Monday, June 25, 2012

20 Non-Academic Things I Learned at College

Things that I learned at school this past year that are completely non-academic:

1) Sometimes, the Lord will ask me to do things that are contrary to my plans, in the face of my fears, and bigger than any of my dreams.

2) Always, the Lord knows what is best and I never regret following Him - even when it is contrary to my plans, in the face of my fears, and bigger than any of my dreams.

3) "Home" can never be used to refer to a geographical location here on earth; home is always and forever will be in the presence of Jesus. Here on earth, home is where He leads me to go.

4) God gives me just what I need and takes away what I don't need; I may not understand or see the reason why, but I know He can be trusted. And I trust Him.

5) God is always, always, always faithful.

6) A career that can pay off school debt is not what is most important; what is most important is pursuing that vocation, career, and/or ministry that the Lord calls me to pursue. That is all. He will provide and fill in the rest. He has, He does, and He will.

7) Emotions are a good thing and not something to be pushed away; the Lord gave us emotions for a reason and are oftentimes used to direct us to Himself. Oftentimes throughout this past year, my desperation has been met with His provision; my fear has been replaced by His peace; and my sadness has been turned into joy that can only come from Him.

8) Friendships are a gift from God and even more so, friends that can genuinely be called family are a rare and precious treasure that should be invested in, loved deeply, and never let go of.

9) Family, those people that God has biologically placed in my life, are a gift from God; and even more so, family that can genuinely be called friends are a rare and precious treasure that should be invested in, loved deeply, and never let go of.

10) Never should I ever wear a mask, disguising who I really am and who God has made me to be. There is freedom in stripping off the masks and disguises of perfection and "togetherness" and laying them at the foot of the Cross of Jesus Christ, where they belong. Redemption, Salvation, Forgiveness - they all flow from Emmanuel's veins; for He is my Redeemer, my Savior, my Rock, and my Father. Laying at the foot of the Cross, stripping off the vain strivings and labels of perfection, is a very humiliating thing. Yet it is in brokenness that there is freedom to become whole - truly whole.

11) There is a true freedom in learning how to dream; I don't mean "realistic dreams" that I can always come up with and see happen. The dreams that I am talking about are those that can only happen if the Lord is involved; there is freedom in faith that believes the impossible.

12) There is a special reverence in the gathering of some of the saints of Jesus Christ to worship Him freely together in one place - hands lifted, voices raised, knees bowed, prayers prayed. There is simply nothing like it and I cannot wait for Heaven, which wll be a perfect picture of this marred and broken one that I still find beautiful.

13) I do not know all that I thought I knew - about myself, about God, about life and living. Knowing Him means wanting to know Him more - intimately, truly, and deeply.

14) The Lord wants us to enjoy this life that He has given us - from the people He has blessed us with down to the trees and grass that He has created (which I have come to enjoy even more immensely after being separated from so much of God's creation since being in the big city of Chicago).

15) Rainbows in the sky truly are a sign of promise. I remember His faithfulness in the past and am encouraged by it, knowing that He remains and will remain faithful. It never fails. He never fails.

16) GO. DO. Whatever it is that God wants me to go and do - I must go after it. Nothing is too big for such a big God; nothing is too far out of reach to the God who holds the whole world in His hands; all things are His and therefore I am always provided for - exactly what I need, exactly when I need it. It has never failed. He has never failed.

17) "The Lord's timing is perfect." I hear it; but do I really hear it? It is perfect. I should not rush what He tells me to be patient for. I should not worry about what door He has not yet opened or closed. His timing is perfectly good, perfectly timed, and perfectly right.

18) I must seize every opportunity that the Lord gives me; to not do so is a sin. Jesus clung to His Father's Will as food (John 4:34); I am called to follow in His footesteps (1 Peter 2:21). And I must remember that love is no easy thing, but it is rewarded with joy - so much joy.

19) Joy is not always a feeling, but when it manifests itself as such it is an overflowing thing. It is as if my heart is literally bubbling over with something that I cannot contain and I cannot help but to express back to the Lord and to those around me.

20) And, lastly, one of the biggest things that I learned is that God's Word is alive and active (Hebrews 4:12). God's Word says it but it has taken me 19 years to truly believe it. It is living and active - alive and truly working in my life. When I read it, I hunger for more of it. When I come into His Presence, I realize how thirsty my heart truly is and so I thirst for Him even more. When I read His Word for what it really is - the true, living, Word of God  - I am simply and genuinely overwhelmed and in awe of who He is and what He has done for such a lowly, sinful creature as myself. Redemption flows from the grace of the Cross and therefore it can be mine; it is mine. Thank You, Father.

This is a list of only twenty of the non-academic things that God has taught me my freshman year at Moody Bible Institute. There are many more and I am trusting that in the next few years the Lord will continue to teach me many things about myself, about life, and about Himself.

May I grow ever deeper in love with Jesus and delight myself in Him more and more every day, resting in His peace, growing in His love, enjoying His presence, and living in His grace. Amen.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Real Contentment

Where is true contentment found? What does it mean to be truly content?

These are questions that I have been pondering the past few days. Even though I know that true contentment is found in Christ and in Christ alone, I wonder how I know so many Christians who are discontent and so few who are truly content with their lives; and I wonder how I can sometimes be so discontent with where the Lord has me in my own life.

This can be seen in a number of "subtle" ways:

When I complain about the changes in my life, am I not showing that I am discontent with what God has allowed in my life? When I worry about the future, am I not revealing that I am discontent with the Lord's faithfulness in my life? When I am negative about my job, am I not discontent with the Lord's provision in my life? When I am bitter about my life, am I not truly saying that I am discontent with the Lord's sovereignty in where He has me right now? When I wish for a relationship or a friendship or money or possessions that I do not have, am I not actually discontent with the Lord's goodness in what He has given me?

Oh, Lord, forgive this undeserving and discontented heart.

"For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven" (Ecclesiastes 3:1, italics mine).

That word - season - has been a recurring thought in my mind for the past few days as I have been pondering what true contentment is. It is obvious that there are different seasons of life as we all grow older. However, each of our lives is filled with different life seasons that we can either resist or embrace; we can either be discontent with where the Lord has us or we can be content in knowing that He has us exactly where He wants us.

True contentment is not found in pretending. It is not found in putting on a facade, a mask, fooling ourselves and others that we are content with the way that our lives are. True contentment is not "faking it 'til you make it" - living in self-deception until your heart and mind believe that you are content. True contentment is not found in temporal pleasures and treasures that this world offers; how can one find true contentment in those things which are temporary and fleeting? True contentment is not found in friendships and relationships; how can true contentment be found in mere human beings who will never fail to disappoint and who can never fulfill every need of our heart and life? True contentment is found in only one place - in the Will of God our Father who loves us and has a plan for us.

God may have you in a season of desperation - of tragedy, of loss, of pain. He may have you in a season of change or of loneliness or of mourning. Ecclesiastes says that "for everything there is a season", including a time to die, to weep, to mourn, and to lose. However, there is also a time for healing and laughing and dancing. The Lord has a purpose for everything and to deny that is to deny His sovereignty and His faithfulness and His goodness. Those in a relationship with Christ have found true treasure and should be the most contented and joyful people in the world. It is a tragedy that so many Christians are unhappy and discontent.

True contentment is found solely - only, completely, wholly - in Christ and in Christ alone. Until we realize this, we will never be content. Life is full of changes and nothing except Christ, our Solid Rock, is consistent and unchanging.

And for this, I praise the One who gave me life - this particular life - for it is Him who gives me my every breath and it is for Him that my every breath is breathed. It is Him who has placed me here for such a time as this, Him who has formed my life, and Him who knows the end from the beginning and the big picture that I cannot see. It is Him who is faithful, who is true, who is consistent, who is unchanging, and whose promises and love are unfailing. And it is in Him that I can be truly relieved, loved, and content. Thank You, Father.