Torn in Two

“By grace alone somehow I stand, where even angels fear to tread” (Rend Collective) 

“Behind the second curtain was a room called the Most Holy Place…But only the high priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offered for himself and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance. The Holy Spirit was showing by this that the way into the Most Holy Place had not yet been disclosed as long as the first tabernacle was still standing.” (Hebrews 9:3,7,8)

“And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split.” (Matthew 27:50-51)

“With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last. The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.” (Mark 15:37-38)

“For the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out with a loud voice, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.’ When he had said this, he breathed his last.” (Luke 23:45-46)

“Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face,beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:12-18)

The verses about the curtain temple being torn from top to bottom is my favorite part of the crucifixion. I love it because of its symbolism. In Old Testament times, the room of the temple behind the curtain was the Most Holy Place. Only the high priest could go in there, and he even went in with bells on and a rope tied around his foot.  If the bells stopped ringing, that meant he had died and they would pull him out by the rope.  And as it says in Hebrews, he had to go in with a sacrifice for his sins and other’s sins. If he didn’t, well, then, that’s when the bells would stop ringing.

God is more than just holy. He’s Holy Holy Holy.  In fact, in Revelations 4, it talks about four creatures that never cease to say, “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.” These creatures have one job, and they will never be dissatisfied with it.  Because God is holy, He cannot dwell with that which is not holy. And if you take an honest look at your life, you will find that you are very very far from holy.  Therefore, God cannot dwell with us.  

But this is where the story gets really awesome! Enter Jesus. When Christ gave up his spirit, the earth shook, rocks split, and the curtain was torn in two.  No one was there to rip it. No one sat at the top and used scissors to slice it, no, God alone had the power to do that.  This was no small curtain; it was 60 feet long, 30 feet wide, and the thickness of the palm of the hand (about four inches). Not your everyday curtain. 

Okay so recap.  The temple has this REALLY big curtain that separates the Most Holy Place from the rest of the temple. The high priest goes in there once a year and not without blood for the sacrifice.  God is HOLY HOLY HOLY. And we are unholy. So does Jesus’ crucifixion have to do with this? 

When Jesus died on the cross, he took our sins upon him and bestowed His righteousness upon us.  Because of what Jesus did, God now sees us as blameless and pure in his eyes.  We should never have been able to appear before God, but because Jesus was sacrificed on our behalf, once and for all, we can approach the throne of God with confidence.  The first quote by Rend Collective finishes out  “By grace alone somehow I stand, where even angels fear to tread. Invited by Redeeming Love, before the throne of God above.” (Boldly I Approach-The Art of Celebration) There is freedom in the gospel of Jesus Christ; Christ died for us, bridging the gap between us and God, and after three days, up from the grave he arose! Today He is seated at the right hand of God, and we can approach the throne boldly because Jesus gave us His righteousness in exchange for our sin. And that is why the curtain in the temple ripping in two is my favorite part of the death of Jesus. 

Rejoice! For He is risen! 

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The Risk is Right| Cambodia 2014

“We’ll go to edge of the world, bringing good news to the broken and poor, there is hope for all who are thirsty to come to the well and drink of His mercy. All who call upon the Lord will be saved. But how can they call when they don’t believe; and how will they believe when they’ve never heard it; and how will they hear unless someone tells them; and how can they tell them if they’re never sent. We will go!”

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me, Therefore go…”

If you haven’t heard already, I’m going to Cambodia this summer.  Multitudes are destined for a Christ-less eternity, and Jesus doesn’t want that to happen.  So here we are, heading to Cambodia in four months.

What’s awesome about this trip is what I was most scared of when I first began this.  I’m not going with a team.  Every other missions trip I’ve been on, I’ve been accompanied by at least eight others, and some of them had been before.  This time, it will be me and my best friend Jessica.  Before you start to worry about us, we won’t be alone, not once during our journey.  We are going to Cambodia with the Smith’s (a missionary family I’ve known since birth). We will be flying over to Cambodia with them at the end of July, and staying nearby.  At the end of our stay, Jess and I will be flying back to the states together.  I guess this is where you might start to worry.  But I’m not afraid.  I’ve been reading in Isaiah this past week, and as I read some of the verses I had to stop and think about how crazy and meaningful they are.

“I will go before you and will level the mountains; I will break down gates of bronze and cut through bars of iron. I will give you the treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I AM THE LORD, the God of Israel, who summons you by name.   I am the LORD, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God. From the rising of the sun to the place of its setting men may know there is none besides me. I am the Lord, and there is no other. I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, The LORD, do all these things.  I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.  I am he; I am the first and the last. My own hand laid the foundations of the earth.

It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you.”

Isaiah 45,46,48 and Deuteronomy 31:8

Do you see why I’m not afraid?  The LORD himself has promised to go with me, before me, and behind me.  The God of the universe, stronger than any power or demon or delayed flight or lost luggage is with me.  You see, Jesus didn’t call us to go and make disciples where it’s comfortable. He called us to go and make disciples in all nations.  Yes, there are risks involved; but the risks are worth it.  I’m comforted by the Comforter, and at peace because He will be with us.

Jessica and I will hopefully be updating our blog for this trip.  You can head over to http://cambodiamissionstrip2014.wordpress.com/ and read all about us and find out more about our trip. We’ll be adding more information soon!

A Greater Purpose

I serve a pretty spectacular God, and that’s an understatement.  Actually, I serve a God who is impossible to over exaggerate, and I find that comforting.  On my drive home tonight, He provided me with exactly what I needed, something He’s been showing me over the past nine or ten months. He is faithful to show me that HE IS FAITHFUL. I like to think, a lot. And often times I find myself making up crazy scenarios in my head that are entirely impossible and I end up stressed over nothing. I easily get wrapped up in my own emotions and feelings, and I am so focused on my own little world, that I miss the entire point of being a follower of Christ.  I have this idea of how my life should go, and if one thing gets thrown out of balance, I get overwhelmed and upset.  When I surrendered my life to Jesus, I didn’t give up just my Sundays, or just my summers, I gave up my everything.  “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20) And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23) “And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” (Galatians 5:24) “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.” (Mark 8:35) “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” (John 12:24)  I know that was a lot of verses, but those are just a few examples of what life as a follower of Jesus is like; total abandonment.  

When my “own little world” gets interrupted by emotions and feelings and events of life, I so often get so caught up, that I miss the point. There is a bigger picture, a greater purpose, that I could be living right now.  My life is about worshiping Jesus, and the way my life is designed to worship Him is going to be different than anyone else’s.  I think of Hillsong United, their lives are centered around worshiping Jesus through song.  Others worship through prayer, and others through service. Instead of getting caught up in my own little world, and my own little problems (that honestly aren’t problems), it is imperative that I remember that I was designed to focus on worshiping Jesus, and living out His greater purpose. I do not know how I am to worship Him with the rest of my life, and I do not need to.  The thing I need to know is that God is good, He loves me, and this life on earth is not the whole story.  And until God lets me see His big picture plan for my life, I will continue to trust Him, love and serve Him, and worship Him in everyday life.  Whether that day comes tomorrow, next year, or when I finally meet Him face to face, I trust Him to lead me to places beyond my imagination. I find great comfort in knowing that even if my plans for my life don’t work out, God’s plans have not failed.  When I’m down to nothing, God is up to something.  He is constantly doing 10,000 things in my life, and I may be aware of three of them. There is no power in the universe that can stop him from fulfilling his totally good plans for you. “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2).  I know that His good plans are Kingdom good plans.  Plans that are for bringing people to Him and advancing His Kingdom.  Some may “go to seek a great perhaps”, but I go to seek His greater purpose.

A Collision

I like to journal. I like to journal a lot. If you know me well enough, you’ve probably seen my Moleskines decked out in mistakes, raw truths, and random musings.  I’ve written in a journal nearly every single day for the past four years, and before that, once a week or more.  I’ve had a notebook of thoughts since I was nine or ten, but I began to actually write real things when I was twelve. Before that it was “Today I went to Faith’s house. It was fun.” & “234 days till camp!”

This isn’t going to be the clearest or greatest illustration, but it came to mind, so I’m trying it. Here it goes.

During middle school I had a journal that I would write in about weekly things, and a notebook I would take to church.  Any Jesus-related thing would go in the notebook, and any other thing would go into my journal. Consequently I had the same journal for four years, but that’s besides the point.  This went on for several years.  I began to write more often, and ended up carrying both journals with me. (By this time I had finally gotten a new one) If a thought came to mind that wasn’t about Jesus or the gospel, I would pull out my “life” journal.  I kept the two separate.  Then, one Sunday, I forgot my notebook.  So I wrote my sermon notes in my “life” journal.  I meshed them.  From then on, I wrote everything in one journal.  Now sometimes I go weeks without writing about anything other than Jesus and what He has done in me.

See, the illustration is that I had been keeping my life separate from my beliefs.  Especially in middle school. I stood up for what I believed, but I never let what I learned truly affect me.  I kept my life with God apart from my day to day life.  Several years ago you wouldn’t have seen me asking questions like, “Is this college the best way to glorify God?” or “Will this major give me the skills I need to serve Him?”  When I was little, I wanted to be an interior designer.  Since realizing I lack all skills in drawing anything but letters and recognizing that that path wasn’t what God intended for me, those types of questions are all I ask.  I want nothing more in life than to serve God to my fullest, promoting His glory and His fame, and decreasing myself.

I want to move to Africa. But only as long as that’s what God has intended for me to do.  As our 16th President said, “Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right.”  If God is always right and always sovereign (which He is), then there is absolutely no question about what I want to do in my life.  So long as Jesus is my definition and His glory is my mission, I’ll do whatever He wants me to do.  God, mold my life to be like You.

One of my moleskine covers

One of my moleskine covers

The Jesus Generation | Passion 2014

Passion 2014 left me in awe of our Creator and in longing for heaven where we will worship as the church together forever.  There are few things on earth as wonderful as standing with 20,000 of your brothers and sisters worshiping God.  We lifted our hands and our hearts as we shouted the one name that brought us all together, Jesus.  There is nothing like singing about the amazing love that Jesus has for us.  We are the Jesus generation united for His fame.  The amount I gleaned exceeded my expectations and blew me away.  Here are a few of my favorite parts. 

Worship is a major part of Passion.  David Crowder, the Passion Band, and Hillsong led us through hours of worship.  My personal favorite was Hillsong United and the songs from Zion.  Though I knew all but one song, one key phrase that stuck with me during the whole weekend was “I will fight to follow”.  This played major role in Francis Chan’s talk the next morning about making every effort.  I can’t wait till the Passion CD is released, for I know it will played nonstop for a good while.  Nothing beats lifting your hands as thousands of voices go up in praise. I get chills every time I hear a Passion song, knowing full well what it feels like to stand with my generation in worship.  An older song, but such a good one, Matt Redman led us in 10,000 reasons.  I’m pretty sure nearly every hand was up all across the arena. 

We were blessed by such amazing speakers! Louie Giglio, the founder of the Passion Conference, spoke on Friday night about seeing Jesus.  “Crushed by grace, sent by mercy.”-Giglio  Francis Chan, my personal favorite talk, opened us on Saturday.  He spoke from 2 Peter 1, talking about making every effort in virtue, knowledge, self control, perseverance, godliness, and brotherly affection. Christine Caine rocked the house next with her Australian accent and awesome visuals. God works with our lives in a process, not like instagram but like developing 35mm film, it takes time.  “The best thing that you can do is what God has called you to. You should not covet the path of others.”  The only path I should desire is my own, God will place other people on their paths next time mine for certain seasons of life, sometimes they will cross over each other and other times the will depart from each other, but the only path I am to covet is my own.  I was designed for my path.  I will fight to follow Jesus on my path.  John Piper let us into the crock-pot of his mind; he talked about how it’s what the cross proves about the sovereignty of God that obliterates the inadequacy of our sin. 

We are personally responsible for the evangelism of the name of Jesus until He returns. During the last session, the gave the call to stand. But instead of standing because you saw your need for a Savior and Jesus as that Savior, it was a stand to be the generation that takes Jesus to the nations. I stood.  I stood because I know it’s what I was designed to do. I have the opportunity to be apart of the story of God. I may go into all nations.  And if God is going, then I’m going too. 

Whether it be worship through clapping or singing it’s all praising God. And this year we had a very special opportunity to allow others to worship Him too. We got to give so that Bibles can go out into the people of Iran.  The goal was 25,000 Bibles, and 20,000 poor college students gave enough for 33,500 and counting. 

I want you, I need you, I love you, Jesus, my heart beats forever, just to know you, and throw my future into your hands.  {Hillsong}

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The Bus Driver

Jesus is a bus driver.

A bus comes and goes every single day.  Some drive around town, some across country, some are go anywhere, but most have a set route.  In this analogy, we have no control over where the bus stops.  When we begin our lives as Christians, we get to sit under the cover at the bus stop. Before, we had to wait out in the weather with no protection, completely open to harm.  But once we begin our walk with Jesus, He takes us under His shelter.  A bus comes to the bus stop, and it’s up to you to get on or not.  Now the shelter at the bus stop is the comforts of home, you’re safe and secure.  You can stay right where you are, and only face minimal dangers.  If you get on, you might end up in an accident, or you could get hurt.  You can choose to keep waiting, and waiting, and waiting until you either pick a bus to get on, or until you die.

The next step is to get on a bus. Once you’re on, you’re on for life.  You’ve given up your life to Christ and His mission, you’re living with total abandonment.  Jesus is the bus driver, He’s picking where we go, and you are just along for the ride.  It’s up to Him to who He lets on the bus with you.  It’s up to Him to how long you have to wait before the next stop, and it’s up to Him to place you where He wants you.  Some times he let’s people stay with you for a long time, others just for a short season.  He may let you off the bus to serve Him in one place for just a day, another place you may stay for years.  He’s using you to bring others onto the bus.  Jesus is the driver, and we are the passengers.

As Christians, we should be living with abandonment.  A life fully surrendered to Jesus. He knows what He’s doing.  He’s an experienced driver with a perfect record. No accidents, no mistakes.  We don’t have that experience or knowledge.  It’s not going to work if we try to take the wheel.  We have to trust Him, His timing, His plan.  It’s Jesus’ adventure, we’re just along for the ride.

Home Again

“You will never be completely home again, because a part of your heart will always be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.”   This is a struggle I face. Daily.  And today, like many other days, I miss Taiwan.

I love train rides. I really do.  My first year in Taiwan, we traveled up and down the island every weekend. And I valued the few hours we spent on the train. I love riding the HSR (High Speed Rail) the most. I remember specific moments of peace on those train rides.  These hours were of our few moments of down time. I used the solitude to read and catch up on journaling and to write emails home.  These memories are often triggered by songs.  Every single time I hear the song “Marching On” by One Republic, I remember staring out at the Taiwanese country side as it flew by.  I also specifically remember this because I wrote an email home while this song was playing. We were headed to our final camp and many were sick.  But we were marching on.

Today, I was driving to school and a song came on by Future of Forestry.  From an album I had received just before departure for Taiwan this year.  And I flashed back to the train.  Staring at the country side, taking pictures, and finding rest in the alone time.  But this year, it was during the last few days on the trip.  And I was content. And I miss that.  I often think about Taiwan.  This morning I was singing a song in Chinese. (Yes, Chinese) And thinking of little YoYo.  “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages He might show the incomparable riches of His grace, expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus….(Eph 2)….I feel fulfilled. By Christ. Happy….At that moment, I was content. Content in Jesus, content with my life and content in Taiwan. I felt content while I was looking out on the country side as we flew by at 185 on the HSR. But the sad reality is that that moment has passed. But I can remember that moment of contentment….The heart of Asia holds my heart.”  (Experts from my journal on Saturday July 20th 2013)

I’ve now spent two months in Taiwan. And now it’s not all new.  I have my favorites at 7/11, secrets for washing clothes by hand, and unconventional ways to find time alone.  I began to live life in Taiwan this year.  I was happy there.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy here too, but half of my heart is 8,000 miles away.  And I’m no longer content with just existing here.  A C.S.Lewis quote comes to mind, “If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.”  Taiwan won’t satisfy me, America won’t satisfy me. Only Jesus will satisfy me.

But today, I miss Taiwan.

Club Rock

For the next few months my youth group, 217, will have the privilege to serve a group of roughly 30 underprivileged kids.  We will meet one Friday a month for four months, playing games, singing songs, doing crafts, and hearing about Jesus. We have named this group, Club Rock.  On Christ the solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand. The first gathering of Club Rock occurred this past Friday.  The evening began with interacting with the kids, I gave out stickers to everyone. (Minus the two boys who were “too cool for stickers”) Others played football, Frisbee, gave piggy back rides, and ran around with the kids. After that we played games and then we ate food.  These children come from homes where food isn’t always available.  They often live with just one parent or their grandparents.  After noms and talking with the kids we gathered to sing about Jesus.  After a few songs and some energy was expended, we sat them down and talked to them about school and why it’s important. Then we decorated Tshirts.  I loved working with these little guys! Enjoy a few of their smiling faces! 

The Days Since….

WHERE HAS AUGUST GONE!? We got back from Taiwan a month ago today! I can’t believe it’s been that long!

A lot has changed for me in the past month, so let’s start at the beginning and make a recap:

First days back (25th-27th): It was really hard to be back.  Being home was nice in some ways, but really, I just wanted to be in Taiwan.  And I really missed my team and friends new and old that I was no longer with.  

Camp week Número Uno(28th-2nd): Jr. High girls week was amazing! Being at camp really helped the transition back into the states.  The first few days were a little rough, but by the end of Tuesday I had improved a lot.  And jet lag wasn’t that bad this year.  I really enjoyed working with these middle school girls. I’ve developed relationships with several of them over the years and I love that I have gotten to keep up with them over the year, so I know more about them than just what I learn during the one week of camp.  We had an incredible speaker, Miss Trina.  She taught all about the truths of the Bible and Christianity and what the world believes.  I really enjoyed it and got a lot out of it myself. 

The day in between (3rd): I worked all day.  And did laundry. 

The Second week of camp(4th-9th):Jr girls also went smoothly. We had hardly any homesick girls, which is unusual because they are younger and tend to become more homesick than the older girls.  We did have a counselor leave early (which left me in charge of the cabin!) and another couldn’t come, both due to sickness.  But the week still went well, and several girls professed their faith.  I had some real cuties in my cabin! 

The days since (10th-25th): The past 15 or so days have been my “summer vacation” time.  I’ve been doing stuff and gone for pretty much the entire summer. So Monday the 11th was the first day I had slept past 8am for two months.  It was refreshing to relax and be home. I got to get back into the water and begin training, but official swimming starts this week! I’m so excited to train again!   During camp and during the past two weeks I’ve really felt the urge and call to go to Cambodia.  And that’s in the works. I’m very excited about this new opportunity, I’ll share more about it when the time is right. 

The first day of school starts tomorrow.  And I’m already ready for it to be June again.  New and exciting things will be happening…..stay tuned. 

Where I Would Rather Be | Taiwan 2013

It’s been 10 days since my return to America.  In  the past 10 days I’ve thought a lot about my trip and what it’s done to me.  “How was your trip?” is still a not a good question to ask.  I know how it was, but I can’t describe it in 10 words or less.  It was changing, challenging, amazing, and just about a million other things.  One of the hardest parts of this trip has been re-entry into the US.  Having seen the stars shine on the other side of the world, I cannot be the same.  And Taiwan changed me.  I went through a lot over there and coming home, I’m not the same person I was when I left.  What makes it so hard, is that everything here is the same.  The day I got back, I drove a route that I drive ALL the time, and it was all the same. Well, except they dropped the speed limit to 35 from 45.  Anyway, driving that route felt weird, because it’s all the same, but I’m very different.  I am happy to be back, in a way, but, also, I am not.  I would rather be in Taiwan.  I do love to tell stories of the little things that happened there.  I love explaining photos to my friends and talking about the people in the pictures.  I’m very grateful that I get to spend two weeks at camp right after my return, it definitely helps with the transition. I could give reasons why I would rather be in Taiwan, but it’s a very personal thing.  And it’s something I will have to continue working through on my own.   Here is one of the things I really miss, chalk fights.  And water fights.