Finding Amazement

Amazement : An overwhelming feeling of surprise or astonishment


This past weekend I flew to Indianapolis for one of my dearest friends weddings. While on my flight back, I ended up sitting next to a young boy who was traveling alone. I don’t know if this was his first flight but during takeoff, I couldn’t help but notice how he stared out the window in amazement while so many other passengers were already engrossed in their work or movies.

It got me thinking — the first time people fly they go through a wide range of emotions. Most are completely amazed by the airplanes ability to hold all the people, luggage, and machinery it takes to operate, yet still fly so easily. Some have hesitations, but chose to trust the ability of the plane, the past planes they’ve seen, and the testimonies of people enough to get on the plane. Some are excited to see the world in a whole new light, and any fear they may have had begins to slip away.

Yet, overtime all of these emotions seem to level out. People who travel a lot lose the amazement of flight. They no longer stare out the window mesmerized by the takeoff and landing. They don’t admire the mountains, oceans, cities, fields, and millions of people they fly over. They simply pull out their book, put in their headphones, or start their work the minute they sit in their super small seat. Some even close the window, completely shutting out the view. They’re still trusting the plane to get them from place A to B but are no longer excited for the journey, instead they’re simply there, using the plane for a means to get to their end.

As I thought through this, I couldn’t help but notice how it not only happens to our flights, but more importantly, it happens to our faith. When starting off, new Christ followers are on fire for God. So excited about the journey ahead, maybe slightly fearful but irregardless they trust the ability of our Creator to get them to where they’re going. They stand amazed as they see the world in a whole new light, admiring what God has created and the difference His presence makes in their life. But as time goes on and they become more comfortable in their faith, life happens, and the church experience is no longer new, they become unamazed. Simply going through the motions each day — still trusting God, but no longer enjoying His journey fully — just simply getting through the ride.

I’ll be honest, it’s easy for me to be amazed by God when I’m in a new place. Sitting on a mountain side in California a couple weeks ago, there was no prompting needed, I could easily dwell on the amazing ability of our Creator and the magnificent world He has made. But in the mundane of daily activities? I mean how do you find time to be amazed by God when you’re drowning in work or running from one activity to the next? When at the end of the day the only thing that amazes you is how great your bed feels when you know you can fully give yourself into sleep?

Truthfully, I’ve found it’s not hard, it just takes effort and the ability to be still. You see, on the mountaintop in Cali I’m by myself, no cell service, no interruptions, no distractions, just simply me and the amazing creation around. At home, I have work, practice, friends, Netflix, and a host of other distractions. In both places, I have the Holy Spirit dwelling inside me. In both places, I have the ability to talk to God, but in one place I have the desire and amazement, in the other I have distractions and deterrents.

I’m guessing for you, it’s the same way — in the quiet of your life, you’re able to focus on God and His amazing nature, but as soon as your day begins He becomes a mere item crossed off your list instead of the mindset guiding your thoughts. With the Holy Spirit dwelling inside us, we have an irreplaceable gift — literally God lives IN us… that alone should make us live constantly amazed.

Hebrews 12:1 states, “Since we are surrounded by such a great crowd of witnesses let us throw off everything that hinders us and the sin that so easily entangles us and let us run with perseverance the race that is marked out for us.”

When was the last time you “threw off everything that hindered you?” Don’t misunderstand this, this isn’t asking when was the last time you got rid of a bad sinful habit or repented of your sins but with the distinction made, the writer is separating what hinders you from what entangles you. Both keep you from spending time with God and reaching His full potential for your life, but our hinderances don’t have to be sinful. Maybe one of yours is binge watching a season or show on Netflix — although not sinful, is it helping you “run with perseverance the race that is marked out for you?” Or maybe your job is so overwhelming that it constantly consumes your mind — again not sinful, but it’s keeping you from spending time with God. So what are your hinderances in life?

Now let’s be real — for some people (like myself) your schedule always seems to fill up, whether it be with every church activity or a wide range of interests, you’re never sitting still. I’m not suggesting you change your entire lifestyle, but rather re-learn to be amazed. Throw off a few hinderances so you have time to think as you go from one place to another — turn off the music and enjoy the drive home. Notice the cute houses or the busy street — marvel at the fact that every single person you pass, God knows indefinitely. Admire the fact that each person, tree, dog, or whatever you pass was created uniquely by God’s design — no two things look exactly alike. Or turn on the radio and appreciate God’s gift of music and the people He’s chosen to give the gift too.

Choosing to be amazed isn’t difficult but so often we bog ourselves down with so much stuff, we don’t give our minds time to dwell in amazement. We put God as an item on our to-do list: morning quiet time  prayer before dinner  said goodnight grace √  and then fill our day with every other activity we can think of.

Instead why don’t we try threading God throughout our day. Teaching our minds to notice the amazing world He has blessed us with. Spending time reading His scripture to learn, instead of to check it off our list before rushing off to answer emails. Seeing each interaction we have as not just another interaction at work, but realizing the person in front of you or on the phone with you is a unique individual created by God, loved by God, and known by God.

I challenge you to change your mindset, be like the boy on the plane, sitting in amazement even if nothing is new. Run the race God has for you, not the busy race the world is telling you to run. Enjoy the small moments. Thank God for the unexpected blessings. Notice the sunny day, love the uniqueness of those around you and pray for a heart of amazement.

Throw off the hinderances, dwell in the Spirit, and I promise you’ll be amazed by our Creator.

Freedom isn’t Free

Freedom isn’t free — a common known phrase often used around Memorial, Veterans and Independence Day. Why? Because we never want to downplay the sacrifice our soldiers and their families gave in order for us to obtain the freedom we have today.

This past Memorial Day I was preparing the devotional for the volleyball team I help coach and stumbled upon that phrase. We so often think of freedom only being in a political sense. Our Bill of Rights gives us the freedom to do a lot of things — speak, petition, vote, etc. We’re the “Land of the Free,” a place so many run to to find refuge from their oppression. But how true is that phrase when looking at our spiritual freedom?



As a Christian, our spiritual freedom allows us to talk with our Creator, to be free from our past and the mistakes we’ve made. It allows us to be washed in an ocean of grace so we have the full assurance of our salvation. This freedom guides our future, allowing the best path to open for us if we fully follow what the Word says.

Freedom isn’t free. The freedom we’ve obtained through Christ came at a cost.  For America, men go off to war all the time, hoping to come home to their families again, but know there is a cost to keep our country free. For Christ followers, God sent His one and only Son, knowing full well Christ would be ridiculed, tortured, and crucified, so that we could obtain this freedom (John 3:16). He wanted us to live a life free from our sin stained flesh, much like our government wants us to live a life free from the restrictions of the lands they left.

20130704_freedom

If you’re new to the Christian faith or haven’t really explored it much you may think I’m crazy in saying Christians have “freedom” — since let’s be honest, many people feel Christianity can be restricting. Honestly, yes it can, but when you realize the restrictions are for your own good they soon become less restrictions and more guardrails, keeping you from going where you could hurt yourself.

Think of it this way — if our government didn’t have the laws in place and we just let anyone and everyone do what they wanted to do, our nation would be a disaster. People would be stealing when they saw fit, no taxes would ever be paid so our roads would be worse, we would start to live in a world of fear — is this freedom? No not really. Our freedom lies inside the guidelines our government gives. Through these guidelines we are able to achieve great things. Our homes are safe. Our highways are paved. Our lives are lived without real fear.



Christ’s sacrifice gives us THE SAME sort of freedom. Let’s look at a hot topic: abstaining from sex until marriage (Eph. 5:5; Heb. 13:4). God puts this as a rule to protect us — nothing good ever comes from extramarital sex. Think about it, you’re connecting yourself with someone in the most intimate way possible — no one can know you more physically than someone who has sex with you (Gen. 2:24) — yet there is no promise they will stay with you, no matter what they say there is no guarantee of forever (because the Bible also says a marriage covenant is forever — but that’s a whole other topic). Has anyone really woken up from a one night stand and not had any guilt about it? Or gone through a breakup and regretted giving their all to the person? Is that freedom? Or are you becoming a slave to your sexual desires — only fulfilling the need because it’s there and it feels good, not because it really benefits your life? Maybe that’s just my mindset but I’ve seen too many friends deal with this to really think you can shake it all off as easily as people try to play if off like they can. Let me clear something up — I have nothing against sex at all, our God-given desire is to be known fully by another — but that doesn’t mean we need to be fully known by the entire high school baseball team. Understand? Look at this on the flip side — talk to any couple who waited until marriage to have sex and you’ll notice there is absolutely no regret in waiting. Their sex life means something because it’s just between them and doesn’t have their past in the bed with them causing them to compare. In both scenarios we have the freedom to choose. One choice leads to freedom from guilt and shame the other choice leads to momentary fulfillment but weight on our conscience.

I know it’s just one example and y’all might not agree, but when looking at freedom you will always have discrepancies as to what being “free” really looks like. A free spirit is usually someone who just goes with the flow, does whatever they feel, and doesn’t have a care in the world. Their perception of freedom might look way different than someone who needs a lot of structure in their life to feel fully themselves. God’s freedom allows us to be completely who we were made to be. Hebrews 12:1 says, “let us throw off everything that hinders us and the sin that so easily entangles us and let us run with perseverance the race that is marked out for us.” Being set free in Christ is releasing the weight of life from your shoulders. He’s got everything under control. You’re free from worry. Free from guilt. Free from shame. You’re given grace and forgiveness. Your life is a whole new blank slate every day — nothing — and I mean nothing — can separate you from His freedom once you’ve fully accepted it.

A part of the freedom Christ gave us was the freedom to choose. You may not believe in the whole Jesus thing — you might think you’re better on your own and making your own decisions — and that’s your choice. God isn’t forcing you to choose Him, He’s giving you the option, but when you fully understand the freedom you have in Christ, the gift of Heaven, the salvation from Hell, and the love you will receive, the choice becomes a whole lot easier.



As I wrap this up, let me be clear on one thing — God’s freedom does not include freedom from hardship or suffering on earth. Our freedom to choose comes with consequences and unfortunately we don’t get to choose those consequences. Sometimes we have hardships that have nothing to do with our specific actions but rather are tied to the fact that evil is in the world. God doesn’t enjoy suffering, so please don’t ever think that God is wishing suffering upon you. Yes, Hell is a place full of suffering people are condemned to, but if you choose to reject God and all that He has offered to you there’s consequences for your choice, just like if you choose to commit a crime, there are consequences for your actions. I don’t wish that upon anyone — if it were up to me, everyone would come to love the Lord and experience the freedom I have found in Him. But unfortunately that isn’t everyone’s choice.

Freedom isn’t free but a life in Christ is, and it provides you a freedom you won’t ever regret. A freedom you never knew you wanted and a freedom you’ll want everyone to have.

Social Media & Me

These days it seems like there are millions of articles about the effects of social media on today’s society. I’m no expert on the matter, in fact I really have no psychology background besides my freshman college gen ed requirement. BUT I can tell you, social media has had a profound effect on my life, and today I’m going to share it with you.

The picture on the left is of me at a fundraiser banquet. I took the picture and was hesitant to post it, because honestly I hate posting selfies, never been a fan and probably never will be. The picture on the right is of a favorite quote and reminder. I had absolutely no hesitation in posting the quote because it’s something I care about and is something I feel is great to spread. When I posted these two photos, my selfie got close to 175 likes on two social media platforms (which for me is A TON), my quote got a mere 25… so what does this show me? Who I am on the outside matters more to people than who I am on the inside. Now would we say that out loud? OF COURSE NOT! But inwardly we are professing it every time we value someones outward appearance over their inward ambition and beliefs.

Now you might think I’m crazy, and if so, congrats you’re one step closer to realizing we’re all a little crazy. But let me ask you something, how many of you have posted something on social media just for the likes or just to make it seem like your having the time of your life? When in reality you’re not happy, you’re tired or worn out. To be honest, I think we all have. I think we post so many selfies because we want to be seen as beautiful, we want to keep up with what society is telling us. But for what purpose. You got 150 likes on your selfie, so what? You got 15 likes on your post, what does it matter? At the end of the day you are you. And to quote Dr. Seuss:

Dr Seuss

If we are who we are — why do we worry so much about what others think. Why do we count the likes on the pictures. Why do we have to make it seem like we’re having a great time, when in reality we’re chillin’ at home watching baseball? Why do we make it seem like our relationships are going extremely well, when they’re falling apart at the seems? Don’t you get it — we all have struggles, we all have bad hair days, we all have doubts, but we’re all valuable, we all matter EXACTLY THE SAME to Christ. He isn’t going to welcome us into eternity based on the number of likes we have on a picture, based on the number of retweets we got, or based on the number of followers we have. He’s going to welcome us in based on our faith in Him and our belief in His sacrifice and saving grace.

Be yourself quote

So next time you get on social media, rejoice in your friends relationships instead of feeling left out that you don’t have one (and trust me I’m speaking as much to myself on this point as I am to anyone). Encourage your friends to post ABOUT themselves not OF themselves. Don’t feel like you need to post selfies constantly, let’s be real, your face hasn’t changed that much from last week or last month…. Use your social media to express who you are because only you are you! To be completely real, when I open someones social media and see a ton of selfies my first thought is not “oh gosh she’s beautiful or he’s hot” my first thought is usually “woah they’re kinda self centered.” Is that the mindset of everyone, no probably not, and I personally need to be better at not judging others. But let’s be real, when we post selfies are we thinking of other people or are we usually thinking of ourselves?

Challenge yourself to post about other people, books you like, quotes you live by, movies you saw, whatever it is that makes you unique and wholly you…. THEN, turn off the notifications. Seriously do it. I started this last week, turned off all notifications on all of my social media networks and let me tell you, it is the MOST REFRESHING thing I have done in a long long time. I don’t feel the need to get on it all the time. I don’t feel like I have to come up with these amazing posts that are going to make everyone love me. I just post, knowing that what I post is true to who I am. I’m more productive at work, more relaxed when hanging out with friends, and more confident in being truly myself.

Stop caring

Yes I still compare myself to others, and I think to an extent I always will, but it’s been so much better since I’ve found peace in just being myself. Every once in a while post a selfie, but use it to show us who you are — post it with a fun hat you found, with your new favorite workout shirt, or with the mountain you just climbed. Stop just posting to post, to try and prove to yourself that you’re beautiful because the truth is YOU ARE, but it’s not your face or your body that makes you that way. You might think you’re trying to prove to everyone else and not yourself, but a million selfies isn’t changing someone’s mind. It’s how you act and treat others that prove to others how beautiful you really are. This week I found the song Pretty by Lauren Alaina and it has become one of my favorite songs simply because IT’S SO TRUE! It proves the exact point I am trying to make and the point I hope you all take home with you today.

I’ll be honest, this isn’t an easy task. We’ve grown up in a society that glorifies social media but in the midst of it, we’ve stopped living. Go out and have fun with your friends and put the phone down. Enjoy the moment, make memories, have real conversations, be vulnerable, be yourself, and win your life back. Stop worrying about how everyone is going to perceive your adventures or your nights you’re staying inside. If you love to sit and read then sit and read, don’t make it seem like you’re out having a great time or feel bad that you aren’t. Be true to who you are, because the people who know you already love you for it. Please stop hurting yourself by letting everyone else be the judge of your self worth. You are beautiful. You are valuable. You are You — so let us see the real you, the true you, the baseball loving sweet tea drinking late night reading you, not the you you feel you have to be for society’s sake.

Choosing Joy. Everyday.

I’ve had a hard time recently thinking of what my next blog post should be about. My last two were so open and vulnerable, so to follow I felt I had to have something drastic to say. I’ve come to the realization though, that everyday lessons are just as important as those drastic AH-HA type moments.

Each day we are faced with millions of choices.

Can I hit the snooze one more time?

What outfit should I wear? 

Starbucks for the flavor, or WaWa for the price….

These choices may seem simple or mundane; choices we make without giving more than a couple seconds thought to it. But what about our attitude choice, do we consciously choose our attitude day by day, moment by moment? It may sound weird to think about, but humor me. When was the last time you consciously chose to be happy, even if the situation didn’t necessarily warrant it? If it’s been a while, then today’s post might be just for you.

One of my favorite new found quotes is by Henri J.M. Nouwen,

Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day.

 

Choosing Joy

 

Joy is a choice we make EVERY DAY. There is ALWAYS something to be joyful about.

If you’re a real debby downer or are going through a difficult time in life you may disagree with me, but bear with me for a couple more minutes and I’ll prove to you why I think this is true.

John 15:9-14 states “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command.”

Christ has filled us with His joy if we follow his command to love one another. Our choice is to love others and as we go about our day loving others, Christ’s joy will be full in us. It’s why at Christmas we sing “Joy to the world, the Lord has come” Because Jesus is our joy.

Now let me make a quick disclaimer, joy and happiness are NOT the same thing. Happiness is a feeling, joy is a state of being. Happiness is dictated by what happens to you. Joy is dictated by how you view yourself.

If you view yourself as a beautiful creation, made in the image of God, loved by God, saved by God, and given the ability to spend eternity with God, you will no doubt have the joy of the Lord in you. When you come to a full understanding of how precious God views you and how valuable you are in His sight, then there is reason for joy day after day. The Creator of the universe loves you unconditionally, despite our failure, despite our attitudes, despite anything and everything we do, God love us. That in and of itself is reason to have joy. Every. Single. Day.

Now let me be clear, this doesn’t mean we won’t have troubles or that days are going to be easy. It just means that in the midst of hardship, confusion, or desperation, we have a joy to cling to. When everything seems to be going wrong, we have the joy of the Lord to remind us in the end, everything will be right. And when everything is going right and life seems to be all rainbows and butterflies, we don’t have to worry about the rollercoaster of potential happenings, we can be secure in God’s joy, knowing whatever may happen our joy is complete in Him.

Joy quote.jpg

So how do we go about achieving this joy — by making a conscious choice EVERYDAY. By reading the Word of God and meditating on it, by filling our minds with the truth God has promised us. By loving others. When we’re selflessly loving and generously giving a joyful heart becomes natural. Seriously, have you ever seen a truly generous person with a bitter heart? Or witnessed someone who continually loved others have an ungrateful mentality? I sure haven’t. Because when you continually love and continually are authentically generous, you start to see yourself in a different light and start to see the materials you own and the time you have as mere tools instead of possessions you can’t let go.

If you’re failing to find joy everyday, try for one week to consciously change your mindset. If it’s a rainy day, thank God for the invention of umbrellas or the rain for the crops. If you don’t like the meal your mom made, find joy in the fact you have food on your table and a mom who prepared it for you. If you hate your job, be joyful you have one, find joy in the education you’ve earned to be able to apply for one, or consider it joy that we live in a country where you have the freedom to change jobs. Whatever it is you let steal your joy, try counteracting it. Try opening your mind to find the joy every day. And if all else fails, use this as a motivation to start memorizing God’s word, because I promise you, that will not disappoint.

Joy is a choice. So make it yours today.

True Vulnerability

“A flower does not think of competing with the flower next to it, it just blooms.”

A few weeks ago I wrote a blog about finding our identity in Christ. Yesterday I came to the full realization that although I wholeheartedly believe it’s true, I haven’t wholeheartedly accepted it.

As I write this weeks blog I realize sometimes you have to be completely vulnerable with yourself and others in order to bring about the change that is desperately needed. So please know as I write every word, I’m not asking for sympathy or pity likes, but rather hope that my complete vulnerability will not only start a change for me, but allow others to start the change they need as well.

For those of you that know me well, you might know where this all began. About 10 months ago I got into a relationship with a guy that I thought in so many ways was the perfect guy for me. I was excited about the relationship and felt I finally fit in with all my coupled friends. As the time went on, I started to ignore the red flags, making excuses on his behalf, why? because I was so excited to finally “fit in”, to finally have someone to talk about when all my girl friends were talking about their dates or weekend plans. When he and I were having a good day, I was on cloud nine, but when things weren’t going so well, I felt extremely low. To give him the grace and respect everyone deserves, I’ll spare the details, but after an extreme rollercoaster ride of emotions, things came to a complete abrupt halt in February. He had moved on and was happy with someone else, so why in April was I still struggling with the fact that things had ended? Why was I so desperately vying for the attention I knew he wasn’t going to give? And that’s when I realized where my identity fell.

So often I find myself striving to fit in or be accepted by others. Yes, I’m always myself and I truly believe I am, but where I seem to find my value has not been in what our Creator thinks of me, but rather what the created think. I busy my schedule to the point of exhaustion because I never want anyone to think I’m not willing to help them out. I cling to an unhealthy relationship because I find confidence in the skewed acceptance I felt. I build my identity on the things I can see and the perception I feel everyone expects me to be. But that’s so wrong.

The scriptures call us to surround ourselves with godly people and as I talked with my best friend last night, I was reminded just how important that is. As she dug down deep into my confidence issues, from when I got kicked out of my friend group in middle school because I wasn’t “cool” enough, to when a close friend replaced me with a new girl in town, to my weight struggles and acne flares, I realized my confidence issues stem from something so much greater than being rejected by a guy.

I so often find myself striving and striving to be accepted by others that I forget I’m already accepted by God. My senior year in college I worked 4 jobs, took 18 credit hours, was the President of an organization, and constantly created events for my friend group so we could have some great memories before we parted ways. I was EXHAUSTED to say the least, but in my eyes I was accepted. I was loved for all I did and I found confidence in knowing I could handle everything that was thrown on my plate, even if it came at expense to my well-being. How ironic that in my senior year at a Christian college I so easily walked straight into the trap and temptation of mistaken confidence.

Unfortunately, this carried over into my internship, relationships, career, and everything afterwards. I was confident in who I was until something went wrong. I was unable to see it as a circumstance that changed or a healthy failure I could learn from; instead I saw it as something wrong with me, something I was unable to be successful at, something that I strived to own and completely failed. I would look around at all my friends and their successful careers and relationships and soon I would be piling more stuff on my plate so I could “measure up” or have a valid excuse for why some things I so desperately wanted weren’t working out.

As I walked through the streets of Richmond, crying and noticing just how far off track I’d let myself get, I came face-to-face with the full acceptance of God’s grace. Our Creator does not make mistakes, He knew our struggles before we had them. He’s been working on this issue in my life for years and sometimes the things that tear us apart and completely break us (like a failed relationship) are our saving grace. They allow us to hit the bottom of OUR confidence and OUR efforts so we can recognize how desperately we NEED CHRIST.

Grace

This weekend is Easter weekend, and what better time to be reminded of how great our God is. To Him I am perfectly accepted just the way I am. No extra activities or boyfriend could make me more valuable to Him. No work accomplishments or smaller pant size could make me a better asset to His kingdom. In His eyes, I am everything I need to be because He created me with everything I needed. There is nothing I can do or say to change that. To Him I am worth sending His Son to die for me so that I may live eternally with Him.

So how do I wholeheartedly accept that fact? It’s easy for me to believe but hard for me to accept. I can read in the Bible everything God has called me and made me, but it’s so challenging to remember that when the world is telling you something completely different. But that’s just it. Why do I need to worry about what the world says? Why do I need to carry the weight of their approval? I don’t.

So starting today I’m taking back my life. I’m putting the word “no” back in my vocabulary and understanding that taking time for myself is extremely important. I’m cutting out the things and the people that cause anxiety and make me feel I’m not worth the value God has already given me. It’s a process and will take time, but as I grow in an understanding of God’s grace and acceptance, the confidence I need to get through the day will soon come from Him alone. God has equipped me with everything I need to accomplish the purpose He has set out for me. I am enough because God says I am and that’s the reality I chose to live in.

Becoming Selfless

Each month I try and pick a phrase, quote, or verse in which I want to make my focus for the month. Some examples of these quotes are:

“Every day may not be good, but there is something good in everyday.” – Alice Morse Earle

“But to those who are listening I say, ‘Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who mistreat you.'” Luke 6: 27-28

This months quote has been one I’ve thrown around a lot but have decided to focus on because it can truly make an impact not only on the lives of others but on my life as well.

“BE SOMEBODY WHO MAKES EVERYBODY FEEL LIKE A SOMEBODY” – unknown

The core of this phrase can be backed up by so many biblical verses —

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves, looking not only to your own interest but also to the interest of others.” Philippians 2:3-4

“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve others and give himself as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:28

“The king will answer them, ‘I can guarantee this truth: Whatever you did for one of my brothers or sisters, no matter how unimportant they seemed, you did for me.” Matthew 25:40 (emphasis mine).

And so many more.

When I think about this months quote and how it can influence others I realize the core of myself and everyone is to be selfish. We are born with selfish ambitions, how many toddlers do we hear scream “MINE!” or get upset when they have to share?

But what if we changed that? What if we went about our day everyday striving to make the people around us feel as if they mattered and they were important, putting others first, no matter their social status, the benefits they can or cannot give us, but simply seeing them as a person created and loved by God, worthy of our attention. Would it make a difference in our lives? It should.

“But to mean it when I say that I want my life to count for His glory is to drive a stake through the heart of self – a painful and determined dying to me that must be a part of every day I live.”
Louie Giglio

If we are truly striving every day to make our lives count for the Kingdom of God, then why do we pick and choose who we are selfless too? Why do we create social statuses in our mind of who we can and cannot associate with? Why do we lose our temper with certain people instead of being patient and realizing they are made in the image of God?

Being selfless isn’t easy, it can be tiring and draining, but if everyone is being selfless, then in turn everyone is also encouraging and pouring into people. I pour into you, you pour into her, she pours into me, and in the end we’ve all given, but we’ve also all received. Christ did not give us our gifts and our blessings so that we could become proud and disregard other people. He gave us our gifts, talents, financial blessings, etc. so that we could pour into the people around us and in turn serve His Kingdom more fully.

So this week I challenge you to “be somebody who makes everybody feel like a somebody.” That man on the corner, the cashier at the store, the server at the restaurant, whoever it is, be the light of Christ to them. Show them God’s love and remind them they are important and they do have value, thank them for serving you and in turn go do the same for someone else. Nobody should ever feel they are disregarded, so be a voice of love, a smile as you pass by, or a listening ear when it’s needed. Because our greatest purpose is to serve Christ and how do we do that? By loving His people.

“He must become greater and I must become less.” John 3:30

Epaphras Ministry

Hello and welcome to my new blog Epaphras Ministry. You may be wondering why Epaphras, well I’m glad you asked.

I was listening to a sermon the other day in which my uncle spoke on Colossians 4:12-13, highlighting a man named Epaphras. He’s a bible character many of us have overlooked and know absolutely nothing about. But as I heard the sermon and learned more about Epaphras I realized he was just the kind of servant I hoped to one day be. Listen to the words spoken about him:

“12 Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured. 13 I vouch for him that he is working hard for you and for those at Laodicea and Hierapolis.” Colossians 4:12-13

First off Epaphras is known as a servant of Christ Jesus. Paul doesn’t talk about his other occupations, or identities, but rather focuses on the most important and valuable part of who he is. He is a SERVANT of Christ.

Secondly, Epaphras sends greetings. This may sound a little strange to think of as a great feature, but it’s the encouragement behind the greeting that is important. How many times have we sent a random greeting to a friend only to find out they were having a rough day and needed a greeting at just that time? Maybe it hasn’t happened to you, but it’s happened to me quite a few times. It takes little effort to shoot a text or send a letter, but the impact it can have is infinite at times.

Next, Paul points out Epaphras’ heart for the Church. He is ALWAYS wrestling in prayer. I don’t know about you, but I can sometimes get lazy in my prayer life, having my meal prayers and my bedtime prayers and that’s about it. How awesome would it be if we were ALWAYS in a state of prayer, wrestling for those who need it most? Praying for the strength we all need to “stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured.” We could honestly change the world. One thing to note is, Epaphras prayed for the PERSON not the SITUATION. We can’t always control the situation around us but we can always control how we act in, and respond to, a certain situation.

Finally, Epaphras has Paul vouching for his work ethic. Paul, a huge biblical figure, is vouching for him, making us realize how hard of a worker he really is. That right there should make us want to know more about his work and the impact he is making for the Kingdom. But what I also think is important to note, Epaphras is listed in a group of people Paul is recognizing. The Christian community is a team and one of the best teams we will ever be a part of. But it’s just that, a team. No one man is greater than another in the Christian community, we are all loved by God, we are all servants of Christ, Paul just had the platform to recognize Epaphras for his work and he took the opportunity to do so.

At this point you might be thinking, this is a cool name, but what’s the point. The point is this, we all have the ability to be an Epaphras. We can all pray, we can all encourage, we can all serve Christ where he’s put us, we can all work hard, we just have to CHOOSE to do so. Epaphras chose each and every day he was going to serve Christ. It wasn’t always easy and it may not have always made sense, but he still chose everyday and in the end we see he made an impact for the Kingdom. He didn’t get the grand recognition Paul or Peter or some of the other biblical characters did, but that never stopped him from knowing who he was in Christ and serving God each and every day. Our reward is in Heaven (Matthew 5:12) so the recognition we do or don’t get in this life shouldn’t matter. Each of us have been placed in a unique position to do the work of God right where we’re at. Some of you may be called to go out, others may be called to stay in the same small town forever, both are perfectly fine, as long as you use whatever platform and position you have to share God’s love with the community you’re in.

Right now, my unique place is in Richmond, Virginia with a non-profit and a travel volleyball team. I have the opportunity every couple weeks to lead a devotional with the volleyball team and share the love of Christ with them. This blog will be filled with the lessons we learn this season as well as the personal lessons God shows me throughout the year. I will try and be as consistent as possible in posting a weekly blog, but no promises.

I’ve learned over the years encouragement can come in many different forms, so as I write each and every post I would love to hear feedback. Let me know your thoughts, other topics you feel are relevant, encouragement, or even disagreements. I want what is posted on this blog to be an encouragement to you and the community you serve. For now this is a blog and just a blog, but I hope to one day branch this out to be a mobile ministry to encourage the Christian community in whatever way God chooses to use it.

So with all that being said, I’ll leave you with one last quote from the sermon mentioned above, “Through SERVING and IMPACT we can outlive time and leave a legacy.” Go, leave your legacy, be an Epaphras.

 

**Bob King, “Making Your Mark: Week 6 Serving” (video of sermon, Ada Bible Church, Ada, Michigan, February 12, 2017), accessed March 9, 2017, https://www.adabible.org/watch/making-your-mark/week-6-serving/.