No Place for Pride: An Example From Priscilla and Aquila

By a show of hands (metaphorically, just bear with me), how many of you have heard of – and could tell me about – Priscilla and Aquila?

Probably not many of you. And before you get too ashamed, let me just come out and say that I couldn’t have either before two Sundays ago (one Sunday ago as I’m writing this, but it’s being scheduled in advance :P).

At church, they were preaching about the book of Acts, and funnily enough, when the pastor said that he was going to talk about Priscilla and Aquila, I actually thought he was talking about Ananias and Sapphira – a very different couple from Acts.

(Ananias and Sapphira are the ones who got caught deceiving the church about their donation, making it seem larger than it was, and died for it.)

So, when the pastor said he was talking about a biblical power couple, I was very confused.

But, funny story aside, this sermon opened my eyes to an oft-overlooked “power couple,” one of the only ones we get to see in the Bible. And that’s what prompted me to write this post.

I don’t know about you, but I like to be recognized for what I do. Even if I do something without being asked and something that’s supposed to be a “surprise,” I want the people I did it for to be surprised! I want them to notice. Basically, though I hate to say it, I want their praise.

For example, I’ll sometimes do some chores around the house when I’m at home and my parents are off at work or running errands. It’s unprompted, and it’s just supposed to be something nice that I do for them. (Also, lest you think I’m too selfless and noble, usually this “chore” is vacuuming, and I mostly do it because I enjoy vacuuming, but I digress.)

But when they get back home, I expect them to notice it. I’m just waiting for the garage to open and them to walk in so I can be heaped with “thank yous.”

Not very humble of me, is it?

John’s response to the people going to Jesus for baptism and that affecting the numbers of people who come to him gets me every time. He says:

“It is the bridegroom who marries the bride, and the best man is simply glad to stand with him and hear his vows. Therefore, I am filled with joy at his success. He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.”

John 3:29-30 (NLT)

Whew. Doesn’t that just hit home?

It’s the exact opposite of my line of thought. While I want praise, praise, and more praise, John is saying, “No. Jesus gets all the praise, praise, and more praise, not me.”

And Priscilla and Aquila are a prime example of a power couple who lived their lives running hard after Jesus and have little to no praise to show for it. But, spoiler alert: Jesus got all the glory, and now they’re living in joy and peace unimaginable in heaven with him, so I think they got the good end of the deal.

But, anyway, I’ll get to that later. Let’s first start of with exactly what Priscilla and Aquila did in their lives.

We see them first in Acts 18, in which they welcome Paul into their homes to live with them for a while while he’s ministering to the Corinthians. So, they just literally open their homes to a stranger so that he can share the Good News.

Then, later in Acts 18, Paul leaves for Syria, and guess who just up and go with him? Priscilla and Aquila. They leave behind their home and their lives of the past year and a half (they’d only lived in Corinth for around that much time), and follow Paul on his missionary journey.

Paul ended up leaving them in Ephesus, while he continued on. In Ephesus, we see Priscilla and Aquila take it upon themselves to correct the incomplete teachings of the Jew Apollos. He received their message, and went on to become one of the most famous pastors in the world.

So, you could literally say that Priscilla and Aquila discipled one of the world’s greatest pastors.

Beyond that, they also opened up their home wherever they lived, starting the church at Rome and at Ephesus.

They were running hard after Jesus and produced countless good fruits for His Kingdom. It was clear that the Holy Spirit was in them.

And yet, they’re mostly forgotten by history. Even those who know the Bible really well and have a lot of Bible knowledge don’t always remember who Priscilla and Aquila are.

Later in their lives, these two were even killed for their faith in Christ. Martyrs.

But we still don’t remember them.

And I think they’re perfectly okay with that, so long as we remember Jesus in it all.

I believe they were true behind-the-scenes workers. They didn’t need praise and glory for themselves, but everything they did was for God’s glory and His alone.

And honestly, that should be our greatest desire – to glorify God in all that we do. We should want that more than praise from our friends, family, and coworkers. Rather than looking for a worldly reward, simply glorifying Him should be a reward in and of itself.

That’s hard, I get it. No matter how many times I tell myself otherwise, I still find myself falling into the trap of seeking praise from others. And it continually leads to disappointment.

But abiding in the Holy Spirit and setting my eyes on God? That can never disappoint. It is the satisfaction of my soul, life-giving, humbling.

I like to think that when Priscilla and Aquila died, they would have had the mindset of Paul and would have been more than ready to go see Jesus because their greatest joy and their reward in life had been God’s glory.

And now, in heaven, they get to glorify God perfectly and for eternity.

How awesome is that?

 

 

 

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I Want To Die.

I want to die.

That’s what Paul said in his letter to the church in Philippi, which he was writing from a prison cell in Rome. And mind you, death was a very plausible thing for Paul at that time. He was awaiting trial, and as far as he knew at the time, he could have been facing execution after the trial.

And yet, he said:

For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better.

Philippians 1:21 (NLT)

Wow.

If I even think of myself in a life or death situation, I start quivering and hoping and praying that I’ll survive it. And I haven’t even ever been in a real life or death situation! I can only imagine what would have been going through my mind had I been in Paul’s position. I wouldn’t have been saying that I wanted to die, that’s for sure.

There seems to be a common mindset throughout our culture (including within the Church) today that emphasizes our life on earth. Life is sweet, and even if we think Jesus is even sweeter, we prefer to have him right here with us on earth, thank you very much.

I mean, there’s so much to do, so many pleasures to have, so many people to meet and things to achieve here on earth. You Only Live Once. So why would we want to die?

What did Paul know that we don’t, for him to make such a crazy statement? Surely it was just because he lived in age before technology. They didn’t have the ability to travel worldwide, or the insane opportunities we all have in America. I mean, if Paul only knew how much good stuff we have nowadays, he surely wouldn’t say the same thing, would he?

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say, “Oh, yes, he would.”

Paul wasn’t ready to die because he was bored with his life on earth. Actually, he said just the opposite. Continuing from the verse above, he says:

But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So I really don’t know which is better. I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me. but for your sakes, it is better that I continue to live.

Philippians 1:22-24 (NLT)

He knows that if he does live, his life is worthwhile. He’s looking forward to doing more work for the Kingdom of God if he makes it out of prison alive.

And the key, the key to why Paul says that he is ready to die, is tucked right there, in the sentence I just wrote.

Paul’s heart is set on one thing and one thing alone: Jesus Christ. 

That is his reason for living: to do His work. Everywhere Paul goes, he spreads the Gospel. He even told some of his prison guards about Jesus!

The jailer called for lights and ran to the dungeon and fell down trembling beofre Paul and Silas. Then he brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, along with everyone in your household.” And they shared the word of the Lord with him and with all who lived in his household.

Acts 16:29-32 (NLT)

And the reason Paul is so set on doing God’s work, that he even tells his jailers about Jesus, is because he has experienced God’s insane, majestic, awe-inspiring love and the Holy Spirit has prompted him to follow through with the only logical response: complete and total devotion.

It is because of that realization of God’s complete awesomeness that Paul has dedicated his entire life to Jesus, and it’s also why Paul says that he wants to die.

When he dies, he gets to be with Jesus, forever, face to face, without any sin or any worldly corruption to stand in the way. Death is the only thing standing between him and eternal worship of his incredible God.

And man, is he ready for that eternity.

When I look at myself and my own hesitations about death, I realize that there are a few lies I’m believing that lead to this hesitation:

  1. I believe the world has too many good things in store for me to leave behind.
  2. I have a flawed view of heaven.
  3. God isn’t the only thing that matters to me, above everyone else.

Let’s address these one by one, shall we?

1. I believe the world has too many good things in store for me to leave behind.

Sure, the world is full of fun, good things. There’s no doubt about that. But scripture tells us that all good things come from God, so think how much better heaven will be? If all good things on earth come from God, and God lives in heaven, which is his perfect, sinless domain, heaven must be a pretty awesome place.

2. I have a flawed view of heaven.

I kind of talked about this above. But heaven isn’t just some place we go to play harps and sing the same worship song over and over again, like a watered down church service. No, heaven is literally paradise. It’s our opportunity to finally be with our Creator, the perfect, eternal King of the universe. It’s bound to be anything but boring.

3. God isn’t the only thing that matters to me, above everyone else.

God should be our number one. He should be at the forefront of our minds, above and beyond all worldly pursuits, and – get this – all other people. That’s right. God should be prioritized over our relationships with our friends, parents, siblings, and spouses. Yes, of course love them, but don’t put them before God. God is the reason we’re all even here in the first place, and He deserves total, primary devotion, over all people.

If we love God, love for others will surely follow. It says just that in 1 John 4. But the primary longing of our hearts should be for God. The love for others should come as a result of our love for God.

And then, if God is our number one, we can be ready to meet Him face to face when He’s finished with us on earth. Yes, we can love others and have good and wonderful relationships with them on earth, serving them and talking about Jesus with them, but when God has used us and is ready to call us home, we should be ready for that. We should be eager for it, in fact.

Just as Paul loved serving others here on earth, he realized that it was actually better for him to die and be with Christ. Could we say the same? Could say the same?

 

 

Desperate for Jesus

With one skim through the gospels, we see, over and over again, giant crowds of people following Jesus everywhere he went, swarming him, and clinging to him, almost desperately. They couldn’t get enough of him!

That alone should tell us something about Jesus.

He was a guy who clearly had something about him that the people needed. And they knew they needed it.

Of course, we know that Jesus is the Son of God, God Himself, the Bread of Life. These truths about Jesus should cause us to cling to Jesus just as desperately as those crowds did in the gospels. But for some reason, many of us don’t seem to always grasp just how desperately we need Jesus.

We have a tendency to go to church, read the Bible, and pray more out of a sense of obligation than an actual desire and need to do so.

But if we’re doing all of those things–things to further our relationship with Christ–out of obligation, we’re missing something huge.

In Mark 6:33, Jesus was trying to get away from the crowds, just for a chance to eat with his disciples, but the people still followed him. Jesus describes them as “sheep without a shepherd.”

We all are (or have been, at one point) sheep without a shepherd.

This sentiment points back to our very creation. Genesis 1:27 says, “So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”

We were created in the image of God. However, when we sinned, we were separated from God. We were separated from our Creator because of our sin.

But that separation doesn’t change a thing about who we were created to be. We were still created in God’s likeness and for God. We were created to be in communion with God. We were created to have a relationship with our Creator.

Which means that until we are able to have that relationship, we are sheep without a shepherd.

Jesus came to earth, died on the cross, and rose again on the third day so that we could have that relationship with God through Him. All we have to do is place our faith and trust in Jesus Christ.

It’s so easy for me to just be focused on going through the motions and never stopping to think about why I’m doing what I’m doing, who it is that I’m worshiping, or what it is God is trying to show me. I’ll go to church–and admittedly sometimes zone out through much of the service; and I’ll read my Bible–and quickly skim through a passage so I can check it off my list and go about my life.

And there are seasons in life. I do think it’s better to keep opening the Bible even when we aren’t feeling it and to keep going to church even when we’d much rather just sleep in, because it is through that consistent time with Him that God reveals to us bits of His nature and molds us more into the creation He planned for us to be.

But at some point, we should grasp just how desperately and completely we need Jesus. 

We’re missing out on something vital if all we’re ever doing is going through the motions. At that point, we need to ask ourselves if our heart is really in it, or if we’re just doing these things for show, like the Pharisees did.

I love the C.S. Lewis quote: “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”

We were made for another world. We were made to serve the King of the Universe. Without Him, we are empty. We need Him, desperately. The question is: Are we too busy trying to rely on ourselves that we refuse to acknowledge that?

Jesus in the Day-to-Day

In the beginning verses of Mark 8, Jesus, for the second time, provides food for a huge crowd of people with very meager means.

About this time another large crowd had gathered, and the people ran out of food again. Jesus called his disciples and told them, “I feel sorry for these people. They have been here with me for three days, and they have nothing left to eat. If I send them home hungry, they will faint along the way. For some have come a long distance.”

Mark 8:1-3 (NLT)

After Jesus tells his disciples that, his disciples tell him they only have seven loaves of bread. Just to put that into perspective, there were about four thousand people there.

But Jesus isn’t intimidated by those numbers. He doesn’t despair at their lack of means.

Rather, Jesus simply takes the bread, thanks God for it, and distributes it amongst the people. Scripture says, “They ate as much as they wanted,” with leftovers.

A few things hit me while I was reading that passage:

  1. God knows what our needs are.
  2. God cares about our needs.
  3. God will provide for our needs, no matter the circumstance.

As I was reflecting on this passage, I thought of Matthew 6:24-24. Specifically I thought of verse 25, where Jesus talks about not worrying about everyday life, like food, drink, and clothing. But let me back up a bit and start with verse 24.

It says: “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”

It’s pretty clear, I’d say. We’re either serving God, or we’re serving money (material things of this world). We can’t have it both ways.

After this, Jesus continues to say, “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life–whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing?” (Emphasis added).

See, many of us would probably nod and agree wholeheartedly with verse 24, or at least I would. Of course we aren’t supposed to be serving money. That’s a pretty common theme throughout scripture.

But verse 25 puts that into perspective for us. Jesus isn’t just talking about wealth and excess. He’s talking about our basic necessities. Woah.

So, Jesus, you’re telling me that my basic necessities, like food and water, can become an idol in my life?

That’s pretty eye-opening.

Then, Jesus gives examples using the birds and the flowers to illustrate how much God cares for us. He says, now in verse 30, “And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?”

Why do you have so little faith?

It strikes a chord in me every time Jesus uses a phrase or question like that in the gospels. You of little faith. Have faith. Why do you have so little faith?

Jesus is just sitting there, giving a group of hard-headed people lessons about God, and while we are trying to grasp it and believe it, Jesus is just stating it matter-of-factly. Why do you have so little faith, Jesus asks, when all I’m doing is giving you the facts about God?

Fact: God cares deeply and immeasurably about us. He sees our needs, and He cares about them. He has the ability to provide for us, and He will provide us. We need only to trust in Him.

After the illustrations with the birds and the flowers, Jesus continues, “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.”

This command reminds me of the way the disciples reacted when Jesus sent them out to preach repentance. They left with nothing but a walking stick: no money, no food, and no change of clothes. And they didn’t question Jesus, or say he was crazy for expecting them to leave with no food and no money.

They simply went. Fully trusting Jesus with all of their most basic needs.

Just like the disciples, we, too, need to trust Jesus with our most basic needs. He will provide, just like he did with the disciples. Just like he did with the crowd of four thousand.

 

Following Jesus Like The Twelve

Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Matthew 28:19 (NLT)

It’s the great commission. Almost all Christians know about it; most can probably quote (or at least paraphrase) that verse.

But what does it mean?

When Jesus said that, he was talking to his disciples, you know, the twelve disciples. He was telling those guys to go and make disciples of all the nations.

So, really, you could say that we are the disciples Jesus was talking about when he said that.

But are we the same “breed” of disciple the twelve were, or are we a watered-down version of it?

In order to explore that question, I want to explore what the Bible says about these disciples, from the way reacted when they were first called, to the way they followed Jesus through it all.

The Call

Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” And they left their nets at once and followed him.

Mark 1:17-18 (NLT)

A little farther up the shore he saw two other brothers, James and John, sitting in a boat with their father, Zebedee, repairing their nets. And he call them to come, too. They immediately followed him, leaving the boat and their father behind.

Matthew 4:21-22 (NLT)

The first quote is the calling of Simon (Peter) and Andrew. The second is the calling of James and John. The similarities that stood out to me the most as I read those passages were the immediacy and finality with which all four men followed Jesus.

Jesus called out to them, told them to follow him, and they didn’t look at him, asking why or saying “But I have to maintain my reputation/get that promotion/save this money for this new car.” No, they dropped everything they were doing and followed Jesus immediately and at once.

The Holy Spirit clearly was doing some talking here, and these four guys weren’t going to ignore it. The question is: Are we receptive when the Holy Spirit calls us to follow Jesus?

Another thing that stood out to me, specifically in the second verse, was the last phrase: “leaving the boat and their father behind.” James and John just up and left their possessions (the boat) and their father.

Now it’s one thing for me to say, “Give up my possessions? No problem. I never needed any of this stuff anyway.” But it’s an entirely different thing for me to even say that I’ll just leave my family.

Look, y’all. I literally refused to even consider going to a college that was more than a 2-3 hour drive from home because I wanted to be able to make it back home quickly should anything happen.

I can’t even imagine what I would do if I was in a position where my family was at odds with my faith and I actually had to choose one over the other.

I’m struggling even with the idea that maybe, just maybe God might be calling me to go across the country when I graduate. It’s pretty safe to say that putting God first (even over my relationships with those I love) is something I need to work on.

Later in Luke, Jesus was talking to other men about following him. One of their replies is below:

Another said, “Yes, Lord, I will follow you, but first let me say goodbye to my family.”

But Jesus told him, “Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.”

Luke 9:60-61 (NLT)

It’s clear that when we follow after God, we are to put God first, no questions asked. The Bible talks a lot about idols and instructs us in several places to not let anything take the place of God. But, we also must be careful to not let anyone take God’s place as Number One in our lives.

The Follow-Through

So we’ve received God’s call, and we’ve dropped everything at once to follow Him. Fantastic.

What happens next?

And he called his twelve disciples together and began sending them out two by two, giving them authority to cast out evil spirits. He told them to take nothing for their journey except a walking stick – no food, no traveler’s bag, no money. He allowed them to wear sandals but not to take a change of clothes.

“Wherever you go,” he said, “stay in the same house until you leave town. But if any place refuses to welcome you or listen to you, shake its dust from your feet as you leave to show that you have abandoned those people to their fate.”

So the disciples went out, telling everyone they met to repent of their sins and turn to God. And they cast out many demons and healed many sick people, anointing them with olive oil.

Mark 6:7-13 (NLT)

That’s a big chunk of scripture. I’ve broken it down into four main parts that stood out to me.

1. They were equipped by God. 

It says that Jesus gave them authority to cast out evil spirits. They didn’t have it of their own accord; God gave it to them. In the same way, we need to be careful to not boast about our own gifts, because they are just that – gifts from God.

And God does gift us with whatever tools we may need to further His kingdom. We need not fear that we aren’t “strong enough” or “smart enough” or “good enough.” God will provide.

2. They relied solely on God, not on material objects. 

Jesus told them to take nothing with them – not even a change of clothes, food, or money. Say what? If someone asked us to do that today, we’d probably look at them like they were crazy, right?

But here’s what’s so awesome about this command (and the fact that the disciples followed it): This shows that the disciples relied solely on God, not on material objects, not even on the basic material necessities of life (food, money, clothes).

Because here’s the deal – things aren’t going to get us anywhere. They won’t satisfy us, they won’t bring us joy. And we don’t need them when we have Jesus. He is the Bread of Life. He will provide.

The disciples entrusted Him with this, even down to the necessities most of us hold tight to with an iron grip. Jesus provides, so much more abundantly than the things of this world can. We just have to trust him.

3. They followed God’s instruction to go out, and their mission was focused on doing God’s will. 

“So the disciples went out, telling everyone they met to repent of their sins and turn to God.”

It was all about God. They did what Jesus told them to do, even if they would maybe have much rather stayed in the comfort of their own homes, and they performed God’s will on their journey. It wasn’t about them and what they could do, but about God and what God could do.

4. They reaped fruit.

“And they cast out many demons and healed many sick people, anointing them with olive oil.”

If we rely on God and God alone, and if we put Him first, focused on doing His will and not our own, then we will produce fruits.

Here’s the deal, guys: God wants to use us. He’s completely ready to. We just have to give him the reins.

 

On Making the Most of Every Moment 

Very recently, I received news that a friend passed away in a car accident. He was 22.

It’s something we all hear about – you know, a young person passing away, before his/her time, and when I hear those stories, I think about the friends they left behind, the people who were just as young. I think about how hard that must be. Because when we’re young, we think we’re invincible. We have our whole lives ahead of us. Nothing can stop us.

So when I hear stories likes that, I try to put myself in their shoes and imagine what that must be like. I like to think I’m a pretty empathic person, but those “imagine-if” scenarios are nothing compared to the moments where it actually happens to you.

As I was thinking about the news, I was so struck at how quickly everything can change, and how unexpectedly, too, with no apparent good reason. I knew I wanted to write about it. Simply because I write about the things that are weighing on me and the things Jesus shows me, usually as He is showing me, and this was definitely a moment like that.

But I talked myself out of it for a while.

See, I was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to write it as gracefully as I wanted. I was afraid that I would say something wrong, somehow send off the wrong vibe. So I just wasn’t going to write it.

But if I did that, I would have been doing the exact opposite of what I wanted to write about. The title of this post is “On Making the Most of Every Moment.” If I talked myself out of writing this post, when it was something weighing on me, I would’ve been letting fear and “what-ifs” scare me out of doing something I felt was important and worthwhile.

So anyway, here I am, writing this post. I hope it honors my friend, and I hope it honors the Lord and Savior he went to celebrate forever with.

Back-tracking a bit, I was sitting in my room with my best friend when she extended her phone to me to show me a text that said our (mutual) friend had passed away. At first, it didn’t hit me, and I don’t think it hit her at first either. We both sort of sat there, alternating between silence and stunned speak for a little while.

Because hearing something like that, when we’re both under 20 years old, it’s shocking to say the least.

And then I started thinking about that shock. I started thinking about all the times I’d heard those stories about kids and young adults passing away before their time and all the times I’d tried to empathize with their friends and family members. I started thinking about the unpredictability of life, how short it really is.

We don’t know when our time will be, or when our friends’ times will be, or when our family members’ times will be. We don’t know, and we can’t know.

So the only thing we can do is make the most of every possible moment.

As I was thinking about this post, I was thinking about the parable of the ten bridesmaids. Maybe it’s because I read that parable recently and then heard a sermon that talked about it, but for some reason, that’s the passage that popped into my head. Before I go into it, I want to ask that y’all bear with me. I might not be using it (at first) entirely in its context, but I think and I hope I’m using the heart of it properly.

Basically, in Matthew 25:1-13, Jesus tells a story about ten bridesmaids who were waiting for the return of the bridegroom. They each had lamps with them, and five of them brought along extra oil for the lamps. The other five didn’t.

Well, by the time the bridegroom came along, the five without extra oil had run out. They asked the others for oil, but the others only had enough for their own lamps. So, only the five who were prepared got to celebrate with the bridegroom.

In verse 13, Jesus concludes the parable by saying: “‘So you, too, must keep watch! For you do not know the day or hour of my return'” (NLT).

Because we don’t know when our time (or the time of those we love) will come, we have to utilize every moment. 

We can’t afford to waste the day away arguing or gossiping or getting mad over petty things or refusing to forgive someone. We have to be prepared for whatever life may throw at us, and the best way to be prepared is to focus on Jesus and submitting to the Holy Spirit every. single. moment. 

Look, y’all, I’m as bad as the next girl (or guy) at letting those un-Christ-like behaviors consume too much of my time. But I’m sick and tired of it. That doesn’t mean that I’ll magically be perfect. But I do believe that Jesus is using this experience to push me towards more consistent following of Him.

So here’s to focusing on kindness instead of petty anger. Here’s to putting down the phone and computer a bit more often and spending more (focused) time with family and friends. Here’s to making the most of every moment I have with them on earth.

So all that was me talking about my relationships with others. But there’s another side to all this, a side that I think was more in tune with what Jesus might have intended the parable to be about.

I’m still talking about following Jesus with every moment of our lives, yes. But now I want to focus specifically on our relationship with Him, which is the relationship from which all our other relationships will flow.

See, my friend was on fire. On fire for the Lord. Honest to goodness, he was such an inspiration to me, and I’m sure to so many others, because of his zeal for the Lord. He led youth worship when I was in youth group, volunteered at youth camp, and even helped with worship at a ministry when he went off to college.

But beyond all that, his relationship with the Lord shone through in his personality and his entire attitude. He was one of the most joyful people I’ve ever met. And I use the word joyful intentionally. He was happy, sure, but happiness is fleeting. Everyone could see that he had something deeper than happiness. He had a joy that could only come from the Lord.

When Jesus talks about the five bridesmaids who were prepared, I’m sure my friend would have fallen into this camp. He wasn’t slacking off; he was preparing for when he got to meet Jesus face to face.

And now, he’s finally gotten to.

He was prepared. He was ready. He had his oil ready to go.

The question is: are we? Am I?

I know my friend is having just the greatest time worshipping the Lord right now, and I want to look back on his life and learn through the example Jesus left in him.

I want to yearn to know the Lord more and more with every day. I want everyone to be able to see a joy in me that can only come from the Lord. I want to serve the Lord with all my heart, mind, soul, and strength. I want to never grow weary in this. Because that’s what we were made for.

And, if we do that, maybe we can inspire someone else with our lives just as my friend has inspired me.

We never know whose life we might touch, and who Jesus might speak to through us.

So, let’s go on and make the most of every moment.

Jesus & Good Vibes

Recently, I’ve noticed quite a few people requesting “good vibes” or “good thoughts” or something of the sort be sent their way because they’re in some sort of bad situation.

And it’s really starting to break my heart.

Good vibes and good thoughts will not help anyone out of a bad situation. 

That line of thinking is one of the dangers of our culture today. We don’t want to acknowledge an omnipotent (and loving God) so we just ask for good vibes, thinking, surely, those will help us. All we need is positive thinking, right? And everything will be fine?

No. No, no, no.

Positive thinking-even positive thoughts from others, even if we had the whole world thinking positive thoughts on our behalf-will not save us.

Only Jesus saves. 

Take a quick flip with me through the Gospels. Just by flipping through the book of Matthew, I counted 14 individual accounts of Jesus healing others. That doesn’t count the times it was simply  written that he healed many.

It’s clear that Jesus heals all sorts of physical ailments.

But he doesn’t just heal physically- he also heals spiritually.

In Mark 2:1-5, a paralyzed man is brought to Jesus. His response? “‘My child, your sins are forgiven'” (NLT). Afterwards, he proves his authority by commanding the man to stand up and walk.

So no matter the situation, no matter where we are in life, no matter how many times we’ve messed up, Jesus heals, completely and totally. And Jesus alone can truly save us.

In fact, he died to do just that. He walked on earth, began the largest ministry ever known, and was crucified, all for us. But on the third day, he rose from the dead, defeating the grave, and walked on earth once more before ascending into heaven.

He died and rose again to bring us new life and to truly save us.

All that he asks from us? That we believe in him, that we have faith that he died and rose again. Simply to place our faith and trust in him, and him alone.

It’s amazing grace, it really is, that this omnipotent, omniscient, death-defeating, forgiving God loves us. 

With this God who loves us, there is no longer a need for “good vibes” and “good thoughts” to be sent our way. All we need now is Jesus. We call out to him, our friends call out to him on our behalf, and He’s got us.

When All We Can Do Is Pray

“All you can do is pray.”

A lot of well-meaning Christians say that. We can’t help actively, but we can certainly send our prayers. We’re sorry we can’t do more.

But stop. Stop right there.

We can’t do more than simply praying. That’s right. But not in the way it’s meant above.

It’s right because prayer is the most powerful weapon against all things worldly. We can’t do anything more than pray because there is nothing that has the power that prayer does.

I mean, sure, we’d love to be able to lend a helping hand, to fight tooth and nail against the evils that trouble us. And that’s not a bad thing. But without prayer, even that is inconsequential.

Everything we do is fruitless without God. He is the King of the universe, the One who defeated sin and death. We can’t hope to defeat sinful things without Him.

Which is why, even when we can act, we first need prayer. And even when we can’t act, prayer is still just as powerful.

We need to make prayer our first resort, not our last. We need to make prayer our first resort in all things, the big, the small, the monumental, the seemingly inconsequential. God hears them all, and He wants us to tell Him all of them.

Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.

Matthew 7:7-8 (NLT)

All we need is to ask with the faith of a mustard seed, and He will answer.

So, let’s get to knocking.

The Importance of Reading Scripture

But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night.

Psalm 1:2 (NLT)

Who of us meditates on the law of the Lord, day and night?

I can honestly say that I don’t meditate on God’s Word nearly as much as I should. I don’t memorize enough scripture, and I have an awful tendency to treat my time in God’s Word as little more than a checklist item. Does anyone else do the same?

However, it is through the scriptures that God reveals to us who He is, what He’s done for us, and what He calls us to do. How are we supposed to follow in His steps if we don’t read the Bible and understand what following in His steps means?

I’ll be the first to admit that it can be far too easy to fall out of reading God’s Word, so here are a few practical solutions to help us meditate on the law of Lord day and night.

  • Read the Bible first thing in the morning.

If you can, I’ve found this to be particularly helpful because I’m starting off my day by surrendering to God. Also, I’m making sure I focus on God before I get distracted by everything else life might throw at me throughout the rest of the day.

  • Find a Bible reading plan.

If you don’t know where to start, find a plan to help you. There are many of them out there. Here’s a link to a few. Or, if you’d rather not be confined to a plan, pick a book-any book-and just start reading!

  • Don’t just read the Bible.

Think on it. Meditate on it. For me, this can mean writing notes about what I read, journaling about what touched me in the passage, praying about what I read silently, or writing a prayer in my journal. I also underline things in my Bible and make what I’ll call “word art” in the margins to highlight the things that stood out most to me. In short, when I take the time to write about what I’m reading, I force myself to consider more deeply what I’m reading instead of simply checking it off of a list.

  • Memorize scripture.

This can be a hard one for me to stick with. I start off strong, memorizing one or more verses a day, but inevitably, I peter out after too long. However, the best way for us to be able to tackle whatever life throws at us head-on is by already having God’s Word stored in our hearts, ready to combat whatever comes our way.

I hope some of those ideas help you. If you have other suggestions, please leave them in the comments!

Let’s hold ourselves accountable for being in God’s Word consistently. After all, it’s our best resource for getting to know Him.

No Excuses

God is faithful. He is there through the seasons. He is there through it all. Scripture says that there is nothing that can separate from His love. That means nothing of this world, no external forces, no one, and nothing can create a rift between us and God.

God has always been there, is always there, and will always be there. Even when it feels like He’s not.

As I’ve talked about before, I notice a very distinct change when I’m having good, consistent quiet time versus when I’m neglecting it. Currently, I’m in a season of neglect. As such, I feel far from God, and I’m starting to doubt. I’ve even gone so far as to begin to question my relationship with Him. Is He still there?

Of course, the “right” answer, the good, Christian, church-approved answer, is easy to rattle off. Of course he is.

But it didn’t satiate the qualms I was having. Until I stumbled across this tweet:

tweet

And I was comforted by the reminder that God is faithful. Even when I’m not, He is. I don’t know why reading this tweet had a different effect on me than the self-utterances, but it did. Maybe I just needed to be reassured of God’s faithfulness by someone else.

But, with this newfound assurance, I quickly caught myself slipping into dangerous territory. I started using God’s faithfulness as an excuse to continue my neglect.

If God’s always faithful, no matter what, then it’s okay if I don’t have consistent quiet time. It’s okay if I push Him off to the side, since He’ll always be there.

In the midst of this train of thought, I had to stop myself. No, that isn’t okay. No, that’s not how a relationship with God works.

Yes, God is always faithful, and yes, God will always be there no matter what I do or how I mess up. That is no excuse for us to neglect our time with Him and be okay with that.

God is always faithful in that His Holy Spirit that dwells within us will consistently nudge us back towards God. He is faithful in that He won’t let us continue walking away from Him. The Holy Spirit, to believers, serves as a constant reminder that we can’t just walk away from God. We are nothing without Him.

God’s faithfulness isn’t an excuse for us to live however we please. No, God’s faithfulness is a constant call for us to choose Him over the world.

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.

Philippians 1:6 (NLT)