Thursday, December 28, 2017

We Can't Tackle Everything Alone

"Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone?" - Ecclesiastes 4:9-11

This has been quite a week. I am in the process of driving coast to coast from Washington State to North Carolina. 

When I first found out about this move, I thought "Cool! A cross country road trip. I can handle this!" I've driven across Washington and into Canada a few times and figured this would probably be similar, but just for multiple days in a row and with a car load of stuff. I could do it myself, right? But my mom insisted on coming. At first I didn't think it seemed necessary, but after the first 12 hours on day 1, I was glad for the extra support. Each day we travel, I am even happier for the help and company. 

Lesson learned: we really aren't made to do everything ourselves. It's ok to accept help, even when you don't think you need it. From the help and support from my mom to the kind gestures and encouragement from friends, I couldn't do this road trip alone. 

Remember to thank God for the people He has placed in your life, and do your best to be a help to those around you, too!

Friday, December 22, 2017

You don't need a white Christmas.

I have to admit, I am rather surprised. I woke up a few minutes ago to discover a sudden (and reasonably large) dumping of snow. After checking the forecast, it appears we are in for a white Christmas this weekend! How exciting!

In a way, it seems somewhat funny that whoever chose the date to celebrate Christmas picked December. Did nobody travel back then? Possibly. I don't know. But the more I think about it, the more December feels like it makes sense.

It is the darkest time of year- immediately after the winter solstice. Christ came to save us from the dark forces of sin. It also is when many places are likely to get snow, which is an amazing visual reminder of purity. Freshly fallen snow is so beautiful and overwhelmingly white. It is reminiscent of our forgiveness that Christ came to make possible.

"Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool." - Isaiah 1:18

I know these parallels can't work in every region of the world at once. Nevertheless, that is what today in my little space in Washington state reminds me of. Perhaps your place in this world can make you think of another truth of God right now. After all, as Psalm 19:1 says, "The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands."

So, look around you. Look outside. Take in God's creation. Which of His truths are you reminded of today?

Friday, December 15, 2017

How to Be Excited About Knowing God

Over the past two years, I have made a lot of friends over the internet. Tim and Victory, in the above photos, are two of my earlier internet friends. Something I've noticed in common with every friendship is this: we get excited about meeting each other in person. When we realize there will be an opportunity to meet face to face, we often become a lot more involved and enthusiastic about getting to know each other. We'll talk more often, we'll call each other, and as a whole get much closer than we previously had been. 

I've come to realize that it can be similar in our relationship with God. Sometimes we feel far away from Him and we begin to lose sight of the fact that as Christians, we WILL indeed someday be with Him. When we forget about the reality of a future with Him, it is easy to put our relationship with Him on the back burner. 

Recently, I was struck by a deep realization, remembering the reality of the perfect worship and time with God that will happen in my future. Suddenly, something clicked in my mind and this truth feels so much more real than it once had. Since then, I've experienced a heightened interest in studying passages that reveal things about God's personality and work. 

If you're going to be with God forever someday, get to know Him! Put yourself in a place where you will live with excitement about this coming reality!

"I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me." - Proverbs 8:17

"... giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins." - Colossians 1:12-14

Friday, December 8, 2017

The Over-Glamorized Life of Creatives (Aka: beware of envy!)

There tends to be this idea that the life of people who work in entertainment and media production is glamorous. Over the past year, I've been learning that this is not at all the case. Yes, media creation can be fun. Yes, it can feel really cool to have an audience and get compliments on your creative work. But the life of those who produce media and music is not all glory, fun, and sparkles. That is just the part we get to see.

In reality? My friends in video production spend more time tediously editing footage, hunting for inspiration, and keeping up with sponsorship connections than they do acting and filming. My friends in the music industry have endless practice sessions and constant nights sleeping in rented tour buses and hotel rooms. It takes an entire day for the team to set up for concerts and then they might stay up half the night loading crates into trailers in the rain. The writers in my life have to devote huge amounts of time to marketing their work while they hope and pray it sells enough for them to make a few dollars. And me? I just spent a solid six hours editing a single podcast episode and am about to start hunting down web links for the show notes.

It's easy to assume someone's life is all fun and games when you look at the surface. It's easy to envy someone when you make assumptions. But as Christians, we are to break away from envy.

Galatians 5:19-21 states envy in the list of lifestyles that are displeasing to God and uncharacteristic of His children:

"Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God."

Not only that, but envy even has the potential to drive one into poor health, according to Proverbs:

A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones. - Proverbs 14:30

What or who do you envy? Is it truly worth it?

Friday, December 1, 2017

Why I Hate Selfless Love.

I’m going to risk sounding like a bad Christian and start off this week’s devotional by saying this:

Selfless love sucks.

It takes your resources, your time, your energy. It can range from being mildly inconvenient to downright painful. It means we have to be aware of how our words and actions affect others instead of blurting out everything we feel in a moment. It means we should care for others when we’d rather focus on taking care of our own burdens.

It also means we need to be more like Christ - which sounds pretty ideal until we realize how much hardship and rejection He went through. Do we really want to go there? Nowadays, society won’t judge us for focusing our time and energy on ourselves or for simply chasing what makes us feel good. So why bother?

It is now December, and the answer is basically staring us in the face. The lights I keep driving past may just seem like fun and festive decor to most, but to those who believe in Christ, they should also be a reminder. A reminder that the Light of the World didn’t just sit up in Heaven enjoying Himself.

God’s creation had (and still has) turned against Him. If I were Him, I’d be inclined to say “Well, that was stupid. Screw humanity. I’ll just chill up here while they suffer for rebelling against my design.” But, God isn’t made in my image (thanks be to Him for that!). So, instead, Christ exercised selfless love. He confined Himself to a human body. He chose to help society’s hopeless and looked down upon sinners rather than taking on a glorious political position or snubbing everyone like the “good” people did. He was despised, rejected, and even betrayed by those who said they loved Him.

What does He do in return? He takes on the punishment of damnation so that our debt is paid and we can be adopted into His family and have the ability to love Him.

Selfless love sucks.

But, it was given to us by Christ. So let’s pay it forward. And backward. And everywhere in between. Let’s selflessly love Christ by following Him and His Word no matter what. Let’s selflessly love others because that is what Christ did and wants us to do, too. It won’t always be a warm fuzzy feeling, it may mean we’ll get dirty or uncomfortable or worse.

It won’t be like a Hallmark Christmas flick, but it is the best way we can celebrate Christmas both in December and throughout the year.

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other.” - John 15:9-17