4.5.2014- Conflict Resolution

I am only trying to call attention to a fact; the fact that this year, or this month, or, more likely, this very day, we have failed to practice ourselves the kind of behavior we expect from other people." Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis

It’s so easy to blame conflicts on other people. “She told me she’d do this and she didn’t.” “It’s not fair for them to treat me that way.” “Why would he say that?”

When we look at our own behavior, we judge ourselves based on our intentions. When we look at the behavior of others, we judge them based on their actions.

That alone is unfair, but what’s worse is that in zeroing in on someone else’s sin, we turn a blind eye to our own. 

For me, when I find myself bitter towards my friends it’s because they didn’t act the way I wanted them to. In thinking that, my selfishness, my pride, and my self-righteousness in appointing myself their judge should be the foremost issue I fixate on. I make myself an idol, my opinions eclipsing God’s love for that person and His desire for me to love them too.

I’m so terrible at self-examination when I feel wronged by someone else, or frustrated by them. With God’s grace, hopefully I will become better at it.

Lord, you know the ugliness in my heart. Wipe it out, God! Make me more like you and more aware of my own sin. Remind me who should sit on the throne of my heart.

4.4.2014- Unsung Hero

"When Enoch had lived 65 years, he became the father of Methuselah. After he became the father of Methuselah, Enoch walked faithfully with God 300 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Enoch lived a total of 365 years. Enoch walked faithfully with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.”

Genesis 5:21-24 (NIV)

This is the entire story of Enoch. Or this one, at least. I think there were a couple of them mentioned throughout the Bible’s history. But for such an incredible man with an incredible faith, these three verses are all we get.

Well, these and a shoutout in Hebrews:

By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death: “He could not be found, because God had taken him away.”For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”

Hebrews 11:5-6 (NIV)

I mean, I don’t know about you but I’d love to know more about this guy. I want to know his secret- how did he acquire this faith so strong that God didn’t even let him die but just took him? Where can I get some of that? And what exactly did that taking look like?

Enoch’s story, as short and sweet as it is, is encouraging to me in a big way. Being a college student, I’ve met so many people who really want to affect change in this world, whether it’s because they want the world to be a better place or because they want to be remembered or a combination of the two. My passions and ambitions often lead me to wonder if I’ll really be able to Leave My Mark in a measurable way. 

Moses never saw the promised land. Abraham didn’t live to see the nation that grew from his descendants. David didn’t live to see the temple built. Similarly, Enoch had no way of knowing that thousands of years after he lived, I would be sitting here thinking about his life and learning more about faith and God’s nature from his story.

Even if I never see fruit from the seeds I plant, Enoch’s story encourages me to continue planting seeds anyway. God didn’t promise admission to Heaven to those who convert X number of people in their lifetime, or to all those who do something noteworthy enough in God’s name to be recorded in the Bible (or in a history book). God promised Himself to all who believe in Him, and Enoch’s faith shows me that even if I do nothing truly remarkable in my life, God still loves me and desires for me to be in His presence. That is the truth I will try to hold onto.

2.24.2014- The Problem With Social Media

More and more lately, I’ve been realizing how social media affects my measure of success. It’s a sneaky kind of confidence-breaker, and yet it’s kind of addicting. I keep myself logged in and automatically go to my newsfeed, even if it’s just for a couple of seconds, before I resume whatever activity I opened Google Chrome for.

[[Disclaimer: This is all true of Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, and every other social media site out there, not just Facebook.] 

It encourages comparison, which leads to envy or pride.

We all want to share our biggest moments (and for some, our smaller moments as well) with our Facebook friends. Daily, I see statuses declaring that someone I know is engaged/got the job they wanted/got into the college of their dreams/has a really cute kid/is traveling the world, etc.

When I see these pictures or statuses or whatever, my first instinct is to hold my life up next to theirs. I become cripplingly aware of how single I am, of how I feel far from achieving my dreams, how I don’t look as good in a bathing suit, or how I wish had something in my life worthy of posting on Facebook.

It’s easy to recognize the destructive influence of Facebook on our self-confidence when we compare our lives to others’ and fall short. What’s insidious is when I feel validated by looking at someone else’s profile. When I decide somehow that my life is better than theirs and I become prideful because of it. I’m much less likely to acknowledge my sin when it makes me feel good inside.

 It gives us tools to more accurately compare ourselves to others.

 Did my prof pic get as many likes as theirs? Do I have as many friends as he does? Did she post on my wall as many times as she posted on someone else’s?

 Our lives are always ruled by numbers- weight, grades, etc., and Facebook makes it easier than ever to simplify our lives into numbers, and for everyone to see those numbers.

It makes it easier to seek and measure the approval of others.

When I go to post something, I’m often motivated by wanting other people to be impressed with what I’m doing. Look at this cool place I traveled. Look at this cute dog I’m puppy-sitting. Look at this delicious food I’m eating. Look at what I’m posting and think about how great I am.

 And not only that, but after I post something I’m on a leash, constantly checking my phone or refreshing the page online to see if more people have liked it, if more people have commented.

 And when I go to a Christian conference or a mission trip or sit outside with my Bible and my coffee, my urge to put it on social media turns it from something with good motives- honoring God, growing closer to Him, serving Him- to look and be impressed with how good of a Christian I am.

I’m not saying that every time you post a Bible verse as your status you’re doing something bad. Social media is a great platform for the gospel in some ways. I just know that I need to be more aware of how- and why- I’m using it.

By this method thousands of humans have been brought to think that humility means pretty women trying to believe they are ugly and clever men trying to believe they are fools…God wants to bring the man to a state of mind in which he could design the best cathedral in the world, and know it to be the best, and rejoice in the fact, without being any more (or less) or otherwise glad at having done it than he would be if it had been done by another. God wants him, in the end, to be so free from any bias in his own favor that he can rejoice in his own talents as frankly and gratefully as in his neighbor’s talents—or in a sunrise, an elephant, or a waterfall. He wants each man, in the long run, to be able to recognize all creatures (even himself) as glorious and excellent things. He wants to kill their animal self-love as soon as possible; but it is His long-term policy, I fear, to restore to them a new kind of self-love—a charity and gratitude for all selves, including their own. — C.S. Lewis (The Screwtape Letters)

1.22.2014- The Outcast

"Once again Jesus went out beside the lake. A large crowd came to him, and he began to teach them. As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth. ‘Follow me,’ Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him.

While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: ‘Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?’

On hearing this, Jesus said to them, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.’”

Mark 2:13-17 (NIV)

A girl who goes to my school has recently been caught- a lot- stealing others’ belongings and then planting them in someone else’s possession. She’s a notorious liar and many of her friends have reached the point of cutting her out of their lives because they can’t trust her.

Levi (like Zaccheus and many others in the Bible) was a liar and a thief. He was a tax collector. In those days, it was common practice for tax collectors to take more money from the people than the state required, keeping the extra for themselves.

Jesus asked Levi to be one of his 12 closest friends. He hung out with people who acted very differently than He did.

This situation does not involve me really at all, but I just hope that this girl, in a crowd of Christians who were once her friends, is able to find friends who show her love even when she doesn’t deserve it. Because none of us deserve it, yet Jesus gave it, and He gives us the same simple instructions that He gave Levi: "Follow me."

In Seoul, South Korea, hundreds of unwanted babies are abandoned on the streets every year. That’s when this brave pastor and his wife decided to do something about it. Watch their extraordinary story of love here.

I’d love to pray for you! Does anyone have prayer requests?

12.10.2013- Paying it Forward

"The kingdom of God is like a king who decided to square accounts with his servants. As he got under way, one servant was brought before him who had run up a debt of a hundred thousand dollars. He couldn’t pay up, so the king ordered the man, along with his wife, children, and goods, to be auctioned off at the slave market.

The poor wretch threw himself at the king’s feet and begged, ‘Give me a chance and I’ll pay it all back.’ Touched by his plea, the king let him off, erasing the debt.

The servant was no sooner out of the room when he came upon one of his fellow servants who owed him ten dollars. He seized him by the throat and demanded ‘Pay up. Now!’

The poor wretch threw himself down and begged, ‘Give me a chance and I’ll pay it all back.’ But he wouldn’t do it. He had him arrested and put in jail until the debt was paid. hen the other servants saw this going on, they were outraged and brought a detailed report to the king.

The king summoned the man and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave your entire debt when you begged me for mercy. Shouldn’t you be compelled to be merciful to your fellow servant who asked for mercy?’” (Message) Matthew 18:23-35

I used to think this was so ridiculous.

Who in their right mind, after being given such unwarranted, extravagant grace could turn around and deny that grace to someone else?

Except I do it all the time.

I am stingy with my grace, while the maker of the universe lavishes me with His. I am frugal with my love, while the King of kings pours His upon me. 

And today, thanks to the wisdom of a friend, my eyes were opened before I made the same mistake with my money. Our landlord graciously decided to help us pay for what would have been an outlandishly expensive stain removal, yet I was demanding ten dollars (no kidding… the exact EXACT same as the servant in the parable) from someone responsible for breaking something accidentally.

Today, I am thankful for my Father who is never a Scrooge with His mercy. I am thankful for friends who hold me accountable and help me do what’s right. And I am thankful for the twisty insides I’m having now as I think of how selfish I was being, because the more we become aware of our sin, the more we can learn from it and the more we can appreciate the incredible grace of God.

We undercut the gospel when we speak disrespectfully to and about people created in the image of God. Gossip always kills gospel proclamation.

David Platt (via p3rspective)

This hit me hard today.

That person that I’m gossiping about is a creation of God, loved by God, and a recipient of the same grace that I get every single day. The same grace that I should be showing, rather than wasting.

God, help me to see with your eyes. Help me to love with your heart. Remind me that I am broken and ugly inside, and that only by your grace, your undeserved favor, am I saved. Help me to respond with grace when I see the brokenness and ugliness inside of others. Help me to help them see the beauty and perfection of you.

(via jesusiswhatthisworldneeds)