Growth

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Isaiah 53:5 (MSG)

2-6 The servant grew up before God—a scrawny seedling,
    a scrubby plant in a parched field.
There was nothing attractive about him,
    nothing to cause us to take a second look.
He was looked down on and passed over,
    a man who suffered, who knew pain firsthand.
One look at him and people turned away.
    We looked down on him, thought he was scum.
But the fact is, it was our pains he carried—
    our disfigurements, all the things wrong with us.
We thought he brought it on himself,
    that God was punishing him for his own failures.
But it was our sins that did that to him,
    that ripped and tore and crushed him—our sins!
He took the punishment, and that made us whole.
    Through his bruises we get healed.
We’re all like sheep who’ve wandered off and gotten lost.
    We’ve all done our own thing, gone our own way.
And God has piled all our sins, everything we’ve done wrong,
    on him, on him.

I love this quote. I often feel a little…out of place. Kind of stuck in that perpetual feeling of puberty where you just feel a mess. It’s like that age where you don’t know what to do with your hair because it’s greasy now, and your feet are bigger than the rest of your body, and you haven’t learned what styles of clothes actually flatter your body. Right? Well that feeling, exists. I’m 27 years old and that feeling exists. And I think as awful as it can feel at times, it’s part of being a Christian. We are continually being made new and learning to be more and more like Christ and less and less like ourselves. God has placed unique purpose and dreams within us and as we grow up in the faith it is normal to feel like they are too large, or we can also feel like we don’t know what they are and as a result feel loss in a sea of possible callings or purposes. It’s important to remember this is not a fast growth spurt. We will spend our entire lives learning. And I bet it won’t end here. I bet we’ll still be learning and growing in eternity.

I like this Bible verse because it reminds us that Jesus was the same way. The verse reminds us that he was “a scrawny seedling” and “a scrubby plant in a parched field.” The Merriam Webster dictionary refers to scrubby as “small and not growing well” and “inferior in size and quality”. God Himself in human form was referred to this way. It also goes on to say “there was nothing attractive about him”. I don’t know about you but I have felt all of these things. In fact I’m feeling these things today as I post this. I feel “inferior” “not growing well” and especially “nothing attractive”. But the great thing is even though Jesus Himself was thought to be all of these negative things, the truth is that He was so much more.

I encourage you that no matter how you are feeling, Christ felt it, but ultimately we know who we are. And if we don’t know who we are we need to remind ourselves who Christ makes us and who God thinks we are. Not what others see.

Senses

I was on the phone with my mom yesterday as I was commuting to work. Everyone on the bus was very loud and so to focus on what she was saying I closed my eyes. In that moment I got a revelation:

“When you can’t see what’s ahead you have to listen to God more”.

I find that so true. There is so much vying for my attention. Social media, the opinions of others, what society tells you is important, what you think is important, things that you want right now but haven’t happened yet, etc.

It is important to remember that your vision might not be clear, but God’s voice is. You don’t see anything ahead but God does. He saw you before you entered time and humanity, He has seen our entire lives from start to finish, He has probably already seen what we will be doing with Him in Heaven one day. He’s wild like that.

It was a humble thought that centered me in this moment. It’s okay to deprive yourself of one of your senses. In this case sight. I remember hearing once that when one of the senses is diminished i.e. taste, sight, sound–the other senses become stronger and I think this is extremely important when thinking about your relationship with God. At any given time you can feel blind, you can feel deaf, and in these seasons you have a choice. You can be paralyzed by the loss of that sense, or you can hone the other senses, you can improve them. You can use the others to compensate for the loss of the one.

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Innerancy vs Infallibility

Hey guys,
Last week I started my first night class through my church, Hillsong NYC: “Theology: Faith Foundations”. I’m pretty excited to learn more about the Bible, my faith, and basically how to be a better more well-informed Christian. After we were done with our class we were given some homework. The assignment was to define the terms Innerancy and Infallibility and decide which one we agree with. I thought I would challenge you guys to look these terms up too, and see what you think. I’m going to share my thoughts on the assignment below:
The word inerrant means to be incapable of being wrong and the word infallible takes the same idea a step further to me by adding a relationship aspect to it. By using synonyms to define it like trustworthy, accurate, etc. it seems to me that infallible is much more relational than the cut and dry right/wrong of inerrancy. In a lot of ways they seem like two sides of of the same coin. 
 
I believe the Bible is infallible meaning it is trustworthy. It runs the scope of many different well-respected authors and the accounts of historical events and miracles are similar. It’s not like the Bible argues and conflicts with itself and authors had vastly different accounts of how an event happened. I am comfortable with the relationship of a person to their Bible because it is still speaking to us and teaching us through the Holy Spirit. We aren’t solely relying on our own knowledge or view of what we are reading, we have help from God himself and in that sense it is trustworthy. We aren’t relying on what people said years ago to teach us but we are allowing the Helper/the Holy Spirit to minister to us and reveal knowledge to us through the Bible. I think it is possible that there could be errors in details like, perhaps, geography, but these are not crucial facts to the Christ’s teachings. I recall hearing years ago in Church that there is primary and secondary doctrine. I think this is somewhat the same thing. Meaning, there are things that are fundamental to Christ in the Bible i.e. virgin birth, salvation through Christ alone, the Trinity, Christ’s death and resurrection, etc. These things are incapable of being wrong because it would rip apart our whole belief system if any of these things aren’t true. And then there are other things like what version of the Bible you read or if you believe in being dunked in Baptism or sprinkled. 
 
The Bible even says in Matt 23 that there is a sort of distinction between matters in levels of importance:
 
“23 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. 24 You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.”
 
I still find the comparison a little confusing but based on the definition alone I think I lean more towards infallibility. 

Hump Day

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I’ve been finding two of my co-workers challenging the past month. It seems whenever they make jokes, I am the subject and it is with a judgmental, condescending tone. I am fully aware that this could be a “guy” thing. I work with all men. However, my patience, to be honest is thin. It is in times like this that I am forced to remember what God thinks of me. That God sees my heart. That God knows my motivations and my heart and I know I am doing the right things. I have not brought this behavior on myself. I am not deserving of condescending words or mockery or anything of the sort. There are times in life where you reflect and with being honest with yourself come to realize you are at fault, but I can honestly say I’ve reflected and I know it isn’t me in this situation.

Sometimes it seems like when you are at your best, thriving, in my case at work, that the Enemy uses other people to try to make you question yourself. Luckily over the past several years I’ve gotten better at recognizing his voice and how he can make situations or people throw darts your way. Luckily over the past few years through the grace and love of God, I’ve learned to value myself more and more importantly see what God thinks and feels for me in a way I’ve never before. I love this quote because it reminds me that no matter what my limitations are, in feeling attacked, or teased, or annoyed with what is happening, I can rest in knowing my God has none. He is limitless. He is above all things. And I am grateful to be His child. In so many situations I have been exhausted, unable to make things change, have been anxious, or drained and in these moments I’ve been able to see God be God. To fill in the gap.

I just want to encourage you that no matter what hump you face on this Wednesday, this “hump day” God is always on the other side. He will get you through anything. Trust me. There were times and situations that threatened to destroy me, that I saw no solution to, that I was even at times mad at God for giving me or allowing. And in each scenario He has proven Himself faithful. He has lovingly even given me praise in my jobs, in my leadership roles, in my life despite all the times I yelled at Him or felt abandoned by Him.

Granted there are still areas I wished were different but they don’t seem as dire in the wake of all the answers He’s already given me.

Be of good cheer.

Life Happens

It’s been a hard few days. My brother who I’ve mentioned previously is schizophrenic was having a very irritable few days, my mothers side of the family has been trying to make my mother and I feel bad for going to London for a vacation and church trip we have been planning for a year, my father broke a glass bulb throwing it at my mom during a fight, it’s like really? There are times when life can seem to collapse all around you.

It’s important during these times to not allow life to drown you in drama. God is still on the throne. God is still my Father and He has great plans for me. He has great plans for you too.

I pray simply that God keep me strong and also motivated. I pray that I continue to make Him proud. I pray that this year will be better than the last. I pray that my blog will honor Him and encourage you.

Much love,

Jess

Thursday Inspiration 4.9.15

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From Colossians 2 MSG

Everything of God gets expressed in him, so you can see and hear him clearly. You don’t need a telescope, a microscope, or a horoscope to realize the fullness of Christ, and the emptiness of the universe without him. When you come to him, that fullness comes together for you, too. His power extends over everything.

11-15 Entering into this fullness is not something you figure out or achieve. It’s not a matter of being circumcised or keeping a long list of laws. No, you’re already in—insiders—not through some secretive initiation rite but rather through what Christ has already gone through for you, destroying the power of sin. If it’s an initiation ritual you’re after, you’ve already been through it by submitting to baptism. Going under the water was a burial of your old life; coming up out of it was a resurrection, God raising you from the dead as he did Christ. When you were stuck in your old sin-dead life, you were incapable of responding to God. God brought you alive—right along with Christ! Think of it! All sins forgiven, the slate wiped clean, that old arrest warrant canceled and nailed to Christ’s cross. He stripped all the spiritual tyrants in the universe of their sham authority at the Cross and marched them naked through the streets.

I love this simple reminder—I am complete in Christ. God made me alive just as He made Christ alive after the Cross. We can see the fullness of Christ because He has made Himself clear to us. It is a reason to rejoice.

Karrueche Tran

“Dear God, Please keep me strong. To keep me strong, keep my head up and to put my best foot forward and to love regardless of whatever situation I go through. You know always love and be kind. To stay strong and keep the faith.” – Karrueche Tran

I don’t follow much in Hollywood and the Entertainment Industry when it comes to celebrity gossip. I work in a field where I so see a lot of headlines, but I don’t catch everything that’s out there or follow everything that’s out there.

Someone on my Facebook page posted an article about this girl Karrueche Tran and since she usually posts good articles I clicked on it. Long story short Karrueche Tran dated the singer Chris Brown who after some time, cheated on her. Through the power of the internet I was able to see that she did an interview and it inspired me to post today.

I don’t know much of anything about Karrueche Tran which I think is a good thing because I can be objective. I feel bad for this girl. I feel bad because I can relate. In my past I dated a guy who totally destroyed my trust through his use of drugs and other women while we were together. You suffer sometimes silently as a result. And sometimes you break down publicly whether it’s at work or school or grocery shopping. It’s truly sad in her case to have to go through something so painful with everyone in America watching you crumble. It’s even worse when social media enables people to heckle you in the midst of your suffering.

I hope this is a reminder to us all that we are not all that different from celebrities. It’s easy to thumb through a tabloid in line at the airport or laugh at snarky Tweets while watching our favorite show. But I think all of this has eroded our humanity. This isn’t all entertainment. This is still real people and their real problems in their real lives. I hope by extending grace in all aspects of social media–that it will no longer be acceptable to harshly judge and mock people from the comfort of our personal computers and cell phones. Proverbs 12 tells us that our words have the power to build up and the power to destroy. I don’t want to ever fall into the trap of destroying someone else with my judgmental words because it’s “funny”. I encourage you to build up someone you see is being torn down, even if it’s a celebrity you see being bullied on social media.

So as silly as this is. I wanted to make a comment on this especially after reading people’s horrible comments under the YouTube videos and seeing particular comments highlighted during the video that were extracted from Twitter.

Dear Karrueche,

I saw your interview online and I was proud to hear that you are owning your mistakes and being honest with yourself and your own brokenness. You said it many times and you are correct. We are human. I think after my own relationship’s demise years ago I began a new journey with God. I didn’t realize that through my Father’s own inadequacy in my life and bullying from peers growing up that I had very low self-esteem. I don’t say this to belittle your feelings but to merely acknowledge that I’ve been there too. When you are finally given attention and believe that you have found love you are willing to endure anything to keep it. As a romantic myself you can get lost in the fiction of it all. I love Jane Austen and Shakespeare and it seems so poetic to have such pain when you’re in love because it seems to validate that your love is real. That your love is passionate. That your love is unique. I would be lying to myself if I were to tell you that I am completely over it. There are still days even years later that it fills me with sadness. There are even more shameful days where I miss that relationship. It is important to remember whether you are at your best or at your worst when reflecting on your past that God loves you not only infinitely more than a man could, but loves you more than you even love yourself. In the times where I mourn my past relationship I am quickly reminded that I love myself less. Meaning, I don’t love myself completely yet. I am still healing. I am still in a small way, saying that my past hurt wasn’t bad enough and I could reunite with my ex. I tell myself that it is still a love worth missing. The greatness of God is that He will always listen to my cries and my prayers but His will for my life will be done. Not in a a controlling way, but in a gracious way. If my past relationship is full of pain and feelings of unworthiness He is not going to give me what I ask. As a healthy loving dad would, He desires more.

The Bible says it best in Matthew 7:9-11 NLT ““You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? 10 Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! 11 So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.”

You see? In essence we have settled for snakes and God wants to give us a fish. We have settled for tainted love when God wants to give us His true love and because of His true love He wants to give us a man who is worthy of His daughter. I pray that you continue to go to church and realize how much God loves you. I pray that you continue to heal. I pray that you will always be loving and kind. I pray that you guard your heart from those who would bring it harm. I pray that you will be strong and keep the faith. Last but not least I pray that you will (if you haven’t already) surrendered your life and all of your hopes and ambitions to Christ. I can honestly say that I regret nothing in my past. Over the course of the past few years I’ve felt happy and loved by God as I wait for His many blessings to unfold. I declare Isaiah 62 MSG over your life from this day onward as not only a verse you can hold to but a hope and a promise from God:

You’ll be a stunning crown in the palm of God’s hand, a jeweled gold cup held high in the hand of your God. 4 No more will anyone call you Rejected, and your country will no more be called Ruined. You’ll be called Hephzibah (My Delight), and your land Beulah (Married), Because God delights in you.

Love,

Jessica

Monday Inspiration 4.6.15

Hebrews 10 MSG

11-18 Every priest goes to work at the altar each day, offers the same old sacrifices year in, year out, and never makes a dent in the sin problem. As a priest, Christ made a single sacrifice for sins, and that was it! Then he sat down right beside God and waited for his enemies to cave in. It was a perfect sacrifice by a perfect person to perfect some very imperfect people. By that single offering, he did everything that needed to be done for everyone who takes part in the purifying process. The Holy Spirit confirms this:

This new plan I’m making with Israel
    isn’t going to be written on paper,
    isn’t going to be chiseled in stone;
This time “I’m writing out the plan in them,
    carving it on the lining of their hearts.”

He concludes,

I’ll forever wipe the slate clean of their sins.

Once sins are taken care of for good, there’s no longer any need to offer sacrifices for them.

I love Jesus. I love God. I love that my sin and inadequacy was mercifully wiped away through Jesus’s crucifixion. No longer do I have to be a slave to religion and perform sacrifices as people did years ago. I have Jesus. His blood atoned for my sin. I love the picture the Message version presents by saying God didn’t rewrite rules for us like He did on tablets with the 10 Commandments. Instead, He wrote the plan IN US. Jesus died for us. He covers us. The Holy Spirit lives in us. It is written on our hearts. The very Word of God and the resurrection power of Jesus is written inside of us once we accept Him as Lord over us.

In the wake of Easter Sunday where you are reminded of this miracle, I am so grateful for the Good News and the endless, immeasurable love and peace I have from knowing who’s I am.

Be blessed.

Wednesday Inspiration 4.1.15

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I read this the other day and finally found the energy after a long work week to post about it. Please keep me in your prayers! I love this blog and I want to stay consistent in my writings.

Anyway, back to the point! Bear with me—it’s rather long but I love everything inside of it.

Romans 10 MSG
1-3 Believe me, friends, all I want for Israel is what’s best for Israel: salvation, nothing less. I want it with all my heart and pray to God for it all the time. I readily admit that the Jews are impressively energetic regarding God—but they are doing everything exactly backward. They don’t seem to realize that this comprehensive setting-things-right that is salvation is God’s business, and a most flourishing business it is. Right across the street they set up their own salvation shops and noisily hawk their wares. After all these years of refusing to really deal with God on his terms, insisting instead on making their own deals, they have nothing to show for it.

4-10 The earlier revelation was intended simply to get us ready for the Messiah, who then puts everything right for those who trust him to do it. Moses wrote that anyone who insists on using the law code to live right before God soon discovers it’s not so easy—every detail of life regulated by fine print! But trusting God to shape the right living in us is a different story—no precarious climb up to heaven to recruit the Messiah, no dangerous descent into hell to rescue the Messiah. So what exactly was Moses saying?

The word that saves is right here,
    as near as the tongue in your mouth,
    as close as the heart in your chest.
It’s the word of faith that welcomes God to go to work and set things right for us. This is the core of our preaching. Say the welcoming word to God—“Jesus is my Master”—embracing, body and soul, God’s work of doing in us what he did in raising Jesus from the dead. That’s it. You’re not “doing” anything; you’re simply calling out to God, trusting him to do it for you. That’s salvation. With your whole being you embrace God setting things right, and then you say it, right out loud: “God has set everything right between him and me!”

11-13 Scripture reassures us, “No one who trusts God like this—heart and soul—will ever regret it.” It’s exactly the same no matter what a person’s religious background may be: the same God for all of us, acting the same incredibly generous way to everyone who calls out for help. “Everyone who calls, ‘Help, God!’ gets help.”

14-17 But how can people call for help if they don’t know who to trust? And how can they know who to trust if they haven’t heard of the One who can be trusted? And how can they hear if nobody tells them? And how is anyone going to tell them, unless someone is sent to do it? That’s why Scripture exclaims,

A sight to take your breath away!
Grand processions of people
    telling all the good things of God!
But not everybody is ready for this, ready to see and hear and act. Isaiah asked what we all ask at one time or another: “Does anyone care, God? Is anyone listening and believing a word of it?” The point is: Before you trust, you have to listen. But unless Christ’s Word is preached, there’s nothing to listen to.

18-21 But haven’t there been plenty of opportunities for Israel to listen and understand what’s going on? Plenty, I’d say.

Preachers’ voices have gone ’round the world,
Their message to earth’s seven seas.
So the big question is, Why didn’t Israel understand that she had no corner on this message? Moses had it right when he predicted,

When you see God reach out to those
you consider your inferiors—outsiders!—
you’ll become insanely jealous.
When you see God reach out to people
you think are religiously stupid,
you’ll throw temper tantrums.
Isaiah dared to speak out these words of God:

People found and welcomed me
who never so much as looked for me.
And I found and welcomed people
who had never even asked about me.
Then he capped it with a damning indictment:

Day after day after day,
I beckoned Israel with open arms,
And got nothing for my trouble
but cold shoulders and icy stares.

I think this is actually a wonderful and timely scripture because of the impending holidays: Good Friday and Easter/Resurrection Sunday. Why? Here you go:

  • “They don’t seem to realize that this comprehensive setting-things-right that is salvation is God’s business, and a most flourishing business it is.”
    • Many people avoid church like the plague. And quite frankly even as a Christian who can blame them? The world shows church in entertainment and the news as a horrible place. Everyone inside is a hypocrite, people are falling asleep in their pews, the preacher lives a double-life, church members are picketing in front of establishments, street evangelists are telling passersby that they are going to hell. I’m not saying there may not be times and places for this especially throughout history. But what I am saying is that I don’t think it’s necessary to beat a dead horse with a lot of these procedures. Where are the people on the street corners sharing God’s love and grace. Where are the bold testimonies about lives of brokenness only restored through Jesus. Ultimately the issue with these sorts of things in church is that religion has made it about us. How bad we are. How fake we are. How hypocritical we are. I’m not saying these things aren’t true but what about talking about Jesus and how good HE is. How loving HE is. How merciful HE is. How unfailing HE is. I’m glad Jesus fulfilled the law. I’m glad that it’s about what HE has done and not what I have, am, or will do.
  • “Moses wrote that anyone who insists on using the law code to live right before God soon discovers it’s not so easy—every detail of life regulated by fine print!”
    • We’re human. We’re going to get things wrong. And back in the Old Testament pre-Jesus people had the law and tried to live right before God by adhering to it. However, this was still about humans. It was about us. It was about what we DID and not who God IS. God’s mercies are new every morning and I believe in keeping with who He really is, He sent His son, Jesus so we didn’t need to strive. We are limited. We are humans. We are sinful. But Jesus isn’t. Jesus is like our VIP pass into grace. We couldn’t be perfected any other way. It HAS to be Jesus. Only. Always. Jesus.
  • “The word that saves is right here, as near as the tongue in your mouth, as close as the heart in your chest.”
    • As someone who used to read and write poetry—that is some beautiful stuff right there. It reminds me that whether or not you’ve experienced and accepted Jesus you are closer to Him than you think. We were created by the breath of God. We are all His children whether we want to be or not. We strive for lesser things in this world, we fall, we get hurt, we hurt, and when it comes down to it, nothing is going to satisfy like Jesus. It’s who we are. It’s how we were made. We were made to be in relationship with our Creator. We were made for eternity. We weren’t made for this. This quote reminds us all that no matter what we’ve done or will do, salvation is here. We need only call out to Jesus. We need only respond to the longing in our hearts that calls for higher things. For greater things. For Heavenly things. Through Jesus’s death and resurrection power we are set free. If you believe in Him, confess with your mouth and believe truly in your heart, you will have eternal life with God. You will be saved. You are finally making it about Jesus and not relying on your own good works or life to get into Heaven. It’s calling out to God and trusting Him to do what only He can.
  • “A sight to take your breath away! Grand processions of people telling all the good things of God!”
    • These are the days we live in. Celebrities are getting saved. Churches are being packed full of new people. My own church, Hillsong, is gaining ground in other countries–opening new campuses, coming out with a movie, continuing to sell their music, and so on. The Bible speaks of these events. Tons of people telling others about the good things of God. Showing the joy and peace and eternal happiness that can be found in Him. And the best thing of all is it isn’t about us. God is so good that He saw us struggle to measure up and sent His son Jesus to make a way for us back to Him. It is Good News because it is Grace. Not Good Works. Not Good Living. Not anything but Him.

I hope this encourages you if you are not familiar with the true message of Jesus and the Bible and are possibly cynical towards Christians or “religion”. I also hope that it reminds you if you are already in a relationship with Jesus of the joy and peace that we already have and are promised forever.

It’s a new day. We can be new creations through God and God alone. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.