Make Your Trade: Completeness or Self-Worship

The goal of your faith should produce joy.

The goal of your faith should produce joy.

 

Joy.  There’s something different in joy than in happiness.  In the words of my favorite pastor (Dan, Journey Campus), “Happiness is self-worship.  The trouble with happiness is that it depends on what’s happening.  But joy is built on the foundation of knowing someOne, not having something.  Joy is completeness in Christ.”  Joy, true unabated joy in the Lord, is something that cannot be substituted for.  Why?  Because there simply isn’t anything else like it.  Happiness is a temporary, cheap knock-off.  Happiness fades and wears with time, but joy grows with time — if you let it. 

I was thinking, “what do I so often trade in my joy from the Lord for?”  My answer: temporary happiness because of someone who isn’t the Lord.  I am confident I am not the only one who does this.  To be completely, transparently honest, I decieve myself into thinking if I start hinging my happiness on “Christian people” and let that become more important than the joy of the Lord, it’s still okay —- you know, because those people love God, too.  No, it’s not okay.

I have been guilty of letting that text message from that “oh so sweet Christian boy” bring me happiness in place of the joy of the Lord through prayer.  I have been guilty of substituting my quiet time with God for “hanging out” with God’s people — or just ONE person who loves God.  I have been guilty of letting the compliment from “that special person” mean more to me than God’s Word telling me “Mary, I -the Creator of Life- love YOU.  I made you.  I say you are wonderfully made.  I love you more than the sun and the stars.  I chose you to be Mine.  I whisper good morning to you every single day.  I let you rest in My arms every single night.  I show how much I care about you with every breath you breathe.”   Really, is there even a comparison?  No, not at all.

There’s a certain pang of remorse that I feel with the realization that I trade my joy from the completeness in the Lord for temporary, always-failing happiness from the acceptance of someone else (even if that someone else is a God-fearing Christian person).  To accompany remorse is guilt, shame, sadness, and anger with myself.  But as it always is with my merciful and loving God, there is redemption:  He is still here, holding joy out to clothe me in.  No more wearing around happiness like a tattered, weather-worn jacket.  God is clothing me in a cozy, withstanding coat of joy.  He is offering me the joy I was so eager to dismiss.  He is dismissing my shame, guilt, remorse, self-anger, and sadness of knowing I have given up joy.  Why?  Because He loves me.  Because He is faithful .  Because He knows what I want even when I am confused.  Because He is merciful.  Because He is forgiving.  Because He is Yaweh.

I invite and challenge YOU to find what you trade in your joy for.  What do you allow to bring you temporary happiness?  Get rid of it.  Ask the Lord for His joy to fill you.  Ask for Him to remove what thing or person you let dictate your happiness and your degree of joy.  (I’m not saying that if someone makes you happy to get rid of them.  But if you rely on them making you happy instead of having joy from God, then yes — make some changes.)  Seek joy in Him alone, and I can promise you:  it will stand every test and every trial.  It’s a hard thing to do, given that we are selfish beings by nature and would rather have happiness (remember, it’s self-worship) than joy (completeness in Christ).  But wouldn’t you rather be complete in your Savior than bowing down to yourself? 

Let me be clear:  I think it is acceptable and encouraged to find joy in Christian fellowship.  I am NOT saying that being joyful or happy because of or with other Christians (or non-Christians) is a bad thing.   I am simply saying that the core of your joy….it should be from Christ.   I am saying that at your core should be joy in Christ above happiness.   But is all happiness bad?  No, I think not. 

It is my goal to lay aside the things and/or people that I have sought happiness in and seek only the Lord further, to seek to grasp the joy of the Lord and live on that.  Let His whispers and His displays of love bring me more joy than anything else.  Let His Word touch my heart more than the words of anyone else.  Let my worship be His and not my own.  Let my joy be in Jesus.  Let my life be joyful. 

Divorce: Abandonment of a Promise to Love

Divorce: Death of a Love Story

Divorce: Death of a Love Story

Here’s a topic I never talk about since it hits just a little too close to home — right smack in the middle of my childhood home, actually.  I am in no way looking for pity in this post.  I am simply stating my opinion and my truths from experience with divorce.

I hate divorce.

I just really hate divorce.  I’m not saying that to condemn any of you who have been through that struggle.  In fact, I’m sure anyone who has been through a divorce either as one getting the divorce or one deeply affected by it (i.e. a child from the marriage) would agree with my hatred.

I learned at a young age of 8 what divorce was:  ugly.  Divorce was the reason my sisters and mother and I moved out of our house and in with my grandparents for a few months.  Divorce was when I could no longer come home to Mommy and Daddy.  Divorce was when every holiday ended up being a systematic custody question — which parent had you last year on Thanksgiving?  Whose turn was it to have you this year?  Divorce was when I was taught that maybe love really doesn’t last forever, after all.

You see, when you grow up watching Disney movies where the princess always got her prince, or everyone always ended up happily ever after you get the idea in your head that love is a fairytale.  You believe that when two people are in love they get married and live happily together forever.  When you watch a divorce between the very two people designed to teach you about love (your parents), you come to recognize fairytale love stories are for the movies.  Real life love and marriage isn’t a cake walk.  There are no lovey-dovey music soundtracks for every step of the way.  And sometimes, just sometimes, people cannot seem to remember why they were once so perfectly in love.  Sometimes things just don’t work out.  Sometimes marriages die.

That is what divorce is:  death of a marriage.  Even more so, I view divorce as death of a once beautiful love story.  And again, I will reiterate:  I hate divorce.

More importantly than what I hate is what God hates, and I believe that God hates divorce.  You see, divorce is broken promises– between one another and between the couple and God.  I can’t, in the depths of my heart, believe that God enjoys or is okay with us breaking our promises to Him or to one another in His name (the whole “by the power vested in me by the state of ________ and God the Father, I now pronounce you husband and wife” thing).  I believe it makes Him sad.  I believe it makes Him angry.  I believe it makes Him hurt.  For us.

Divorce is the abandonment of a promise to love someone forever no matter what circumstance may present itself.  I hate abandonment, so naturally I again hate divorce. 

I refuse to ever have a divorce.  Seriously, if future hubby and I get to where we are in constant discontentment being together, we will actively petition the Lord, go to counseling, and work it out.  But I’m not worried about that because whomever I do actually end up saying “I do” to will be completely and utterly tailored for my heart and mine for his.   

I am so, so, SO happy that God never abandons us, even after we act wickedly.  I am so, so, SO thankful that God is faithful to His promises — no matter what situation we create and no matter what we say or do.  I am so incredibly joyful that His faithfulness is not dictated by our actions or emotions.  I am so undeserving of His love and faithful promises, yet I relish in them. 

For all of you who hate divorce as much as I do and for all of you who have been touched in one way or another by it, take heart that you have a Creator who does not break promises He makes to you, who remains faithful even when we are wicked and unfaithful, who chose you and promises to love you forever because He is who He is. 

Nehemiah 9:31 says, “However, in Your abundant compassion, You did not destroy them or abandon them, for You are a gracious and compassionate God.” 
Nehemiah 9:33 says, “You are righteous concerning all that has come on us, because You have acted faithfully, while we have acted wickedly.” 

Want to know a secret? I’m crazy enough to still believe in that fairytale love, after all. God shows me it can be real, so I’m going to trust Him.

Unrest of the Night

Waiting on falling asleep.  Slight insomnia.

Waiting on falling asleep. Slight insomnia.

 

It is 2am here and in just a few hours I will be waking to begin my last first day of a semester at ASU as an undergraduate — and I can’t for the life of me get to sleep.   It’s one of those nights when my mind refuses to slow down enough for me to slip off into a peaceful dreamland, or any dreamland.  One of those nights where my heart can’t settle down long enough for me to enter that state of calm sleepiness.

What has kept me up?  It could be the fact that I just finished the book “Kisses from Katie” and I am thinking about what exactly I have and have not done to help those in need, and how I can love better.  It could be the fact that I am completely and exhaustively aware that I really am at the end of my college journey.  This is it, this is the last semester.  It could be the ugly truth that I still have not completed my law school applications that should have been sent off to the respective schools weeks ago.  Maybe I can’t find sleep yet because I keep thinking of that one person who seems to refuse to leave my thoughts lately.  Perhaps, even still, it is the fact that I know I am completely and utterly undeserving of every single thing God has given me in this life, yet He continues to give.   It could be the fact that I have that sickening feeling, you know that one you get when something just doesn’t seem quite right, when life just has that eerie feeling about it?  Yeah, that feeling. 

Needless to say, I cannot pinpoint exactly what has caused this temporary and ill-timed insomnia tonight.  I cannot tame these thoughts and the reaches of my heart tonight.  I know one thing for sure, though:  I can know in the midst of my restlessness that God is orchestrating everything for my good.  He delights in loving me.  He delights in me loving Him and loving others in His name.  I can know that God is holding my tomorrow, my today, my right now in His righteous hands.  I can know that it is a blessing, an honor to be uncomfortable — because that is when people make changes.  Right now I just feel uncomfortable.  It is my general disposition with current situations — overactive mind, restless heart, tired but unable to sleep, content but troubled.  When Father God does finally grant me sleep, I can’t even imagine what changes lie in wait for me when I wake.  To say I am excited is an understatement.  To say I am nervous is an understatement.  To say I am slightly scared but nonetheless wholly trusting in Him, now that sounds with a pure degree of truth. 

Goodnight, sleepy world. 

Let’s see if I can’t count my blessings until I fall asleep…

My Problem With Christians

So many people.  How many are being discipled?  How many are discipling?

So many people. How many are being discipled? How many are discipling?


First things first:  I am a Christian.  Yes, I am the believer in the God of all creation.  I love Him.  More imporantly, He loves me — always has and always will.  I believe He sent His Son Jesus to die for me on a cross.  I believe that Jesus was sinless, died on a cross for my sins, then rose again three days later and ascended to Heaven to wait for the day that He comes back to call all of His children home.  I believe this.  I believe that as a Christian there is more than just being a believer — you have to be a follower.  I pledged my life to following the commands that Jesus left for us years ago.  I give my life away daily to the One who gave His away for me.  Well, at least I try — I am human and I fail over and over. 

As a Christian, I feel it is acceptable for me to make the following statement:  I have a problem with Christians.  Yes, I have a problem with them, with us.  Here in the Bible Belt I am surrounded by “Christians.”  But really, I think I am more surrounded by believers, not followers.  My main problem with these Christians that I am around, that I read about, that I hear about is simply this:  they have no idea what discipling means.

Hear me out. 
Jesus commands us in Matthew 28 to make disciples.  Notice, however, He did not say “Go forth and make converts.”  No, Jesus tells us to make disciples.  This is simply MY opinion, but I don’t think that converts and disciples are the same thing.  Additionally, I don’t think Jesus meant for us as Christians to invest in people until they believe, welcome them to the family of God, and then focus our attention on other people who have “not turned away from their sin.”  No.  That is ridiculous.

Jesus had 12 disciples.  Twelve.  Not twelve thousand, not twelve hundred, not twenty….twelve.  He didn’t just convert His disciples into believing in Him then stop investing in them.  He ate with them;  He traveled with them;  He had long talks with them;  He cared for them;  He cared about them;  He knew all about their lives;  He wanted to know all about their lives;  He did life with them;  He invested His attention and focus in them.

That is my problem with Christians these days:  where is the investment?  I’m not saying that we as Christians do not make an effort.  It seems you cannot turn a corner without hearing about a Bible study or a gathering from some kind of campus ministry or a meal being provided from this church or that one.  Those are all great, really, they are.   BUT, what about when that event is over?  What about the rest of each person’s life outside those two hours that has been a planned event for “discipling”? 

I’m not trying to say that we should stop spreading the Gospel and converting people to knowing the love and truth that resides in the story of Christ.  I am most certainly NOT saying that.  Giving people the Truth and showing them the way to Jesus is what we’re called to do, but our calling does not stop there.  As a Christian, you should disciple one another.  You shouldn’t let your investment stop at the door of sanctuary or when the Bible study night ends.  Jesus didn’t.  If you want to be a true Christian, follow Him.  Follow Him in discipleship.  He had tweleve disciples.  He did life daily with twelve.  He knew their lives, their hopes, their dreams, their desires, their fears, their attitudes — He knew them. 

We’re not Jesus.  Twelve is a lot for us.  Jesus was sinless, thus not selfish or self-centered.  Each of us are both by nature.  So instead of twelve, why don’t you pick one or two?  One or two individuals that know and believe in the grace of God.  Teach them His commands, show them His love, encourage, rebuke, share with them.  Do life with them.

Have you moved on to “more sinful” people once you deduce your friend believes in God and loves Him?  Do you neglect those closest to you because you know “he/she and God are good”?   Stop it.  Make disciples.  Be a disciple.  Invest continually. 

This is my problem with Christians.  This is my problem with myself.  Here’s to making disciples and not converts, to investing in people and not projects….cheers!

I Have Been Chosen.

The Mighty God who is seated on the Throne in Heaven has chosen me to be His.  How could I be anything but completely joyful?

The Mighty God who is seated on the Throne in Heaven has chosen me to be His. How could I be anything but completely joyful?

 

“I brought you from the ends of the earth
and called you from its farthest corners. 
I said to you: you are My servant;
I have chosen you and not rejected you. 
Do not fear, for I am with you,
do not be afraid, for I am your God. 
I will strengthen you; I will help you;
I will hold on to you with My righteous right hand.”
                                                     -Isaiah 41:9-10

How powerful a statement for Almighty God to simply say “I have chosen you” to me.  Not only did He choose me, but He called me forth from far away places and brought me to Him.  God pursued me and lovingly brough me to Him — the source of life and goodness.  He has chosen me to be His servant to share in His glory.  He has promised not that I have to search high and low to no avail for Him, but rather He is with me.  He has made Himself always and eternally available to me.  He has given me strength, help, and is holding on to me in His righteousness.  He has touched my sinful, filthy self and cleansed me with His righteous hand.  He has cast out all reasons to be afraid.  I have been chosen, pursued, and retrieved by God.  He is with me.  Whom shall I fear?  What shall I fear?  Nothing but God Almighty Himself, whom I love with all that I am.