Take It Day By Day

Blessed be the Lord, who bears our burdens and carries us day by day, even the God Who is our salvation! Selah [pause, and calmly think of that]!
— Psalm 68:19

Ok, for real, I want you to take a minute and think of that. Read the verse over again and again until it takes root. 

Do you feel confused? Let him carry you. Do you feel abandoned? Let him carry you. Do you feel weighed down? Let him carry you. Are you unsure where you should go? Let him carry you.

The picture of this psalm reminds me of another one where it talks about God hemming us in, behind and before (Psalm 139:5). He goes before us and is behind us, and he is with us day by day. He is with you in the mundane. The chores. Your daily commute to work. Your walk to the bus. When you go to bed. When you wake up. When you make your coffee. When you're in meetings. When you go to the store. When you're watching tv. When you make your dinner. When you lay in bed dreaming. He is with you in everything, and he carries you day by day.

The beauty of this truth, is that God loves it all! It’s not like the only time he wants to spend with us in when we’re reading our Bible or praying or singing songs of praise to him. No, he longs to be intertwined, mixed into, and involved in every single part of our day. Work, sleeping, dreaming, eating, playing, laughing, crying. Every part! It is all beautiful to him. It is all holy because we are his children and we belong to him, and he is holy.

He longs to be intertwined, mixed into, and involved in every single part of our day.

Think also of the words the psalmist used, “day by day”. He didn’t say through it all, month by month, year by year. No he said every day. As I read it that way it helps me to zoom back in and look at my life one day at a time. What is happening in this moment? What is God longing for us to bring him in on? So often, we want God to reveal his grand plan for our lives, to lay out the timeline of events for the next 50 years, but instead he chooses to take moments and days to reveal more of himself to us and to teach us little things along the way that eventually all fit together to create the awesome plan he has for not only us, but for the whole body of Christ.

Blessed be the Lord, who bears our burdens and carries us day by day, even the God Who is our salvation! Selah [pause, and calmly think of that]!

So take a moment again and read that verse. If you are worried, if you are stressed, if you are afraid, if you doubt, if you feel lonely, remember he is carrying you day by day. When you can’t imagine enduring something for a year or month or even week, remember God is with you. Start by taking it minute by minute, and then another hour, and another day. Soon those days will become weeks, and those weeks will become months and you’ll look back and see how God carried you through everything day by day. Not once did he leave, and never will he ever leave your side. 

 

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Maybe You Should Go and Love Yourself

You can’t love others the way they serve to be loved without first loving yourself. To truly love yourself the way you should be loved is to know how God sees you and to know what he says about you. God says you’re perfect and you are His child because He decided to make you that way, and it made Him a very happy Dad.

I believe that loving yourself is just as important as loving God and loving others. Now how in the world can I say that? It’s not selfish to make sure you are taken care of and if you never take care of yourself then you will self destruct and burnout. If you say, “well if I self destruct and the world is a little better, I'm okay with that.” Then you could not be more wrong.

Loving others is more important, right? Loving God and loving others, the most important things… But a very important detail it missing here, so let’s jump over to the scripture.

You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.”
— Mark 12:30-31

Now I want to highlight “yourself”. It’s understood here that we love ourselves, right? I would say that the connection point between loving God and loving others is to love yourself.

Think of it like a triangle diagram. God is on top on the next point is you and then the next is others.

Now I would say that's the way the triangle turns. I would say if you're running into a problem loving other people then you probably have a problem on how you see yourself and if you have a problem with how you see yourself then you have a problem with how you see God. It’s all connected.

It comes back to identity. We need to see ourselves the way God sees us, so what does that look like. We need to love God and love others out of the truth that we are loved by ourselves and by God. We need to love ourselves or we are outside of our identities as children of God.

Peace, Zach

 

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The Pressure's On

The other day I was scanning through the radio stations, which is a rare occasion for me. I came across a Christian station and decided to listen to it, and a song came on whose lyrics caught my attention. The words were, "When the pressures on he's making diamonds out of dust." I know, it's cliché, but it's an awesome picture of God's grace and also how it requires pressure to make dust into something beautiful--into something of great worth.

Whenever we come under pressure and face hard times our flesh immediately cries out for it to stop, simply because it's not easy. When life get's uncomfortable our immediate response tends to be "I want out". We will get all kinds of crazy stuff thrown into our daily lives that may feel overwhelming and at times unbearable that make us want to scream "Uncle!", but we have a promise we can cling to; Jesus promises that he will never leave us. You see, over and over again we find all throughout history God bringing people through things, not taking them out. He even sometimes places people right in the thick of things. Why? Because like the image of pressure creating a beautiful diamond, that is what happens to us.

Some key things we need to always remember and allow to take root in our lives are that God loves us (John 3:16), he is for us (Rom. 8:31), and he has our best interest at heart (Rom. 8:28, Phil. 4:19). He doesn't bring us through pain and suffering just because. It is always to build us up, to refine us, to create something even more beautiful, so that we can bring Him glory.

Take a look at this verse, “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love." (Romans 5:3-5)

You have permission to believe the next time something difficult shows up that it’s not as an accident, but an appointment from God to take you to new places you could never have gone otherwise.

We need to learn to change our perspective when trials come because they will for sure come. Warren Wiersbe explains, that we must learn to see that the trials we face are not "accidents but appointments." You have permission to believe the next time something difficult shows up that it's not as an accident, but an appointment from God to take you to new places you could never have gone otherwise.

Wiersbe wrote, "At least in the world we know, it takes trials to make something beautiful and useful out of the raw materials of life. The student’s struggle with truth develops his intelligence; the athlete’s struggle with his records and his opponents helps to develop his muscles and coordination; the musician’s struggle with more difficult pieces develops his playing skill; and the soul’s struggle with the trials of life helps to build character.”

What a cool picture of how our life is made up of raw materials just waiting to be cultivated, like clay in the potter's hands we are being molded and shaped. Like a piece of gold we are being refined of in the fire. Like the dust under pressure we are being made into diamonds.

In closing think on these words of encouragement from Paul, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Romans 8:18

 
 

Opportunity to Love

opportunity_Community_header.jpg

I realized after moving out of my childhood home that it can be really easy to start thinking in terms of a singular perspective. We have certain paradigms that we grow up with that aren't always going to be the same for everyone, and I just recently became fully aware of this idea while talking to a coworker/friend.

We had been talking about our lives growing up, and we soon both came to realize we had been raised in completely different environments. It was a good conversation with stories of childhood foolishness, good family times, and of course food. The conversation ended with my coworker jokingly saying I was just a "rich kid". I have never wanted to be completely broke financially until that moment in my life.

It wasn’t said in any demeaning way. It was simply said to show I had just been more blessed and privileged than he was. It made me think of how much we oftentimes disregard people because they aren't the same as us, how we think less of someone just because of their situation they are in that we have no understanding of. We put people at different levels of importance to us and our lives. Either one of us could have given the cold shoulder, but instead we simply didn’t care about where we came from. We both instead decided to value the fellowship and community we had with one another.

Just listen
to their story.

It's become clear to me from this situation and the last couple months, just how important love is. How important it is to just listen to other people speak for a minute and gain a new perspective. Just listen to their story. Its important to make friends with the community of people around you; that’s what makes it a community. We are all people, we all have problems, and we all need one another. There isn't one person who is better than the other, I mean I feel like I am repeating myself, but how many times do you put yourself above the various people around you? It's a big problem in our culture to try and make ourselves the center. To make what we are and have done seem like the best or the only way to do it, when there is actually no 'set' way. We are so narrow minded and don't put down our defenses long enough to gain a new perspective. I find myself doing this a lot with certain societal issues that I've had opinions about for a long time. But that’s just the problem, a lot of what we think to be the right way are just opinions we've decided to build our lives on. That is why I believe it is hard for people to actually listen sometimes.

We are all people, we all have problems, and we all need one another.

Romans 12:9-10 says, "Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other." 

Jesus stressed love so much in his ministry. Its sometimes hard for me to look around at fellow brothers and sisters and not see love being demonstrated the way that it should be. Paul talks about love in Corinthians and says it is so many things, but I think it's important to just remember love has to start with us, by making the choice to love people and seeing it as an opportunity and not a nuisance.

- Preston

 

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Being who God created you to be

Being who God created you to be and settle for nothing less.

I love art.  I  love everything about art.  I love drawing and creating.  I love designing things.  I love stories, poetry, and music.  I love architecture.  I love movies, and currently I am loving photography.  I have always had a passion for the arts ever since I was little.  I loved writing and making things up!...  I remember one time lying to my parents about having to write a creative story for school so they would help me.  When I got to 4th grade, I was inspired by one of my favorite kids book authors, Dav Pilkey, creator of Captain Underpants.   So, I began to make goofy stories and added drawings to them then sold them at school.  In fact, once this started I had a hard time paying attention in school because I was so focused on drawing that I didn't really care about anything else.  I wanted to go to art school, not math school.  Then when I got out of highschool, I started to fall in love with Jesus and for some reason, I felt like I needed to give up my passion to focus on all the things of the Kingdom.  So, I put all of my drawings aside which I know now was a huge mistake...  God was never calling me to give up something He created me to do and to love.

I started an internship under a kids ministry which was a lot of fun and got me back into my creative flow.  One day the kids pastor sat me down in front of a computer and opened up photoshop and told me to design a postcard for a new curriculum we were going to use, and boy was that a challenge... but that challenge threw me into a whole new world of art that I quickly fell in love with: Graphic Design.  It was great because I could be creative and do it for God.  Now, I'm in an internship in Costa Rica where I have gotten to experiment with a lot of different ideas like websites, logos, emails, business cards, and more, but art still wasn't a big focus of mine, more like a side talent that I could use.  But then my best pal, Preston sent me a video of a photographer named, Jeremy Cowart and his story and all the amazing things he was doing in the world.  It gave me a whole new mind set on my gifts and coming back to who God created me to be.

It inspired me to dream big on ways to use my talents for the Kingdom.  A film director by the name of Darren Wilson, Creator of Finger of God, once said, "Be who God created you to be and then own it."  I heard a message from a speaker in my ministry school talking about how we label what's important in Christianity and what's not.  We are all called to give God our all, but then just jump into the most talked about things... like being a pastor or fighting against human trafficking or being a missionary.  Don't get me wrong these are important things, very important things and it's our duty as a church to do these things, but my fear is that we will have people who were created for and have specific talents for something else but they want to be recognized or feel like they're doing something "important" but God does not look at things that way.  He created everyone with a purpose…  If you love painting, paint for the glory of God, if you love dancing, dance for the glory of God, if you love drumming, do it for the glory of God, and do it because you love it.  It's not bad to love doing what God created you to do.  You should love it and be passionate about it.

Someone once said, if you are created to be an author but never write a book because you don't think you're  good enough, in heaven you'll still be called an author.  Why?  Because an apple tree is still an apple tree even if doesn't produce fruit.  Let’s be known on Earth for what we are in Heaven.

To sum it all up what I’m trying to say is that we were created with passions and for purposes and I think the best thing to do is to lean into those with everything you are.  Fully become who God created you to be even if it doesn’t seem “important”, because it is important!   I recently have had a desire to go around the world and help out missionaries by creating their designs and taking photos for them…  I feel like this will be an amazing way to use what God has given me and what I take pleasure in for the Kingdom.  I don’t know how to get there or when that will happen but what I do know is that God created me with gifts and passions and I intend on pursuing them and you should too.

 

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It Really Is Simple

We try to overcomplicate the message of Christ, and in doing so we turn away those who do not completely understand. We try to tell the story using religious words and tons of different Bible verses and in turn confuse the heck out of people who didn’t grow up around and in the church.

Anyways back to my point. This morning God reminded me of a great and simple truth. Jesus not only died an excruciating death on the cross, but he also carried and took on the weight of every sin anyone has and ever will commit (that I don’t completely understand, but somehow he did it).

He didn’t just die for a few. He didn’t just die for the good ones. He didn’t just die for the people who have it all together. Jesus died for everyone, and all we have to do is accept him. It’s the simple gospel.

Here’s the awesome thing you can’t miss. Jesus took on the weight of sin of every person. That means even those who would reject him. That is crazy right?! He died on the cross so that all would have the choice to follow Him. 2 Corinthians 5:15 says, “He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them.” He didn’t just die for a few. He didn’t just die for the good ones. He didn’t just die for the people who have it all together. Jesus died for everyone, and all we have to do is accept him. It’s the simple gospel. It’s John 3:16. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, so that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life”. It’s that simple. All we have to do is believe and receive his amazing and wonderful gift of salvation. Yet, so many people reject it. Why? Well maybe because they don’t want to give up their sinful life. Maybe because all they know about Christianity is that we are a bunch of hypocrites who want people to live by a ton of rules. Maybe it is because all they hear is don’t do this and don’t do that, instead of hearing words like, Jesus died for those things and if you come to Him, He will forgive you of everything and wipe your slate completely clean.

We each have certificate of debt that we have accrued over our lifetime, and there is nothing we can do to pay the debt of our sins. No matter how many good deeds we do we can never repay the debt. BUT when Jesus died he took that certificate of debt and do you know what He did?? He paid it in full!!! He took the punishment we deserved, making us free. There is nothing we have to do in our human effort except to accept God’s great gift and follow after Him. Once we accept his gift He will be with us always to help us on our journey. He promises to give us strength, and peace, and to love us unconditionally. So once we decide to follow God we have assurance that He will help us finish the race until the day when we will be able to see God face to face and spend eternity with Him!

There is nothing we have to do in our human effort except to accept God’s great gift and follow after Him.

All we have to do is receive God’s wonderful gift and follow after Him. It’s simple, not necessarily easy, but totally worth it.

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Illicit Grace

“The grace of God is dangerous. It’s lavish, excessive, outrageous, and scandalous, God’s grace is ridiculously inclusive. Apparently God doesn’t care who He loves. He’s not careful about the people He calls friends or the people He calls His church.” - Mike Yaconelli

Jesus doesn’t care who he loves. He loves pimps, Johns, prostitutes, terrorists, homosexuals, drug dealers, murderers, people who work at planned parenthood, and yes believe it or not even the Christians who think they’re better than all these people. If you don’t believe that, open your Bible. How can a good God love these people when we obviously see that they are “rotten sinners” who “deserve punishment”? I’ll tell you how. It has never been about anyone deserving His love. It has always been a gift. That was the point. If it was about earning it, then there would be no point in Jesus dying on a cross.

We were slaves bound to the unattainable law and stuck in our sinful nature as human beings, but God stepped in and purchased us at a high price, a very high price--His life. He didn’t make you slaves and tell you he loved you, but if you did something wrong he’d curse you and beat you into submission until you did the right thing. No! He adopted you and made you his child. He bought slaves and adopted them as children, but not only children, heirs, heirs to share the glory with Christ.

I think the term illicit grace gets us to understand who Jesus really was when he was on this Earth. I got the term from a book that was given to me last week written by a man named, Randall Worley and his book is called Brush Strokes of Grace. I think he said it right that when we hear those words together, “Illicit Grace” it causes tension, tension that was always felt when Jesus was talking.

Jesus was always about making people uncomfortable and taking things way too far. It was as if he liked it when people didn’t know what the heck he was saying, as if he sought after awkward moments. And one thing was for sure, He attracted the scandalous.

“The word scandalous is given to those who claim integrity all the while living loosely.

However, in the case of Jesus, we need to revisit the definition of the word scandalous. It means, “causing general public outrage by perceived offense against morality of the law. To be disgracefully bad, typically as a result of someone’s negligence or irresponsibility” (Oxford American Dictionary). Public outrage? Perceived of offense? Given this definition, Jesus was guilty on all accounts; or so it seems.”

“Jesus was regularly on the wrong side of town, talking with leaders of the Jewish underworld and with ladies of the evening. His regular interaction with women was considered lewd and indecent behavior for a young, single Jewish man, much less a professed rabbi. The Pharisees would rush home and change their clothes if they merely brushed against one of these social untouchables. To say His actions were taboo is soft peddling it.”

“Religion is always more concerned about respectability and reputation, but the person of grace made of himself no reputation. Reputation is merely what others think you are, not who you really are.”

To understand what I’m explaining a little deeper let’s jump over to Luke 7!

36 One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to eat with him, so Jesus went into the Pharisee’s house and sat at the table. 37 A sinful woman in the town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house. So she brought an alabaster jar of perfume 38 and stood behind Jesus at his feet, crying. She began to wash his feet with her tears, and she dried them with her hair, kissing them many times and rubbing them with the perfume. 39 When the Pharisee who asked Jesus to come to his house saw this, he thought to himself, “If Jesus were a prophet, he would know that the woman touching him is a sinner!”

In the time of Jesus a woman’s hair was a thing of beauty and was considered erotic.  This is why they were required to keep their hair covered, which today in our society seems like a pretty ridiculous rule, but at the time it was normal. When she uncovered her hair and let it down in front of Jesus and all those men, you can imagine the awkwardness and tension. This was completely inappropriate to the Pharisees. What she was doing was like a wife indicating to her husband that she wanted to be intimate. I don’t believe she was trying to seduce Jesus by any means. She was just giving voice to the desire in all of us to let our hair down, to experience intimacy with Jesus. Jesus wasn’t concerned with her breaking Jewish custom, but was filled with joy over her generous gift.

I want you to take a look at the music video that I feel expresses what I’m talking about a lot. That Jesus’ love isn’t depending on our sin management. Jesus isn’t looking for a certain kind of person to love. He’s looking for anyone who will accept his lavish love. God does not belong to republican, He’s not a flag, and gut check - God is not an American. God is not a white man - Gungor

The video is a little goofy but it gets the point across really well. One of my favorite verses of the Bible as of recently is John 3:17, yeah that’s right 17. Not 16. Can anyone quote that off the top of their head… probably not… but it’s a really important verse.

“God did not send his Son into the world to judge the world guilty, but to save the world through him.”
— John 3:17

 

Anything that you think you know about God, that you can’t find in the person of Jesus you have reason to question.

I stand with Paul when I say, I am convinced that NOTHING can separate us from God’s amazing unfailing love.

Jesus’ love and grace was Illicit, or so it seemed. Jesus loves way past what our minds can comprehend as we say things like, “Him? Really, Jesus? HIM?!” He says, “Absolutely, I loved them so much! I waged the cost to live eternity with them, and I said, ‘worth it!’”

All quotes taken from Randall Worley, Brush Strokes of Grace.

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