Saturday, July 9, 2011

Encouragement Comes in All Forms!

The Bible tells us that once we become a Christian and accept Christ as our Lord and Savior that God will begin to transform our heart which then transforms our lives on the outside. We submit to our Lord, His Word, ultimate will and we attempt to live a Christlike life the way it is written out for us by the Word. The Bible calls us to consider Christ the most important thing in our lives, at the center of everything, holding His place on the throne of our lives. As sinners, it is so easy for us to fall so far from glory and mess this up. It seems so simple and yet it is so hard because our hearts are deceitful above all things. So often I place myself on my throne and my actions or words come from a place of selfishness and pride. But not all of the time. Lately I have been thinking about how much joy I gain from encouraging people in their walk with Christ. A few of my good friends have often told me that I encourage them so much which is so encouraging to me! I love to think that I can help someone along in their walk with the Lord. The Bible calls us to encourage each other in all ways however, often we forget that if Christ is to be at the center of our personal lives that He is also to be at the center of each relationship we share. The past two years in college I have learned a lot about what this actually looks like. I was mistaken in my previous thinking that if two people are Christians, than naturally God would be at the center of their relationship. WRONG! It is so easy to put each other in this place or even the relationship in and of itself in this place where God belongs. A true relationship that is centered on Christ means that the most important thing to each party in the relationship is their own personal relationship with Christ and secondly the other persons relationship with Christ. The friendship is not the most important thing, someone's feelings is not the most important thing; it is each persons relationship with the Lord. Often my encouragement may be sharing a personal struggle with someone who may be facing a similar struggle, sharing what I'm learning in the Word, sharing a great sermon I have heard, sharing wisdom I have gained from others, etc. But sometimes encouragement is hard. God did not promise that our Christian life would be easy, He guaranteed it to be hard. But he provided scripture to guide us.
15 “If your brother or sister[a] sins,[b] go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. 16 But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’[c] 17 If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector." Matthew 18:15-17
Sometimes encouragement comes in the form of lovingly pointing out a brother or sisters sin in the hopes that they would run from their sin because their greatest desire should be to become more Christlike. A lesson I have recently learned is that God even still does not promise that this brother or sister will agree or be able to objectively identify the sin that you have pointed out as well. At times we may allow our pride to get in the way of identifying this sin. Last summer a wonderful woman of God came to me a few times with sin that she recognized in an attempt to encourage me towards fighting this sin and seeing God sanctify me. This was hard for me to hear and I let my pride get in the way of accepting what she had to say. I failed to see what her intentions were in this situation, that she had come to me out of love and out of a desire to see me work out my salvation and become more like Christ as opposed to more like the world. A similar situation came about earlier this summer: another staffer recognized a sin in my life that I did not and it was brought to my attention. This was a hard thing to swallow because it meant that this sin had affected other people around me: my campers, my roommate, my co-cabin leader and possibly others on staff. It is not fun for other people to point out my sin but the Lord uses them to humble me and I have realized that it is needed because my greatest desire is to know more of Christ and I am thankful and praise God that there are people around me that desire this for me as well even if it comes in hard ways. So let us not consider God on the throne of our life BUT let us claim it, desire it, pray earnestly for it, and ask others how me might become more Christlike in our words, actions, thoughts, and everyday life. This is my personal goal and this is my personal prayer for all of my brothers and sisters in Christ.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

What Is Love?

What is love? No I am not referring to the 90s dance song with the same title! Before I left for camp this summer, my intention for ministry with my girls was to just love on them the best way I knew how and pray hard that through my love they would catch just a small glimpse of how much they are loved and cherished by their Savior. But love comes in various forms, expressions and feelings. For a while I struggled with whether or not I truly loved my girls because of expressions I did not portray or feelings I did not have. Had I truly loved these girls all week long if I did not feel a sadness laid on my heart when they left me at the end of the week? Did I truly love these girls to the best of my ability if at the end of the week I am not expressing tears over the separation? I feel almost as if I am cheating these girls because they give so much of themselves to me and I wonder how much of myself I am giving to them? How can I love these girls better? Am I truly loving them in the utmost, Christ-like way? I don't think I will ever be able to answer that last question with a solid yes because of who I am. I am a sinner. I continue to fall far from glory daily, hourly; every 5 minutes I fall far from glory. And I see so much of my faults with these girls, so much of my sin. And yet I do not turn around and praise God, shout "Thank You Lord!" Thank you Lord for revealing my sin to me, showing me how much more I could be loving these girls and allowing you to use me to help them understand how much You love them and how You have called them precious and chosen! But how? How do I give more of myself to these girls? How do I love them more? How do I allow myself to be used more by you?

My decision: prayer. I find so much peace and comfort during prayer with the Lord. An intimate time between me and my Savior. And at times it becomes a task, not a precious moment spent together. I don't know the answers to these questions but my God does. And I think its just time I begin daily prayer - practicing thankfulness for the blessings He has given me, practicing thankfulness for each of my girls, practicing thankfulness for the opportunity to pour out love on these girls, and practicing trust; trust that my Lord has a perfect will and plan for these girls that extends far beyond me and far beyond Camp La Vida and that He will make Himself known through me if He chooses to these girls.
I am laying my burden down at the feet of my Savior, for my shoulders are not meant to carry the burden of these questions I am not meant to know the answer to.