Obedience And The Love Of God

Matt Chandler, pastor of the Village Church, is a beast when it comes to handling the Word. I have never listened to a sermon by him and thought, “Yeah, God didn’t use that for my sanctification.” This sermon was no different.

This morning I needed to breakaway and spend some good, long quality time with Jesus. I have been struggling with surrendering something to the Lord (maybe I’ll blog specifically about that in about a month). I felt the Lord pushing and I was like, “Yeah, I’ll be open to that God in about two years.” My prayers looked like this, “I see that you’re trying to show me something here. I am going to look at it and acknowledge it before you. I’m not going to fully give it to you, but I’m not going to take it either.” Talk about an elephant in the room…

I was convicted (a few times this week) while talking to friends who said, “Yeah, what you’re doing is not actually praying.” Or another friend who straight out said, “You’re like Jonah running from God.” Ouch. I needed it, but whew!

I went through my podcasts this morning to just break away with the Lord alone and was skimming through my Église Nouvelle Vie, Desiring God and The Village Church messages. I went to the bottom and saw, “Motivations for Obedience.” Perfect.

I think this sermon is so worth listening to especially for those of us who on our default have a hard time trusting that the Lord’s will and leading is always meant for His glory and our joy. This past week I’ve been convicted that when I’m not 100% surrendering everything to Christ I’m essentially saying He can’t be trusted. I look at the unknown with dread rather than excitement that my heavenly father wants to go on an adventure. And He is so good!

This message helped my perspective in regards to the struggle for my will be done, my view of the Lord, and was a fresh reminder that the word of God is refreshing to our souls and leads us to the abundant life.

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Missionary Prayer Cards

I love design and I love the fact that I get to use this passion in a couple different facets of my job as a Career Missionary with Cru. Prayer letters, prayer cards, outreach materials, etc. YUM. It’s slightly therapeutic for me to mix and match patterns, colors, overlays, new fonts (Thanks Maggie) and see what works and what doesn’t!

Here’s what I’ve been playing around with for my prayer cards. I haven’t decided if I’m going to put magnets on the back so that people can put these on their fridge or not, but… I probably will. I want to create something for people to put in their Bibles as well to remember to be praying for our ministry. But right now, I got the hook up with a friend who is printing these for me at cost, so I don’t want to do too much. You know. I’ll only be able to afford so many Starbucks gift cards for payment.

Prayer Card 1:

Option1

Prayer Card 2:

Option2

I’m still tweaking these of course. And, yes I’ll have my real phone number in these. I’d rather the interwebs didn’t have access to that. 😉 Sorry guys.

And I got to play around a little after realizing I didn’t need to create a back to these if there was going to be a magnet for a back. 😉

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THAT IS ALL.

This one time I got a tattoo.

And by this one time, I mean multiple times. I am just going to share with you the background story of one of my tattoos and what it means to me, but first, let me set the stage for you.

The summer of 2012 was the worst summer of my life for various reasons.

I hope and pray that it will remain the worst, hardest and most painful season of my life. I had just come back from my first year on STINT and was anxiously awaiting the return to the motherland. I came back to America and struggled badly with reverse culture shock (basically, everything in your culture of origin is no longer “normal” to you). I had a hard time drawing boundaries with time and people’s expectations and the guilt that followed when I did not meet those expectations.

I was dating someone long distance and couldn’t quite figure that whole situation out. Broke up with said man, went through the ringer with another, and lost a good friend. All in 4 months. It was horrible. Sounds like the perfect time to get a permanent, ever-present, visible-at-all-seasons tattoo right? 😉 Well, that’s exactly the season I got this tattoo in.

The story.

I had been thinking about getting another tattoo for a few months. Maybe. I can’t remember. That whole summer, honestly, is quite the blur. Anyway, I knew I wanted a feather because of the illustration of God’s love for us in Matthew. [SIDENOTE: It ain’t a leaf, y’all]. While at our STINT reunion over labor day in Charlotte, I decided, “Now’s a great time to get that tattoo. John-Mark, draw me something and I’ll go get it.” I decided what color I wanted it in based off of Whitney’s nail color. Basically, this is my STINT team’s fault.

We’re in a Fish Taco place next to a tattoo parlor [Another sidenote: Fish Tacos are gross.] with time to spare, so I walked on next door and asked how much a little blue and white tattoo would be and when I could get it. The sweet lady behind the counter told me to put down a deposit and come back tomorrow. The next day, we wake up and go to church. The sermon is on Matthew 6:26, “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” Hilar. I decided in church that I was going through with the decision to get the tattoo. That’s not something you hear everyday…

I love that this passage talks about God’s provision to the birds and then where it segways into our importance to God. He sees us. He provides for us in all ways.  Now, note during that season I was more than likely thinking just financial. I’m a missionary. We constantly have to trust God to provide in this area of our lives. But. I have seen God use that little blue feather on my finger as a reminder to me that He meets my needs in every way possible. He redirects my heart to the truth of his word even when I think I don’t need it.

In Him, there’s fullness and joy. Our God is an abundant God and He isn’t lacking in anything, so whatever need I have (need of grace, love, acceptance, peace, etc) He fulfills it.

I’ve learned a lot about how God loves me and sees me these past two years. He is perfect. And He perfectly loves me. I see that in His beautiful and bountiful provision of grace, I’m able to run with liberty towards Him in His holiness knowing that in Him, I’m complete, secure and cared for! God is too cool, y’all.

That’s the story behind my blue tattoo of a feather on my finger.

My sister and I making mustaches and beards. :)
My sister and I making mustaches and beards. 🙂 2014
finger tattoo
The weekend I got it done. It was so colorful then. No touch up for me thank you!

The Surprising Sovereignty of God

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Sometimes I am shocked by God’s sovereignty. It shouldn’t surprise me, but it really does every time I experience Him as my sovereign Lord. It sets me back a little bit in humility thinking, “Wow, Jesus! You care that much to show up in my life in THOSE details and in THAT way.” It just really does amaze me.

Tonight I sat down to spend some time with the Lord and just began to pray. I am on steroids that have been dubbed as made by Satan himself, so I have been feeling so moody, grouchy, hungry all the time, and struggling with insomnia. [Sidenote: Prednisone, you’re horrible]. I sat down to pray about my emotions and really wanting to push through those to meet God in a sweet time of worship through the word. Over and over I kept hearing, “Feelings and experiences do not equal truth.” That’s odd. But thanks for that Jesus, I guess.

But you know what? I needed to hear that. I struggle, really, with projecting emotions and past experiences onto other people and God. And as a result, I have a hard time believing God’s word.

I started to look at a journal from STINT and was encouraged by the entry for April 29, 2013. It was on the miracles of Jesus in Matthew 11. It noted that we can know and trust that Jesus was the messiah because He fulfilled every prophecy concerning the promised savior. I was so excited to read that, “Matthew 11- evidence Jesus gives that he is the promised Messiah: blind receive sight, deaf hear, lame walk, dead are raised, poor in spirit have good news. Isaiah 61:1-3. In all these miracles, we see Jesus is reversing and undoing the impacts of Genesis 3.”

I began reading where my ESV yearly devotion left off, in Isaiah 30. I began reading about Judah not trusting the Lord’s promise to save them from the.. ugh.. history is so not my thing. Assyrians? Anyways, instead of trusting the Lord, they rebelled. They sought out protection from tangible allies (ie Egypt. Less we forget, God had to rescue them from the Egyptians via Moses). They ran back into the arms of oppression due to fear and lack of trust. They allowed their emotions to steer them away from trusting the Lord.

Depressing right? Well, it gets better.

I continued reading in verse 15, “In repentance and rest you will be saved, in quietness and trust is your strength…” The Lord had already promised protection and deliverance. He’s asking them to trust Him. Repent. Trust. Be still and know.

I continued reading and then all of the sudden something clicks. In the promises of God from verses 19 onward, we see something eerily (probably not the best word) similar to Matthew 11.

[19] “You will weep no longer. He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry, when He hears it, He will answer you.” The deaf hear…

[20] “…He your teacher will no longer hide himself, but your eyes will behold your teacher.” The blind receive sight…

[21] “Your ears will hear a word behind you, ‘This is the way, walk in it.’….” The deaf hear, the lame walk…

[29] “You will have songs as in the night when you keep the festival. And gladness of heart when one marches to the sound of the flute, to go to the mountain of the Lord, to the Rock of Israel…” The poor in spirit will have good news…

Amazing.

The soverign God of the universe, who holds all things together, orchestrated this time together with me. I am just so amazed at how the Lord speaks to us and sees us. How funny is it that this was my reading for today and it aligned with something I read while living in Africa exactly one year ago today. Amazing.

Is He speaking to you today? If so, comment below with how! 🙂

The Pursuit of God {Top Ten Quotes}

I just finished reading a really great book called The Pursuit of God by AW Tozer. There are very few Christian authors {Charles Spurgeon and Jonathan Edwards are two} that capture the beauty, awe and majesty of the Lord in a way like Tozer does. I love visionary authors whose passion for Christ seep from every word and iota on the page. It is impossible to read books like these and not be changed. I absolutely loved the way this book ministered to my soul! It took me two months to finish 119 pages. Every page contained such deep, theological truth that really made me pause and pray. I had to pray about if I truly believed those things, not just doctrinally but in the deepest levels of my heart. It was such a great read. I highly suggest you reading it. It will help give you a new perspective on Christ, the omnipresence of God and experiencing God. 

Here’s my top ten favorite quotes from The Pursuit of God:

  1. “The moment the Spirit has quickened us to life in regeneration our whole being senses its kinship to God and leaps up in joyous recognition. That is the heavenly birth without which we cannot see the Kingdom of God. It is, however, not an end but an inception, for now begins the glorious pursuit, the heart’s happy exploration of the infinite riches of the Godhead.”
  2. “If we refuse one step, we bring our progress to an end.”
  3. “Whoever defends himself will have himself for his defense, and he will have no other. But let him come defenseless before the Lord and he will have for his defender no less than God Himself.”
  4. “The whole work of God in redemption is to undo the tragic effects of that foul revolt, and to bring us back again into right and eternal relationship with Himself. This requires that our sins be disposed of satisfactorily, that a full reconciliation be effected and the way opened for us to return again into conscious communion with God and to live again in the Presence as before. Then by His prevenient working within us He moves us to return. The first comes to our notice when our restless hearts feel a yearning for the Presence of God and we say within ourselves, ‘I will arise and go to my Father.’ That is the first step…”
  5. “Ignoble contentment takes the place of burning zeal.” p.35
  6. “But the highest love of God is not intellectual, it is spiritual. God is spirit and only the spirit of a man can know Him really. In the deep spirit of a man the fire must glow or his love is not the true love of God. The great of the kingdom have been those who loved God more than others did. We all know who they have been and gladly pay tribute to the depth and sincerity of their devotion. We have but to pause for a moment and their names come trooping past us, smelling of myrrh and aloes and cassia out of ivory palaces.”
  7. “God is so vastly wonderful, so utterly and completely delightful that He can, without anything other than Himself, meet and overflow the deepest demands of our total nature, mysterious and deep as that nature is.” p.39
  8. “Let us beware of tinkering with our inner life, hoping ourselves to rend the veil. God must do everything for us. Our part is to yield and trust. We must confess, forsake, repudiate the self-life, and then reckon it crucified… We must insist upon the work being gone. We dare not rest content with a neat doctrine of self-crucifixtion.. The cross is rough and it is deadly, but it is effective. It does not keep it’s victim hanging there forever. There comes a moment when its work is finished and the suffering victim dies. After that is resurrection glory and power, and the pain is forgotten for joy that the veil is taken away and we have entered in actual spiritual experience the presence of the living God.” p.44
  9. “What does the divine immanence mean in direct Christian experience? It means simply that God is here. Wherever we are, God is here. There is no place, there can be no place, where He is not. Ten million intelligences standing at as many points in space and and separated by incomprehensible distances can each one say with equal truth, God is here. No point is nearer to God than any other point.” p.56
  10. “…faith is the gaze of a soul upon a saving God.” p.81

Walking in Heaven

Sometime within the past two years I have become a crier. For those of you who may not know me and are reading this blog, this is a massive transformation. I used to have trouble trying to produce tears, but nope not anymore. I tend to blame a lot of things on Whitney Marie Low, but this one REALLY is all her fault. If you want to the evidence that it’s Whit’s doing, ask her about Christmas day 2011. It’s not really my story to tell. 😉

So today, I’m working on some cards for my best friend here Epiphanie. She’s a Cameroonian student here and will be returning to Cameroon before 2014. I’ve known her since my first STINT year, and I have so enjoyed walking along side of her in her walk with Jesus. The first time we met I asked her, “What kind of music do you like?” She said, “Do you know Jer-eh-mee Comp?” I was a little confused at the accent, but together we figured out that she was talking about Jeremy Camp. I looked at her and said, “Yes, he sings about Jesus. Do you know much about Jesus?” She said, “Yes, I asked to receive Jesus a year ago.”

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From that point on, I began to meet with her for discipleship, Bible study, CPC meetings, and just hangout time. If there was ever a source of life here beyond the Lord, it would be Epiphanie. She is so much fun and so easy to love. Her growth in the Lord this past year has been amazing. Seeing her pursue the Lord spurs me on to love Christ more. She told the man who led me to Christ, “Mary is my spiritual mother.” Although I didn’t lead her to Christ, it’s been sweet to walk through this life together for this small amount of time. Truly, she’s taught me, encouraged me and fanned the flames of my heart for Christ more than I think I ever did for her! She’s my best friend in all of Africa.

I’ve been working on some cards for her. With each one, I tear up more and more. The first card is a goodbye card saying, “My friend, I’ll miss you. Know I love you. These letters will be a reminder of that through the years.” You all know African mail systems and just how easy it is to lose track of someone for long amounts of time, so I have written a few letters for major events that I am thinking more than likely will happen just in case we lose contact.

I wrote her a card for the day she gets engaged to her future husband, a card for the day she gets married (which I have promised to be at her wedding but just in case!), a card for the day she finds out she’ll be a mommy, and a card for the day she becomes a mommy.

Today, I wrote the card for the day she realizes that there’s a baby growing in her belly. Ugh, I’ve never fought back so many tears in my life! Imagining what she’ll look like, how happy she’ll be, some of the hopes and dreams she’ll have for her baby… And imagining myself not being there to walk through all of that with her. I wrote a prayer for her firstborn praying that he/she would be a mighty picture of God’s redemption and mercy to the world. I encouraged her in her walk reminding her that first and foremost of her family’s needs: a wife, mother and friend that loves and follows Christ.

I’m realizing with each passing day, how hard it is going to be to say goodbye to all of these faces, friendships and memories; especially Epiphanie. I am trusting the Lord with my Muslim friends knowing that He is for them. I am trusting the Lord with change, with growth and with provision of new community. It’s so hard to love deeply for a short amount of time and potentially never see people again this side of heaven.

But, alas I am reminded of the new heaven and new earth in which the glory of the nations will be displayed all for Christ! And in Heaven, in that sweet, blissful place I’ll get to go on walks and meet Epiphanie’s little boy or girl that I’ve prayed for. I’ll get to meet Senegalese people who came to know Christ through reading a Bible they received through one of our Bible distributions on campus. I’ll get to hear cool stories of how God used CPC students to reach the nations. I’ll see people who we’ve shared with and pleaded with God to save, that we never saw the fruit of this side of heaven.

And that’s the hope that those who are in Christ have. That it isn’t about behavior modification, being a good person, but rather a belief in a God who loves you, wants to walk day in and day out with you, and has extravagant plans for your future. It is the hope that says: I know you can’t do it on your own, that’s why I sent Jesus. Trust in me and believe that I can do marvelous things because I am a marvelous God. Walk with me here and now. And believe that we’ll go on plenty of walks in Heaven.

And so now, I praise God that friendships within the body of Christ are eternal. I praise God for even the labor now that I can so quickly believe is in vain, those will testify to His faithfulness in Heaven. On my walks with Jesus I imagine Him pointing across a beautiful field saying, “You remember that taxi driver you and Elaina prayed for and gave a copy of the Gospel to? That’s his son that you prayed for. Through that book, his dad trusted in me and led him to me!” Or saying something like, “You see those groups of girls? That one over there, Fatou, received my word at your Bible distribution on campus. She took it back to her dorm and all of her roommates wanted to study it too. They had a Bible study and all came to trust in me!”

I can’t promise that’s what Heaven will be like and I can’t say that’s what Jesus will say, but I imagine seeing in Heaven the Lord’s faithfulness and seeing the fruit from being here fully displayed in His kingdom.

So, I walk here. I press on to fight the good fight of faith even if it does make me teary eyed at times. I long and confidently hope for the things of heaven, and l love that I serve a God who has amazing plans for us in this life and the next.