is new to God or out of His jurisdiction to help you with. And whatever we’re going through we need to remember Jesus had it worse and didn’t sin one time throughout each battle, but remained faithful to His name and continued to serve the Lord with gladness.

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” –Hebrews 4:15-16
“He was oppressed, and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; like a lamp that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth.” –Isaiah 53:7

4. Remember suffering is a tool for your sanctification.

Trials are not without purpose and are not placed in our life for God to get a good laugh out of our struggle. God is using them, as He does everything else in our life, to grow us into the image of His Son. We are being shaped, molded, stretched and honed to be a more distinct reflection of Jesus with every affliction and battle we face. Hold fast through the hard times - they are being used for your good and His glory.

“For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” –Hebrews 12:11
“In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” -1 Peter 1:6-7
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete lacking in nothing.” –James 1:2-4

5. Praise the Lord.

Just because things are rough doesn't mean God deserves our praise any less. A life of worship is just that, a life full of worship in the good times and in the bad. Sometimes it won't be easy, sometimes we won't feel like it and sometimes Satan will lie to us and say we can't worship or praise God because we aren't sincere. He's lying to you. God deserves our praise whether we feel like giving it or not.

"Rejoice always,  pray without ceasing,  give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." -1 Thessalonians 5:16-17
“Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for You created all things, and by Your will they existed and were created.” -Revelation 4:11

I encourage you to watch David Platt’s Secret Church videos on The Cross and Suffering as well as search the Bible for your own verses to hold on to during times of trial as these listed are just a tiny fraction of the plethora of goodness awaiting you within the pages of His Word.

May we be like Paul during his sufferings in 2 Corinthians 4:17 and have an eternal perspective saying, “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us and eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.”


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