Like A Child

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I remember one of the first days I experienced the joy of the Honduran children of Las Flores. Wild, sweet, overflowing joy that radiated from their faces when you so much as smiled at them.

I couldn’t engage in conversation with them very well because of my lack of Spanish, but I soon learned that they didn’t care. They hugged, laughed, and played. They ran around, creating chaos.

Beautiful chaos.

Usually I take a step backwards from a high-energy crowd, but this was different. They needed me. They needed my love.

I didn’t know enough Spanish, so I couldn’t give it in words. And what are words to children anyway? All I could do in that moment was forsake all and plunge into the chaos. And what a relief that was, breaking the language barrier with the unspoken message loud and clear: “Yo te ama,” or “I love you.”

I didn’t know them, but God gave me unrelenting love for those kids. I couldn’t stop smiling. I couldn’t stop trying to make them smile. I chased them around, tickled them, played games, and proved to myself that I must be a kid person after all. It makes sense, I guess. God loves children, and His Spirit is inside me.

Not only did God give me love for the kids, but I learned to be a child myself that day. I learned joy. I learned childlike faith. That’s what God wants for us. When we are like children, we can rejoice in God’s love for us without a single doubt of our Father’s goodness.

Sometimes I don’t understand how God could truly love us. But even if we can’t completely understand it, like a simple child, we can understand that it makes us feel alive.

People were also bringing babies to Jesus for him to place his hands on them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” — Luke 18:15-17

A Message to My Sisters in Christ

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Sisters, before we could care
If our hair was untangled
Or our faces were clean
They told us we were beautiful.
Before we knew what it meant to have charm
They adored our smile.

Beauty—we still don’t know what that means
Is it merely aesthetically pleasing?
Is it based on the beholder’s eye?
Or does it exist deep inside?

I don’t know about you,
But beauty seems to define us,
This pressure to beautify, to have skin that glows
It diminishes the beauty of goodness and hope

It’s as if our beauty
Is all that we are
But as sisters in Christ,
True worth is found in our hearts.

Sisters, I know how you feel
You came here today feeling like nothing was right
But you managed a smile that was sweet and polite
Because the exterior is all that people will see
But with God you can find a beauty that He sees.

When do you find a peaceful heart hung in the aisle
Or a joyful smile for a-dollar-twenty-five?
When do you see a submissive spirit toward God
Purchased by girls here and abroad?
How much more often do we strive for attractive designs and complain at the boundaries placed in our lives?

We’ve heard “modest is hottest” so many times
We’ve heard “wear your purity ring”
And stay refined
Why is the focus on all the things we cannot do
Rather than how much we can do to glorify God?

Sisters, the secret to everlasting beauty is this:
Don’t focus on yourself or that kiss
Devote yourself to loving and knowing the King
Because His glorious face is the highest standard for beauty.

 

“One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.” — Psalm 27:4

“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” — 1 Peter 3:3-4 

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” — Galatians 5:22-23 

 

Thank you for reading! Click here to see my post, “A Message to My Brothers in Christ.”

God Bless!

A Message To My Brothers In Christ

 

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I want to take a moment to address you, men.
The strong ones;
The brave ones.
I want to address you as my brothers in Christ.
I plead with you on behalf of the girls in my life:
Stop for a moment,
And listen.

Too many of us have bad opinions of you,
And perhaps many of us have a right to;
You have a responsibility as men to take care of our hearts,
But too often you play or you steal or your tear us apart;
Too often you treat us just as you view us—as objects to take pleasure in
Or simply persons to ignore.
And while that sounds harsh, I want to set for you a higher standard,
To encourage you to be the men that God will first and foremost admire.

We may not always admit it to you,
But we’re weak—
Just as you may not always admit to us.
We may not always say it, but when you open the door wide for us our soul smiles wider;
When you take the time to just listen to us,
We admire your endeavor to honor us;
And when you ask us how we’re doing,
The whole world seems all right again.

Men, we might act casual, but you are important to us.
We often look up to you hoping we can trust,
Hoping we can trust you to be truly good men.
Don’t ignore the power of sensitivity—
To us, it’s the highest form of masculinity.
Be interested in who we truly are inside, not merely what we are on the outside;
And while this may be a lot to ask,
View us as your sisters in Christ—good friends whom you will never marry;
And when we see the deep respect you carry,
Your selflessness will teach us more of God and His glory.

Men, don’t settle for less than your best;
We challenge you to be truly great men.
Dare yourselves to be the men you want to be;
Dare yourselves to be good, strong, and free.
Don’t compare yourselves to those around you;
Compare yourselves to Christ who is in you,
And you always see that you can be something more.

“[Treat] younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.” — 1 Timothy 5:2b

“Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.” — 1 Peter 3:7

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.” — 1 Corinthians 13:4-5

Thank you for reading, and look out for my next post, A Message to My Sisters in Christ!

The One Who Surpasses

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I’ve been thinking a lot. I’ve been thinking and realizing that I made a mistake.

It’s the most awful feeling when you don’t want to admit you made a mistake but you can’t deny it.

Anyhow this post is not about my mistake, it’s about what God does with mistakes, and it’s about what God does through us to help us avoid mistakes.

Because mistakes are ugly. And they make you distant from God. Restless. Confused.

Just like you, I don’t want to make mistakes. But my desires sometimes become overwhelming and I convince myself that there is a good reason to make this decision, when in reality I feel like I can’t resist the temptation.

But that’s a lie. Kick it in the face; fight it to its death—Jesus has WON.

He has literally grabbed the devil and trampled him over his feet. Desire, temptation, and fleeting pleasures don’t have to rule over us. God is wise, and so we need to be, too.

“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” — James 4:7 (ESV)

Before you make a decision, ask yourself: Am I fully satisfied in Christ, or am I making this decision because I am restless and longing for something more to fill the hole inside me?

This really puts things into perspective. Rejoicing in the fact that HE HAS WON, and we have hope in heaven, and He cares about every detail of our lives—all this overshadows our finicky desires.

You are more precious to Him than many sparrows, so don’t be discouraged about where you are; He has you where you are for a reason.

Don’t move unless He tells you to—that is to say, treat every action as an act of worship!

You are a living sacrifice to God and you do not deserve to be thrown aside to unrighteous people who care nothing for your pure heart.

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” — Romans 12:1 (ESV)

Other questions to ask yourself: Is what I am doing glorifying God? Is what I am doing worth doing in light of eternity? If I had to pay 100 dollars to do this action, would I do it for the sake of glorifying God?

But thank our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ that when we do make mistakes, He is there! His mercies are new every morning. Don’t doubt for a second that He wants to continue the relationship with you no matter what you’ve done. Repent genuinely, and be free in Christ. Walk in the Spirit joyfully knowing God surpasses all sin and shame.

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” — Romans 8:1-2 (ESV)

Just some thoughts that were on my heart to share. I would love to continue the conversation with you. God cares about you, and you matter to Him.

If He matters to you, you care about your decisions.

Chapter 9 of The Healer of Istagun – Risen

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This is the ninth chapter in my ten-chapter fantasy novella. So close to finishing! I hope you enjoy! Feel free to comment below your thoughts or any feedback that could make this climax better. 🙂 Chapters: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

The first thing Tarquin did when we reached shore was rush me passed the fight and into Tiana’s house. Gently, he laid me in a bed. I was too weak to sit up as he spooned Gesu’s blood into my mouth.

At first it was painful to swallow, like my throat was on fire. But then, as it trickled down, a miraculous taste as sweet as a cherry filled my mouth.

“It’s terrible, isn’t it?” he asked me, wincing.

I grinned, as energy spread through me. “No, it’s… it’s the best thing I’ve ever tasted!”

He raised a brow quizzically.

Amazement rushed into me as I jumped out of bed and wrapped my arms around him.

“The plague is gone—completely gone!”

He clasped my arms and withdrew slightly, looking into my face in wonder. “Praise Gesu!”

“What are we waiting for?” I exclaimed. “Let’s save the others!”

***

Thankfully, the battle had not yet touched the village where the sick ones lay in the homes of the kind elderly people. In his loud deep voice, Tarquin ordered the healthy old folks to bring the sick ones out of the ice homes into one place, so they could more quickly be healed. Many were doubtful at first, but I testified to the miraculous power of Gesu’s blood.

“Dahlia.” Prima flew up to me and embraced me quietly. “You look well today, girl.”

I grinned as I explained to her the miracle. “Where is Kari?”

Her face flooded with pain. “He’s so sick—I don’t know what to do.”

Tarquin was feeding the blood to many people already, so I didn’t say a word to him as Prima led me to Kari.

His eyes were closed shut, and tumors covered his once-soft skin.

“He hasn’t moved for hours,” Prima said, shivering. “And there…” She pointed to three young boys beside him.

I nodded but remained emotionless. Mechanically, I bent down to him and fed him from the small bottle Tarquin had given me. When he opened his eyes, he smiled and jumped up into my arms, laughing. “DAHLIA!”

I hugged him tightly and set him down. “All right, all right!” I laughed. “How are you feeling today, kid?”

Before he could answer, he turned to Prima and gave her a hug that sent her tiny frame toppling to the ground.

“Be careful—remember she’s a fairy!”

But I couldn’t blame him. Inside me, I couldn’t have felt more joyful with this new life coursing through my veins. Yet there were so many more people in need of healing.
Andrea. The thought stole my happiness in an instant. She had been my best friend for as long as I could remember. I couldn’t let her die along with Hollis.

As I began scouting out the sick ones to find Andrea, Tarquin hurried up to me. “Dahlia, I need to help the Summer humans and Gesu-followers fight Hazina’s fairies. As soon as you heal the men, instruct them to go to shore to help us.”

“Of course.” I searched his handsome face, not knowing what might happen to him once he confronted the powerful fairies. “Don’t die, Tarquin.”

I hadn’t meant it as a joke, but he smiled. “I won’t, Dahlia. I’m going to be King.”

With that, he ran off.

 

“Dahlia…” When the strained voice reached my ears, I swiveled around.
Andrea lay in the snow, with a beautiful old woman spooning broth into her mouth.

The woman lifted her head when she saw me, locking her blue eyes onto me. “Dahlia,” she said again. “Your friend needs you.”

I rushed to Andrea, ignoring the old woman. “My friend, it’s been so long. I’m so sorry. I wish I’d—you’d never believe what happened–are you all right?”

She looked up at me, but, for once in her life, she didn’t speak a word. She was no longer the bright, outgoing young woman I knew a few days ago. I remembered how she’d teased me about the strange miner staring at me from across the field. Had he loved me then? I shook the thought off and brushed her hair out of her face.

I quickly brought out the bottle and fed her a small drop, so as to save plenty for the others.

Slowly, she sat up. “Wow… what was in that bottle?”

I pulled her to her feet, chuckling. “I’ll tell you another time.”

We embraced each other, giggling like young girls again in the Spring orchards. “I’ve missed you so much,” Andrea said.

I regretted to think I had been so focused on Hollis that I hadn’t thought much of her.

“I’m so sorry, Andrea. There’s so much to tell you.”

“About that miner boy?” Andrea raised her brows, and for once I was glad to see her being herself again. “I saw him walking around here a few minutes ago…”

“His name’s Tarquin.” I shrugged at her growing smile. “He’s… he’s my friend now.”

I ached at the thought of him. Feelings I hadn’t realized existed rushed inside me. He was so good to me. I wouldn’t ever be able to repay him for all he had done for me. I could never repay Gesu either—he had paid his own life for me.

But… not in time to save Hollis.

“Tarquin’s fighting the fairies by the sea,” I said quietly. “As soon as this stuff heals everyone, we can all help him.”

“What’s wrong, Dahlia?” Andrea leaned forward, her hand on my shoulder, looking deeply into my eyes like the friend I had always known and loved.

I turned away and sat down on a fallen log. She sat beside me, her kindness seeping through her dark eyes. I’d forgotten how much she loved me. Guilt wrecked me. I had done nothing to deserve her affection, always scorning her for her silliness and carefree nature.

“I feel… paralyzed.” My voice was feeble. “Andrea, it’s true. Hollis is dead. It’s more than I can bear.”

She wrapped her arms around me and sang softly, a song she’d so often sung to Hollis and me in the nights when we were young children, staring up at the stars. She was like an older sister to us—or a mother? Were mothers like this? I didn’t know.

“It’s just you and me… us together. The flowers bloom, it’s lovely weather today…”

Hollis used to sing it all the time. I remembered my dream about her… and about the longing for something more. The stars. I looked up at the brilliant little lights dancing across the black sky.

Thank you, I whispered silently up at them.

“—Andrea! We need to heal these people with Gesu’s blood.” I stood up and pulled at her hand.

“Blood? Yuck!” She yanked her hand out of mine and looked at me strangely.

I explained to her quickly the miraculous healing Gesu provided. “He healed you,” I finished proudly.

She gasped and shook her head. “I don’t know, Dahlia.”

I smiled. “I’ll show you.”

 

As Andrea witnessed strength returning to the sick, she laughed. “That’s truly amazing, Dahlia! But you need to stop saying it’s this Gesu person who caused all this. There’s something in that bottle! A spell, or something.”

I tried to explain to her that the great Queen Hazina had caused the plague, and therefore no spell could overcome it.

“I can’t believe that.” She shook her head. “What has that miner boy been telling you?”

I ignored her as I tilted the bottle into a middle-aged man’s mouth. It was the same man in Autumn, I now realized, who had bemoaned about his wife and children being taken from him. The man opened his eyes and sat up, looking up at me bewilderedly. “Dahlia?”

I gasped. How did he…?

He embraced me, tears streaming down his cheeks. “My daughter… He told me you were my daughter.”

I hugged him in return, astounded. “Gesu?”

“Yes,” he murmured. “In my dreams. But this is real! You are really here, my sweet child!”

***

A few hours passed of simultaneously chatting with my father and curing the sick ones with Andrea until we had finished.

I told him of dear Hollis, my life in Summer and Spring, and my recent adventures. He told me of how he had fallen in love with a woman named Mariella, gave birth to each of his daughters, and how recently Mariella passed away from the plague.

Finally, I spoke to the rejoicing humans who had been cured of disease: “If you are able and willing, please go to the battle to help fight against Hazina’s fairies.”

As people found spells and weapons, Andrea looked at me fearfully. “How are we going to do this? You cannot trust a dead man, Dahlia.”

Distress gripped me at the thought of the humans and Gesu-followers dying in battle—of Tarquin dying. No. Not him.

“Gesu is not dead,” I said firmly, though I did not know how I was so sure of this. “He is alive inside of us. With his power, we must fight, or else we will die.”

“You’re right, my daughter.” My father stood quietly beside me, placing a hand on my shoulder. “We don’t have much choice.”

 

As we reached the shore, my anxiety heightened. The Hazina-followers had circled around the Summer humans and Gesu-following fairies. They’d bound them up to poles. In the center, Tarquin was writhing against the ropes as a fire culminated beneath his feet.

The mud wall monsters from Spring and Autumn were marching toward us, and in between them Queen Hazina flew in all her splendor, colorful spells exuding from her and armed fairies by her side. Behind her, the Treelanders, undoubtedly under some sort of mind-bending spell, marched with swords made of the sharpest wood and shields made from the toughest leaves.

My heart pounded in my chest, and my father looked at me, concerned and alarmed. I did not look at him.

Tarquin was staring at me, from across the field of snow. The shore splashed on the rocks yards away from him. I stared back, horror coursing through me, even through these veins that rushed with new life.

His dark tortured eyes called out to me, undeniably, silently screaming, “I love you, Dahlia!”

I ran toward him, though my father yelled from behind me. I ran past the Hazina followers, past the loyal followers of Gesu tied to poles, I ran to the center, to the flames that blazed beneath my king.

“What are we going to do now?” I shouted up to him, tears streaming down my cheeks. If only my tears could put out this fire. But that was the hopeless romantic in me. Tarquin could never be mine—he could never be mine even if children didn’t exist.

He was going to die.

I looked into his eyes, aching all over, wishing I could express how thankful I was for all that he had done for me.

“Dahlia,” he choked. “You need to leave.”

“I need to save you—how can I save you?” Desperation filled my voice.

Suddenly, a Hazina-follower grabbed me and tied me to a pole beside Tarquin. Soon a fire was lit beneath my feet.

Tarquin cried out in agony as the flames began to smolder him.

Away from the scene, stood the humans from the village, including Andrea and my father, who didn’t know what to do. They didn’t want to run out here and end up like me.

All at once, Prima and the good fairies burst forward, and a great battle ensued between those who followed Hazina and those who followed Gesu. With the Treelanders and the mud walls on Hazina’s side, the good fairies were greatly outnumbered.

I watched as Prima cast soothing spells on the mud walls, and began talking to them, as if convincing them to join Gesu’s side. Soon Queen Hazina found out and got rid of Prima’s spell. A Treelander pitted Prima with the wooden sword while Prima fought back with her spontaneous spells. The wooden sword accidently turned into a bat, looked confused for a second, and then flew away, leaving the Treelander defenseless. But just as Prima rose her clear blue wand to strike another spell, a Hazina fairy electrocuted Prima, and she fell to the earth, helpless and paralyzed.

Prima. I wanted to shout her name, but the smoke was suffocating. I winced as I felt a flame on my own foot.

I glanced at Tarquin, terrified as I saw his feet being burnt bit by bit, and the fire mounting higher and higher to his ankles and legs. He screamed.

That scream shattered any innocence I had left in me. I sobbed wretchedly, broken, and so alone. Gesu, where are you now? Your blood saved my life. Why do you let me die? Why do you let Tarquin die, when you promised he would be King?

Just then, a cry rose through the air. A sweet, innocent crying out in terror. It shook my nerves, so I turned toward the noise, toward the shore.

I caught my breath. Hollis stood in a flowing white dress, her blond hair whipping in the wind, her face soft and beautiful. She was smiling.

Behind her, thousands of humans stood, glowing, radiant as the Summer sun.

The battle came to a sudden halt. Everyone stopped and stared, mesmerized and baffled by the beauty of these humans.

Gesu stepped forward, calling out in a deep voice, “Queen Hazina, these are the people you tortured with the plague. These are the ones who died from the poisonous waters. These are my friends that I have brought back from the graves of Midfuna Island.”
And before anyone could gasp or murmur let alone get a good look at him, he vanished into the Winter air.

Queen Hazina fluttered toward the risen dead, her guard fairies by her side. “What is this!?” she roared into the silence of the crowd.

I clenched my teeth as the fire licked my feet and ankles, withholding a shout. Murmurs of pain filled the air around me from the others who hung on poles.

To my astonishment, Hollis, meek and quiet, stepped forward, a smile still on her face. “My queen, you have no idea what Gesu had to go through to get us back. Your sin destroyed us, and only Gesu was strong enough to give us life again. Now before you kill us all off again, I ask you to listen to me.”

Hazina groaned. “To a little girl!? Are you kidding me?”

“It is the least among us that Gesu uses,” Hollis said simply. “Now, I bet you never considered the details of your plan to destroy the human species. Your sole object was to better Istagun’s economy, right?”

Hazina’s rainbow wings fluttered violently. “All right, whatever. Continue!”
I hung on that pole, my feet on fire, tears escaping me. What was Hollis thinking, to anger the queen like this?

“Well, what you didn’t realize, was that people were risking their lives to save the people they loved. Take Dahlia, for instance. My sister risked everything, even traveling to all of the seasons to find me.” Hollis quickly continued before Hazina could respond. “Dahlia risked her life for me. Have you ever known that kind of love, my queen?”

Tears continued to drip down my cheeks as Hollis spoke, but now more out of amazement rather than the pain in my limbs as the fire crept up and the smoke stung my eyes. My sister had matured over the years she’d spent in Spring without me. But even more, these words seemed to come from the power of Gesu who lived inside her.

“Gesu let your fairies kill him, so the sick ones could drink of it and be healed. Have you ever known that kind of love?”

Hazina folded her arms across her chest, impatient. “Get on with your rhetorical questions!”

Hollis shrugged. “You can answer them if you’d like.”

Hazina laughed. “Okay, I’ve never known that kind of ‘love,’ whatever that means. My father abused me; my mother didn’t want me to exist. Continue, please!”

Sorrow filled Hollis’ face. Within me, I too felt compassion for the queen. I had never imagined I would feel bad for such a person.

Hollis spoke more gently now. “No wonder you’ve been enslaving the humans, making us do certain tasks at certain times in certain ways, controlling very aspect of our lives. You’ve never learned freedom. Your own soul is enslaved to fear, unable to express love to anyone else. The only thing you know is fear.”

Hazina’s beautiful rainbow wings suddenly drooped very low as she sunk to the ground. Each guard fairy put a hand on her shoulder.

“My queen, you’ve separated the people so the children grow up without mothers and fathers, and the parents have to say goodbye to their babies as soon as their born.” Hollis sighed. “How can you let us live like this? Don’t you know anything about love, about loss, about healing?”

The queen waved her wand slightly, and then dropped it. Instantly, the fires beneath our feet went out, the ropes were undone, and we fell to the ground.

As cheering arose, I ran to Tarquin, whose feet were burned by the flames.

I clasped hold of his hands in mine, though they were covered in soot and ashes. The fire had scorched him more than me. “Tarquin, are you going to be okay?”

“What just happened?” he murmured, too much of a man, of course, to admit he was in pain.

I bit my lip, smiling slightly. “Queen Hazina… she saved our lives.”

 

The Gospel, The Light: 6 Things God Has Done For Humanity

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(Photo by Samantha Lynch on Unsplash)

I blind myself to the truth, do you? Am I the only one who runs from the Light, preferring the safety of darkness? 

When the Light pierces through the darkness, it hurts. It hurts when I see I’ve been trying to fill the void inside me with my passions, dreams, ego, or self-pity. It hurts to see that me, you, and the whole human race sin every day without realizing it.

Or maybe we do realize our weakness, but we’re too afraid to do anything about it.

Woe to those who go to great depths
to hide their plans from the Lord,
who do their work in darkness and think,
“Who sees us? Who will know?” – Isaiah 29:15

Without this Light, I feel so empty. I’m in constant pain, letting insecurity rule and darkness overshadow any good that’s left in me.

I’m blind to my own weakness.

Why are we like this? It’s my fault. It’s yours. It’s Adam and Eve’s fault for eating that fruit in the garden. Their sin began a chain reaction that spread to every generation of humans who have lived since.

Doubts come: Come on, I’m good enough. God wouldn’t send a nice person like me to hell. I’ve done enough good things to outweigh the bad.

But God doesn’t weigh the good versus the bad; no, He measures us up to a stick, and we have to reach the top to enter heaven—He requires us to be 100 % perfect.

And we’re not.

And God is truly sad about that: “[God] wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:4)

So, how did God provide a way for us to escape hell and to enter His heavenly presence, now and forever?

1. He sent a perfect man.

God sent His Son, Jesus, to live on this earth perfectly following God’s laws, like no human ever had before. He was the one person in history’s existence who actually deserved heaven.

Only God is 100% perfect all the time. And that’s exactly who Jesus was, and still is to this very day.

“The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.” – Hebrews 1:3

Jesus is the one perfect Light, the one true fulfiller of our souls. He spoke out against lies and injustice; He uplifted the outsiders in society. He was filled with deep compassion for people, healing the sick and preaching about the Kingdom of God, a place where hearts are free, a place their souls had been longing to hear about.

2. He sacrificed this man, His Only Son, for us.

What’s terribly ironic, is that the One person who deserved heaven went to hell in place of everyone else who deserved hell. Jesus was nailed to a cross to purify us from our sins, dying in our place so we wouldn’t have to eternally bleed.

“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. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.” – John 3:16-21

3. He, in the form of a man, came back to life.

But it doesn’t end at the cross. Three days later, Jesus Christ rose from the tomb, alive and well, and witnessed by hundreds of astonished people. He went up to heaven where He now sits at the right hand of the throne of God.

4. He saves us not by any goodness in ourselves, but by His amazing grace.

This is the most crucial point I have, even though it’s number four (number 4 is a good number, right? ;)) So pay attention here.

The thing is, Jesus did NOT die so we would follow rules, He died so we would place our faith in Him and come to know Him. It is only by faith in Christ that we are saved.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” – Ephesians 2:8-9

Christianity is NOT a religion. It is a beautiful, everlasting, soul-fulfilling relationship with Jesus Christ.

5. He shines His Light into our everyday lives.

Today, in the 21st century, Jesus offers this hope as we battle against anxiety, depression, temptations, grief, and feelings of emptiness: He is the Light.

Let those words sink in for a minute.

After Jesus left this earth, His Holy Spirit came to convict this world of sin.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” – 1 John 1:9

Wow! What an amazing truth that is. Throughout our Christian lives, we must bring our dark deeds into God’s glorious light, so that He may completely and totally outshine this darkness within us. His forgiveness is real, and He is waiting for you to simply cry out to Him with a repentant heart.

Once we believe in Jesus’ power to overcome death and sin on the cross, the Holy Spirit illuminates through our pitch black souls and guides us into more and more victories over our sin and failures, and more and more into the love and peace of walking in His ways.

“But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” – John 14:16

6. He fills us with joy—now and forever.

With God’s Light inside of me, I’ve found the absolute freedom of His grace. I am no longer empty. I am truly, definitely, totally forgiven, as far as the east is from the west. When I place my surrendered trust in Jesus, my heart bursts with this Light.

As Christians, we face hardship. But through it all, our joy is made complete through Christ.

You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” – Psalm 16:11

I am free.

I am not floundering in darkness, but I am running out into the open arms of my Father, whose eyes ignite with unspeakable joy when He sees me. Without Jesus, I don’t know where I’d be. I don’t know how I’d bear the fires of this raw, miserable life.

But with Him, the sword of truth has attacked my old self. Now I am new like a polished ring, waiting like a Bride for her Groom, until the day He returns.

Please, when He comes back, don’t let it be your first time to bow.

“[Jesus], being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.” – Philippians 2:6-11

(All Scripture taken from NIV.)

 

S2: Quotes for My Novella

My work-in-progress novella, The Healer of Istagun, has a few themes. Here are some quotes to explain them!

Theme: God heals our wounds through His blood.

“Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” ~ Isaiah 53:4-5

“But I will restore you to health and heal your wounds,’ declares the LORD” ~ Jeremiah 30:17

“Christ is the Good Physician. There is no disease He cannot heal; no sin He cannot remove; no trouble He cannot help.” – James H. Aughey

“But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays. And you will go out and frolic like well-fed calves.” – Malachi 4:2

Theme: He strengthens us through His sacrifice.

“I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” – Philippians 4:13 ESV

If it doesn’t cost you anything, what is there to gain? – Grace Caylor

“But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” – Ephesians 2:13

Theme: Love is sacrifice.

“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” – 1 Peter 4:8

“Brotherhood means laying down your life for somebody, really willing to sacrifice yourself for somebody else.” — Tim Hetherington

“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” – John 15:13

What Makes A Leader For Christ

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Let me introduce Katie Stacey, from the Things Above blog, who will be guest posting today about being a Leader for Christ…

A quick Google search will give you courses, books, articles, quotes, and definitions about being a leader. To some, leading is a coveted position. To others, it’s a detested one.

Whatever your stance is, if you’re a Christian, leading is part of your job description: you’ve got to try to lead others to Christ.

In some ways, Leaders for Christ are the same as any other leaders, but in other ways, they’re completely different.

I want to explore some of these similarities and differences between Leaders for Christ and ordinary leaders, and hopefully give you some tips on becoming a Leader for Christ!

Similarities

1.      All leaders are imperfect

All leaders have limitations to what they can do, even – especially – Christian leaders. I really appreciate Chuck Lawless’s article 12 Things Pastors Cannot Do. In this article, he outlines twelve things that pastors cannot be – and as a PK (preacher’s kid), some of these things really hit home. I wish everyone could realize that my dad is doing as best he can!

The bottom line is, all leaders are imperfect—and that’s OK.

Some of the things Lawless describes in his article apply to all leaders. No leader can read minds, be everywhere, please everybody, escape mistakes, or avoid favoritism. We’re all human. The important thing to remember is that even if we do mess up, we need to ask forgiveness and press on.

2.      All leaders desire the growth of their projects

All leaders hope that their missions are successful, whether it’s a business to be run, a battle to be won, or a broken heart to be mended. As Napoleon Hill said, “The starting point of all achievement is desire. Keep this constantly in mind. Weak desire brings weak results, just as a small fire makes a small amount of heat.”

However, this applies to Leaders for Christ, too. We need to be on fire for God; to desire to grow His Kingdom! We need to be of one mind with Jesus.

3.      All leaders need to be ready

I can’t help but picture a businessman watching stock symbols. Suddenly, he shouts into his cell phone, “Sell now! Sell now!” He was watching to see the time of greatest impact, and as soon as he saw it, he took action.

All leaders are like this – they watch for opportunities. But as Leaders for Christ, we need to be especially watchful and ready. We need to be ready and watchful for many things, really:

Differences

As Leaders for Christ, we might be stuck in this world. But we’re not of it – our true home and heritage is in heaven. Here are some things that will always be different between Leaders for Christ and regular leaders.

1. Leaders for Christ Actively Live for God

There’s a difference between believing in God and actively living for Him.

Like the Bible says in James 2:18-20, “But someone will say, ‘You have faith, and I have works.’ Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?”

I want to be clear that I don’t think works save us. Jesus does. But, at the same time, those who love God keep His commandments (see John 14:23-24).

As Leaders for Christ, we need to have a deep love for God, and our actions will reflect it.

2. Leaders for Christ are Submissive

In my younger days, I played soccer. I clearly remember one day, coming home from practice fairly irritated with the older girls on the team. In my ten-year-old font, I scribbled in a notebook, “Just because you’re a leader doesn’t mean you have to be the boss.”

As Leaders for Christ, we’re not the boss. God is. Hands down, plain and simple.

Leaders for Christ need to submit to God’s will. Submitting is hard, but it is a skill well worth acquiring. It’s actually a lesson I’ve been learning lately. You see, I have a lot of plans for my life, or at least things that I want to do. But sometimes, they don’t work out like “they’re supposed to”.

But I’ve seen time and time again over the past couple years that God’s plans are so much better than mine! Even circumstances that don’t go exactly as I want. Leaders for Christ need to realize this – God is so much wiser than we are! He might tell us to wait, but He’s teaching us to trust His timing. He might tell us no, but He’s got a better plan.

I think submission to Christ is well summed up in MercyMe’s song Even If. The chorus goes like this:

“I know You’re able and I know You can/ Save through the fire with Your mighty hand/ But even if You don’t/ My hope is You alone.”

Things might not go the way we’re planning them, but God knows better. We need to remember to “humble [ourselves] under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all [our] care upon Him, for He cares for [us].” (I Peter 5:6-7)

3. Leaders for Christ are Close to God

This deep love will bring us closer to God, which is good – Leaders for Christ need to be close to God, which only happens when they completely trust in Him.

And as you trust God, get this – God will trust you with more.

Heresy, you say? Nay. Well, maybe. I don’t have solid proof. I’m just looking at the disciples… Jesus left them behind, trusting them to spread the Gospel. They preached the good news and wrote down what Jesus had taught them while on earth, and partially because of their efforts, Christianity is the largest religion worldwide.

On another note, Leaders for Christ are close to God in that they know what His will is and know what He wants. This leads to accomplishments. When we know God’s will, we have a clear path cut for us. And when we know who He is, we want to follow Him.

4. Leaders for Christ Know Who God Is

My dad once preached a confusing sermon (ok, maybe more than once… but this one in particular). It was a whole bunch of who-what-when-where-why-how’s that were intentionally twisted together to be confusing. It was supposed to be funny (and I think supposed to based off of a Get Smart episode from the 1960’s).

But the basic idea of the sermon was this: there’s no reason for us to want to serve God until we realize who He is.

And then, when we do realize it, nothing is going to stop us from serving Him. What, when, where, and how can wait. We need to realize who—that’ll tell us why. And everything else follows naturally.

This is something I’d challenge you to think about: who is Jesus to you? Peter knew, and because he did, he got to build the church (see Matthew 16:13-19).

5. Leaders for Christ Have a Heavenward Focus

One of the most important aspects of being a Leader for Christ is having a heavenward focus. This, too, has multiple aspects.

One is living for Christ. Focus on what God thinks, not others. Be committed to doing what God wants, even when it’s hard. Be confident in who God made you to be. Keep the faith, even when others try to tear it away from you and when the world presses in.

Living for Christ is not exactly about how you live, but why you live.

This may sound convoluted, but as a Leader for Christ, your mission is not to serve the people – it’s to serve God. Look at Colossians 3:23:

“…whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men…”

I think this is something that Jonah could have benefited from knowing. He went to Ninevah with his focus on the evil Assyrians, not on his righteous and omniscient God.

The other side of keeping a heavenward focus is living for eternity. Keeping a heavenward focus means treating every day as if it were your last, and not letting any moment go to waste. You realize that your time on earth is limited, and that you need to make as big of a kingdom impact as possible in the time you have.

Again, I stress – not because you have to, but because you want to. You want everyone to be able to know God and His amazing love.

In Conclusion…

So there you have it. Some similarities between a leader and a Leader for Christ. Let me finish off with a bit of encouragement.

These may seem like impossible goals: completely knowing God and living for Him in everything you do. Trust me, they are. But, as I said at the beginning, it’s OK to be imperfect. God can still use you – I 100% believe that with all my heart (I mean, He used Lazarus, and Lazarus was dead).

You have unimaginable potential, so use it today for the Kingdom.

I feel that this wouldn’t be complete without my favorite verse, 1 Corinthians 15:58, so here you go:

“Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourself fully to the work of the Lord, for you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”

In Christ, we are unconquerable. Go now and lead for Him.

______________________________________________________________

Katie Stacey is a homeschooled preacher’s kid with four favorite things: Jesus, reading, livestock, and writing. She loves combining those passions – writing Bible Studies, writing stories, or writing about the last time she shared Chapstick with a horse. Writing about anything, really. She’s always been a bit of a tomboy, and spent most of her early life in a tree or covered in mud. Now, when she’s not buried in a book, playing with cows, working on her fantasy novel, camping with friends, listening to Piano Guys, finishing school work, going to youth group, or working out, she’s probably sleeping. Katie blogs at http://www.thingsabove32.wordpress.com, and firmly believes that “everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.” (Romans 15:4)

J6: God’s Love – An Ever-Fixed Mark

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Today we will be exploring true love and commitment, through Scripture and even Shakespeare…

“Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove.
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wand’ring bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me prov’d,
I never writ, nor no man ever lov’d.” – William Shakespeare’s Sonnet CXVI
This poem always brings a stirring to my heart, awaking that longing that lies within each of us for an affection that lasts forever.

Too often, we humans fail to meet Shakespeare’s idealistic standard of love. We are shifting, changing creatures who one moment give sacrificially to a person and the next moment glare or yell at them for not taking out the trash.

Sometimes, when we see a flaw in a person, we’re shaken with frustration. Other times, maybe we’re simply tired of seeing that same old face, however beautiful, and we just search for that adventure and excitement we used to feel in those good old days.

But that isn’t love, according to Shakespeare. And yes, my friends, that isn’t love according to God either. God doesn’t intend to stop loving us, His plan isn’t to leave us as soon as He looks on the tempests’ of our wavering hearts:

“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

Our Creator’s plan for us has always been for us to consistently be in a loving relationship with Him. When we believe that Jesus’ death and resurrection has made that possible, we truly are “more than conquerors.” We can grow in Christ and follow Him to the ends of the earth, because of what He has so graciously done for us.

With eternal love in our hearts, we don’t need short-term bursts of infatuation or excitement to keep us alive. God’s “love alters not with [its] brief hours and weeks.” If we trust in Him, God keeps us alive with His unfailing love, no matter what season of life we’re in and no matter how we’re feeling.

So when you’re staring straight at disaster in a God-ordained relationship, don’t run away. Plunge through it with the armor of God and “[bear] it out even to the edge of doom.”

Because isn’t that what true love is all about?