All Things New – Part III

This last weekend I was able to attend the ONE Conference at Cornerstone Berean Church in Ames, Iowa. I hadn’t been to a women’s conference in quite a while, so I was excited for some time to get away, learn, and worship.

Now, after all is said and done, I feel challenged to share with you everything that I took away from this conference. The entirety of this weekend was exceptionally transformational to my walk with God, and I am excited to share that with you.

session three, October 6

James 1:5 says that ‘if any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.’

This is an amazing verse, but one that is quite often misinterpreted. We read James 1:5 and convince ourselves that all we must do is ask, and God will deliver. Rarely does it actually happen this way though, and not due to a lack on God’s part, but because we’re asking the wrong question.

As human beings, we are notorious for asking the wrong question. We want to know exactly what to do; how to do it, and when. Because of this, we start to believe that this is how we must discern God’s will for our lives and follow it. However, asking God to tell us what to do, how to do it, and when is not wisdom as James 1:5 describes it.

Wisdom is an internal mechanism to make decisions. Knowledge is just facts.

So often when we kneel to pray and ask God for wisdom about any decision we may be facing, rather than asking for the humble discernment we need to make a wise decision with the information we have, we ask God to tell us what only God knows – facts, details, and outcomes of the future.

With this kind of approach, we mistreat, misuse, and abuse the Word of God by viewing it as more of a ‘how to’ manual for our lives rather than the glorious, shameless, infallible declaration of the glory and majesty of God Almighty. We miss the real purpose and process of sanctification and start believing that the decisions in life – where to live, who to marry, where to work, etc. – are the main focus.

We convince ourselves that ‘if only we could make better decisions, then we’ll be better people’ right?

I’ll admit it, I’ve spent years believing this and striving for this. If I could just train myself to make better decisions, then I would become that gentle and quiet, godly, wise woman described in Proverbs 31.

What does this actually do though? Eventually, with this kind of approach to discovering God’s will, my success, my obedience, my faithfulness, my righteousness, my everything —it is all left up to me. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think that’s good news…at all!

Because failure is in our nature, we become a nervous wreck when trying to discern God’s will because if it is in fact left up to our own decision making whether we stay within God’s will or not, we know that we’ll eventually fall to the wayside.

So rather than asking God and trying to discern what to do, where to go, and when, perhaps there’s a better question that we could be asking.

Rather than inquiring of God to show us what to do, let’s be men and women who daily seek to discover who He wants us to be, because…

God is always more concerned with the decision-maker than He is with the decision itself.   -Jen Wilkin

And when you start asking this question, I promise that you will be pleasantly surprised to find that it is quite clear what the will of God is.

It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable…for God did not call us to be impure but to live a holy life (1 Thessalonians 4:3-7).

God’s will for our lives is to be holy, because He is holy’ (Leviticus 11:44-45, 19:1-2, 20:26, 1 Peter 1:15-16).

Haven’t we already been made holy though? Doesn’t it say in Hebrews 10:10 that ‘we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all’?

This is true, as we have been given positional holiness in and through Jesus – we have been delivered from the penalty of sin and granted righteousness before God by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21).

However, we are directed to pursue practical holiness in a life of faith, trust, and righteousness before God; working out our salvation with fear and trembling, trusting that it is God who works in us to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose (Philippians 2:12).

When Jesus instructed us to ‘ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you,’ he was not talking about the daily decisions that we face throughout our lifetime.

Rather, God was saying that the answer will be given; the secret will be found; and the door will be opened to the one asking, seeking, and pursuing holiness. What good is the ‘right decision’ if I’m still the ‘wrong person?’

As believers, we have the power to choose rightly; the wisdom to credit God with those right decisions; and wonderful grace for when we get it wrong.

The will of God for our lives is to be holy, because He is holy, and we have been given the power, wisdom, and grace to do just that through Jesus Christ. Through the amazing grace of Jesus Christ, we have been justified through faith and reconciled to God. We have been granted new names and a new purpose for which we are to live. And finally, we have been set on a new path; on the path of God’s will which is to be holy, because He is holy.

All Things New – Part II

This last weekend I was able to attend the ONE Conference at Cornerstone Berean Church in Ames, Iowa. I hadn’t been to a women’s conference in quite a while, so I was excited for some time to get away, learn, and worship.

Now, after all is said and done, I feel challenged to share with you everything that I took away from this conference. The entirety of this weekend was exceptionally transformational to my walk with God, and I am excited to share that with you.

Session two, October 6

Day two of the ONE Conference began with another session by Jen Wilkin where she discussed the different implications of Revelation 21:5 – “And He who was seated on the throne said “Behold I am making all things new.”

A part of being made new in Christ is that we, like the saints who have gone before us, are given new names.

Having a ‘name’ implies a number of things. Names allow us to establish or demonstrate ownership, authority, affection towards others, association with another person, relationship to someone or something, personality, and most of all, purpose.

I was given a plaque when I was younger with my name printed on it in nice, flowing cursive letters. Below that was a description of the meaning my name had. The English meaning of my name is Follower of Christ; or in its original Greek, The Anointed.

Not only is this really significant for me personally, but it also gives me a deep sense of purpose; of direction and single-mindedness. I want to live up to my name.

There are many Bible heroes who experienced similar affection and deep association with their names, primarily their God-given names which elicited great purpose in their lives. For example…

Simon was given the name Peter, which means the Rock. He would later become the rock on which the church was built.

Abram was given the name Abraham, which means the father of many nations. Through him God would bring forth all the nations of Israel and ultimately, the line of Jesus Christ.

We see another name change in Genesis 32 when God appears before Jacob, the son of Isaac. The name Jacob means he grasps the heel. This makes sense, since a few chapters earlier we read about how Jacob came out of his mother’s womb grasping the heel of his twin brother.

When we look at the entirety of Jacob’s life leading up to this point though, we can see that he was, in fact, a ‘grasper.’ He deceived, he lied, and he manipulated his way through life; having very little faith in the sovereignty of God and constantly trying to make things happen on his own and for his own good.

We eventually find Jacob broken and waiting; wrestling with himself and God as he struggles with his guilt and shame (Genesis 32:24). Jacob recalls all of his mistakes, all of his sinful ways, and every single time that he had ever messed up. He barters with God; wrestling with conviction and trying to negotiate his way through the consequences.

There comes a moment in this passage however when God reaches out and touches Jacob, crippling him and causing him to cease his fighting and struggling. It took but one touch from God for Jacob to stop wrestling and listen to the voice of God.

When asked what his name was, he responds with ‘Jacob’ as if to confess who he really was…a grasper; one who deceives and lies and manipulates.

As Jacob confesses his sins though, God changes him. He takes that which was broken and sinful and refines him into an overcomer. God took Jacob in all of his sin and deceit and changes his name to Israel, which means he struggles with God and that God contends with him; an overcomer.

In this simple act of authority, God establishes ownership, affection, association, and relationship with Jacob. But more significantly, God gives him a new name; a new identity and a new purpose.

Like Jacob, we have been made new. We have been given new names as children of God. This is who we are. We will forever and always be found holy and righteous before God because He who knew no sin became sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21, NIV).

Now, you may be thinking as I was in that moment- “this is all fine and dandy, but I know myself and I know I’m going to slip back into old habits and patterns before too long, despite this ‘new name’ that I’ve been given.”

Perhaps that’s why the next portion of this passage was so powerful for me, because Jacob did exactly that…he backslid. In an attempt to manipulate the situation and exercise some degree of control over God, Jacob asks God to tell him what His name was (Genesis 32:29, NIV).  Remember, names allow us to establish or demonstrate ownership, authority, affection, association, relationship, personality, and purpose.

Jacob returned to his old habit of manipulating a situation and reaching for power and control over another. How often do we do exactly that? We know we are redeemed; renewed and made new and what do we do? We return to our old ways.

We become afraid.

We entertain anxious thoughts.

We gossip.

We judge others.

We blindly follow our perfectionistic tendencies.

But God remains faithful and even though Jacob backslid, He extends a gentle rebuke. “Why do you ask me my name?” He asks. And in that moment God blesses Jacob and leaves (Genesis 32:30, NIV).

God gently reminds us that we are no longer who we once were. We have been given a new name, a new purpose, and a new identity. This doesn’t mean that we will never sin again or that we will never fall into old patterns and habits, but that when we do, God will remain the One who contends with us, prevails, and makes all things new.

All Things New – Part III – Now that we have been made new in Christ and been given new names, we are set on a new path and given a new purpose and focus. How do we find that though? How do we go about discovering what God’s will is for our lives? Perhaps it’s not as hard as we often make it out to be…

Worst Case Scenario

If you’ve read any of my past blog posts or have had a conversation lasting longer than 5 minutes with me, you probably know that I am really fascinated by natural disasters and the entire crisis cycle, from mitigation to preparedness to response and recovery.

Unfortunately, along with this fascination comes an increased sense of anxiety.

When studying something as violently unpredictable as natural disasters, you get a real sense of how little you actually control, and with that comes what I like to call the worst case scenario syndrome.

I live in a worst case scenario world.

That’s just how my brain works.

We can only do so much to prepare for the next F5 tornado. The rest is an act of God.

So what do we do? We try to develop a plan that will best prepare us for the absolute worst case scenario so that anything less than that will be easy peasy lemon squeazy – right?

We do this a lot in our relationships with others and with God too though, don’t we?

We formulate and then fixate on these ideas of what is to come and all that could go wrong so that we’re not caught off guard and hurt any more than we already are.

If this is you, take hope. You’re not alone.

Peter had a pretty bad case of worst case scenario syndrome.

In Matthew 14:30 we get a glimpse at what’s going on in Peter’s head as he feels the water hold his weight beneath is bare feet.

Up until this point, Peter had displayed an incredible amount of faith – being the first to interact with Jesus (vs. 28), whom they all thought was a ghost and of course, being the first to actually take a step out of his boat and onto the water (vs. 29).

Kudos to Peter!

After stepping out of the boat and taking his first wobbly steps on the water towards Jesus, Peter let his guard down and allowed his thoughts to run wild.

…when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” (Matt. 14:30).

This verse always confused me because seriously, how on earth does someone “see the wind?”

It’s wind! It’s an invisible yet very powerful force.

It causes tremendous damage and leaves destruction in its wake, but it is still obscure.

We can always see the aftermath of wind, but never the wind itself.

Worst case scenario syndrome is a lot like the wind.

When we indulge our thoughts in worst case scenarios, we are fabricating and then fixating on one of two things:

  1. The future; or
  2. The motives and/or thoughts of another.

Just like the wind, neither of these things are actually viable for us to see or understand. We try fixating on the future to determine the best and safest course of action to avoid this worst case scenario that we’ve developed in our minds with no real understanding of what the future actually holds.

We begin developing these scenarios of how we’ll handle our friends and family when they act this way or that and get ourselves caught up in a frenzy of anxiety over made up assumptions about how they feel, their motives, and their thoughts.

And before we know it, we begin to sink in the worry and anxiety caused by nothing more than our own imaginations.

We catch glimpses of “the wind” and worry ourselves to the depths of a sea of our own making.

If any of you have seen The Shack, there is a scene that captures this perfectly and I encourage you to take a look:

Imagine yourself in Mack’s shoes.

For once, everything is fine and you find yourself in a moment where you feel safe enough to simply close your eyes and breathe in life.

Jesus told Mack to meet him on the lake; he told him to go out on that boat. This was obviously exactly where Mack needed to be.

Jesus told Peter to step out of his boat. He took that step of obedience and experienced a divine intervention. For a moment, Peter felt the confidence of being exactly where Jesus wanted him to be – walking on water.

But then Mack lets his imagination run wild. He sees visions of his past and the pain that had become a familiar friend.

Panic ensued and before he knew it, Mack was sinking.

Same thing happened to Peter. A moment of weakness allowed the fear of an unknown future – a glimpse of that which was invisible – to seep into his thoughts and plant doubt.

He began to sink.

Notice that the first thing Mack says when Jesus arrives is “why are you doing this to me?”

Jesus replied by explaining that what Mack was experiencing was not from him, but that Mack was doing it to himself; that it was happening inside of him.

“You’re letting it consume you and you don’t have to. Just take a deep breath and listen to my voice.”

We often let these worst case scenarios and assumptions consume us when we don’t have to. I have found that I am most prone to this type of thinking in the mornings.

I’m tired, groggy, and my mind is not sharp enough to ward off the attacks of the devil. As I’m getting ready in the morning, my mind has a tendency to dwell on the unknown and fixate on worst case scenarios. I allow it to consume me, altering my mood and outlook on a new day and on the people I care about most.

So I look to Jesus.

I take a deep breath and flip on KLove radio, listening to the voice of God through music and worship.

Once Mack locked eyes on Jesus, his boat continued to sink but he was never consumed.

When we set our eyes on the Son, our problems may not immediately dissipate. We may still have to deal with the repercussions of the wind and waves of this present storm, but we don’t have to let it consume us.

As we allow ourselves to be overtaken by worst case scenario syndrome, we allow ourselves to imagine a future without Jesus Christ in it, and guess what – that future does not exist.

There is no worst case scenario because what was intended to harm us, God has intended for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives (Genesis 50:19-20) through your influence, your testimony, and your example.

Worst case scenario syndrome is a silent, quiet, and very quick killer of the soul. We don’t realize it’s vice grip until it’s almost too late; until we find ourselves gasping for a breath of truth.

In all honesty, it’s a daily battle for me still.

I’ve had to take very deliberate steps specifically to ward off my tendencies to dwell on assumed scenarios, and believe me when I say it is not easy.

But we have hope!

Every morning when I wake up, I can choose to dwell on Jesus through music, worship, podcasts, and Scripture, setting the tone for my day rather than allowing the silence of my one bedroom apartment to whisper lies of made up realities and false truths.

Think about the times when you are most susceptible to worst case scenario syndrome.

Now that you know when your mind is most prone to wonder to those thoughts, take intentional steps to fill that brain space with truth; with visions of a future gently held in the hands of God.

Finally friends, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things (Philippians 4:8).

– Kristin

 

My Purpose Is Not My Own

It is a well-known fact for anyone who knows me in the slightest that I love my books. It could even be said that I have the makings for my own personal library, as my bookshelf is nearly overflowing with these wonderful gateways into other worlds; into the sagas of our past, the present realities of others, and many marvelous future creations.

I love my books.

I also love sharing my books. As with any library, I encourage friends and family to borrow any book that catches their eye.

I wasn’t always like this though. In fact, I used to be extremely stingy with my books and sometimes even now I revert back to that.

It all changed when someone lent me a book. It isn’t necessarily the book itself that sticks out in my memory but rather the selfless manner in which it was given.

I remember this friend handing me this book as I promised to return it as soon as I was finished. I can clearly recall their words as they told me to pass it on rather than return it.

God had used that book in their life. Now it was time that it be used in someone else’s life.

A number of things come to mind when I think of what God has done in my life to get me to where I am today. The string of events that had to take place for me to be who I am and to do what I do can be traced as far back as I can remember, all of it forming in front of me a purpose.

We get wrapped up in this though, don’t we? We get wrapped up in this ideology of purpose.

Our God-ordained mission in life.

Our ministry.

What our impact in this world might be.

“Be the change you want to see in the world” right?

Fueled by this mindset, which only seems to be further stimulated by the national stance of self-empowerment and social tolerance, we find ourselves contorting the whole idea of God-ordained purpose.

We build up such complex, detailed images of what we think our purpose in life should be that we miss it all together. When manufactured in our own minds, our purpose will naturally bend towards self; centering on self-glorification and praise.

That is not God’s purpose for your life.

Consider Joseph. He actually saw his future – his purpose even – through the lens of visions and dreams. In his mind, the only way to a life of power was through self-empowerment.

His dreams showed that others would bow down to him, therefore he was destined for a life of authority and praise. However, in his decent to the lowliest status of all, his expectations for what he thought his purpose was created a sort of blindfold over his heart.

He couldn’t see God’s purpose for his life but only the pitiful remains of his.

Through many years of trials and lessons, God slowly removed that blindfold to reveal the glory of His purpose – the preservation of His people.

We find in Genesis 45:4-5 that underneath all the heartache of betrayal and abandonment, God had a purpose; a redemption story if you will, for Joseph’s life.

“I am your brother,” Joseph said, “whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life.”

That’s the thing about God’s purpose for our lives though, isn’t it? Very rarely do they actually have anything to do with us, but rather for those around us; those we touch and those we have the chance to inspire and love.

Joseph could have easily missed this had a remained self-absorbed. He could have missed all that God had in store for him and for His people if he had remained stubbornly focused on his self-proclaimed purpose.

Whose purpose are you focusing on?

Is it the purpose you have created in your own mind or is it God’s?

It could even be a purpose contrived on God-given insight, but has since evolved into a self-righteous, self-glorifying purpose that has no resemblance to God or His glory.

To align with Christ, our focus must remain outward towards others instead of inwards toward ourselves. It must remained fixated on His glory and on loving those around us.

This is not an easy thing to do and often it is the most selfish endeavors that are the hardest for us to see.

But God reminds us in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4…

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

God does not bring us through the fire solely for our benefit and for our growth.

He does not show us love and mercy just so we can bottle it up for ourselves.

He comforts us and strengthens us so that we can then go and do the same for others.

Marshall Segal, an author for DesiringGod.org considered that ‘maybe the greatest earthly good that God will do through the things we have endured will be in someone else’s life and not our own.’

God’s will for your life; His very purpose for your existence may in fact have very little to do with you. -Anonymous

When God Turns Your Period Into a Semicolon

Like most people, I would assume, I often look back on my teenage years with a cringe.

So. Many. Phases.

And weird ones to say the least.

I had that rap phase that we all go through (don’t try to deny it, we’ve all been there), the ‘way too many Silly Bandz’ phase, the tomboy phase, the ‘too much makeup’ phase, etc.

One of my favorites though was my beanie phase. I wore beanies all the time and while anyone who knows me now wouldn’t actually believe that, I did.

That phase was brought up recently by a good friend who mentioned that this was his first memory of me – wearing a beanie. This made me laugh as I rolled my eyes and tried to hide my embarrassment. Even though it’s funny, don’t we all sometimes wish those embarrassing phases (and any memory of them for that matter) would just stay tucked away in the past?

We place periods at the end of all those teenage phases and hope to God that we’ve heard the last of them but somehow they always seem to get brought back up.

On a more serious note, do you ever feel like that happens with the hurtful, pain-ridden, cringe-worthy times in your past? Perhaps that big ‘why?’ that resurfaces in your memories every now and then –

Why didn’t this happen?

Why did that happen?

Why couldn’t it have gone the way I wanted it to?

Perhaps those mistakes of the past and the slipups that we wish we could forget but somehow seem to reappear in our lives.

Maybe it’s that big ‘what if?’ in your life –

the ‘what if’ relationship that got away;

the ‘what if’ opportunity that you let slip through your fingers; or

the ‘what if’ word that you didn’t realize at the time would be the last word you would ever speak to that loved one who passed away too soon.

Why does the hurt always resurface?

We ended that sentence in our lives with a firm period in hopes that we would never have to deal with it again but have discovered that God removed the period and replaced it with a semicolon.

Now, for those of you who struggle with semicolons (even English nerds like myself do at times, so no worries), a semicolon is what leads into a ‘second thought’ of an already complete sentence.

A semicolon joins two clauses that could, on their own, stand as complete sentences in order to demonstrate the relationship between the two.

After spending several hours contemplating where I wanted this blog to go and praying that God would direct my search, I decided on the story of Moses.

His cringe-worthy past of having lived a life of ease and plenty while his people were tortured and enslaved under the very hand of the man he called father was a memory I’m sure Moses wanted to forget; to place a firm period at the end of and never hear of it again.

Why else would he flee to Midian (Exodus 2:15)? He wanted to get as far away from his life in Egypt as possible and forget any and every memory of it.

Yet we find in later chapters of Exodus that God had a different plan in mind.

He removed Moses’ period at the end of that sentence in his life and replaced it with a semicolon to demonstrate the relationship between the hurt of Moses’ past and the glorious future of a renewed and redeemed people.

Sure, each could have stood independently on their own as complete sentences. Moses could have lived the rest of his days with a hurtful past and a mediocre future and God certainly could have freed His people another way.

But praise God that He does not leave us to wallow in our own self-pity.

God continues on with our story.

He continued the good work He started in Moses when he was first set adrift in the Nile and completed it in the freeing of His people.

God used that which Moses wished to forget for His ultimate glory.

So think back with me to that ‘why?’ or that ‘what if?’ in your life. What is that one thing, or maybe multiple things, that makes you cringe and want to run as far away from as possible?

For me it’s the hurt and embarrassment of a bad relationship.

When it ended, I wanted nothing more than to get as far away from it as I could and never hear of it again. But several years later, I found that God had taken the period that I had so firmly placed at the end of that time in my life and replaced it with a semicolon.

I’ve been able to use that unique and painful experience to meet others right where they are at. Where I thought my situation was unique to only me, God showed me that when we struggle with something, we are never alone in that struggle because someone else is probably dealing with the same thing.

On top of that, when God lays it on our hearts to share those painful experiences, regardless of how much it hurts to relive those raw memories, it often means that someone needs to know that they are not alone; that someone else understands what they are going through.

I’ve seen God create a relationship between the pain I experienced three years ago and the healing of others who have or who are dealing with that same hurt right now.

I don’t know the ‘second thought’ God has in mind for your sentence. I don’t know what He plans to do after the semicolon, but I do know that God is good.

God grants us the opportunity for a second chance; a chance to turn a sentence that we may not like into something beautiful. A chance to see our pain play a part in the glory of His Name.

His semicolon is our redemption story.

God does not waste pain. He will use the ugly and redeem the past to make the future bright with hope. “Redemption doesn’t mean we won’t feel the pain, but it does mean that the pain will eventually have a purpose.”

He places semicolons where we have periods so that the hurt of our past is redeemed in the hope of our future, for what was intended for our harm, God intends for good…(Genesis 50:20).

 

 

*I must give credit where credit is due – thank you Brogan for the support and encouragement in my journey as an aspiring writer and also for sharing this great blog idea with me! This is one of my favorites by far!