Something Bigger // JESUS Film // Meg

Last month I was in Orlando & I had the chance to visit & tour Cru’s international headquarters.  Did you know that Cru is part of a larger missions organization praying, reaching every society in corner of the world? Outside of our local Cru movements & Bible studies & discipleship, we have thousands of Cru movements on campuses all over the US.  Then there are thousands of Cru movements at campuses around the world! And that’s just part of our campus ministry.  Add on to that the number of people involved with other Cru ministries reaching military, high schoolers, families, businesspeople, planting churches, even Olympic athletes… the list goes on and on.

I was reminded that we are part of something so much bigger.

The same week that I was touring our headquarters, I hopped onto Facebook & read two encouraging posts made by two girls who are in our Cru movement at VCU.  Both of them are traveling internationally this summer in different countries in Africa sharing the gospel, loving people, praying… it’s been beautiful to watch from afar [and their pictures are incredible… God is the best artist!].

As it so happens, both girls got to experience one branch of Cru called the JESUS film. It’s the story of Jesus through Luke – a film that has been shown for 35+ years, translated into 1200 languages, and one that has been used to share the gospel with hundreds of millions of people & on record, they know of at least 200 million people who have given their lives to Jesus as a result of this film.  Every word that Jesus speaks in the film is a direct quote from Scripture. It’s incredible.

JESUS Film

Photo from Sarah’s blog [linked below]

BOTH girls – on summer mission trips with two different organizations – had the opportunity to show the film to people who had [maybe] never heard the gospel before.  Both girls got to experience the story of Jesus in  the heart language of those who watched the film.  Both girls saw people come to Christ as a result.  Two different countries. Same gospel. Lives changed.

I wanted to share with you Kayla wrote in a blogpost reflecting on showing this film because it impacted me so greatly.  She writes:

During our last night there we had a showing of The Jesus Film. Quick side note about this connection- I’m a part of Campus Crusade for Christ (Cru) at VCU and that film is a project of the ministry as a whole, all around the world. I had no idea [this organization] showed the film until we arrived in the community so I was pleasantly surprised to hear I would be able to experience it, even though I’m not directly a part of a Cru Summer Mission right now. The film is the story of Jesus, the greatest story ever told (imagine Passion of the Christ, but the PG version). The coolest thing about this film is its adaptation to the different cultures around the world. It has been translated into countless languages so the people of Maubone could experience the most incredible story ever told in their native language, Tswana.

Even though I had never seen the film, I knew the story. I’ve known the story for practically my whole life so I went into the viewing with the mindset of simply focusing on praying for the members of this community while they watched. It wasn’t until one of the first miracles was shown and the members began cheering and clapping that I realized- we should never become numb to this story. Making the blind see, raising the dead to life, being whipped for sins He never committed, nailed to a cross, and coming back from the dead to welcome us with open arms. Us, the very ones who nailed Him to the tree by our actions. As the film went on they didn’t stop reacting because to many of them, this was all new. And even to the ones who knew the story, they didn’t sit in silence. They felt the pain of their Savior. They felt the joy when He rose from the dead.

Beautiful. Yes.

This is the story that we’re part of. This is something bigger.

To see the behind the scenes area where the film is translated, prayed over, updated… and then to know that that same week, Sarah & Kayla both had the chance to put what I saw into practice & reach dozens of people with the message of the gospel… I’m reminded of the grace & sovereignty of God.

How cool is it that he allows us to join in on something so much greater with him. Sharing the gospel, here in the United States, overseas in a village that no one has ever heard of, it doesn’t matter.  We’re part of something bigger.

As you close out your summer & look ahead to this year, what might you trust God for? What’s your something bigger that you can be a part of? Maybe you’re looking ahead to next summer, thinking that this summer wasn’t exactly what you’re looking for. Consider [already] going on a summer mission trip, giving a few weeks to share the gospel [& have fun] – internationally. Maybe you’re looking ahead to after graduation. You can be a part of sharing the gospel for a few months, for a year. Cru has internships & you could introduce students to Jesus in the US, or you can go internationally… you can even give a year to travel the world with JESUS film & be a part of seeing the unreached come to know their Savior.

I’m praying for you as the summer winds down & life starts to gear up again. We get so lost & so narrow-focused on the here & now that we too often forget that God has called us to more.  What’s the more he has for you? Ask him & listen. 

Freedom from Bitterness

image.pngBitterness.  What an unpleasant state to live in.  For years I was entangled in the darkness of bitterness as it seemed that everyone else had the very things I so desired but were not a part of my present reality.  In God’s kindness,  He didn’t allow me to live in that tangled web of bitterness forever and through a series of circumstances and lessons that confronted the very core of my beliefs about God & His love for me, He gave me great freedom from it.  As painful as that time was, I’m so thankful that God broke me of it, because no life stage in this broken world is free of comparison, bitterness, envy & jealousy.

This week, I sat in my room, upset and battling this very thing.  My current set of circumstances leaves me feeling that dangerous root of bitterness again rising up within my heart.  But this time, I’m desperate to fight it, and to have God clean out the ugliness more quickly and deeply than before.

Hebrews 12:14-15 says, “Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled…” I so desperately desire some characteristics to be true of me – peace, holiness, seeing the Lord, the grace of God. But where do I feel my heart leaning?  Towards the opposite: bitterness, trouble, defilement. 

I don’t want to be wrapped up in that bitterness, as I once was.  But it’s not as simple as just telling myself to “stop it!” and being freed. In this battle against bitterness – and I truly do mean battle – I must fight this head-on, and, truthfully, only through the work of the Holy Spirit empowering me.

Here are some practical steps I am taking to battle this bitterness from taking root I wanted to share with those of you who may be battling the same thing:

  1. Prayer. I must recognize that I am fully dependent on God to do the primary work of heart change in my life.  What does this look like? You may have heard of “spiritual breathing” in Cru.  It’s a simple way to think of living out the Christian life in a moment by moment way. First, I exhale – I admit my sin, my feelings, my desires, my longings & that I can’t do it without the Holy Sprit – and then I inhale – I remember that I am forgiven because of Jesus’ work on the cross & I yield to the Holy Spirit to take back the throne of my heart and empower me.
  2. Where is my identity?  In Because He Loves Me by Elise Fitzpatrick, she writes,  “Rather than being inebriated with God’s mercy, grace, and Spirit [Ephesians 5:18]… we’re reeling from the belief that the most important factor in any given day is our success or comfort.  Life has become ‘about’ us and God’s love in the gospel has taken a seat in the back of the bus, behind coveted invitations, the respect of friends, NFL championships, and full stomachs. We mistakenly think that these things are measures of God’s love for us because we’ve forgotten about the Lamb who takes away sins.” How powerful! Am I living out my identity based on who God is & what He’s done for me? No? It’s not enough to just “stop it!” – I need to go back to point one! I must recognize the disparity, and say, “Jesus, I believe, help my unbelief!”
  3. Love like Jesus.  This was an encouragement in the midst of my bitterness from Lindsay, who discipled me at the time.  Who holds up the better end of the relationship deal between me & God? Definitely not me.  So, how can I, with the help of the Holy Spirit, truly love my friends and continue to love them even when I felt like I was overlooked or like they had such better lives than me, and through my heartache?  What does it look like to be gracious, merciful, honest, resolve conflict, etc. so that bitterness cannot stick to my heart as it grows in love for others, rather than suffocating the life out of it?  This is a great challenge, but it’s humility (or “thinking of ourselves less” as Tim Keller writes) that brings me true perspective on love!
  4. Foster gratitude & generosity in my days.  If there is a command that seems harder to me when I am in a set of undesired circumstances than rejoicing with those who rejoice (Rom 12:15), I’ve yet to find it.  How can I rejoice when I want the thing they have? Do I really  want to be that girl who cannot rejoice with other people? No way! But I can be sad about my circumstances while still rejoicing for others’.  The two are not mutually exclusive!  I must foster a heart of gratitude for what God has given me and a heart of generosity towards others.  My friends have wept with me and loved me through the hardest moments of my life recently.  How much more can I rejoice with them by being generous – with my time, my resources, my heart, my listening ear, my love?  Giving to those who are in circumstances I dream of being in allows me to forget that I want to be bitter about their lives, because I am moving towards them in love.  This isn’t something I can do on my own, either.  I often must take a minute to be honest with others & the Lord about my disappointment, heartache, and sadness – God does not ask me to ignore the fact that I am hurting – and then I ask the Holy Spirit to empower me to love others, to care for them, and to be generous and grateful as is fit for the situation.  And surely God does it.  He loves to answer those prayers.

These aren’t some sort of magical steps in a formula that will quickly fix all of your heart problems in regards towards bitterness.  Only God can do that.  But I’m here to say that there is freedom to be found from bitterness, and a fight to be had for that freedom.

IMG_0710I wonder what would it look like if we, as women who believe that God loves us, took time to really put in the hard work of yielding our lives to the Lord and turning from bitterness, jealousy, comparison, and envy.  How would our communities, our families, our hearts change?

“Let us lay aside every weight and sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, looking to Jesus, the author & perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of God.” – Hebrews 12:1

I truly believe that this, the gospel, changes everything.  Holy Spirit, work in us that we might better reflect you & that we may find freedom from things like bitterness which so easily take root in our hearts! We love you. Thank you for loving us.

Yes Lord//Meg//Day Five

I’ve been so blessed by reading each of the blog posts on our “Awake & Free” blog this week… am I the only one?
On WednesdayNita pointed us to Mary and my heart said, “Yes, Lord,” as I read and rested in the truth of who Mary is and what she knew – something God has also taught me recently.  On MondayBrooke wrote about slowing down, and my heart said, “Yes, Lord,” as I found myself in agreement with the need to soak in time with the Lord this Christmas season. And I have. And it’s been beautiful.  On TuesdayLaura Kate wrote about how the story of Jesus is thread throughout all of Scripture and my heart said, “Yes, Lord,” as I rested in that knowledge and reflected on how seeing Jesus throughout Old & New Testament stories has been part of my Christmas season as well.  And then yesterday, Sarah wrote about how it’s okay to not be okay, and my heart, again, said, “Yes, Lord,” as I thought about the joys and the aches of my Christmas season – and those shared by many whom I love.
Yes.  Lord.
In Your Spirit’s sovereign plan, you have me here, being encouraged by so many women on what it looks like to walk with you, and you’re weaving together these stories and my stories to point to the same thing.  And it brings me to the point of just reading and saying, “Yes, Lord,” – because as I’ve thought about what I wanted to write today, I honestly have thought about writing – or could have easily written – on each topic that each woman presented.
And then I thought that maybe God would want me to share a little more deeply and a little more personally.  And so nervously, I respond, Yes, Lord.
You can catch up more on my story here.  It chronicles the story of my sweet son – one that’s still being written – as my husband & I have faced some of the most earth shattering news and walked one of the hardest journeys as we anticipate our son’s birthdays in just seven weeks.  Back in August, during the first two weeks of classes actually, we found out that the baby we are expecting in February has a neural tube defect that caused him to grow and develop without his skull or his brain forming fully.  This means that Jacob, our son, will have a very brief life on earth before He goes to Heaven to spend Eternity with his Maker.  His Maker who saw it fit to make him like this, and who has deemed him worthy of love, who has deemed him good
When September hit, I was unsure if we’d make it to the holidays with Jacob, still, or if he’d already be in Heaven.  And then October, and November, and now here we are in mid-December, Jacob has grown & developed in most other ways completely normally and is full of life inside me.  And my heart says, Yes, Lord.
What’s struck me the most this Christmas season is how much my mind & heart wander to considering Mary, and considering Jesus.  Mary in the sense that she carried a child – and not just any child, but our Savior – in pregnancy, and she gave birth to Him.  Jesus in the sense that He became a baby… that He – fully God & fully Man – entered into our brokenness and our world by means of “the least of these.”  And Jesus was born to die.  Both looked at what God was calling them to do and even though it seemed  c r a z y  in the eyes of the world, they looked to God, and said, Yes.  Lord.
God has shown me the grace & beauty of Mary’s response to Him as she learns that she, a young virgin, engaged to be married, is pregnant.  She says, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.  For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.” {Luke 1:46-49}
Yes, Lord.
And then I consider how Jesus lived on this Earth, full of life & destined to die, and he performed miracles and he healed people and he fulfilled the prophecies of the Old Testament and he was full of grace and truth as he approached women and children and tax collectors and Pharisees and Jews and Samaritans alike.  And He was God. And He was perfect.  And He lived to die.  And He said as He was facing His own execution – an unjust one, and in a criminal’s death – “’Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.’ And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in agony, he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling to the ground.” {Luke 22:42-44}
Yes, Lord.
And so I consider my own life.  I am carrying a child who has a greater purpose than the one I would have chosen for him.  We are doing something that seems crazy in the eyes of the world as we see value and dignity in our son’s life, no matter how old he is or how many breaths he will take on this earth.  I am carrying a son who is born “only” to die.   My son could be healed, if God so chooses, but in all reality, I face great pain and agony in losing him on his birthday. Some of the things I am facing seem impossible. I can almost feel those bloody sweat drops.
And I find myself saying Yes, Lord.
In the midst of the heartache, in the midst of the pain, God has sent His Spirit to strengthen me, much like He sent an angel to strengthen Jesus.  In the midst of the chaos and wondering of my son’s purpose, God has helped me to say “Holy is Your Name” even when the words cannot seem to even enter my heart.  In the midst of seeing that because Jesus was born to die, and therefore my son – born only to die – will live forever in Eternity with him, I see that Jesus is better.  And my heart can only cry, Yes, Lord.
This Christmas season, where is God leading you to say, Yes, Lord?  Where is He asking you to say, “Not my will but yours be done,” and then follow Him into the scary and into the unknown?  Where is He showing you in Scripture how He is near to you and to your story, and where you can see Jesus working out your story so you can in turn say, “Jesus is Better”?
My prayer is that we will be women this season who say, Yes, Lord.  Who look to the wonder and beauty and awe of the reality of the Christmas story and we say in agreement, Yes, Lord, because it is good.  And we look at the truth of who God is and we say, Yes, Lord, because even though we don’t understand, we long to.  And we face our heartaches and our grief and our disappointments – we face our triumphs and excitements and joys – and we say, Yes, Lord. And we follow Him.
Yes, Lord, my heart longs to cry in my grief.  Yes, Lord, He helps me say.  Yes, Lord.