High Expectations

There is a high level of expectation and excitement at the beginning of the school year. Students are pumped and you hear things like: “I’m following Jesus, baby! Nothing will slow me down!”

You can feel the energy in the air and it’s quite electric. Girls and guys look their best, act their best, and say their best.

Imagine a diamond ring in a display case. Everything about it sparkles and glimmers. 

I think this is awesome! Students should be excited. In fact, they should come to school expecting great things to happen.

Miraculous events take place all throughout the school year at Rhema and I truly believe it’s because there’s a multiplied level of expectancy.

It would be harder for me to believe that 300+ faith-filled, Spirit-filled Christians are hanging out in one place and God didn’t show up on a daily basis.

However, I am always a bit skeptical for the same reasons I get excited…

Being overly emotional leads many Christians astray. The need to be “spiritual” is dangerous.

rbtc-sealI often wonder how we can be any more spiritual than “I am a spirit, I have a soul, and I live in a body.”

So what’s with the need to be more “spiritual”?

I believe it boils down to a misplaced sense of what it means to be significant, yet trying to gain significance by impressing others leads many Christian leaders down a road of empty accolades.

True significance is only found in Christ. No man or woman can meet that need.

As the school year progresses (or you’re preparing to come to Rhema next year), here’s my encouragement to you: 

 Always be excited.

Always be real.

Say what you mean and mean what you say.

Walk in the reality that you’re approved by God and called into ministry by God.

And know that you’re a vital part of the Rhema family, a part of Brother Hagin’s God-given commission to “Go teach my people faith.” 

 

Who you’re not

Do you know who you’re not

I realize this is a weird question. Experts and amateurs alike focus more on discussions around discovering who you are than discovering who you are not.

However, it’s vital to know both. 

You’re more likely to be counterproductive, pursuing things that are not related to your purpose, if you never discover who you’re not. For those who are Christians, you’ll also see more results in your spiritual life by knowing who you are and who you are not.

The topic of identity gets a lot of attention in our culture because our fast paced culture doesn’t allow much time for introspection and reflection. If you’re not moving at full speed, someone else might get ahead of you! 

Never mind the fact that life is more a marathon than a sprint….

By learning who I am not, I am freeing myself up to be who I am.

My focus is getting sharper.

My purpose is becoming clearer.

I compare myself to others less and less.

I don’t have to be you and you don’t have to be me. Isn’t that awesome?

Take my advice. Spend some time getting to know yourself. Then get busy chasing your dreams and helping others.

Know who you are, know who you are not. 

 

 

Because we’re family

The Kingdom of God is an upside down Kingdom from beginning to end.

And I struggle as a young person to wrap my head around these upside down commands because nothing about our world is about putting others first.

The worlds says, “Me first!” and the Kingdom says, “Me last!” 

Check out Romans 12:10 in these 3 translations:

NLT: Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.

ERV: Love each other in a way that makes you feel close like brothers and sisters. And give each other more honor than you give yourself.

MSG: Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.

We are to love everyone like they are our brothers and sisters. This makes sense when you think about it because there are only two types of people in the world: Those who are already our family in Christ and those we want to see become our family in Christ.

My favorite verse is 2 Corinthians 5:16. 

 So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now!

Evangelism is not about us versus them. Outreach is not about being a bully and forcing Jesus down someone’s throat.

I can’t get away from these thoughts…

I am not sharing the gospel to get ahead.

I am not seeking a platform to build “my ministry.”

 Evangelism has absolutely NOTHING to do with my advancement and absolutely EVERYTHING to do with showing someone else the path to redemption. 

The path of humility is all about taking jealousy and the need to get ahead off the table.

We’re on this journey together.

We’re growing together.

We’re serving together.

You’re not more important than me and I’m not more important than you because we’re family. 

 

 

 

A Redeemed Mind

I found some old history papers from college. Lots of memories came back! 

The rush of reaching the page requirements and thinking of the most academic way of saying something without sounding too boring.

What I remembered most is how much I enjoyed writing those papers. Every paper was an adventure–and I never minded the research, either. 

All of that reading and digging…

I was stretched in many ways during college, ways that I often miss now that I’ve graduated.

Of course, Rhema presents it’s own challenges. My spirit man is getting a real workout! The coolest thing is seeing how my time in a more “academic” setting is helping me now that I’m in Bible school.

The mind and the spirit are powerful when used together. 

Many don’t see it this way, but it’s true. It reminds me of a quote by R.C. Sproul:

An unlearned Christian is no match for a learned skeptic. 

Christians must be able to accurately discuss what they believe with others.

Notice that I didn’t say defend because I don’t believe it’s our job to defend the Scriptures. They have stood the test of time and can defend themselves. 

For the most part, people aren’t attacking the Bible–they just want you to explain it to them.

Most Christians, however, are quite terrible at engaging in conversations about their beliefs. They don’t know the scriptures, are not well read, and are downright mean in their approach to healthy discussions about faith. 

You can be a learned Christian and not:

  • Carry around a large family Bible
  • Talk in esoteric terms
  • Go to Bible school or seminary

 

Christians need to know that they don’t have to check their brains at the door when they accept Christ. 

No, no! Your redeemed mind is a valuable asset in the Kingdom of God.

 

Gospel Centered Living

I enjoy a lot of things:

  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Comedy
  • Music
  • Movies
  • Bacon
  • Coffee

I could keep going…

But nothing has my heart like Jesus has my heart. 

He is my Rock, my stability, my joy, and my greatest love. 

Knowing Jesus doesn’t require you to be stripped of your personality, either. Jesus is not the ultimate stick in the mud like many preach about. 

In fact, it’s the exact opposite. When I came to know Jesus everything about me just made sense. 

The things that I’m most passionate about took shape in ways that at one time eluded me. 

And that’s because Jesus became the center of it all. 

His statement to us is simple:  

Can I come along with you? Let’s go on adventures together. 

Gospel centered living isn’t hard when you realize that Jesus, the perfect embodiment of the gospel, lives and breathes within His children. 

He’s with us as we live our everyday lives. 

It’s Jesus’ desire for us to use every means available–our time, resources, and talents–to share the gospel. 

Good thing there’s different personalities in the Church, right? All of us have different interests for a bigger purpose.

Take Jesus with you as you’re pursuing every dream and desire He’s planted in your heart. 

I encourage you to let words of redemption and hope, the same words that changed your life, be prominent in your speech and lifestyle. 

A standard of grace

The line between business and customer, ministry and church member, can get blurry pretty fast. 

You can NEVER forget that numbers, statistics–the bottom line–represents a person.

Whenever I get frustrated, this is what comes back to me. 

You’re talking about a person, Audra, take a chill pill! 

Whatever problem I face (real or perceived) can be traced back to a real life person. A person with their own personality, flaws, interests, hurts, hopes, and dreams. 

He or she also has a list of problems….

A little grace can go a long, long way. And here’s another thing to consider: 

Most of the problems I face can be traced right back to me. Did I mention that I am not good at giving grace to myself?

About that….

Don’t forget about extending a little grace towards yourself. We all make mistakes. It happens. 

Let me be clear: There’s nothing wrong with having a bottom line, a set standard to aim for.

Just be sure that the standard you set doesn’t become more important than the people you serve and live/work with. 

I’m finding that having grace as my standard is the best way to go. It keeps everything in perspective.

Kudos to Mother Teresa

I was 7 years old when Mother Teresa died, yet her life is one that has inspired generations. 

She embodied the gospel. 

Loving others like Christ loves them, especially the poor, was something she took literally. 

In fact, the work she started all those years ago is still going on!

I don’t want to be Mother Teresa (because that’s kind of silly don’t you think? To not be yourself–the person God created.)

But I want to take the gospel literally like she did. 

I want to be the hands and feet of Jesus to a lost and dying world. 

I want to see myself as serving Jesus Himself when I help the poor, the sick, the widow, and the orphan (check out Matthew 25).

Mother Teresa’s example is the epitome of selflessness. 

The coolest thing to me is that she never set out to be famous or to be known world wide as a leader of Christian charity. 

She just started following Jesus. 

And others thought she was doing such a great job they wanted to help her out. 

Mother Teresa’s ideas spread because they weren’t her ideas–they were Jesus’ ideas! 

She decided to take the Bible literally and it changed the world. 

Confessions of an Overthinker

I’m a serious over-thinker….

It can be a problem sometimes because I’ll take a situation, slice it into a thousand different pieces, and then analyze each slice until I know how I think/feel about the subject.

This is not conducive to moments when a decision just has to be made. 

We should all be able to give an answer for what we believe–that’s biblical btw–but over-analysis paralysis keeps us from being useful to anyone.

You know the old saying “He/She is too heavenly minded to be any earthly good”? 

This is what happens when someone falls victim to over-analysis paralysis.

 

This is why I love to read and study all of the older creeds and catechisms. It lays out what’s important to know and even gives you verses to review. 

Seems simple enough, right?

I know there are folks who don’t like all of that “older” “more traditional” church documents, but I’m not really sure why not.

A quick Google search will tell you the history of the creeds–Apostles, Nicene, Heidelberg, Athanasian–and each one was written to combat heresy and false doctrines from infiltrating the church.

The Westminster Catechism (both the original and shorter version) were written as a way to teach children and new converts the basic beliefs of Christianity. 

Good Bible doctrine and basic hermeneutics are necessary (no matter what all the hip, “relevant” people tell you).

Studying these ancient truths isn’t about learning a lot of $5 words and becoming a Bible scholar who can’t even carry on a normal conversation.

It’s about having a good, solid foundation of what and why you believe what you do.

And it keeps you from going absolutely batty from overthinking things. (Or maybe it’s just me that struggles in this area…)

 

The Journey of Transformation

 

Check out these pictures: 

netherlands and belgium

PARAISÓPOLIS

The picture on the left shows the border between the Netherlands and Belgium. The picture on the right shows the divide between a rich neighborhood and a poor neighborhood in Brazil. 

Not much of a difference is there?

It got me to thinking about how fast the transformation happens in our Christian lives. The moment someone decides to follow Jesus, the change is instant:  

  • Orphan to son or daughter
  • Darkness to light
  • Unrighteous to Righteous
  • Hell to Heaven

The change is instant, but walking it out takes time. This is the reason so many of us stay stuck in a rut. 

How do I go from living in the  Netherlands to living in Belgium?

How do I go from living in the slums to living in the richest side of town?

Talk about information overload! 

The answer to me is quite clear: One step at a time.

Most of us didn’t hear about Jesus one minute and decide to follow Him the next. We made a decision after a lot of talking to our Christian friends and reading the Bible to see if there was any truth to our friends claims. 

Here’s a pet peeve of mine:

Don’t walk your friends and family through the whole process of coming to know Jesus and then ditch them on the side of the road saying, “Well, have fun figuring out this new life!” 

When I think of discipleship now, I think of going for the longest hike of my life. Sure, I can go by myself, but having a buddy will make it so much easier to navigate and so much more enjoyable as well.

The reason community is essential to the Christian life is because renewing our minds to catch up with the radical change that took place in our spirits cannot be done alone. 

 

 

Closer to the Light

How many times have we talked about how Jesus came to heal the brokenhearted? 

Probably enough times that you’re sick of hearing about it….

But it’s true. One of Jesus’ primary purposes in coming to earth was to mend broken hearts. 

I bet you and I could each fill a notebook with the names of friends and families who fall into the brokenhearted category.

In my dream the other night a young homeless girl just needed to be comforted. The weight of the world was crushing her and she found herself all alone. 

Do you know where she was?

At the school library! (See, libraries and librarians are awesome!) 

The librarian knew something was off with the girl and reached out to her. When she did, the girl started to sob. The messy, uncontrollable kind of sobbing that comes from knowing you’re finally safe, someone will help you.

And that’s all the librarian said as she wiped away the girl’s tears: “It’s going to be okay. You’re safe now.”

How many times a day do I pass up an opportunity to comfort someone?

If Jesus came to heal the brokenhearted, that means it’s my job to help the brokenhearted. 

This is where following Jesus gets real…

It’s also why the Lord gave me this dream. He only shows me stuff that paints a clear picture of where I’m headed in life. 

Friend, my heart is changing.

I think I finally understand why Jesus said lights aren’t meant to be hidden. 

Following Jesus will always take you straight into the darkest places, places where most people are afraid to go.

You will find the brokenhearted, the poor, the sick, and the oppressed in these dark places. 

Picture a light in the distance getting closer and closer to where you are. Bringing hope and light to the darkness is why Jesus came in the first place.