Just that Sunday school answer…

“I, the Lord, have called you to demonstrate my righteousness. I will take you by the hand and guard you, and I will give you to my people, Israel, as a symbol of my covenant with them. And you will be a light to guide the nations. You will open the eyes of the blind. You will free the captives from prison, releasing those who sit in dark dungeons. I am the Lord; that is my name! I will not give my glory to anyone else, nor share my praise with carved idols.”                     Isaiah 42:6-8

I don’t know about you, but I have to admit that when I read books or blogs and there’s a Scripture written in, I have a tendency to skip over and get to the rest of the writing. Perhaps its a sin, perhaps I’m being lazy. Either way, if that’s what you did, I’d like to encourage you to go back and read over those 2 simple verses. And if you didn’t skip, good on you! I’ll encourage you to go back and read it again also, it’s just that good.

Who is God talking about? Is it me? Has He called me to demonstrate His righteousness? What about Isaiah? I mean, He’s the one writing all this down, was He the one who was called? I mean Isaiah was definitely called, but this isn’t talking about him either. The very one this is talking about is the One who changed everything. Jesus.

belikeyou

Jesus is called, by God (as God?), to demonstrate righteousness. He is guided by God, given to the people to fulfill the covenant made to Abraham that through his descendants, all the nations of the earth will be blessed. (by the way- that’s you and me) Jesus is the light to guide the nations, He opens the eyes of the blind. Jesus sets the captives free, releases those stuck in darkness. God’s glory is promised and given to Jesus, and I have a surprise for you: It’s all about Jesus.

Quite the surprise, right? Look across the world, compare all the religions, stack them up side by side, and I guarantee you won’t find anyone quite like Jesus. You won’t find another god who chose to leave paradise in order to be beaten and betrayed, or a god who chose a donkey to enter the city as a King. You won’t find a King who deeply cares about each person, who can instantly see what’s inside someone’s heart, and responds appropriately and in love each time. You’ll never find a god who chose to be a servant, and to love the one who betrayed him- even as He hung dying on a cross. I promise you, you won’t find another Jesus.

But. Did you know that aside from all the amazing things Jesus did, aside from the walking on water, multiplying fish, healed bodies and silenced Pharisees, His deepest desire is to love you? You, the one who wasn’t even alive to see Him then. You, the one He thought of as He hung there with nails smashed right through His hands and feet. He desires to love you, and not just because He has to.

You know the kind of love I’m talking about? It’s the kind that changes the world. It’s that love that sits with you in Starbucks and listens to you talk about anything, just because He wants to hear your voice. It’s that love that watches your favourite movies with you, and holds your hand or rubs your back, just because. The love that sits on the floor with you when you feel like a failure, or when you’re so frustrated with people, work, school, your spouse, money, everything and just let’s you cry. That love that’s just there, and you feel it.

See, it’s really quite simple. When you experience the love of Jesus, your world will change, I guarantee it 100%. How can I be so sure? Because love changes everything. Every single person who encounters Jesus changes, because as you become more like Him, you become less like who everyone tells you to be, and actually just become more yourself. I could go on, I could talk for hours, but I’d be wasting my breath (typed words…?) if you didn’t get this point- Jesus’s love changes everything.

Will you let it change you?  

sam

With Strength that is not my own, Sam

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10 things I would tell my 16-year-old-self.

1. No matter how cushy it sounds- when people tell you to “just be yourself”- listen to them. You don’t realize how much time you’re going to waste trying to look like someone else, act like someone else, and love like someone else. You are a radical example of how creative God is- don’t try to cover that up. The world needs you- if it didn’t, you wouldn’t have been created.

2. Change is a good thing. In the next few years, you’re going to change pretty much everything that you know about yourself right now. I know you, and you’re going to resist change, but please, stop being so stubborn, and embrace it. When you don’t know what decision to make, trust your instincts.

3. Your prayers will change the world. The prayers you’re praying right now at 16 don’t sound too much different then the ones at 22. Some of them I’ve seen answered yes, and others, praise Jesus, have been a loud no. Be persistent. He hears each one, and He loves the sound of your voice. Keep talking to Him.

4. No matter what anyone tells you, you’re beautiful. This one’s a big one- you’re still working on it today. And you’re mostly fighting the whispers of children from years ago- so let them go. If I need to say this one to you a million times, I will. “You are altogether beautiful, my darling, beautiful in every way.” S.O.S. 4.7  Scripture cannot lie. Now work on believing this one.

5. Don’t let money hinder you. In about 6 months, you’re going to go to Africa for free. Not because you’re lazy and didn’t work for it. Not because you forced everyone else to pay for it. Because your Father is known to provide. He’s going to ask you to do some pretty big things- and a few you’ll pass up because “you can’t afford it”. Hello. Your Father owns the world. I’m pretty sure you can afford to do something He’s asked you to. Don’t be so stubborn.

6. Read the Word. The most repeated phrase in your vocabulary will be “I wish I knew the Bible better.” So- read it. Study it. Let it speak to you. Learn with others, let God speak through them. You have one of the most powerful, inspirational, beautiful books in your possession- do something good with it. Oh and please, please, please- remember context. That will save you from some seriously embarrassing argument failures.

7. Joy comes from true pain. I hate to tell you this- but you’re not an exception to the rule- bad things will happen to you, and yes, even all at once. But I am SO thankful for what you will learn from it all. Don’t be afraid to share what you’ve learned, either. Some of the best friendships you have today started by meeting someone in their pain and just loving them. You have been given a heart that feels- and it feels everything. Use that as a good thing. Use it to benefit others.

8. Love. Love- love- love. This one is going to blow your mind, are you ready for it? When Jesus said that loving God and loving others are the top 2 commands- there was a fantastic reason for it. Get ready- love-changes-everything. You can see it in the smile of a girl that just found her man, in the urgent embrace of long lost friends, the eyes of a child who feels seen for the first time, and the tears rolling down the faces of people saying goodbye here on earth. Love will change the world. And the best part is- when you give it away, it always comes back a million times bigger and stronger. It’s really one of the only gifts that keeps on giving.

9. Even adults call each other names- be unoffendable. You’ll hear it all, plus some. Just let it go. But unlike the names you got when you were 7 that attacked your body, these words pierce deeper and attack your character, something you’ve tried so hard to preserve. Do two things. First- pray for their hearts. Second- remind yourself who you are by reading about it in His Word. ( See point 6.)

10. Waiting is worth it. You can apply this statement to many areas of your life. Wait to let a man pursue you. Wait to go to school. Wait on God to give you another step. Just wait. “For those who wait upon the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles, they will walk and not grow weary, they will run and not grow faint.” Isaiah 40:31.  

With Strength that is not your own, Sam

A Little Piece of Heaven

Sunlight streaming through maple leaves. Walking through struggles with sweet friends. Crying tears of joy after hanging up the phone, remembering God’s constant provision. When God called me back home for this season, I didn’t know what it would bring. I didn’t know the vastness of His blessings, and I suppose I still don’t. They never stop.

I think all too often we search for them- looking so hard to see the blessings, the extra’s. Sometimes I think they’re right under our noses though. I say blessed is the person who knows the abundance of what they have without having to watch it disappear before they realize it. I can’t get over this blessed feeling, and I don’t think I want to.

Last night I went to London to watch the play called “She Has A Name”. It paints the dark, painful story of one girl, Number 18, caught in the cycle of sex trafficking. The playwright wrote an introduction in the program, and one line hit me- “we are all just a degree away from being one of these characters” And how true? Change one small detail about my life, and that could be me. It could be my sister out there, your daughter, your son so confused that he gets himself sucked into that world.

I was asked a question last night about what I’ll be doing when I go back into missions. It is quite likely that I will find myself talking with these girls, loving them back to life, showing them how valuable they are. It’s a dangerous situation- and I was asked if it scares me. I thought about it a bit and probably gave an answer that was a bit confusing.

Yes. It scares me. I’m getting out of my comfort zone, going into an environment that should not exist. I’ll be telling girls about the Father’s love for them, when they only “love” they’ve ever experienced is something they need to earn, and will be beaten if they don’t do a good enough job. It’s dangerous, and yeah, it scares me. But what scares me more? The fact that I’ll be out there? Or the fact that if I don’t go- they won’t know my God? It scares me to think they could die without knowing real love, without knowing that someone out there is trustworthy and has made them with a specific purpose. It scares me more not to go. 

You know, it’s not just a human trafficking issue. It’s not this whole worldly thing where the problem is so monumental that it’s impossible to tackle. It’s really quite simple. The answer came in two simple commandments: Love God, and love others. Loving displays itself in so many ways, and I believe when you begin to love someone the way God does, you get a little piece of heaven. If that means extending a hand, writing a card, sending one extra invitation or hoping on a plane- do it. Whatever facet you have to love, use it. It’s the greatest thing you could ever do. And, biblically, the most important.

Again, I am so thankful for this season. It has stretched me, rocked me, refined me and amazed me. I have made new friends, I have sparked up old friendships, and seen so many sides of grief. I have never laughed more, cried more, or read my Bible more then in the past 12 months. And I can say that it has been incredible. Maybe not always enjoyable- but worth it.

Take a page out of your notebook and fill it with the blessings in your life. Write out what you’ve learned, about yourself, your Father, your journey and the people He puts on your path. Look at the whole thing and tell me it’s not worth it. I don’t think that’s possible.

With Strength that’s not my own, Sam

A Four Letter Word

You would never think that a word with just 4 little letters would have such an impact on us, both Christians and not. People throw it away like it’s nothing. Some would give anything to get it. It’s a feeling, an action word, and a command all in one. When you have it, it’s sometimes not what you expected. And when it’s taken away from you, it takes quite some time to mend yourself back together. When you feel it, you’ll do anything for the person it’s directed at. And everyone on this planet is searching for it, all in their own way. And it always looks different; old hands gently caring for a life long spouse. Young hands receiving a ring and exchanging a promise. Friends supporting each other in rough times, carrying each other’s burdens. Handwritten letters flying miles over land and sea. It shows in a volunteer, when they inconvenience themselves to help another for no other reason except for this word. It looks like a blameless man being beaten, mocked, shown indecency, and sacrificing HIS life, for ours. And finally, it looks like a bunch of small red letters written on a page “You MUST love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: Love your neighbour as yourself” Matt. 22v37-39

The Bible spits out verses about love repeatedly, and so it starts to make me wonder– Why is this emotion, command, verb, so much more important than the others? Why does it come before joy? peace? patience? kindness? goodness? faithfulness? gentlness? self-control? I’ve contemplated this for a while now, and perhaps I’m wrong, but I think I’ve figured this out.

See, in 1 John 4v8, it’s written, “But anyone who does not love, does not know God, for GOD IS LOVE.” God is love. That’s a pretty complicated characteristic to take on. If this is true, it’d mean that any action or non-action God has taken in our lives means it was always because He loves us. Now, this gets really personal really quickly, because a lot of times we don’t see love. Not when we’re hurt. Not when we lose someone. Not when someone attacks us. And I’m not going to pretend I have a one-size-fits-all answer, because I don’t. But I have to remind myself that just because I don’t see the love the way I expect to, doesn’t mean it’s not there. And where love is, God is. Because God is love. He said so. If I ask you to be patient with a child, you could, but that doesn’t mean you love them. I could require you to be kind to everyone, but you could turn around and complain about them the minute they’re gone. But if I ask you to love them, the rest falls into place. You are patient, because you love. You are self controlled, because without that, you are not loving. Not loving to yourself, and not loving to others. And this is why I think love is so important. Because without love, everything falls apart. “Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.” Colossians 3v14

I think it’s important to remember that love always looks different. It’s so easy for us to generalize love by watching sappy romance movies, or digging into a “good old” love story, but that’s only one side of love, and usually fairly inaccurate. But love looks different, as I went over at the beginning, because God is different. He is indescribable. And if He created each one of us in His own image, and you can see how unique we all are, imagine how beautifully complicated He is. So when you remember Jesus’ command to love, you need to ask him what that looks like for you. Do you love with your words? How about your money? How do you love with your time? Can you love someone, simply by listening, by being present? Can you love by forgiving without being asked? Or by offering more than you’re comfortable doing? 

Love is big. And love is small. But at the end of the day, you can change someone’s life by just giving them love. We have all been given such a gift from Christ, and whether we receive it or not is up to us. But the greatest thing happens when we finally decide to claim it as our own. We find out how infectious it is to love. And why not give out some extra love today? It doesn’t cost you anything. In fact, you’ll find that by giving it away, you gain it back multiplied.

Love. Never. Dies.

With Strength that is not my own, Sam