Monday, September 21, 2015

The Measure is Within You

Whatever you’ve been called to, the measure is within you.

"I pray out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge - that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. He is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us.” 
-Ephesians 3:16-20

I’ve had this thought swirling in my head for a good few months. We’ve all been called to different things. Sometimes the calling is a dream you can’t shake from your heart; it’s something that gets your blood pumping up and fills you with excitement. Sometimes that calling is like a fire in your bones you’ve shut up inside of you for so long that it’s more wearying to hold it in than to just let that to let it loose in full force. 

Then there are the times in which the hand we’ve been dealt isn’t one we ever wanted or even saw coming… yet here we are wearing the scar of it, carrying around the weight in the bags under our eyes and the feebleness of our spirit.

I think a lot about my parents. They’ve lived much of their lives taking care of us kids, all six of us, and yeah, that makes sense cause that’s what you do as a parent… but what you don’t necessarily see about what they’ve been given is that they’ve had to see their second son serve multiple tours in Iraq, and they’ve had to watch their third son go through multiple trips to the ICU with serious brain traumas as a result of car accidents and long boarding accidents, and they’ve had to go through the fright of their first son having a stroke on the other side of the country, and most recently they’ve lived through their fourth son being diagnosed with MS, having uncontrollable seizures, a medically induced comma, top it off with a brain virus that nearly took his life, over a month in hospitals, and now stay in a neuro-rehab facility with significant short term memory loss issues- all in the matter of less than two months. That’s the life they’ve been called to. A life with six kids who all bring blessings of their own, but also have brought burdens that honestly don’t seem all that fair for them to have to bear. That's the life they've been called to, not one they wanted...  not one they expected... but one they can, by the grace of God get through and make much of as a result.

Kevin and I were driving to El Paso from Phoenix last month to visit my family as Jack was in the hospital. It was an all night drive that landed us at our destination at 6am. As we were driving Kevin started telling me about how he enjoys driving through the night because your perspective is a little hindered. You can’t see the hundreds of desert miles ahead of you, and you can’t see all the mountain ranges you still have to drive through. All you can see is the road right in front of you. Just one little yellow road line after another. You can’t get discouraged when you look up because when you look up you can’t really tell how much further you have to go. You know your destination is out there, but you don’t worry so much about what’s at the end of your six hour drive when all you see is what's 350 feet ahead of you.

It reminded me about life, and the life each of us have been called to. I told my mom on that trip, as she was discouraged and didn't know how they were going to get through this season and new life adjustment, that life is like that conversation I had with Kevin. Callings and trials are like that conversation. It's hard to have the strength to get through it all when you look to the destination and see hundreds and hundreds of miles and hard work, and late nights without without sleep, not to mention all the emotional burdens that come along with it. But I told her, it's like that drive, you have to keep your eyes on what's right in front of you. You take it all one step at a time and don't get overwhelmed by everything else. You take time to breathe and know you'll get to your destination eventually, but for now you just have to focus on the road in font of you.

Maybe your calling isn’t one where you’ve been handed a terrible diagnosis, maybe it isn’t one where the life you once thought was tough and burdensome has only proven to become even more exhausting and waring. Maybe the calling ahead of you is one of taking a step of faith to move somewhere or follow a dream. Maybe it’s a calling to say goodbye to something you’ve held on to for years, maybe a habit, maybe an unhealthy relationship, maybe a job. Or maybe your calling is to start new habits, to seek to restore broken relationships, or maybe your calling is to do the same thing you have been doing. It could be to live the life you have been but this time with a deeper perspective of your impact in it. It could be to believe that there is still further and deeper in for you to go.

Sometimes I get a glimpse of what I’ve been called to… and it’s exciting! But sometimes the things I’ve been called to terrify me. Responsibility scares me. The unknown scares me. Potential scares me. Expectation terrifies me. I see what’s ahead of me and I think, “I can’t do that! I mean… I can do a lot of things… but that… I can’t do that.” And that’s when I do it anyway… because that’s just what you do when you’ve been called to do something. You trust your God and you walk in faithfulness.

The measure is within you. Whatever you’ve been called to, the measure is within you. Those words again, “That you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God."

The amazing thing about our lives is that whatever we’ve been called to we’ve been equipped for. Whatever we’ve been asked of, we’ve been prepared for. Whatever comes our way will never be too much for us to handle. But the key is to understand you weren’t met to shoulder the weight of it all.

Im a pretty capable person. In my own effort I can accomplish a good amount of things. I understand I have talents and I know what I’m good at, and even more, I know what I need to do to get better at them, but I cannot make those things matter in the long run on my own. I can’t give those gifts any value other than the superficial in my own efforts. And more than those things, I cannot maintain the issues of my heart. I can’t manage a healthy spirit. I can’t sustain a holy perspective or attitude toward my circumstances. I can’t nurture a healthy self image or assume positive intent of others without help. So, yeah. I can do some stuff… but there’s a lot of stuff I can’t do… and what’s more, with the stuff I can do, imagine how much more I could do with God backing me on it. And that’s the way it was meant to be.  Even though I cannot will myself to do some things… the measure is within me… That I may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Not a little bit of the fullness of God. Not some of the fullness of God. Filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

I know this- in whatever we are called to, God has equipped us for that role. When it comes to being kind or loving to people, I know the measure is within us because I have seen us be kind and loving people. When we have been called to holiness, I know the measure is within us because I believe the Holy Spirit works in us, both to will and to do for his good pleasure (Philippians 2:13). I believe that when we are called to do things we don’t have the strength for He is in us, renewing our strength as we call upon him, causing us to soar on wings like eagles, run without growing weary, and enabling us to walk and not be faint (Isaiah 40:31). I believe that because the Spirit is in us and He is able to do more than we could ask or imagine, because of His power at work within us (Ephesians 3:20). So that’s why I say the measure is within you. With a continual seeking of the Lord, and renewing of His Spirit, and pursuit of Him in every aspect of life the measure is within you to accomplish anything and everything you’ve been called to.

But remember this: Sometimes wins are masked as losses. And sometimes steps backwards are the graces of getting second chances or even opportunities to move in a different direction. In the case of my brother, perhaps his sickness has opened the door for him to start his life over again, not that his life before wasn’t a good one... because it was; he was successful and driven and accomplished, but maybe this is a second chance to know the Lord in a new way, maybe this is an opportunity for him to become someone he never would have become before.

And in all of these things, be like my brother Kevin and I in the car. Move forward, head on toward the destination you’ve been called to. Don’t be overwhelmed by how far out you have left to go. Don’t be enveloped by fear when you consider all the things that could happen on the way. Don’t be weighed down by looking at how much easier things may have been in the past, or how much easier they would be if you didn’t pursue hard after your calling. Rather focus on the progress you are making in the now. After all, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and a race is only finished by taking one step at a time. Go and act on what you've been called to. The measure is within you. And for the moments when you don’t know what to do, let your eyes always be on Him.

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” 
-2 Timothy 1:7

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Real Life Me Loves People Better than Online Me

I want to be the kind of person who is visibly excited when someone walks into the room. I want to be the kind of person who is constantly speaking highly of others. You'd probably guess that's already accurate of me based on my social media... but what happens when there's a disconnect? What happens when that character doesn't show up in the day to day of my life?

Now I'm not saying I'm a terrible person in real life. I'm not... I mean, maybe sometimes I don't live up to who I am and who I am called to be... but for the most part I'm not smiling at someone when they walk in the room then goring them in the back with a rusted railroad nail as they walk out the door.

Here's my big thought: How often does online Elisha do a better job at loving people than Elisha in person?
If I had a scale that weighed affirmation, kindness, encouragement, admiration, and adoration as vocalized online with all those things as vocalized around real people in real time, which way would that scale tip?

It is easy to talk people up on instagram… like, so easy. You take a great photo of them being super cool, you write out an awesome caption about how they’re incredible, and I totally agree, yes, they are absolutely incredible; that whole post is true. I’m not arguing that. What I am trying to point out is this… would people know you thought as highly of them without your post?

If you only ever speak highly of people on a media platform and you aren’t doing that in person you’re being ingenuous. Real life is not stored "in the cloud"… it’s happening in the right now, with other people around you. I can tell you more about who you truly are by watching your interactions with people in person than I can by your interactions with them online.

I guess what I want is to be more kind and gracious and outspoken about people in real life than I am on my phone. I want someone looking at a picture I post of a friend to already know how much I love that friend.

We are kind people and loving people, the measure is within us. I know because I've seen it in our social media lives. We know how to be encouraging and commending, so let's keep being those people all around in life.

Say it with me, "Real life me does love people better than online me."
Now, let's live up to that truth.

"Let love be genuine..." Romans 12:9

*and i just feel like I should put this in here: of course social media isn't an accurate representation of our lives... of course it's our "highlight reel" so speak... and we should all know that, but I'm not trying to say that we should alter our instagrams to match how our lives really do have lows. I'm just trying to encourage us to live up to the character we portray on that platform. when we comment or post nice things let's not forsake doing that in person too!

Friday, May 8, 2015

Discussion Question 01: Who is the most secure person you can think of?

Who is the most secure person you can think of?

Who is the most aware of their flaws, but also gracious enough with themselves to not be defined by them? Who is most proud of their work, but also humble enough to not let it go to their head? Who knows who they are so well that even when there's an inconsistency in good days and bad days, and high performance and low, there's no inconsistency in who they know they are?

So I'll ask again, who is the most secure person you can think of?

I don't know the answer to that question... and I sat and thought about it for a while tonight.

If I named you as the most secure person I know, you'd probably disagree, and if you agreed, I probably wouldn't have named you in the first place.

I realize that security is a tricky thing... it's not something you get once, then you're set for life. It's not an unending trust fund, it's not learning how to ride a bike. It's not like those things because security doesn't work like that. Security, at least for me, comes and goes in waves... it comes when I am looking at something that's not me, and at the same time, it goes when I'm not even looking... so it's a tricky thing.

Life is constantly throwing stuff at you, or at least it's throwing stuff at me... and this is the conclusion I've come to.

I want to be a secure person. I want to be someone thought of when people are asked that initial question... but I also don't want to know that I'm that person. What I'm saying is that I want to be a secure person...

And it's not that I'm completely insecure in every area of my life ever... because that's not true. But I know that when I find myself secure in one area, I know there's probably an area that it's harder for me... and when that area is conquered, another pops up... and that's just how it goes...

But I don't want my insecurities to define me... I want my securities to set me apart from the norm.

So this is my assessment, this is what I've learned over time, this is what I have to remind myself of constantly if I'm going to live without being burdened constantly by the weight of my imperfections. When I know who Jesus is... and what He means to me, that's when I know who I am... and sometimes, who I am not.

Remember when I said security is usually lost when I'm not looking? By that I meant, if I stop thinking about what I should be thinking about to be secure, I lose my security without even realizing it. It's like a super small thing, but it kind of snowballs until I'm at all all time low when finally I realize I've lost focus on who I really am.

Remember when I said security comes when I'm looking at something that's not me? This is what I mean by that. When I'm caught up looking at myself, I start scrutinizing every little detail, I see every little blemish, and I blame it all on me as a person... "if I just fixed this... if I just manage that... if I just deal with those things..." and I beat myself up pretty bad. It's easy to see how terrible you are when all you do is look at how terrible you are... cause you, like me, probably have some pretty terrible attributes.

BUT when I start thinking about Jesus and who He is... I realize first a lot of great things that I am not, but I also see that there are a lot of things that He says I am... and it's those things that are spoken over me that I hold on to... it's those things that are called out in me that I claim. It's those things that He says I am that let me be secure in who I am. If I told I'm "more than a conquerer" then, yeah, I'm gonna go ahead and walk like a conquerer, and even when I fall, I'm going to remind myself that just because I fell once doesn't mean I've lost the victory. I am not a failure. If I am "a new creation" then even when I act like my old self, I'm going to remind myself of who I really am. That old self is not me, so I'm going to move forward holding on to that new self. I am not a disappointment. I'm going to remember that I'm strong, not weak, and confident, not unstable, and courageous, not fearful, and faithful, not full of doubt, and bold, not timid, and kind, not harsh, and forgiving, not begrudging, and compassionate, not apathetic... and even when I feel like I'm failing in those areas, I'm going to remember that those things are who I am... and sometimes, who I am not.

But only because of Christ in me am I going to embody everything I hope to. Because if I keep trying to be all those things on my own, I will fail in those areas, but if I live with my mind set on Jesus in me I'm going to walk in those things naturally. 

If I live with my mind set on myself, I'm going to attempt to walk in those things which are characteristics of Christ unnaturally and it's going to be super obvious and awkward. That's like when someone comes up to you acting like someone they know they're not and they believe they're not... and both of you can tell because they have it written all over their face. Don't be that guy. Don't try to pretend like you're awesome. Just live with you're eyes on Jesus and your self filled with the Spirit of the Living God, and His shining through you is going to be awesome without you even knowing it.

So, who is the most secure person you can think of? I hope one day you can confidently and not arrogantly say it's you.

"He must increase, but I must decrease." -John 3:30

Friday, March 13, 2015

On the Things I Already Have

If I asked you, “What is the one thing you pray for the most?” or “If you examined all of your prayers, what do you ask from God the most?” The honest answer for me is strength… at least it used to be. I often feel weak, so I find I often ask for strength, but over the last few months, I've learned I've been doing this whole prayer thing wrong.

A lot of my prayers have a heart of asking… and asking isn’t bad. In fact, asking is good, and we should ask for things, and we’re supposed to ask for things but in my case, I realized I’m constantly asking for the wrong things, “Give me strength… give me comfort… give me grace… give me faith.” And maybe those aren’t necessarily the wrong things to ask for, but I could be asking for something better.

I keep asking for things I already have. I have all of them, and so much more. I have strength, the kind promised to me to make me mount up with wings like eagles. I have comfort, the kind that allows me to comfort others as I am comforted by the Spirit in me. I have grace in Christ crucified for me. I have faith in that I believe.

So why do I keep asking for those things? Sure, maybe it’s because I need more of those things, more peace, more joy, more whatever, but I think I keep asking for them because I keep forgetting that I already have them. I mean, if I had a mansion full of all good things and I could come and go from it all I wanted, and could take from it all I desired, I really don’t think I’d forget about it. I don’t think I’d go through my day barefoot, wishing I had a pair of shoes, if I remembered that I had a walk in  closet full every kind of shoe I could ever dream of.

If I did a better job of knowing Christ whom I have, I'm pretty sure I’d do a better job of holding on to all the promises I have in him.

I’ve learned when I'm asking for those things already promised to me, I’m really just asking for more of Jesus. So now, instead of saying, “Father, give me an extra dose of peace today,” I've started saying, “Father, give me more of Jesus, who has reconciled my yesterday, today, and tomorrow; who has worked out all things for good, whether today or in that final day.” It kind of shifts your perspective when all you’re concerned with is more of Jesus.

Now, I’m not saying forsake your responsibility in the name of Jesus. I’m not saying, “you don’t need discipline, or self control, or gentleness… you just need Jesus.” What I’m saying is, if you seek Jesus, you’re going to get those things thrown in, but if you only seek those things, you’re going to miss Jesus and the point. So, don’t miss Jesus, cause he’s the solution to what you’re seeking. If you’re seeking encouragement, he has it. If you’re seeking restoration, he has it. If you’re seeking strength for the day… or week… or long years ahead… he has it, and if you have him, you have it. So, just go to him, spend time with him, and remember that you have what he has already given to you. Then live in that confidence... in that boldness... in that freedom.

"For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace."

Monday, January 5, 2015

Grace Upon Grace

I desire the sweetness of satisfaction. I desire wholeness... and the fullness thereof. I desire earnest embrace. I desire to hear the voice that speaks and calms the turmoil of a soul. I desire to feel the touch that rouses the confidence to challenge the darkest sea. I desire to be known... and not left alone. I desire to be known... and loved even still. I desire a legacy that's long lasting and empowering.  And more than dying accomplished, I desire a life fully lived. I desire a potential fully met.

I have always been desiring a holy pursuit... and I have found Him.

"For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace."

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Some Thoughts On Peace

I am not a person often at peace in my soul. Peace is one thing I just cannot seem to hold on to. It's the easiest to take from me. It is the most wavering within me. The fact that I hate how unstable and inconsistent my peace is makes me more full of anxiety. Somebody help me.
(and I think peace is not unstable or wavering... which means my issue isn't an inconsistent peace, but rather a lack of it.)

"Peace I leave with you; my [own] peace I now give and bequeath to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid [stop allowing yourself to be agitated and disturbed; and do not permit yourselves to be fearful and intimidated and cowardly and unsettled]."
John 14:27 (AMP)

God is the god of peace. He is the Prince of Peace. He is the source and the supplier of peace. He is gracious, and he is generous in giving peace. I know that if I ask for peace, He will be faithful to provide it. He does not hesitate in giving me peace. He is willing and able to give me peace... It's just that most of the time He's not giving me the kind of peace I want. 

I want the peace that comes from my circumstance resolving. I want the peace that comes when everything that's bothering me get's figured out. That's the kind of peace I want.

That kind of peace sucks because it's not really peace at all. Peace is a matter of the heart and matters of the heart don't just resolve with a change of circumstance unless that change of circumstance is named Jesus. Real peace goes deep; it changes the heart.

Peace that comes from Christ provides stability; it supplies an inner confidence in the character of God. If I don't trust God's character, his goodness and sovereignty, you can better believe I lack peace. His peace alone brings rest to a weary soul.

When everything around (or within) me is chaos, when nothing makes sense, when things fall apart (or feel like they will), His peace is the only thing that can calm my heart and mind. I've learned that without peace my whole being is thrown into crisis. My whole life and every circumstance can be as good as it gets, but if I don't have His peace, even the best of days are full of anxiety and misery.

Lack of peace will do that to you... at least it does it to me. It takes a beautiful day and tells me that it's terrible. It takes a day that could be spent enjoying the sun and locks me in my dark room to sit alone and self absorbed. 

But here's the thing, because Jesus said, "Peace I leave you," though relationships or circumstances may be in turmoil, out hearts and minds can be kept steady and stable. His peace, kept in the heart, and mind, and spirit offers me confidence and unwavering security. It makes me bold and courageous.

His priority is not our situations, but our souls. The peace He leaves with us isn't to resolve situations, but to give resolve to the soul in the midst of them. Our hearts and minds are changed by His peace... not always our circumstances. He doesn't abandon us in our condition; he doesn't deprive us in our plight. He offers what the world cannot... and it's rest in our soul. And I think that's all I'm really ever looking for...

I need to lean into that peace when I am upset and broken for no reason. I need to lean into that peace when I am lonely or afraid. I need to be reminded that He has not left me. I need to be reminded that He is fighting to strengthen my heart and mind and love for Him more than He is fighting for me to just get through the day. But a lot of this is a conscious decision I have to make for myself.  I have to choose peace of heart and mind when it's hard. I have to decide to rest in his peace when I would rather be agitated or frustrated. I have to resolve to rest in his peace when I am afraid, I have to choose to have His peace instead of giving into cowardice, instead of being intimidated by life, instead of being anxious. I have to choose peace over being unsettled. I have to choose to look to and rest in Christ.

It's in Christ alone that my peace is found. If I can trust Him with my situations I'm assured that I'll have peace where it really matters.

Monday, November 3, 2014

On Idolatry, but more so, Love.

Obviously idolatry is a big deal. I mean, no one is going to deny that God doesn't take it lightly. This thought has had be me going.

"It is still idolatry to want God for his benefits but not for Himself." - Matt Chandler

Would you still love God if he didn't give you anything in return? As in, even if he didn't offer to save you, even if he didn't help you, even if he wasn't present, even if he didn't love you... would you still love him just because he is God and because that is what you were made to do?

Well, first, the answer is no. I would not still love him, because I only love because He first loved me (1 John 4:19). But let's say I could love apart from his love, would I still choose to love him?

We should want God simply because He is God. Yeah, he gives us good things, and that's great, he opens incredible doors of opportunity, he provides for us, and he's constant- yes those things are awesome and great, but we should not be worshiping God for those things. We shouldn't be worshiping God simply because of the benefits we gain from Him, because then we're really worshiping the benefits. We should be worshiping Him because He is God, and that's it. Yeah, the benefits are great, and thank God for the grace of his benefits, but we should never want God for his benefits and not for who He is.

So I got to thinking...

How would I feel if my friends or family only wanted me for what I offered them? What if they didn't value me as a person or for who I was, but only for what I gave to them, how I spoke to them, how I made them feel? My whole world would become performance based. Every relationship would be completely founded on if I did enough, if I gave enough, if I benefited them enough to fit into their schedule and lives. My whole world would become a miserable way of living.

That's when it hit me. I should be loving God because He is God, unconditionally.

But then something else hit me. God loves me, and it's absolutely not because of what I can offer him. He doesn't love me because I benefit him. He loved me when I did the opposite of benefit him. He loved me even though I cursed him and hated Him. He doesn't need me, not even in the smallest amount... but he wants me. He loves me apart from what I bring to the table. And that's absurd... and it's true.

So, God loves me and it's not because of what I can profit him, but also, God loves others and he doesn't love them out of what they benefit him.

If God loves me, and it's not performance based, and if God loves others and it's not performance based, and if I am supposed to love God with it not being performance based, then it would make sense that if I loved people, it would not be performance based either.

If I were to really love people I would love people for who they are. I wouldn't base friendships off of how comfortable I am or how easy it is to hang out, or if they are the kind of people who encourage me, or if they're the kind of people that make me feel good about myself. I mean, if I were to really love people, I wouldn't even have to have anything in common with them- I would just love them because who they are is valuable and who they are is deeply loved by God. If I were to really love people, I wouldn't need affirmation from them, or time from them, or gifts from them, or anything from them, I would just need them to be-

I was thinking about how incredibly secure God must be in himself. He needs zero affirmation from anyone ever. He knows exactly who he is. He knows exactly how much he is infinitely worth (and that's a paradox in itself.) He has never had, nor will ever have any sort of identity crisis. He will never question his value. He is secure in who he is and I think THAT is one of the reasons why he loves so well. He doesn't need anything from us, so giving becomes an act of love instead of an act of expecting a return.

I should be secure because he loves me, and not because of how I might benefit him. But this is a constant struggle for me. It doesn't make any sense, because unconditional love isn't natural and it's certainly not something I have ever been able to do completely. And maybe that's the issue, maybe I feel like I'm not capable of receiving unconditional love because I don't haven't ever unconditionally loved someone- to love in such a way that is completely selfless and wholly just for the sake of loving the other. I can't do it, and that doesn't mean no one can, but it just means that I'm definitely not deserving of receiving it myself.

But that's the thing about God, he loves me even though I don't deserve it... just because He is good... and his love is unconditional. (these things are over my head- see also Romans 5:8).

Anyway, I should be secure when it comes to loving others. I am completely loved by God and accepted by him, I do not need others to benefit me. I do not need them to accept me, I do not need them to tell me I'm awesome, I do not need them to make me feel good about myself, because all of my identity is not wrapped up in loving people to get worth from them, but my identity is wrapped up in knowing that they cannot offer me anything that I do not already have in Christ. All I can do is give, all I can do is love. But, first and foremost I must know I am wholly and completely loved by God. Then I can love.

That changes how and why I love the Lord, it changes how I deal with knowing my own value, and it changes how I approach people.

I should love God because he is God, not because I gain from loving him (because if I only love for what I gain, I really love what I gain and not whom I gain it from ... and that, as Chandler said, is still idolatry). God does not need me to love him in order for Him to love me so I don't have to worry about performing well for him in order to gain acceptance. I am secure in the unconditional love that God gives me and I love others out of that with the same type of love with which he loves me- with the kind that does not require benefits from others, with the kind of love that is already secure in myself, with the kind of love that is unconditional.