Saturday, June 18, 2011

"Who Am I?"

“Who Am I?”

Sociologists say that the answer one gives to this question reveals their identity and will determine how the person views, thinks, and handles every situation for the rest of their life.  

This question of trying to define our own identity is one that humankind has struggled with ever since the fall in the Garden of Eden. Genesis 2:25 reads, “And they were both naked, the man and his wife and they were not ashamed”. God created the perfect relational and physical environment in the Garden, where man, woman, and God could have the most full and deep relational connection. There was no need of hiding anything from one another. However, we know that this perfect environment did not last long because we see broken relationships and hurt people every single day! For many of you, you know how the rest of the story goes. Satan disguised himself as a serpent and caused Eve to question the words of God her Creator. Blame shifting passed from Adam to Eve to the Serpent and then to the One who created them all. This perfect relational environment was broken, and Adam and Eve felt ashamed, not only in front of each other but in front of God as well.

Satan’s other names are the “Deceiver” and the “Accuser”. He caused Eve to question God’s words, His love for her, His goodness towards her and ultimately her identity in the One who created her. Eve then saw that the fruit was “good for food, pleasant to the eyes, and desired to make one wise”. Satan’s ultimate goal was not to get Eve to sin by disobeying God’s commands but to cause her to turn and hide from God. Satan is still using these same three tactics today because he knows that they work so well! Satan knows God’s love for us is too strong, that He will never forsake us, (John 3:16) so all he needs us to do is to hide from this love that is freely offered. And we do this SO WELL.

Our society, (including you and me) hide by making masks for ourselves and putting on false identities. This is done in three ways; physically, emotionally, and spiritually. We change the way we look, act and think towards others to make them view us differently. We often hide from ourselves by doing these same things. Psalm 139:7-8, 11-12 says, “Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I hide from your presence? If I ascend up into heaven, You are there, if I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there…If I say, surely the darkness shall fall on me, even the night shall be light about me; indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You, but the night shines as the day.” God made no mistakes with us when He created each one of us uniquely and wonderfully. His thoughts towards us are far too numerous and precious. (Psalm 139:13-18) And get this, Psalm 139:1-4 tells us that He knows all our thoughts before we even think them! So basically, there is no need to try and “hide” from God, it’s useless. And secondly, He created you and me to have a personal relationship with, before sin entered into the world.

All these things are true even for His one and only Son, Jesus Christ. In Mark 1 during Jesus Christ’s baptism, God’s voice down from heaven and said, “This is my Beloved Son, in whom I Love and am well pleased”. This is such a significant statement in the Identity of the Son of God. First, God declares who Jesus is as His Son. He also says He loves Jesus and that He is well pleased in who He IS and not what He DOES because Jesus was only a carpenter to this point and had not yet started His work here on earth.

Immediately after this, Jesus was led out into the desert to be tempted by Satan in the exact same three ways Satan tempted Eve in the garden; by food (lust of his flesh), by the praise of men (lust of the eyes), and by power(pride of life). Nevertheless, Jesus, because His identity was in God His Father, He was able to resist the lies of Satan and lean upon truths.

These same truths can be true for us! If we truly believe that, we as broken and empty people, separated from God from our sin, need a Savior, a way for our relationship to be restored to God our Father and Creator, this all can be true for us. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation (our new identity), old things have passed away (our false identity) and behold all things have become new!

So, to answer the original question “Who am I?”, I can confidently say that I am a child of God. I am loved by God so much that He cannot possibly love me anymore or any less than He already does. And that His pleasure found in me is not by what I DO (or what society tells me I should do), but who I AM, created by Him and for Him. And it is sooo true! Because I am confident in my identity, it makes me so much more confident in every area of my life! I am not going to lie to you and put on a mask, and tell you that I am a perfect person in every way, or that life is a piece of cake, but it is a lot easier. Because there are times I do start to doubt God’s goodness and love for me when my flesh desires, or my eyes covet or when my pride gets in the way, but I can be sure of one thing. And this one thing is “The Lord my God is in my midst, The Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over me with gladness, He will quiet me with His love, He will rejoice over me with singing.” (Zephaniah 3:17)

Thank You Tom for reminding me of these precious truths. I pray the same for each one of you.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Blessed to be a Blessing

Today is one of those rainy afternoons, not much to do except to find ways to stay busy indoors. Fortunately for myself, this kind of task isn't too difficult. I decided the library would be the perfect place to get away and catch my breath while getting caught up on life and the tasks it brings with it. It's also allowed me to spend some time thinking upon all the craziness that has taken place over these past few weeks and the lessons I can take away from it all.

The weeks before coming into this summer training program brought with them unknown fears and expectations which I was unsure of how they would unfold. But as I look back over these past few weeks, some of these fears seem so minuscule while some new fears and expectations have developed. Let me expound on these a bit...

One expectation coming into this summer was that my team and I would be living in a luxurious hotel room, with plenty of space, an indoor swimming pool, continental breakfast, wi-fi and a location close to all the action. In reality, we are living in a very small two roomed motel, with three double beds and five girls all sharing one tiny bathroom. At first, it was a challenged to figure out how to cook a variety of meals from a small microwave and mini fridge. But I must say, I am pretty impressed by our creativity and preparation in order to eat healthy and plan out meals with the use of such small resources. Secondly, it has been kind of an adventure for me, living a minimalist life this summer out of a suitcase. The Lord has been teaching me in small ways to be content in every situation and that He is sufficient for my daily needs. From washing dishes in the bathroom tub to limited shower time on days when there is no hot water, God has been teaching us all what it means to put others first before your needs, (which is harder said than done). Thirdly, God has really been teaching me what it means to be intentional in relationships. One of my fears coming into this summer is that I would not just be a roommate and co-workers with my girls but a friend and a servant, and also setting the pace to live a life pleasing to God. This is also easier said than done. Especially after a long hard day at work when no one feels like doing anything. But I keep thinking on the verse found in Hebrews 10:24-25 "Therefore, let us consider one another to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another so much more as we see the day approaching." "Let us consider"... for me, this means being intentional about the time I spend and the example I set before these girls. It also means being intentional about the conversations I have with them, noticing their strengths and weaknesses and how I can "stir" them on. It means finding the balance between the "mother and father" roles as well as just being their friend. It also means that this growth does NOT come from me and my own strength but it all rest upon the Lord and His leading and perfect timing. I Corinthians 3:6-7 reminds me that as Christians we can be apart of the planting of the seed and the watering but ultimately it is God who gives the growth and the increase.

I also tend to want to see huge changes and big things happening in order to think God is at work. But obviously, that is not always how He works. But I can honestly tell you that He has been at work here in the Dells in many, many ways. One workshop we spent the night in prayer for those girls on our team still in need of meeting their goal for fundraising. Stress and anxiety began to build, and as Philippians 4:6-7 commands us to do, we spent time bringing our request to God in thanksgiving. It was so awesome to see donations pouring in over the few days, not only for my girls but for many others in the program. There is still needs to be met but God knows our needs and has and will continue to provide.

One of my fears coming into this program was that I would be inaccurate as a team leader and unable to relate to my girls. However, through my past experiences God has brought me through and the lessons I've learned from these varied trials, Romans 8:28 continues to be relevant in my life and with my girls as I spend one-on-one time getting to know each one of them. The things God has and is continuing to break me from such as; Independence upon my own strength rather than dependence upon His, perfectionism and performance, bitterness and hurt from ended friendships, conflict resolution, stubbornness, putting others and things before God and soo much more have all come into play and has allowed me to share my past experiences with each one of my ladies all while sharing life with them and having fun. God is so Good!

So, even though my fears and expectations coming into this summer are drastically different than the experiences I have had so far here in the Dells, what continues to be the same is God's faithfulness to me in every place and situation in my life. Looking back, God has really prepared me by the many different and unique situations and people He has brought into my life and who have poured into me so that I may someday pour into others. I am truly blessed.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Laboring for Christ

It has been a fun couple of weeks in the state of Wisconsin. It's been very, very humid but it is also very, very beautiful here. Tuesdays are our program days here in the Dells and we were given the chance to explore more of this marvelous state by taking a day trip down to Madison. For any of you who have never been to the capital of Wisconsin, well...let me tell you, its a very interesting city. It's been said that the state of Wisconsin at one point was picked up and shaken around until all the crazies of the state fell to the bottom. And that, is exactly what we seemed to discover as we walked the streets of Madison.

Our goal was not just site seeing and people watching, (which is always fun and interesting) but it was something bigger, better and more intimidating than that. It was to proclaim to the city of Madison what Jesus Christ has done for the world, and how He has impacted each one of our lives personally. We split up into twos and set out across the college campus of UW-Mad with 40,000+ students, capital hill with its protesters against Scott Fitzgerald and his budget cuts, and state street with businessmen and homeless a like. The perfect atmosphere to test our faith for sure.

My team was assigned to the memorial union which was holding a research convention at the time and was where all the students were cramming for their summer finals. This made it a little difficult to strike up conversations with people but we got lucky when we started asking some if they would kindly help us out by answering a couple questions from a spiritual interest survey we were conducting. I will spare you from all the details from every conversations we had in those two short hours but some of the questions and answers went a little like this...

Q: Do you have any spiritual views or beliefs?
A: "Yes, Christian, Quaker, Not Church, No clue..."

Q: To YOU, who is Jesus?
A: "A prophet, just a man, my Savior, a deceptive concept."

Q: Are you satisfied with your meaning of life?
A: "Yes, I don't know, No"

Q: What do you believe happens after death?
A: "Nothing, heaven or hell, reincarnation, there is no death, a transition time"

Q: If what you believed was not the truth, would you want to know?
A: "Yes, YES!, Yes... that is why I am going back to school"

Q: Would you mind if we shared with you a verse (Romans 6:23) that sums up the bible in 5 minutes?

Now this is where it started to get interesting....

Those who had said they were Christians surprisingly still did not grasp the full understanding of the gospel and how as sinners we earn, or are wages of sin is death! And that God sent us a FREE gift through Jesus Christ that we may spend eternity with Him in heaven if only we believe and receive that He is the only way.

Those who were obviously desperately seeking after truth were "too busy" to hear the five minute message of the "good news". One lady in particular really stood out to me. It was obvious as we went through the survey that she was a very sad and an empty woman, seeking to find the truth by going back to school to get her masters in sociology. She had said if there was truth she would like to know it, and when we asked if we could share briefly with her the joy that we had discovered, she firmly turned us down. As I walked away, I looked her in the eyes and said to her that I really hope she finds what she is looking for, and I will never forget the empty look in her eyes as she replied, "I really hope so too".

As we regrouped with the rest of the Navigator students and we went around the room sharing our stories, some where so mind blowingly awesome at how obvious and clear God had been working in their lives and how He used our courage to go out and speak His name for His glory. Other stories were not so encouraging as people's responses clearly showed that they were hard to the gospel due to so called "Christians" living out hypocritical lives in front of them. But by the end of the day, I realized that there are so many people we pass by daily that are hurting and searching for the truth, that are open and wanting to talk if we would just take the time and not be afraid to share our source of joy and life with them!

I continually am reminded of the passage in Romans 1 where Paul says that he is a debtor to both the Jews and the Greeks and reminds us it is our responsibility and honor as redeemed people to share our redemption with those who are still lost. I am blown away by the fact that God has chosen us unworthy yet redeemed people to be His ambassadors to share with the world what He has done for us when He could have chosen to use angels instead! I am also reminded that God's word does not return void and we are called to be laborers for Christ, to plant the seed and do the watering, but it is God who gives the growth. We are not alone.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Trees Of Righteousness

"...That they may be called tress of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified." Isaiah 61:3b

I never thought I would be the one to succumb to the "blogger lifestyle", but the more people that I talk to and the more time I spend here in the Dells, the more I begin to see what a shame it would be for me to keep it a secret the things the Spirit is doing in this city and in my own life. And so here it is... the beginnings of my summer adventure here in the Wisconsin Dells.

For those of you who may not know why I am spending eleven weeks and three days in one of the biggest tourist traps of the mid-west, let me clue you in...

Before the school year came to a close, I had what I thought was the perfect plan for the perfect summer…until Someone with a bigger and better plan got a hold of my heart.  My desires changed from trying to find the perfect internship and making a name for myself to making a name for my Lord and Savior. I felt God placing a burden on my heart to do something that could help develop the spiritual foundation of my life and prepare me for a lifetime of serving Christ, no matter what career choice I may take. This is something a summer internship cannot prepare me for in life.

Instead, God has graciously sought me out and provided me a unique opportunity to join several other students from several universities across the Upper Midwest for a spiritual development program facilitated by The Navigators, an interdenominational Christian organization ( It is called The Dells STP! This Summer Training Program (STP) will be located in the city of Wisconsin Dells, WI. It is a unique and exciting opportunity for me to intentionally focus on training and growth in Christ.

What I am most excited about and most fearful as well, is for God to begin to show me His purpose in me being here this summer. After listening to others share their excitements to be a witness at their summer jobs, sharing Christ with internationals, and disciplining their team members to chase after God, I guess to be honest, I feel a bit selfish in my desire to be here this summer. And that desire is for God to change my heart for Him and teach me secrets about Himself I do not already know. But then again, isn't that what He desires for each one of us?

Much of my growth I believe will happen within my team of four girls. I was honored when asked to use my skills as a team leader for this summer, along with the privilege to encourage and disciple these girls to seek and to serve after the Lord together. We are live together, work together, study the Bible together, ministering together, and hopefully having loads of FUN and unique experiences together.

Another stretching experience for me this summer will be the many chances I get to rub shoulders with those who do not know Christ as their Savior in central Wisconsin as I seek to learn how to impact them for Christ. Did you know that 4,000+ international students from around the globe come to work at the Wisconsin Dells each summer?! And not only that but this small town of 5,000 jumps to 50,000 during these few short months and nearly 7 million people from all over pass through this city. What a unique opportunity to reach the nations right here in one place! 

So...The reason I am sharing this unique opportunity with you is that I would love each one of you to join me in prayer and consider being a part of my support team. I also consider it a great privilege to share with you the work God is doing here in this city. He has been faithful to us thus far and I cannot wait to share His continued faithfulness with you all this summer.

I will end with a few verses I claimed for myself when I first realized this is where the Lord was leading me for the summer and that I will continue to claim while here in the Dells.

Acts 21:22-24 "And see, now I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem (Wisconsin Dells) no knowing the thins that will happen to me there, except that then Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me, But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received form the Lord Jesus , to testify to the gospel of the grace of God."