What it Really Means to Live through Faith, Hope and Love

My Chalkboard

I made this chalk board out bark and chalk spray paint… I then wrote this as a reminder of what God spoke to me.

 “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

– 1 Corinthians 13:13

This verse and passage of scripture is perhaps the most used along with Jeremiah 29:11. Wall art was created, tattoos done, all surrounding the truth that only faith, hope and love will abide. We have fallen in love with this concept, literally bought the t-shirt and placed it on the walls of our homes and hearts. But have we really understood what it means for only faith, hope and love to abide? Do we really get what this looks like when it is lived out on a daily basis?

If I may be blunt, my answer to this question is a resounding, big fat, NO! A couple of nights ago, I was spending sometime in prayer with my guy and as we took a couple of moments in silence I heard that very phrase play in my mind; ” Only Faith, Hope and Love will remain”. Now let me be clear, we were not praying for our relationship, or love etc. At the moment that I heard that phrase, I was asking God to make us both more like Him. I was praying to be people who dwell in the river of life that He has provided for us. I was asking Him to help me, not focus on the bad things I experience, the opinions of others towards me, etc., and to see what He sees in all people ( this is a daily prayer of mine). And God’s response to me was ” Only Faith, Hope and Love will remain.”.

CTA button for Blog UGI sat on that for a moment and then it hit me like a wave. What God was saying to us in that moment was that in ALL of eternity the ONLY  things that will last are the things that come from a place of “Faith, Hope and Love”.  No word that is uttered, no work that is done, no opinion, no idea, absolutely nothing done outside of faith, hope and love will stand in the fire on that day that before our God. All else will be burned up like kindling at a bon fire, but everything that was/is rooted in these three things will stand the test of time.

We worry about a lot of things. I could spend the next two hours writing a list of things we worry about. BUT I won’t, so insert your own worries/anxieties here _______________. However most, if not all of the time, the things that we spend our time and mental capacities worrying about, are things that will mean nothing and become ashes to be soon blown away and forgotten in eternity.

So my question for you is: How much of what you allow to dictate your emotions and actions is influenced by faith, hope or love? How much of what you do, say, or seek finds its origin in one of those three things? If you answer is less than “everything” ( and you know it is because you probably feel awfully uncomfortable now), my friend something has to shift.

Now what does it look like to live from a place of faith, hope and love? Well I think the beginning portion of the 1 Corinthians 13 passage makes it pretty clear; with patience and kindness, with humility and grace, with forgiveness and mercy, with justice and joy, with lots and lots of do overs, with seeing the best and believing the best always and in growing in the maturity and love of Christ daily.

In the words of my dear friend Janet, “Jesus put the flesh and bones on this passage”. In the gospels we see a beautiful picture of what this complex love, radical faith and un-moving hope looks like.

May we people who live from a place of “Faith, Hope, and Love”!

Amor Parace com Algo

cafe meroI’m sitting at a cafe, enjoining a tasty Nutella crepe and café colado, staring at my computer screen and listening to Mama Heidi Baker while trying to come up with words to explain my first week in Brasil. It is not an easy task. Lately words fail to describe the emotions, transitions and thoughts that race through my mind. I am learning and experiencing so much. I guess I could tell you about my new bedroom, roommates, ministry assignments, Brazilian food etc, but none of it has affected me as much as what is happening in my heart.  My new friend Larissa articulated what I am re-learning in the depths of my heart so beautifully; “Love looks like something”  (“Amor Parace  Algo” Mama Heidi).

Billmans

Love looks like spending lots of $ on marshmallows, so others could have their first s’more.( Pictured top left: Nic & Rachael Billman, and Johnny honoring Gi for her hard work with Shores of Grace.  Bottom left: Larissa, Josiah, and Johnny enjoying s’more’s. Bottom right: Myself and Lindsey, who has amazingly also taken great care of me, and has become a good friend in the process)

Since I arrived on the Shores of Grace base last Thursday, there has been a daily constant in my life: love. More specifically “o amor do Pai”, the love of the Father. It is like I am waking up every morning to a treasure hunt that leads me closer and closer to the heart of God for myself and others. While I have known the love of God and He has been deeply transforming me in recent months with His love, my experience here is like nothing I have encountered before. It is beyond the right theological beliefs or understanding of correct doctrine, something is happening deep within me and I know I will be forever be changed. I cry daily. Not because I miss home, or I am experiencing culture shock or even because there is any particular sadness in my heart. I cry because I can feel the love of God overwhelming my heart, as I sit and read, as I watch little girls jumping up and down shouting the name of Jesus, as I wash dishes with a new friend, and in my broken Portuguese I get to share my story as he shares his with me. I cry because this love goes beyond a feeling.  It is something I literally see, every day.

Mae Robyn and I

Robyn aka Mae Byn (sitting bottom right) has so kindly taken care of me this past week. She has shown me the ropes, shared her life with me and has been a beautiful example of grace and kindness towards me. Thankful for her and the experience we have shared so far. Such as meeting and having coffee with a beautiful Brazilian woman! I am blessed.

I see it in a volunteer or staff’s patience with me in answering all of my constant questions. I see it as my new friends stop and love on the ones right in front of them. I see it in the way each person is honored and treated as valuable. I see it in the face of a boy or girl from a favela (a ghetto that is ran by drug lords, worst than any American “hood”) sinking into the lap of a man or woman whose smile beams with the love of Jesus. I see as an entire group of people has given their lives to bring grace and hope to the women and children on the streets of Brazil. “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” – John 13:35 Now don’t get me wrong, I have seen the love of God in others before, in fact, I would see it every time I gathered with my church family in Nyack, New York. BUT there is something very different about this experience for me. Before leaving for Brazil I prayed “Father, teach me how to love like you do”. Through my day-to-day experiences and interactions, God is teaching about the depths of his love for me, and the world. And He is teaching me how to love, like He does. He is literally showing me what love looks like.

worship

Worship at the Shores base Monday night. Lots of dancing and joyous celebration of the One who loved us first. Betania Girls, children from a nearby favela, full time staff, guests and volunteers all join the celebration.

Love looks like washing the dishes. Love looks like truly listening to someone else’s story, with grace. Love looks like cleaning up the floor after a little girl pee’d her pants and making sure she is clean and has fresh clothes. Love looks like spending all day in the kitchen to prepare a meal so that others would feel honored and cared for. Love looks like a hug at the right moment. Love looks like forgetting about yourself and putting the needs, hopes and desires of the one in front of you, first. O amor de Deus se parece com alguma coisa, e eu desejo de ser aquele que mostra o seu amor bem. (Gods love looks like something, and I desire to be one who displays his love well.) May this also be your prayer, for truly it is by our love that the world will know HIM.

Luau

Our Wednesday Night Luau with the nearby favela kids. How awesome it is to be able to display God’s love through fun!

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The Harlot

brazil flagAs many of you might or might not know, this Thursday I am leaving to Recife, Brazil. I am going with a ministry called ” We See Jesus Ministries”(http://www.weseejesusministries.com) . Our team is joining with Shores of Grace ministries (http://www.shoresofgrace.com) in Recife and our plan is to work with the women and children that flood the streets through the sex trafficking industry.  We are going to bring the love and light of the Father into some of the darkest corners of the earth. A light and love that I, myself need, all of the time.

I sit here thinking about the adventure I will be embarking on, about the lives I will be able to touch and the women, the women who are being abused, mistreated, judged, labeled, abandoned, rejected, devalued. And I recognize that I have been just as broken as they. And though my pain, my sufferings, could never truly be compared to theirs, we are no different. Humanly speaking, we have the same hopes, dreams, desires and longing to be loved, accepted, welcomed, forgiven, and embrace. We long for the ones who would give us a 2nd, a 3rd, or a 4th chance. In the sight of God we are identical, we are His children, whom He longs to embrace in His grace for all eternity.

Yet I find myself in a very distinct place and I wonder. I wonder, why is it that I, who have encountered the grace and love of God sell myself short for other passions, other lovers, time and time again. Why do I find myself like Paul, embracing the things I hate, while shunning the things my heart actually desires? Why is it that God has to, time and time again buy me from another? When He already paid the ultimate price for me.

I realize I am no better than an adulterous woman, I am no better than a prostitute forced to sell herself to live, I am no better than a harlot. I too needed to be rescued, I too needed a holy man to enter into the dark, unholy corners of my life and set me free. And I too have a price, sometimes, way too low for my worth, with which I sell myself to any seemingly promising lover.

I am no different from the worst and chief of all sinners and broken persons, and neither are you. While the gravity of our mistakes and failures and shortcomings varies, truth is, to 1 degree or another we are all messed up and in desperate need of grace.

And yet when the God of the universe looks at you and me, He sees a beautiful, spotless bride He longs to marry. He sees a dream come true. He is filled with unshakable desire and passion. He sees someone who’s worth exceeds the finest of diamonds and whose price would empty the bank account of the universe to pay.

 So as I go to Brazil, I go with my sin, covered by the blood of Christ ever before me.  I have been the harlot, but today I am the Bride of Christ.  I go with a new perspective. One that recognizes that the most important thing one could ever offer/receive is the love of God. Because only a true a encounter with the love of the Father could set the captive free. Only His love can heal the sick, only His love can save a lost and dead soul. It is only by HIS love.

 “And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy.  I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the Lord.”– Hosea 2: 19-20

Pierced by Love


knowing I am lovedA couple of nights ago I was laying on the floor, on my face at Resting Place House of Prayer in New Jersey ( lots of Nyack College students and ATS students visit this place). And I was crying. I was crying over the fact that God is a high and lofty God. He is unapproachable light. His power could crush the universe. I was saddened by this amazing truth, because I realized that this same unapproachable God, is my Father and as much as I would want to approach Him, hug Him, run and sit on His lap in the throne room one day, I can’t.

It’s safe to say that my sentiment moved God’s heart. And instantly I was overwhelmed by a deep sense of love and longing, which were not my own. I felt the affections of this powerful God towards me. I felt a love that saw all of my dirt, all of my sin, all of my mistakes, all of my past, present and future failures but loved me the same. I felt this love wrap around me like a tight, strong, passion-filled hug.

And what I saw next has changed the depths of my being.  I saw a man clothed in white garments, He had a gold belt around His waist, and hanging off of His belt was a sword. He pulled the sword from its holster and carved as holes into the sword was the word ” LOVE”.  This man turned and the piercing light coming from His eyes kept me from being able to see His face. I tried hard to see what He looked like, but I couldn’t. And this man took His sword and pierced me with it. It was not an act of violence or hatred, but of penetrating truth. Seconds later Ali, one of the leaders at Resting Place says while praying: ” He wants to (Jesus does) pierce you with His Holy love…”

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Needless to say, I was undone. I wept and wept, because I got a glimpse that night of the length, the depth, the height, the width, of God’s love. A love that knows no bounds, that holds no records of wrongs, a love filled with grace and compassion. A love that is not only for me, but for all of mankind.

I have been reading a book by one of my professors at ATS called “Pathways to the King”. In chapter 2 Dr. Reimer talks about our pursuit of God… After reading this chapter, I took on the challenge of pursuing God. I recognized that, throughout my career as a college student in Nyack and even in my first year at ATS, God has always been in pursuit of me. But I have never really been in pursuit of Him. So for nearly a month now, I have been sacrificing; time, money, hanging out, etc. to seek the face of God. 

And in seeking, asking and knocking as hard as I can; I have been pierced by the transforming love of God.  The penetrating truth of His love, is not something for me to soak up and then continue living life, business as usual. His love calls me into action. It calls me to serve, to care and to hunger and to thirst for more and not just for myself, but for all those around me. It is a truth that has ever so gently forced a change in me. 

 His love is a love that has challenged me to view others, even love actsthose who hate me, as people who are also worthy of grace and redemption. It is a love that has moved me to sacrifice, not just for God, but for the sake of a sister who was in need.  It is a love that is truly not envious. It is a love that seeks the well-being of others.  Love that is marked not by word but by deed.  Love that has been teaching me, what it looks like to die to myself, pick up my cross and truly follow Him.

We read passages like 1 Corinthians 13 and we make great Hallmark cards out of them. We quote them, pray them, long for them. But yet never take the time to; A) find that piercing love and if we do we, B) don’t allow it to do the work it is meant to do in us and through us. 

And may I just remind you, that this same love led Jesus to hang on a tree, bearing the weight of sin for all mankind for all time, as He swallowed the wrath of a powerful God, and tore the veil of eternal separation from God we truly all deserve, once and for all. 

I challenge my seminary and my Nyack college fireworksfriends, and everyone else reading this blog- Seek, Ask, Knock. Go on a real pursuit of God. Let Him pierce you with His Holy love, so that you can go out into the world and pierce others with His Holy love, in you. 

 

 

Lent Devotions Day 33: “Fitting Room”

“Fitting Room
by Rafael Lara, Worship Ministries Coordinator

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” – Col. 3:12

For the sake of transparency, I have gained a few pounds over the last few months. The other day I was trying on a shirt at the store. Whaddya know… it didn’t fit.

In my defense, it was incorrectly placed. It was too small for me even before the slight addition to my natural body warmer (lol). It didn’t fit.

It was a nice shirt too… At least how it looked. But it wasn’t made for me.

This passage admonishes us to put on ourselves a different kind of clothing. Lets face it. We do not always choose to pick these up. Instead we walk about with the pants of anger, the shoes of bitterness, the shirt of impatience, and the jacket of pride. It looks like it suits us, but try as we try, these will never fit. We will always be out of sync when wearing the,. Why? Because we were not created for them and they were not created for us.

what now?

Think of today, and maybe yesterday as well. Ask The Lord to show you where you clothed yourselves in the articles in that passage. Then, ask him to show you where he offered you the opportunity to do so and you wore something else instead. Let’s pick up what fits us best.

Lent Devotions Day 31: “Extra, Extra!”

 Extra, Extra”

by Rafael Lara, Worship Ministries Coordinator

“Through no merit of ours, but by His mercy, we have been restored to a right relationship with God through the life, death, and resurrection of His beloved Son.  This is the Good News, the gospel of grace.”  – Brennan Manning

 

The potter was working on his next piece.  He was carefully molding the clay as he fashioned the object out of what was originally a lump.  As it began to take form, the potter’s eyes grew wider and wider.  He knew what the piece would look like in the end, although it had far to get there.

Unfortunately, as he built the clay upward there was a defect in the piece.  The potter had a choice.  He could continue building it up.  In his foresight, however, he knew that if he continued that small defect would be detrimental to the piece later.  He chose to start over.

If the clay could talk, can you imagine how much of a failure it may have felt like?  To have been in the hands of the master potter, only to be crumbled down by the defects it had?

The key to remember is that there’s nothing the clay can do to fix itself.  It is fully dependent on the potter to remove the deficiencies and restore it to its best potential.

what now?

Think about the areas in your life in which you continue to try to manufacture yourself into a masterpiece.  Ask the Lord to lead you and show you how to allow Him to finish the work He began in you.

It is not by anything we do… it is through Him… it is through His love… He is the one who restores us.  THAT is the Good News.

Lent Devotions Day 24: “When Your Life Needs Restoration”

When Your Life Needs Restoration

by Rafael E. Lara, Worship Ministries Coordinator

When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” – John 11:4

Erica and I own a house in Pittsburgh, PA. It’s currently being rented. When we bought it in 2008, it had recently been fully remodeled. The previous owner gutted it and restored it from the ground up. It’s a gorgeous home.

Two months ago we found out, however, that the front porch has some lead that is coming to the surface. If you don’t know much about lead, let’s just say its not great to be breathing in if it gets to dust form. Add to this our tenants have a 1.5 year old girl.

How is it possible that such a beautiful house can have this hidden threat inside that, if untreated, can be a carcinogen to anyone with prolonged exposure?

That’s a picture of us at times. There are moments in which God does tremendous restorative works in our lives. We move forward thinking that everything is entirely good and copacetic, but we often fail to realize the deeper, hidden things that still remain.

In our home, the heat from the dryer vent is venting directly under that porch. So, in essence, it was prolonged exposure to heat that exposed the lead. The lead could not hide anymore.

Is the lead in your life revealing itself? Can you begin to notice the once-remodeled life in need of more restoration?

Don’t fear. It’s not that bad. You see, I spoke with an expert, and while lead is bad if untreated, it is harmless if taken care of. I cannot do this on my own because I’m not an expert in this, but I’m willing to ask for help.

 

what now?

I pray that as the fire of God’s Holy Spirit reveals the hidden stuff inside, that you become open to the work that needs to happen. This is not going to end in death. It is so that HIS name would be glorified.

Lent Devotions Day 13: “God. Hates.”

“God. Hates.”

by Rafael E. Lara, Worship Ministries Coordinator

 

“Your throne, O God, is forever and ever.
    The scepter of your kingdom is a scepter of uprightness;” – Psalm 45:6 ESV

 

There was a young man who had grown in love with a young woman.  After the normal courting and dating, he proposed and she said yes.  During their engagement she was diagnosed with cancer.  Sadly, two weeks before their wedding, she passed away.

While this reads like a script from a movie, it’s actually a true story.  The preacher that was telling the story gave the account of his friend who was the young man.

Several months had gone by since the young woman had passed.  The young man (whether preparing for a sermon, or simply wrestling with this) began thinking of the phrase we all know too well; “God hates sin.”  We hear this all the time and attempt to live our lives with that reality of a God we want to serve hating the sin we do.  But why?  So the young man asked God.

“Why do you hate sin?”

He heard God ask him back… “Why do you hate cancer?”

The young man responded, “Because cancer took from me the one person I loved the most.”

 

God doesn’t hate sin because he’s some mighty puppeteer, sitting on his stoop in heaven, controlling every aspect of our lives…  & He doesn’t hate sin just because he’s so “high-and-mighty” that he couldn’t be anywhere near it.  No… you’re missing the point.

God hates sin, because He Loves You… and that sin has separated you from Him.   Sin took from Him the person He loved most… YOU.

Before sin, God would come to talk, walk and be with Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:8a).  But once sin entered the picture, they had to be banished from the garden… removed from His presence.  Separated from God.

 

what now?

What are the habits or sins that are separating you from Him?  It’s time to stop justifying yourself and be honest.  Ask the Lord to search your heart.

Lent Devotions Day 9: “Holy Heroes”

“Holy Heroes”

by Isaac Watson – ATS Graduate Intern

” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” – Matthew 22:37

 

How many times have you walked out of a movie theater wanting to be like the main character of the film that you just watched? I know I have — movies like Dances With Wolves, Batman, Indiana Jones, Star Wars or Braveheart. I always wanted to be the guy who came in and saved the day, like Indiana Jones, John Dunbar or Han Solo. Who wouldn’t want to fight for independence like William Wallace? For others who are more the romantic type, you might dream of living the life of Rose in the movie Titanic or someone out of the movie The Notebook. It’s important to note, however, that these otherwise attractive characters often use compromising actions — killing, stealing, promiscuity or breaking the law, to name a few.

As much as these heroes may seem larger than life, they of course pale in comparison to the omnipotent God we love and serve. If we are going to accomplish great things for God in the world, we must remember that His holiness calls forth the same from us. The idea that without heartfelt biblical-ethical wrestling we can easily justify smaller crimes (sins) for some supposed greater good, may be a sin in itself. These matters are not to be taken lightly. When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was, He could have simply responded, “Love the Lord your God,” leaving a lot up for interpretation. However, instead He was abundantly clear that we are supposed to love Him with all of our heart, soul and mind — pretty much all that we have to offer!

 

what now?

It does not stop there; once we’ve committed ourselves to God, we have to continually do so daily to ensure that we are protected when tempted. This will deepen our relationship with God and enable us to become a fit vessel that He will work through. God has already fully committed Himself to us; the ball is now in our court! And if we are truly rededicating our lives to Christ daily, it then will become easy to practice the second most important commandment: Love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:39  — The Life With God Bible).

 

Let’s be holy heroes!

Lent Devotions Day 7: “The Surprise Gift”

“The Surprise Gift”

by Sarah Samson, Coordinator of Student Activities

 

Mark 12:13-44 –  http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Mark%2012:13-44&version=NIV

 

“Curtain!” The final play had ended with the calling of the curtain. It is a silly way to end a play but when you don’t have a curtain you just ask people to imagine a curtain.  The cast left the stage, and walk back to their green room. They took a deep breath and began to pack up their things.  Just then a little girl come running in, “That was amazing, the bestest thing in the whole wide world. Can you do it again?” The cast members looks at the little girl no more than 5 years old and kneels down in front of her.  Taking the bouncing little girls hands in her own she looks her in the eyes and says “Not tonight, but we are going to come to your house for dinner, and we will do a special play just for you, and you can even help us? Would you like that.” The little girl’s eyes open wide with excitement and anticipation, “Really?” she whispered. The cast member nodded.

That night around the dinner table, with the little girl sitting between two cast members, a conversation was started about why the cast has given of their time todo this.  While it was a very adult conversation the little girl tried listen just as her parents had taught her. When the cast member sitting next to her the one with the kind eyes, who promised a play that she could be in began to speak.  While this woman said many things there was one that stuck out, she said “because I love God, with all my heart, and doing this helps others to know how to love Him.”  The conversation turned to other things and the little girl got distracted.

That night the play they did just for her was amazing. Never before had the little girls had so much fun.  However the fun had to end, as the cast members were saying their goodbyes they realized the little girl had run off.  The cast members were saddened to not see her to say goodbye but her parents explained that sometimes goodbyes were just too hard.  The cast loaded up in their vans and were about to pull out of the drive way, the door to the house flew open and the little girl came running out of the house with a gift bag, yelling “wait, wait, wait you can’t leave yet.” A cast member opened the door and the little girl said please don’t open it until you get to your next house.

When the cast arrived at the next location they had all but just about forgotten about the gift.  In a few quiet moments the cast member with the nice eyes went to get the gift bag.  She brought the bag back stage and opened it.  The bottom was covered with pennies, nickels and a few dimes. There was a note written in crayon saying, this is my piggy bank, I want you to do more plays so more people will love Jesus.  It was clear she didn’t have much but she gave all that she did have.

 

what now?

We know that Jesus gave all he had, he paid the price for our sins.  In the passage Jesus talks about people who walk around looking the part but are lacking the heart, and he talked about his greatest commandment. So the question is …what is he asking you to do? What price is He asking you to pay to love Him with all your heart soul, and mind?

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