Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Take the First Step

What does it take to follow Jesus? Well, it takes a lot. Look through the Bible and you'll find countless attitudes and practices you must adopt if you wish to enter the Kingdom. But before you get down to all the specifics, there is one thing you should start with: an open mind.

Maybe the whole Jesus thing isn't for you. Maybe you don't believe in God, or maybe you are on fire with His love right now. Perhaps you want to feel that connection with Him but don't know where to start. Wherever you are in your faith journey, it is inevitable that you will doubt God at some point. It is human. We have all fallen victim to it. But we don't need to let this doubt sever our relationship with God or prevent this relationship from forming in the first place.

Open-mindedness entails willingness to listen to what God has to say. If we discredit Him immediately as a result of our doubts, then we don't even give Him a chance to reveal Himself to us. If we want to grow close to Him, or even if we think we may want to, we've got to take that first step. We must abandon our doubts and our insecurities. We must bring our worries to Jesus. Only then will we have clarity. Only then will we see that God has a plan for us, and that He wants for us to take that first step toward Him.

What do you have to lose? What do you have to lose by at least trying this whole "open-mindedness" thing?

If you don't make that choice to take a chance with God, then you miss out. Whether or not you think you are, you are missing a chance at a joyful life with a purpose. A God-filled life is not a perfect life, but it will bring you more satisfaction than any other earthly substitute can. Only God can fill the hole in our souls, a hole designed specifically for Him. Everything else will fall short.

If you do make that choice, however, a new world of possibilities will be opened to you. You will have faith to lean on and support you and a Father who cares for you even when it seems like no one else does. You'll have the chance to enter the narrow gates of Heaven, and you will be able to experience God's presence in your life constantly. You will come face to face with a God who loves you regardless of any times you have ignored Him.

Peter said to [Jesus], “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” And He said, “Come!” And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” When they got into the boat, the wind stopped. And those who were in the boat worshiped Him, saying, “You are certainly God’s Son!” (Matthew 14:28-33).

Peter took that chance. He stepped out into the water and let Jesus work His miracles, trusting that He would protect Him. But the second He began to doubt that Jesus would come through for him, he faltered. He saw the wind around him and he didn't think God could overcome it. Peter began to sink and the only thing that could save him was Jesus.

If you make the choice to follow God, there will be wind to distract you. The wind of those who laugh at you, the wind of other temptations...all of it will be trying to lead to you away from God. Despite our human doubts, we must realize that God can triumph over it all. We must be willing to make that first step and then continue to actively pursue Christ without fear or doubt.

It's not a girl thing, boy thing, "Jesus freak" thing, nun thing, priest thing, or anything other than a YOU thing. You, no matter who you are and what you have done, have the chance to establish a relationship with God. If you're reading this, maybe you've already made that step. If so, let your light shine for all around you. Or maybe you're not too into your faith but just curious. If this is the case, if you haven't made that first step, ask anyone who is worth it! The peace and comfort that only God can bring are at your fingertips. All it takes is an open mind, a choice to step out onto that water and abandon your doubt. All it takes is that first step towards Christ.

Related Song Links:
Keep Your Eyes Open by NeedToBreathe
Lead Me to the Cross by Chris & Conrad
Marvelous Light by Charlie Hall

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Moving Mountains

And He said to them, "Because of the littleness of your faith; for truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you (Matthew 17:20).

Nothing is impossible with God. One tiny ounce of faith can move mountains! That's pretty impressive.

But we often forget to look at the bigger picture. Faith, though important, comes initially from love. It is formed by God's love and strengthened by it. It is nothing without this love, which allows our faith to have meaning. The greatest commandment is to love God with your whole heart, soul, strength, and mind. This is our priority. Faith will follow. 

If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing...Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away (1 Corinthians 13).

Moving mountains. The same imagery is used in the verse from Matthew. Matthew 17:20 tells us that faith can move mountains. But 1 Corinthians 13 tells us that regardless of the mountains we move, we are nothing without love. We can accomplish great things with a bit of faith, but we can accomplish nothing if this faith lacks love. A faithful life entails LOVE. It is absolutely necessary. A truly faithful life cannot be achieved without it.

Tongues of men and of angels. So often today, we are persuaded by eloquence. Those with "tongues of men and of angels" lead us down their paths, trying to sell us on their beliefs or products. And more often than not, we fall for it. We fail to recognize that a voice without love is a hollow voice, full of empty promises. What benefit is there in convincing a crowd when your words mean only to harm them? 

Know all mysteries and all knowledge. Again, we are reminded that love is more important than anything else. You can know all there is to know about God, but you can never convey His truth without love because GOD IS LOVE. You cannot separate them.

What is the purpose of life? It is simpler than it seems: TO LOVE AND BE LOVED. I'm not talking about superficial love either. Love is not measured in boxes of chocolates or roses. The word love itself is tossed around so much that it is easy to lose sight of its significance. Love means caring for another with our whole hearts. This love will not only bring joy to our lives, but also to the lives of all we meet. God loves us more than we could ever imagine. His love alone can give our life meaning; it can give us faith and hope, along with a billion other virtues. It can give our earthly lives purpose and our souls eternal life. It is our duty to reciprocate this love and reflect it upon all we meet. Our life must be evidence of God's love. This is the most effective way to be a walking example of a faithful life. This is the most effective way to follow God's will to love Him, our neighbors, and ourselves. 

If we love God, others, and ourselves, God's love will seep into our daily lives. We will become messengers of God's powerful affection for us. All it takes is one step to realize God's love. The moment we see His perfect love for us, we will fall in love with Him, and the moment we fall in love with Him, we will want to spread His beauty to the world. Everything God did for us, He did out of love. It is our obligations as human beings, created out of His love for us each as individuals, to return God's love and spread it to all. God is love. He gives us His love, He expects our love in return, and He commands that we love one another as He has loved us.

"Love" can exist without God, but it is not true love. This Godless love can never compare to the love God gives us. Only God's light and love can bring us eternal life. This love never fails. It forgives all wrongs. It can fill our days with endless joy. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all thingsIt can move can move mountains.

Related songs:
One Thing Remains- Kristian Stanfill, Passion 2012

Fall in love with Jesus Christ, to live his very life, so that our world may have life in the light of the Gospel.
-Pope John Paul II

P.S. Check out my youth group's Harlem Shake video.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


Weakness. We all have it, but we rarely ever show it. We are afraid that weakness will be cause for our rejection, a hindrance to that perfection we constantly seek. We think we can hide it and deny its existence, and then it will disappear... But there is no denying the FACT that we are weak. 

We are human. We sin. We fail. We are weak.

And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me (2 Corinthians 12:9).

God shows His power through our weakness. He shows us that although we are easily disheartened, we still have the greatest power in the universe supporting us. With this in mind, we can turn moments of weakness into moments of closeness with God. 

By openly accepting that we are in need of God's strength, we realize that we can't do it all on our own. Sometimes, the only way to make it through is to cling to God for dear life. God's grace is sufficient to relieve us of the weakness.

Nothing else can compare. Nothing, no person, no object, can ever bring us the true healing that God can. He alone knows our every thought. He alone can see through any mask of strength we put up to diguise our true weakness. He alone will accept us despite our sins and strengthen us to leave behind these sinful ways. Unlike humans, He will never disappoint us. 

Even now, says the LORD,
return to me with your whole heart,
with fasting, and weeping, and mourning
(Joel 2:12).

Why would God associate returning to Him with fasting and weeping and mourning? Weeping, especially, seems to signify weakness. A tear is so often associated with the cry babies, the weaklings who can't handle it. Why would God expect us to come crawling to Him with tears in our eyes? 

Because he knows WE CAN'T DO IT ON OUR OWN. We are imperfect beings. 

What is the point of giving up something for Lent? This sacrifice helps refocus our lives on God. If you are fasting, what will you most likely be thinking of? Food. It will easily dominate your thoughts. And by giving it up to God, each time you think of this hunger you are reminded of its purpose. You are reminded of Jesus's sacrifice, and therefore strengthened by the increased presence of Jesus in your life. 

Sacrifice isn't easy. We must put ourselves voluntarily in a position of weakness. Weakness is not comfortable. It is not enjoyable...But it has the potential to unite us to God in a profound way. Through this unification, God turns our weakness into strength. He turns the unconquerable mountain into a stepping stool to a more personal bond with Him. 

Do not be afraid to show your weakness. Some may not accept your for it...but God always will. He will accept you and love you more than anyone else can. Through your weakness, He will bring His power and love to perfection within you.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Light of the World

For You are my lamp, O LORD; And the LORD illumines my darkness (2 Samuel 22:29).

God is a light, the brightest light in the world. We are each like unique windows surrounding Him. When God created us, He gave us the tools necessary to spread His light to the world. Like a stained glass window takes a pure white light and turns it into vibrant colors and stories, God expects us to let His light shine through us, revealing His love vibrantly and enthusiastically to all. He expects us to paint a story of God's love through our lives.

Some people paint their windows black. God's light is still shining on them from within, but they choose to keep this light from showing through. They miss the whole point of having a window in the first place.

Others, however, choose a different route. They use the gifts God has given them to construct a beautiful stained glass window. God's pure light shines on them, and these people turn it into a vivid piece of artwork that catches the eye of all they meet. They glorify God through their lives, fulfilling the true purpose of their windows. Even strangers often notice that "something special" in such a person. They have an inner light that overcomes the darkness of the world. They are able to create light from within, from God's light. They are living examples of God's love.

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven (Matthew 5:14-16).

During sophomore year retreat, my small group leader, Haley, passed out Christian CDs to my fellow group members and me. We each had different verses on our CD's. Mine read, "You are the light of the world; a city on a hill cannot be hidden." At the time, I didn't pay much attention to this verse. That's cute. It's a good quote for when you're not feeling very special, I thought. And that was all it meant to me at the time.

I never imagined that this verse would define the way I wanted to live my life.

Only later, when I came face to face with and recognized countless "lights of the world," did I realize the significance of what has now become one of my favorite verses in the Bible. God doesn't tell us that we are lights of the world so we can feel good about ourselves. It's so much more than that. God tells us we are lights of the world because He wants us to use our lives to bring God's light to a dark world. He tells us we are lights of the world to make us aware of our purpose on earth: to be a light and to share God's light. Such a glorious light as this does not deserve to be hidden. It cannot be hidden. When we are on fire with God's light, we cannot help but let it show in our lives.

Nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket. If you had the brightest light in the world shining through you, why would you want to conceal it? Why would you want to paint your window black instead of constructing a beautiful stained glass window? God did not give us His light so that we could hide it, but rather he wanted it placed on a hill and on a lampstand. He wanted us to share our light (HIS LIGHT) with everyone in our homes and everyone on earth.

When others see God's light within us and when they see God at work in our lives, it should inspire them. It should cause them to stop and think twice. It should help them realize that only a life lived glorifying God can bring us true fulfillment and joy. Though it is ultimately up to them, such light-sharing may even kindle in them a spirit eager to God's will and share His light, inspiring them to glorify [the] Father who is in heaven.

Matthew 5:14-16 is not just a little pick-me-up verse. It gives us PRICELESS instructions on how to live our lives.

Will we hide the light God has entrusted to us under a basket? Will we attempt to conceal a city set on a hill? Or will we stand up and stand out as lights of the world, making God's light visible to all we meet?

Allow God to fill your life with His light. Then share this light with all you meet.