God Meets Us in the Midst of Anxiety

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Sometimes I feel like I have to reach a certain spiritual mental state in order to experience God. I’m sure there’s people out there who can relate. The joy of the Lord should be our strength, the peace of God should guard our hearts, and the freedom of Christ should set us free.

Right?

But too often my anxiety holds me back from all this. From true, confident hope. From Him.

How can we dance in His presence when anxiety holds us in bondage? How can we follow God when we don’t feel Him?

It’s true that following God brings about joy, peace, and freedom, but these don’t come to us when we search for them. They don’t come to us when we try to make ourselves dance because we ought to.

They only come when we seek Jesus. When we contemplate Him in all His magnificence. When we open our hearts and let Him in to dine with us. When we truly, honestly enjoy Him, because He is worthy of our joy.

In the midst of anxiety, I often can’t fathom how to enjoy Jesus. I’m too worried about myself worrying too much.

And sometimes that’s okay. God doesn’t need us to enjoy Him. God doesn’t need us to be psychologically healthy. He is capable of meeting us right where we are at to simply be with us. To comfort us. To whisper gently to us reminders of His unfailing love.

He is capable of healing our minds.

When all you can think about is that one problem that keeps running over in your head, God whispers, “I’m here.”

He doesn’t shout it, He doesn’t force us out of our vicious cycle of anxiety, He doesn’t condemn us for our misery.

He holds us. He gives grace to our minds. He guides us to lay everything before Him and just rest. God is greater than any problem we have, so we can rest in Him with the assurance that He has everything under control.

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” – 1 Peter 5:6-7

Notice how the verse before the “anxiety” verse tells us to humble ourselves. It takes humility to release control of whatever problem we have and trust that God is great enough to hold it in His hands and take care of it for us. And at the same time, during all of this He is gentle enough to hold us in His hands and take care of us.

Once we release control and find rest in our Lord, something beautiful happens.
Peace. Freedom. Joy.

You soon find yourself dancing in His presence!

It’s amazing when you realize you really are not the one in control. He is. His plan is perfect. His mercies our new every morning. His love is better than life (Psalm 63:3).
Jesus is risen from the dead, alive and active inside of us to this very day, with victory over death and power over sin!

Take His words to heart. Enjoy Jesus, not because you have to, but because He heals you. He gives grace to your mind. And He always meets you right where you’re at, not where you wish you’d be.

This is a (kinda groovy) hopeful song that helps me “stay steady” in the Lord instead of letting anxiety get to me!

Have a blessed week, and peace be with you! ❤

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Nothing to prove

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It’s hard to get the noise out of my head sometimes. Well, a lot of times.

God asks us to be still but I keep trying to prove myself to Him and to others. I keep trying to be something, but God is everything, and the only thing that is worth boasting about is Him.

It’s remarkable that though we are in fact unworthy of enjoying God’s presence forever, God loved us enough to send Jesus to die for us. We are unworthy of God, but God thought it was worth letting His own Son die in order to change that. In His sight, we are worthy of being in a relationship with Him, because Jesus’ righteousness now covers all who believe in Him.

But the whole idea of “worthiness” should be set aside, because our value isn’t even something to boast about, but to praise God about.

Our value has nothing to do with us. It is only because of Jesus that we are worthy to enter communion with our Heavenly Father. Our identity is in Christ, but it is not our own capabilities that influence that perfect, beautiful identity. It’s all Him.

In other words, we have nothing to prove to God. Nothing at all. And we can actually find peace in that.

We can stand before Him in simple, childlike awe. We don’t have to do anything, and He already loves us. He already loves us!

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” – Romans 5:8 (NIV)

Repent and believe! Settle in your mind that the Lord is taking care of you. Be still.

It’s ok to not think about the details of life. It’s ok not to worry. It’s ok not to be able to smile sometimes. We’re not supposed to have everything figured out or fake anything, but to let God’s Spirit work in us as we humble ourselves before Him. In His timing, we will be exalted.

He is faithful.

He is faithful no matter how small our faith is. He is faithful to liberate us from sin and all that hinders us. He is faithful to work in us to will and to act according to His good purpose. Think of that–we can’t even desire God perfectly on our own, we need to ask Him to change our desires! In the end, the Lord is in complete control, and if we admit to Him that we’re not, He’ll prove to us that He is.

This song “My Heart Burns For You” contains only five repeated words in the lyrics, but it’s pure worship. And what the guy talks about at the beginning really moved me.

“Nothing to gain. Nothing to lose. Nothing to show. Nothing to prove.”

Let these words linger in your mind. Get the noise out of your head and quiet yourself before Him. He sees, knows, and loves you right in this moment.

A few thoughts on Evangelism, Control, and Humility

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I’m going to be taking a break from blogging for awhile, as I get settled into the new semester. I also just need to take a break from sharing what I’m learning so I can sit back and allow God to just teach me things. Because–surprise, surprise–I still haven’t figured this life out yet! There is always so much more to learn. We’ll still have a lot of questions on our death bed, but thank God there is an eternity full of answers!

Before I take my leave from the blogging world, I want to share a few videos that capture some concepts I’ve been learning better than I can explain with a lot of words.

  1. Evangelism made easy! This video sounds too good to be true, but when I watched it, I was really touched by his words, which seem very well backed up with the Bible. We’re not supposed to be sleazy salesmen of the gospel. We’re called to represent Christ’s unconditional love to people, with no ulterior motives, and out of those pure intentions come the words of life and hope that people desperately need to hear.

2. Control. This song really brought into light some things I’ve been wrestling with. I want so badly to be in control of situations, and it’s so hard to trust that Jesus is my good Shepherd guiding me on the right paths. Do I really believe that God is Sovereign? Do I believe that He orchestrates the details of circumstances for my ultimate good? Really, all we have to do is take little steps of faith, be open-hearted towards people, and let God work the rest out. He is our strength and our shield. Even if the earth crumbles beneath our feet, we are still secure in Him.

3. Humility. As C.S. Lewis explained, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.” Which means thinking of others more! And a person who is always thinking of others is not passive. A humble person is actually a very active person! Definitely some food for thought.

I hope one or more of these videos is an encouragement to you! Goodbye for now, and may you fix your eyes continually on our wonderful Redeemer, Jesus! ❤

 

When You (Actually) Surrender

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“Lord, I give up all my own plans and purposes. All my own desires and hopes and accept Thy will for my life. I give myself, my life, my all utterly to Thee to be Thine forever. Fill me and seal me with Thy Holy Spirit. Use me as Thou wilt, send me where Thou wilt, and work out Thy whole will in my life at any cost now and forever.” – Betty Scott Stam

I think it’s majorly underestimated how much the Christian life requires us to surrender. At the beginning of my freshman year in college, I hung the above quote on my wall. I remember having this strange unsettling feeling as I hung it up, that for some reason, though I thought I must be surrendering everything to God, though I was saying I was surrendering everything to Him, there still were probably some things I was holding back from Him.

Was I really surrendered to God’s will for my life, no matter what that might entail?
Was I casting all my dreams and desires at His feet, completely open to what He wanted for me? Did I trust that He knew what was best for me?

The above quote was such a bold statement that I wasn’t sure if my heart was truly all the way there yet.

But now throughout this semester I have been unmasking what it truly means to surrender. Slowly but surely–painfully and gradually–I am learning not just to say that I surrender to God, but to actually surrender.

Because “believing in Jesus” is a lot more radical than it sounds. Believing in Jesus means laying your life in His hands, trusting He knows what’s best, and letting Him take total control.

It’s about putting to death your desires and being in step with the Spirit rather than the flesh. And oh-how-easy it is for me to forget who I am and let the current sweep me in the opposite direction!

“…put to death what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” Colossians 3:5

Nevertheless, thank God for His indescribable gift of Jesus Christ! We are certainly not meant to do this on our own, and neither are we capable of it. We could never do this on our own—only through Christ’s strength can we prevail! (Phil. 4:13)

When we fail, we have a gracious mediator on our behalf, Jesus Christ, who is always there to intercede for us, to cover us in His perfect righteousness. With Him, God only sees Jesus’ perfection in us. With Him, we desire to want more of Him. We desire to cast out our flesh and fill our lives with the sweet knowledge of Christ each and every day.

If we do not desire this, we are plants that are dying. A constant heart check and persistent effort to find more of the fullness of God keeps us growing. It’s never too late to drop everything and run to Him!

“Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually!” 1 Chronicles 16:11 ESV

In doing this, we find abundant freedom and grace. Walking in the Spirit is an intentional everyday process that is so life-giving and peace-filled.

And yet the irony of the Christian life is that while it offers the deepest joy imaginable, it isn’t about being happy. It isn’t about having a good life. It’s about living a life sweetly surrendered to God’s will, and enduring hardship with Christ as a joy far deeper than happiness. The pain of walking humbly in the Lord is worth far more than the happiness associated with fleeting pleasures.

“But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.” Philippians 3:7-8 ESV

To have Christ as the focus, the meaning, and the entire point of your life is the only thing that will matter for eternity. It’s easy to say it on paper, but surrendering is not easy at all. Surrendering requires the truest humility before God, because He knows deep inside our hearts no matter how much we try to hide from Him. It requires accountability with other believers. It requires community, digging in the Word, prayer, worship, and a constant shift of your thoughts from the things of the world to the things of God.

At some point in this semester, I thought my eyes were fixed on Jesus until I looked up at Him and screamed as Peter did, “Lord, save me!” I was drowning in the deep ocean, hopeless and flailing for my life. I had been distracted by other things, and even when I tried to get my focus back on Him, it was extremely difficult. Yet I was desperate to turn back to my dear Savior, even though these other things seemed so beautiful and good in the moment.

Inspired by a picture my sister sketched, I opened to the passage Matthew 14:25-33 about Peter walking on the water. When Peter became distracted by the waves and started drowning and yelling for help, Jesus immediately reached out his hand and pulled him out of the water. He said to Peter, “You of little faith, why do you doubt?”

As I read Jesus’ words, I almost wept because God seemed to be speaking directly to me in that moment. Why do I doubt!? After all God had done for me, why did I doubt that His plan for me was good, whether or not it worked out how I wanted? Why did I doubt that God’s plan was way better, and anything I wanted that was against His will would be utterly futile and worthless compared to following Jesus? Even if what I wanted sounded good and beautiful, how could I dare trust that I was right, when God knows and see all things?

I am so foolish. Only He knows what is best for me. And yet though we are foolish, the Lord cares for us deeply like a good Father cares tenderly for His children. He wants to give us a life of purpose and hope, abiding in Him and enjoying sweet fellowship with Him.

As you and I learn to truly surrender, let us continually cry out, “Lord, save me!” and grab for His hand that readily pulls us up again. Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, so we can walk on the water without fear of the waves.

And let us remember the words of this song, continually checking our hearts to see if we not only say, “Lord, I surrender,” but that we actually do.

“I’ll bring You more than a song
For a song in itself
Is not what You have required
You search much deeper within
Through the way things appear
You’re looking into my heart”

Unworthy To Serve

“He is the one who comes after me, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.” – John 1:27

I don’t know about you, but so much of me wants more for myself. More honor, glory, power. I want to imagine that I am serving God the finest feast, or singing Him the loveliest song, or dancing for Him in the most perfectly choreographed dance.

I want to do the best, most beautiful thing for Him—but when I read the above verse, I have to stop myself. Wait. Am I willing to do the most lowly thing for Him, too, like tying the straps of His sandals?

And not only that, but I have to take a thousand more steps back. Wait. Do I realize that I am not even worthy to do the lowliest thing for Him?

John the Baptist’s statement is painfully humbling to me–but the good kind of pain! I need to submit to God everything I am. I do not deserve anything.

I must lose sight of myself and see only Him, for He alone is completely perfect, loving, and good! He alone is worthy of honor, glory, and power. He allows us to tie the straps of His sandals, so we can share in the joy of serving Him.

All around us are people in desperate need of Christ. And the Bible tells us that when we help “the least of these” we are serving Christ Himself. In our service to humanity, we are honoring and loving our Savior on a deep, personal level.

Because of this, we must serve others as if we are unworthy to serve them. Isn’t that radically humbling?

We are unworthy to serve others in beautiful ways. We are unworthy to serve them in lowly ways.

And we are even unworthy to be alive. We don’t deserve anything we have right now; we deserve eternal condemnation. Death.

But Jesus Christ gave us the gift of life when He died for us. He humbled Himself on the cross for us so we could cherish our King for eternity. As Christ mediates for us on our behalf, we experience God’s lavished love for us forever.

God is so good to us!

He allows us to take part in His Kingdom—there is no greater privilege than that! He doesn’t need us, but He wants us. There is no job too lowly for us—we can gladly be slaves of righteousness! And as we serve Him, it’s amazing to see how He works beautiful miracles in people’s lives, in ways we could never imagine.

“Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” – Matthew 20:26-28 (NIV)

Let this be the song of your heart to God today! He gladly accepts and cherishes our meager offerings!

I have a light

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The most terrible thing in the world is hell, and I want to save everyone from that. But I can’t.

At times, I feel absolutely helpless.

At times, I weep for the souls of millions.

At times, I feel selfish for living bold and free in Christ, while others are charging blindly into agony.

But what else can I do but be bold and free?

What else can I do but speak truth to the souls of millions?

What else can I do but trust God to help us all?

Some people are already in hell, and some are going to hell. That’s horrific. Why aren’t we doing more to show them the Way to hope, to peace, to everlasting life with our wonderful God?

The temptations of this world are so many, and so alluring. Sometimes I ask: Doesn’t God understand the appeal of sin? Doesn’t God understand how easy it is for us to displease Him?

And yet, He absolutely does understand. Jesus, God made into flesh, completely understands every tear, every longing, and every lure of the devil.

“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” – Hebrews 4:14-16

Let us hold fast to our confession, and be truly humble before God! And let us seek Christ’s sympathy so we may find the courage to stand. When we fully allow ourselves to bask in the grace of Christ, His own perfection cleanses us and empowers us with fresh love for the world.

We can’t convince the world that God is real until they see the reality of God inside us and in our everyday actions. We can’t convince the world that God is love when we speak to the truth to them out of fear. We can’t be the light when we allow darkness to settle over our souls.

I am mainly writing this for myself. It’s hard for me to stand tall when everything’s crumbling around me. This world is crazy, and people are suffering everyday. But God is going to win in the end. Each of us is going to bow before Jesus Christ at the end of this age and confess He is Lord. (Phil. 2:9-11)

“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 2:9-11

God is good, but the only way people will know it is if we believe it. And the only way to truly believe it is to die to ourselves and seek His will every day. Once we live fully understanding His love, fully trusting that He has sent His Son to bear our sins, we can be free. And once we are free, people will know at first glance that we’re completely changed.

The most terrible thing in the world is hell, and I want to save everyone from that. But I can’t. I can’t fix everything—or anything, for that matter. I’m completely helpless, on my own.

And so are each of us, on our own. But together? We can change the world.

We as Christians need to acknowledge our fear of evangelism, so we can overcome it together, and win the fight together against our flesh together. In doing so, we can band together, and stop ignoring the deepest need in our world today. Together, let us not be silent about the God who is infinitely greater than we can ask or imagine. With hope, let us pray, for that is the very foundation of all our interactions with unbelievers. And with faith, let us shout His name.

And with wide eyes, let us watch to see God move.

“We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.” — 2 Corinthians 5:20

Not only do we need to unite as believers, but first and foremost we need to unite with Christ Himself. The only way we can win souls is if the world is convinced that there is true freedom in Christ. And for that we ourselves need to experience abundant freedom in Christ. And for that, meaningful time in God’s presence is needed, where we can find fullness of joy. Don’t settle for a timid declaration of God’s truth–that won’t last. Connecting yourself to the Vine is the only way to bear fruit.

“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

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.

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

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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.)

 

The Beauty of Service

Some of you reading this might know that I went on a mission’s trip this summer to Denver, CO with Youthworks.
It was a wonderful experience where God worked in amazing ways. The community was blessed. I was blessed.

A beautiful moment was at the end of the trip when we had a foot-washing ceremony. The group leaders washed the students’ feet. If you don’t know what a foot-washing ceremony is, it’s based on the love, service, and duty Jesus performed toward his disciples out of humility.

“When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. ‘Do you understand what I have done for you?’ he asked them. ‘You call me “Teacher” and “Lord,” and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.'” – John 13:12-17 (NIV)

After serving a community with a group of my peers for a week, I got a chance to experience the feeling of being served myself.

A lot of the students had been crying this last evening, knowing they would be leaving people they had come to love as siblings in Christ as they served beside them. Or maybe there was more to it, that I couldn’t understand. Maybe it had been a life-changing week for them. Either way, the mission’s trip had certainly blessed all of us, and it was soon time to leave it all behind.

I was one of the ones who sat there and didn’t cry. It takes a lot to make me cry in front of people.

But as soon as my leader bent down to wash my feet, tears streamed down my cheeks. Even as I write this I’m reminded of that sweet moment, and I’m almost crying. Yes, it was a sweet moment, because my heart was touched by my leader’s gentle spirit as she washed my feet.

When Jesus washed his disciples feet, He was symbolizing what He would soon do for the world on the cross. Jesus descended to wash our feet, in that He descended to the earth to die for our sins and give us the new, good life. He showed sweet humility and deep compassion toward us, when we did not pay attention. He gave us a chance to wash the dirt of our sins away, when we committed them carelessly. The Lord poured out Himself for us, so we would be empowered by His Holy Spirit to live a life poured out for others.

We can’t truly love if we don’t receive love. And love is the most important thing, more important than the doing.

“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” 1 Corinthians 13:1-3

Without the love and humility from my leader, I would have felt nothing. I cried that night, because deep inside, I felt my leader’s willing selflessness as she washed my feet. I felt what the community must have felt when my group reached out to them. I felt what we all should feel when we think of Jesus’ enormous sacrifice for us, that offers us life–the overflowing, supernatural life that pours out into the lives of others.
“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” – Mark 10:45

 

Anointed

“Jesus is coming to Bethany tonight,” Lazarus said in the doorway.

My hands stopped at the dishes. After I passed a quick grin to my sister, Martha, I rushed to embrace my tall brother. “Thank God!” I declared.

I was still overcome with joy every time I saw Lazarus, forever awed by Jesus’ authority to bring men back to life, which he had accomplished in my brother a month before.  How could the Pharisees and the teachers of the law not see it? How could they not understand? Jesus came to be a servant to all, just as we should serve Him—not only out of productive housework, but first and foremost out of a love for Him.

Lazarus quietly slipped out of the room to attend to his costumers at the smithy.

Martha lurched into action, dashing about the house, trying to cook dinner, sweep, and wash dishes all at once.

“Martha, Martha!” I cried, “Remember what our Lord said?”

She snatched the broom and tried to put a dish away, but she ended up knocking over a clay jar on the table. “Yes, I know,” she gasped, “But I can’t sit at His feet if He’s not here yet—and He can’t come here till this house is put into proper order.”

“But won’t you calm yourself?” I said, more gently now, trying to reason with her. “Prepare for Him all you like, so you may soon sit at His feet. But don’t fret, Martha. Be at peace, and be joyful in serving Him. I believe that is what He wants from us, sister.”

Martha’s scowl began to fade. Hunkering over with the broom, she swept up the shattered pieces of clay without another word.

 

A few hours later Lazarus informed us that Jesus would be feasting at Simon the Leper’s house, not ours. Martha tried to adjust to this news calmly, and we both rushed over to help tidy up Simon’s house and prepare a meal, with his wife’s help. Our anticipation quickened our work.

Soon, as we swept and cleaned, we sang joyfully to our Father in heaven. I was glad, so glad to see a smile on Martha’s face as she recounted Jesus’ last visit.

“I still can hardly believe he rose our dear brother from the dead,” she told me, sighing at the memory. “But of course, I have to believe whenever Lazarus walks into the room. He’s living proof.” Chuckling, she tilted her head at me. “You’re living proof, too—always so joyful, always kind. Jesus has got to be the Messiah, don’t you think?”

I paused at my broom, my lips curling into a smile. “I never once doubted He was.”

Simon’s wife set a plate firmly down on the table. “You’re fierce supporters of that fellow, aren’t ya? Well, I don’t believe it, though I support my husband’s beliefs and all.” She laughed shakily. “Lazarus could have been fake dying, you know… I-I just don’t believe it.”

Martha and I glanced at each other, not knowing how anyone could doubt in the miracles of the Lord, which so many had witnessed. But the demons had their ways, as they had on me before Jesus transformed me. I prayed that one day this woman would open her heart to the truth.

 

After much work, Simon’s guests entered the house. All the men settled down at the table to chat until the honored guest, Jesus of Nazareth, arrived. Martha and Simon’s wife worked hard in the kitchen.

I stood by the wall, waiting for my Lord to come. He would save His people from their sins. He would be a light shining in the darkness. He would be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace. I quivered inside at the thought. I knew that He was the Son of God, and that was enough cause for me to tremble. That He would one day open the floodgates of heaven to my wretched self, who had lived much of my life estranged by seven demons—that was enough.

But He had done more. He had cared unceasingly for my family, even as far as lifting my brother up from the pit of death. I could hardly wait to sit at His feet and listen to His words.

Jesus and His disciples entered the room. The men fell silent. Even Martha let the flat bread alone in the pan, and instead folded her hands quietly in front of her.

Presently, our Lord began to greet each one of us, bringing the house back to a charming lull of talk and laughter. His eyes spoke kindness as He smiled at me.

The Most Holy One was speaking to me. Yet I could not move; I could not bring myself to acknowledge Him or even fall on my knees. The dire thought that He was mighty enough to see my inner secrets, powerful enough to strike me down with a lightning bolt this instance—it overwhelmed me.

“Don’t be afraid, Mary,” he said gently, placing a firm hand on my quaking shoulder. Then He turned away to greet the others, leaving me alone by the wall, ashamed of my fear.

 

I watched Him speak to us in a deep, calming voice filled with both passion and sympathy. He spoke of the good news of the kingdom of God as He had many times before, revealing mystery upon mystery, layer upon layer of truth, yet doing so with a genuine love that I could not fathom.

Martha served the men while Simon’s wife lingered in the kitchen, but I was caught in my Lord’s words, which pierced my heart with truth. I longed to show Him my esteem for Him, my gratefulness for what He had done for Lazarus, my deep love for all that He was.

I knew, somehow, that He’d seen right through me when He’d greeted me, and He’d understood my fear. But as He even told me—He didn’t want me to be afraid. He wanted my love and devotion, the key to my heart, He wished to be the whole Reason of my self.

I drew the alabaster jar of pure nard from my satchel that I’d brought along, because I knew. I knew He would die, yet rise again as Lazarus had, only this time to bring the assurance of everlasting life we all were searching for. The knowledge of it penetrated my soul. He would be led as a lamb to be slaughtered. He’d be the ultimate sacrifice for all who believed in Him, for eternity.

Lazarus eyed me, noticing the jar in my hands, and he offered a smile of encouragement. Though my family had been saving this perfume for Jesus for two years, I knew that the time was now. Martha and Lazarus had given it to me as my responsibility, so I had every right to use it if I believed it was time. The Messiah deserved so much more than mere fragrance for his feet, but it was all I had to offer Him.

Father, I prayed, may Your Son’s name be glorified because of me.

I stepped forward, gripping the jar. My awe of Him, my delight in the Christ’s humility to grace this earth, my thankfulness for the miracle He’d done in Lazarus’ life—it all poured through me at once as I fell on my knees before Him, weeping.

“Lord, Lord,” I whispered, opening the jar and letting the strong perfume flow out over His feet. As I emptied out every drop of the nard, the aroma permeated the whole room. Trembling with emotion, I wiped His dripping feet with my hair.

“Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor?” a disciple of Jesus protested, his voice edged with frustration. “It was worth a year’s wages.”

Heat flooded through my cheeks. Would my Lord resent me for what I had done? Did He believe I despised the poor?

But I felt His hand on my shoulder. “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to Me. The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have Me.”

The tension released inside me, as I slowly raised my eyes to His warm brown ones. I was beyond grateful that my offering should please Him. Yet the thought that one day He would have to leave filled me with sorrow.

My Lord turned His focus back towards Judas Iscariot, the disciple who’d objected my actions, and then He continued. “When she poured this perfume on me, she did it to prepare me for my burial. Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

His words sent a roil of shock through me. That people would long remember me was an honor I knew I didn’t deserve. Yet if it should glorify Jesus’ name, praise God!

“Mary, are you all right?”

Suddenly I was aware of Martha’s arms around me, first embracing me, and then pulling me to my feet. “Will you help me serve them?”

I looked around in a daze. Jesus was now preaching to the men with the same audacity as before. The disciple who had spoken against me, Judas, was sulking in the corner. Noticing his empty goblet, I snatched a pitcher and came to him to refill it. After all, he had just as much as a right in the Kingdom of God as I did, if he only humbled himself. And through my kindness, perhaps he’d understand that I wasn’t a hater of the poor.

As I poured Judas’ wine, I smiled at him. For a moment he studied me carefully, and then his dark eyes narrowed, sending a sinking feeling within me.

Dear Father, I prayed fervently, help Judas and Simon’s wife and the rest of the doubters to all know that Lazarus was truly dead and made alive again. Help them to know that the same can be true for them in their hearts, and that my offering was nothing compared to His overflowing anointment on my soul.

(Historical Fiction based as much as possible on John 12:1-10 and Matthew 26:6-13.)