Saturday, April 23, 2011

darkness into light: my story.

Sitting here on Holy Saturday brings back a flood of memories of one not so very long ago...
Holy week 2008, was the darkest and then brightest week of my life. I had made some bad choices and gotten into bad situations over the months and years leading up to that week, they had gradually developed into habits, and had taken over my life-- even though i didn’t want them to. I had unknowingly invited demons into my life, and they WOULD.NOT.LEAVE.ME.ALONE. every time i tried to put myself back on the straight and narrow, they’d come and whisper lies to me. literally. i hated myself. I hated life. I hated my family. I hated God for not rescuing me from them, and i intended to do it myself. If you knew me then, you might have noticed there was a little something off in my life, but NO.ONE. knew what i was hiding. No one ever had to either. I was a good liar. I was a good pretender. I was fake. I had begged my way out of church youth band because I hated knowing who i was on sunday nights was different than who i was during the week. It was hard coming up with decent excuses to get out of positions of leadership, without revealing the truth, but I did it. I distanced myself from as many people as I could. I figured it was better to self destruct with as little contact in the outside world as possible. I figured no one would notice or care if i just disappeared. I was believing dreadful, horrid lies. 
Even as I go back into my journals from that year, I read entries of hopelessness, pain, fear, hate, anger, worthlessness. Not only was I struggling with these things, but I was broken and defeated by chronic illness. Funny thing is, I still have the chronic illness, but SO MUCH has changed- it no longer holds the power of defeat over me.
I was a ticking-time-bomb, and my time was running out. 
My parents had already begun repeatedly asking me what was going on in my life, what was I hiding. I insisted there was nothing. They insisted there was something. I knew what the something was. I wouldn’t tell them, no, i couldn’t. If I spoke my sins aloud, trust would be broken and it would “totally mess up my life as it [was]”
It’s funny in a sad way that I wrote that last phrase in my journal. it’s not like my life as it was was really nice. It was awful! But, finally something inside me pushed for one last chance at freedom and so on a day, about a week after my 17th birthday, I left my bedroom to find my mom. I went to her with the plan of only telling half of what was going on, but as I began the awful story, i realized telling half would get us nowhere. I fought hard with myself that day. But the Spirit of God gave me strength to speak the whole truth. I couldn’t believe how hard it was to tell the truth. I cried and sobbed. I feared my heart was literally breaking inside of me. In the end, when all my dirt was brought to light, when all the lies were exposed, I was overwhelmed at what I had done, what i had believed. BUT, My God is a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and abounding in faithful love! And thank God, my parents chose to be compassionate and loving as well.
As I began to work through my “stuff” with my parents, the demons heightened their assault, almost as if they had been ordered, “no, we’re not losing this one, you get in there and you DO YOUR JOB!” oh boy were they at it. I argued with them. I sobbed and begged them to leave me alone. I had already told the truth, what else could i do? 
The end of that week was Holy Saturday, the day before Easter. I had sunk into deep depression. my parents didn’t know what to do with me. I didn’t know what to do with myself. The consequences of my actions were much more than i wanted to bear. I wanted to be done with living. My favorite line in the world was, “I don’t care”. I just kept telling it to myself and my parents. I don’t care about life anymore. I don’t care if God is the only one who gives and takes life. I don’t care how it would impact so-and-so if i took my life. I did NOT care.
 I left a heated discussion with my mom and dad, and ran into some wooded area nearby. I just crumpled to the ground and sobbed. My dad cared enough to follow me (now it makes sense that he was probably concerned i would do something ridiculous). He just stood over me for a while (he put aside all his plans for that day to help me get through... thanks, daddy). I don’t remember what exactly occurred next, but let’s fast-forward to that evening. My parents decided that I needed more than what we had tried. So, they called in reinforcements. I was MORTIFIED. TELL OTHER PEOPLE?! I was sure I would be excommunicated, and our church doesn’t even do that! I wished they were kidding.
But they weren’t. Two couples from our church showed up on our doorstep, and sat down with us. When I told them my story, gosh i’m tearing up just remembering, they didn’t scowl, they didn’t freak out, they didn’t judge. All these things I expected, didn’t occur. Instead, they so lovingly encouraged me with scripture, personal stories, words of comfort. 
I had hoped for that from my parents, and gotten it, but from OTHERS? who didn’t know or love me as much? I couldn’t believe it. I was amazed, and felt hope rising every second. We talked for quite a long time, and when it came to a close, they laid hands on me and prayed over me. They reminded me that I am safe in the hand of God, and no demon, or even Satan himself has power to control me. When I tell them to leave in the name of Jesus, the Resurrected Son of God, they HAVE TO GO. 
They reminded me that my sins had already been forgiven. Thousands of years ago, Jesus died for ME. For what I had done. He knew I would struggle with the devil, and thank God, He knew I would come out triumphant through His Mighty Power.
When the couples left, I went to my room. It was 12:26 on Easter morning. I felt clean, I knew I was forgiven, I had hope that a new day was dawning, that the power of Hell couldn’t keep my Savior down, and my Savior would not let it keep me down.
I am free.
To this day, when those fleeting lies come, that I’m worthless, that life’s not worth it, I turn my eyes to Jesus Christ, and remind them i never have to go back to where i've been, because I know that my worth is found in Christ. My whole aim is to make much of Him and what He has done for me.
He called me out of darkness and into glorious light. 
This is why I love Easter. This is why I love to share the gospel of Christ. It is life changing. If we don’t have Christ to live for, we have nothing. we are nothing. He is everything and He is amazing.
I am SO. Thankful. for God’s grace and for loving, godly parents and friends. When i got myself lost, they brought me to the cross for forgiveness and direction. When I cried, they hugged me. When i struggled, they instructed me. I owe my very life today to the truth of the gospel and the dedication of other believers to not let me go my own way. 
To me, this will never be just the night before Easter. To me, this is the celebration of my very life. My life in Christ. 

In my life there are trials, there is pain, there will be mistakes, depressions, heartaches and crimes. Jesus himself said, “In this world you will have tribulation, but", he said, "BUT take heart, for 
 I live for that man. That God. That Jesus, the one who trampled over death by death, who rose in the glory of resurrection power to sit at the honored right hand of God, who made a way for me to be saved. I believe that. I live for that. I live because of that. 

Happy Resurrection Day, y’all. He’s alive, and we’re forever freed!


Thursday, April 21, 2011

Face in the Book

I keep finding reasons to not spend quality time in the Bible- I’ll pray instead, or read a good philosophical, devotional or inspirational book, or talk with a friend about what God’s been doing in my life. 
All these are GREAT things to do, buuuuut they should NOT keep me away from the Word. The Word of God is ALIVE and ACTIVE and it SAVES and CHANGES (as I’ve made note of in the past). The devil will do ANYTHING to keep believers out of it. Which is why I’ve got to do EVERYTHING I can to stay in it. It is POWERFUL and EFFECTIVE. He knows that, and hates it.

They say that even good things can be used to render a believer ineffective. I’m sure Satan’s perfectly content with “christians” serving in soup kitchens, rebuilding schools, gathering as a fellowship (church), until they start doing it in the Name of Jesus. Until they apply and share what they are learning in the Scripture to further the message of the gospel of Christ. 
Let’s not let the devil be content with what we’re doing. That'd be disgusting.
I, for one need to keep my face in that book. I don’t want to be rendered useless in my service to God. I want to be full of truth. Inspired into proper action by the living Word. 
So. I’ve decided. just now. like right, right now, like, even-after-i-started-writing-this-post kind of right now, That EVERY time I go to Facebook, when I see the words “face” and “book” I'll ask myself: Have I put my FACE in the BOOK yet today? and if not, I’ll reorganize a bit and pull my Bible off the shelf. Facebook's my new accountability partner :D
Maybe you’ll notice something in your daily agenda, that can serve as an accountability partner to keep you in the Word too. 
I think we’ll begin to find, that as far as the Kingdom is concerned, it’s well worth our time to keep our faces in the Book!

Monday, April 11, 2011

a peek into my heart

This I know and believe: that my Jesus loves me so very much more than I could begin to describe to you...

I can't get over the fact that Jesus knew before He even created the world, that He would give up His Godly comfort in heaven, take on human flesh, and walk the dusty road filled with shame to the cross, all to bear the punishment of my sin. And He chose to make me anyway. Before the creation of time, He knew He would make His Bethany to smile every time she saw a llama. He knew He would knit her with a keen sense of compassion for a country not her own. He knew what words, actions, people would make her giggle with delight. He knew what she would weep over. He knew she'd battle with a body ridden with weakness. He knew some days she'd proclaim His name. He knew some days she would do things that dishonored Him and hurt herself. He knew how she would even occasionally doubt his love. How that must have broken His heart. 
And yet, He still made me. He still loves me, in spite of myself. He chose to forgive me, and to pay the debt of death I owe. His love is so huge, that my heart can sing no other name but Jesus.
With tears of shame and repentance, joy and indescribable love, I sang these songs below to my dear Jesus this weekend at our church's women's retreat.
And reflecting on all this, I realize that my great love for Him comes pouring out in my every day life, because I can NOT keep quiet about what my Lord has done for me.
All praise belongs to Jesus Christ, the Son of the Most High God, who has redeemed me from my sins because He loves me.
Ach, He loves me.
His great love covers you too.
"I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world." John 16:33

Friday, April 8, 2011

Do I make sense?

At Passion 2011 Ft. Worth,
Francis Chan left me asking myself, “Why do I care about anything else [other than God]?”. He challenged us to not love the idea that there’s a God, just go ahead and love God! 
In the same way that I want to love God and not merely the idea of a God, I want to be changed, not just show a change.
getting real here: to a lot of people, I look pretty good, really good even. I’m a good person, and there’s no mistaking it. But in some aspects of my life, I find it hard to keep up that image of a good person. I know all the right things, and pull them out at the right times, but my heart isn’t in it. I’m showing a change that isn’t real inside. It’s not a true portrayal of Christ in me, it’s just a facade. And I don’t like that. Actually, I HATE that. And I've tried to change, but sometimes I just can’t figure out how.

I figured it out when...
Francis asked, “does your life as a Christian make sense?”
Philippians 1:27 tells us to let the way we live our lives worthy of the gospel of Christ.
He pointed out that lots of us have an “If I were God” opinion... like, “If I were God, I wouldn’t make people like her. I’d put myself in charge of this situation if I were God. If I were God, I’d (insert your personal wish here)”. 
My mind says: what we’re saying when we do that is, “If God were smart like me...” =O
oh my. I don’t think that’s what I'm wanting to say. because after all, he does hold my very next breath in his power.
And even if we’re okay with having the gross misconception that we’re smarter than God, it doesn’t change the fact that the only opinion that matters is still God’s. The opinion found in His Gospel. We should be living in a way that honors what His Word says.
God loves me SO much, that He watched His sinless Son, beaten and cursed, forced toward the cross, to take the payment for my sin.
That is IN CRED IBLE. My life should be different than your average “smarter than God”  believing human being who puts up a facade to appear good.. because I believe that.
I certainly wouldn’t have been smart enough to save the whole world, if I had the chance. I’d just be looking out for number one. me, myself and I. Or me and my closest friends. Or all the good people. But certainly not the people who've hurt me. or the prostitutes. or the thieves. or the murderers. or those people who hadn’t done anything socially unacceptable, but I just didn’t like them anyway. 
And if you had the chance, I’m not gonna assume that you’d save me. We’re just selfish like that.

Realizing all this, what else can i do besides actively pursuing change in my life to make me suitable to the gospel of the One who paid my eternal debt?
When people see my actions, hear me speak, or *glug* watch the hidden cameras into my private family life, they should be saying, “She’s a believer of the gospel of Christ? I can totally see it. That makes sense!”
So I’ve been asking myself since Saturday, “Is my life about the Bible?” Where does my choice of lifestyle come from? Where do I get my sense of justice and injustice? My idea of friendship? My sense of “my rights”? My sense of humility, kindness? Amidst the temptations and pleasures of this world, am I radically different? 
Does my life match up with the Scriptures?
Do I make sense, in light of the Gospel of Christ?

I've got to know the Word, and I've got to CHANGE to match the Word, if I'm going to live a life that truly makes sense.
Praying that every day, I make more and more sense,

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

To live is Christ

During the welcome session at Passion 2011 Ft. Worth, Louie Giglio said what we already knew, but he said it so well, i felt like it was the first time that I heard it!
First thing that I have in my notes:
“There’s nothing that can stop God from using me. He used Saul. He used Saul.” no, that wasn’t a typo: He used Saul. He used SAUL! let’s face it. it’s amazing. Saul was a murderer of the people of the Way... God’s Way. He was out to get Jesus. But God took hold of him and shook him up, and used him in UN.BE.LEIVABLE. ways.
Because Saul had a change of heart. wanna hear the story? Check out Acts chapter 9, i believe.
Secondly, after Saul’s (later Paul) change of heart toward Jesus, his whole way of life changed. So much so that he penned the words:
For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. Phil 1:21
To live is Christ. 
To die is gain.
That’s a great motto, no?
But I’ve switched it around in my life sometimes.
I act like to live is gain and to die is Christ.
I keep gaining, gaining, gaining, friends, acceptance, wealth. Whatever i’m doing, i’m gathering. and then, when I die, I’ll have Christ. I’ll be with Christ, I’ll worship Christ.
The Bible said:
To live is CHRIST.
My actions, my thoughts, my goals and desires, my everything is Christ. 
to die is GAIN.
When I die, I’ll gain the inheritance of the saints. I’ll gain a perfect body. I’ll gain the joy of being in the very presence of the Holy God.
To live is Christ and to die is gain.
I believe something like this was said: “Paul was saying ‘if you let me live tomorrow, you’ll get more Jesus. If you kill me tomorrow, I’ll get more Jesus.”
Paul’s life was Christ. 
so i’m asking myself.
Is Bethany’s life Christ? What needs to change so that my life IS Christ?
“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”

Symphony- Chris Tomlin


Passion; just the beginning

I thought to make one big Passion post, but I tried to write it and realized there’s just too much to write about. So I’ll take it in pieces. Sometimes I may post more than one part per day, but I don’t know that I’ll spam my FB friends with the links, so if you really wanna hear it, you may have to go looking for it :P
First, for all those wondering, Passion is a conference, but it’s also movement. It’s not an activity that Christian twenty-somethings check off their lists, it’s not an event that speakers and worship leaders use to get their teaching and service points racked up, all in one weekend. It’s just about being God’s, and understanding more of Him. 
This year specifically, it was more of why and how we can live completely and only for Jesus.
Our Speakers were Louie Giglio, Francis Chan and John Piper. We were led into worship by singing with Chris Tomlin, Christy Nockels, Kristian Stanfill, Charlie Hall and others. These are some of the most powerful and impacting ambassadors of Christ in our generation, in case you didn’t already know. :)
We sang several worship songs multiple times over the weekend, and every time, the messages that had proceeded them and the change that took place inside of my heart, added a whole new depth to the song i was lifting up.
I’ll post some of them at the bottom of blogposts occasionally.
So here’s the intro post...
Wow. Passion. Wow. It’s kind of scary writing my heart-thoughts out, to be posted for the world to see, because what I’ve realized this weekend is pretty basic, but radical, and I’m going to ask to be held accountable to what I’m saying. I absolutely don’t expect to be perfect at these things right off, and probably never, so please don’t beat me when i stumble, but I am aware of some things that need to change, for the glory of the name of Jesus Christ. 
A lot of things cannot be described, because there are no human words fitting for the joy, peace, and overwhelming love that I felt, and KNEW I have in Christ.
As funny as this sounds, this weekend was all about us realizing it’s not all about us.
And now you’re like, “Oh, Bethany, how very elementary. I KNOW it’s not about us. It’s about Jesus, and the Bible, and serving others, treating them better than yourself, la dadadada.... Didn’t you know that?”
And my answer: of COURSE I KNEW THAT!! and I know you know that too.
But do you know, know that? 
Do I know, know that? Does what I do project that fact to the whole world? 
Well, through Christ, I’m moving in that direction. (here’s one of the things you’re gonna be allowed to hold me accountable for.)
That right there is Giglio, Chan, Piper and the Apostle Paul in a mixed up, mashed up, much less powerful paraphrase. I’m sorry. but you’d have to be there and hear God speaking through them to really be astounded. I’m just not them. Or, better yet, I’ve purchased the access pack, so I’ll be getting the messages on my computer shortly. So you can come over to my house, we’ll pop some popcorn, make a smoothie and gather around the screen to watch it together. And then we can talk about it.
‘Cause as my family leader said (I’ll get into what the “family” is all about in a sec), if we just took in all this meat and didn’t digest it, it would rot. 
So. Family leader. if there’s a leader there’s gotta be a group to go with it, right? and there was. We had nine girls in our “family”, out of 2000 people in our “Community Group”. There were nine community groups all over the campus. Ours was the largest Community group, and our leaders and helpers and prayer warriors were from Breakaway Ministries at A&M campus.
Our families were randomly created, by a “go introduce yourself to a new person” game. I had never met any of the girls in my group, ever. And yet, i feel like I know them so well, because we spent so much time sharing, and encouraging, and opening up our lives to each other. 
We met four times over the weekend, and just got to share our hearts, and what God was speaking to us, asking us to change or do throughout the day.
I seriously believe God put me in the best family group at the whole conference. And I’m so thankful. 
So, Worship, Teaching, Family...
Well, that’s basically the gist of the weekend. I’ll go into specific things God revealed to me in the posts to come. but for now, just read a little of what we meditated on:
Phil 2:1-18
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy,  complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.  Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
 Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.

Waiting Here For You- Christy Nockels

Forever Reign- Kristian Stanfill