Dear America

Dear America,

You started out as a shooting star, eager to

Leap across the galaxy.

Then you glimmered every night for us to wish upon,

to pursue the happiness we had our hearts set upon.

Now you shine just as brightly as the rest,

If not less,

And you look like all the rest of them.

It’s hard to remember why you’re special,

Why I’m proud to be here

And free.

“God bless America!” —words so few and rare

These carefree days

As selfishness takes over,

Tugging us lightly by the rope to the

Path of anxiety that looks like joy,

The path of hurt that looks like pleasure,

But all end in a chasm of despair.

 

Dear America,

I will always remember you blazing free

But now everything seems surreal.

We think, we cry, we shout,

But we never feel.

We never feel the peace that comes

From living in a blessed land.

 

Dear America,

It brings me shame to say this, but

Your choice to pursue happiness

Has become your ruin.

If you only would pursue the Savior

Who this whole time has been pursuing you.

If you only would let Him turn your selfishness to humility

Your anxiety, hurt

And despair

To the truest peace.

Your choice of gaining inalienable rights

Has left you proud.

For in the end, dear America,

The entire human race is defeated

Unless we utterly surrender our freedom

To the kindness of God.

 

 

 

Doing it Gladly

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“Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” – 2 Cor. 9:7

Last summer I flew on a plane with my choir to Seattle, Washington. One of the most memorable moments was on a farm miles away from the city (on an island, I believe), where our choir director took us to pick fresh strawberries that the farmer had for sale. Normally, the farmer would have required his customers to, of course, pay for the strawberries, and we fully expected to do just that. But when we had finished picking the berries, the farmer and his daughter gladly gave the strawberries to us for free. Not only that, but they allowed us in their house to wash our red-stained fingers, they gave us a tour of the farm, and they let us hand feed their adorable sheep. Of course, after that, we got to sing for all those sheep, but, really, of course, to the farmer and his daughter out of appreciation for their immense generosity.

 

It was a simple thing, but every one of the girls in my choir felt their kindness, and I knew for a fact that this delightful family believed and trusted in Jesus Christ as the Savior of their sins. They gave not reluctantly, but cheerfully, and while they were rewarded with meeting a bunch of human beings—which they seemed to be so far away from—I am thankful that their truest reward awaits for them in heaven.

 

Those strawberries were the sweetest, juiciest, most irresistible berries I’d ever tasted. Because they were real, not some hormone-showered ones at the store, or whatever you call them. They were real—just as the planter is real, just like the God who grew them is real.

 

In fact, the real seeds that the farmer placed into the ground are like the good seeds we place in our hearts when we choose to love Him and those around us. Good seeds sprout and grow into flourishing berries that nourish and delight our senses, just as our choice to simply love God and people matures us into kind, caring people, who draw into a more fulfilling and sweeter relationship with Christ.

 

But what’s the point of loving, even when it’s hard? And how can we do it gladly? How do we do the hard thing of loving and giving all that we are to God without being reluctant about it?

 

I used to have a lot of trouble understanding what it meant to give joyfully, to love relentlessly, and to do the hard yet right things in life without a speck of guilt or reluctance. I still have trouble at times, but I’ve also learned a lot about how to give gladly.

 

“For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.  And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.” – 1 Cor. 5:14-15

 

Are we really to keep on living for ourselves after believing in the One who died so we could live for Him? Jesus said that those who love Him are the ones who keep his commandments (John 14:21). There are millions of hurting, starving, thirsty, longing people in the world. And there are billions of sinners—yes, all of us. The Israelites waited 400 years for the Messiah to save his people from their sins, to put a new heart and a new spirit in them, so they could have the honor of serving God without shame and with a divine power from the Holy Spirit. We as Christians have that honor. We are the ones the world must see as pure and noble and profoundly generous—not because of any greatness we possess, but because of Christ’s goodness overflowing through us out of the abiding relationship we have with Him. Not only should they see us as this, but God calls us to let our light shine so brightly that the pagans can’t ignore it.

 

“Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” – 1 Peter 2:12

 

Sure, we fail. But God’s love overcomes that. Our acknowledgement that Jesus’ sacrifice has the power to cover our sins set us free from every polluted thing we used to hold onto so dearly. Simply put: Our sin, replaced with God’s love. And, with that love abiding in us, we can do hard things with such fervor and excitement that it won’t matter how many strawberries we have, for in Christ we have everything we need.

 

“Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.” – 2 Cor. 9:10-11

 

Our Need to be Needy

“But as for me, I am poor and needy; come quickly to me, O God. You are my help and my deliverer; Lord, do not delay.” – Psalm 70:5

It’s hard for Americans to be needy, because we have so much. Our overflowing blessings of electricity and running water and Starbucks coffee tend to consume us, when, in reality, we need so fiercely to let God consume us. What am I saying? I’m saying we need to be needy even though we have so much. We need to thirst for God not because He’s given us so many blessings, but because despite our prosperity, we need him just as much as if we were poor.

Think of the rich man who confronted Jesus. He asked Jesus what He must do to inherit eternal life, and Jesus said he must sell all his possessions and follow Him. The man went away sadly, leaving the disciples shocked by what their teacher had said. When they ask Jesus about it, he says, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven.  Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God” (Matthew 19:23-24).

Doesn’t that rich man sound like so many of us Americans? How sad to think that it’s literally impossible to go to heaven if you are rich, according to Jesus. But He doesn’t stop there. Continuing on, he declares, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:25).

So we as materialistic Americans are able to inherit the Kingdom of God? No. We as needy Americans are. We who, though we have much, have hearts that are continually surrendering to Jesus Christ, and freely giving away the wealth God has blessed us with. Because that is faith. True faith is when we live in the new life God has given us and test out God’s ability in our lives, instead of leaning on our own frailness.

Jesus himself said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit,     for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3)

May we be poor, in the spirit! May we humble ourselves so God may lift us up in due time. We have a calling to be free of pride, free of sin, free of shame, because that is the truest freedom that exists.

So many Christians are afraid to go down the path of humility, of searching God, of reading His Word, of praying hard, and especially of doing good works. Because they fear of falling into legalism. They may not consciously realize they fear it, but nevertheless they either avoid doing these things, or grudgingly do them a small amount. So many Christians try to prove to the world that they are just like everybody else and that they love them, but the reality is, in order to truly love people, we have to be different from everybody else. Because in order to love them, we must tell them the truth, and we must show a love so different from the world’s love that they have to notice its radiance exuding from our faces. God’s love through Jesus Christ is so rare, because it is the love that lays down one’s life for another; it is the humility that says “no” to ourselves, and “yes” to God over and over again. It is such an aching neediness for our Lord that we continually place Him as well as other people above ourselves, out of our deep reverence for the King of Kings. And the truth is, making yourself realize your need for God does not mean legalism. It means joy.

“The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.” – Psalm 28:7

It’s hard for us to be needy, because we have so much. But nothing is impossible for God. May we care nothing for money, and care only about Jesus. Maybe Jesus won’t tell us to sell everything we have as he told the rich young man to, but I guarantee you, He will urge us to thirst for the Living Water, though we have it running abundantly in our homes, and He will plead with us to hunger for the Bread of Life, though we consume hundreds of loaves of bread each year.

Never give up on humility, even if you can’t seem to hear God at all. Take heart, for Jesus has overcome the world. Have faith that, whether He comes quickly or whether He delays, He is already your help and your deliverer. You don’t need to worry that God is upset at you, because if you believe in Him, He has paid the highest price for you to be His own. If you confess your sins, admit your desperate neediness for a Savior, and seek him in earnestness, even pleasing God is possible, for Jesus has redeemed your life from the pit with His very body on the cross.

“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” – Hebrews 11:6

 

 

Is God Good?

“Why, Lord, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” Psalm 10:1

The beginning of King David’s lament about the world’s sorry state (continued in the rest of Psalm 10) does not stand alone. I have witnessed questioning, scattered hurt, and wonderings. I have listened to the sound of ‘whys’ and ‘what does He think He’s doing??’. It is the world’s sorry state, and people are blaming it all on God. I, too, wonder at the suffering and horror and famine and anxiety and depression and loss and the routine of meaningless schedules. I sorrow of it. But so does God, more than I could ever know. I honestly don’t know how everything works out (most of us don’t), but, when we look to place the blame, ought we to exclude ourselves?

“In his pride the wicked man does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God.” – Psalm 10:4

Even as Christians, it can be easy to scoff at a Jesus freak or Scripture or God Himself when we put ourselves above the King of Kings. It’s easy to blame God for the evil in the world. And Satan so heartily approves of all this. But whatever truly glorifies God we ought to honor with our thoughts, our actions—our whole hearts. We should make plenty of room for Him. We should let His goodness reign within out very beings.

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” – Philippians 4:18

But the lines between right and wrong can get blurry for some people, even when they look at God’s Word, as to whether God is good. The Bible is clearly not only filled with God’s love, mercy, and forgiveness, but also with His anger, jealousy, and wrath. The devil immediately snaps into our brains with the thought, “That sounds like a human being, not God.” Especially when you come across a verse such as this, which talks about the land of Tyre’s punishment:

“By your many sins and dishonest trade

    you have desecrated your sanctuaries.

So I made a fire come out from you,

    and it consumed you,

and I reduced you to ashes on the ground

    in the sight of all who were watching.” – Ezekiel 28:18

The devastation of the country of Tyre is undeniably horrific, but if we cast our anger and bitterness on God, we aren’t stopping and realizing that it was not God’s pointless cruelty that led to this calamity, but it was Tyre’s desecration of the sanctuaries which were meant to honor God. Continue reading

A Reblog by Seeing Everything else- Warning: Church Kids

“Christianity isn’t something you catch, because Christianity isn’t a thing. It’s a relationship.” Wow, so true! Something we all need to be reminded of. 🙂

 

 

WARNING: Church kids, you may be in grave danger. In fact, if you were raised in a Christian family, if you were always taken to church, or even if you were homeschooled all your life; your risk for this calamity is exponentially greater. Because you may have bought into the Idea. That perverse, wrong, dangerous idea that […]

 

via Warning: Church Kids — Seeing Everything Else

Surrendering To His Love

People say I’m quiet. I wouldn’t think so unless they did. They say I’m patient, but I would never have thought so myself. Some say I’m shy. My family tells me I’m smart and thoughtful and kind.

 

Inside, I’m only a weak little lamb surrendering to a Savior whenever I remember, letting Him take my few loaves and fish and multiply them, whenever I think of it. But when I think only of myself I am nothing. When I acknowledge Him in every aspect of my life, He shines out of me, revealing His everything.

 

“And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” – 2 Cor. 3:18

 

Nevertheless, whenever I think of myself, it matters to me, what people say. What they think. I wonder what they really think, if they say what they really think. I wonder.

 

People are mysterious. I have hardly even begun getting to know myself. It helps to know what they think by what they say. When I think of only myself, it matters to me, because I want to know who I am in their opinion, and I want to be more me according to whatever good things they think of me. None of what they think matters. Only God’s opinion matters, because He’s the only One who knows the real me, whoever I am. And He is the only One who is truly good.

 

But whenever I think of myself, I care. I care about me too much. I care what others think of me, and I blush when they compliment me. Am I going to bow before them at the end of the world? No. But I still care, and I still have a lot to learn to give up myself in every way and take pride in Him rather than in my own talents, skills, or looks.

Continue reading

Sympathy vs. Compassion

Sympathy

I’m so sorry for everyone

The hearts that are broken

The clocks that keep ticking but never strike one.

I’m so sorry for everyone

The longing for love

Or the fear of it

The reaching for dreams

Or the running away.

 

I’m so sorry for everyone

The anxiety

Of speaking to one or to hundreds

The anxiety of stepping into a crowded room.

I’m so sorry for everyone

The height of success

Drowned in loneliness

The sitting at a desk

And wasting hours doing things you will hate forever. Continue reading