Who’s in Control?

Jesus asked his followers a startling question one day: “Why do you call me ‘Lord’ and not do the things that I say?” Jesus was essentially saying, “Why do you insinuate that I am your king but don’t do what I’ve asked you?”

This question should pierce the heart of everyone who calls themselves a disciple of Jesus. Who is Jesus to you? Is He real? Is He someone you turn to only when times are hard, or merely someone that you look to because you had parents that steered you in the direction of Christianity? There is no way that we can declare He is real, and the Lord of our life, and still consistently withhold a portion of the control of our lives.

Jesus wants a relationship with you so bad that He was willing to die to get it. But living up to the greatest potential of that relationship requires a shift on your part. A shift in your thinking and in your doing – living your life as though it isn’t yours at all. Realizing that your life belongs to Jesus and He is in control. The Lord is a friend to those who fear Him – shifting your entire life to be a faithful follower of the only One worth following.


Recently I had the privilege of getting to know a Christian man who had lived under an oppressive communist regime in Europe for many years. He shared many harrowing stories with me about various hardships and how he smuggled Bibles without the authorities catching him. Although communism has since dissipated in that country and everyone living there has experienced freedom for many years, he said something that really hit me. He stated how he has realized that the hardest thing for any Christian is to just be faithful to Jesus. The temptation is always there to take control of our own lives, but our responsibility as a follower of Christ is to be faithful in our freedom or in persecution.

Let it be said of us
That the Lord was our passion
That with gladness we bore
Every cross we were given
That we fought the good fight
That we finished our course
Knowing within us the power of the risen Lord

Let the cross be our glory
And the Lord be our song
By mercy made holy
By the Spirit made strong

Let the cross be our glory
And the Lord be our song
‘Till the likeness of Jesus
Be through us made known
Let the cross be our glory
And the Lord be our song

(Steve Fry)

Front-Row Seats


I’ve never seen myself as a compassionate person.  Yes, there are things I’m passionate about, and I very much feel my feelings, but for years, I’ve wanted a heart of compassion from God.  Prayed and prayed.  I thought that one day, God would miraculously open my eyes and I’d perch atop fluffy clouds to peer down benignly on His people.

That never came.

On December 31st, as I mulled over the last year, God reminded me that although His ways are not my ways, He is always working in me:

Last year, I struggled with personal unrealistic standards justified under the guise of God’s expectations.  I can only be a testimony if my life reflects the beliefs of this certain society.  As chaining as it sounds, I worried that letting go of these standards created by people would damage my usefulness to God.

But I let go.

That summer, God allowed a situation into my life — one I never considered possible because it was beyond the boundaries of my fairly creative imagination.  Yet it happened and there I was, asking God okay, but what next when someone I can’t stop loving is placing their desires above You and all else.  For months after, I battled feelings of betrayal, mistrust, confusion, and disgust.  I told God to hurry up and do something.  I tried to pretend it wasn’t there.  I cried in class.

But I let it be.

In the fall, my college life altered.  Before then, my free time was devoted to my college fellowship.  Events, proxies, meetings, outreaches – you name it, I was probably there.  I “didn’t have time” for classmates; I “didn’t have time” to talk to nonbelievers unless I was inviting them to some fellowship event.  But after the summer, all I could attend schedule-wise were the weekly gatherings.  And I felt led to walk alongside others.  I began studying with classmates, going to social events with students, and hanging out with people who thought God about as alive as Barbie.  I felt guilty sometimes – my fellowship brothers and sisters occasionally asked me why I would choose “those people” over them.  Yet I knew God wanted me to know this new group as people – real, humorous, desperate, whacky, loving people.  Sometimes I didn’t have anything to say.  Sometimes I was irritated with the things they did.  Sometimes I wished for the comfort of being constantly with believers.

But I let them in.

And looking back on 2014, I know God slipped just a little more compassion into this heart of mine.

Jesus is the greatest example of compassion.  He chose to descend to Earth and become as us.  He knew that the greatest love is not to weep and wail over newspaper tragedies displayed on a fancy screen but to understand and experience.

God gave me a chance to release my unnecessary standards and realize I’m just as stinkin’ unworthy as everyone else. He let me love those I do not want to love but cannot help but love.  And He brought me to stand on level ground among the people He has never not loved.  I am no better; we are not invincible; they are real people.  I struggled into compassion.

Instead of gifting me a poofy cloud, God handed me a front-row experience.  Instead of a miraculous transformation, God gave me a personal journey.  Instead of calling me to love from afar, God said “stand here and hold their hand”.

I still lack enough care to pray for someone every time I say I will.  I still ignore articles on racial injustice and tragedies overseas.  But I know that as I continue to ask God for His heart, He will continue to give it to me.

And for that, every year is monumental.


Bigger is better?

“I want to be extraordinary!”Pile of Pancakes

“I’m going to do BIG things for God.”

How many of us can relate to those two statements? Even if you have never uttered those phrases, would you agree that the thought of it at least has entered your mind? Full disclosure: that mindset has been a part of my DNA for years now, and I am just now beginning to realize and admit it. It’s amazing how almost every person is determined to make a powerful impression on society or within their sphere of influence – and that’s not a bad thing! Nevertheless, what I’ve been wrestling with is how much that passion to be relevant has dictated my decisions and even affected the way that I view other people.

In the book, Go Small, Craig Gross points out that so many of us want to be revolutionaries and change the world; however, we’re so consumed with our desire to do big things that we often overlook the ordinary, bland things, and really miss the raw opportunities that are right in front of our face. If you look at Jesus’ life, He consistently flowed with the seemingly ordinary events of life – and oftentimes that’s where He would do His greatest works.

The challenge with this approach is that often I don’t get noticed when I’m doing the “small things.” I want to be involved in something that’s going to look good on my Facebook post; something that will win hundreds of people to Christ; something that will get me noticed by the masses. But it’s because of that mindset that I don’t notice, or have time for, the child playing around my house; the dirty dishes that are piling up in the sink; the friend at church that just needs someone to listen to them.

How about you? Can you be motivated to blossom right where God has planted you? Not worrying about if you get noticed or not? Live your life to the fullest in the same way Jesus did, in that He “made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant.” God isn’t focused on counting how many Facebook likes you get or worried about how slowly your small group is growing. Start noticing the “small things” that are sitting directly in front of you and stay faithful to that – you may be amazed at the ways God shows up and the contentment that follows!

God Mended My Hoodie

One winter day, during my second year in Taiwan, the weather was cool so I had taken my favorite blue hoodie along to school with me. On the drive to school, I noticed a tear in one of the sleeves.  I couldn’t wear it like that. I resigned myself to toughing it out in my t-shirt.      When I arrived at school, I plopped my bags, books, and purse down on and around my desk. My coworker, Xu Jun, and I greeted each other with smiles and “Good morning!” Then I showed her my hoodie.”The grandma can fix it,” she responded to my tale of tear.

The “grandma” is a bustling, kindly, older woman. What her official job is at the school, I’m not really sure. She bandages, combs disheveled hair, scolds, comforts, and generally ‘grandmas’ everyone in the school – except the principal, of course.

“Yes!” exclaimed another teacher, “We have a very good seamstress!”

“Here, here. Bring it here.” Grandma ordered in her gruff, yet good-tempered, way.

I gratefully handed my hoodie to her. I expected to teach at least one period in my shirtsleeves, so I settled contentedly down at my desk for a chat with Xu Jun before class. Not five minutes later, bless her heart, the grandma tossed my sweatshirt to me. She had mended it beautifully.

I thanked her profusely. I thanked the Lord, too. I knew He had directed me to take that particular hoodie to that school (as opposed to the others, which don’t have ‘grandmas’) just so it would be mended.

A couple of days later a friend of mine was trying to tease me about the hole. “Look!” she commanded several of our mutual friends. “Look! There’s a big hole in her sweatshirt… Where is it?” she asked in surprise.I laughed and explained how God had mended my hoodie.

Sometimes I’m tempted to think that God doesn’t really care about what is happening in my life. Then He reminds me of times like this when He has proven that He is concerned with even the smallest details. Why should I doubt His loving care? After all, “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32)
This Easter, as we celebrate God’s greatest act of love, may we all continually marvel at and trust in the faithful loving-kindness of God!

Press On

“Rachel, you watch Ugly Betty?”
“No, Daniel, I was talking about AUNTIE Betty.”

“Violent video games aren’t bad! It’s proven that people who play them actually make better soldiers in the army.”

“James 1:16 says Do not be deceived, my brothers. The lesson I learn from that is: don’t trust ANYBODY.”

Welcome to Jr. High Sunday School. Such are the things you’d hear if you were to step in to my little class. My hope in teaching is to make the Bible interesting and God relevant to the youth so they learn truths that solidify their faith foundation.

Sometimes though, I wonder if I am making any progress. Are they hearing anything??

But if the God we are learning about IS real, then He is not just a subject of study, but is actively at work in my life and theirs. Though there are no dramatic life changes, fruit growth-spurts, or mini-revivals every Sunday, I know that the teens are in the hands of a living God who does transform lives.

My job is to persevere even when it feels like I’m just plodding along without visible results. I need to be faithful and keep plugging at it each week.

Serving God and following Jesus daily is not usually glamorous or revolutionary. Living like God is real is often simply obeying and being faithful to what you’re given – it is made of persistence and consistence.

And it will be rewarding.

“And let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.” (Galatians 6:9)