February 20, 2014

Finding Ourselves Through Others

One of the most wonderful ways God works is through other human beings. He equips us with love, the Holy Spirit, and the ability to carry out His work and His desires here on this Earth. What an honor and privilege that is! To be able to use our brokenness for others to shine their light into. To be able to use past hurts, pains, and wrongdoings (either done by us or to us) to help comfort someone else or get them through a similar circumstance. Have you ever had that feeling that God has placed a certain person in your life for a specific reason? That feeling that this person just belongs in your life and is meant to help you grow and flourish? That is an amazing feeling when you know it is sent from God himself. Because God makes no mistakes. God never sets us up for failure. And God never puts wrong people in our lives. WE may allow wrong people into our lives or keep them in our lives for wrong reasons, but GOD will never place a wrong person in our lives. We were created to love one another, to help one another, to serve one another, and to teach one another.

"Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God." (Hebrews 13:16)

God teaches us how to love. Not in the way the world loves, but TRULY love. The world loves in a give-and-take way. They only give what they expect to get back...but they take without ceasing. God loves with an agape love. That is a love of sacrifice and in best interest of another, no matter what you do or do not get in return. It is not a love given with expectation or demands, but a love freely given because of the love Christ showed us. Those who have Christ in their hearts and as their Savior know this kind of love, because it is in them. Our Father lives in us, and He consists of only a pure love. Any part of us is not good on its own, but the part of Him that lives in us (the Holy Spirit) is pure and good and not tainted in any way. That is the part of us we need to lead and love with. 

"Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?" (2 Corinthians 6:14)

When we find someone who shares that same love of Christ...we can often feel it, sense it, and it shows through their words and actions. When you are involved with that person, your passion for Christ heightens, your fellowship with that person brings new light to things and helps you desire partnership in discovering God deeper. Friendships and relationships rooted in Christ are deep, binding, and blessed. You help keep each other accountable, you study together, you discuss together, and you are able to see and feel each others growth. That is a treasure, and that is a rare gift given by God to those who open their eyes and hearts to recognize and embrace it. If you have found such a person, hold on tight. Encourage them. Engage with them. Grow with them. Love them. They are sent from God and placed in your life for a specific purpose, one that carries out His plan and honors His kingdom. Do not let this world blind you to Christ working through others in a way that could change your life forever. He is able, He is working, and He is in control!
"That their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God's mystery, which is Christ."  (Colossians 2:2)

February 14, 2014

Jesus… Our Eternal Valentine

Today I thought I would touch on the topic of love, since that is what everybody is celebrating today. I don't tend to celebrate Valentine's Day, but I know the majority of the country does and takes it as a very sacred and special day. When we think of love from a humanly perspective, we think of it in the terms of telling someone you love them, giving a hug or a kiss, some flowers or chocolate candy or a big stuffed animal, perhaps a massage or salon day or a fishing trip and favorite beer for the guys. Doing it in physical ways that someone can see. There is nothing wrong with that and it is always nice to feel appreciated.

"But since you excel in everything- in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you- see that you also excel in this grace of giving." (2 Corinthians 8:7 NIV)

But the idea of "love, happiness, sweet things, and passion" makes me think of the way that Jesus showed his love for us. We could not see physically what he had done, as none of us existed at that time. But we do know from the Bible exactly how God showed His love for us, and how Jesus willingly showed his love for us as well. God gave His only Son to pay for our transgressions...not because He had to, but He willingly chose to. Can we imagine a love THAT deep?

We are all sinful human beings and we show love in such a passive way. That does not mean we don't know what love is, that does not mean that we are not genuine when we show our love, or that it is insignificant. What it does mean is that no matter how much we think we have and give...it could never equal even a speck of the deep way that God loves us. Jesus was the only sinless human and he showed love with an unending, unconditional, and eternal sacrifice. Jesus died on the cross for us, he was beaten for us, wore a crown of thorns for us, was speared in the side for us, was ridiculed, spit on, and slandered for us. 

"so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him." (Hebrews 9:28 NIV)

Candy, flowers, cards, a nice dinner, and a kiss are all wonderful…God created us to crave love because God IS love and we are made in His image. But the love we feel and receive from above far surpasses anything physical thing I could ever want or get on this earth. I choose to seek Jesus' love this Valentine's Day. I choose to be grateful to him for what he has given and done for me. I choose to acknowledge all of the unseen gifts that he gives every single day...not on holidays...every single waking hour of every single day. 

So today I do not celebrate Valentine's Day in the traditional sense. Today I celebrate the true and eternal love given to me by Jesus Christ, and I choose to pour that same love into every day of my life, not just on February 14th of each year. May we always remember the face of what love is, where love originally came from, and the right way and the lasting way in which we can spread genuine love to others. When I give my offering today, it will not be roses, candy, a card, or anything of a humanly nature. Nothing of a passing or soon forgotten nature. It will be my heart, my mind, my soul, my spirit, with my arms stretched high and offering all I am and all I have to Jesus...on this day and everyday.

Walk in love.....

February 12, 2014

Struggles Lead Us Home

Why are we all so afraid of struggle? Why do we always see it as such a negative thing? It is because we are human. It is because we are afraid. It is because the unknown is uncomfortable. We are told in the Bible many times over that God does not put struggles in our lives, but rather he allows some of our struggles and trials to take place and lead us on an unsteady course. Many people would say, "Well, if our God loves us so much, why would he allow that?" My answer to that is, "If our God loves us the way He says He does, why wouldn't he allow it?"

“If Jesus gives us a task or assigns us to a difficult season, every ounce of our experience is meant for our instruction and completion if only we'll let Him finish the work. I fear, however, that we are so attention-deficit that we settle for bearable when beauty is just around the corner.”  
― Beth Moore

Struggles are what help us learn to trust God. Struggles are what help us to grow our faith. Struggles are what strengthen our character and mold us into the person that we were created to be in order to live out the destiny our Lord has set in front of us. Without those struggles, would we look to God? Would we find reasons to be selfless and help others? What would Society be like without struggles? Many would say society would be wonderful without any struggles and everybody would be happy. The truth of the matter is, this world would be even more corrupt and terrible than it is right now without struggles. No one would look for God, no one would grow in faith, no one would lend a hand to help another. We would not know how strong we truly are, how capable we are, and just how much we can survive.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:5 ESV) 

God allows certain things to happen in our lives in order to carry out a greater good, even if we never understand the reason why...all we have to know is the "Who". If God brought us to it, allowed it, or enables it…He will equip us for it and see us through it in order to mold us and our lives into something greater than we could've ever seen with our own eyes. Do not curse your struggles, do not wish for someone else's life, do not beg for the hard times to never come. Be grateful that God chose you as such a strong warrior, be grateful that He is constantly by your side and giving you love, mercy, and guidance. This stronger we are, the closer we feel to God. The deeper we struggle, the farther God reaches out for us.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11  ESV) 

I am not saying our trials in life will be fun or that we should look at them as something to run out and shout on the rooftops about. They will be hard, some will last a lengthy time. But God makes no mistakes. God knows you better than you know yourself, and He knows what you need and why you need it. When looking at it this way should we be afraid of struggle? Should we feel sorry for ourselves when trials come to us? Or should we be grateful that we have a God that loves us so much that He wants to walk with us through the trials to bring us out better on the other side. That he is molding us into his perfect children so that we can inherit His Kingdom and spend eternity doing His Work. What better blessing can there be? This blessing is one in which a large part of of it is gained through struggle and hardships...but if we keep our eyes on the victory that lies on the other side, we will find ourselves forever grateful for every speed bump that has come our way!

"The most beautiful things in life first have to go through a lot of dirt before they get to blossom."
Will "Story" Rivera