Daily Archives: June 12, 2013

when average Joe meets extraordinary God

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart. 1 Samuel 16.7

Average.

Have you ever seen yourself in that light?

I have.

Some days, I still do.

I need to, but not in a negative way.

 

The essence of gospel-humility is not thinking more of myself or thinking less of myself,
it is thinking of myself less.
Timothy Keller

Have you ever wondered how or why God would choose to use you?

I have.

Many times.

Like every human being who’s walked this terrestrial planet, I’m a sinner…well, I was a sinner who became a saint by the saving grace Jesus offers everyone. Get that? Every one. All. However, I am not perfect, nor would I ever claim to be.

I was blessed to have been born into a Christian family, where God’s commands and His gospel were taught from a very young age.

I’d like to think I’ve grown some in my walk with Christ since He first captivated my heart at the tender age of four, but I’m still average.

First, I’m not a skilled evangelist. It’s simply not my gifting.

Second, I’m not a Bible scholar (by the world’s standards).

Third, I don’t have a degree in Christian counseling or a long list of credentials to put that claim to the test.

Fourth, my prayer life leaves a lot to be desired.

And finally, I’ve believed the lie that my legalistic background taught early on: that a girl with any amount of public education could not be used to further God’s Kingdom simply because she could not be saved. She had been “tarnished” by something of this world.

I remember, quite vividly actually, the first time I heard Him call my name. I was four. A child. I couldn’t comprehend the vastness of what He was about to do with my life. I simply knew, on some level, that I had been set apart for something huge; something beautiful.

When I was in grade school, I remember enjoying my Bible classes. Little did I know that God would be using the knowledge that was being stored in my mind and heart (memorization of Scripture) to get me through some of the darkest times of my 28-year existence. He still uses what I learned then in my life today.

My call to music ministry didn’t just happen. I remember pacing my dorm room and thinking that I wouldn’t go to this first Campus Crusade meeting simply because I didn’t know anyone…and I did not want to walk across campus by myself. Thank God for Jamie – a girl who would later become one of my closest friends. She knocked on my door and made me go. I didn’t know her from Adam and yet, I went. That night started the beginning of an amazing decade and fulfilled a desire God had placed in me at a young age: to share the talent He had given me with others for His glory.

Then came the call to use those gifts in my new home church…a place I never thought I’d end up at again after the experience I had back home. I definitely did not feel worthy of that call. I was attending a public college after all…wasn’t I? I couldn’t wrap my mind, much less my heart, around the real love that was shared among the community of believers at Brookings Wesleyan Church (now Gracepoint Church).

God used me there for six years and led me to where I am now: Minneapolis, MN – planting a church. I’m still baffled by His wanting to use me…and am reminded through Scripture, which is full of examples of the ordinary men and women He used for His extraordinary purposes:

  • Noah – God jumpstarted humanity again with his family. He built the ark when God asked him to and he was a drunkard.
  • Abraham – God blessed him with descendants whose number was larger than the count of stars and sands of the seashore and yet, he lied about his wife; not once, but twice!
  • Jacob – a man blessed by God was a deceiver. He also played favorites with his sons.
  • Joseph – a dreamer who was sold by his jealous brothers into slavery and was shipped off to Egypt. God used what they intended for evil for the good of many, Joseph included.  
  • Moses – a humble man who, much like myself, didn’t feel worthy of leading God’s people out of Egypt was a murderer.
  • Joshua – an ordinary man chosen to follow in the footsteps of a God-made leader (Moses).
  • Rahab – a prostitute who hid Israelite spies who were about to destroy her home town …plus, God used her in Jesus’ family line. Amazing, right?
  • Samson had serious issues with lust and anger.
  • David, a man after God’s own heart, was an adulterer and a murderer.
  • Paul persecuted the church prior to his choosing to follow Christ.
  • Peter denied Him…not once, but three times prior to His death on the cross.

By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, rules with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions, quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight. Hebrews 11.33-34

Even Jesus was ordinary. He started out growing up in a lowly family and was a carpenter before the start of His ministry.

“If Christ Himself was ordinary, being a lowly carpenter’s son, why would we expect God to use only special people for His purposes…Think God can’t or won’t use you? Think again. His glory shines the greatest through the weakest of vessels.” – Elizabeth Marks

But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chose the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty. 1 Corinthians 1.27

We can also look at who Jesus chose for His disciples: A tax collector named Levi and simple fishermen (Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John). These uneducated men went on to turn the whole world upside down because they had found to have been with Jesus.

“If God chose only well-rounded people with no character flaws, some of the credit would inevitably go to the people and not to the Lord.” – Dr. Ray Pritchard

What did all of these people have in common besides being ordinary? Faith. The believed in God in faith: And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to Him must believe that God exists and that He rewards those who sincerely seek Him. Hebrews 11.6

They also willingly submitted to His will in their lives, even when it meant giving up their livelihood to follow Him. Some left family and friends, some left their countries to live in a foreign land and still others gave up their jobs to follow God’s leading. Their faith was real and it was demonstrated by action. They were obedient to God’s commands and when He said go, they went.

Because we are weak in our imperfection, we’re sometimes oblivious to the Holy Spirit’s urging. Worse yet, there are times when we actively fight against that urging. We not only turn a blind eye on occasion; we sometimes plug our ears and barricade our hearts.

I remember such a time in my life. I had opted to finally go on a short-term mission trip out to Wildwood, NJ (yes, there are places within the United States that need Christ just as much as third world countries do). I was chosen to serve on the worship ministries team and half way though that summer, my group’s leader asked if I’d consider being a part of the administrative and creative arts team. I stubbornly turned down that idea; called it ridiculous even and walked away. I’m not proud to say that I spit in God’s face at that request and have been left wondering what would have happened had I jumped at the opportunity. Where would I be today if I had followed Him then?

Whether you’re aware of it or not, we all play an important role in the Divine Plan He’s been weaving together since Creation. I’m not perfect nor would I ever claim to be. I’m just like you in that I have a set of temptations that I constantly battle against. I have my own set of insecurities, hang-ups and scars.

And yet…

Still…

God has chosen to use me in miraculous, extraordinary ways.

Why? Because He can. He’s God. Plus, He wants to. He loves me that much…something I’ll never fully comprehend.

There are still so many times when I feel unworthy of the calling He’s given me…in music; in hospitality; in something I haven’t quite figured out yet (whether that be through writing, women’s ministry, counseling, owning my own design consulting business…I don’t know).

Most of us may be “Average Joes,” but our Heavenly Father can use each one of us in marvelous and extraordinary ways.

a pep-talk from a kid – pure awesomeness

My pastor shared this video during our sermon series on the heroes of faith in the Bible…this week’s topic: Moses.

Enjoy!

soulpancake

my father’s daughter

Honor your father and mother. Then you will live a long, full life in the land the LORD your God is giving you. Exodus 20.12

First, let me state that I am not a parent (yet) nor am I an expert on this matter. I’m simply a young adult who has formulated her opinions, insight and what-nots based on God’s Word and the world I see around me. That being said…

I am my father’s daughter.

No lie.

I inherited his mighty temper (granted, the red hair may have more to do with that than anything). His ability to be stubborn has most definitely been passed on. And I definitely find similar situations and things to be just as humorous as he does.

Indeed.

I am my father’s daughter.

Father’s Day was always a time when I would stop and reflect on the relationship I have with my earthly father as well as the one I have with God, my heavenly Father. It aslo was and is a time when I would take a moment to thank him and remind him that I loved him. I still do, but the manner in which I do has changed drastically from that when I was a child.

Growing up in and attending the local Christian school, I heard the whole “Honor your father and mother…” tidbit every day. It is an important theme throughout the Bible and the entire Old Testament is based on a patriarchal system.

Some fathers are easy to love; those that seem to be the terrific ideal every child wanted. Others are harder to love. They may not have been dependable. They may have left when you were young. Perhaps they were in the home, but not there at the same time.

Mine fell into both categories. After all, he is only human. Regardless of his faults, God calls me to honor him by loving him and respecting him. It’s not only the right thing to do; this commandment also holds with it the promise of having a long life. That is one promise I’ve discovered that I want to stand on and it (along with God’s guidance) has helped me overcome the days when honoring my dad wasn’t so easy.

My teenage years were filled with yelling matches, massive amounts of miscommunication and a lack of attendance at school/sports events. Honestly, there were moments when I didn’t feel I mattered. Now – most of you know that I’m a huge advocate for Gary Chapman’s The Five Love Languages – since I’ve read that book, my relationsihp with my dad has changed. Then again, I’ve become the type to focus more on love and grace than their opposites.

Chapman writes about the different love languages and the way each one affects the person who speaks them. I was blessed with a living example on how to speak all five (words of affirmation, physical touch, quality time, gifts, and acts of service), but three of them truly speak to me and any one of those three could mean more at any given moment.

I’ve discovered my dad’s and I’ve been learning to speak his as well as mine, hoping God will speak it into his heart. I’ve definitely been tested in this process and I’ve learned that patience is a virtue worth striving for.

It’s now 2013. More than a decade has passed since the last of my teenage years spent at home. My rebellious streak is over…well, one could only hope [*wink] and with the fact that I’ve matured some since, it’s safe to say that our relationship isn’t what it used to be and for that, I am thankful.  

God, my heavenly Father – the only One who will never let me down – reached into my life at the tender age of 18 (again) and grabbed hold of my heart, showing me that He had never to let go, and taught me what it means to love the way He does (see yesterday’s post [here] for more on that).  I will forever be grateful for what He’s taught me and continues to teach me on a daily basis.

The world we live in has a twisted view of love. Hollywood spins their friends-with-benefits and drop-it-like-it’s-hot tales. Disney portrays the “happily ever after” stuff little girls dream about (by the way – “Happily Ever After” is possible…just not in the way the world thinks).  No one talks about what happens after the wedding or after the guy gets the girl. Even the love portrayed between friends is twisted and cruel in this “what’s-in-it-for-me” and “give-it-to-me-quick” society.

God’s love is unconditional. God’s love is deep, wide, long and strong…more than we can even begin to comprehend. Growing up, I’m sorry to say that the love I had for my parents was conditional. I believed that my life was all about me. Me this. Me that. Me. Me. Me. I. I. I.

Enough said.

Having had my heart torn apart, battered, cracked – you name it – God, in His amazingly unconditional love, reached in and helped me put the pieces back together again. Granted, there were a few times when He had to re-break a few things so it would heal the right way, but that pain…worth it.

In the last five years of my life, God has taught me what it means to love and to extend grace to those around me. I tell my dad I love him every chance I get and to hear those words said back to me: huge benefit! I don’t credit him with that. I can’t. All the credit goes to God…a heavenly Father I have chosen to honor…day in and day out…in spite of my humanity.  

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in being blessed with an earthly father, it’s that I have an endless, desperate need for Jesus. See musical inspiration from two of my favorite artists (Shane and Shane) here.

I may be my earthly father’s daughter.

But

By the grace of God Almighty

I’m also His.

I can proudly state that I am my Father’s daughter.

That being said, Dad (and all other dads out there) – these are for you:

Dear Dad,

My how the years have passed since you first took hold of me in your arms for the first time. A lot has changed since then, and not just my size.

Since Father’s Day is all about showing appreciation to our fathers, I wanted to reminisce a little on some old memories and appreciate you for all that you’ve done in my life.

I’m simply doing what I used to do when I still lived at home. I used to write you letters during special days and days in which things weren’t going so well. But today…

Today, I wanted to let you know that I love you and that I’m grateful God chose to bless me with you as my Dad.

When I was a child, I admired everything you did and attempted to mirror your actions. I remember piggy back rides through the fairgrounds and our evening rides on your Harley when I was four. There are times when I miss those days. Everything was simpler and time stood still.

You also set your goals high and did everything in your power to accomplish them. I look up to you for that. You’ve also always marched to the beat of your own drum, not bending to the ways of the world around us. God has moved you in ways you probably haven’t noticed or understand just yet, but I wanted you to know that I see His movement in your life and that’s exciting.

I also admire you for having the strength to stick with it when it seemed the world was against us. I know I probably didn’t honor you the way I should have when I was a teenager and for that I’m sorry. Forgive me? However, I will forever be grateful for the turn our relationship has taken.

I’ve been blessed to have you and Mom and the relationship we share. You play an important role in keeping our family together. It takes teamwork and hard work. You taught me that. We never went hungry and always had a roof over our heads. When we had little, the choice to give instead during the holidays will always resonate in my heart. Those years were the best.

You motivate me to do my best, to work hard and to have a little fun while doing so. Life isn’t always sunshine and moonbeams and during the time when it’s raining, all one has to do is shine a little light to find a few rainbows.

Thank you for setting that example.

Thank you for everything you’ve done for me.

I love you.

Your first-born daughter,

A.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

To my Abba,

What a day! A day to remember Who has taught me, guided me and instilled wisdom in me my entire life. You have promised countless times that you love me. You have promised countless times that You will never leave me. You even went so far as to show me how much You love me by sending Your only Son, Jesus. Can I ask for anything else? Of course I can, I always do. James reads: “ask our generous God, and He will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking” (James 1.5b). Your Son, Jesus, even stated, “You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father” (John 14.13). As any good father would do, You do what You feel is right in whether or not I should get what I ask for. It all comes down to the matter of my heart, which only You can see. What a terrifyingly beautiful thought!

I hope to one day be half the type of parent You’ve been to me. I hope that when my kids (if that be in Your plan for my life) need something, I’ll be there for them as You have been for me. I hope that when they have questions, that I’ll have the answers You’ve so freely given and that if I don’t, I’ll seek those answers in You. I hope that when they are going through good times or bad times that I’ll be there for them, just as You have always been there for me.

So I end this letter by saying thank you with a joyful heart for being my Father, in all ways, and by writing that I’ve been very blessed by being one of Your adopted children. Thank you for extending Your grace to ALL of the human race. Furthermore, I want to thank you for Your undivided attention even though You have countless children.

Happy Father’s Day (today, tomorrow and all the days to come)!

Love – Your Daughter