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

 

The Walls Came Tumbling Down

A good portion of my middle school and high school summers were spent at Timberlake Ranch Camp.

While I’ve never been too good with heights, I have gotten a lot better over the years. When I was younger though, I was absolutely terrified of heights, which is why I very distinctly remember the day that our cabin spent the afternoon at the ropes course.

I was fine with sitting off on the side watching everyone else suspend at what seemed like great, great heights (in hindsight, I guess they weren’t really that high), but my cabin leader wasn’t about to let that happen.

Next thing I knew I was being strapped into a harness as I fearfully (and probably tearfully) looked up and down this massive rock wall that I was supposed to scale.

Yeah, right.

We’ll just say that it took me for-e-ver and leave it at that.

When I think back on that moment as I looked up and down that wall, I remember feeling so tiny; almost helpless.

Perhaps this was how Joshua felt as he approached the looming wall of Jericho.

The challenge before him seemed so massive up against the very simple, almost humorously meek instructions he had been given.

The rock wall I faced seemed massive while the encouragement and instruction my cabin leader gave seemed almost too simple – just one step after the other.

That was it!?

“March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days. On the sevenths day, march around the city seven times…when you hear a long blast on the trumpets, have all the people give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the people will go up…” (Joshua 6:3-5).

Just one step after the other.

The mundane and routine nature of these instructions given to Joshua lacked any and all zeal or passion. They simply had to take a walk.

Where was the challenge in that?

Better yet, where was the awesome story that he would get to tell all of his buddies afterwards?

These instructions not only lacked excitement and challenge, but they also lacked any means by which to gain personal glory or recognition for Joshua and his people.

In fact, their job was almost embarrassing it was so simple.

Perhaps the mundane nature of God’s instructions for His people served two very important purposes –

  1. To point His people to the true source of their zeal and passion; and
  2. To place 100% of the glory for this victory at the feet of Jesus Christ.

Romans 12:11 tells us to never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.

Our zeal should never come from what we are capable of doing on our own but rather from the knowledge that He has never failed us and He won’t start now.

We simply have to serve the Lord, taking one step after the other, and He will do the rest.

When the task at hand seems too big for the meek instructions given, our zeal should not falter. If grounded and rooted deep in the knowledge that we serve a God who cannot fail, our zeal will forever burn within our souls, lighting our passions with an all-consuming fire.

Even when our steps of submission, one after the other, seem fruitless, we can march forth in the confidence that God does not waste our obedience.

This concept goes far beyond a mere rock wall at summer camp though.

We all have some pretty serious walls that we are facing, don’t we?

Perfectionism.

Expectations. 

Comparisons.

Discontentment.

Pride.

Frenzy and Busyness.

These are all walls that I have faced and some that I am currently facing today.

My perfectionism, for example has caused me to believe that I simply cannot afford to make a mistake.

This is something that I struggle with in many facets of my life, including work, service, ministry, and relationships.

I often find myself daily dealing with ‘paralysis by analysis,’ which in turn creates a very busy and almost panicked lifestyle.

We all have walls, and though “days one through six” might be painful, routine, and seemingly fruitless, we can still place one foot in front of the other in full confidence that God still stands.

Even if you find yourself still looking up and down your wall, remember that you are always in the hands of God.

When these walls remain resolute in our lives as we obediently and prayerfully seek to change our behaviors, instead of turning inward and wondering what is wrong with us, we should instead praise God!

Praise Him for putting walls in your life that cause you to fall to your knees.

And as we praise Him, remember the walls that He has destroyed in the past.

Look back and remember all the trials He has guided you through with His loving, gentle hands and believe that you will see Him do it again!

When those walls do fall though and the destructive behaviors that have for the longest time kept your from God’s passion and dream for your life fade away, it is very important that you follow God’s instructions found in Joshua 6:18.

But keep away from the devoted things, so that you will not bring about your own destruction by taking any of them. Otherwise you will make the camp of Israel liable to destruction and bring trouble on it.

When God destroys our walls on “day seven,” no remnant can remain.

This means that after “seven days” of surrender and obedience to Christ when my wall of perfectionism is finally destroyed, I cannot continue holding onto those old behaviors.

I will be tempted as I’m sure the Israelites were tempted to take the gold and silver for their own, but their devotion and complete surrender to the Lord was necessary in the total destruction of the city, which in turn gave passageway to the Promised Land.

God has a sure path to get you from where you are right now to His passion and His dream for your life.

There will be some walls along the way, but remain faithful.

Trust that God will work through the mundane days, even when they might seem fruitless.

And when “day seven” finally does arrive and you see redemption play out before your very eyes, surrender entirely.

Hold nothing back. Let those destructive behaviors and habits go, whatever they may be – perfectionism, doubt, constant need for control, sarcasm, busyness, solitude, pride, etc.

Whatever behavior it might be, surrender it completely to God, devoting all that remains to Him and His glory and watch as your walls come tumbling down.

 

Some of the ideas for this blog post came from a sermon I listened to a couple weeks ago by Pastor Jeff at New Life Church. Check out this link if you’d like to listen to the sermon – http://mynewlifechurch.com/series/playlist/

I Have No Idea What I’m Doing

The whole idea of starting my own blog came from a small email chain between several close friends of mine. Since my nose is constantly in a book, I decided to start sending out daily emails with encouraging tid-bits that I had learned from the previous night’s chapter.

This was manageable.

With an English minor in my back pocket, I knew how to write, I knew every person who read my writing, and I knew how to tailor my writing for each of them.

Though it was all Scripturally-based, it required very little faith on my end.

Everything fell within my control and my understanding.

When God laid it on my heart to start expanding my reach from a few emails to blog writing, I was really excited.  I had grown to love sharing stories, lessons, and Biblical wisdom and couldn’t wait to start sharing that on a larger platform.

Eventually though, as I started taking the first steps toward this change, I began to recognize my own capabilities, which were nowhere near enough for this kind of ministry.

I couldn’t do this.

I didn’t have it within me to continually pump-out Godly wisdom week after week.

I had no idea what I was doing.

Believe it or not though, my own inability has turned out to be the best part of blogging for me and the only part that keeps me coming back week after week.

I have no idea what I’m doing, and that’s okay!

In fact, it’s more than okay because it has opened up my heart in such tremendous ways. It has allowed the Holy Spirit to flow through me in ways that are nearly impossible to explain, but I’ll do my best.

All of my blog posts are inspired by someone or something. Most of the time I’ll get ideas from church services I attend or sermon podcasts I listen to. Other times, it will be through simple conversations with friends and family (that is why I always have a journal and pen on me).

The fact that I have to rely on God’s daily inspiration and intervention to provide me with the wisdom and insight I need for my next blog post has stimulated a whole new approach to life and dependence on God.

I see circumstances – good and bad – in new ways. I see people and my conversations with them differently.

Everything is inspiration, and I truly believe that is how God intended us to live our lives here on earth – in full anticipation of being inspired each and every day by His marvelous glory!

He is everywhere and in everything if we’ll only look to see. We can ‘see God’s heart ten billion different ways’ in His creation of man, not to mention in all of nature; earth, water, and space.

Once God plants an idea in my heart, I start formulating it through rapid note taking, doodles, and exploring different avenues until I eventually land on a solid platform.

Once I have my format, I start writing. I do what I like to call ‘word vomit’ (gross, I know, but it’s the best way to describe it). I just write and allow the Holy Spirit to take over.

By the end of my writing session, I’ll look back at what I’ve done and see a mess of ideas, but when I read through it, I see unbelievable beauty; as if I’m reading each piece for the very first time.

Each blog post is new to me; a new story, a new idea, a new facet of faith.

When I sit down to write, very rarely do I have a complete – beginning to end – idea laid out. I usually know how I’m going to start, but have to trust God to guide me to an end, and without fail He always produces a lesson that I need to learn.

God has spoken to me through my own work because I have to be unreservedly dependent on His wisdom flowing through my fingertips.

In other words – none of this is me. I am but a tool in His hands writing what He speaks to my heart through whispers of inspiration.

The God of all glory speaks when we completely depend on Him.

I literally sit down to an empty slate and fully expect Him to show up…

…and believe me, He does.

I recently had a friend describe to me her first experience with this kind of writing. She explained that once she started, she just kept going on and on and on and by the end of it, she looked over what she had written and didn’t see her words, but rather the words of God.

She looked at me with amazement in her eyes and asked, “is that what it feels like when you blog? Because if so, I now see why you love doing it so much, because the Holy Spirit moves so powerfully through that kind of unrestricted writing.”

I just smiled and nodded because that is the exact experience I get every time I write.

I get to feel the Spirit move through my fingertips; orchestrating a beautiful string of letters into words that inspire with wisdom and understanding that are far beyond my own capabilities.

It is an experience unlike any other.

Now, don’t think for a second that you have to write to experience this though.

Absolutely not.

I’ve just discovered that writing is my way of worshiping and drawing near to Christ.

There are so many other ways of doing this!

Music.

Art.

Creativity.

Dance.

Even exercise and working out.

The list goes on and on. God has created each of us with a unique trigger in our hearts; that thing we do that is our own personal act of worship to God Almighty!

When we fully embrace this kind of personal worship and follow its guiding to the point where our ‘faith is without borders,’ we experience the overwhelming presence of the Holy Spirit, molding our passions into a purpose that will glorify God to the fullest and inspire others to do the same.