Monday, August 23, 2010

25 things God taught me this summer

This has been the most spiritually growing summer of my life. Almost daily, God revealed something new to me. Sometimes He just reminded me of something I already knew, but every single time He proved to me just how perfect and precise His timing is and that He is always listening to my heart and that He cares more than I can imagine. His love leaves me in awe. Now that school is starting and life is getting busy, I don’t want to forget all that I have learned…so I’m making a list.

1. Sometimes God uses unfortunate circumstances to remind you that you need Him. -This was definitely a theme of my summer, but it was also the first thing I learned. Travelling to Maputo was filled with obstacle after obstacle, and it was just what I needed to remind me to turn to God. “God does not always rescue us out of our painful season…He does not always give to us what we so desperately want when we want it. He is after something much more valuable than our happiness…He is restoring and growing in us an eternal weight of glory. And sometimes…it hurts.” -Captivating

2. God answers prayer. -This is a very simple concept that I should never forget, but God reminded me non-the-less. Even in the little things, God showed me that He cares and will do what I ask. Whether it be healing a sick stomach, or breaking me down to the point that He is all I had, or taking away something I love because it was taking away from my oneness with Him, God answers prayers. Even when I don’t remember what I prayed for, God does, and He ALWAYS comes through.

3. You have to let your life go, or you’ll screw it up. - If you think you can control your life better than God, you’re crazy. Unless God is in control, it will just be one dead end after another. You have to die to yourself in order to live in God. When you finally let go of your life, there is so much peace.

4. Focus on God. -This is honestly the most important thing I learned this summer. When my focus is truly on God and His purposes and what will bring Him glory, not only is there a peace that truly surpasses all understanding, but things fall into place exactly how God wants them to, which is really exactly how YOU want them to if you’re seeking after Him. There is no happier thing than to be doing what God created you to do. I wrote in my journal, “If I don’t make God the focus of my life, even the things that make me happy won’t anymore.” He must become greater, I must become less. [John 3:30]

5. I love God, and God loves me, even when I don’t feel it. -Emotions aren’t trustworthy. No one always feels happy or always feels content or always feels…anything. Relationships are about so much more than emotions.

6. Be patient and wait on the Lord. -This one speaks for itself, but is definitely not something I mastered, or even got a little bit good at. I’m still very very impatient, but God’s timing is not our timing. We don’t get what we want when we want. And His timing is PERFECT and precise.

7. My unrighteousness brings out God’s righteousness. Where I am weak, He is strong. -There’s never a time when I will be good enough to approach God, and if I try to wait until I fix myself to go to God, then I’ll never be able to. God doesn’t want that at all, and honestly…I can’t fix myself even a smidgeon. You go to God and He fixes you. He restores your soul and renews your mind and transforms you to look like His beautiful Son, and in the end there is no mistaking that God did this. He receives all the glory, which is how it should be.

8. God is the healer of broken hearts. -This is a concept that every single human being can comprehend. We have ALL been heartbroken at one point or another over something. God is the only one who can truly free us of that pain and brokenness and make us new.

9. God is universal. -Everything about God is exactly the same no matter where you go. He is the same God in Africa as He is here. People feel Him and know Him the same in every corner of the world. He loves us all the same no matter where we’re at. In Maputo we sang “God of this City”-the Mozambicans in Portuguese and us in English, and it was the most beautiful sound. It was such a blessing to worship the God of our universe together in a way that is so beautiful to Him. His children were united.

10. There truly is a peace that transcends ALL understanding when you seek God. -One of the biggest things I learned this summer (which goes back to number 4) is the when my focus is on God, I have peace. It does transcend understanding. It’s not that anything makes any more sense or that any of the unfortunate circumstances are better, it’s just that I’m focusing on God and He’s giving me peace.

11. Every situation is an opportunity to bring God glory. -Whatever you do, do it for the glory of God. [1 Corinthians 10:31]. I’ve really begun to understand that absolutely everything I do, every action, every word, even every thought, can and should be used to show people God. I want people to see God, and only God, when they look at me. I don’t want my humanity to taint they’re image of Him. Every person I meet, I can bring glory to God. Every conversation I have, I can bring glory to God. In EVERY situation, I can bring glory to God, and I should. But in the end, it’s not about what I do, it’s about surrendering and letting God shine through me despite what I do.

12. Notice God in the little things. -God does things for each and every one of us to make us smile. Once, this summer, he sent me a family of beautiful butterflies to flit around on a patch of daisies for me to take pictures of. It made my heart smile, and I knew it was a gift directly from God to me. These little things happen ALL the time, and we rarely acknowledge them. He loves me in a unique and special way. He loves me individually. He loves you individually too. He created you, and He knows what makes your heart smile. He loves to make you smile. He’s a passionate God and He is romancing me all the time, I just don’t always see it.

13. Christianity is about relationship. -Your relationship with God is the most important thing, followed by your relationships with people. We show God’s love by loving others. I’ve always been horrible at maintaining friendships, but I am really determined this year to reach out to new students and truly care for them. I want to follow up on them and to seek them out and to show them that they ARE cared for. I’m going to go to events and just talk to people. I can’t do any good for God’s kingdom if I won’t go out and live in it.

14. The journey with God is one day at a time. -As I stated in the previous blog entry, this is Jared and my motto. Things only make sense if you seek God daily and just focus on what He wants for you TODAY. As I read through my journal from Africa, this is the same advice Chief gave me when I talked to her.

15. When you pursue after God, everything else falls into place. -Nothing matters except God, and when you focus on Him, everything else will just fall into place. You will be happy and at peace, and He will take care of your every need. There is nothing in this world that you need to concern yourself with except God and glorifying Him and building His kingdom.

16. God punishes us because He is a good Father and He loves us. -God will punish me for forgetting Him, and take away the things that keep me and Him from being one, but then He will “allure me” and “speak tenderly” [Hosea 2:13-14] to me. He wouldn’t discipline me if He didn’t care, and He cares so very very much. Discipline sucks, but it produces righteousness and peace. [Hebrews 12:11]

17. Trouble is never wasted on believers. -It is used to make us stronger and more mature. God makes ALL THINGS work for the God of those who love Him.

18. Actions alone do nothing; you have to LOVE God and WANT to do things for Him. -I struggled with this so much. I read my Bible and prayed because I knew I needed to, but I didn’t want to. I wanted to be passionately in love with God, but I didn’t know how. And this is a toughy, because nothing I did, and nothing you do, will change that. But when you just surrender to God and just seek Him, when you take the first step, He will carry you the next few. He will change your heart to match His. “Follow me and I will turn you into what I need you to be.”

19. Sin is individualized. -Obviously, there are sins that are universal, but some sins are individualized. If it keeps me from being one with God, it’s a sin. If it distracts me from God, it’s a sin. The thing that distracts me may not distract you. TV is a sin for me, because it consumes my life. I feel convicted about wasting the time God gave me. He didn’t allow me to live another day so that I could sit on the couch and watch tv all day. Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial. [1 Cor. 6:12]

20. Jesus ADORES us. -The shortest verse in the Bible says Jesus wept…and what did he weep about? That Mary was deeply trouble. He cares that we’re sad. He’s not like, “Who cares if your brother is dead, you only need me so be happy.” He understands and he hurts when we hurt.

21. God is the only one who has any answers for me. -People are just people, and they’re struggling with things of their own. Every situation I am in is so unique, and God’s plan for me is unique, and His purpose for my struggle is unique, so my guidance must come from Him alone.

22. Love God. -The key to everything is to love God. How? Know Him. How? Read His word and spend time with Him.

23. Stop worrying. -It’s ungodly. To worry is to not trust God. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace that transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” [Phil. 4:6-7]

24. This life is bigger than me. -Me and my wants are really insignificant in the grand scheme. This point of my existence is to do God’s will and to bring Him glory. If I focus on anything more than I focus on God, I’m misguided.

25. God graciously gives all things. -He already gave us His Son, why would He hold anything else back?

Yes, that was long, but God is so good, and he taught me SO much this summer. :) Praise Him!