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Team LA-AX: Day 9

 

WOO~ DAY 9!

Hey yo, this is Julie with the closing LA-AX 2012 blog.

Although I’m sure you reeeeally wanna read about all of the super interesting travel details of today, I’ve decided to write about the week looking back.

I know I speak for everyone when I say that being able to work alongside such a Spirit-filled ministry as Hope IBF was a blessing. This week I was reminded repeatedly of how much I can learn by just sitting and listening to people tell their stories and how God has worked and continues to work in their lives.

One recurring theme that struck me throughout the week was the idea of taking life one day at a time. I think God was definitely trying to tell me something, because the morning after we arrived at Hope, Pastor Ed quoted Matthew 6:34: “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” And nearly every day following I would see an example of this verse lived out.

For starters, as mentioned in previous blogs, every day we receive a couple of HUGE shipments of food. From that day’s shipment of “spoiled” food, we were supposed to figure out what we would eat for the day and also what we would serve to the homeless for the two daily serving times. Pastor Ed made it clear the first day that we were to set aside food only for that day, because otherwise most of the food would spoil by the following day. When we focused on one day at a time, God literally provided us with our daily bread.

Following up on Conner’s blog, my group went out with Broken Hearts on Friday. That night I met Big Mama and her boyfriend, Raoul. I spent a good portion of my evening talking with Raoul and listening to his story. He had been in a gang, shot at, stabbed, suffered from multiple addictions, attempted recovery numerous times and overdosed twice. As of now he’s clean, and he thanks the Lord for where he is. He said the phrase “I know God is with me today” a few times during our conversation, and it really got me to thinking about what he would put it like that. Eventually I realized Raoul referred to “today” because each day was a fight against his addictions and his past and that he had to be reminded of God’s grace and mercy renewed daily in order to remember God’s presence in his life.
Another story that hit home with me was Ben’s, one of the men living in Hope’s transitional living. He grew up in a successful family, went to law school, and even passed the bar exam. But he developed addictions to heroin and alcohol that left much of his life broken. Even today he says he’s in the process of repairing his relationship with his wife. He’s been clean for a while now, but he said it’s definitely not easy. He confessed that he has to make a conscious effort to reach out to God in order to fight deceiving thoughts of addiction just in order to make it through the day, and start up again tomorrow. One day at a time.

That’s all I got, folks. Although taking life one day at a time isn’t the biggest and newest revelation, I think as a culture we tend to get caught up in the idea that everything about our lives and futures has to be planned out and predicted beforehand, which I’m learning is a mindset that can catch us off-guard. Thanks to God and this mission trip, I was reminded to take life a day at a time knowing God is with me, regardless of how large or small my struggle may be.

Blessings!

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Team LA-AX: Day 8

Name: Cameron E Stuva

Date: 23MAY2012

Mission time elapsed: 8 days

Location: Los Angeles, California

The day started at 0530.  We geared up to scale the most famous Hollywood Hill.  The group rendezvous was at the van in the nearby parking lot of the Hope Preschool, currently being used as the team’s barracks.  Mostly decked out in running shorts, yoga pants, tennis shoes, and sweatshirts to take on the mountain; to the team’s surprise Chris was wearing a nice set of state-of-the-art flip flops.  Clear benefits of this selection consist of superior foot ventilation.  As the team hiked up the mountain on the dirt trails and cement roads, the previous night of sports at the YMCA was taking its toll.  Just after reaching the peak, a number of pictures and sighs at the view entailed. 

Once the team was ready for the daily devotional, I lead the team in a devotional from Mathew 17:17-21 which reads “Then Jesus answered and said, ‘O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him here to Me.’  And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him; and the child was cured from that very hour.  Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, ’Why could we not cast it out?’  So Jesus said to them ‘Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, [move from here to there,] and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you. However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.’”  Following the verses was prayer and worship lead by Connor.  The beauty of the mountains all around us made God’s divine presence even more known during song.  Once down the hill and in the van, many were desperately craving Aaron Bird’s personal favorite place in Hollywood, Starbucks.  Now newly motivated, the team headed back to headquarters, where everyone showered up and prepared for a day of service to the good Lord.  Doing the normal Trader Joes and Whole Foods runs to pick up the daily donations of food, the team them sorted out all the bags and boxes, and then prepared the meal at 10 for the homeless.  After clean up the team had some down time to take naps, watch the NBA Finals, call loved ones back at home, or just sit and talk the wonderful and interesting people at Hope International.  The team prepared a wonderful lunch for each other consisting of Lamb with a garnish, cantaloupe, fruit salad, and cookies.  Feeling renewed from the naps and awesome meal, everyone sorted through tons more food and helped prepare and serve the 4 o’clock meal to the homeless and then following that another one for the Tuesday youth group that meets at Hope.  They served a total of 133 meals to the homeless today, which is something to be proud of!  It was a very cool opportunity to interact with other kids in the high school to college range.  Everyone enjoyed the meatloaf that was prepared with broccoli and rice.  After eating, everyone headed back to change and get ready to head to the Santa Monica Pier on the coast.  Once there, people split off into groups to go to shops, coffee places, take walks on the beach, hang out at the pier, or whatever else their hearts desired.  At the end of the day we all thanked the Lord for this absolutely brilliant trip that is now coming to an end.

Team LA-AX: Day 7

Today Monday, May 21st was a very fun and learning day for me and I believe everyone else. We started off the day with Gracie doing the Devotion in the morning at the church. She read Psalms 11 and the reflection to that was how we have been making a difference while we have been here. Then we prayed in two or three people groups about how God has been with us through out these past few days and what we still want to see within the next 48 hours. Now there is only one day left.

Afterwards a couple of us started to make the breakfast for the 10:00am meal. Which were eggs with ham and potatoes, bread, pastry. Then the first shipment came in and there was a lot of food with that. A lot of bread, desserts and lots more great food. We got food organized for the 4:00pm meal and the 6:00pm meal then a couple of us (Me, Mary, Jon, Chris and Aaron) went over to the Scientology building down the street to just take a tour but it ended up just being watching some videos and reading some things about history and some things about things to come in there views of things. Then we went to Walgreens to pick-up some stuff and Starbucks for Aaron.

We came back to Hope and Katie and Marie already got some of the food for the 4:00pm and 6:00pm meals cut up. Mary and I just got the rice and beef done and cooked. Some other people were sorting food and others were cutting and cooking for the 4:00pm and 6:00pm meals at the church. At the 6:00pm meal/service I was talking to this guy named Ryman and he was very cool. He has traveled around the US and is going to culinary arts school right now to be a head chef. I also talked to someone else and she was saying that she has had some problems in the past, but she has been clean for two years now and has a minimum paid job downtown. Then we had a short debriefing about the day.

We took a trip to the YMCA and a couple people just hung out, some people went swimming, others played racquetball. Then some people shot some hoops and passed around the volleyball. I personally chilled with Gracie then shot some hoops then just hung out with my cousin Colin. He gave me a small tour of the Y, I helped him lock up and I got to meet some new people that worked there. Everyone seemed very nice tonight at the YMCA. We just talked about every little thing that has been going on in my life. It was good.

Now everyone is sorting food from the last van full that came in while we were gone at the YMCA. So I am thinking that is going well and in about an hour or so everyone will be asleep and ready for the last full day to come. Waking up at 5:30 tomorrow morning. The last thing I would like to say is that God is good, God works in mysterious and amazing ways in everybody that lets him into his life. That I have seen a lot throughout this whole trip. Everywhere we have gone I have seen it in some way, shape or form.

– Monica

Team LA-AX: Day 6

Hello hello! This is Jon Adam. It was another busy and impactful day today in LA – just the way our team likes it. We started things off by cooking a breakfast of eggs and ham (our culinary specialty) for the Hope Church volunteers and staff. Sundays at Hope are filled to the brim with multiple services, prayer meetings, Bible studies, and food shipments. We couldn’t attend them all, but were able to be at one service in the morning. The demographic at the service was exactly that of the surrounding community – a testament to Hope’s accepting and cooperative qualities. Fittingly, Pastor Ed delivered a message on the importance of unity for the Church, lest it become its own worst enemy.

For lunch, we all hit up the iconic and delicious In-N-Out burger. Afterwards while others explored some local shops, I got to spend the next two hours with Brian Pierce, a recent Axiom alum and Stanford grad student who joined our team for the weekend. Mary, Rebekah, Brian, and I took a drive up to Griffith Observatory for some great views of the city before saying a sad goodbye to Brian. We’re all having some incredibly unique experiences out here! For the rest of the day’s events, I’ll turn it over to my co-blogger Chris.

Hello from Los Angeles! This is Chris speaking—the only person in LA who is wearing cowboy boots and an Illini hat to the Pantages Theater! We are having a blast out here and are definitely getting a glimpse of the way God is working through some of the most “unsuspecting” characters. This evening, we had the opportunity to travel with Pastor Ed and the worship team from Hope Church to The Midnight Mission on Skid Row. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Skid Row, it is a part of LA where the homeless have “taken” over the area as their home. We saw people with permanent camps set up, people living out of cardboard boxes, and hundreds of people living on the street without hope. All of the businesses in this area have garage doors that cover their storefronts outside of business hours and there was trash everywhere. When we entered the place of refuge, we were greeted by many who had been sent to serve after previously being associated with Hope Church – some of which had even gone through the recovery program with Pastor Ed and were now serving others who are in the same situation they were once in. The refuge place serves nearly 1500 meals to the homeless every day, offers their own recovery program, and even provides a place for 100 homeless people to sleep every night. They start lining up in the courtyard at 6am every day to try and be in the first 100 people so they will have a warm and safe place to sleep for the night.

During the service tonight the doors were opened to those on the streets and we were able to talk to and worship with people who are imperfect just as we all are – it was a great experience to sit through a worship service and see the homeless for who they truly are – God’s Children. We sang several songs, some of which had been written by those who were previously in the worship band. Pastor Ed spoke for a few minutes and gave words of encouragement for everyone in the room to pursue a relationship with Jesus Christ. Finally, Aaron Bird preached a powerful message explaining why he believed in Jesus Christ and how we are ALL GODS CHILDREN – even if society does not accept you. I think I speak for the entire group that we were all grateful for the message Aaron was able to share with this special group of people. After leaving The Midnight Mission, we piled into our big white van and went to King Buffet. It was another great day filled with life changing experiences!

God Bless and Goodnight From LA!

Jon and Chris

Team LA-AX: Day 5

WADDUP…this is Gracie…today was super awesome. Yesterday, Pastor Ed told us that it is really important to have a day of Sabbath to relax and evaluate our relationship with God. It’s a day to unwind and take a break from the “go-go-go” throughout the week. So that we did.

We started out the day with a devotion by Jon and then we went to the Laundromat to do our laundry. That was actually an experience for me since I had never been to one! J Then we came back and got ready to go to the beach! WOOT! Man life is rough… (sarcasm)

Then we came back and went to dinner that was provided for us by the amazing volunteers here. We went upstairs and were surprised to see every place set, the beautiful orchids that the people here have “reused and nursed back to life” and to a steak dinner. I can’t believe the amount of service I have seen here. I have never met such people so eager and genuinely happy to help other people. These people really inspire me to serve other people more. Everyone’s story of God’s revelation is just another way of God showing what He can do and how He can use His people. 

After our awesome supper we went to the Pantages theatre to see THE MUSICAL CHICAGO! Pastor Ed surprised us with tickets at supper! Not only was the musical amazing…but so were our seats! I was on the outside in the center aisle! Pastor Ed has an amazing way of making people feel important and special while being humble and not “showing off” by the amount of people he knows and skills God has definitely blessed him with. He certainly could by the amount of people that know him here. He knew people from the theatre and got us tickets half off!

After the musical we came back and had a team meeting led by Aaron. He asked us how our Sabbath was and what God had taught us. Some people said that God had taught them a lesson on being thankful and others said that at the beach seeing all the crazy things God really showed them how His people need Him.

Overall this trip has been amazing. The way that I feel served and have been serving … I feel like I am on a vacation. God has seriously blessed me with such a fantastic group of people to work with – they are the most real, fun, and helpful people. It’s just great. GREAT!

Team LA-AX: Day 4

Hey Everybody! This is Conner! BOY do I have a lot on my heart that I need to tell you! This trip so far has been very eye opening and God has been teaching me so much about how he loves us and takes care of us. And no matter how hopeless things seem, God is always there reaching out his hand to pull you out of the dark.

Day 4: Technically this happened last night at 10:30pm to 2:00am and I am just in charge of writing for today, but I still count that as today because I just really want to share about the experience I had working with Broken Hearts Ministry. This ministry had us working with the “broken hearts” of the darker corners of Los Angeles; these broken hearts consisted of drug addicts, alcoholics, prostitutes, and transgendered. Antquan is one of the leaders of this ministry and he told us all about how broken these people have become through abuse, drug use, etc. and how the one thing they are desperately searching for is genuine acceptance. He explained how their ministry is based on sharing God’s Love and sharing the Gospel with these people by building relationships with them, listening to their stories, and accepting them as fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Pastor Ed talked to us before we went and said something that really hit home, that every person you see out there is another person that Jesus Christ died for. With that in mind, we were sent out in the downtown streets of Santa Monica Blvd in groups of three to initiate conversation and share Love to the “broken hearts” that were populating that specific area. This was a bit difficult for me because I had no idea how to relate or even imagine some of the struggles and issues that some of these people had been through, but God was able to use us there to be listeners to their stories and whatever they wanted to tell us because they rarely get anyone who cares enough to listen to them, pay attention to them, and care about what they have to say. Once they knew you were genuinely interested and truly cared about what is going on in their hearts and in their lives, they almost immediately trusted and bonded with you and shared their life stories, most of which were unbelievably tragic. One particular story I heard was from a woman who refused to be called by her real name, Helen, and much rather preferred Big Mama. Big Mama at first seemed to be very distant, harsh, and disinterested in having any conversation with me or with anyone for that matter, but after a few attempts of beginning a conversation, I was finally able to break through the shell by complementing her on her awesome New York jacket, which she got from her new boyfriend who she really cared about, she went on to say that he wasn’t her first boyfriend…

Big Mama then told me about the 3 times she was raped, the 2 miscarriages she experienced, and the drug addictions and alcoholism she had been chained to in her younger years. I was in shock. I prayed and prayed for God to tell me what to do, how to react, how to relate! But then God just calmed me and told me that being there and listening and genuinely caring for this woman was the best way to show her God’s Love and to show her that there is forgiveness and mercy through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. PRAISE OUR AMAZING GOD that Big Mama has actually been working with Broken Hearts ministry for a while now and has accepted Jesus as her Lord and Savior and through Christ she has been able to overcome those addictions and issues in her life.

Through working with this ministry and hearing the stories of these wonderful people, I am just reminded how powerful God is and how he can take something broken, beat-up, and thrown away by this world, and make it into something beautiful and new.

Thanks for reading, I know this isn’t exactly a recap of the day’s events but God was really calling me to share that. If you want to hear more about what this ministry is about and what’s been going on, you can hit up their website at http://www.brokenheartsministry.org/

Stay tuned to this blog because I know God isn’t done teaching and using us on this trip!

God Bless!

Conner Buenting

Team LA-AX: Day 3

Hey it’s Katie coming at you today live from L.A. Day 3: we did so much cool stuff today I have trouble comprehending it all. Our day started with making breakfast not only for ourselves but also for the community. On the menu for both groups was eggs and ham from Trader Joe’s; talk about gourmet breakfast. During breakfast I had the joy of talking to an old Hispanic lady about her life. The catch—she could only speak Spanish. It was such a wonderful experience and I’m so glad that I was able to talk to her and make her feel welcome, and she had so much to say. I felt so blessed by talking to her. Just as we were wrapping up conversation the first load of food for the day came in, so we got to unload and sort just like yesterday. That took the rest of the morning. 

The afternoon took us away from Hope and to some of our peers on the USC campus in downtown L.A. We had the joy of meeting Ben, a fellow student, who gave us a tour of the campus and told us about his story. He had the opportunity to be part of a church plant in the area in addition to going to school here. Because he wanted to be even more of a positive influence in his community, he and his brother, who moved here from Florida, started a bread company called Bicycle Bread Company that sells fresh bread to people of their community twice a week. It’s an amazing business for two young people to start. The stories that they told us about people they have influenced were astounding. A little of God’s love can go a long way to turning people to Christ. Oh, and did I mention that Ben and his brother started the company living at Hope and baking in the ovens here? God’s love and grace is amazing!

Tonight we broke off into two groups. Half of us went to Universal City to just hang out and go to some shops and the other half went to hang out with the people of the LGBT community in L.A. and dialogue with them and hear their stories. Tomorrow we’ll switch. Tonight I was in the Universal City group and the other group is still out so hopefully you’ll hear more about that tomorrow.

Thanks for praying for us and be sure to check back tomorrow for more news about our awesome trip. Much love!!

-Katie

Team LA-AX: Day 2

Hello, Marie here!  The fabulous day 2 of our trip here to LAX.  Have we really been here for over 24 hours?  It seems like we have been a part of this church for years because of the grace and hospitality that has reigned over us.

Day 2 started out with a pure reading of the Bible in the sanctuary followed by devotion and some wicked awesome worship music (the last two both mastered by Conner Buenting, of course!).  As if this was not already an amazing start to the day we ate a huge buffet for breakfast and heard about the rich history of Hope International as well as Pastor Ed’s compelling testimony.  Regardless of how interesting, compelling, sad, beautiful, or ____________ (whatever other adjective you want to use to describe someone’s testimony), it always takes us to a time of reflection.  Today I personally thought a lot about what my story holds.  What I do know is that my story is nowhere near as difficult as some I heard today, but I also know that my story is not yet complete.  I am still alive and blessed as ever.  I have been given tools, so what I use to build with them is still in the process.  Here is a verse that keeps me motivated: “’For I know the plans I have for you’, says the Lord.  ‘Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans for hope and a future.’” Jer. 29:11  I hope my plan is something I discover more and more each day—thankfully, I believe I am in that process.

 

Moving on, today we were also blessed with food.  As a team we were able to eat 10X better than I eat at my little college apartment, and we were able to prepare (some of us cooking for the first time hehe) and feed a great amount of homeless people with food from local stores.  In fact, God provided us with an abundance of food, in which we were able to share with Catholic Charities (we were also able to visit their pantry and meet some of their staff/volunteers).  Too, many of us met homeless people with heart-wrenching stories, yet these people are so full of life!  Pastor Ed reminded us of the several personas we may encounter on this mission, and most importantly he reminded us is that “Jesus died on the cross for each person that walks through these doors today—he loved them THAT MUCH.”  What an inspiration these people have been to the lives of us comfortable and stable college students.  We are looking forward to listening and sharing stories with several other believers and non-believers this week.  Praise God!

Does it seem like we did a lot of work today?  Well… we did!  Buuut, because of Pastor Ed’s generosity, we did go to Hollywood tonight to see Johnny Depp’s new movie.  We did a little walking around and sight seeing beforehand and of course, I spotted a Starbucks to keep me rolling!  Again, praise the Lord.  Life is good here.  AND… all you parents out there worried about our safety…. We are covered 🙂 God has provided so much for us.

 All in all, today was simply a BLESSING! God has provided for Hope and has provided for our team, and we are convinced that he will continue to do so.

Until the morning, goodnight LA!!!

Much love from the team.

Team LA-AX: Day One.

Hello, it’s Andrew.  Day one has been pretty good. Traveling all day has been alright, many of the group learned a new Amish card game, which was very fun. Once we arrived to L.A. the pastor here met us with pizza and since I was starving, it was AWESOME! The one thing I and I’m sure everyone else noticed about the church its that it is very hospitable and is a very happy place. We also got a quick tour of the church and some of what goes on in it.

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What got my attention the most was how some of the men who live at the church dumpster dive for orchids and nurse back to life the flowers that others threw away. I really enjoyed the analogy the pastor used with how the church does the same thing with people and how the church teaches that even the people who have been “thrown away” can be nursed back and feel better and become “beautiful” again.  That really struck a chord with me.

Another interesting thing to me was the Gypsy community at a bible study. They seemed to be really happy and very welcoming. Seriously, they were some happy people. Also, it was interesting how they incorporated their culture into the way they practice.

Like the Gypsy community, the church itself is very welcoming and the doors to the church are much more inviting than the other bared doors around the neighborhood. Again, everyone here seems to be very nice and I think that this week is going to be sweet and I know I will learn a lot. It is now time for sleep because it was been a long day full of traveling! Peace yo

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Rewind. Pause. Push Play. Who are your ‘Top 5’?

February 2, 2012 – Aaron Bird

Rewind: “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” – E. James Rohn

The people you surround yourself with most are the ones who naturally have the most significant impact on your life.  So, think about it: who are your closest friends?  Who do you call when you have a few extra hours on your hands?  Who do you go to looking for advice?  Who do you spend weekends with?  Who immediately comes to mind when you think about sharing your life with someone?  Those people, especially the five people with whom you are closest, those are the people whose words, actions, and beliefs have the largest influence on your character.  The question that remains then, is two parts:

1. Who/what do you really want to be like…

  • Giving or taking; patient or demanding; loving or spiteful; edifying or destructive; strong or timid; compassionate or arrogant; conversant or domineering; honest or needy; trustworthy or deceitful; Godly or worldly?
  • Do you want to be evidence of the saving grace and perfect love of Christ?

2. … and do your friends reflect that kind of character?

  • Are you friends helping or distracting you from what God has called His children to be?  Are they encouraging or pulling you away from righteousness?
  • God has called us each to a process of sanctification – of making us ever more holy.  God has called us to walk with Him in an effort of becoming ever more Christ-like.

And don’t think, even for a moment, that just because you and your friends are all Christians that you are exempt from reevaluating the impact of your friendships.  Chew on this hard-hitting truth for a moment:

“If it weren’t for Christians, I’d be a Christian.” – Mahatma Ghandi

We are all flawed, and we all fall short of what God has called us to be, but we should never use that as an excuse to behave in such a way that makes others question our beliefs or, worse yet, question the perfect love and truth that is found in Jesus Christ.

Now, what that does not mean is that you have to drop your friends because they are human.  Every single person you meet on this earth is going to have flaws, some more glaring than others, and we can’t start going around pointing fingers at our brothers and sisters, exploiting and condemning their mistakes, while we too are just as flawed and just as apt to sin.  What it does mean is that, if God was not one of the names that came to mind when you considered your ‘Top 5 People I Spend the Most Time With,’ He most definitely should be.

We are meant for community.  We are meant to share our life with the people around us – to form friendships, share joys and sorrows, to love and grow together – and the sense of belonging that comes from that kind of openness is wonderful, but that in and of itself is not truly transformative.  Hanging out with God – having community with Him, sharing your life with Him, allowing Him to love and challenge you – that kind of relationship is what we were, above all else, intended for.  Spending time with the God of the universe, gives you a beautiful spirit, and a truly beautiful life.

Still unsure?  Just take a look at the life of Daniel.  He was a teenage slave in Jerusalem while it was occupied by the Babylonians.  But, despite his lowly status, people recognized that he was different; they saw his beautiful, Godly spirit.  In fact, people were so aware of his unique spirit that King Darius actually agreed to make Daniel the governor over all of Babylon!  Of course, in a world corrupted by sin, not everyone was happy for Daniel; jealously drove some men to find anything they could to discredit him in the eyes of the world, and yet they found nothing!  Finally, they realized the only thing they could use against him was his faith in the Lord, so they concocted a scheme to make Daniel’s worship of the one true God illegal.  King Darius legitimized the law, and had no other choice but to condemn Daniel to death in the lion’s den when he was found in violation of it.  When morning came and Daniel was still alive, thanks to the intervention of the Lord, King Darius was so moved that he enacted another law – this time, however, he commanded all of Babylon to worship Daniel’s God, because it was obvious to him that Yahweh was the one, true God!  Daniel’s spirit was so saturated by God that other people couldn’t help but stand back, take notice, and recognize the greatness of the King of Kings.

When you commit your life to Christ, you commit to living out His perfect gift of salvation – in practice, that means you’ve committed to living differently, both in word and in action, than people who don’t know the Lord.  By placing your faith in Jesus, you join Him both in His death and resurrection, meaning you too have died to sin and been raised to life: you have accepted His identity as your own.  But with this gift, comes a certain responsibility; you have been called to be an embassador of Christ while here on the earth, and that thought should never be far from your mind.  Seek to glorify God in all that you do, and while, in this life, you won’t ever give Him the honor He deserves, you can and should be attempting to live up to His call.  And that means, at least in part, spending time with God.

Surrender your life to Him; when you do, He’ll do beautiful things with it, things you can’t even dream of.  And if hanging out with God seems less exciting or less enticing than hanging out with other people, then maybe you need to reevaluate the way you’re hanging out with Him…  If prayer is boring, it’s probably that you’re forgetting to listen; prayer is a conversation, and a conversation has two speakers.  Next time you pray, instead of trying to change God’s mind or convince Him to act in a certain way, let Him change your heart.  If the bible is uninteresting, well then, quite frankly, it’s probably because you’re not reading it right.  There is no book more important, no story more significant, no text more life changing than the holy bible sitting on your night stand/book shelf right now.  So, once again, I’ll ask you two questions: who do you hang out with most often, and who do you want to start hanging out with more?

 

Pause: It’s a challenge, I know, but we should all be looking for opportunities to make the people around us respond to our lives the way Darius responded to Daniel’s.

““I issue a decree that in every part of my kingdom people must fear and reverence the God of Daniel.

“For He is the living God and He endures forever; His kingdom will not be destroyed, His dominion will never end.  He rescues and He saves; He performs signs and wonders in the heavens and on the earth.  He has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions.”

So Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrusthe Persian.” – Daniel 6:26-28

 

Push Play: “No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main…” – John Donne

When God made Eve, He did so because it was simply not good for man to be alone.  We were made for community; the need to form friendships and create bonds with other people is ingrained into our very souls – our spirit literally longs for that relationship, and that longing is truly a God-given desire because sharing our lives was what we were made to do.  But, just like so many other God-given desires, sin oftentimes corrupts that longing, and we fail to seek out the kind of friendships God wants for us.  Instead of spending time with God and people who constantly point us back towards Him, we often look for people the world tells us are ‘cool.’  And, maybe at first, that won’t change your behavior, but if you’re not intentional about who you’re becoming, you may find that you start to believe that the things of this world are ‘cooler’ than the things of Heaven.  Again, I am not trying to say that you shouldn’t hang out with people who believe or behave differently than you.  In fact, I believe Jesus has called us to do just the opposite; He has commissioned His children to spread the gospel to the world, savory and unsavory, goody-two-shoes and rebellious people alike!  What I’m saying is that you need to consider how your friendships are impacting your walk with Christ.

Are you a part of a strong community of Christ-followers?  Are your friends people who will challenge and encourage you to be more like Jesus every single day?  Do you seek out time with God, knowing that your relationship with Him is really the only important thing you could pursue?  Do your closest friends reflect the kind of person you dream of becoming?  If not, then, as harsh as it may seem, you might need to make new friends.  Notice how I didn’t say to ditch the old ones, though!  As much as you need to be edified and encouraged, so does everyone else, Christian or not, pursuing a Christ-like lifestyle or not.  So, even if you discover that your relationship focus needs to shift, try to not completely extricate yourself from current friendships.  Instead, let your newly renewed (or maybe newly found) pursuit of God shine through every conversation, every coffee date, every discussion section, and every social event.  Be like Daniel; make people stand up and take notice.  Give them reason to praise your God!

 

Much love,

Taylor