Good Grief

Charlie-Brown

written by Abigail Brown

 

A couple of years ago, my friends and I decided to dress up as a few of the characters from the animated movie Inside Out for our church’s Fall Festival. My friend Hannah played Disgust, Taylor played Joy, and I played Sadness. If you’re familiar with the movie, you probably remember the story of a girl named Riley and emotions, characterized as Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust. Riley ends up running away from home after moving to a new school, not because there was too much Sadness, but because Sadness doubted her purpose in Riley’s life. In the end, it’s not Joy that brings Riley home in the end – it’s a good memory tinted with both Joy and Sadness.

 

For me, part of beginning to understand grief was first understanding joy – not the fleeting emotion as characterized in the movie, but Biblical, ever-present deep joy that comes exclusively from knowing and being known by God.

 

Paul’s description of joy couldn’t be farther from our human expectations: 

 

It seems that Joy, at least for our earthly experience, is very much attached to hardship. This relationship between the two, though it certainly wasn’t present in Eden, has accompanied the world we now live in. Ours is a broken world, a fallen world, a world that need Jesus to become flesh and die for us. Sadness is now part of our world, and a significant part of the crucifixion. It is the crucifixion. Jesus’ death is the ultimate sorrow, as His life is the ultimate happiness. For believers, the joy of the resurrection is well known because the weight of the brokenness which Jesus took for us is well known. The immense loss brings to light just how colossal is His victory. 

 

How the inner circle must’ve mourned. Even those with the hope that He would rise again – how they must’ve wept. And how much more they must’ve laughed and sang at the good news.

 

But what was it that sustained them after? What pushed them to suffer and eventually die for their savior? During their last meal together, Jesus made a representation of His body, broken for them, and His blood poured out for them, and commanded them to remember. 

 

“And He took bread, gave thanks, broke it, gave it to them, and said, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.’” Luke 22:19

 

Perhaps some level of grief is necessary to remember: to remember why we fight, why we love, Who first loved us, Who has conquered the world. (John 16:33)

 

Even Jesus, in the Garden of Gethsemane, experienced grief, He knew full well the cup He was taking, the anguish He would experience, the separation from the Father. But in leaving the garden, He was able to face the sorrow ahead, because He knew the Father’s heart. He gave it all to God. (SCRIPTURE)

 

The song “Porcelain” by Tow’rs touches on loss, especially on unexpected, premature loss. This song is colored in sorrow, but also has an underlying feeling of joy – like golden memories. It’s about losing someone  – losing part of your life that is not coming back – but it perseveres in the joy of the life that is lost.

 

When I have experienced loss, I’ve tried to cover it up, pretend life is normal, to force life’s continuance. But I’ve found the only way to healing is to fully mourn. And that sadness is okay, for a time. A season of grieving is needed before a season of healing. And especially in losing a loved one, it can make it possible to truly celebrate the lost life and time in a way that is grateful and allows growth. It can make it possible to remember, not without feeling loss, but with peace and assurance for the future.

 

In heaven there is no cause for sadness, as there is no cause for anger. Yet, in this world, just like anger, sadness can be just and appropriate in its season, in its time and place.

 

“There is an occasion for everything and a time for every activity under heaven: a time to give birth and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to uproot; a time to kill and a time to heal; a time to tear down and a time to build; a time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance; a time to throw stones and a time to gather stones; a time to embrace and a time to avoid embracing; a time to search and a time to count as lost; a time to keep and a time to throw away; a time to tear and a time to sew; a time to be silent and a time to speak; a time to love and a time to hate; a time for war and a time for peace.” Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

 

It may seem backwards, but I have come to see great value in grief. 

 

So how do we move forward? How do we experience grief in its true fullness and depth? And how do we take a step toward healing?

 

The answer has been prescribed to us already: Sabbath. 

 

The connection between Sabbath and grief (and many things, I’m finding) is similar to the connection between our bodies and our beds. Sleep causes us to forget the small, fickle things we ought to forget, face our nightmares, dream about the things we don’t dare make plans for in our wakeful minds, and rest. Sabbath does something similar to our souls. By taking a moment to be still and remember God, He helps us let go of burdens that are not ours, shuck off the old habits that have found us again, pursue what inspires us, and rest. 

 

In grief, God has worked through Sabbath to help me let go of the small things that don’t matter and release expectations I’ve imposed over time upon myself and those whom I love. He’s brought to light the messiest, ugliest nightmarish parts of my own heart that I’d hidden in busyness, accomplishment, and occupation. Grief hasn’t so much as caused these sore places but magnified them, brought them to my attention. God, in His goodness, meets me in the stillness of Sabbath to first reveal those places in full light, then to administer healing treatment. HE soothes, He bandages, then overtime, knits back together what has been marred. 

 

He’s replaced my old habits with an ambition for His own heart and consequently His people and Kingdom. And He’s given me the purest and truest Rest. 

 

I want to point out one last thing. I’ve thought about titling this blog as “Good Grief,” but I think it is important to make a distinction. Grief is not good. Neither is brokenness, illness, loss, hardship, or temptation. But God is good, and He is mighty to use whatever He chooses to sanctify us, edify, bring us closer to each other, and bring us closer to Him. 

 

Be encouraged. In grief there is good. And there is God.

Why Missions Exist

IPJ (46 of 109)

by Abigail Tackitt

     A lot of Christain believers would agree that missions are a biblical principle, but as far as application and importance, a lot of questions and uncertainty arise. There are several statistics I will share, but while reading them, take a moment and allow the numbers to settle as reality instead of flying on without having a concept of the weight of them. 

     Today, there are roughly 7.67 billion people in the world, and they make up 17,094 people groups, which would be defined as people who know each other. Out of that vast number, 41.6% are unreached, which is 3.19 billion people. That is 7,143 people groups that have yet to receive access to the gospel. From the Joshua Project, the definition of unreached is that these people groups do not have enough believers to evangelize and reach their own people. Around 95% of these unreached people groups are found in an area of the world called the 10/40 window.

     In the world, 2,123 people groups don’t have access to the Bible in their primary language. This means 160,652,000 individuals do not have any way to read scripture in their mother tongue. In Revelation 7:9, it says there will be representatives from every tribe, people, and tongue standing before the throne and before the Lamb. You would think with the statistics that I just mentioned that everyone would be going to these unreached and unengaged areas of the world to see this verse come to life, right? 

     Wrong. As of now, there is a great imbalance. What does that mean? Out of every 10 missionaries, only 1 is going to an unreached area. That means 9 out of every 10 actually goes to already reached places. In order to live more like Jesus and cast vision for long term cross-cultural workers we must realize “the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few” and  “make it (our) ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest (we) build on someone else’s foundation”(Matthew 9:37-38 and Romans 15:20). 

     The reason vision casting is so important is found in Matthew 24:14, “This gospel will be proclaimed unto all the earth… and then the end will come.” We see that there is still work to be done and resources to be poured out and shared for others to know about Jesus. Yet American people are more likely to spend money on dog Halloween costumes then spend money on sending people to the unreached. There is an analogy about a man going down into a coal mine and how there is another person required to hold the rope. See there must be a sacrifice, not only of those going but those holding the rope as well. There will be blisters, and pain as the wear and tear of the sacrifice seems almost impossible to bear at times. One role is not more important than the other. Someone holding the rope and someone descending are both necessary.

     This is not an invitation to an easy life, the cost is great. An American couple, who counted the cost and decided Jesus was worth it all, got back by ship after decades of missionary work in Africa. On the same boat was President Teddy Roosevelt coming back from a hunting trip in Africa. When the ship arrived in New York City, a band and motorcade with a crowd had gathered to receive the President. Music and loud applause greeted the politician as his motorcade whisked him away. Shandra Oakley writes about what happened next: 

     Then quietly with no fanfare, no attention, and no music, the missionary couple walked arm in arm down the gangplank, taking their first steps on American soil in over 30 years. After some silence, the husband turned to his wife and said, “Honey, it doesn’t seem right that after all these years we would have nobody to greet us while that man got such a grand reception.” The wife put her arms around her husband and gently reminded him, “But honey, we’re not home yet.”

     Samuel Zwemer said “the history of missions is a history of answered prayers,” and prayers are being answered even today. May this be an encouragement to live more like Jesus and to cast vision for others to partner with what God is doing!

A Servant Leader

Washing Feet

By: Manny Bustos

“Don’t just do what you have to do to get by, but work heartily, as Christ’s servants doing what God wants you to do. And work with a smile on your face, always keeping in mind that no matter who happens to be giving the orders, you’re really serving God.”–Ephesians 6:6 (The Message)

The heart is the very seat of our soul, our emotions, and our passions. It is the very essence of our being and that which drives our thoughts and our motives. No wonder God tells us to guard our hearts (Proverbs 4:23). The heart of a leader is the foundation of their life. It is what drives their passion for the Lord and their passion for service in the kingdom. No doubt most of us feel called to lead in a deep way from the bottom of our hearts.

And yet, with seemingly little notice, out of our hearts can spew some of the most ungodly thoughts and attitudes – even in the midst of ministry. I can remember clearly about situations that totally unnerved me. Surely you know the feeling. I was less than thrilled with a situation (and in particular with one of my former bosses) and was just about to share from the seat of my emotions the most spirit-filled reaction to what was happening when God intervened. The person was not there for me to share with! And now I thank God for that. My spirit-filling was not coming from God; it was coming from the enemy. Even though I felt righteous in my motive, it certainly was not the best way to handle things. As leaders, we must constantly be aware that the enemy will do everything he can to render us ineffective in service to our Lord.

I had to come before the Lord and pray to him, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10). “Teach me your way, O LORD, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name” (Psalm 86:11). “Refresh my heart in Christ” (Philemon 1:20b). God gave me his promise in response, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26).

To be a servant leader, sometimes we just need to keep in mind that we are servants first and leaders second. We must learn to model Christ-like servanthood in every situation. God has chosen us to lead. Not only must we be strong and do the work, we must be strong in our wholehearted devotion to him and remember whom we are working for! He is in control of every situation. “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving” (Colossians 3:23-24).

Deeper: The Me I Want To Be

Deeper_Me I want to be

BY: Manny Bustos

This past Sunday Pastor Lyndol continued his sermon on The Me I Want to Be with the theme of The Unstoppable Community of Love.

He kicks off the sermon by talking about some of the statistics of happiness in life in saying that, through backed up scientific research from academic journals, our “happiness quotient” isn’t about how high our IQ is or how good looking we are or how many material possessions we have for that matter, but it’s really more about the amount of rich, joy-producing, meaningful relationships we have in our lives.

Now, in the rest of the sermon Pastor Lyndol presents us with the idea that Jesus’ life of love was like three giant signs that all pointed to the love we find in community;

1-Everybody’s Welcome, 2-Nobody’s Perfect, 3-Anything is possible.

In the first sign of Everybody’s welcome, we’re given two examples about loving the least of these. The first one is a story of a pastor in a doughnut shop who overhears a group of prostitutes in conversation and hears that one of them, whose name was Agnes, had a birthday that day and with the help of the baker of the shop and her friends, end up throwing Agnes a surprise birthday party. She was so moved she began crying and saying that she didn’t want to eat the cake they made for her because she wanted to show it to her mother. The second example comes from how Christ loved others. He talked to the sick, the lame, the blind, the deaf, and even prostitutes and slaves. Telling them how much He loved them and that they were healed and forgiven; giving them a second chance at life.

How awesome would it be if we lived our own lives in the same manner of these examples? Showing small gestures of kindness to our fellow man and remembering that you and I are all sinners and not to look down on someone because they happen to have made poorer choices than ourselves. That’s what Jesus was doing, loving people as much as the Father loved Him.

Sign number 2, Nobody’s Perfect; and here’s the gist of this one. Most of the time when we think about how we can serve God and others, we start to put up our own barriers of how we aren’t equipped for the task or “Hey God, I would really like to get more involved with church but right now really isn’t a good time.” Sound familiar? It does to me because I’ve had that same thought before. Jesus isn’t asking us to have our lives together before we come to Him, He wants us to come to Him as we are. He already knows the embarrassing, dirty parts about us, but that’s why He wants us to come to Him as we are because He can cleanse us of the sin that weighs us down in our lives.

Lastly, Sign number 3, anything is possible and it boils down to this; Transformation. And, not just any transformation, but one that involves you and the Holy Spirit. Pastor Lyndol talked about how the twelve disciples were a bit of motley crew, each one having their individual quirks. But Jesus, knowing this, asked them to follow Him all the same.  Why though? Jesus was great enough on His own that He didn’t need anybody else’s help. He called on them because He knew of the richness of fellowship and community and that through His examples, these twelve men would have a tremendous impact for the Kingdom of God. Now the disciples could have said no and not followed Jesus and just continued doing their own thing, but through the Bible, we all know how less fulfilling their lives would have been and how different the church might look like today. That’s the transformative power of God that helps change us into the Me that we really want to Be.

Who’s Your Why

Whos your why

By Jason Owens

While running early one morning at a local park I came across an individual sitting on his car in a particular area.  Saying “Hi!” I continued my run.  The next day I saw the same person in the same place.  Giving little thought to this repetition I finished my run with sweat dripping from my forehead.  The following day I saw this same individual again.  It finally clicked that this was an odd occurrence. I struck up a longer conversation with the man, as I took a break from my run, and quickly discovered he had a clear “why” as to his purpose there.  He was there for a person.  A person whom he loved.  A person who this man had very fond memories of in that very spot.  The rest is not my story to tell, but in that moment I begin to wonder who my “why” was in life.  Friends we must always have a person or group of persons clearly in mind when asking the question “why are we seeking to be the hands and feet of Jesus in the world around us”.

Why are we here?  To be made holy?  To go make disciples?  To make holy disciples through the Holy Spirit? Yes to all.  However, this is not a trite reality that sits as some ideal mission.  These are people who are growing into holy disciples – not numbers and definitely not a notch in our individual belts that might somehow make us feel like we have done our part or done enough that we can take a break!

Jesus was never seemingly in the business of political issues, marketing himself, particular growth models, or thinking about what benefits he might receive from doing a specific task.  No!  Jesus cared about people.  The “why” for Jesus has always been a “who” and never a “what.” Jesus simply cares about people.  He prayed for people, sought after people, ate with people, cried with people, walked with people and talked intimately with people.

This is why I am so passionate about Hub City.  There are people who need to be fervently prayed for, sought after, cried with, walked with and talked with in our backyard.

I implore you to come alongside me.  Join me in knowing who your “why” is today.  If you do not have a name or a few names in mind who need to know Jesus then ask the Holy Spirit to make it clear, and do not be afraid to engage the world around you.

Pray for these persons fervently.  Pursue relationship with the people for Christ.  Cry with them, listen to them, walk with them in life and talk with them.  Be Jesus to them and do not look through them.

Who is your “why”?

If you do not think any of this is important to know then consider something…

YOU were once somebodies “why”.

Escape Route

Escape Route

By Manny Bustos

Have you ever been caught off guard by temptation? I have! The worst thing about being hit with temptation seemingly out of nowhere is t hat when you’re not prepared for it, it’s easy to give in to. We’re the most vulnerable when our guard is down. It is not uncommon for people to fall, even those who thought they never would.

Temptation is a given. It is guaranteed to happen. No person, regardless of age, gender, race, status, or title is exempt. So be ready!

Does that thought depress or discourage you? If so, read the promise found in 1 Corinthians 10:13 and be encouraged! Let’s look at that verse bit by bit.

First, whatever temptation you face, regardless of how seemingly insignificant or how vile it is, is common to man. You are not the first person to experience the temptation, and you most certainly won’t be the last. There are others out there who can relate to whatever is tempting you at any given moment.

One of the lies that the enemy throws at people is that their situation is unique, that no one else experiences the temptations they do, and that no one else could possibly understand. That is a lie that is meant to isolate you, and keep you from admitting your struggles to others. Don’t believe it!

Second, God is faithful. The Greek word, “pistos” which is translated as “faithful” in the verse above means “worthy to be believed, trustworthy.” So God is trustworthy. We can take him at his word, and believe him with 100% certainty. You can count on him to be there for you, even at your lowest moment. How reassuring that is!

Third, the thing that God is faithful to do is to hold back any temptation that is more than you can bear. He knows your strengths and your weaknesses. He knows your exact threshold for temptation, and will never, ever allow the enemy to throw more your way than you can bear.

Fourth, with every temptation, God will provide a way out. He’s provided an escape route for every conceivable temptation you could ever possibly experience. Have you ever been tempted to do something and right at that time, the phone rang, or there was some other interruption that kept you from doing the very thing you were tempted to do?

Other times, the way of escape may simply be walking away from the situation.  The most encouraging thing is that God is for you! He wants you to walk in victory over sin and temptation, and he is there, ready and willing to assist you. Take advantage of his assistance and walk in a new level of victory today!

Cereal and The Kingdom of God

Church Cereal

By: Khrystyne Kilgore

Guys, eating cereal with a fork is a game changer.  It creates the perfect milk-to-cereal ratio. Another game changer is a biblical view of the Kingdom of God.  Having the perfect present-to-future ratio in mind.  Recently I’ve heard a lot of phrases alluding to the Kingdom of God.  During prayers, I nod my head and even whisper a “Yes, Lord” to show I know and acknowledge the desire for the Kingdom of God to be made known among the earth. But I actually have a very small idea what that phrase means. Below is the beginning of this journey toward understanding a little more what the Kingdom of God is and why it matters right now.

Growing up, I was taught about Heaven, with its streets of gold, the crystal sea (where my grandfather said he would be fishing with Jesus), marvelous mansions (one for each person, but we would never want to retreat to them), a giant buffet table with the most magnificent food (but we would never want to eat any of the food), and there will also be the animals mentioned in Revelation, and of course the fish in the crystal sea.  All we would do, and want to do, is sing praises to the King of kings forever and ever and ever.  I love worshiping, but I just couldn’t imagine singing forever! I LOVE food, so I also couldn’t imagine not eating the most delicious food ever created.  Fishing is okay, but why does my grandfather get to fish and I have to sing all the time? Are those the only two options, either you fish in the crystal sea or you sing?

Whenever my family and church told me about Heaven they also told me about Hell, that it was hot all the time, like being in an oven forever.  I run my heater all year long, yes even in the summer.  I’m going to go out on a limb here, I didn’t want to be away from God, but being in an oven for eternity didn’t sound that bad. Also, is that where all the animals go? Is this the hope to look forward to?

I’m sure you were told various things about what Heaven would be like as well.  No wonder the world is confused about what the end looks like for Christians; we can’t even agree what we are looking forward to, nor can we articulate why people should become a Christian if all they will do for eternity is sing. “Gee, are you sure you want to risk returning as an elephant shrew? I mean you could always come with me and sing for…well…EVER.” What we believe about the future Kingdom of God affects how we live our lives now.  Not just in missions and evangelism but also how we treat others, our bodies, and the created world around us.

N.T. Wright says this about heaven, “…the word heaven to denote the ultimate goal of the redeemed, though of course hugely popularized by medieval and subsequent piety, is severely misleading and does not begin to do justice to the Christian hope.” This is exactly where I find myself today.  Is the hope we as Christians have to look forward to found in another world, one we commonly refer to as “Heaven”? Be prepared to have your mind blown: The ultimate destination is not heaven. Before I get kicked out of the Church, consider this: The ultimate destination is not heaven, but being resurrected, which is life after life after death.  The hope is being bodily raised into the transformed, glorious likeness of Jesus as we come to fully reflect God’s image for His glory.  What happened to Jesus after His death on the cross?  He was resurrected!  He was the first of the new creation, meaning others will follow in this bodily resurrection.  One of the great surprises in the Christian hope is that heaven and hell are not what the whole game is about.  The New and Old Testament regularly insist that “the major, central, framing question is that of God’s purpose of rescue and re-creation for the whole world, the entire cosmos” (N.T. Wright).

Understanding this view of the Kingdom of God I can see now why the whole created world is waiting on tiptoe.  The world is waiting to be redeemed.  This present world that is full of injustices, broken relationships, and natural disasters.  As Christians, we do not agree with Plato’s position of escaping this world and transcending to another one, a perfect world.  This present world is the real one, it’s in bad shape but it is expecting to be repaired with the coming Kingdom of God.  This is a far more “exciting” promise of what is to come.  It is also extremely convicting and changes every aspect of how I live my life now.  When I question the injustice of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer and then go and buy something from one of the big companies, is it any wonder at all?  I have fallen deep into the consumerist-American ideals and it is a deep pit to try and crawl out of.  I am trying to have the right mindset as I seek to live in a way that does not benefit me thru the efforts of the oppressed.  It’s so very difficult and it also needs to have the perfect balance of the present-to-future ratio and not falling into the trap of over-glorifying or under-valuing the present world.  I see this tension as one similar to the one of social justice and missions.

However, I also need to recognize that this is a monstrous task and one not to be done alone.  God created us to be in relationship with one another.  God tasked His Church to demonstrate to the world His great love and redemption for all creation.  Those who feast at Jesus’ table are the ones in the forefront of the work to eliminate hunger and famine.  Those who pray for the Spirit to work in and through them seem to have extra resources of love and patience in caring for the damaged, bruised, and shamed.  Live into this today, pray and ask the Spirit to help you be faithful today to the work of the Kingdom of God.

No Guilt In Life

By: Khrystyne KilgoreAtlas

“No GUILT in life, no FEAR in death.  This is the power of Christ in me.”

I live with an enormous amount of guilt in this life and that makes me feel even more guilty because that means the power of Christ is not working in me, nor do I live into His peace.  Recently my husband came to me while I was wallowing in the depths of my guilt and spoke truth into my life.  Lyndol Loyd’s sermon of “What Keeps You Up At Night: When You Can’t Stand Yourself”, spoke volumes to my life as well.  I can’t remember the last time I slept through the night; if my anxiety or fear is not keeping me up, it’s my guilt.  I didn’t realize that’s what it was until my husband told me his observations and also when I read Lyndol’s sermon.

God has blessed my life in extraordinary ways.  There is NOTHING I did to earn so many blessings.  Instead of thanking God for His infinite blessings, I treat it like curses—something I need to be “good enough to keep”—and I’m NEVER good enough, yet I still have things in abundance.  I feel guilty for not being good enough to receive the rich blessings God continues to pour out.  I also feel guilty for not living into the resurrection of Jesus.  I feel I have a burden that death and sin are too great and overpowering.  As I carry this burden, it is hard for me to know what my part is to play in the great “groanings” of this world.  The injustices, broken relationships, natural disasters, etc., seem too great and I get overwhelmed and frustrated at myself for not saving the world.  I feel a lot like Atlas in Greek mythology.  Atlas led a battle of Titans against Zeus.  Zeus punished Atlas by forcing him to hold up the heavens.  Often I feel I should shoulder the weight of the world as punishment for my guilt and lack of faith.  Not only is that silly, it is also idolatry; placing myself in God’s rightful place, to care for and love the world, to carry the huge burden.

Surely I’m not alone in this struggle. Friends, how do we live as wide-awake people, as resurrection people, as people free of guilt?  First, we have to come to a place of correct thinking.  We cannot save the world.  No one person can attempt even a fraction of eliminating famine, caring for the broken, campaigning for better housing, the list goes on and on and on.  This is to be the work of the whole Church with the guidance and power of the Holy Spirit.  All of us need to be nourished and encouraged by the central worshipping life of the Church.  What does that look like?  Let me offer six ways of nourishing and encouraging one another, spurring one another on to good works for the Kingdom of God, and living into the resurrection.

1. Baptism

Baptism is the membership into the family of God; a real dying to the old creation and a real rising into the new.  Where heaven and earth interlock, new creation and the resurrected life appears within the midst of the old.

2. Lord’s Supper/Communion

For a moment we become the disciples sitting around the table of the Last Supper, but that’s only half the story.  We’re also celebrating the arrival of God’s future in our present world.  The future of the anticipation of the banquet, the marriage feast of the Lamb mentioned in Revelation, when heaven and earth are made new.

3. Prayer

The extraordinary, unique, intimate relationship that Jesus Himself had enjoyed with the Father is now open to all His followers through prayer.  Jesus shared in the suffering of the world so that He might be the true Intercessor for the world.  In Romans 8:26-27 Paul writes of the Holy Spirit who calls deep within us, calls to the Father of the pain of the church, the world, and our hearts.  The Father answers back with love and we are conformed to the image of the Messiah.  The deeper we grow in faith, the less God changes our circumstances; instead He changes our character and aligns us with His purpose and perfect will.  We persist in prayer because we are being perfected and becoming more like Christ.  We are also called to be intercessors for each other, to participate in one another’s joys and sorrows.

4. Scripture

The Old and New Testament proclaim the story of creation and renewed creation, the old covenant and the new covenant.  It is not just a book informing the hearers about this narrative; it invites them into it, wraps them within it, assures them of their membership in it, and equips them for their tasks in pursuit of the goal of the relationship with God and the coming of His Kingdom.

5. Holiness

Holiness is about transformation.  Transformation happens within the family of God through the work of the Holy Spirit.  We need to, again and again, gather with other believers to retune our instruments and practice; making sure what we believe and are teaching is in line with God’s heart and will.  Then we must go out and play our instruments, demonstrate the great love of our Creator, among the clanging and screeching of the world.

6. Love

If you read nothing else, read this portion!  Love is not our duty but our destiny!  Love is at the very heart of our hope.  People who truly hope in the resurrection are enabled to love in new ways.  This leads into forgiveness.  Forgiveness is God’s way of life.  If you close your heart to forgive others, you are also closing your heart to the forgiveness of God.  God, in His tender love, longs to set us free from the prison we have stumbled into; the loveless prison where we refuse both the offer and the demand of forgiveness.  He is gentle! His only aim is to release us from our prison, to set us free to be the people He made us to be.  Then, for us to offer the same gentle gift of freedom of forgiveness to those around us. God does not want us to feel guilty, to allow sin to imprison us.  He wants us to repent, live into His forgiveness, and forgive others.

Breaking Free

20170315_breaking_chains-979x514

By: Jessica Bustos

When a circus elephant is small they have huge heavy chains around their front leg to keep them from trying to escape. As they continue to grow the heavy chain becomes a small rope. They are conditioned to believe that they can not break away. They believe that a small rope can still hold them so that they will never break free.

In life, we carry burdens from our past, and the world tries to condition us to think that we cannot break free from it. We hold on to words spoken over us, situations we have gone through, and things we have seen. We are taught that our past makes us stronger, and the more we carry the stronger we will become. We are not strong enough to carry such heavy things on our own, to move forward in fear, anxiety, depression, and sadness. God’s word says, “Cast your burden on the Lord (release it) and He will sustain and uphold you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken (slip, fall, fail).” Psalm 55:22

We are not like the elephants, God wants us to lay everything down at His feet. Not to be tied down to past events. He wants us to live and walk in strength, peace, and love. Break free from the chains that keep you from moving forward! Our Father knows your heart, but He wants you to share it with Him. Lay your burdens down and release it so the chains that hold you back will break so you can run free and explore what God has in store for you!

Lean in:

“God, we ask that you break the chains of anxiety, depression, sadness, and guilt. That you restore me with your love, peace, mercy, and grace. I lay everything down at your feet all my struggles and ask that you meet me where I am, so that I can be more of whom you have designed me to be.”

Amen.