Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Direction of My Passion

National tragedies always bring out an interesting side of people.

Some appear shocked:
How could this happen? What is this world coming to? Who would do such a thing?

Others use it as a means of pointing to their own causes:
Why do we react in such horror to this when children are starving in other countries and dying every day?

And still others act as a sponge, soaking in every possible inch of data to form their own conclusions.

For me—I tend to have a “big picture” approach. It’s how I’m wired. And I’m not here to point out whether other’s reactions (or my own) to this tragedy are right or wrong; I simply want to share my thoughts on the situation.

My first reaction to the bombing was… That’s terrible.

My second thoughts were: Two bombs went off at the Boston Marathon, and only 3 were killed? That’s not a lot. I don’t mean to belittle it—it was definitely three too many—but I was thankful that it wasn’t more destructive in terms of numbers of lives lost.

Another thought I had was—why ARE we so surprised by this act of evil? This world is an evil place. The hearts of man are desperately wicked. On Sunday, one of our ministers shared, “Evil in this world should NOT surprise us. The only thing we should be surprised about regarding evil is HOW PATIENT GOD IS WITH IT.”

I agree.

With that, I don’t think we should just become complacent and say, “Well… oh well. We live in an evil world… what can we do. I guess we’ll just start to accept it…”

Rather, my hope is that events like this do 2 things:

1.     Reminds us of God’s sovereignty. Certainly, God does not inspire these events. But He IS in control. And He has all power in His hands. We have been warned by Scriptures that the end times will be terrible: full of evil acts, wars and rumors of wars, sinful activity, hurricanes, floods and earthquakes… the list goes on. With that in mind, AND knowing that the Lord has a master plan in which all of these things work together for His good (ultimately), we can rest in that comfort rather than being ruffled by the externals.
2.     Renews our perspective concerning spiritual warfare. And when I say spiritual warfare, I mean as a whole (as big as wars and evil acts like bombing a marathon) and individually (all the way down to the very hearts of the bombing brothers).

I often attend a prayer meeting at church that takes place before services each Sunday. Last week, I was so thankful for a lady who had the conviction to remind us to pray for the surviving brother responsible for the Boston bombing.

“He is currently being treated in the hospital for his injuries,” she explained. “There is an opportunity there for someone to witness to him, and tell him about the salvation message.”

She’s right. So often, we forget about the criminal, waving him off as a lost cause. Who wants to pray for someone who just tried to kill thousands of people?

It caused me to think, though. As I have been keeping up with the news and the search for “motive” and the research of evidence… the thing is, these brothers in crime had a passion. It doesn’t appear to be against American people but the American government. Specifics don’t necessarily matter; the concept is that they had a strong passion that led them to a terrific act. They had something to say. They were diligent and purposeful in what they did, and one even died for the cause.

This sort of wrongfully placed passion reminds me of someone from the Bible—Paul. Before God got a hold of him, he was placing his energies in all the wrong causes. But once he saw the Light, He was an amazing instrument for Christ. Without Paul, a large part of the New Testament wouldn’t even exist. A lot of our practical application in Christian living wouldn’t be written. He went from fighting against a cause to contributing to a large portion of its future reach.

It’s amazing, really, when you think about it. And I’m not hear to suggest that the young man responsible for taking lives in Boston last week will be a “Paul conversion,” but I’m here to point out that it’s possible. ANYTHING is possible with God. It is awesome to me that anyone with a passion, even if it’s in the wrong places and for the wrong things, can be converted into something beautiful.

And it brings me to my final point: this guy’s salvation. I have always had a heart for the brokenhearted. It’s why I am in the jail ministry. I wholeheartedly believe that deep inside every individual’s soul is a beautiful story, waiting to be told. Depending on family history, past circumstances, how someone grew up, choices made, values taught… sometimes it’s a lot harder to break down the walls of filth to get to it. But it’s there.

It is ironic to me that this guy is sitting in a hospital right now, being treated so he can live, only to find out that he has a sentence to die. How would you feel if you were one of the nurses giving him care?

But it begs the question… who promises you tomorrow? Aren’t we all “sentenced to die?” Maybe not because of a crime we committed… but then again, wait. Weren’t we all born as sinners, and it’s because of sin that we die a human death? It is ONLY Christ’s gift of salvation that allows us any other option post-death.

So the guy that still lives… who cares about him right now? Who cares for HIS soul? Who wants to share the salvation message with him? And… maybe it IS a lost cause. Maybe he has made up his mind. After all, he was willing to take lives, and quite possibly his own, to do what he did. That’s the kind of faith he had in his beliefs. But I still think of Paul. And I think of God, and how nothing is impossible. And I pray for that soul, because it’s still not too late.

I also examine my own standing with my Faith.

Where is my passion level for MY Faith? Am I willing to do something radical for God? So radical that it affects many lives?

So radical that it may mean losing my own?

I am thankful to live in a free country and a very accepting Christian community. SO thankful. But this past week, my views have been shaken and my perspective has been enlarged. It may not always be so easy to proclaim what I believe. How am I doing now, when I’m not punished for it? Sometimes, I know I take the easy way out.

Daily, I have to remember: die to self. To live is death, and to die is gain. In the end, God gets the glory. In the end… I live in Heaven.

Who’s going to be with me?


Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Happy Spring!

The windows are open in my house... so refreshing.

Well... kind of. Despite it being REALLY warm inside and the little black bugs that have made their way into my house, I am definitely enjoying the Spring weather.

So is Lily. Her newest project is to hunt and kill all of the bugs, and mine is to sit on the couch as still as possible so I don't break a sweat. I will take this ANY DAY over the snow storm we had a couple weeks ago, that's for sure.


Anyway, some news in my life.

I am starting a full-time job this coming Monday. The opportunity came up for me a couple weeks ago. I am not going into full-fledged detail here on my blog, but if you see me in person, feel free to ask me about it! I will say that it is a marketing/graphic design position, and it's in East Peoria. It sounds very fast-paced and exciting, so I am anxious to get started and see what it is all about!

Also, I am on a 30-day trial, so I would appreciate prayers for anyone who wants to lift me up... just that I would be able to put forth my talents in the best way possible and shine in this new role. Additionally, that I would be willing to let God guide me and be open to whatever He has for me!

Ideally, I would love it if this worked out. God has been teaching me a lot about myself over the past several months, and one of the things I have learned:

I am a passionate, creative, free-spirited person, but with that I need structure. So to me, having a stable, full-time job that ISN'T just a "desk job" but something energetic, active, and creative, then with the opportunity to supplement with my photography business on the side, sounds like perfection.

However! I leave that up to the Lord, and in the mean time I am just thankful for the opportunity to give this a shot.

Moving on...

I am going to start going to the county jail twice a month on Wednesday nights. Tomorrow evening is the first time I'll go. I'm really excited. I usually just go on Sundays when I'm scheduled, which ends up averaging about once a month, but now I'll get to go even more often. I feel like it will be a little more laid back than Sundays, so I'm looking forward to getting to know the ladies more.

I did go last Sunday and met a girl. She was an amazing encouragement to me. She had transferred from another nearby county jail and had just arrived. She talked about someone else in the ministry who had introduced her to Christ within the past month.

It was SO cool to see how much she had already dug into the Word. She spoke of Bible verses and Jesus' teachings as if she had studied them her whole life. When I asked her if she grew up with a church background, she said no. This surprised me, since she already seemed so familiar with a lot of Scripture.

More than anything, it was so exciting to me to see how enthusiastic and peaceful she was from the Word. It was evident that Christ had transformed her life and her attitude, and her insights and wisdom were already on solid ground.

I look forward to seeing her tomorrow night when I go and I will be passing along a Bible that the previous lady promised to get her. I am so thankful for the freedom to give Bibles to prisoners, meet with them about Christ, and pray with them. It's such a liberty, one we take for granted. I'm glad God is still allowed in jail!

Anyway, enough for tonight. Love you all!