RISK

So about a month ago Free told some of us how to spell faith. The way he spelled it was R-I-S-K, which was not the way I was predicting. I immediately thought he was going to spell Jesus instead but then I got to thinking why Free spelled it like that.

Then it actually hit me, in order for us to have faith we have to take risks along the way. Right as he said this I was thinking of all the people in North Korea who were executed for reading and sharing the truth through scripture. They took a risk in one of the most dangerous if not the most dangerous country to be a Christian and died for defending God's word. Not too long ago two more North Koreans were executed for being Christians and sharing the faith with their families while taking Bible classes. The risk all of these men and women took to learn and practice God's word is just breathtaking. They lost their lives for believing in something real, something we believe in freely and truly are blessed that we have such a freedom to believe in such truth what God shares with us.

With this being said it has just really convicted me in so many ways. For example what is stopping us from taking risks for God? Is it that we think people will judge us in so many different ways when we do the simplest things like praying in public places before we eat a meal? Is it that they will they judge the way we worship whether it is praying while kneeling on the ground or raising our arms when we feel God's presence through song? Those are some things that we should not even care about because the only judge we have is God, who has such great love for us that you know he just smiles when stuff like that happens.

I know God wants us to take risks for him every day.  Just look what all the disciples did. They took a risk and had faith in what Jesus was doing teaching them the truth with what he was saying. They gave up their lives so that they could follow Jesus and in return share truth throughout the world.  Jesus could not have told everyone about God by himself. However, with the help of the disciples taking the risk of giving up their current life and following him, which was such an astounding risk, the gospel spread. After Jesus died on the cross, all of his disciples would still share the truth to even more people after he was not on earth. 

Then this past weekend at La Croix Brian “Head” Welch shared his story. He is truly such a warrior for God in so many ways. Now he took not a risk but a reward by accepting Christ in his life. This is a man who pretty much had everything society would say you need or want in life whether it was money, fame, or success before Christ. But he still felt empty as Brian would say we all did when Christ was not in our life. His journey has been such an inspiration for so many people that God has touched working through him in his ups and downs in life.  One of the other things that Brian said this weekend was that if you are still on the fence or don't know what to believe in, then just try it out. Just try reading scripture for 6 months and see if God touches you if you are unsure what to believe. And just see what amazing things can happen within the next 6 months.

I gave myself a challenge after hearing that for the next 6 months. Yes, Jesus did personally save my life working through others and he died on the cross for us so that our sins can be forgiven through grace. But the challenge I have given myself is to be more of that risk taker that God would want us to be. To be more involved in my relationship with Christ with reading more scripture and praying a lot more than I normally do instead of slowly putting him in second place. He always needs to be in 1st, so whether the risk is big or small I know he would want us to take that chance for him. Yes, I know my prayers are not the most extravagant when I say them out loud in groups of people or that the knowledge I have in scriptures does not compare to others. Or the way I try to be Christ like is not like others. I do know this though, none of that matters! As long as we continue to learn scriptures, pray what we need to, and work our way to be more Christ like is what he would want. God loves us the way we are that is why he made us to be ourselves. I know this is going to be a tough challenge for myself but in the end will be worth it! Jesus Christ is the reason we live the life we live today. The risks he took back in his life are the reasons we are so free today to live the life that we do! Not only do I challenge myself to be more of that risk taker for God but I also want to challenge whoever is up for this challenge. To be more involved with their relationship with God and seeing the risk we are taking for him ends up with such great rewards in the end. This challenge for myself has just started but hopefully it is something we will keep doing for the rest of the time we are on this earth. Remembering that faith = risk. And to take risk we will have to have faith in God! This journey is just beginning for all of us.

- Peter DePue

Posted on February 6, 2014 .

Bonus Points

Yesterday during my first class of the semester we did the classic icebreaker where everybody goes around the room and introduces themselves. I’m sure everybody is familiar with it. Everybody tries to figure out some way to introduce themselves to seem interesting but not too weird. It’s embarrassing and never not awkward. In this particular voyage of discovery we had to share our favorite book. In an attempt to display my (perceived) deep persona I said Catch 22. The very next girl answered by saying the Bible. My first thought was immediately, “Duh! I should have said the Bible was my favorite book too!”

But wait. Would it have been fair of me to claim that I love the Bible? I mean I definitely recognize that it’s our guidebook to this crazy adventure called life. I know that it’s one of our most trustworthy methods of getting to know this God guy we try to live for. And I definitely try to give off the impression that its teachings guide my life in a meaningful and genuine way. Looking like I know my stuff makes me feel like I know my stuff. And feeling like I know my stuff makes it okay to not spend quality time getting into the Word.

In the last few months especially, I’ve done a horrible job of making scripture a priority. I make excuses for ignoring the Bible. Here’s as good of an explanation as I can come up with. Have you ever taken a math test that you felt really good about? Maybe you didn’t even study that much, you just showed up and remembered enough to scrape together a B. At the end of the test there’s a bonus question that has the potential to push you up to an A. It’s not a particularly hard question but it’ll mean this test requires just 10 more minutes of your time. And maybe you’re tired and sick of math and just want to be done, so you settle for the B and call it a day.

That’s basically the way I’ve been treating the Bible lately. I act like reading it every day only counts for “bonus points.” Sure it’s a good idea, and there’s really no reason not to, other than pure lack of motivation. But aren’t I already doing enough in my spiritual journey? I get loud for Jesus on Wednesday nights. I listen to Free’s message and occasionally even take some time to contemplate how it relates to my life. I even pray. Because that brief time to talk to God and ask for things is such an enormous gift of my time to Him.

Here’s the harsh truth that may or may not make you uncomfortable: reading the Bible isn’t just extra credit. You can never be doing “enough” in your faith journey to skip one of its fundamental aspects. You can’t just get to know this living God of ours without being familiar with the story of what he’s done, and continuing to do on Earth. It’s something that we Christians claim is the very basis for why we live.

Here’s what I believe about scripture. It’s not a set of stories with morals that we learn and then begin to implement in our lives. It’s one complex story written by many different authors with the same purpose: letting God reveal himself to people in all ages. It’s not something you learn once, it’s something you keep learning the more you delve into it. God continually reveals himself to you in new ways the more you open that book and let his word into your heart.

Here’s another thing I believe: we don’t do it enough. A chapter or two of the Bible isn’t exactly an enormous time commitment. To read a short chapter of the Bible and spend some time chewing on it shouldn’t take much more than fifteen minutes. Can we really not make time for that? Do you need those fifteen minutes of video games or Facebook? At worst, you can spare fifteen minutes of sleep. I know that sleep is something of a luxury item in college, but we’re talking about the Creator of the universe here. Maybe you could pull your Bible out while waiting for class to start. Somebody might take notice and start asking you questions, and maybe that person might not have ever had an interaction like that with a Christian before. Obviously it’s possible that doing this may weird somebody out. But I think weirdness should be embraced. After all, my biggest hero was a guy who weirded people out so much they nailed him to a cross.

Over all, I just really want to encourage people to get in the Word every day. There’s never been an instance of me reading the Bible and regretting it. Get with a community who you can share scripture with and who will hold you accountable. Because it’s not just for bonus points, it’s for the strength of your relationship with the savior of your life.

-  Tucker Flottman

Posted on January 27, 2014 .

I'm that deer...part 2

My thoughts after “As the deer...”

My brain is constantly swimming with words and thoughts, yet talking isn’t exactly my strength. I don’t know what the deal is. I obviously know how to talk, and it’s not like I have nothing to say... everyone has stuff to say. Yet people regularly ask me “what’s on your mind?” or “what are you thinking about?” and I freeze. In that moment it’s as if I can’t find any words; every last one of them eludes me. So, what’s the big deal? So talking isn’t a “strength” per say... HERE’S the big deal! Forget the talking thing... that was just a mini rant. The big deal is that I have a problem! My brain is sprinting like mad, and I STILL can’t figure out where I’m going! God has a plan and a purpose for everyone’s live. And it has come to my attention that those who I hang out with generally know or at least have some idea of what that plan is... and then there’s me... I have NO IDEA!

I’m a planner. I like to know what to expect. God knows this. He created me, for Pete’s sake! So WHY don’t I have any inkling about said life plan & purpose?! What am I doing (or not doing) that is stopping God from communicating this very important information to me? How come everyone else hears God speaking to their heart or feels him move in an area of their life? Why am I stuck in this stupid place where I don’t hardly hear or feel anything?! I’m scared to move because I can’t see the path, and I have no idea where my foot is going to land. Yet, I’m even more scared to stay here and miss out on the life God has planned for me. I’m not doubting God or saying that he’s left me in the dust of anything. On no; I know he’s here! I’m the problem. I have to be...I mean, it’s surely not HIM. I don’t want to be the “other brother” [Luke 15:28-32] or Martha [Luke 10:38-42]. They missed the point. I do not want to miss the point! But at the same time, I can’t figure it out. So now what do I do...?

“Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” – Psalm 42:11

-      Kayla Johnson

Posted on November 26, 2013 .

I'm that deer

I know we’re about to go on Thanksgiving break, so we should be thinking of all the things we’re thankful for, but I can’t. I can think of nothing else than this. This is the general progression of my thoughts every day. (Aside from the rhyming business… I don’t actually think in rhymes.)

 

I’m that deer….

 

“As the deer pants for the water, so my soul longs after you…”

As my soul longs all the harder, so my thoughts are crippling.

“God showed me this… and God showed me that,” they tell me every day.

Yet I sit here and wait, in the silence of the morning, and still don’t know what to say.

Am I doing something wrong? Am I missing the point? Why aren’t my stories like theirs?!

Why do they hear You all the time while I sit here rambling through prayers?

I am distressed and anxious. I don’t know what to do.

But you are a God much greater than this, and I KNOW that you come thru.

You always have. You always will. You’re faithful to the end.

But God I just don’t know how to make this relationship mend…

 

-          Kayla Johnson

Posted on November 25, 2013 .

I'm scared

I always enjoy going home to visit my family.  My parents are always happy to see me and I thoroughly enjoy seeing my sisters and brother-in-law, and my three nephews and one niece.  My oldest nephew, Evan, is now 8 years old.

Several years ago, when Evan was 3 1/2, I was home for Christmas.  One night at my parents house I took him outside with me to go on a "little adventure."  As we were walking through the yard, I felt his little hand reach up for mine as he said, "Uncle Free, will you hold my hand?  I'm scared."  Of course I said yes.

Later that night, as I remembered our "adventure," I thought about his simple request.  The yard was very dark, and had I not walked through it many times before, I myself would have been very cautious as we made our way across it.  Evan had no ability to expect where the trees were or how far away the ditch may be.  He wasn't even sure where we were headed.  He simply had said yes when I asked him if he would go outside with me.

So why did his holding my hand make everything alright?  Why did he have so much faith in me.  How did his hand wrapped in mine provide comfort and confidence for him to continue through the dark?  While I don't have all the answers to these questions, they do make me think about our relationship with God.

How often does He ask me to go on an adventure with Him?  I couldn't even answer that question because I so often am not even listening to hear Him when He does ask.

Why wouldn't I trust Him to lead me through the darkness when I have no ability to forge my own way through?

How does His holding my hand provide "all authority in heaven and on earth" (Matt. 28:18) to give me comfort and confidence?

Why don't I as enthusiastically, as blindly, and with the same faith my nephew Evan has in me trust the Lord and follow Him through all the adventures He has for me?

If Evan had said no, that he didn't want to go outside with me, his life would have been no less affected as it was by our "little adventure."  He would have simply stayed safe inside with the rest of the family in a completely familiar and comfortable environment.

However, every time I do listen to the Lord, say yes to His invitations, trust Him, and hold His hand as He takes me through new places, my life IS drastically affected.  My ability to trust Him grows.  My faith in Him rises.  I provide opportunities for Him to prove Himself faithful to me once more, even though He is not required to do so.  It is His joy.  It is the delight of His heart.  To a much greater degree than how fulfilling it is for me to take Evan on new adventures, it is so pleasing to the Lord when I truly lay down my life and follow Him.  Granted, there will be dark places and I may be scared sometimes.  But with the simple request and touch of my Father's hand, all peace is restored.

I'm thankful for Evan reminding me of how glorious it is to take an adventure with someone you love and trust.  When I do, life is lived.  May you take your own adventures with our Father as He invites you and may the touch of His hand holding yours provide all that you need to continue walking.  May your "I'm scared" never keep you from what lies ahead. 

- Free Waters

Posted on November 7, 2013 .

My Father and I

“You okay?” my father asked one more time while we were back stage.
“You’re gonna be there right?” I asked as I looked into his eyes raising one of my brows slightly
“Yes.” he said with a smile.
“Then, I’m ok!” I said confidently. I was ok. I mean, it was a tough task and a bit dangerous too but I was ok. I knew that my dad wouldn’t let me do anything that would hurt me. I knew that once he was there, I was ok. If anything happened he would figure something out. He always did.
“You’re up kid!” James alerted me quietly as he lifted the curtain slightly for me to walk through. My father took my hand immediately and we both made our way to the stage. The crowd cheered wildly as we appeared on stage. I couldn’t explain how I felt at that moment. All I knew was that I was glad my dad was there with me. I would have passed out if he wasn’t.
My father helped me up the stairs and made his way to the other side of the rope. Just before he left he whispered; “Remember kid, eyes on me!” The crowd went silent as I took my first step on the tightrope. Just as we had practiced, I positioned my feet in the right places and did all the tricks needed to maintain my balance. I didn’t look at the ground or the crowd. I looked straight at my dad. He was smiling and his face was calm. For some reason, that made me so confident. If he was calm, I was fine. I knew that if I was in danger he would do anything to save me. So I could trust him. I could trust the expression on his face.
About half way through I had gotten pretty comfortable on the ropes. Obviously, I had mastered the tricks and I was doing great. I was so proud of myself. I wondered what the crowd thought of me. I was so sure they were amazed and excited. For some reason, I felt that seeing the expression on their faces would inspire me. Besides, it would only be a quick peek. I took a quick glance at the crowd but it was too quick to notice anything. I looked again, slowly this time. At first, it looked like they were amazed. However, after looking closely, I saw that they were not amazed but in fact scared.  Some mothers had their little kids look away just in case something happened. This surprised me. I mean, I knew what I was doing was a bit dangerous but I didn’t think it was more dangerous than entertaining.
Just then, my father called my name softly. “Eyes on me.” he said quietly but firmly.
“Sorry” I whispered back.
Even though I fixed my eyes on my dad, my mind was far from being on him. I couldn’t stop thinking about the expressions on their faces. They were supposed to be enjoying this. Did this actually look that dangerous? Was this more dangerous than I thought? I looked down to see how far I was from the ground. I almost choked on my saliva when I saw the distance. I looked at how far I was from the end. Even though I had gone past half way, I still had a long ways to go. I looked at the rope to see how thin it was. For some reason the rope looked way thinner than it first did when I stepped on it. This was actually scary! What if I fell and died? No matter how good I was I could still make mistakes.
The sound of murmurs from the crowd brought me back to reality. It was then I discovered that I had stopped moving for a while. Some people in the crowd stood up to leave. Some just stared in terror. My heart sank. I couldn’t disappoint the crowd. I couldn’t go back. I couldn’t disappoint my dad. I couldn’t move. I wished I could disappear. I wished I could jump and cover up somehow. There was nothing I could do. I was stuck. I heard my father calling my name but I couldn’t look him in face. He asked me to look at him throughout and I didn’t. I was doing pretty well when I was. I ruined it. It was my fault. I didn’t want to see the disappointment and fear in his eyes. I didn’t know what I would do if I saw fear in my dad’s eyes. If my dad was afraid, I was hopeless. Instead, I struggled in my head. I struggled to no avail. Confused, depressed and frustrated, I resolved to face my dad. It was my only option. What else could I have done? Filled with guilt, I raised my head to look at him.
I would never forget that moment. I couldn’t explain how I felt when I saw that my dad was neither scared nor disappointed. His face was as calm as it was in the beginning. He beckoned at me to come to him. Somehow, that gave me so much energy; so much hope. I did. I didn’t look down or look away or think. I just walked till I got to him. I don’t really know what happened after that. The crowd went wild but I didn’t care. I had learned that it wasn’t about the crowd. I had learned that the only way to get the crowd was to focus on my dad. It was all about my dad and I.
“How could you be so calm?” I asked
“There’s something firmly hooked to your belt behind. I put it there myself. Even if you missed you step, you would simply hang there and I could come get you if you wanted and then you could back on track.”
“So why didn’t you just say so when I was stuck?” I asked puzzled
“Because that’s not what you needed to hear.  You wouldn’t have finished if I did.” He said raising one of his brows as though he was looking for a confirmation. I flushed. That was so true. “Besides” He said grinning “I needed you to trust daddy!”

 ~Mayoo Lawal

 

Posted on October 24, 2013 .

Hope. Faith. Peace. Love.

A few years ago I made a decorative piece for my room that has "hope," "faith," "peace," and "love" written on it.  When I made this these four words were just empty words that I thought would look good on my wall, and maybe inspire me a little bit.

Well after reading most of the New Testament, these four words have such a more deeper and stronger meaning than they did before.

1. Hope- When I think of this word now, I think of placing my hope in things eternal.  I think of 2 Corinthians 4:18- So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. I think about how so many times in the bible it mentions hope relating to God's promise of eternal life. When I think of hope I try to think of nothing else but the return of Jesus Christ one day. 

2. Faith- When I think of faith, the word trust comes to mind.  I think of trusting God in every situation.  I think of believing in His will for my life and not attempting to do things on my own. I think of Abraham's unwavering faith and how he never stopped trusting in God's promises for His life.  He knew God had the power to do what he said He would. (Romans 4:20-25)

3. Peace- When I think of peace I think of it as a result of these other two words.  Because I have that one unchanging hope in Christ and because I have faith that my life is in God's hands, I will have a sense of peace.  Peace also reminds me of Philippians 4:6-7- Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  To me, this verse means that no matter the situation, if I don't fret, but instead turn to God and ask Him for help or guidance, I will have peace. With hope and trust in the Lord, comes peace of mind.

4. Love- When I used to hear the word love it meant nothing to me, simply something I said to my family or something people on TV said in lustful, romantic relationships.  As crazy it sounds, I never thought of the love of God.  I never considered that God's love is the one perfect example of love. I never thought about God giving up His only son so that I could live.  I never thought of how much Jesus must have loved me to be nailed to a cross for the sins I committed.  I never thought about that even when we were still living in our sin, God loved us anyway and He still sacrificed His son.  I never thought about that no matter what I do today or ever, God will never love me any less.  I never considered God's love as being the reason I am even alive today. Similarly, I never considered that because God loved me first I should love Him and love everyone just as He does.  I never realized that love should be my main motive and the center of my life. I never realized that, God created me to glorify, honor and most importantly love Him. He wants me to love Him all the time with everything I have. I never realized that God calls me to also love my neighbor no matter what.  He calls me to forgive and to put others before myself. I never realized that love is the most important command. After all Jesus himself said it:
Jesus replied: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself." (Matthew 22:36-40)

Hope in things eternal. Faith in God's plan. Peace because of faith and hope. God is love. Love God. Love others.


-Maya Smith

 

Posted on October 21, 2013 .

Opening a Heart

            People often wonder why I am so quiet or seem so distant from people. Or why I am always just on the surface level of telling everyone how I am or what I have gone through. After a few more talks with other people I believe it's time for me to be a little more vulnerable and start to let people in my real life, not just the life everyone on the outside sees. So far I have always closed my heart to others when they want to get to know me and help me become a better person in life.

            I would say the main reason I am the way that I am is because of all the events, or more specifically tragedies, I have experienced in life. When something bad happens it's just like an ongoing roller coaster of negative effects. One of the main events that has occurred in my life, which made me go beyond rock bottom, was when I lost some of my closest friends. Tiffany, Chad, Malik, and Heather were their names. To be honest I have never told anyone the names of those friends as I just didn't want to think about it and think that they were gone from my life. August and November of 2010 along with February and May of the next year were the months they passed away. So, during my sophomore year of college and first year here at SEMO, when God was not in my life yet, I had to deal with deaths about every three months. Not having God in my life just made me go into a deeper hole and choose wrong directions in life that I pray no one has to go through. During the following summer, I continued to veer away from God, which hurt my relationships with people who were close to me and saw me going the wrong direction and could not steer me into the light.

            So coming into my second year here at SEMO I basically had given up on life and success with nothing to look forward too. In my mind, I basically kept saying explicit terms to myself and wondering, “Is it even worth staying in school or staying with life in general; what more could go wrong?” Then I decided I'll just do random things and with that I started going to Ignite's opening week activities and I remember meeting some people who just kept wanting to know me.  That was something I was not used to, nor was I trying to find people like that at that time. One of those people were Nick Centanni who first invited me to church at La Croix. Weird thing was that he didn't even go to that church there but was friends with Jessica King, another person who had an impact on my life but probably still doesn't even realize that. It was just really different for me the first time I went to La Croix. Then at another opening week event I met another friend of mine who made a huge impact in my life.  Her name is Taylor and she was on the gymnastics team at the time. She is the nicest and most caring person I know. As we kept getting to know each other she offered rides to La Croix and we always had, as I called it, our “Laundry room talks.” With all of them just showing me the love they have in Jesus Christ through the actions of showing me love was unbelievably awesome! With those few people helping me and joining a small group through the Ignite community, those people helped me see a light.

            I still remember the day I truly gave my life to Christ, which was October 2, 2011. So some people don't even realize that I am this young in my life living for our Lord, but I absolutely love it! Something that made me see God's love for me a lot more was this past summer after losing another friend, his name is Zach. This was the first death I had dealt with, with God in my life. I was working at a camp at the time for only around two maybe three weeks. But when you work in that kind of environment you become a lot closer to strangers a lot quicker. They saw the pain I was going through and our staff that week just wrote me so many encouraging notes to help me get through it. I love all of them for that and they will forever be in my heart.

            In the end I know God wants me to have an open and vulnerable heart with people, which is still difficult for me as every time I seem to get close to people I lose them. Is that why I am so hesitant to open up to people? I honestly don't know. I do know that the people I have an open heart with right now make me so grateful to have the times that I do with them. As I continue to try and open my heart to others I know God will be testing me a lot, just as he did after I lost my first cross country and track coach along with other events. Just seeing peoples’ love for God through their actions towards me, whether it is late night talks, nature walks, or hanging out with each other, makes me want to have a vulnerable heart and slowly be open to others. I hope and will try to be more vulnerable and use the story that I have to help other lost people find their way to God as I did with the relationships I have built with him.

- Peter DePue

 

Posted on October 14, 2013 .

The Canvas

In the middle of the life we live, we long to be called out into beauty, to create beautiful things.  But I’ve felt that if my life were a picture… it’d be a mass of multicolored blots on a neon piece of paper- a bold, bright, busy, chaotic mass of nothing that mattered.

I’ve hidden in my beyond-busy schedule.  The more I packed into a day, the less I could get lost in my own mind.  If I were to ever slow down, I’d have to face myself.  I’d have to admit that I’d done a million things and still had a void that had been reached by nothing.

I was “saved.”  But I rode the emotional highs of life.  I was happy when the life around me was fun and enthusiastic, depressed when the life happening around me was dead and empty.  I dated a few guys that couldn’t be everything I needed them to be. I went to a few churches that offered an empty, plastic God that didn’t do much for me.  I followed the “church rules” rigidly; my dying spirit matching the lifeless congregation. I thought, in going through the motions, I would somehow find God, but I didn’t.

I remember the day I looked at my life and realized my best efforts were insufficient. My boyfriend and I had been trying to use each other to fill God’s place in our lives, to be each others' everything.  I remember this guy demanding me to give more, be more, to be anything but who I was.  I had nothing left of myself to give, but still, I gave myself to the effort constantly.  I tried so hard to be anything besides myself- anything that wasn’t so ugly.

God saw my useless struggle; the desperate flailing of my arms and legs, the cries that were heard by no one.  He watched me fight the world until I was exhausted.   Until I gave up. 
I was wounded, disillusioned by the lie that I had no value, when God came and found me.  He knew it was the only time He’d find me laying still- the only time I’d hear Him whispering.
And this is when I met, El Roi - The God Who Sees Me.  The God that was always there, working in the shadows of my life and waiting for me to see Him

Since then, I have tasted and seen that the Lord is good.  He is faithful to find me, to pursue me with His fierce love, even when I don’t think I need it.  I have to examine my life daily.  Sometimes when I’m making my way through this jungle called life, I forget my dependence on God, and I can no longer recall who I am or what I’m trying to accomplish.   Sometimes I let trees grow between myself and God’s face.  But when I call to God, he shows himself to me again.  Anytime I so much as glance His way, He holds my hand and paints another glorious, meaningful image on the new canvas that is my life’s picture. 

And so I declare the power of God’s love with all that I am.  I give my life to follow everything He is, because His presence makes me new.

- Natalie Estes

 

Posted on October 7, 2013 .

Encountering God

On a recent day off, I was watching documentaries on Netflix. One of my favorite activities. That day's selection was Cave of Forgotten Dreams, a less than scholarly look at the oldest paintings ever discovered. They are located in a French cave perfectly preserved by a landslide tens of thousands of years ago. The paintings and etchings, produced over a period of a thousand years, are some of the first examples of artistic expression. The cave formation is incredible and the paintings are beautiful even by today's standards. The subject speaks to my intellect and passions. Ten minutes in I felt a lump in my throat; twenty minutes in I was on the verge of weeping. I had been hit by an emotion far deeper than one a movie could produce. 

I had encountered God there. He had come unbidden and unheralded. He stepped into the mundane and ordinary of my afternoon of relaxation and pierced my heart with a desire for something beyond the bounds of my simple existence. The Spirit called to the part of me created by the Father to be in eternal communion with the Son. I was in the presence of the three person God and it hurt. It was unbearable. I was shot to the heart with an intense desire, a longing for things beyond me, a connection to a history long lost and one not yet written. I wondered what those people who painted knew of God. Did they feel this same sweet desire for something beyond time and experience? Did they see glimpses of Heaven in this world that drove them to create? 

It was a fleeting feeling that, even as it washed over me, I wanted to grasp and keep and horde, to bottle for those times I feel far from God. I wanted to be able to summon the emotion when I thought I needed it. I wanted to destroy the mystery of God's call and put him at my command. It was a sweet pain and I missed even before it faded. But it did not last, I can't bottle it or call it to myself. It was never meant to be that way. If it is a call it must be answered. I will walk in darkness again, I have experienced distance before. In those times, instead of seeking the longing of something unknown, I must run after the Christ that is knowable. I must find the source and not be satisfied by the runoff, how ever sweet. There is more to see. I am called to dive in the depths of the ocean, not just wade in the shallows, waiting to be called. The call has been made, it only waits to be answered.  

 - Garret Hilburn

Posted on September 30, 2013 .

Worship from the Heart

Music is one of the best parts of my life. There's something about creating sound from my lips or finger tips that is very special to me. I've been a part of several bands throughout high school and college, mostly playing for entertainment, but music for worship is a completely different concept to grasp. Last semester, I realized that in my time playing music in a worship setting, not much of what was happening for me was really worship. After talking this out with some friends, I decided to take a few weeks off from playing in the worship band and refocus myself on what that time should actually be about. One night as I sat in the prayer room at the Ignite House, I wrote down what God revealed to me when I asked Him to show me truth. 

I realized that it's not about how cool I can make something sound. When it's about that, it's about me. Worship music is about how I can glorify God, and He can be glorified in my simplicity or complexity. So it's not about giving Him the best piece of music I can. Instead, it's about giving Him all of my heart. When I am able to worship God with my heart, worshiping God with music will not even have to be something that I choose to do. I won't have to decide to worship, because it'll just happen. God was overflowing with so much love that He couldn't help but create us. His love continued to burst at the seams even when we tarnished His perfect creation, so He couldn't help but recreate us through death on a cross. True worship is something that cannot be contained, but inevitably pours out of us from being filled with a love for God that comes from God. But this doesn't only apply to music. This applies to everything.

"So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." - 1 Corinthians 10:31

If art is your passion, then your artwork should be a result of love pouring out of your heart. This doesn't mean you have to sit around and paint pictures of the Last Supper and Angels all day, but maybe you give God the credit for your creativity and skill, being completely humbled knowing that whatever masterpiece you could possibly create, God's masterpiece far surpasses anything you could hope to achieve, and your heart is burning with a love that truly worships God. 

If your passion is science, then your studies on that should be an outpouring of your heart for God, too. And I'm not saying here that you should devote your scientific passion into proving the correct theory of how God created the Earth, but maybe you realize that whatever you learn about something is actually revealing more about who God is and how complex He operates in comparison to us, and this simply leaves you in awe of our great God. To think that He can make us out of microscopic atoms that begin simply as a fertilized egg! If God can do this, how much more can I trust Him with my heart? 

Maybe your passion is social work. And worshiping God through this is not that you're "converting" all the broken people to sit and wait on Jesus to solve all their problems, but it's recognizing that you are the hands and feet of Christ, and sharing in His love for all people, especially those that normally get neglected. You take action to provide care and love, the way Christ did when He walked the Earth. You listen to people that need to be heard, and you do all of these things because your heart is filled with the love of God.

Worship begins in the heart. Whatever action follows is just a consequence of already worshiping.

 - Justin Kinzinger

Posted on September 19, 2013 .

The Wrath of a Boy and the Love of God

I’ve been through a lot in 19 short years. My parents discovered a potentially fatal disease in my gut known as Celiac disease. Years later, we found out that I was autistic, lactose intolerant and ADHD prone. I am no stranger to disappointment. However, I never blamed God; He was not the cause of my problems. He was my confidant, the one I could trust. He loved me and that was all that mattered. The fact that I was alive was a true blessing.

This feeling would not last though. On April 26, 2006, my grandpa died of congestive heart failure. I was only 11.

The loss didn’t affect me like everyone else; everyone thinks that I handled his death very well. Unfortunately (for me), they were very wrong. I tried to deny he ever died at all. I tried to say, “It’s a joke,” and shove it off. But the eventual truth sank in: my grandpa, my friend, teacher, and fellow pool player, was dead. Gone forever.

The rage I felt at his death was nothing like I had felt before, nor do I think I will ever feel that angry again. I literally wanted the world to burn. This was all God’s fault! If He was so “all powerful” couldn’t He have prevented this? Couldn’t He have saved my grandpa from the arms of Death? But He didn’t, so I steered my wrath in his direction. I kicked God out of my heart and made it a haven for my demons. This, however, wasn’t the worse thing I had done to Him.

I wanted to make it absolutely certain to God that He was not to be welcomed back into my heart. So I thought to engage in the sin that I thought He would find the most disgusting. If I could make my heart filthy enough then maybe I could keep Him out as I drown myself in my misery and pain.

I looked to internet porn. I have never told this to anyone ever. The fact that I sinned against God to get BACK at God…I can’t think of anything more shameful. I can’t think of any reason for any Christian to get so mad, so livid at God that they would willingly hurt Him. As shameful and disgusting as I knew it was, I definitely kept God out. For 5 years in fact! That’s a long grudge! Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore; I didn’t want to stay angry about the past. I apologized to God, literally cried all night long, when I came to my senses. I finally realized that it wasn’t God’s fault. In fact, He is the reason I came back to myself in the first place. I realized not only that it was not His fault, but He was actually doing me a favor! My grandpa was old, tired and sick. He was ready to see the Lord and in my selfishness, I tried to hold on to him, no matter what he wanted. So when my grandfather died on August 6th of this year, I just let him go. Yes, I was sad; I love him. But he was miserable, he couldn’t hunt, fish or do whatever else he loved anymore. I wouldn’t be doing him any favors by holding on to him. Sometimes, you just have to let go of the people you love, no matter how much pain you suffer.

After my nosedive into porn, I decided to make a covenant with God. I could promise God anything, I decided, but a covenant would mean more. Plus, to bind it, I poured all of my shame and remorse into the words I spoke in my heart. God was good to me. Not only did He forgive me, but He gave me a new life. A life I have been living for the last 4 years. I have never been back to any of those old sites since then. The images though, will never leave me so long as I live. I still have nightmares about them.

Here are my words of wisdom: do not stay angry, especially with God. The pain it will cause you will not be that noticeable at first but believe me you will feel it. And never, EVER blame God for your problems like I did. He does not want to see you in pain. Rather, He would like to see you joyful and full of the Holy Spirit. I would like to share with you one of my most favorite passages from Ephesians 6 10-18:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”

Gregory P. Reinhardt

Posted on September 9, 2013 .

The Deep Desire to be Known

We first meet her in Genesis 16. She is an Egyptian servant in Abraham’s well-off world. We will see her used and abused by Sarai, her mistress. She will always end up either running away or being driven off into the wilderness. Her name is Hagar and she carries deep inside her heart a hunger we all secretly share.

When her baby, Ishmael, is finally known to be on the way, the reward for her submission to Sarai’s manipulative and faithless behavior is abuse. (16:6b) And so Hagar does what we see her constantly doing in Genesis, what you and I also constantly are doing, she runs away. She carries within her all that she really owns, her unborn baby, Ishmael. She wanders out into the desert on the road to Shur.

But she is not really alone, even as we can never really be. The angel of the Lord meets her near an as yet nameless spring and asks, “Where have you come from and where are you going?” It is a basic question we should still be constantly asking ourselves. She honestly opens her heart to the angel, “I’m running away...” she defiantly whispers through her tears.

The angel tells the frightened girl to do the last thing in the world she wants to do, return to the abuse from which she has fled. In the language of poetry, he promises her that there is more going on than she can see, more than she can possibly know. It is a heartbreakingly beautiful picture, the angel singing a song of hope in the desert to a hopeless pregnant girl.

As the angel finishes his song (vvs. 11-12), Hagar abruptly responds to the angel who knew her name. She speaks to God a new name, “Lahai Roi” “The One who sees me.” In her fear, hopelessness and despair, God met her in the wilderness with His perfect provision. It was all she really needed or wanted. She wanted simply to be seen, and the God who sees, saw her and sang to her a song of hope.

After a six year pursuit, my wife Susan finally responded to my courtship by telling me that she felt I was the first person to really see her. It was only then that I realized inside myself how much I needed her to really see me too. Twice, the gospels tell us, Peter is “intensely gazed at” by Jesus. (John 1:42, Luke 22:61) That is, Simon Peter becomes aware that Jesus can see to the heart of who he really is, a man so fatally flawed, and yet still love and even die for him. It must have been the first time for Simon to sense that he was so completely known. Later in Acts, Peter really sees the need of a crippled beggar. It is not healing he needs so much as Jesus. And so the “seen” disciple, who has learned to really see the heart, gives to the beggar both healing and Jesus.

“Where have you come from and where are you going?” the angel asks us all. Have you come from a world that has shown you only abuse and blindness to who you are? And are you now in headlong flight from intimacy and genuine relationship, having tried to give up on the hope of ever being truly known? Then what hope could you possibly have had? And where are you going? Back into that same sightless, heartless world? What hope could you possibly look forward to in such a world? We constantly ask for provision when what we need is the clear-sighted Presence of Jesus. We sense His gaze on our lives, and we reflexively turn away from being so lovingly seen, our souls so leprous and untouchable. But His gaze is relentless.

The things we ask for in prayer are almost certainly not what we really need. We need most to be seen, to be understood for better or for worse for who we are. This deep desire is one of the evidences for our being created for relationship with God. Would He give us this profound longing and not perfectly fulfill it by loving us so unconditionally in Christ?

Ask for the grace to look into your deepest longing. You may be in the desert. You may have given up on ever being seen at all. But let me tell you, as one who has been found again and again in the wilderness, there is an Angel of the Lord who is prepared to sing you a song. He asks where you have been and where you are going, already knowing the answers to both questions. It is almost as if He wants to give you the sacred space to respond to the question He already knows. It is as if you need to hear yourself say how bad it was where you’ve been and how hopeless it is where you are going. Only then will you be ready to hear His song of hope sung to you. Only then will you be ready to drink from the Living Spring of the One who sees you. For, after all, there is a Savior who sees all that is unlovable and yet still loves perfectly, completely, sacrificially. And there is a God who knows you and me more than we know ourselves. 

 - Michael Card

Posted on September 5, 2013 .

God's Teaching me...

So brevity isn’t really a strength of mine. I’ve always been the type who needs to write my thoughts down to keep them straight. Over the last couple days God has been showing me his plan for my life in incredible new ways. I just wanted to talk a bit about what Ignite has done to reveal that to me, and what I want to do with that love powering my life.

            When I first came to SEMO, it’s safe to say that my life was just about at rock bottom. I was attempting to escape from two controlling relationships that had pretty much driven my senior year of high school. First off, there was the girl I was dating who I knew didn’t love me, or probably really even like me. And of course there was the pot. For the past two years I had been having secret liaisons with shady people to get high in their basements and avoid spending time with the people I knew wanted to help me. I was miserable, and my solution was to dive in deeper to the things I knew would just make my misery worse.

            Looking back on that whole year now, I know what would have healed me. But back then I was committed to ignoring the fact that I was miserable and hoping my move to Cape would help me to get my life back on track. My plan was to make some great new friends, maybe find a girl who could put up with me, and get my life kick-started back up. I definitely didn’t plan on meeting Jesus here.

            That’s the funny thing. In a way Jesus was the very first person I met on campus. I showed up at Dearmont to get my stuff all moved in, and two guys I didn’t know just instantly started carrying my things for me. They were smiling and making an obvious effort to invest in me. Neither of them were part of the Greek move-in group, they were just two random guys who wanted to make my first day a bit easier. That was the first impression I got of SEMO, and in those two fellas I got my first real taste of Jesus loving me through the people here. Unfortunately that was the first and last time I ever encountered those two, but the impression will always be there.

            So I spent that first weekend at college getting to know the people in my dorm. I felt like they were good people, and some of them are still among my best friends to this day. But I craved more. There was some hidden desire on my heart that I couldn’t quite place, and I had no idea how to satisfy a desire that couldn’t be identified. Looking back today I’m certain that what I was missing was intimacy. I wanted people to know the things about me that I hated. I wanted my life and my well-being to be a priority to somebody.

            One night during that first week I was feeling pretty antsy to get out of the dorm and have some sort of adventure. A couple of my friends were going to go play capture the flag with a group they found on the SEMO portal, so I decided I would jump in. Before leaving, I got high. And that was how I showed up to my first Ignite gathering. People I didn’t know began talking to me and asking me questions about my life. They legitimately seemed to care about me. And oh goodness, it weirded me out.

            Not in a bad way of course. Because like I said, that kind of interaction was exactly what I had been looking for. But I needed people around me who would pour into me the kind of unconditional love that would validate me even at my lowest points. I needed to access the love of Jesus, and these Ignite people were already investing that into me.

            So I began to come to some more Ignite events. I came to the house party the next day and met people who began having legitimate conversations with me. A fellow named Josiah Johnson started to ask me more personal questions about things like where I was on my faith journey. I gave the standard answer you’re supposed to give in those situations: I had gone to church as a kid, but that was about it. He told me to join his iFam, and maybe to come worship in a couple days.

            From then on I was pretty much adopted into the family. People who I’d only spoken to once or twice knew me on a first name basis. I would pass people from Ignite while walking through campus and they would stop to ask me about my day. I was cared for, I was important to them, I was loved. And I started getting hungry for Jesus. Slowly I began to understand that Jesus was loving me through these people, and that his love was the love I’d been feeling since I stumbled across Ignite.

            Realizing that I wanted Jesus to take control of my life was the climax of the story. I was at a prayer event called the Axis, surrounded by Josiah, Sean Kenney, Demarcus Patterson, Peter Depue; people who to this day are still among the most important people on my journey. I felt the love that God had for me. I knew that was what had to be the focus of my life. That love has been present throughout my whole life, but it took the love of a family to reveal it to me in a way I could process. Because of the people of Ignite, who love me despite (or even because of) the things that have hurt me, I can embrace that every day.

            God is love. That’s the essence of who He is, I suppose. Perfect power embedded within perfect love. And this family who adopted me and molded me into the person I am today, they are the vessels of God’s Spirit. That’s what Ignite is to me. God’s love empowering people to love me, and giving me the strength, somehow, to love myself for the first time.

But it’s so much more than that. Ignite revealed God’s love to me. Now I strive to be an image of God’s love to every person I meet. Am I doing that great of a job? Jury’s still out on that one. That’s why I stay invested in this family. If they can reveal Jesus to me, I know they can help release my love into the world. Every day these people help me love. And because I’ve lived a life of despair I can fully appreciate the beauty of this new stage of my life. That’s what Ignite gave me, and that’s what I want to give back to this broken world that desperately needs to feel God’s love.

If you’re a new freshman who doesn’t really know anybody, or needs somebody to talk to about Jesus, please talk to me. Please guys, join an iFam. Come worship with us. Even just stop by the house and hang out with us when we do our homework. Lately God has been putting the desire to reach out to people on my heart. The stage in my life when I first began to know God was beautiful. In a lot of ways, I’m still going to be meeting God in new ways for the rest of my life. But what I long for now is to show God’s love for others. I’ll admit that terrifies me. But it’s what God is telling me to do. So I’m ready to be his soldier.

If you managed to get through this whole Russian novel, thank you. If you want to get in contact with me I’d be more than happy to chat or get coffee. My number is (573) 881-5301, and I promise I’ll return your call. If not me, there are so many people throughout Ignite or other campus ministries at SEMO who want to love you. Please let them. Thanks guys, God bless.

Tucker Flottman

Posted on August 31, 2013 .

In His Grip

I hope you all are getting ready to have a great weekend.  If you weren't able to worship with us on Wednesday night, we missed you.  I hope to see you soon.   

Wednesday night we talked about how God encourages us and invites us to wrestle with Him.  From the story of Jacob wrestling with God in Genesis 32, we discussed how God humbles himself to a point of engaging with us in our struggles, and how through that process we find a clearer understanding of our identity.  Jacob was actually renamed in his wrestling with God to Israel, meaning the people who struggle with God. 

It is not in our natural behavior to feel comfortable wrestling with God.  We are often misled to believe we need to get things in order before we approach Him.  This is obviously not how God operates.   

I want to encourage you with one more thing.  Even if you don't feel comfortable with the idea of wrestling with God, just think about this...When you are wrestling with God, regardless of how comfortable you are, you are in the arms of your Father.  When we hear the phrase "in the arms of God," we usually envision a serene picture of rest and comfort.  However, being in God's arms can also be wrestling with him.  And even if you aren't comfortable, there's no place safer in this world than in God's arms.   

May you have a wonderful weekend and find the ability to rest in God's arms, one way or another. 

 

Free

Posted on August 30, 2013 .