Archive of ‘Inspire’ category

Fresh Eyes

Looking Water (1)

Lately I have been learning how to drive the dreaded stick shift! I hoped and prayed this day would never come. I have been very comfortable driving sweet automatic cars all my life. Then, I decided to move to a part of the world where manual driving is the standard, and for long trips, the best vehicles my work has to drive are manual. So, as I prepare for a long trip in just a few weeks, I have got to learn to drive this thing. Boy has it been humbling, frustrating, and challenging, but as I continue to try and to grow, I am thankful for this emerging skills and these fresh eyes I have to see driving in a whole new way.

I started thinking about this message of freshness, and although it has not been easy to embark on something new, something I know I am not good at, what would it be like if I approached other areas of my life with a fresh attitude, open to learning, experiencing, being vulnerable, and conquering fears. I believe freshness is part of the Gospel message. God has freed us from sin, which has hung over our heads since birth. He sets us free to have a fresh start on life. However, our journey as Christians does not end there. Though we are free to live a life away from sin, we often choose to go back to our old ways and are in need of God’s renewing spirit again and again.

The Psalmist proclaims the good news in chapter 34 verse 22,

“The Lord redeems the life of his servants; none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.”

God is our redeemer, he takes our punishment and replaces it with His new life. We must come back to Him, to know deeply how much we need freshness to break through our old habits and unhealthy behaviors that are not in line with our new lives in Christ.

“Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday.” Psalm 37:5-6

Those are such beautiful words, but often difficult to put into practice. How do we commit our ways to the Lord? What does it look like to trust him in everyday life? How do we live in such a way that we show we believe this message?

For me, it often starts with prayer. I may be troubled with a feeling of how things are, knowing that there is something in my life that is not fully committed to him. I must ask for fresh eyes to see my heart. Talk to God and listen to where he is leading me.

God searches and knows me, and wants to reveal to me ways that I can draw closer to him and align my life with who he is. He knows the secrets of my heart that need to be revealed and reworked. And sometimes it will feel like I am driving a manual car for the first time. It will be awkward and bumpy and embarrassing as these dark things come to the surface. But ultimately, if I am trusting Him to lead the way, He will make things right, He will bring about righteousness in me.

Sometimes this means that God will work in us to teach us a new skill, a new way of doing things, and before we know it, we will be driving manual all the way to Southern Province to see His glory at Victoria Falls. Other times, we are never truly comfortable, and though God shows us secret areas of our heart that need mending, but instead of getting rid of it, God uses it to help us continually lean and trust in him.

You may be familiar with Paul’s quote about his own struggles and weakness in 2 Corinthians,

“Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weakness, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 12:8-9

Wow. Thank goodness.

I am not the only one that struggles. You are not alone if you feel like you have something similar in your life that you have prayed for the Lord to take away. Just because it is still there, or you are still working through it, doesn’t mean God has left you. He is still leading you toward His righteousness and he is using your struggle to bring gory to his name.

Looking out (1)

Take a look at your struggles and your strengths with fresh eyes. How does the Lord want to use what you have been given to draw others closer to him? What is something new He wants to teach you? What is something you are wrestling with that can draw you closer to Him?

May we take a look at our hearts with fresh eyes. May we take a look at one another with fresh eyes. And may we battle alongside one another to bring about His kingdom in new ways and in new places here on earth.

Where is God challenging you to see with fresh eyes?

He Rebuilds

GlowLiveAsLightJune15 copy

5 days ago, I woke up wanting more. Do you ever want more?

Let me set this scene up for you; it is a clear, beautiful Colorado day. The sky is extra blue and the grass is so much greener and longer than usual. I feel particularly gloomy today, which isn’t a typical thing. What’s that all about? I then decide that I need some Jesus time, so I bring up my massive bible and a pen and take a seat on the back deck. Why do I feel so tied up, so weary on a day like today. All I can see is green fields and picturesque homes and massive mountains far into the distance. I should be happy, and I was extremely convicted when I realized that I definitely was not acting like I was blessed to live in such a lovely place. As peaceful as it was to be sitting outside with no one close by, my soul was uneasy. As I was talking to God, I realized how all this beauty, all this greenery and magnificence was once quite the opposite. Grass is only green because of the rain that falls over and over again. Houses are built as an opposing force pounds nail after nail into the pieces that make it up. I am shaped by giving every broken piece to the one who knows how to glue it back to the others.

Isaiah 64:8 “And yet, O Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay, and you are the potter. We are all formed by your hand.”

God is referred to as “The Potter” many times throughout the Bible. How beautiful is it to realize that our potter is able to create a masterpiece out of us when we allow Him to do what He wants to do within us? Even more so, how amazing is it that He wants me to give Him ALL of my broken pieces, because He is the only one who can truly mend them in a way that is so much more amazing than before. Ladies, we serve a God that takes our brokenness and turns it into something beautiful. We have all heard that said many times before, but as I sat down on my deck with a sad face and clouded mind, God reminded me that He is rebuilding me in ways that I can’t see, for they are too wonderful, too high, too great for me to even understand! God can’t do any of this unless we give Him the permission. We are not puppets and God wants to come break down every box that we try to put Him in… if we allow Him to.

Psalm 102:16 “The Lord will rebuild Jerusalem. He will appear in His glory.”

He is rebuilding me. He is rebuilding you, just as He rebuilt Jerusalem. His promises were fulfilled in history and they are being fulfilled in your life too, no matter how long he might seem to take in doing so. As I sit, 5 days later, admiring the same scene with a new perspective, I am encouraged as God reminds me that He is rebuilding me. He has picked up the broken pieces and He is slowly and carefully and tenderly placing them where they need to be. He is taking what is broken in my own life to create a bigger testimony for His Kingdom than I could ever do by myself. How comforting is it to know that our Potter wasn’t satisfied in molding and shaping the Earth and the land and the animals and all that we get to enjoy?

He wanted one of you too.

He wanted your beauty and your pain, because that is the only way He can truly appear in all of His glory; through YOU.

Ephesians 3:19-20 “May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Now all glory to God, who is able, through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.”

My Father’s Footstool

It was one of the most majestic and magical moments I have ever experienced.

I was lying on a wooden bench engulfed in the darkness that surrounded me. A ray of light beamed from the full moon that hung over the wondrous canyon below. A canyon filled with enchanting and lovely creations. Intricate spirals of rock shot up out of the ground and into the sky creating a jagged and magnificent skyline.

Here I was looking up at a sky full of stars- seemingly tiny beams of light, which in essence were massive balls of fire and gas. The air was dry and cold. The night was silent and the world was asleep.

I was in awe.

Completely baffled at the greatness and creativity of the Creator. Humbled to know in such a massive universe, I mattered to Him. Truly and completely mattered.

And then I saw it.

The most brilliant, bright, and massive shooting star whizzed across the sky.

And I freaked. I shot up off the bench and screeched at my friend to look. To gaze upon one of the most breathtaking things I had ever experienced.

The shooting star was gone in an instant, but I just sat and grinned. It was as though in my already established state of awe and amazement, my Father sent me a shooting star just to get me more enraptured.

You see, overtime I have come to realize something.

My Father created the universe. He also created me. And then He put me in His universe.

He didn’t have to do this. He could have kept His children separate from His universe. Separate from the mountains, the oceans, the plains, the deserts, the stars, the sun, and the moon. He could have placed us in a box. One in which there was no landscape, no massive balls of fire and gas, no tectonic plates moving and grooving to constantly transform the layout of this world, and no massive bodies of water to explore. He could have put us in the most mundane and ordinary of places.

But He didn’t.

And He did it for a reason.

When He looked back at all He had created- the universe, the animals, His children- He said they were good. He was proud of them. So why keep them from one another?

We are good together- us and this universe.

In His most generous and loving ways, He let us experience His creation.

His precious, perfect, intricate, beautiful, majestic, and brilliant creation.

He let us- sinful, flawed, ugly, broken beings- experience it.

Why?

Because He knew in our tiny and fragile state, His massive and baffling world would catch our attention in a way nothing else could. And in having our attention, He could reveal Himself to us.

Matthew 5:35 tells us the earth is His footstool.

A place from which He can stand a little higher and be seen a little better.

Our God is a big God. He towers above us in the most marvelous of ways, but somehow we still find ways to ignore Him. To miss Him.

So being the loving and pursuing Father He is, He gets on His footstool, stands a little taller, becomes a little bigger, and grabs our attention.

The mountains speak of His vastness and dominance.

The oceans speak of His unending pools of mercy and love.

The deserts speak of His provision of life.

The storms speak of His power and fierceness.

The flowers speak of His intricacy and delicacy.

The creation defines the Creator through and through. In every aspect, fine detail, and vast expanse you see Him. His character. His dominance. His reign.

It truly is the most marvelous and thrilling thing- to know my Father wants me to explore and adventure.

When I get outside, my world becomes brighter and better. Life’s worries are swept away by the gentle whisper of the wind, and the blindfold the world so often puts on me is removed. I see things the way my Father intended for me to see them. I see life as a precious gift. I see how expansive and glorious my Father is. I see how fragile and tiny I am. I see the work my Father started and is continuing through the expansion of His kingdom. I see with His eyes.

And I know He created me to be this way. He created me to be uplifted and renewed when I step outside of four walls. He created me to be awed, baffled, and giddy over this world. He created me to love it and explore it.

We have access to it- His greatest work. We have the chance to get up close and personal with His masterpiece.

But even better, we have access to the artist behind it all.

Our Father doesn’t sign off on His masterpiece and go hide in His studio. He sits on the edge of His seat waiting to baffle us. To rile us up. To surprise us. He waits for us to explore so He can send a grizzly bear down the hiking trail. Produce a thunderous storm in the night. Paint a dazzling sunset over the mountains. Send the most brilliant and magnificent shooting star across the night sky.

I can just see it- me freaking over the shooting star while my Father watched me intently with a wide grin on His face and a gentle chuckle escaping His mouth. I can only imagine the extreme amount of joy that washed over Him when He saw His daughter overcome with awe and wonder at His world.

I know that every time I step into His world, He sends me gifts. Beautiful and wonderful things that bring me to my knees and teach me something more about who He is. Because in those moments of awe and astonishment, I can’t help but stop and ponder the artist behind it all. Acknowledge the creativity, intricacy, and beauty.

It’s obvious. My Father put this desire in my heart- this intense passion for adventuring and exploring.

Not so He could receive the praises of His great work. But so He could stand a little taller on His footstool, wow me enough to stop me in my tracks, and say, “Daughter, I’m here. Look at me.”

And in doing this, I have come to know my Father in such an intimate, real, and special way.

It has created this bond between Him and me. This love for His world and the gifts it has to offer.

It is unlike anything I have ever experienced.

His world is my playground, and I plan to never stop exploring His masterpiece, but more so, to never stop exploring the artist behind it all.


 

About the Author

IMG_5862MORGAN COLANDER

Hi! My name is Morgan Colander. I am a senior at Lee University in Tennessee studying to be an elementary teacher. I am attempting to survive these college years as I learn to rely more on God and less on myself while being surrounded by new opportunities and decisions. College has presented itself with its difficulties- college budget, college dorms, college food, an endless list of things to do, and plenty of homesickness- but through it all, I have never been more dependent on God and realized how incapable I am to do life without Him. God, family, and friends are all I need to survive in life but some junior mints, a hike up a mountain, laughter, and some sarcasm definitely add some joy to the journey.

 

Going Home

HOMEAfter a long day of work, we love to come home.
When stuck in hours of traffic, we wish we could get home faster.
If gone during travels, we often miss home.

Built into each of us is an innate desire to be in the security of “home.”

Living away from home for the three years I have been in college has challenged me and grown me in important ways. I have become independent and self-sufficient. I have made friends and a built community. I have made a life for myself away from home.

But I still carry on my keychain, my house key. If I ever come home I have full access. I am welcomed. I am comforted. I am home.

Scripture talks a lot about home too. It is the eternal home to come for those who believe; and we have the front door key.

“In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” John 14:2-3 (ESV)

As believers how many times do we forget about our true home? This hinders us from living for eternity in our temporary home here on earth.

The Greek word paroikos means foreigner, alien, or sojourner. These words are not the first that come to mind when describing followers of Christ, but this is how scripture refers to those of faith.

As Christians we are “temporary dwellers” with purpose.

John Piper says it well, “The promises of God are our real home and we have seen them from afar and have greeted them and tasted them and they have made us restless and uneasy. They have begun to shape our whole way of seeing and thinking and feeling. They have colored all our values and goals and desires. We have been put out of sync with this world because our treasure is in heaven.”

With faith we can see the world’s promises of satisfaction, and when compared to the promises of God and what they offer, desire God over the world.

“Beloved I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.” 1 Peter 2:11 (ESV)

We are not of this world, we were sent into this world for a purpose.

Before being crucified, Jesus prayed:

“I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.” John 17:14–18 (ESV)

We must not be passively homesick for our eternal home, but this knowledge spurs us towards an eternal perspective.

As Paul says,

“I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” Acts 20:24 (ESV)

Women of God, we are not home yet. We are wanderers, nomads, and sojourners.

But we have a father who calls us “a chosen race, a royal priesthood a holy nation a people for his own possession” all so that we may “proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” 1 Peter 2:9 (ESV)

Our identity is in the promises of God, and our home is eternal. But may we be the taste and flavor of Christ to those around us in this temporary home here on earth.


About the Author

DSC_0772Brooke Biddle

Hello there! My name is Brooke Biddle, and I am currently a senior Public Relations and Journalism student at California Baptist University. I am an imperfect but avid follower of Jesus Christ

If you were to peek into my life on a weekday you would find me sipping a freshly brewed pot of loose leaf tea, while editing or writing stories for the Pursuit Magazine campus publication. Other days you may find me hosting events for the students I mentor as a FOCUS Intern.

Weekends include time with family, friends, exploring LA, and a yoga session or two.

Food for thought:
Meraki is a greek word meaning: to do something with soul, creativity, or love, to put something of yourself into your work.

For me, to work at something as working for the Lord not just people, is like meraki, it means pouring my full self into what I do to glorify God.

If I were to create a mission statement for myself it would be: “Selflessly serve others and relentlessly love God.”

Save

Save

Blessed to Be a Blessing

Misty Water

This week, another group of women from my University in Texas came to Zambia on a very similar trip to the one that I went on to Kenya almost five years ago. Of course, there will always be a special place in my heart for memories of when I was first introduced to Africa. The goal of these trips is to promote women’s leadership in Africa, little did I know that a short term trip would eventually open a door to where I am today — living and working in Zambia to promote cross-cultural experiences for young adults, while my husband studies theology at an African University.

Although our time here has been more difficult than I would have imagined as well, I am so thankful for the way God has woven my story here, and I was honored to share a bit with these young Baylor women and the Zambian women they came alongside during their time in this beautiful country. God has plans for all of us that are much better than we can imagine. He places dreams inside our hearts and gifts upon our hands and weaves it together with whimsy and perfection that can only come from the amazing Author of the universe. He designs every good and perfect thing we can experience in this life.

My story starts in Oaxaca, Mexico on my first international mission trip right before my freshman year of high school. Although I was committed to following Jesus before the trip, it was here that God opened up my eyes to his heart for the nations as I came face to face with a completely different culture for the first time. I fell in love with people’s stories and God began developing desire and skills to communicate and live cross culturally. I will never forget the message one of the missionaries shared with us as he went through the entire Bible and recounted God’s pattern of blessing people so that they could be a blessing to others, and in turn, glorify God and fulfill our overall purpose in life.

In the same way, our lives should also be shaped in such a way that we look to God with open hands, asking what he would have us do with our talents, dreams and any other gift he has given us. As I went on to University, I tried to keep my hands as wide open as possible and chose to pursue a degree in International Studies. You really can’t get broader than that, I wanted to study the whole world! One of the only requirements for my degree was to study a foreign language for two years. As I considered where God was leading me, I chose to study Arabic as I was told it was the 3rd most widely spoken language. I felt a call to reach out to the Muslims in my classes and at my school, and figured that God would call me somewhere in the Middle East.

Out of nowhere, my now dear friend, Melanie, spoke about this women’s leadership mission trip to Kenya. I felt like Africa was just the trendy place for young adults to go, so I wasn’t particularly interested in that aspect of the trip, but I loved the idea of empowering local women to take leadership and make the changes they wanted to make in their community rather than someone else making change for them. I figured I would just apply for the trip and see what would happen. Melanie selected a small team of women to join her on the trip and I ended up being one of them.

Our trip was amazing, Melanie’s heart for Kenya was contagious, and much to my surprise, I fell in love with Africa. I loved the colors, the people, the culture, the smells, everything! When I took my first breath every day, I was so amazed to be waking up in AFRICA. Ten days just wasn’t enough, and I had this deep sense that I was supposed to come back. I didn’t know exactly where or how, but I knew that I wanted to come back to this continent somehow some way.

The following year I asked Melanie if I could help her lead the trip to Kenya with her, and she was so excited to train me to lead University women to Africa. We went around announcing the trip to people in different clubs and recruited an amazing team of young women. We starting fundraising and dreaming about our trip, but all of the sudden, my peace about the trip was gone. It just didn’t feel right. I began getting this sense that this was not what God was calling me to at this time, and so I finally told Melanie that I didn’t think I was supposed to go. We were both heart-broken, but couldn’t argue with this feeling I had.

Melanie ended up having an amazing trip with the young women, and I spent my summer leading mission trips near my home town in Denver. I ended up working alongside my, now husband, Drew who felt a similar call to return to Africa one day. We fell in love, got married and God opened up the door for Drew to study in Zambia. We packed up the few things we owned and 4 months after we got married, we started a new life in a country I had never been to before. God continued weaving in such amazing ways and though I had to navigate through complicated immigration processes for the first time, I got experience working for an international nonprofit and then landed my dream job helping young people in Zambia and other countries spend a year learning and serving abroad in the name of Jesus.

These are just a few of the twists and turns God brought my way, but I am so thankful for the ways he used my story and my open hands for His glory. I am so thankful he didn’t allow me to be content with just leading another short-term trip, but instead fulfilled my even deeper longings of living cross-culturally and introducing others to the beauty of serving in another culture for an entire year. I still can’t believe it when I think about it too much, and the best part is that this is just the beginning. This is the amazing part I get to play right now, but God is doing even more.

Where has God blessed you, and how can you use that to be a blessing? I want God to show me more of that every day, and in turn I know he is taking me to the best place that I can be to display His glory. My prayer is that he will teach me to open myself up to the magnificent plans he has, not only for my life, but for our entire universe. I love Paul’s words in 1 Timothy,

“The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.” 1 Timothy 1:15-16

May we lean in to this promise. God took me beyond my expectations on taking just one short-term trip to Africa and paved the way for me to meet and amazing man and serve alongside him for at least the next four years in Zambia. And this verse promises so much more than that. God is going to take us for who we are, in our deeply sinful state, and use that to show others the amazing gift of eternal life. How is God using your story? May we open ourselves up more to be used by him and see each blessing in our life as an opportunity to overflow those blessings onto those around us.

Zealous for Good Works

Vic Falls

Is it sad that living in this beautiful of a place can start to feel routine?

I’m kidding, this was a gorgeous view from a little get-away my hubby and I took on our way home from a recent work trip, and it was anything but routine. Seeing the beauty of Victoria Falls, one of the seven natural wonders of the world, was breathtaking. After taking this photo we followed the path and got SOAKED on a nearby bridge just from all the mist the falls produce. These are the kinds of things Disneyland and Water World try to emulate, but we get to experience the real deal. And let me tell you, it is awesome! God’s creation is amazing, and I pray for more moments where I can do nothing but stand in awe and experience His creation up close and personal.

Sadly, now that I have been home for a few weeks, I feel settled into the office part of my job, no traveling or anything special to look forward to in the next couple of months, and I can go from the on-top-of-the-world-in-awe attitude to the stuck-in-routine-mundane kind of place just like that. It’s probably a symptom of my short attention span and craving for spontaneity as much as anything, but I can so easily forget the awesomeness of God and the privilege of living for Him when I go back to “normal life.” My weekdays become bogged down with a few classes, making dinner, and collapsing after spending a day in an office and reaching for any little bit of margin I can find in my routine-stricken life.

I have found myself asking God, what is the point in all of this? What should I be reaching for? Where do I want to be, and why am I not there right now? How can I keep from feeling so bored?

All of the answers seem on the tip of my tongue, but overall I was feeling a lack of zeal for where I am lately. It feels crazy to complain because everything in my life is just okay. There’s nothing too major, nothing totally out of hand, but nothing over the top either. How do I just be?

God has been seeming to answer in an equally subtle way, and has been revealing life means so much more when I shift my focus from the mundane, and look up for opportunity. He has done amazing things for me, and I get to walk in that every day of my life. Some days I get to walk through a waterfall, other days I’m stuck with a pile of dishes, but beyond the task at hand, there is so much more He wants for me.

Our small group has been reading through the book of Titus, picked for its convenient length of three chapters, and it has been helpful to dig in deep during my season of boredom to discover part of the vision God has for me through Paul’s words to the church through his co-worker, Titus. Titus was sent to what some would consider a challenging community in Crete, known for lawlessness and reckless living. He was asked to appoint leaders in the churches there, and to me this letter is calling Titus to help the churches wake up and remember the lives God has created for them. In turn, it’s helping me to wake up and remember the intentions God has for me and how I sell it short when I get stuck in boredom and the mundane.

After describing different ways the kingdom of God can manifest itself in different circumstances and life stages, Paul reminds Titus to remind the believers the meaning behind it all,

“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing for the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus, Christ who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.” Titus 2:11-14

In other words, wake up! Jesus came to reveal to us the grace and forgiveness of God to redeem us from the sinful ways we wanted to live, and instead He saved us and is redeeming us and showing us the ways we were meant to live right now. He is making us into a pure people, set apart for His glory, eager to proclaim who He is through our good works.

I found myself thinking, wow, well when you put it that way, it’s pretty lame I have been choosing to look at the boring and mundane parts of my life instead of the amazing ways God is using my normal, everyday, life to point to who He is. He does not have a boring routine planned for my life, he is purifying me, giving me opportunities to share in His mission and carry out His good works. This needs to motivate me, not only when I am staring Him in the face at Victoria Falls, but also when I have the opportunity to be faithful in the everyday, in loving my husband, in being a kind person at the grocery store, in caring for my friends, enemies, and anyone else I come into contact with, remembering we are all made in the image of God.

I am doing myself and my God a disservice when I see my life as just mundane.

“For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy by the washing, regeneration, and renewal of the Holy Spirit, who he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” Titus 3:3-7

Look at the where we have come from, and look at where His extravagant love has intended for us instead. May we walk in the self-controlled, upright and godly ways He has called us toward a life where death cannot separate us from God. He is making us pure. Let us be present with Him today.

Wherever you are, whether it feels mundane like mine has this week, or maybe you are barely hanging on, or perhaps you’re on top of the world, remember the life that God has called us to this day. Seek His face and His intentions for your day, rather than getting distracted with the busyness of this life. Let us spur one another on to the good works he has for us to tell about his great love to those that haven’t yet tasted and seen His glory.

This Is Your Story

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You are broken.

 You are powerless.

 You are sinful.

You are hopeless.

You are dirty.

You are undeserving.

You deserve death. Eternal death.

Your sins should separate you from your Father. They should stop Him from loving you. They should define you. They should lead to condemnation and death.

But they don’t.

You see, you were perfectly crafted by the King. The Creator of the Universe knit you together, perfectly piecing together every detail that makes up you. With hands so mighty, a heart so loving, and a mind so creative, you were made. And then, the King decided you were worthy enough to behold His image. His perfect and most sovereign image was to dwell in you — His beloved child.

With a flawless plan written for you, He sent you out into His world. His plan for you was full of blessings and magnificent moments. He knew your hearts inmost desires and eagerly awaited to fulfill them.

Unfortunately, falling captive to temptation, you took a bite of the apple and were no longer clean. No longer pure. No longer deserving. 

That moment of weakness was enough to separate you from the King, your Father, because your flawed self could no longer be in His perfect presence.

You were now a prisoner chained to sin. Only a life of misery and destruction lay before you.

And so it was over. The hope offered. The love freely given. It was all gone.

Or so you thought.

For the barrier that was put up between you and your Father was about to be torn down in the most extravagant of ways. 

Your Father saw you in your desperate state. His love for you was so deep and so wide; He simply couldn’t let you go.

And so He sent His son. His one and only son. His perfect and spotless son down to this rotten and wicked earth.

In the form of a tender, fragile, and beautiful baby, our freedom was delivered.

Jesus.

Our Savior.

He came and radically changed the way people thought. He challenged the current beliefs and ways of life.

With every touch of His hands and every word spoken another person was healed. Another person experienced the love of Jesus. Another person accepted the freedom that was offered through a life lived with Him.

He was perfect, this Jesus. Walking blamelessly and loving unconditionally. There had never been a man like Him before.

But sin still held you captive. 

And so your Father did the unthinkable. With His intention set from the beginning, your Father told His Son to bear the weight of your sins. To endure death so you didn’t have to. To take on your punishment.

For you. For me. For all of us.

The weight of the world on His shoulders.

Eventually, the time came. The world jeered and heckled, cheering for the crucifixion of their Savior.

Whips penetrated His flesh until His skin was raw. A crown of thorns was dug deep into his scalp until beads of blood began to run down His face. He was forced to carry His wooden cross while the weight of it pulled Him further to the ground and closer to His death. Nails were hammered into His ankles and wrists tearing through skin and muscle. A spear pierced His side guaranteeing His death.

All of this happening to Him, your perfect and blameless Savior, instead of you.

And with His final breath, hell thought it had won.

The Savior of the world dead. Our hope gone. Life shattered. A future of imprisonment and death guaranteed for you. 

For all of us.

But then. In His mighty and most wondrous ways, the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, the Creator of the Universe breathed life back into His Son, and raised your Savior up from the grave.

And with that breath of life, the empty tomb, your resurrected King, your life began.

Your chains were broken.

Your freedom was returned.

Forgiveness, mercy, and grace could now flow freely from the hands of your Father into your heart.

A life of dancing in the rain, basking in the sun, and running freely through the wildflowers was given to you.

Because your Father loves you so much, because His love is unconditional and extravagant, and because you are His child — He did whatever it took to save you.

You are healed.

You are powerful. 

You are forgiven.

You are made clean.

You are loved.

You are made new.

You are free.

Your Father’s love for you holds no boundaries. Nothing can separate you from His love. No matter your past or present, your sin is washed white by His blood.

No mistake or lifestyle is too big for Him to forgive, too bad to stop Him from loving you, or too powerful to overcome.

You are not defined by your past mistakes. You are not held captive any longer to the chains put on you.

Your Father created you with the inmost desire to do life with you forever, and He went as far as sacrificing His son to make this possible. 

Invite Him into your life and let this be your story.

Do not continue to live captive to your sinful self. Instead, accept His love and forgiveness. Bask in the story of redemption being offered to you.

Believe the truth: You are a child of the King and you are free.


About the Author

IMG_5862MORGAN COLANDER

Hi! My name is Morgan Colander. I am a senior at Lee University in Tennessee studying to be an elementary teacher. I am attempting to survive these college years as I learn to rely more on God and less on myself while being surrounded by new opportunities and decisions. College has presented itself with its difficulties- college budget, college dorms, college food, an endless list of things to do, and plenty of homesickness- but through it all, I have never been more dependent on God and realized how incapable I am to do life without Him. God, family, and friends are all I need to survive in life but some junior mints, a hike up a mountain, laughter, and some sarcasm definitely add some joy to the journey.

The Wonders of His Word

Every night, we read a story to our son, Judah, from the YouVersion Kids Bible App. If you have kids and a smart phone, I would highly recommend downloading this app. It’s wonderfully interactive, bright, and colorful, and explains the Bible stories in a way that is powerful yet simple.

Every night, my husband or myself open it up and let the story come to life for him. Stories about the world taking shape from a formless void all at the sound of God’s voice. Stories of man’s efforts to touch Heaven with a tower that was built on a foundation of pride only to be foiled by humility and a God with a greater plan for His people. Stories of floods and famines and plagues and promises. Stories of bushes burning with the voice of Yahweh and of a people stepping into freedom. Stories of shepherd boys and prophets and queens and kings, of loyal friends and devoted family members and of the God, the only, one true God that breathed life and love into all of it.

It started as a bedtime routine, but very quickly it has become something that permeates our day. Judah asks for a Bible story in the morning, before his nap, and yes, at bedtime. The goodness of God and the power of His word is fascinating my son.

It’s been amazing to watch. I’ve marveled anew at the power of our Lord and at the works of His hands as I’ve watched it all take root in my son’s mind and heart. I see it there, in his eyes, in his reactions to the things that broke the Lord’s heart, in his understanding of what disobedience brings and his joy when the Lord’s justice prevails. I see it when his eyes grow wide, as the heart of a lion within him roars with praise at the victories of our God and as the soft places there too are quieted by the gentleness of Jesus. I see the wonder and the devotion.

I see the roots growing down deep and, oh how it makes my heart sing! It’s the answer to all of my prayers, the embodiment of all of my dreams for him, the joy of my heart. And I remember too, what it felt like to walk where he is walking. I remember how those stories fascinated me as a child and how I took them at their word with not a trace of doubt or skepticism. How I simply trusted that the God of all of those stories could and would do things like that just for me and that He very much loved me indeed.

It’s a cozy feeling, childlike faith. It wraps you up tight like a blanket on a cold night leaving no inch of you uncovered or touched by cold doubt. It’s a good feeling. It’s safe and powerful and confident and that’s what my son is covered in right now.

“Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” Luke 18:17 NIV

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I walked downstairs after putting Him to bed and watching his heart get hooked once again and this verse burst into my heart.

“ Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;

his greatness no one can fathom.

One generation commends your works to another;

they tell of your mighty acts. 

They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty —

and I will meditate on your wonderful works.” Psalm 145: 3-5 NIV

I thought to myself that it all seemed so right. That it only makes sense that Judah would be captivated by a God who can quiet storms and give the strength of a warrior to a shepherd boy. It’s only right that he would feel comfortable learning about a God who judges us not by what we look like but by what’s in our heart. It’s all so logical and easy to understand because when you step back and look at it all, at the stories and the promises and the actions of God and His people, there’s something there that’s compelling and easy to get on board with. It’s as simple as one generation telling the next and then together, taking Him at His Word.

My son is falling in love with God because he is seeking Him. He’s captivated by His word because he’s spending time getting to know the heart behind it. He’s hooked on it all because it’s becoming the voice behind comfort and confidence and adventure and promise in his heart and that’s exactly the way I want it.

And it was as simple as letting the word of God speak to him.

I asked Judah today what his favorite story has been so far. He said, “God talking in the burning bush.” He said it in the way that little boys do, accompanied with climbing and wiggling, energy buzzing through him, but the room grew still for me all the same and something snagged my attention.

“Yeah!” I said. “That’s pretty cool how God spoke to Moses isn’t it buddy? How does God speak to you?” I threw it out there, not sure if he would bite, if he was ready to engage in a serious conversation or if he would change the subject to Ninja Turtles with a swing of verbal nun-chucks.

“He speaks in my heart,” Judah said.

“What has he told you, buddy?” I asked.

“That he loves me,” Judah said with a smile.

That right there is the crux of it all. All of the seeking and wondering and learning and loving that Judah has done over the last few weeks is summed up in that. That perhaps the best and most powerful story that we can pull out, even more precious and awe inspiring than the parting of the Red Sea or the sending of bread from heaven, more special than a staff turning into a snake or loaves and fishes multiplying, is that the God that did all of that speaks. To us.

He’s done it in so many ways, both quiet and flashy, miraculous and simple, but he’s always done it and the heart of every word has always been the same.

He loves us.

I know you aren’t a child, that believing in the word isn’t as simple as it maybe once was, that we have questions and doubts about God’s plan at times, and that our hearts and minds aren’t as easily captivated but would you try it with me this week? Would you try seeking Him in his word anew? Try to read the stories of His miracles and His plans and the way that he moved heaven and earth and started history anew just to be with His people and teach them righteousness and love. Try to seek His wondrous works and to let them captivate your heart once more because, if you’re willing, it won’t take much.

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Above all though, would you try to hear his voice? It’s steady and constant and firm and soft all at once, speaking the words that are as old as the sunrise and as familiar to those lips as water is to ours.

“I love you.” He says. Through all of it, then and now, that’s what he says and that is the most powerful part of it all.

“I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself.” Jeremiah 31:3 NLT

Receive

Kariba

Spring is beginning to come! Whether you recognize it by the flowers blooming or the surprise snowstorm, it is quite an interesting time of year. I have always been a fan of the changing of seasons. I am addicted to variety, and while I can often take the wonderful constants in my life for granted, I am very tuned in as life changes. Though seasons look quite different in the Southern hemisphere, I still enjoy learning the beauties of each season here in Zambia, and Easter brings in a very beautiful time of year. It is finally beginning to cool off after a very hot, dry and rainy season, and we are ready for the Zambian winter to come our way.

My team at work took this special time of year and the two public holidays (Good Friday and Easter Monday) to get away for our annual retreat at Lake Kariba. The change of scenery was so life-giving for me. We got to see the beautiful lake, which is the largest man made reservoir in the world, and spend time with one another away from our work and all of the other distractions that go along with everyday life.

This renewing time brought about a fresh perspective, and as I sat down to read the first chapter of John on Easter morning, a new word stood out to me more than ever before.

Receive.

“He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God.” John 1:11-12

How do we receive the God of the Universe who made his home among us, in spite of us, because of us?

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we saw his glory, glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14

Receiving something sounds so simple, but many of us chose to reject Him instead. How does that work? How did His own people miss the opportunity to receive Him? How do I miss opportunities to receive Him?

Among Us

I know personally, I struggle to receive Christ when I am distracted by my own desires for my life above the higher plans and desires the Lord may have for me. It’s like I am on the boat trying to get somewhere I have pictured in my head, and then I miss the beauty of the sunset, the birds flying about, and the opportunity to just be because I am focused on where I want to go.

It’s not bad to have goals or to pursue the desires God has uniquely placed on our hearts, in fact, I believe that is part of how God made us. However, we have to realize that we only get to see a small part of the picture that God is creating through His relationship with humanity. We have to remember that above all else we are to receive Christ in every aspect of our lives. As we diligently seek Him, He will take care of the rest.

Receiving is not about anything we have done or anything we are going to do. It is a simple response, but in the end it means everything. Receiving is not something we can be self-righteous about, because it takes very little effort and will power. At the same time, we must receive to experience true freedom and reflect our Creator. Receiving takes humility and acknowledging the need for the saving power of Christ who came to die so that we might live.

Rejection is also an easy response. It can be so subtle, even seemingly innocent. We can reject Christ by choosing to pursue other good things before Him. We can reject Him by ignoring that small voice that urges us to do something, to say something, to reach out to someone, because it is more comfortable to do what we want instead. Rejection, when practiced over and over again, can become automatic and we will hardly even notice we are truly convicted and consciously take the time to look to Jesus.

Thankfully, we are not on our own. God has extended His hand in grace to us, knowing our tendency to forget what we know is good. He has given us His Spirit, that small quiet, guiding voice that is with us deeply urging us to receive Christ. We can ask Him for the strength to receive, we can ask Him where we have chosen to reject, and we can ask Him to guide us back to the plan that He has for us.

When I picture myself receiving Christ through the day in and day out, I have to ask for my eyes to be opened. I have to ask for Him to help me see the way that He sees, treat people the way He would treat people, love the way He loved. If we have received Christ, not only do we believe he is who he says he is, but also we become one with who he is. We must wrap our lives around the message He preached. For some this means selling everything we have and giving to the poor. For others it means standing out in the work place, or taking the time to know and serve our neighbors.

What can you do to receive Christ today? Where have you chosen to reject Him or His voice? Who can you talk with, pray with, or share with about receiving Christ?

May God help us to receive Him amongst all the chaos and distractions around us. May He save us from ourselves and our sin that allows us to reject Him. Let us cling to His grace in all things and remember the God who came to save that we might receive and be made right with Him again.

In Christ Alone My Worth Is Found

Attachment-1

Sometimes it’s the people we barely know who end up having the biggest impact on our lives.

Often it’s a negative impact: a snide comment that sticks to our heart for years like gum under a desk. A leader’s decision that trickles down and alters everything. A careless action that they “didn’t mean,” but to you, who cares? It meant everything.

Oftentimes, however, it forever changes our life for the better. Words from authors we’ve never met and never will can rattle us, shifting our entire perspective. Random acts of kindness of complete strangers can forge some of the most unforgettable memories. Even a scripted line delivered by an actor in a movie can pierce us to the core.

About six months ago, someone I barely knew made this kind of impact on me.

I had decided to take a class for the second time, a class that I had first signed up for five years prior but never finished. It was a free class at the seminary where my husband has been pursuing his masters degree, designed to equip women for the unique role of being a minister’s wife. The first go around I was a newlywed working as a teacher, was not yet a mother, and quickly grew annoyed by several guest speakers talking about things irrelevant to me at that time… so I lost interest, and dropped it.

This second time I was in a completely different season of life. After nearly six years of marriage under my belt, I was a full time stay-at-home young mother of four, with a husband nearing graduation and preparing to enter full time ministry. I was still reeling from the recent completion of the adoption of our eldest, and sleep-deprived with a still-nursing newborn.

Postpartum had been a struggle with a capital ‘S’ and we were all still adjusting to our not-so-little family of six. I felt perpetually exhausted, overwhelmed, and like a shadow of my former self. To top it off I was daily fighting unshakeable feelings of inadequacy, feeling like I had morphed into an inattentive wife, grumpy mother, bad friend, poor housekeeper… never good enough at any role, always striving but always failing. 

Sound familiar?

A couple of friends were going to take the class and invited me along, and while it sounded crazy at first to add something to my already overflowing plate, I decided to join them. It was only once a week, in the evening, and TBH? It meant one night a week of NOT HAVING TO DO BEDTIME. All the praise hands.

That’s where I “met” her.

She hooked me on the first day with her warmth and genuine spirit. She was “just” a mom and a professor’s wife, co-teaching the class with another professor’s wife. She was kind, engaging, and humble, and I bet the majority of people would take one look at her and write her off as being simply a sweet lady, with nothing more to offer than a smile and a casserole.

They would be wrong.

This woman had PASSION.

After the first half of the class was spent going over the syllabus and getting to know one another, her co-teacher sat down and she calmly took the podium. And for a solid hour, she laid it down. She explained that she wanted to make clear from the get-go exactly what this class was NOT intended to be…

…and in doing so, she made clear what had been muddied in my heart and mind for months.

Our primary goal was not to learn to be the best wife we can possibly be. It was not to learn to be the best mother we can be, or the best friend or anyone else, because our worth is not defined by our relationships with each other. Neither is our worth defined by how “well” we’re doing… at anything.

Before we do anything else, we are simply to love and be loved by Jesus, because our worth is found in Him alone.

Let me say that again:

Before we do anything else, we are simply to love and be loved by Jesus, because our worth is found in Him alone. 

That reminder practically slapped me in the face, waking me up from my fog of relentless striving for some hypothetical “best version of myself.”  I felt freed, and calmed, and loved hearing those words. I’d no doubt heard them countless times before, but they burst with fresh significance in this desert season.

But here’s the thing: she didn’t stop there. She got practical. She got specific. And she got excited!

She began to dive into helpful strategies for better understanding the Bible, His love letter to us. She tackled head on the lies that the enemy uses to try to keep us from opening it at all: that it’s too complicated for us to comprehend, not worth our time, outdated, irrelevant, unnecessary. She enthusiastically reminded us that our culture and generation has more resources for understanding the Bible, and by extension, learning about our very Savior, than ever before in history… and gently reminded us that we also have more distractions than ever, too.

“For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” Romans 15:4

She recommended dozens of tips and tricks, websites and books, resources galore to help us with our one, simple, fundamental purpose in life: to love Jesus, which we are only able to do because He first loved us. She then stressed that it is worth the time and effort we pour into loving Jesus, because we will not find our worth in any other role than as His forgiven and beloved daughter. And it is only after we have found our identity in Him, after we have been taught how to love by first experiencing His love, that we will ever truly be able to love others.

“And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world… We love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:14-17,19

She went on to remind us that we love Jesus, because He alone satisfies. Not our professions, not being the perfect wife, not prepping the most Pinterest-worthy cute and healthy lunch boxes for our kids. He alone brings peace. He alone restores our soul. No one else, no other role, nothing we have or can do compares to the satisfaction we find in His love for us.

And with every word my love for her grew like wildfire, because with every word I could see: she believed, with everything in her, that she was imparting truths that could save us. Truths that could save not only our actual spiritual lives, but restore joy where there was despair, and bring peace where there was chaos.

She was not there to teach, not really, though she was an excellent teacher. God used her that night and many thereafter to personally encourage me, and show me that I was not alone. That pursuing my relationship with Jesus could no longer come second to pursuing my relationship with my husband, kids, and others… that it had to come first. Because when it doesn’t, it’s like putting clean clothes on, day after day, but never showering. You can only hide the filth for so long before everyone suffers.

I breathed easier on my walk home that night from class. I mentally crumpled up the to-do lists that had been running on loops through my head. Love Him. Spend time with Him. The rest would get done. Loving Him had to come first. I would love my people better afterwards because of my time with Him.

The Father used someone I barely knew to speak directly to me that night, and I doubt I will ever forget the impact made by that woman after God’s own heart, a woman I am honored to call my sister in Christ.

The truth is we never know who might be listening to us, and how God might want to use us to help another, even if we’re not aware of it! Let us always make sure, then, that our “speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that [we] may know how [we] ought to answer each person.” Colossians 4:6 And may “no corrupting talk come out of [our] mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” Ephesians 4:29

Thank you, Mrs. Karen Yarnell, for loving Him and His Word with such passion. 

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