John 8:36 - So if the Son makes you free, you will be truly free.

Galatians 5:1 - We have freedom now, because Christ made us free. So stand strong. Do not change and go back into the slavery of the law.

This is my journey.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Once Upon A Summer...

We disagreed.

We knew that from day 4. Yet, something kept us from giving up, something compelled us to at least try... try to change each other's mind.

I didn't post only for you, though, I didn't share my mind and beliefs so openly simply for your benefit. I was sharing long before that, and will continue sharing long after you are merely a distant memory of a past friendship.

You drove me, you pushed me to really THINK about what I believed, to really research and solidify the WHY. You debated with me, giving me a reason to work out what I really thought through speech and writing.

We never managed to change each other's mind. I know, for my part, I only became more firm in my stance, more solid in my beliefs, seeing more truth in them than ever before.

To the man I loved: Thank you, for making me stronger. Thank you for being the vehicle that really drove me to examining and reassessing my stance. Thank you for loving me back.

Once upon a summer.

Friday, March 15, 2013

To Truly Love

'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30-31

So often, we are so focused on not condoning (or appearing to condone) sin, that we've lost the real message of Jesus. A message of reaching out and loving others. A message of hope and peace to the broken and lost.

Even Jesus himself was accused of being a sinner, a glutton, a drunkard, and many other things simply because of the fact that he kept company with “that sort of person”. Many were horrified that he let a prostitute wash his feet.

Jesus was not worried about false labels, he was concerned with reaching the hearts of those around Him, and touching their lives with His love and salvation. It seems we as Christians are so afraid of being labeled wrongly, that we go out of our way not to associate with the very people we are called to reach out to. Or we strive to explain our interactions with them so much that they end up not wanting anything to do with US.

“Love your neighbor as yourself.” When Jesus was asked “who is my neighbor?” he told the story of what we call the Good Samaritan. The ending moral being, our neighbor is not only the person we live next to in our physical house, or the people we go to church with, or the nice cashier we like to chat with. Our neighbor is every person we come in contact with, even if they are an enemy. It would have been acceptable for the Samaritan to leave the man where he laid in the dirt, for the cultural divide was fierce. Instead, he chose to show love for his “neighbor,” in the same way he would care for his family or his own self.

[Jesus asked] “So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?”
And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.”
Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.” Luke 10:36-37

It is not our job to be the condemnation of God to those around us, but rather to have mercy on them. Certainly, do not change the gospel, but even Jesus did not come into the world to condemn it, but to bring salvation. How can anyone believe in the love of God if they aren't seeing it in me, who claims to be His child?

Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.

When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.” Luke 19:1-7

Imagine if Jesus had said, “Zacchaeus, come down from there, I am going to your house. But first I want you to know that I absolutely am against the terrible way you have been stealing from everyone and the wicked way you've been living.”

Stating such a thing would have started off on an antagonistic foot, and probably would have angered Zacchaeus. Jesus never would have even reached the point of being able to touch Zacchaeus' heart. But he made no such declaration. Surely making some such statement would have appeased the minds of those so concerned about his being “the guest of a sinner,” but Jesus did not seem the slightest bit worried about such accusations.

Jesus told [the Samaritan woman], “Go, call your husband and come back.”

I have no husband,” she replied.

Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”

Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.” John 4:16-20

Again, imagine if Jesus had condemned her for her sins. Rather than stating even his opinion on her life, he simply told the truth of what she'd done. Condemnation toward her would only have turned her away, just as it now turns people away.

Certainly, there is a time and a place for taking a hard line against sinful behavior, but too often, we heap condemnation on others for the benefit of our reputation and call it “telling the truth in love.”

How can I reach out to the lost around me if I am too afraid of being labeled “one of them”? How can I love others if I have to explain every interaction with drawing a line against their life decisions?

How can I show Christ to a dying world when I am petrified at the opinions of my fellow Christians?

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Comfort Zones

I don't think often about my comfort zone, and even less about moving out of it. I don't often wonder how I would deal with such a situation, as I am rarely presented with one.

Being in my comfort zone has been my way of life for as long as I can remember, and it has been very nice. The time has come, however, in which I need to move past my comfort, step out of where I know everything and move into perhaps a situation I can't handle on my own.

In the face of potentially moving completely out of my comfort zone, I'm finding myself alternately excited and worried.

I desire to change my situation, my surroundings. How else can I grow if I am never stretched?

It is frightening as well. What if I hate it? What if I don't adjust well to the harsh change?

So yes, I am a little frightened at the thought of the jump from completely comfortable to a situation that is totally new to me in every way.

But even more than that...

I am excited. Bring it on!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Secondarily A Christ Follower?

Teen Challenge from Tucson.

The service this morning held an interesting question for me. Teen Challenge of Tucson came down and sang a couple songs, and the leader had a short sermon prepared as well. Anyways, one particular statement really struck me.

Is your identity based in your talents/possessions/relationships or in Christ?

Which led me to another line of thought... Am I a Christ-follower first and artist second? Or vice versa? If I am being honest, it is usually first an artist and second a Christ-follower.

I have a lot of confidence in my abilities. I know what I can do, and I know I can do it well. I don't think this is always a bad thing, but I do certainly think it can become a bad thing.

Oftentimes, I want God to show me what I can do for Him, how I can serve through the things I know, how I can use my abilities to touch lives. I want the game plan so I can get it done, because I know I have the ability to.

And that is just the problem. Where is God at work if I already am able to accomplish it all on my own? When do I learn to trust if I can handle all of my situations with ease? How do I learn to step out in faith if I can just do what I set out to do solely by my own willpower?

It's a comfort zone of mine. I know my talents and abilities, and I do believe God gave them to me for a reason... but I have a tendency to lean only on the things I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I cannot fail at. I want to serve God... my way.

I need to be pushed out of my comfort zone. It's comfortable to sit in my home painting a picture for someone. I cannot fail at that. But God wants me for more than just doing good things in my own power. He wants me to perform miracles, to change lives. He wants me to speak his word, to make an impact. Perhaps a part of that will come through art, I don't doubt that it will... But a larger part of me fears that I will be taken from where I'm comfortable and thrown into a situation I can't handle on my own, be called to pray for things that are impossible, asked to accomplish tasks that must be divinely orchestrated in order to succeed.

I need to step out into living by faith, and leaning on God's power rather than my own strength. Instead of focusing on how great I am, looking to Jesus for my validation and strength. I am not sure yet how this will play out, but I can feel a change is coming in some form. I only pray that I will be ready when my comfort zone is gone and I can do nothing but lean on Jesus.