Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Words We Speak

         Words are so powerful. They are used to convey emotions, thoughts, ideas, feelings, dreams, and hopes that we have. Words and how we speak are an expression of who we are.
Think about that last sentence for a minute. How we speak is an expression of ourselves. It reveals something about our character, our standards, and what we value. If we speak flippantly, then people will see that we just don’t care. If our words are negative or disparaging, then people will see that we are selfish and care only about our own comfort. If we speak encouraging and uplifting words, then people will see in us a goodness that is not our own.
So how should we, as Christians, speak? How can we most effectively show others the love of Christ through the words we say?

        But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints; and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.   ~Ephesians 5:3-5

When I first heard those verses, it really struck me. Especially verse four: And there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks.
What does that mean exactly? The first things that come to my mind are swearing, rudeness, sarcasm, name-calling, complaining, and frivolity. All of which I am guilty.
This has been very hard for me to swallow. I’ve always thought that I talk pretty cleanly – I mean, at least I don’t swear or anything as bad as that. But I can’t even honestly say that. I am guilty of swearing. Just because I use minor expletives such as ‘shoot’ and ‘gosh’ doesn’t change the fact that I am swearing. And what are the origins of those words? You can probably guess.
         The way we speak may not seem important to us, but it is to God. He wants us to speak in a way that respects others and glorifies Him. “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31).” His desires should be ours as well.
         I’ve been studying the book of James this month. James is such a wonderful little book; I love it. It talks quite a bit about the tongue and how we use it.

          But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way.   ~James 3:8-10

        We are created in the image of God. We, as Christians, are supposed to represent Him in this world of darkness. We are to be imitators of Christ; but are we really? The way we speak and treat others shows so much of who we are. What is the world seeing when they look at us? Are they seeing the Light of Christ?
Each of us have our own particular struggles. Some of us may have more trouble with how we speak than others. That’s just how it is. But until we reach perfection, there is always room for growth. Challenge yourself this week to speak in a more God-honoring way. Instead of saying something rude or unwholesome, give thanks. Strive to be like Christ. It’s what you were made for.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Search For Wisdom

          Wouldn't you love to be wise?

          If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by he wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.                                ~James 1:5-8

          God will gladly and abundantly give us wisdom, if only we ask in faith. Isn't that amazing? We are in desperate need of wisdom. We, as individuals and as a nation, are continually making wrong choices, or are confused as to what to do. We struggle through life, stubbornly trying to make it on our own. But God is always there; watching, waiting, offering. Never tiring or wavering. He is always by our side, always holding out His hand. Why don't we take hold of it?
          If any of you lacks wisdom (which we all do), let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach,  and it will be given him. That's a promise. A promise that we can depend on.
          Thank you God. 

“But where can wisdom be found?
And where is the place of understanding?
“Man does not know its value,
Nor is it found in the land of the living.
“The deep says, ‘It is not in me’;
And the sea says, ‘It is not with me.’
“Pure gold cannot be given in exchange for it,
Nor can silver be weighed as its price.
“It cannot be valued in the gold of Ophir,
In precious onyx, or sapphire.
“Gold or glass cannot equal it,
Nor can it be exchanged for articles of fine gold.
“Coral and crystal are not to be mentioned;
And the acquisition of wisdom is above that of pearls.
“The topaz of Ethiopia cannot equal it,
Nor can it be valued in pure gold.
“Where then does wisdom come from?
And where is the place of understanding?
“Thus it is hidden from the eyes of all living
And concealed from the birds of the sky.
“Abaddon and Death say,
‘With our ears we have heard a report of it.’
“God understands its way,
And He knows its place.
“For He looks to the ends of the earth
And sees everything under the heavens.
“When He imparted weight to the wind
And meted out the waters by measure,
When He set a limit for the rain
And a course for the thunderbolt,
Then He saw it and declared it;
He established it and also searched it out.
“And to man He said, ‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom;
And to depart from evil is understanding.’”

~Job 28:12:28

Monday, January 7, 2013

Oregon Trail Qualifier

            Hello, dear friends! It feels so good to be home again, sitting in my own room. I spent this past week in Portland at a speech tournament.
            This was my first away-from-home tournament, as well as the first tournament of 2013. Needless to say, it was a blast. I got to get up at six in the morning, wear a suit, hang out with a ton of people that I don’t see often, meet new friends, sing songs, run to ‘catch my flight’ (you speech people know what I mean), give speeches, pray for competitors, judge at the Jr. Tournament, walk around the campus with my girlfriends, scream my head off at the award ceremony, give and receive a million hugs, sign ballots at the ballot party, and have an awesome drive home with my crazy (and sleep-deprived) friends.
            It. Was. Amazing!!
            At this tournament, I competed in two categories – Biographical Narrative and Original Interpretation. Both speeches were on Josh. The biographical gave an overview of Josh’s life and how he made an impact on the world. The Original portrayed the events of May 5th, from my perspective. I have to admit, I wasn’t expecting either speech to go anywhere. Hoping, but not anticipating.
            God had other plans.
            My biographical broke to semi-finals, which means that it made it to the top sixteen of around thirty bios. My original interp placed third out of eight.
            I can’t even express the shock, joy, and surprise I felt when my name was called. The scream that my friend let loose proved to all the world that she could indeed scream like a girl (a fact that we had been debating the previous day). I felt a mixture of indescribable emotions churning in me as I walked to the stage and received my medal. As I put the strap around my neck, I felt filled with pride.
            But not pride in myself.
            I didn’t feel proud of myself. Honestly, I still don’t. I’m pleased with the accomplishment, ecstatic that I got third place, satisfied that I did my best, but I’m not proud of myself. Because I know that it wasn’t me. None of it was me.
            It was Josh’s story that I was telling. It was his legacy that I was sharing with the judges. His life, his faith, his surrender, his message that I was trying to convey in those few ten minutes. He changed my life… helped me to get where I am. And I am so thankful.
            Without God, I could not have made it through this tournament. Speaking about Josh was much harder than I thought it would be, but God got me through each of the rounds. Semi finals were on Saturday, January 5th – the eight month anniversary. Before my round, I was just sobbing in the hallway. I didn’t think I’d be able to give my speech without losing it. One of my good friends came and just hugged me. I finally composed myself and prayed that God would help me get through the round. He did.
            When I sat back down, holding my two certificates and two medals, I just felt so blessed. Blessed to be where I was. Surrounded by friends and fellow believers. A like-minded people, lovers of Christ. Having been given a loving, Christ-centered home. Knowing that all my sins have been covered by the blood of Jesus, and that He loves me more than could ever be expressed. My cup of blessings was already spilling over. Winning a medal was just an extra cherry on top.
            Having won something for the first time, I can now say that it really isn’t about the winning. We say that even when we don’t win anything, but it’s always a little harder to believe. But as good as a trophy can make you feel, that’s not the biggest thing you come away with.
I’ve had an amazing past few days renewing old friendships, deepening new ones, and watching God work through all the people at this tournament. These are the things that I will remember and treasure. Yes, I’m happy that I won… but that’s not the point. The point is that God enabled me to bless others. Showed me how to use this pain and grief for good. He has put amazing people and opportunities into my life… I don’t even know what to do with them all.
I am just so, so blessed.
Thank You, Lord.

Taking our Jr. ballots to TAB. Those kids were so cute!! <3 

Group photo! :D

My wonderful/amazing friend Deanna. <3

My semi-final round.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Welcome 2013

          I can’t believe that 2012 is over already. The year went by so fast. 
This has certainly been a year of change for me. I feel like a totally different person. I have experienced death and life, monotony and change, fear and peace, heartbreak and love, failure and success, tears and laughter, despair and purpose. My faith has been tested, my emotions stretched to the limit, and my strength tried. I have made countless mistakes, yet God has never failed to help me up again. 
  I think the biggest thing I’ve come to realize this year is my weakness and God’s greatness. I have found that I am capable of nothing on my own. Absolutely nothing. I am completely and totally dependant on God. If not for Him, I wouldn’t exist. It’s been a humbling yet awesome truth to accept.
God has revealed Himself in such an amazing way this past year. I’ve found myself drawn to Him, wanting Him. And it’s exciting. After having seen so many people have a deep, real, meaningful relationship with Christ, it’s happening to me. My faith has become my own, and I’m learning to love my Savior. I want more than anything to do what He wants, and to live a life that glorifies and pleases Him.
And it will be hard. We live in a world that despises God and His commandments. A world that embraces sin and punishes righteousness. A world that rejects the sanctity of human life. A world full of hate, spite, greed, lust, death, and sin. Deep, dark sin, rooted within the heart of man. 
This world of darkness despises the Light. But we can’t let us stop us. Christ commands us to be lights in the world, and we need to embrace that commission. Despite the risk, despite the danger, despite all the hardships it may bring upon us. God has made us for a reason, and if we don’t live for that, our lives are wasted. 
Evil is steadily increasing, and soon enough the world will collapse. Time is ticking… what will you do? What will you do to further the Kingdom of God?
God has been good enough to give us another year. Another year to fix mistakes, do all those things we put off, to make a difference for Him. But none of us are guaranteed that we will live through the next year. We may only have eight months… three months… two weeks… one night. None of us know. It could be years, it could be hours. Let’s make the most of what time we do have.
As we enter into this new year, I challenge you to be a bold, fearless warrior for Christ. Denounce fear and defy impossibilities, and give all that you have to your Savior. Hold nothing back.
We only have one life to live. Why don’t we live it well.