mighty deliverer

To fulfill one of my graduation requirements, I will be traveling to Athens, Greece this summer for six weeks with the mission organization International Teams.  To prepare for my travels, I’m taking a ministry internship class this semester.  The class consists of International Min., Urban Min., TESOL, and World Missions and Evangelism students.  On Monday we discussed injustices we’ve witnessed while being overseas or in urban city areas.  This is what we came up with:

Child prostitution
Corrupt government
Poverty
Unclean drinking water
Malnutrition
Homelessness
No jobs
Slavery
Forced prostitution
Aids
Hunger
Scarring
Orphans
Beggars
Starvation
Witchcraft
Trafficking

The next question my teacher asked was: Now what?  What are we going to do about it? In small groups we brainstormed for about 10 minutes then came back together as a class.  Some people had intelligent things to say while other people’s suggestions were just plain stupid.  I left that class feeling really discouraged.  As an International Ministry major preparing to travel overseas I thought why even bother? There is nothing I can do to help.

After class I went up to my room and opened my Bible to John.  Apart from me you can do nothing was the theme that rang over and over.  Then I looked at the verse I taped to my desk to read on occasions when I feel just this way.  Romans 15:12 – He will rise to rule the nations and He will give the nations hope.  While at times it does feel worthless, the Lord has promised us a mighty deliverer.  He is bigger than aids, prostitution, homelessness, and trafficking  and will return one day to restore His creation.  That is the hope I cling to and will proclaim until He returns.

Have a listen to Hillsong UNITED’s Tear Down the Walls.

childlike faith

Last night I went to PCM expecting to teach my students.  Instead, they taught me.  They reminded me what it means to have a “childlike faith” as described by Mark in his Gospel (vs. 10:13-16).  Unrestricted by theology, hermeneutics, or linguistics, my students have a simple faith.  And not that biblical or religious knowledge is bad – after all, I am a student at Moody Bible Institute – but we often let it hinder our faith instead of enhance it.

At the end of Sunday School we shared our prayer requests and I asked the kids to pray for one another.  It was beautiful!  They weren’t trying to “say the right thing”, sound super spiritual, or be extra serious.  In fact… they often giggled, peeked around the circle, and asked when it was their turn to pray.  This may be appalling to some – but, Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”

a haphazard happening

Today I really felt the need to get off campus.  After a few failed attempts to get some friends together, I ventured off by myself.  I started walking, not sure where I was going, and ended up on the el.  The brown line took me around the loop, I got off at Adams/Wabash, and decided the Art Institute would be fun.  It also happened to be free!

I perched myself in front of one of my favorite paintings – The Crucifixion by Francisco de Zurbarán – and began reading my Bible and journaling.  I had just finished Matthew and had moved onto 1 John.  In the middle of chapter two, a young, gorgeous, twenty-something walked in and sat down next to me.  She had beautiful, blonde, curly hair and I couldn’t help but notice her stunning Tory Burch bag, knee-high leather boots, and plush pea coat – very expensive no doubt.  We exchanged glances and I smiled while a single wave of jealousy swept over me.  She looked like she had just stepped off the set of Gossip Girl or the pages of Vogue while I sat there looking like a hot mess with my stained pants, disheveled hair, and my belongings strewn across the floor.  At that moment I wanted to be her because I liked what I saw.  I continued reading.  “Do not love the world or the things in the world…”

Woah!  Ok, God.  I continued again – “If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For all that is in the world — the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions — is not from the Father but is from the world.  And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.”  I was prepared for God to teach me something when I sat down in the museum, but I didn’t expect it to be instantaneous.  As I reflected on those words I could also see verse 1:9 underlined on the previous page – “If we confess our sin, He who is faithful and just will forgive us our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  So, I bowed my head and prayed.  Lord- Forgive me for the worldly desires that fill my mind.  Help me set my mind on things above.  While everything else will pass away, thank you for the promise of eternal life.  You are faithful.  Amen.

beauty

Out of curiosity, I looked up the word “beauty” in the dictionary the other day.  The definition read: “a combination of qualities, such as shape, color, or form, that pleases the aesthetic senses, especially the sight.”  In light of a… sunset perhaps it seems fitting.  However, when taking people into consideration… I was appalled.  We have reduced beauty to merely one’s appearance.

The world tells us that beauty is the most important characteristic to possess while our parents, teachers, friends, and role models desperately convince us otherwise.  How many times have you heard someone tell you “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” or “it’s what’s on the inside that counts”?  Unintentionally though, those very people, who tried to sway us against the world’s view, are just as guilty.  From an early age girls are taught to be beautiful and that beauty is derived from their appearance.  Most often the first thing someone says to a little girl is “you’re so cute!”  And we instill the importance of the world’s beauty in children through media.  Disney is by far the biggest culprit…

The Disney princesses – Snow White, Cinderella, Aurora, Ariel, Belle, Jasmine, Pocahontas, Mulan, Tiana, and Rapunzel – are seemingly innocent fictitious characters from our favorite childhood fairytales.  But further investigation leads me to believe that these movies implant an unhealthy view of beauty in young girls.  Snow White’s physical appearance was a threat to another woman so she was killed.  If you remember, the dwarfs were unwilling to bury Snow White because of her beauty and instead laid her to rest in a glass coffin.  A prince saves Cinderella from being a slave in her own home.  He does this not because she is a diligent worker, but because she is beautiful.  Princess Aurora (nicknamed “Sleeping Beauty”) has been described as Disney’s “most beautiful heroine” with her long golden blonde hair in loose flowing curls, sparkling eyes, rose-red lips, and statuesque figure.  She is killed out of spite and her fiancé saves her with a kiss.  Ariel is considered King Triton’s most beautiful daughter and gives up her voice in order to drastically change her physical appearance to be more attractive to a man.  Belle literally means “beautiful” in French.  When the Beast captures her father, Belle seeks to rescue him and asks to exchange her freedom for his.  The Beast is deeply moved by Belle’s beauty and obliges.

Now, please don’t think I’m condemning Disney or think you should stop telling your niece she’s cute.  Just be aware of and intentional about the things you watch and say.  There is nothing wrong with wanting to look good, but like everything else… there is a balance.

So…  What defines beauty?  According to the world it is: how thin is your waist, how white are your teeth, how big are your breasts, and how tan is your skin.  These superficial merits are lies the enemy feeds us!  And sadly, we repeatedly accept them.  1 Samuel 16:7 says But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him.  The LORD does not look at the things man looks at.  Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” What does this mean?  While the world focuses on what people look like on the outside, God focuses on what people look like on the inside.  Therefore, ask yourself this – do you spend more time and effort looking attractive on the inside or the outside?

lesson learned in the library…

Last weekend I was sitting in the library working on a research paper on the topic grace verses legalism.  I made my way into the commentaries section and grabbed everything I could on the book of Galatians because I knew Paul addressed the churches in Galatia on this very issue.  I brought the stack of books back to my work area and started reading through them.  One of them stood out from the rest for it was yellowed, withered, and the cover was a piece of art.  I stuck my thumb into the middle of the book and opened it up.  The words were like the sweetest poem I’d ever read.  Each syllable rolled off the pages like Lake Michigan’s waves breaking on the shore – slow and steady and without interruption.  I copied down all the quotations I wanted to use in my paper and then flipped to the front to jot down the information for my works cited page.  I was astonished!  The words I was reading were written by thee Martin Luther – monk, priest, and theology professor, most famously known for tacking up his Ninety-Five Theses on the doors of All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg.  I couldn’t believe it!  I carefully took down the information I need, slowly closed the fragile cover, cradled it in my arms as I brought it over to the stack of books I had already gone through, and gently set it down.  I came back to my seat and considered how remarkable it was that I was so fortunate to read the words of a great man who lived 460+ years before me.  Then a tide of conviction swept over me.  Yes, it was cool that I was reading the words of Martin Luther… but I have something even more outstanding than that.  I have the very words of God, the Creator of the universe (and of Martin Luther himself)!  “And these words of the LORD are flawless, like silver refined in a furnace of clay, purified seven times” (Psalm 12:6).  It is so easy to take the Bible for granted.  It sits on our bookshelf with the rest of our textbooks, on our nightstand with the spine unbroken, or in the backseat of our car convenient for Sunday use only.  Don’t be that person!  The pages of the Bible are God’s mission, love, and encouragement for us; they are “a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Psalm 119:105).