Dirty Laundry

When it came out a few weeks ago that one of the Duggars’ grown children had a not-so-squeaky-clean of a past, I wasn’t really shocked (click the link if you don’t know the story). Not because I always suspected these children of imperfection, but for the past few years, my involvement in counseling has made me less and less shocked of what any individual is capable of and how much each of us hide from the public’s eye. I am no different!

Although Jesus has redeemed me and I am now on a better path (though still far from perfection), for most

Amanda and I in Dresden in front a Martin Luther statue and the Frauenkirche
Amanda and I in Dresden in front a Martin Luther statue and the Frauenkirche

of my life I was involved in all sorts of behaviors I am not proud of. The state of my heart and my mind was completely darkened and filled with hate – which led me to act out in the first place.

Even though the concept of grace is central to the Christian faith, there still seems to be a huge thread of pride that keeps Christians from just being real, which leads us to competition, harmful judgment, self-condemnation, and comparison.This makes it hard for me to keep open and honest about my own past.

And when the whole Josh Duggar thing came out. I thought to myself, Ok, now I definitely do not want to be famous, because if I get famous, that means my dirty laundry will also be hung out to dry and then I will have to experience public humiliation and shame. 

This fearful thought really nagged at me for at least two days – and I knew that there was a deeper issue in my heart that God wanted to address.

Starbucks in Dresden was our second stop, only after witnessing a crazy German soccer mob :)
Starbucks in Dresden was our second stop, only after witnessing a crazy German soccer mob 🙂

I realized that I still viewed Jesus as if He were also looking down on me in a negative way, too.

His life is the example of perfection, so how could I actually relate to him if I still viewed myself as the adulterous woman –  shameful and on the outside? I had no idea I still really struggled with the concept of Jesus’ unconditional love and acceptance over me!

After I confessed this to Him, true to His nature, He helped clear up my thinking by reminding me of what actually happened between him and the adulterous woman in the Bible:

The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group  and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

“No one, sir,” she said.

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

John 8:1-11

I underlined and bolded the word “but” because it serves as an awesome contrast between the world’s reaction to sin and Jesus’. Jesus offers forgiveness and full restoration to those who repent, but the world offers punishment, hate, and shame – just like what happened to Josh Duggar and countless others.

I think it is the age-old problem of mankind. If mankind were left on his own to rule the universe, everyone would fall under the curse of conditional love, where everyone has to raise their kids in a certain way, be a certain weight, wear the right clothing, have the right kind of lifestyle, and be ______________ enough (fill in the blank for yourself). If you do not meet these requirements, you are somehow less than that person making the judgment.

This revelation of Jesus’ acceptance of the adulterous woman brought so much more peace in my heart and in my relationship with Him! Not only am I completely accepted because of my past, but I also do not have to ever compare and compete, as if Jesus were ever going to declare me more or less awesome based on my own judgments and comparisons.

Of course I am not an advocate of abusing this gift of grace. I do believe that God has absolute truths that are protective, good, and freeing. These healthy boundaries can serve to help people from self-destructive practices like homosexuality, addictions to porn, etc. But despite these sinful behaviors, all people are valuable in God’s eyes despite what they do and choose in life. And God desperately wants to save and love on every single human, including the ones society deems most unworthy.

These revelations I have had are nothing “new” – I have had these revelations before, and have understood the concept since I became a Christian. God had just given me a fresh and deeper understanding of His grace and total acceptance and how absolutely incredibly this gift actually is.

Another important revelation Jesus gave me was the love and acceptance I have in Him today. I had

Dresden, Germany
Dresden, Germany

a mistrust for Jesus because I took offense to the fact that He wanted to change me. That made me feel that there was something wrong with me and therefore I felt unlovable.

In response to this fear, Jesus showed me that although He is definitely interested in renewing me into my original design, He doesn’t love me less right now just because I am not “fully mature” yet. His grace is what makes His unconditional love for me a present-day reality, as well as everyone else who lives out of brokenness. And He loves me too much to leave me as I am today!

So in the end, I realized it was the fear of man and pride that led me this fear of being ‘exposed’ to the public, having still this lingering wrong belief that I am acceptable because of what I do, think, etc (and not because of Jesus’ righteousness in me alone).

And when it comes down to it, if I really came to know God’s love for me in a deeper way, I think I would struggle much less with the thought of public scorn. His love would truly melt the fear of man away, and this is something I most desire!

I cannot imagine the pain that the Duggars are going through, or any other person widely shamed/hated for who they are and what they have done. And this is not to minimize the victims who also suffer, and absolve people of personal responsibility, but to only point out my own realization of what true righteousness and acceptance is.

All of us deserve punishment, but that it was makes the good news of Jesus so great, that despite our evil deeds, we are still eligible for His forgiveness, acceptance, and everlasting love!

At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.

Titus 3:1-7

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The Pursuit of Candy

Recently, small disappointments and less than ideal circumstances has led me to confront some of my major beliefs about God.

Recently, small disappointments and less than ideal circumstances has led me to confront some of my major beliefs about God.

These disappointments cannot compare to anything major like death or mass injustice, but it was just enough to start asking myself, Is God really trustworthy if my happiness does

A friendly neighbor
A friendly German neighbor

not seem important to Him?

And this led to the heavier question: Is He really trustworthy if He allows His children to undergo major suffering throughout the world?

After coming home from an amazing time in Tahiti and learning to trust God in a new and exciting way, I entered into a completely new season where things just didn’t seem as adventurous and I didn’t seem to be “doing” as much. God just wanted me to rest and learn something new about Him, and part of what He’s been teaching me is related to happiness and suffering.

As a side note, I am definitely not a huge fan of these times of “rest” although I know they are good for me in the end. Someone from my women’s church group said to me, “This is why Psalm 23 says that Jesus makes us lie down in green pastures.” I thought that was a pretty funny interpretation.

Anyway, if you don’t already know, I am currently doing a Family Ministry School in Hainichen Germany, a small, small town in the eastern part of the country. The base is nestled in a quaint neighborhood within walking distance to town. We are a bit far away from any major city and fortunately protected from the noise of the speeding cars on the autobahn.

The path leading to town
The path leading to town

I am instead blessed by the pleasant calm of birds chirping, children laughing (and crying!) and the occasional car driving by our base to their cute little home that I love to gaze at.

Although by now I am settled in the YWAM community here and am enjoying learning about God’s perspective on families (which I will save for another blog post), I have been on the other hand wrestling with the truth about God’s trustworthiness and character.

God has been showing me that the reason why I have come to doubt Him so much is because I have been trying to interpret the character of God through the lens of my own expectations for this life. And because my expectations haven’t been met, I felt myself hardening my heart out of self-protection as I perceived some kind of betrayal by God.

Although it has never been the case that things always go my way, for some reason I am only now confronting this false belief in my heart that God is only good when the circumstances around me are good and when I receive what I believe I am “entitled” to.

What am I really entitled to? I suppose I thought I was entitled to anything I wanted as a child of God. And in some cases, God has really given me so many of my heart’s desires like a father does for his daughter. He surprises me so much and I really do experience His protection, provision, and grace over my life.

But other times, He tells me “no,” and things just don’t go the way I want, and I have only now realized how much I hate this and mistrust God because of it. I know God is challenging my thinking and helping me grow out of being a spoiled child.

Slowly, I am beginning to accept that this life isn’t going to fulfill my own expectations for happiness. This is not what God promises. He promises us that joy is available, but it’s not going to look the way I think it does.

And honestly I feel a bit silly writing this, because as a Christian perhaps I “should” know this, but I guess that’s the human in me who takes a bit longer to see reality from God’s perspective.

A while ago while I was still in Tahiti, God led me to purchase C.S. Lewis’ book The Problem of Pain. I only recently began to read it and it has helped me tremendously since I started asking these questions about God. This excerpt below sums up what I have been dealing with regarding God and my own personal happiness:

What would really satisfy us would be a God who said of anything we happened to like doing, ‘What does it matter so long as they are contented? We want, in fact, not so much a Father in Heaven as a grandfather in heaven – a senile benevolence who, as they say, ‘liked to see young people enjoy themselves’, and whose plan for the universe was simply that it might be truly said at the end of each day, ‘a good time was had by all’. Not many people, I admit, would formulate theology in precisely those terms: but a conception not very different lurks at the back of many minds.

C.S Lewis, The Problem of Pain

I think this idea of happiness and how the world should operate can be one of the biggest stumbling blocks for people to overcome in their worldview and relationship with God. Believing that our version of happiness is what God is most concerned about, or that He will keep all of His children from experiencing hard things, this is simply not true and can become a blockage in spiritual maturity.

And in actuality, although I may think I know what I want from my life, I really don’t, and God has shown me that His goodness doesn’t change just because He doesn’t say “yes” to all of my requests:

Beyond all doubt, His idea of ‘goodness differs from ours; but you need have no fear that, as you approach it, you will be asked simply to reverse your moral standards. When the relevant difference between the Divine ethics and your own appears to you, you will not, in fact, be in any doubt that the change demanded of you is in the direction you already call ‘better’.

C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

As I was having lunch with a couple families last weekend, we were talking about Josiah, King of Judah, who was made king at the age of eight. One of the children at the table was amazed at this and said something like, “I bet a king at the age of eight would force everyone to eat candy!”

I found this statement to be quite telling of what my life would look like if I wasn’t submitted to Jesus. Not that I obey Him perfectly now, but if I did life without seeking His guidance, I know I would continue to chase after a

Hainichen at dusk
Hainichen at dusk

cheap version of joy, like allowing myself to eat candy all day long (not really but you get it).

But when I take an honest look at what truly makes me happy, I know beyond a doubt that there is absolutely nothing greater than this internal freedom I’ve been given and the amazing relationship I have found in God.

So I have been able to see that my happiness isn’t always God’s version and that I cannot interpret His character solely through what I can see in my current circumstances. I simply cannot see everything from down here.

But what about the question of suffering? Is God still good in the midst of darkness, evil and tragedy?

After all, it is reality that Christians suffer, and God doesn’t necessarily take His child out of the suffering. I only need to recount the dozens of testimonies that I have heard over the years of good Christians experiencing tragedy, or the news about the beheadings of Christians in the Middle East, or simply read the Bible to see that suffering is just a part of this world.

Jesus and the apostles made it very clear to the original hearers of the Word that they would go through suffering. They made no pretense that this life would be without trouble, and I believe that is still true for us today:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.

James 1:2,3

“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.”

John 16:33

What does this say about God?

A scene of Hainichen
A scene of Hainichen

God has been really helping me stand upon the truth that God can and does bring good out of suffering. What our enemy means for purely pain and destruction, God can redeem it if we look to Him and His perspective.

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.

James 1:12

Suffering does happen, even to those closest to God, and I just have to accept it although I don’t have to fear it.

Gary Thomas’ book Sacred Marriage, which is required reading for the school I’m in, gave me a much better perspective on suffering (I highly recommend this book for anyone planning on marriage or already married!).

The author’s premise is that when hard times hit a marriage, the couple can view it as an opportunity to learn how to love God and one another in the way He intends:

If we take our faith seriously and make our way through a difficult marriage in pursuit of witnessing God’s reconciling love for a sinful world, then a difficult marriage becomes part of our exercise to prepare us for heaven…this isn’t to suggest that we just “hang on” until heaven comes. I’ve found that obedience to God creates quiet fulfillment in the present. There is a spiritual satisfaction that comes even in the midst of our trials. It is a demeanor that may not be as “showy” as gleeful happiness, but it is much less subject to moods and makes for much more permanent a disposition.

Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage

God’s way is the only way, and if He has allowed suffering in this age, I need to trust that it is for a really, really good reason that I just can’t fully understand because I’m not God. But God is never my enemy!

Perhaps this is not the ‘best of all possible’ universes, but the only possible one…The idea of that which God ‘could have’ done involves a too anthropomorphic conception of God’s freedom. Whatever human freedom means, Divine freedom cannot mean indeterminacy between alternatives and choice of one of them. Perfect goodness can never debate about the end to be attained, and perfect wisdom cannot debate about the means most suited to achieve it.

C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

And strangely, the more I have come to accept this about life, the more I can separate negative circumstances from God’s character. I am maturing in love and feel more secure in Him. Part of it is because He has been removing the “shock” element whenever I experience pain:

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.

1 Peter 4:12

As I mentioned before, when I first began to confront these beliefs about suffering a couple months ago, I found myself really doubting in God and I began hardening my heart. That made everything so much worse.

But recently, thanks to the Holy Spirit, I was reminded of the amazing

Enjoying viewing the yellow rapeseed
Enjoying viewing the yellow rapeseed in a nearby field

healing and transformation He has done in me over the years. Once I remembered this, and the truth of what Jesus did at the cross, it became impossible for me to doubt in His absolute goodness anymore. This brought a resurgence of hope in my soul that I really needed in my relationship with God!

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:8

For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Colossians 1:13,14

A Faith Like Jonah’s

Even though the island of Tahiti is absolutely amazing, choosing to come here for outreach on my own was definitely a hard decision for many reasons.

As I write this, I can feel a warm night breeze on my skin coming through the windows of the apartment I am living in as I listen to the soothing roar of the Pacific ocean waves in the near distance. I can’t think of a much better

Where the gospel first came to the island of Tahiti!
Where the gospel first came to the island of Tahiti!

atmosphere for updating my blog half-way through outreach.

Even though the island of Tahiti is absolutely amazing, choosing to come here for outreach on my own was definitely a hard decision for many reasons.

One of the biggest reasons why it was hard was because I was believing this lie that God would not use me for much good and that no one would be affected by the teachings I intended to share from YWAM’s Foundations for Counseling Ministry (awesome school, I recommend it).

I have been on outreach before and have seen God work through me, but I was accustomed to having everything laid out for me, the schedule, the ministry, etc, and a team whom I could share the pressure and burden with.

So when I had become sure of God’s call for me to go alone to Tahiti back in October of 2014, my fears resembled the ones like Moses had when he first received His call:

”Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?”

Exodus 3:10,11

Although Moses’ call was obviously more intense than what God was asking of me, I just wasn’t confident that God would lead me through the unknown, that His word spoken through me would be powerful, and that I could make any difference.

I did not realize how great a sense of inferiority I had within me! It was so great that I thought somehow the power of God working through me would be diminished, as if I could take away God’s power, or that I had to be a different person for God to use me.

A couple months before I left for Tahiti, someone at YWAM Amsterdam was praying for me, and as if he could read my fears about going to Tahiti alone, he suggested that I read the Book of Jonah, as Jonah was also sent out by God alone.

I read it almost immediately, but I didn’t receive much insight that allayed any of my fears.

Yay to swimming.
Yay to swimming.

But then last night, without re-reading the book or even really thinking about the Bible, I ‘randomly’ received a fresh revelation of how awesome Jonah was (despite the fact that he didn’t want the Assyrians to receive God’s mercy), which led to the inspiration of this blog post.

The very fact that Jonah was confident in God’s determination to work through Him among the Assyrians reflects his intimate knowledge of God’s character and ways.

Jonah knew that God had an exact plan in mind for Jonah’s trip. And Jonah knew that by speaking God’s words that the Assyrians had a high chance of responding positively (unfortunately, to Jonah’s dismay).

Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s journey. And he called out, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!”  And the people of Nineveh believed God.

Jonah 3:4

And he prayed to the Lord and said, “O Lord, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.

Jonah 4:2

So in other words, he was not afraid that God wouldn’t lead him or that he could make a difference. He knew God well enough that this fear didn’t even cross his mind because he knew it was about God’s power, not his. In fact, he was so confident in God’s plan to lead him into making an impact on this short-term trip that he decide to run away, not wishing the Assyrians any mercy from God.

And since being here, I can say that I am coming to know God in the way Jonah did. God has led me each step of the way, and His word has been going forth as He desired.

I don’t have to be like Moses when he first was commissioned (he obviously turned out to be a great leader). I don’t have to focus too much on my weaknesses and fear of the unknown.

Instead, I will take a page from the Book of Jonah. I can be confident in God’s leadership over me. I can be confident in His determination to reveal His glory and goodness through me and through anyone who says ‘yes’ in response to His call to serve, simply because that is His way.

For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, And do not return there without watering the earth And making it bear and sprout, And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.

Isaiah 55:10,11

The Book of Revelation

Capturing the heart of the book will help guide against incorrect assumptions and better interpretation.

This past year I have written a bit of what I have learned from my CSBS on each book of the Bible (although I didn’t write too much on the Book of Lamentations), and I have finally arrived to the Book of Revelation. Woohoo!

Obviously this book is the source of a lot of debate and I haven’t even yet scratched the

At about this time last year my CSBS classmates and I were decorating the classroom for Christmas.
At about this time last year my CSBS classmates and I were decorating the classroom for Christmas.

surface in developing any of my own conclusions.

What I think would be most valuable to share are some helpful thoughts/opinions that the teacher gave us to guide our own personal study. Here are the top seven I found to be the most interesting:

  1. You must make some assumptions when studying the book – information cannot be purely induced because of the obscure language and imagery.
  2. Capturing the heart of the book will help guide against incorrect assumptions and better interpretation.
  3. It is a good idea to read and study the entire Old Testament before trying to understand this book since 2/3 of the book’s verses allude to the OT.
  4. Cosmic/prophetic language (language used to describe an event in picture form, metaphorically) was used by the prophets in the Old Testament to describe future events but not necessarily end-time events, so therefore cosmic language in the Book of Revelation cannot necessarily always be interpreted as end-time events. For an example, Isaiah 34:4 uses cosmic language, but it was describing the judgment of Judah that happened around 586 BC, not the end-times.
  5. Although some like to study the book as if it was written in sequential (chronological) order, the book seems to be written more like a cycle or a repetition of ideas. It was as if John was looking at the vision and wrote what he saw from different angles. This explains the repeated themes – revolving mainly around the throne room of God.
  6. Numbers have symbolic meanings that meant something to the original reader. For example, the number “seven” was symbolic for “perfection.” Therefore the “seven spirits” mentioned four times throughout the book could refer to the Holy Spirit, since the Holy Spirit is a reflection of perfection. Another example is the number “four” which represents humanity or the whole of the world (see, for instance, Rev 5:9 [tribe, language, people and nation]).
  7. The teacher was of the opinion that chapters 6:1-19:10 probably refer to the Church Age, the Age of Tension, which we live in today. It is the age referred to as “the age of now and not yet,” or “inaugurated eschatology.” The rest of the Book probably refers to future events and Jesus’ second coming.
    • There are obviously different view points on this. For example, many “preterists” believe that chapters 6-19:10 refer to 70 AD, when Jerusalem was destroyed, and not the church age. Futurists in general believe in a more literal interpretation and therefore take Revelation chapters 4-22 as end-time events.

But regardless of what stance you’ve taken (if any at all), I think most can agree that Jesus’ message in this book is one of encouragement – that He has already achieved victory and therefore has given us what we need to overcome and endure the evil and suffering of this present age. Final justice will come and death will be defeated!

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea no longer existed. I also saw the Holy City, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared like a bride adorned for her husband.

Then I heard a loud voice from the throne:

Look! God’s dwelling is with humanity,

and He will live with them.

They will be His people,
and God Himself will be with them
and be their God.
He will wipe away every tear from their eyes.
Death will no longer exist;
grief, crying, and pain will exist no longer,
because the previous things have passed away.

Then the One seated on the throne said, “Look! I am making everything new.” He also said, “Write, because these words are faithful and true.” And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give water as a gift to the thirsty from the spring of life. The victor will inherit these things, and I will be his God, and he will be My son.

But the cowards, unbelievers, vile, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars—their share will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.

Revelation 21:1-8

Finding Home

I have gained a deeper sense of acceptance and intimacy with my Father in heaven, and this has helped me overcome loneliness.

These past three months in Amsterdam have flown by before my eyes. I have grown close to many people here from around the world only to say bye to them all this week. I was at first reluctant to come to Amsterdam to serve in the school for this very reason. I knew I would again be leaving another place I could call home.

FCM Amsterdam Family
FCM Amsterdam Family

Transitioning in and out of people’s lives for the past few years since being in YWAM has definitely been challenging for me. These short seasons outside my comfort zone have grown me in many ways and I know that it has been God’s best for me personally, although I know God also calls people to stay where they are. I have also loved meeting so many different people and having cross-cultural experiences and seeing the world, but I have also longed to call some place a “home” where I can establish roots and not say bye every few months. Although I have an awesome family and amazing friends back in northern Virginia, I do not believe it is where I’ll end up long term. So my heart has been very much longing for a more permanent community.

Then it hit me the other day. While of course I would love to have a place of my own, what I’ve actually been desiring most is a sense of belonging and identity. I know that my surroundings and community can help with that, but unless I find it first and primarily in God, then my surroundings – no matter where I am and who I am around – will never be enough.

A home is exactly what God has given me over the past few years and has given me more of since being in Amsterdam. In this past season of staffing the Foundations for Counseling Ministry school and re-reading one of my favorite books From Spiritual Slavery to Spiritual Sonship, I have gained a deeper sense of acceptance and intimacy with my Father in heaven, and this has helped me overcome loneliness. As I have listened to Him speak to me throughout the day, I have heard Him say:

I will never abandon you.

People may love you for what you do and how you look and how well you perform, but I love you for who you are.

I fully accept your heart.

I delight in you always.

I will never abandon you.

I can always find a home in the Father. No matter what sin I still find myself battling, He is always there to help me and He always fully accepts me because of Jesus’ final work on the cross. Jesus has and is still fulfilling His promise to me!

Your heart must not be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if not, I would have told you. I am going away to prepare a place for you. If I go away and prepare a place for you, I will come back and receive you to Myself, so that where I am you may be also. You know the way to where I am going.”

“Lord,” Thomas said, “we don’t know where You’re going. How can we know the way?”

Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

John 14:1-6

I’m still not 100% sure where I will end up next year and what I’ll be doing. I know I will be in Tahiti for a couple of months next year on another full-time mission, and then afterwards I would like to enter into the marketplace again and settle somewhere at least semi-permanently. But I have learned to keep my plans open to God and allow Him to convince me of His ways rather than my own, so I cannot fully say for sure what I’ll do or where I’ll be.

But no matter where I end up, I have chosen to partner with God and make His mission my own mission: to reconcile the world to Himself. I want to point both believers and non-believers toward the amazing sufficiency and fulfillment of the Father’s personal and intimate love so that no matter where people are at or what hardship they find themselves in, they can find the comfort, protection and guidance they need in Him.

Sunrise in Amsterdam
Sunrise in Amsterdam

[Jesus] is the image of the invisible God,
the firstborn over all creation.
For everything was created by Him,
in heaven and on earth,
the visible and the invisible,
whether thrones or dominions
or rulers or authorities—
all things have been created through Him and for Him.
He is before all things,
and by Him all things hold together.
He is also the head of the body, the church;
He is the beginning,
the firstborn from the dead,
so that He might come to have
first place in everything.
For God was pleased to have
all His fullness dwell in Him,
and through Him to reconcile
everything to Himself
by making peace
through the blood of His cross—
whether things on earth or things in heaven.

Colossians 1:15-20

3 John – God of Generosity

I saw that God at times will give back even more than what I give, which encourages me to continue showing generosity even in times of dwindling personal savings!

Well, it’s been over a year since I started my CSBS (a nine-month long Bible school) and I want to finish what I started and write about each book of the Bible. I have just two books left, 3 John and Revelation! Better late than never… Presently I’m in Amsterdam staffing YWAM’s Foundations for Counseling Ministry School and a couple months ago I had the pleasure of hanging out with a former student from my CSBS who had a layover in Amsterdam. I had the thought that I wanted to bless him financially by covering his expenses during his 15350845982_3b6178b277_zlayover as he was returning from his own mission trip in Africa to join another one in his hometown. I internally struggled with the thought even though the amount I wanted to give wasn’t a huge amount by any means. But still, my own bank account was the lowest it had ever been since I started working. Then God reminded me of 3 John!:

You will do well to send them on their journey in a manner worthy of God, since they set out for the sake of the Name,accepting nothing from pagans. Therefore, we ought to support such men so that we can be coworkers with the truth. 3 John 6,8

Through this verse, God was teaching me to hold loosely to “my” money and be generous to others, especially missionaries, even if the amount that I give is small in comparison to what those in wealthier positions can afford. I was thankful that I made the decision to bless him because it’s just awesome to be free to honor others in every season:

Show family affection to one another with brotherly love. Outdo one another in showing honor. Romans 12:10

To top it off, several weeks later, I had the unexpected blessing of a mostly-provided for trip to
Zurich, Switzerland. I was completely amazed by the generosity I received through my friend!

Mount Rigi in the Alps, aka "Queen of the Mountains."
Mount Rigi in the Alps, aka “Queen of the Mountains.”

Through this blessing, I saw that God at times will give back even more than what I give, which encourages me to continue showing generosity even in times of dwindling personal savings!

Remember this: The person who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the person who sows generously will also reap generously.  Each person should do as he has decided in his heart—not reluctantly or out of necessity, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make every grace overflow to you, so that in every way, always having everything you need, you may excel in every good work. 2 Cor 9:6-8

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Mt. Rigi in the Alps

2 John – Finding Absolute Truth

No wonder John was careful to warn the original reader of his epistle to stay on guard. There are so many teachings out there, it’s impossible without God to remain in the absolute truth!

There is some debate as to who exactly the “elect lady” is in the opening line of John’s second epistle. Some believe it’s a translation error and that “elect lady” could be the proper female name “Cyria” or “Kyria.” Other scholars believe it was actually just a code name for a “sister congregation” that was used in a time where many were hostile toward Christians, but it’s impossible to say for sure who the elect lady actually is:

To the elect lady and her children…

2 John 1

Another interesting fact I found in Easton’s Bible Dictionary is that seven of the thirteen verses in this epistle appear in John’s first epistle, indicating that the author was probably the same John who wrote the other letters (or his amanuensis).

John’s main message in this letter was to warn the church not to welcome any false teachers and remain steadfast in the truth that they had originally heard:

Many deceivers have gone out into the world; they do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh.

2 John 7

This verse was probably referring to the false teachings that emerged in the earlier centuries that taught Christ’s coming was an illusion (I spoke a bit about this in my post on 1 John).

Although that false teaching today isn’t prevalent (I’m not sure if any “Christians” really do believe that Christ didn’t die as God in flesh), there are still so many false beliefs and interpretations of Scripture that can lead us further away from God.

Think about the recent controversy over what Joel Osteen’s wife Victoria said regarding obedience. Many regard these pastors as false teachers of the prosperity gospel.

I’m neither condemning nor endorsing the Osteens’ teaching, but they are a modern-day example of why truth is so incredibly important for each individual to go after in the myriad of voices. There are so many articles out there that both reject the Osteens’ teaching and accept it as sound Christian doctrine that it can be confusing!

I know for me personally, reading all of the different commentaries on the Osteens (and any Christian concept for that matter) is not enough for me. They can be great for supplemental knowledge, but they are not enough alone for me personally to come to any conviction of truth. They are, after all, just mans’ opinions whose own interpretations of Scripture can be way off.

No wonder John was careful to warn the original reader of his epistle to stay on guard. There are so many teachings out there, it’s impossible without God to remain in the absolute truth!

Be on your guard, so that you do not lose what we have worked for, but may receive a full reward.

2 John 8

I have come to realize that my only safeguard against false teaching is the Holy Spirit. I can do my part by reading the Bible and learning from others (which is why I highly recommend the CSBS course with YWAM), but without my ongoing personal relationship with the Spirit (who is my guide and convicts me of truth), I will inevitably quench God’s wisdom:

And the Spirit is the one that testifies, for the Spirit is the truth.

1 John 5:6

Do not quench the Spirit.

1 Thess 5:19

Yet among the mature we do speak wisdom…these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.

2 Corinthians 2:6,10

However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth…

John 16:13

Some of the best advice in my journey with God has been to focus on my relationship with the Holy Spirit and learn how to discern His guidance. This has kept me in the truth and kept me from going too far to the left or to the right as human nature tends to take me. I have to be careful to remain open to His guidance and not let pride or fear block me from continually learning.

It definitely takes faith to start trusting God for truth and not solely the teachings of pastors, scholars, trusted mentors, and theologians. I know that God can and does speak through them, but it’s still important to test what they say by bringing the teaching to God and discover the truth about even the fundamentals of the Bible for ourselves. That’s what seeking His wisdom means

For the Lord gives wisdom;
From His mouth come knowledge and understanding.
He stores up sound wisdom for the upright;
He is a shield to those who walk in integrity…

Proverbs 2:6,7

have the knowledge of God’s mystery—Christ. All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Him.

Colossians 2:3

Since God gives every believer His Spirit who receives Him, then all believers have the same opportunity to know God’s wisdom and live out of absolute truth. The Spirit is the One who will keep us from being “tossed to and fro” and can bring everyone into unity regarding Scripture!:

There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all…We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ…

Ephesians 4:14,15