Monday, January 31, 2011

Control Freak is My Middle Name

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths." Proverbs 3:5-6

If you know me at all, you most likely know that I am a control freak. Ever since I could talk, I always wanted to have control over everything! My mom tells me that the most common saying that came out of my mouth as a child was, "I do." Although my grammar skills may have improved since then, I still find myself constantly saying, "I don't need anyone's help. I can fix this myself!" Even as I was going through my breakup, I don't think I actually shared with anyone that my relationship was having troubles until a month or so after the fact but by then it was too late and it was over. Only a true control freak would do something like that. My reason for sharing this is to make it clear that I HATE having to give that control up to anyone....even the almighty God and creator of the universe. So although it may be easy for some people to just "trust in God" during adverse circumstances, that is probably one of the hardest things anyone could ask me to do. Yet, that is all I have heard the past few months. "Trust in God, Brittany." "Just give the situation to Him and it will all work out." (Funny side note: The one thing that my ex wanted to see from me the past few months was that I trust in God more.) Let me just say. It is much easier said than done.

Well due to my newfound love for reading thanks to my father who got me a Nook for Christmas, I decided to try and find a book about trusting God, other than the Bible of course. After looking through about a hundred christian living books, I found the perfect one. I mean the title says it all. It was called "Trusting God." I thought to myself, "Well this book should probably help me learn what it means to trust in God. I mean the title is 'Trusting God.' How much more obvious can you get?" So I decided to purchase the book on my Nook and began reading. It was probably one of the best purchases I could have made and I believe that God brought that book to me as an answer to my prayers. The past few days especially, I have been praying for God to show me what to do in my current circumstance and to show what it means to truly trust in Him and believe in His sovereignty. Ask and you shall receive.

One of the big points that Jerry Bridges makes in his book is that in order to trust God, I must believe in his perfect sovereignty. Even through all the heartache and suffering, I need to believe in the Almighty God who has control over every situation. I also need to believe that He has a perfect will for my life and even though I may not understand what is going on or why this is happening, God does and that is all that matters. I need to be able to say, "Lord, I know You were in control of this dreadful event. I do not understand why you allowed it to happen, but I trust You." I think that is one of the big things I have been forgetting. God is not only in control of the outcome of the circumstance but He was even in control when it was first taking place! It says in Isaiah 45:7, "I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the LORD, do all these things." So in order for me to really give complete control to God, I need to believe that God is in complete control no matter what the circumstance. So that is what I decided to do. Instead of constantly telling myself "this situation will never change unless i do __________ and nothing will ever be fixed unless I __________ and I just need to deal with it," I am choosing to believe in a God that is greater than my circumstances. I am choosing to believe in a God that is in control and will bring good out of this situation that seems so terrible. I am choosing to believe in a God who will bring beauty from ashes. I am no longer going to put my human limits on the creator of the universe! I am going to believe in God and give it all to Him. So this is my prayer: "Lord, I do not know why this has happened and I may never know. I do not know why I am in the circumstance I am in and why you have not brought restoration to it. Maybe it is because I have not given you complete control until now but God I believe that you are bigger than all of this. I believe in a God who brings good to those who love Him and those who follow Him. I don't see it yet but I have faith that You are in control and I want to give this to you. In the end, I want to be able to say You changed things. I don't want to be able to take the credit because that is not what this is about. I want to be able to say God is good, not I am good. I want people to see your hand in this. I want this to be a testimony to your almighty power. So Lord, I give you control. Amen."

Friday, January 21, 2011

Carry the Name of Christ

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” Isaiah 6:8

Well I am going to Africa!!! God has given me the AMAZING opportunity to spend 2 whole months in Africa over the summer! After I came back from Passion, I really felt a call to do some type of missions work this summer. It was probably a combination of Francis Chan's message on living a life worthy of the gospel, David Platt's session on his book Radical, and Louie G's talk on carrying the name of  Christ wherever you go that really got me thinking about how I was living my life. I realized that I had always been living for myself. I was constantly making choices just because I wanted to climb the "ladder of success" or become more popular at school or have my name known around campus. But God has showed me the past few weeks that instead of trying to make much of myself like people of the world, I need to humble myself in order to make much of Him because He is the one that deserves all of the glory! Another thing I was really convicted about while I was at Passion was, if I really believe that there are billions of people around the world who do not know Christ and who are destined to spend an eternity in hell, then why am I not doing everything I can to spread the love of Christ to those places? How can I sit in my little "Christian bubble" and honestly be okay with that? The reality is, I can't. Christ has called us to be disciples of all nations. He has commissioned us to give everything we have to follow him and carry his name to the unreached places of the world. So that is what I want to do. When the Lord asks "Whom shall I send?", I want to be ready to say "Here I am, Lord. Send me!"

If you know me at all, you probably could not picture me backpacking through three countries in Africa for two months living out of a backpack. Trust me. Neither can I. Honestly, I am a little freaked out about the whole thing. Leaving my family for two months and going to remote villages in Africa while living in a tent does not sound like the most comfortable way to spend my summer. I would so rather be doing an internship in New York or living in Florida and spending my time at the beach with friends. But, I guess this is not about what I want or about being comfortable. I am pretty sure that if you read Matthew 10, the passage where Jesus sends out the 12 disciples, he makes it perfectly clear that discipleship is not going to be easy nor will it always be fun. He says that they will be like "sheep among wolves" and "will be hated because of him". After reading that, the whole discipleship call does not sound too appealing. But I am pretty sure that Christ did not have that much fun being beaten and dying on a cross for the very people who rejected him.

Okay, so back to Africa. After I returned from Passion, I decided to get on my computer and just start searching for different missions organizations. After about an hour, I finally came across an organization called AIM (Adventures in Missions). The organization looked pretty legit, so I decided to look through their website to see what they were all about. It was amazing! They sponsor trips for every age to all parts of the world. For college students alone, there were about 10 trips that they were sponsoring and that was only during the summer! After looking through all the trips, one of them really caught my eye and that was the trip to Africa. This is what the trip description said: "Experience the life of a nomadic missionary as you move from country to country across Africa. Pack lightly! You’ll be carrying your bag everywhere you go, unless you luck out and find a helpful camel to join you on your journey into some of the most remote locations on the continent. Your expedition will take you through Uganda, Tanzania, and Kenya as you share the love of Christ with those you meet along the way. Be prepared for a life of simple living, since the goal of this trip is total immersion into the way of African life. You will eat what they eat. You will live in their villages. You will walk with them as they journey two kilometers to fetch water. You will pray beside them as they ask God to heal their loved ones or bring much needed rain to their land. You will worship God with them as the rains begin to fall. And all along the way, you’ll see the kingdom of God expanding in the lives of the African people." Once I read that, I knew that was where I wanted to be. I wanted to carry the name of Christ to the people in Africa even if it meant living in a tent and taking cold showers for two months. So, I applied.

About 4 days after I submitted my application, I was called for an interview with a woman named Stacy. When I found out I had to do a phone interview, I was not quite sure what to expect. I was sure she would ask me about my faith and ask about how I became a christian and why I wanted to go to Africa. It was nothing like I had expected. Yes, she did ask me all of those basic questions but it seemed like she was more interested in the struggles that I had gone through. She asked me to go into detail about my past relationship and why it ended and how that made me grow closer to God. I have to be honest, I was not all that thrilled when we were talking. I hated having to rekindle all those bad memories that I was trying to forget. After we had finished talking, she said that I would find out if I got accepted to the trip about a week later. For the next week or so I spent most of my time praying. I really had no clue whether or not God was really calling me to do missions work. I mean, me backpacking through Africa? But I knew that if it was part of God's plan that I go to Africa then everything would work out the way it was supposed to and it did. Stacy called me yesterday and told me that I had been accepted for the trip! I was so excited!!! I get to spend my entire summer carrying the name of Christ in AFRICA!!

On a side note, the timing of that call was actually pretty interesting. When I finished my interview with Stacy last Tuesday, she said that I would know within a week. That meant that I should have found out by this past Tuesday. However, when Tuesday came around and there was no phone call I was a little disappointed. But God always knows what He is doing and His timing is always perfect. This past Monday I had a pretty bad conversation with my ex. I won't say all the details but as of now things are definitely over for good. I mean the relationship has been over for a long time but now it is looking like we are just going to be out of each others lives completely. Which I understand that exes cannot be friends most of the time and I agree with that, but I don't think things should have been left on the terms that they were left on. It just wasn't good. Anyways, for the first time I had the realization that I needed to end things for myself. I was constantly being hurt and I did not want to participate anymore. So I made a decision that I was going to finally let go of my own desire to have some sort of reconciliation with him. I closed that door. Actually in reality, God closed the door. I just decided to stop spending my time trying to open it back up. Anyways, the moment I finally ended things, God opened so many more doors! It is really awesome to have things like that happen. It makes me realize that God really does know what He is doing and if I would just listen to Him and give Him complete control over my life, everything will work out. "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11

ps. Here is the website to the trip. 

Friday, January 14, 2011

"We welcome You with praise"

About 2 weeks ago, I had the amazing opportunity to attend Passion 2011. Worshiping with 22,000 other college students for 4 straight days, not mentioning the hundreds of thousands linked in from around the world, was absolutely incredible. Although the Passion event was awesome, it was not the event that changed me or gave me freedom from my past. God did. Although worship was lead by some of the most renown christian artists and the teaching was done by some of the biggest names in the modern day Christian circle, it was not them that gave me joy and fulfillment in the end. God did.

Coming into Passion 2011, I was broken and in need of healing. I was in need of a savior. First semester of this school year, I went through a pretty tough break up. I won't go into all of the gory details, but lets just say it didn't end like I had hoped. I was left in a lot of pain and for months I tried to get myself out of it. I kept telling myself and those around me that I was getting better and I was getting over everything that had happened but in reality, as Beth Moore would say, I was stuck in a pit and it was a deep one. The whole time I thought I was making progress of getting myself out of it, I was actually doing the opposite. Every time I made the decision to take matters into my own hands, I was just picking up that shovel that Satan had provided me and just kept digging and digging and digging. I was stubborn too. I was not going to give that shovel up for anything. Even though God was sitting right in front of me the entire time saying, "Brittany, let go of the shovel and give me your hand. I will get you out of this pit.", I would answer with, "No. I can get out of here myself!" Moral of the story: when God says He will set you free if you just let go of your shovel and grab onto him, He will. It took me a long time to finally understand that and even today I struggle with giving God complete control over my life. Long story short, I was hurting and there was no way I was going to be able to take that pain away on my own. No one could for that matter. Not even the person who caused some of the pain. That is where God comes in.

Okay, back to Passion. You know those times you hear a song on the radio or you go to church and you hear a sermon and you think to yourself, "I am pretty sure that person was thinking of me when they wrote that." Well that is how the first night of Passion was for me. I had already had a somewhat tough morning, and all I could think about going into that first main session was, "I need freedom." And what did Louie Giglio talk about that night you ask? Yes, you guessed it. Freedom from the past. Right when he began his talk, I looked up to the heavens and actually chuckled a little bit because at that moment I realized God was about to change my life. And He lived up to his promise. All that pain and baggage that I had been trying to carry on my own for so long, God took from me. He showed me what it really meant to be set free and to be filled so much with His spirit, that I no longer worry about the useless things that don't matter in the end. He showed me how selfish I had been and how I had been living for someone that was not worth living for. He showed me what it meant to chain myself to Jesus, instead of chaining myself to my own desires. He showed me that in the end, the only thing that matters is Jesus. He showed me that through my suffering, I can still live fully in Him. In the end, He showed me Himself. He gave me exactly what I needed at the time, a savior. Through the course of the 4 days, I was broken down and then set free again. By the end, I was happy and ready to take on whatever challenge came my way. I had decided that no matter what life threw at me, I was going to somehow glorify the name of God. I wanted to stop living a life for myself and start living a life worthy for Christ. I really liked what Louie G. said one of the nights. "If you are constantly living for yourself, then in the end you will get yourself." Man if in the end, all I got was myself then I would be pretty miserable for eternity. I want God in the end, and so I realized I need to start living for Him. So in the spirit of new years resolutions, I will state mine. Living a life worthy of the only One worth living for.

Passion Notes:

Louie Giglio (Main session 1): Philippians 1:1-26
- Jesus needs to fill us so much that He drowns out all of the desire for things that don't matter in the end and the only thing that matters in the end is Jesus.
-Philippians 1:1-starts off with the word "Paul." It is a picture that shows all things can be made new.
-Circumstances don't have any power over our freedom and ability to live fully in Christ. Philippians 1:19
-God doesn't care about circumstances because they don't limit Him in the slightest.
-Freedom comes from choosing to be chained to Jesus

Beth Moore (Main Session 2): Renewing your Mind
-We cannot discern God's will for our lives without having a renewing of the mind.
-Whatever God has called me to do is more than I can do alone.
-We have to take captive those thoughts that are not Christ centered and make them obedient to Christ.
  2 Corinthians 10:5
-We have to be able to shut the door on all other distractions and zero in on God alone in or to renew our mind.
-Its not about not thinking about the past situation, but thinking new thoughts.
-If you give Him your mind, He will blow it for you.

Beth Moore (Breakout 1): Psalm 37
-We act out of what we believe. If we continue to believe the same thing, then we will continue to do the same thing.
-Nothing dictates our lives like our desires.
-Beneath the desire of our heart is the heart of our desire.
-Delighting in God makes our true desires inevitable.
-Nothing external can steal our right to delight.
-To make room for delight, we have to commit.
-Patiently waiting for desire to turn into delight is not passive.
-You can't beat life with Jesus with anything else.

Francis Chan (Main Session 3): Philippians 1:27-28
-Our lives and our actions should be worthy of the gospel of Christ.
-If I really believe the gospel then my life should be a reflection of that.

Andy Stanley (Main Session 4): Appetites
-You have no idea what God may want to do through you in this world.
-Your appetite will either be ruled by you or will rule you.
-Your response to your appetites will determine your path in life.
-Genesis 25:29-34-We are constantly trading eternal glory for something temporary. (Esau traded his birthright for a bowl of stew)
-What is your bowl of stew? What are you willing to trade God's will for?

David Platt (Breakout Session 2): Radical
-We have a master who demands radical sacrifice and a maker who guarantees radical reward.
-Luke 10:57-62
-Christ has asked us to give up everything but we twist him into the middle class, American Jesus.
-When we twist him into our image and worship him, we are actually worshiping ourselves.
-Jesus is not a means to end but He is the end.
-My dreams and plans should always start with "How can I better further the Kingdom of God?"

John Piper (Main Session 5):
-Do you feel loved by God when He makes much of you or when you make much of Him?
-God needs to be at the bottom of my joy.
-He should be the fountain which all other desires come from.
-Many people believe that new birth means just getting their old desires willed by a new source.
-"New birth is not enjoying the same meal but having a different butler."
-God makes much of us to make much of himself. (Ephesians 1:5)
-God's love for you in such a way that makes Him your supreme treasure is a greater love than if He made you your supreme treasure because "self" cannot satisfy a heart of God.

Louie Giglio (Main Session 6): Carry the name of Christ
-We all carry names. Kesha, Justin Bieber, Lil Wayne, Katy Perry, Usher, Jay-Z, Beyonce, Ralph Lauren, Lacoste, Nike, Adidas, North Face, Coach, Apple, Sony, Microsoft, New Orleans Saints, Atlanta Falcons, Gucci, etc.
-We should spend more time carrying the name of Christ.
-It doesn't matter when you go. It matters what you carry.

Carry His name.