Wednesday, September 28, 2011

As For Me

I love going to church on Wednesdays. I love it that a group of high school students can come together and worship and learn about God. I love the relationships that are built through it.

Wednesday nights are my weekly pep rally. My one thing that gets me through the week. My reminder that I am not the only one struggling, and I am not the only one who leans on God. My time to be encouraged in the Lord, and filled with His Spirit.

Tonight we were singing one of my favorite songs - "As For Me".

The chorus says,

"As for me, I will raise Your banner high.
I will shout aloud Your name; I won't deny.
Jesus, You have given all, so I give You my life.
I will raise Your banner high."

As I was singing and raising my hands and shouting these words to God, though, I found myself convicted.

"I will shout aloud Your name."

Was I doing that? Sure, I talk a good game about orphan care. At church. With my friends who feel the same way I do.

But, when I'm at school, I don't bring up how excited I am about what we're learning in Philippians. I don't talk about what God's doing in my life. I don't gossip much, but I listen to it. I participate in it. I don't stop it.

The truth is that at school, I try and blend. I don't compromise what I believe, but neither do I proclaim it. If someone asked me if I was a Christian, I would reply with an emphatic yes. But I wouldn't just tell someone.

When people in my classes go outside and smoke or talk about sleeping with their boyfriends, I don't object. I remain silent. I choose to say nothing, not out of sympathy or concern for them, but out of fear of what they'll think of me.

When they ask me about my life, my family, my extracurricular activities, I find myself responding like any normal teenager. And as I replay my responses in my mind, I realize that there is no way to tell the difference between me and a normal teenager.

There is no way that the people in my classes would be able to tell that I was a Christian.

And it makes me ashamed. How dare I raise my hands in worship? How dare I sing the words, "As for me, I will raise Your banner high"?

I sing those things in church, but I don't live them.  And I'm tired of it. As a follower of Christ, I am commanded to proclaim Him to a fallen world. I am told that people should see that I am different from the way I talk and act and walk with Christ.

If people can't tell that I'm different, am I really different? Can a Christian be a Christian and not tell the world about Jesus?

The way I act to the world, regardless of what they believe, should reflect what I believe.

And as a transformed daughter of a risen God, I am ready for my life to mirror that.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

He's Coming For Me

Do you ever have those days when you just lose hope?

You feel like you have no purpose, no motive. What are you working toward, really? You feel so beaten down, so stuck in a rut, so sick and tired of the mundane that you just don't want to go on.

That was my day today.

It was cloudy and humid. I'd just watched a horribly depressing video about death in anatomy class. I felt swamped with school and, though I needed to do the work, I didn't want to. Everything felt pointless. Meaningless. I felt like I had lost my hope.

During study hall, I left campus, feeling desperate. I pulled into Sonic, turned off my car, and moved my sit back as far as it would go. And, searching for something, some answer, some message of hope, I opened my Bible to a random page, praying that God would lead me somewhere in His Word.

I opened up to John 14, and skimmed a few verses before finding one that seemed to stick out to me.

"I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you." - John 14:18

I could feel in my spirit that it was important. It was something I needed to know. But, I couldn't quite tell what it meant yet. I still felt dejected. I still yearned for that hope.

Praying again that God would somehow make clear what He was trying to show me, I opened my Bible randomly once more.

"For who is our hope or joy or crown of exultation? Is it not even you, in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming?" - 1 Thessalonians 2:19

A sudden thought hit me like a plank of wood.

He's coming for me.

Jesus is coming for me.

My God is not going to leave me here, without hope, without cause, without purpose. He is coming for me.

What is my hope? My joy? My crown of exultation? He is coming for me!

Can you feel it!? The insurmountable joy that comes from this? Every day of our lives we have something to look forward to. We have a reason to live. We have a purpose.

It is the rock we build our lives on. The truth that we can stand on. The one thing in this world that was, is, and always will be certain.

Jesus is coming for us.

He will not leave us on this earth as orphans. He's coming.

I went back to school, having to reign in my spirit, because I wanted to shout it at the top of my lungs. I wanted to tell everyone I saw:

Do you know!? Have you heard!?

He's coming for me.

And He can come for you too.

Friday, September 16, 2011

I Deserve

Pride is the sin of sins. The one that everyone struggles with, but no one likes to confront. Pride is what brings down the best of the best. It ruins those who would otherwise be considered saint-like.

Pride is something that I struggle with a lot. But it's not the normal kind of pride. My pride comes from a different angle, a different area.

I don't brag a lot. I don't accept compliments easily. In fact, I despise flaunting my talents, even going to the point of hiding them because I don't want to be considered arrogant. All this to show that, in general, I probably would not be considered an excessively arrogant or prideful person. But, this is where my sin lies. I have pride in being humble.

I take pride in not accepting compliments. In people thinking, "Oh, Tori, she's so humble." I take great pride in that. And that is a hard kind of pride to overcome, because while I want to be humble, I want to do it for the right reasons. And my motives are not pure in any way. Sometimes they are. But more often than not, I have an ulterior.

Another area of pride that I struggle in is entitlement. Especially in Worthday, or in orphan care. That was my idea. I deserve the credit for that. I deserve the glory. Even in my life. God, why am I not in Peru? I deserve to live a more meaningful life than this. I deserve to know what I'm doing here. I deserve to know what Your plan is.

The truth?

I deserve nothing. Absolutely nothing. In fact, if I deserve anything, it's a painful, bloody death. When I think of all the sins I have committed today, let alone this week, this year, or in my lifetime, I realize that I am worthy of NOTHING. No praise, no glory, no knowledge, no nothing. And I am absolutely ashamed of my pride. I am embarrassed to look at God, to talk to God. My sins are overwhelming. How can I even turn my face to Him?

This is why God's mercy never ceases to amaze me. How did He find worth in me? How did He see worth in someone like me? Someone who sins every day, spat in his face, denied His goodness to the world? Why would God have mercy on me?

The best part? There is no answer. In this life, I will never know what God saw in me. Why He saw fit to pull me up off the ground and help me learn to walk with Him. Why He thought I was worth it. I will never know.

And I'm learning to realize that I am not entitled to know. I am not entitled to anything. Any pride that I have, I want it to come from the Lord.

"Tori, you are beautiful." - Praise God.

"Tori, you're so smart." - It's all thanks to God.

"Tori, you're such a good writer." - It's all God's words coming through me. I thank Him that He allows me to write them.

"Tori, you're so great! You started Worthday!" - God started Worthday. He just brought me along for the ride.

I want all the glory for everything in my life to go to God. Because, without Him, I would be worth nothing. So let's point people to the one who the glory really goes to. He deserves it far more than I ever will.

... and I said, 'O my God, I am ashamed and embarrassed to lift up my face to You, my God, for [my] iniquities have risen above [my] head and [my] guilt has grown even to the heavens." ~ Ezra 9:6

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Lights in the World

Recently, I've been memorizing the book of Philippians. Yes, the whole thing. No, I am not a particularly incredible Christian or anything like that. I was challenged. And I could not turn down the challenge. Therefore, I am memorizing it.

But this challenge has really opened me up to interpreting Philippians much deeper and paying much more attention to what Paul is saying in his letter than I normally would have. Trust God to use something as trivial as a challenge to reveal more of Himself.

Philippians 2:15 says, "... Prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world."

Immediately this verse caught my eye. Crooked and perverse generation? Sounds familiar. We live in a world where homosexuality is being widely accepted as a lifestyle rather than a choice (albeit a difficult one). Where there are over 140 million children without a family. Where there are children taught to use guns and forced to kill each other. Where young girls and women are forced into the sex trade and made to give up their innocence in order to save their lives. Where there are billions of people suffering in poverty and starvation every single day. We live in a generation that is crooked and perverse.

But as I read it, I thought more. We are supposed to "prove ourselves to be blameless and innocent." This conflicted to me. I, certainly, am not blameless and innocent. I have sinned. Bad. And I continue to sin every day. So how can I possibly prove myself to be blameless and innocent? The only man who was every innocent of sin was Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ became sin so that we could be seen as what He was - innocent.

So in order to be innocent, we must take on the person of Jesus Christ. We, obviously, could not have accomplished this on our own, and so Jesus took the liberty of making a way for us. In order to take on His person, we simply must accept that He took on ours.

When we become Jesus, when we accept what He has done for us, we become children of God. And as children of God, we no longer are in sin, but are in Life.

We are to be above reproach. And I ask, "How can I be above reproach?" If a non-Christian came up to me and accused me of sinning, I could not deny it. Yes, I am a Christian. But, yes, I still sin.

So how do we become above reproach? I think it is key that in the verse, "children of God" are "above reproach". It does not say that unsaved people who try and have high morals and get to God on their own are above reproach. It does not say that only people who never sin are above reproach.

It says that "children of God" are above reproach. Simply because they are children of God. They have made a conscious decision to take on the person of Jesus, and allow Him to take on their person. Once we have done that, our hearts strive to be Jesus. To embody the one who has embodied us. So even when we sin, we fight it. We struggle. We wrestle with our sin and we repent and fall at our Father's feet. And because of our repentance, because of Jesus's brave, noble act in our defense even though we did not deserve it, we are above reproach.

And we are, indeed, in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation. It's not popular to be against homosexuality. It's not normal save sex for marriage. It's seen as strange to believe that there is only one way to Heaven and that way is Jesus Christ. It's absolutely insane to want to give your life for what seems so otherworldly and unrealistic.

But because of the world we are in, we must appear as lights. If we hide who we are in Christ, we add to the darkness. If you're standing in a dark room full of people who need to see where they're going and you're holding a candle, but you refuse to light it, you are not only doing an injustice to yourself but to all the people around you. No one sees unless you light your candle.

You cannot wait for other people to do it. Because if you do not add to the light, then you are adding to the darkness. Believing in Christ and becoming a child of God is a decision. But so is lighting your candle afterward.

If you keep it out, it will make no difference. It will add to the darkness that already encompasses the world.

But if you light it, it spreads light farther than you could ever see.