Love comes first

A few years ago, some church friends and I went to the mall to share the Gospel. When we arrived at the mall, a fear of evangelism crept up inside me. But I felt that I couldn’t run away scared or make excuses to leave because, well, I wasn’t ready to be that honest about my fear yet. So I pressed on, pushed my fears down, and moved forward. Upon entering the mall, I could tell that the other people I was with also felt afraid. All the more reason for me to be the “confident” one.

As we approached a woman sitting with a few others on a bench, I rehearsed what I would say in my head. “Hi, we were wondering if you wanted to know anything about Jesus?” I asked. She looked surprised that I would say anything at all to her. “No”, she said softly.

“Ok, thank you. Have a nice day,” I replied. And we continued on.

Each encounter with people at the mall that day looked something like this first conversation. A simple question, followed by a simple answer.  

No.  

No one wanted to know anything about Jesus, at least, not from me that day.

I often reflect on the awkwardness I felt during this time in my life four years ago. But even more so, how unfortunate it is to do something for the wrong reasons, regardless of the outcome.

But I was recently reminded that the best, most holy thing that could fuel us to share the Gospel isn’t fear but love.

 

For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died..” 2 Corinthians 5:15a

 

What fueled me during this time of evangelism wasn’t love for the people who might receive Jesus, it was fear. I was afraid of saying no to something I was “supposed” to do. It wasn’t a healthy reverence of the holiness of God that controlled me, it was an unhealthy fear of man. At the time I was part of an amazing church community, but the pressure to constantly share the Gospel was unforgivingly great. Looking back, I felt like there was no room for me to be honest about my social anxiety fear or my need for the approval of man. My obedience was there, but my heart was weary because of the fear that fueled it.

What happens when the wrong things compel us? On the outside, we may seem like shining examples of Jesus followers. But on the inside, I believe we slowly die and soon, we may not be able to fake it anymore. One day we may find ourselves so weary from faking it, that we end up faithless. Not because God isn’t good, but because we’ve forgotten that he is good enough to love us in our shortcomings. The reality about God’s goodness is that it doesn’t change. We may see it in the best moments of our lives, and completely miss it when hardship or the stickier things in life afflict us. What we miss is that God’s goodness is the same in the trenches of the reality of our humanness and in the triumphs. He is always with us and for us; that is what makes him good.

When I remind myself that God is good, it’s like I am pouring truth into the cracks of my identity that fear created. And today, I can say that what does compel me is love. It compels me because, instead of running from my fears, I stop and turn around to face them. I have the courage to do this because I choose to believe that God is good. Even when people around me demand an obedience to their expectation of what Christians (me) should be like, I choose to not let their opinion or approval of me guide my decisions. Instead, I turn to Jesus, the image of the invisible God, and he and I walk together to face my fears. He reminds me that I am accepted and loved as I am, and gently teaches me how to trust him with all things. This is how he changes us, by his love and friendship. Because his love changes me, I become more like him- more love, less fear.

When I go out to malls, or anywhere to share Jesus, I remember that the God of love is with me. I can allow his love to control me, not my fear. I remember that He is always with us and for us; that’s what makes him good.

Written by: Iman Hall

Learning to Hear God’s Voice

Full send.

I always knew that there was more to life. I knew that there was more to God than what I had experienced so far. I desired to know more about Him, to find out what I had been missing out on. I desired to hear His voice over the loud noise of this world, to experience His miracles and to feel His love. I knew that all of these amazing things that God had for me were right there but I didn’t know how to grasp them. It was like sitting on a roller coaster not knowing how to start it.

Going to YWAM Maui I had no idea what to expect but I had a feeling that it was going to be intense and challenging. Oh and how that feeling turned out to be true later on. I was about to launch that scary, crazy, thrilling roller coaster ride…

After every week of lecture, I could see more and more how much I had grown in my walk with Jesus and the way my relationship to Him got steadier. Finally, I started to find what I had been looking for, for such a long time. I learned to hear and experience the Lord through scripture, through nature when surfing or hiking, through the gentle and loving words and deeds of other students and staff, even through dreams and visions. Not that it was all sunshine and roses. There was a good amount of challenging and painful days and I think I felt pretty much any emotion possible. I mean have you ever cried and laughed at the same time? Not the one where one happens right after the other. I’m talking about literally crying and laughing at. the. same. time! Me neither, until the Holy Spirit… Aaaanyway, the rough days were, no doubt, the ones that I grew and healed on the most.

Looking back I can see how during all this time, Jesus had been sitting right next to me on this roller coaster not letting go off of my hand a single time while steering! the whole thing. And you know what? That roller coaster ride never ended. Even after I had graduated from my DTS it kept going and we are still on it. That scary, crazy, thrilling roller coaster ride steered by Jesus who Himself is the way and the truth and the life (John 14:6).

 

By Jane Scho

Who does God say I am?

I had absolutely no idea who I was.

Not a clue. Absolutely not one SINGLE clue.

Well actually, I take that back. I had quite a few clues, but they were all absolutely, positively wrong. And toxic. And life-crushing. And in general, just not super excellent.

I thought I was a good student. That worked super well until I looked at the people in class with me and realized that no matter how hard I worked, there was always gonna be someone smarter than me. I thought I was a good dancer. That worked super well until I looked at the people in class with me and realized that no matter how hard I worked, there was always gonna be someone better than me. I thought I was a good friend. That worked super well until I realized that I was so focused on being a good student and a good dancer that I was incapable of being there for my friends in the ways that they needed. To summarize; in my opinion, I pretty much just sucked as a human being and deserved to go sit in a hole in the ground talking to no one but my toes until I died and decomposed back into the earth. Yay!

And so, my senior year of high school, God brought me into a painful (but necessary) season in which He ripped away, one by one, each and every identity I tried to cling onto. Every single one. He just flat-out decimated ‘em. As me and my friends graduated and everyone excitedly prepared for college, seeming to have every inch of their glorious & successful future lives planned out, I felt hollowed out and empty. I had nothing left to define myself by, so what worth did I have? What purpose did I have? Why was I even here? As I plummeted into the SUPER fun lifestyle of “completely-insecure-with-an-overwhelming-feeling-of-worthlessness,” I realized that all I truly had left was the thing I’d been shoving to the back burner of heart and schedule since I was 13 years old;

Jesus.

And that was the heart posture with which I waltzed into the DTS program in YWAM Maui. Empty, desperate, and willing to give everything to God but without any real hope that He would do anything with what I gave Him. Or that He even really existed. (Sorry Jesus oops)

As classes began and I got to know the people around me, suddenly my mind was in a constant state of amazement. With each week of lectures, I saw God a little clearer. And strangely enough, the more clearly I saw Him, the more clearly I saw myself for who I actually was. And who we all actually are.

WE ARE MADE IN THE IMAGE OF GOD and when we accept Him WE ARE HIS CHILDREN! That’s all. That’s it. No additions, no prefixes, no nothing. You were created to be the object of God’s love, and THAT is the purpose of life and the joy in living it. If we don’t know this, we so easily become lost, because we’re trying to gain worth, love, and approval from sources that do not last forever. These sources ARE going to let us down, at some point. And the more we chase after these identities that we were NOT meant to claim, the emptier we feel. Because you were made to love and be loved by an infinite God, and He is the only thing that can fill the infinite emptiness inside of us. We have been deigned to carry His presence and to walk in close relationship with Him.

 

In the Old Testament, God speaks something pretty incredible over Jeremiah;

“Before I formed you in the womb

I knew you,

Before you were born I set you apart;

I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”

– Jeremiah 1:4-5

Being “appointed as a prophet to the nations” sounds like something that would only be granted to someone after they’d gone through a pHD program in theology, 17 years of seminary, and 3 in-person interviews with the President of the United States. However, God has chosen to flip our neat little system on its head. Because in this passage (and YOUR life!), God chose Jeremiah not AFTER he proved his potential, but BEFORE. BEFORE Jeremiah even breathed his first breath, he already had God’s attention, unconditional acceptance and love. This is absolutely insane. God is saying that we are infinitely loved, accepted, forgiven, and made new, and that we are heirs to the kingdom of heaven & ALL of its glory, BEFORE we did anything to even SORT OF deserve it. You are made in His image, He calls you His masterpiece, and you are sealed with His promise (AKA: He’s not gonna let you go). And there is absolutely nothing you have done, are doing, or will do that can take any of that away. Just like He saw Jeremiah, since before the beginning of time He saw every single piece of dysfunction partying it up in your little human body, and He STILL chose to love you, to die for you, and to create a divine purpose for your life. HE CHOSE YOU, AND HE IS ABSOLUTELY ECSTATIC ABOUT HIS CHOICE. We are sons and daughters, not slaves. Slaves earn their keep, slaves receive praise or punishment based on their performance. But as (chosen!) children of God, in the words of Steven Furtick in his book Crash the Chatterbox, “…we no longer have to live UP to anything. Instead, you are now empowered to live OUT of an awareness of divine acceptance.”

Knowing your identity as a child of God abolishes insecurity: His opinion of you is all that matters, and He’s already called you His beloved, beautiful, intentionally formed, treasured masterpiece. Knowing your identity as a child of God abolishes anxiety: He, with His intimate knowledge of both you AND your battles and His incomprehensible power to completely overcome every source of darkness, is forever by you and fighting your battles FOR you. Knowing your identity as a child of God abolishes hopelessness: you were not an afterthought, but fearfully and wonderfully made for a specific and wonderful purpose, and in His perfect goodness He uses EVERY situation for your good & His glory. Knowing your identity as a child of God is heart-transformative, is the source of peace, the source of joy, the source of LIFE. It enables you to overcome, to thrive, to love, to forgive, to grow, to learn, and so, so much more. So much more.  (SO much more.) (Did I mention so much more.)

But far outshining any of this is just knowing God, man. That’s it. That is the most beautiful thing in existence, is just BEING a CHILD OF GOD. Being with Him. It’s who we are. He is everything.

He wants you to know who He is and who you are. Will you ask Him?

 

Lots of love,

Miranda Shearer

Chosen Sons & Daughters

Have you ever been to a gathering or party where you didn’t exactly feel like you fit in? Or maybe a friend had you tag along with them and you didn’t know anyone there? That feeling where you aren’t exactly sure how you got there or why you are there, you feel a bit insecure and even alone? Well I had a very similar experience this last year but mine wasn’t at a “get together” but rather I felt this exact way in the Kingdom of God. I knew the truth that I was a daughter of God and I was part of this amazing family and body of Christ. I knew the truth about who God said I was and the identity I carried as a daughter but I sure didn’t believe it. I felt this need to work for my place in the Kingdom and to be someone I wasn’t. I felt out of place, unlike myself and unsure of how I got there.

It wasn’t until I was recently in a Leadership training program through YWAM, called DTS EQUIP, when a speaker pin-pointed why I was feeling that way. He said, “You are not an illegitimate, snuck in son or daughter of Christ.” It hit me right in the heart, and opened my eyes to see the lie I had been believing. I had come to this belief that I was only a daughter because of things I had done but God reminded me that I was a daughter because of what He has already done on the cross. This idea of truly learning to believe and walk as a daughter of God has been a huge theme of the last two months of my life.

In DTS EQUIP, we spent six weeks learning so much about what it means to be a disciple and then how to disciple others, specifically through the DTS program. We had the privilege of learning and gaining new tools and so much insight into how to lead and disciple those God has placed in our lives. On top of all that and I think the most impactful thing God taught me was the importance of walking as a daughter and disciple of Christ first. That through out my life there will be different roles and positions I will step into but that the most important one is the role and identity I carry as a Daughter. Not an “illegitimate, snuck in” daughter but one that has been chosen and adopted into God’s family through Jesus Christ and the sacrifice He made, not of my own works but simply by grace through faith.

Ephesians 1:5 says, “He predestined us to be adopted through Jesus Christ for Himself, according to His favor and will.” Romans 8:15 says, “For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba Father!’  

He has adopted us into the family and body of Christ, and our identity is forever found in the truth that we are sons and daughters of the living God! This identity is only found through Jesus, and we cannot sneak or work our way into it. It is a beautiful freedom to walk into, knowing that no matter what season, role or challenge we are faced with, we have a secure role and identity as children of God!

BY ABBY ELMORE

Having A Prayer Based Mindset

This quarter were so excited to have our prayer room up and running, with a different approach in our strategy. Right now, we have a smaller number of staff and students than usual, but we’re not allowing those odds to come against us in our times of prayer corporately and individually. We feel challenged to pray weekly into worldwide persecution of Christians and finances specially for our base. We also will be incorporating a strong focus on worship in our prayer room to remember all that God has done, is doing, and will do. This perspective reminds us of His character, and encourages us to see things unfold the way He wants! and He wants to see heaven come to earth.

If we’re people that are truly about seeing heaven come to earth, we are in desperate need of a perspective beyond ourselves. We’re in need of an expectant and hope-filled perspective that will go against the grain of our world’s eyes. A perspective that will “look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen” (2 Corinthians 4:18a). A perspective that will have faith to see redemption in all things, victory in the face of great opposition, and persevere when our flesh is itching to give up.

Paul reminds us that God has “raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:6) and has given us an all access pass to “draw near to the throne of grace” (Hebrews 4:16). This means, God has allowed us, or yet, invited us to sit with Him in close fellowship and ask Him for His perspective on different tragedies in the world, family troubles or trials, or even that one friend that we’re needing an extra dose of patience for. Not only that, but He is wanting us to “set [our] minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:2). He is longing to freely hand us His perspective and wants us to partner with Him in having His will unfold for our lives and bringing heaven to earth.

As simple put by Jim Stier, an international Youth With a Mission speaker, “if we want to see heaven come to earth, we have to be willing to spend time in heaven while we are still here on earth.”

By Courtney Binda