Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Homesick for Heaven

My heart has been very heavy the past couple of weeks. Not nearly as heavy as others on my campus, but heavy nonetheless. Over the summer, a rising junior that attended my college died as a result of a hiking accident. When I heard the news back in June, of course I was saddened, but since I knew nothing about him, there wasn’t much else to feel.

Until now.

A couple of weeks ago, my college held a memorial service in his honor. Finding words to describe the service is really was beautiful. Thanks be to God that I have only been to a couple of memorial services, but this is one I don’t think I could ever forget. There was deep, deep sorrow, but that sorrow was founded on the solid rock of Jesus. Therefore, there was joy in the sorrow. It was incredible to witness.

The life we celebrated and mourned over seemed like a remarkable one – this guy wasn’t your average Joe. He seemed like one-of-a-kind, passionately pursuing Jesus with every fiber of his being, living every day as if it would be his last. He had a compassionate heart for the poor and hurting. He was a man of prayer. He was a man of action. He was a man of accountability, encouragement, and laughter. Lots of stories were shared. Lots of tears were shed. It was a beautiful night celebrating the life of an amazing guy.

The one quality of this man that everyone kept saying that wouldn’t (and still hasn’t) escape my mind is this: he was heaven-minded. He not only knew that Earth was not his home, but he lived like he truly believed it. He didn’t care what anyone else thought; he simply walked in obedience. Christ was preeminent in all aspects of his life, and he lived life to the fullest, knowing his rewards were not in the temporary but in the eternal.

His testimony was incredibly powerful and convicting for me. I came to the painful realization that I am not heaven-minded. I don’t think about heaven nearly as much as I should…if I did, I think my life would look different.

Now, as silly as this is sometimes, I am a person that really loves sticking with plans. When plans are changed, I’m uncomfortable. So my plan for this year was to focus on boldness, right? The sub-goals of that were to focus on doing the word (not just hearing it) and discipline. So then this whole being-focused-on-heaven thing comes up, and I feel a very strong sense of the Holy Spirit, urging me to focus on being heaven-minded. I think, “What? God! You’ve been teaching me all summer about boldness…why would you suddenly change what I want to work on? It’s only the third week! I haven’t exactly perfected boldness, yet!”

Well, my young grasshoppers, God can do whatever He wants with you, even if that means He doesn’t stick to your little plan. Also, focusing on boldness and being heaven-minded actually work perfectly together! If I am more focused on heaven and eternal things, then I would be much bolder and open about my walk with Christ, right? So really, it goes hand-in-hand. And since when does God only have to teach us one thing at a time? Why can’t He teach us multiple things all at once? Isn’t that part of this whole being-a-Christian thing anyway, letting God teach us to be more like Christ?

This post is gonna be kind of all over the place, so…sorry not sorry. This is a song by Jenny & Tyler (if you don’t know who they are, LOOK THEM UP RIGHT NOW. I could do a whole post on those two alone) called “The Kingdom of Heaven”. Tyler wrote the song to help him think of heaven more…it definitely has worked for me.

Where death shall be no more
No mourning, crying, or pain
Every tear He'll wipe away
In the Kingdom of Heaven

Where nothing is accursed,
A city with a crystal river      
The throne of God and of the Lamb
In the Kingdom of Heaven

Set your mind, your mind, your mind, on things above
Set your eyes, your eyes, your eyes on the risen Son

Where there shall be no night
Nor need for sun to shine
The Lord Himself will be the light
In the Kingdom of Heaven

Set your mind, your mind, your mind, on things above
Set your eyes, your eyes, your eyes on the risen Son

Behold, the home of God is with man (4x)

Behold, the home of God is with man (Set your mind, your mind, your mind, on things above)
Behold, the home of God is with man (Set your eyes,  your eyes, your eyes on risen Son)
Set your mind, your mind, your mind, on things above
Let your heart, your heart, your heart, give Him all your love

O let the thirsty come
O let the one who wants
Drink freely from the water
Of the Kingdom of Heaven

Our hall got together to do some worshiping and sharing. One of the girls was crying and said that she was really homesick, more so than she was expecting. And then she said the most profound words…and none more true in my life than right now, “I’m also just… homesick for heaven. Just seeing the pain here…it makes me homesick for heaven.” I almost teared up right there, just because it was just…so true. I don’t think I’ve ever yearned for heaven as much as I have these past few weeks.

This is not our home! This is not where we belong! I want to go home! I want to go home where there is no amnesia, no poverty, no betrayal, no cramping, no death, no colds, no sobbing so hard that you start to gag, no more cancer, no more lies, no more shootings at schools full of innocent children, no more disgusting music videos about sex and drugs and partying, no more divorce, no more children suffering from epilepsy, no more cancer, no more sex trafficking, no more no more NO MORE.

I’ve never written a song before…I don’t even know if you would call this a song. A poem? Just random groupings of words? I don’t care what you call it. It’s no masterpiece, but it’s merely what’s on my heart. This is my offering ultimately to the Lord, but also to the man who died, and to anyone who knew him. This is for you.

I wish I could’ve known you
I wish I could’ve seen those eyes
That were so often seeking things above

I wish I could’ve seen your smile
That greeted everyone with faithful love
The poor, the lost, the broken-hearted
You gave them all your smile

Where you are, I want to be
Who you’re with, I want to see
You knew Earth was not your home
You always sought out the royal throne

And I can’t imagine the look on your face
When Jesus Christ said “Well done, my son”
And how the God of all creation
Greeted you with open arms

We are homesick for heaven
We are homesick for heaven
We are homesick for heaven
Oh Lord, be with us now (3x)

2nd Bridge:
To live is Christ, to die is gain
To live is Christ, to die is gain (2x)

Let’s encourage each other to live for heaven, for that is our true home…that is where we belong. “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil. 3:20).

To end this post, sometime last week I went out to see the sunrise and read my Bible. This is what I saw. 

Not only was it beautiful, but it was full of hope. “[God] will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and their will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away…Behold, I am making all things new” (Rev. 21:5). I saw just a glimpse of what this verse is talking about in the sky. Though the darkness is closing in on the sun, the sun continues to radiate through. Jesus’ light cannot be put out. The battle has already been won. Jesus already has the victory

Since heaven has been on my mind, I started reading some of Revelation. I almost cried when reading chapter 22:20, “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming quickly.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.” Jesus said so Himself – He’s coming! Gosh, I hope it’s soon. 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Just Some Things I'm Learning Along the Way

Officially finished first full week of college classes! While that is an accomplishment, it’s also a little stinky, because I feel like I’ve been here for months. But, it’s also really awesome because God has already taught me so much in my first two weeks. The next few posts will probably mostly be geared toward college freshmen (or college kids in general), but hopefully these things will be applicable for everyone.

If you’ve been reading along, you know that one of my goals for the year is focusing on discipline. It’s rather fitting, considering that kids who are new to the college life can get really overwhelmed and scattered in the battle of “Do I sleep? Do I study? Do I go workout? (I wish that was a question I asked more oftenJ) Do I go have fun?” The vicious cycle is…well…vicious.

So to gain some guidance on the subject of discipline, I’ve turned to the Bible (duh) and Elizabeth Elliot’s Discipline: The Glad Surrender. My third day on campus, I decided to do some digging on the actual word, “discipline”. If you’ve never used the resource Blue LetterBible, then you should (it’s similar to Bible Gateway). It’s a great way to get bigger contexts around words or phrases. I typed in the word “discipline” and these are some gems I found:

  • ·         “Behold, how happy is the man whom God reproves, so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty.” –Job 5:17
  • ·         “For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching is light; and reproofs for discipline are the way of life.” –Prov. 6:23
  • ·         “Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.” –Prov. 12:1
  • ·         “He who neglects discipline despises himself, but he who listens to reproof acquires understanding.” –Prov. 15:32
  • ·         “Listen to counsel and accept discipline, that you may be wise the rest of your days.” –Prov. 19:20
  • ·         “Apply your heart to discipline and your ears to words of knowledge.” –Prov. 23:12
  • ·         “But have nothing to do with worldly fables fit only for old women. On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” -1 Tim. 4:7-8
  • ·         “It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.” –Heb. 12:7-8
  • ·         “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent.” –Rev. 3:19

Here are just a few great quotes from Elliot’s book regarding discipline:

On the body:

  • “We cannot give our hearts to God and keep our bodies for ourselves.”
  • “Sleep is another necessity. It takes discipline to go to bed when you ought to, and it takes discipline to get up.” If you’re in college, you know how much of a struggle this is.
  • “The important thing is to move around somehow. Don’t ride stairs instead of taking an elevator, climb them. When you do housework, move quickly.”
  • “Even though flesh and blood can never possess the Kingdom, think of its particles being “beckoned” to sit down with the Lord some day.”

On the mind:

  • “Mind and life need to be freed from the “disorder of the unnecessary.”
  • “The disciple who means to compel every one of his thoughts to surrender in obedience to Christ would do well to test himself by asking:
    • 1.       Whose glory do I seek?
    • 2.       Is this for or against the knowledge of God?
    • 3.       Am I giving my mind to wholesome precepts?
    • 4.       Am I morbidly keen on mere verbal questions and quibbles?
    • 5.       Is it more important to me to understand than to obey?
    • 6.       Is it more important to me to know than to believe?
    • 7.       Will one side of the question inconvenience me?
    • 8.       Do I reject a particular truth because it will inconvenience me?
  • “The Christ-like mind counts for nothing what the world holds dear and holds as all-important what the world counts for nothing”
  • “If I am to love the Lord my God with all my mind, there will not be room in it for carnality, for pride, for anxiety, for the love of myself. How can the mind be filled with the love of the Lord and have space left over for things like that?”

Now here a just a few things God has taught me so far during college life:

  • ·         Find ways to perform acts of love to your roommate. God revealed this to me within the first couple of days, and it rocked my world. If I want my roommate and I to love each other on a spiritual level where we can have deep fellowship and build a firm friendship, I need to show love to her in tangible ways. How do you do that, you ask? Here are some things God has shown me:

o   Get stuff out the night before I’ll need in the morning so that I’m not rattling around in the morning trying to find it while she’s still sleeping
o   Try to take short showers so she can get to the bathroom if she needs it (this has been a struggle for me…I love long showers)
o   Cleaning the room / my stuff every chance I get
o   Making up my bed
o   Getting more stuff to decorate the room with (my roommate is very creative and artistic, so she’s bought lots of stuff for the room…our room is super awesome by the way J)
o   Simply praying for her
o   Maybe leave your roommate an encouraging note for them to see before they wake up or leave for class (I haven’t done this yet…probably should)
o   It’s been a long time since I’ve shared a room with someone, so the whole living-with-a-complete-stranger thing was very interesting for me. Honestly though, it’s been a tremendous blessing. God has given me an amazing roommate who has already taught me so much about boldness, which is CRAZY because “boldness” is what I’m trying to focus on this year….God is so good and faithful. My roommate and I definitely aren’t strangers anymore. J
  • ·         Be confident in your identity. I’ve been around the same people for a long time, so I got very comfortable in who I was. Starting from scratch in a new place with no familiar face in sight made me question, “Oh wait…who am I again?” No matter where you go to college, there’s always someone around that you think, “Man…that person is really cool. How is it that we are made of the same stuff?” Well, I had lots of those moments, and started becoming discouraged. I came into college wanting to contribute something. To lead. To disciple. But when I got here, it’s almost like all knowledge and confidence had been sucked out of me like a vacuum. If you know me well, you know I’m a really goofy kid, but when I came here I felt so serious and tense…I didn’t like it. I didn’t feel like I was being myself. I became jealous of all these cool people around me, whether it was my roommate, my orientation team buddies, etc. I finally gave it to the Lord and asked for forgiveness. I repented of forgetting all the things the Lord had taught me this summer. We are to be humble, but we are to be confident in Christ. “Therefore, let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16). Be confident in who Jesus has made you to be, but be humble in that He is not done with you yet.

  • ·         Be patient. I have lots of friends back home, but they are all off having their own adventures. I realized very quickly that I wasn’t going to just show up at college and win over tons of new friends that I could have deep conversations with and laugh with, just like the “good ole days”. Maybe that day will come, but it won’t happen overnight, and whether I would admit it or not, I really thought it would. There are so many things I want to happen in the relationships I have already formed here, but they will happen in God’s timing and not my own. I am not picking up where I left off at home – I am starting afresh. Starting afresh is beautiful but also a little intimidating. It requires patience and surrender to the Lord’s timing.  
  • ·         Be humble. When you’re in college, it’s so easy to concentrate on yourself. “What can I get out of this class? What’s my major going to be? What man am I going to marry? What’s in this education thing for me? What’s the career I am shooting for? What’s best for me? Me? Me? Me?” Yes, obviously college is somewhat about you… I mean it’s your life (well, it’s the life God has given you, but it’s your life, not your neighbor’s or best friends or mothers). But it’s also so much bigger than you. Gaining a college education is about serving the Lord and the kingdom. Not only is the actual attaining of a degree for the Lord and others, but so is what you do outside the classroom. What are some practical ways you can serve your hall mates? Roommate? Professors? Teammates? The community you live in? The people who work in the cafeteria? In facilities? Think about it. Act on it. Be humble in that you still have a lot to learn and are here as a servant, but be confident in that God can use you and your gifts to benefit those you encounter.

  • ·         Now for some not-so-deep stuff: snack tips!

o   Healthy drinks (besides water…drink LOTS of water!): V8 splash Tropical Blend and my roommate introduced me to Lipton Diet Green Tea (delicious)
o   Not-so-healthy drinks: Well first of all, invest in a Keurig for your room…it’s amazing. I’m not a coffee gal, so I stick with chai tea and hot chocolate. My roommate is also a tea master, so she’s helping me branch out in the tea area. But seriously – it’s worth the investment
o   Snacks: just make sure you have a balance. I have Hershey’s milk chocolate drops on my desk, but I also have bananas and other stuff. Get some fruit! The new thing I’ve discovered is putting raspberries (or any other berry) in a little cup, mashing it with a spoon to make it into a more jelly texture, put some whipped cream on it and voila! C’est parfait! And nutella. You gotta have nutella, or at least I think so J

  • ·         This has absolutely nothing to do with college life, but it’s been on my heart lately and has definitely been all over social media: pray for Miley Cyrus. Whenever she has come to mind the past couple of years, I thought of Miley with condemnation, disgust, and sadness; the latter feeling is the only one that should be permissible. I was very snobbish in how I viewed her, and I’m praying that God would change my heart on the subject. I think sometimes we forget to pray for celebrities. Christians do an OK job of praying for leaders like the president or other important figures, but we forget about the harsh, cruel world of Hollywood. Miley Cyrus is a broken human being just like the rest of us; her life is just much more on display. Pray for her. I read an article today where the author said she just wanted to invite Miley into her home so she could befriend and console her. I think that’s a beautiful picture of Jesus. I’m sure there were a few crazy people wandering the streets in Jesus’ day, but I believe He talked with them. Comforted them. Wowed them with His compassion and authority. Why should we treat the fellow broken any differently? Miley Cyrus is a sinner. So am I. So are you. Even if it’s just a silent prayer as your falling asleep, pray for Miley. Let’s show some humility. Let’s show some love.

So that’s the end of my ranting for the day; sorry for all the random, scattered thoughts. Hope you all are having a fabulous start back to the school/work/whatever life! God bless!