Friday, May 24, 2013


"Lord, where did the feeling go?" Closer than I thought, actually.

I have been struggling for some time chasing this feeling I couldn't explain.

I always thought I had the formula down pat. A certain amount of days this, a certain amount of days that. If I followed the pattern just right, I would find this feeling of happiness I once often had. Sometimes, the plan would work and I would reach that euphoric place. But then, something would come up and it would be gone. And it wouldn't come back.

Naturally, I start believing that something is wrong with me. Maybe it's some sin I can't get away from, or some stress at school that I can't release. And the more failed tries to reach that feeling, the more I just let the sin or the stress have more power.

But then I have a good moment with God. So now everything's okay, right? Well, for a couple of days. Then I find myself feeling worse and not getting better, so I step in and try to fix it. I think that I got this under control, that I can make this right. And suddenly, I find myself failing my own plan, and then failing in general. And then I'm in an even worse place than I was before.

What is going on? Why is it so hard to catch this feeling? All I want is to be okay. So why aren't I?

My sins are forgiven, my life is all planned out and being orchestrated by the hand of God. No guilt, no shame. I am saved! I am free!

I am free.

So why do I feel like I am still in chains?
That's when I do a root cause analysis to discover the real problem. I feel terrible, but I'm saved. I feel stuck in a rut, but I know I've been freed from sin and death. And I'm doing well. Not perfect, but well. That's all I can ask, right?

Then the memo comes quietly through the metaphorical fax machine: I'm missing the point entirely. It's not about how many mistakes I make or how I handle the stress. It's about Jesus.

And then I realize what's wrong. I'm living like I'm going through the same struggle I thought I was freed from. I am no longer bound to my mistakes, I am only bound to Christ and He has taken care of all my sins on the cross. Once for all of them. Seems like the only person who never understood that I'm free was me.

So I run into the arms of my Father who takes me in regardless of anything I've done. He's given His everything so I could run to Him. And I realize that the purpose of my whole life is to be with Him. And then I go back to life and, instead of seeking to do things right, I seek Him. And because I am seeking Him and Him alone, I live like the Christian I was called to be. Not because I am putting in extra effort, but because I am seeking Him and everything just falls in place.

And I find that feeling. All along, I thought it was something I had to do. Instead, it was just from being with Jesus and having His Spirit on fire within me.

And because I'm truly, truly free.

Sunday, May 12, 2013


This life is not my own. Why should I be unwilling to give it away?

Oftentimes it's easy to just keep everything God has given to me and to be reluctant to give it away. I think the life of a relatively broke college student makes me value each dollar too much and fail to value the Giver or those in need.

Giving is much like serving, because the more you are committed to Christ, the more naturally instinctive it is to give of yourself and of what you have.

Acts 2 talks about the first church (not the First Church down on Jefferson Street; that wasn't really the first church). They set the precedent for what the church is supposed to look like. One of these actions pertains to giving: "They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. (Acts 2:45 [NIV])" They had a willingness to give whatever was needed because their love for each other was greater than the love of what they had. It wasn't that they just gave for no reason; it was that there was a reason.

Think about how the world would see someone who was willing to give up what s/he has. That's a foreign concept. I've earned what I have! It was a gift to ME! These attitudes may be warranted, but the Christian attitude is that all things are gifts from God. It's not mine and it's only temporary.

Now, when we talk about giving, we usually only think about money. But sometimes some of the hardest things to give away are actions. Think about how it seems easier to donate money to the Rescue Mission, but it's an inconvenience to actually go down and volunteer at the Rescue Mission.

But I have found myself having no problem giving of my time and energy. I feel that that's the only natural response. However, the semi-broke college student thing has convinced me to be cheap, and therefore it's even difficult to spend money on the people I care about the most. This attitude isn't right. I think it's why God challenged me to begin tithing: to train myself that all things are His to begin with. It's a standing challenge that I believe will train me to recognize the value in trusting the Lord with those things.

The verse in Malachi 3 that says to bring the tithe into the storehouse is well-known, and people debate whether it means that Christians are still under the legal obligation to tithe. Regardless of this view, God's promise at the end of that verse is clear: "Test me in this, and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. (Mal. 3:10b [NIV])"

In other words, giving your best to the Lord will produce blessings above and beyond anything that we could ever imagine. So why are we so reluctant to give?

Saturday, May 11, 2013


We prayed, and now we're living for Christ, leading to telling others about Him. But how does that turn into actions that help others?

When I was young and not fully recognizing the importance of my faith, I didn't have a great attitude toward "serving." Now, I don't mean the actions, I mean the title. See, my perspective of serving as a Christian was that people get so focused on doing, doing, doing that they miss the point of knowing what they believe. While this can be true, it caused me to misunderstand the point of serving.

In junior high, I came to a true understanding of God's love for me. Worship music excited me, so I started getting involved with the junior high worship team, eventually getting to a place where I was the administrator for that team (at the ripe old age of 13). Moving on into high school, I stayed involved in worship, and was more than content with putting my effort into what I loved (i.e. music) and not into things I had no ability to perform (i.e. children's ministries).

One Sunday morning, all this changed. My best friend, who had been serving in children's ministries as media team director, was leaving for college and wanted me to come in to Kid's Church for the 11am service to learn how to operate the equipment in the hope that I would take a couple weeks and teach the kids. So, I agreed to come in for a couple of weeks and help the children's ministry team by teaching the kids how to run the media equipment.

Four years later, I'm still there. I had no plans to stay longer than three weeks, but I found myself stuck there because (1) my work was not complete, and (2) I loved it too much. Then, I found myself caring for those kids so much that my commitment level went through the roof. Eventually, when the kids moved to junior high, I left the high school department to work in the junior high department. And now, my whole life plans are based around continuing to help the teams and mentor the kids for the foreseeable future.

So there was this one moment when I was teaching something in Kid's Church about serving, and it hit me to the fullest extent: this is what serving truly is. It wasn't that I chose to do, do, do. I simply was acting on the attitude that there was no better place to expend my energy or spend my time. Now I am known throughout the church as one who serves, and that makes me very happy.

In John 13, the Bible talks about Jesus washing His disciples' feet. This is a very well-known story, but it is so layered with meaning that there is no way it could possibly have been written by someone other than God Himself. It's not just about Jesus serving; the symbolism is of regular sanctification of the daily sins, in contrast with the initial cleansing that happens when we first accept Christ. But the main point I want to take from this passage is summed up best in verse 16-17: "Truly, truly, I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master, nor is one who is sent greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them. [NASB]"

And yes, serving makes me feel blessed, because there's nothing more fulfilling than doing things that could lead people into eternity in heaven. It's not about me. It's not about the reward I receive. It's about knowing that what I'm doing matters more than anything else I could possibly do. And therefore, this serving thing seems like less of a deliberate choice and more of a natural reaction. And it's a reaction that couldn't make me happier.

So look for opportunities to use your talents for the Lord, but also be open to the Lord's leading. He may just lead you into a job you may think you will fail at. But failure rarely happens if the Lord leads you somewhere. Turns out I had all the skills I needed to work with kids. Now it's the most important thing in my life.