Enough through Jesus…

…simply believe in the One He has sent…

If you’re like me, in the hustle and bustle of today’s world, you often find yourself overwhelmed… Overwhelmed by the day-to-day tasks vying for your attention, while simultaneously agonizing over the oughta’s and shoulda’s to reach personal goals…

Social media has afforded the ability to vastly over-share small snippets of our lives, the “highlight reel,” as some have called it… And in scrolling through our activity feeds, we’re left feeling inadequate… We begin believing, perhaps even subconsciously, that these “highlights” are the sole experiences of our friends and acquaintances… Smiling faces, professional achievements, carefree vacations… As if you’re the only one who experiences life’s ups and downs…

So often, it has left me wondering, am I enough? Am I doing enough? Is my life enough, in God’s eyes?

Jesus was once asked what one must do to do the works God requires…

“Jesus answered, ‘The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.‘” – John 6:29

WHOA. To simply believe in the One God has sent! THAT is enough.

And, knowing all too well our human tendency to try to work out our salvation, Paul the apostle reminded us, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of Godnot by works, so that no one can boast. – Ephesians 2:8-9

When Jesus offered Himself up for us on the cross, He accomplished all that was needed and declared, “It is finished.” – John 19:30

Tempting as it is to try to EARN God’s favor, rest in the simple truth that it is enough to simply believe in Jesus. That His perfectly lived life paid the ultimate price on our behalf… His sacrifice was for the sin of every person throughout all of history! Wow. Trusting in His finished work is all that is needed to be enough before God.

Paul made it clear and simple…

That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, ‘Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.'” – Romans 10:9-11

So, it’s not a matter of achievement, a matter of feeling, or a matter of other’s perceptions of us… Believing in Jesus is enough…

“…your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” – Colossians 3:3b-4

pc: Sarah Coffey, Ukraine

…when it’s beyond reason, believe…

…keep on believing…

Several years ago, my mom gave me this little decorative sign… Outlined letters spelled the word BELIEVE and below was engraved the following phrase…

Believe when it’s beyond reason to believe.

At first, I’ll admit, I didn’t really appreciate it… It was nice sentiment, but it almost sounded too pithy for me to think it a serious philosophy to adopt. However, in recent months I’ve been more convicted that this is actually the key to the Christian life…

There are times that God moves in unmistakable and undeniable ways in our lives. We cannot help but give credit to God, boasting of His presence in our lives…

And then, there are other times we go through life as if in the dark… it seems like we’ve entered a great silence… Our prayers soar up to the heavens, only seemingly to float back down to us with question marks attached… Where are you, God?

I’m at a place in life right now where I feel both simultaneously… On the one hand, I can see God moving in my heart and life… On the other hand, my own impatience gets the best of me as it seems God isn’t answering or He’s moving WAY too slowly…

During a recent church service, the pastor made reference to the life of Kurt Cobain, the composer and lead singer of the band Nirvana. He lived a life of inner turmoil, never really able to find peace… He ended his life before he was thirty years old, thinking the world would be better off without him. At his funeral, his band mates recalled one picture that Kurt carried around in his billfold simply because he thought it was the only “good” photo of himself. In the background was a sign reading, “Believe in Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” Rather ironic… The man searching for hope, peace, joy, purpose had the answer behind him all the time… But I suppose his heart was clouded by his own shortcomings and disappointments to even consider that somehow God or Jesus could have been the answer.

At times, I’ve felt like this… how do you keep from getting disillusioned? How do you keep yourself from going down the path of disenchantment? And then I realized…

Believe when it is beyond reason to believe…

“We live by faith, not by sight.”*

*2 Corinthians 5:7

pc: Sarah Coffey, Macedonia

Worth the climb…

…don’t give up, the climb is worth the view…

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Before departing Macedonia, I’d agreed to go on a hike with one of my teammates. It was planned for the morning of our departure. At first, I was glad to have one last opportunity to see the city from the hilltop. But as preparations were being made to leave, my mind raced, thinking of all the packing, cleaning, and goodbyes yet to be done. I could feel the stress welling up in me… it felt so consuming… how could I drop everything and make time for a morning hike with so much left to do? But, still wanting to see the view and having given my word, I met my teammate at our appointed time.

Walking through the park, up the hill where the trail began, my mind kept recounting last minute details… Did I remember to pack all my toiletries? Will I need to go to the market for any snacks? Are my phone and laptop chargers packed?

Meanwhile, my friend led the way along the narrow, steep, canopied path. It was a beautiful day…! The sun barely peaking over the hillside, birds singing, hardly anyone on the trail… Too nice for me to be grumbling…! Again and again, I prayed that I could be present in this moment… Again and again, I could hear my heart grumbling, this hike better be worth it… the view better be spectacular…!

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Rounding the bend at the crest of the hill, I was in awe… The view of the city below was truly magnificent! And there was a little wooden bench beside the path, perfect for a mini-rest to enjoy the view. In that moment, I was overcome… humbled… overcome by the breathtaking view… humbled because I’d spent a good portion of the trail grumbling to God…

Sitting on the bench, my friend and I reflected on our month of ministry… For me, it had been a difficult month… There were dark things my soul had wrestled with… It was only by God’s grace and His steady Hand that I had made it to this moment… Tears began to fall down my cheeks as I felt overwhelmed by His faithfulness… I began to pray with my friend, thanking and praising God… apologizing for my wayward, stubborn heart…

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Looking out over the valley, the climb was well worth leaving my “important” tasks behind… I had been given a broader view… my frenzied self was re-grounded, calmed by God’s presence and love…

I’ve been discovering that life is a lot like that hike… There are so many tasks that compete for our attention and devotion… Family, friends, work, church responsibilities… It’s difficult to get away to find the calm… In our dog-eat-dog world, it’s tough to see the value in it…

Not to mention, the hike of life seems difficult enough… the incline is steep, we cannot ascertain what the next bend will bring, whether it’ll be shaded or find a rattlesnake in our path… We want ease…

As a kid, I thought following Jesus would be easy… Do what He wants, abide by His rules, and He’ll reward you with blessings and provide safety for you, protection to be unworried by the happenings of this world…

But, that’s not so… Following Jesus isn’t easy… Keeping the faith, walking with Him has been one of the most difficult things I’ve done in my life… As life has thrown me some unexpected curveballs, even my deepest held, most dear beliefs have been challenged…

But I know the hike is worth it…

And so, to you, friend, don’t give up…! Jesus has promised not only that the climb will be difficult, but that it will be well worth it… He knows our troubles… In fact, He promised that we’d see our fair share…

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”*

So, just as we’ve experienced the trouble He promised, how much more can we count on the rest of His promises??

“In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”**

And so, if you find yourself sore from the climb, doubting whether it is worth it, remind yourself that it is… Take time to be alone with Jesus… Let Him renew your spirit and revive your soul…

“Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”***

And find others with whom you can hike… You are not alone!

“Your enemy, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers and sisters throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.”****

“So, do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.”*****

*John 16:33

**John 14:2-3

***Isaiah 40:30-31

**** Peter 5:8-9

*****Hebrews 10:35

pc: Sarah Coffey, (except the one I’m in is by Darek Hollis), Bitola, Macedonia 2016

Take 5…

…there was evening and there was morning the first day…

So, it’s been five months since I moved to Utah… And it finally hit me… During the last week, I finally came down with a nasty cold bug. It hit me hard, knocking me down with a fever for a couple days… I haven’t been this sick since I accidentally took too many Ibuprofen pain pills back in Zambia last September!

It caused me to reflect…

Five months in and the seeds that I began planting back in March are beginning to bear fruit… I’ve found a home church, small group, new friendships, the blessing of a good job, new purpose… My community is taking root. All that cultivating is paying off, and my body is telling me to take five, and rest.

But I’m like the Energizer Bunny… Fear of missing out keeps me going and going and going and going…

I’m reminded of a lesson I learned back in Bible College… As we studied Genesis, the professor was quick to point out the significance of the wording of the first chapter…

“…and there was evening and there was morning—the first day…the second day…the third day…”*

That phrase is repeated after every creative work God did each day. Can you see it?? Can you see the wording?? First came the evening, then came the morning

All my years growing up in church I thought each day started with the morning and ended with the evening. But, no… According to Moses, who wrote Genesis, the day begins when we fall asleep… As he reiterated in Deuteronomy, “The Lord himself goes before you…”**

In the silence and stillness of the darkness of night, God goes about His work, preparing the way for us and the day ahead… When sunlight streams in over the Eastern hills, we awake to see what He has done and to join Him in the work He’s already set aside for us… After all, “…we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”*** You see that?? God has good works for us to do… He prepared them in advance of our arrival!

Similarly, consider the workings of the human body… When we’re ill, wounded, broken, what are the doctor’s orders?? What is it he or she prescribes? Rest. Stillness. A cessation of work. Why? So that the body may mend itself and we might find health again.

Who would have thought that rest would be so productive?! And yet, let us consider the celestial cycle of our day and the inner workings of our bodies as a reminder of the importance of rest. Even as many of us are gearing up for the busyness of the new school year, do what you can to find time in your day or week for rest… Even if it is only a moment of stillness, let us find health and preparation for all that’s ahead.

*Genesis 1:5

**Deuteronomy 31:8

***Ephesians 2:10

pc: Sarah Coffey, Ndola, Zambia