Monday, December 17, 2012

Postcards From Home

I love Christmas!

I love everything about it and have so many wonderful memories of Christmas.

This year, there are still things I love about Christmas, but so many people I know are hurting. They are grieving the death of loved ones or just walking through some tough situations.

With all the joy that Christmas is supposed to be about, it's often overshadowed by so much hurt, what's a heart to do?

If you aren't reading John Piper's advent devotional, "Good News of Great Joy," then you are missing out!

One thing yesterday really stuck out at me:

"Homecomings are a foretaste, and foretastes are good. Unless they become substitutes. O, don't let all the sweet things of the season become substitutes of the final great, all-satisfying sweetness. Let every loss and every delight send your hearts a-homing after Heaven."

So all the things that I love about Christmas are just foretastes of what's coming? That warm, happiness that comes from being home with people I love is just a taste of what Heaven will be like?

That's amazing!

Just think about it. Every delight of this season is just a taste of things to come! WOW!

There's also another side of this for so many. Pain.

What's a heart supposed to do with loss? Pain? How does that send our hearts "a-homing" after Heaven.

"Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."-Revelation 21:1-6

If that doesn't get you pumped up, you need to check your pulse!!!!!

That's where our hearts long to go! HOME! A home with God where there will be no more pain and sorrow!

If I could write this whole post in all caps, I would!!!

This is Christmas! God sent his son to replace the shadow of God with the real thing! Everything about this season should make our hearts ache for home! The pain and the loss that we face now should make our hearts ache for home!!

Don't lose sight of this! This world is not it. This world is not home. My prayer for you is that you find so much Joy this season! I pray that you delight in all the festive things. Most of all, I pray, that whether you're grieving this season or delighting, your heart would long a little stronger to be home!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Top Posts of 2012

This year seemed to go by so fast! I know it's not quite the end of the year yet, but I couldn't help but share the top posts of 2012. They are varied and probably mostly crazy!

1. A Missional Calling

One of the best things I did this year was to go to Guatemala. I can't even begin to describe the impact this trip had on me. More than a trip, God connected me with the most amazing woman ever!! Colleen Cowart continues to pursue God's calling on her life as a missionary. In this little post, I shared a little bit about my heart for her and her mission.

2. Unleash!

I had so much fun reviewing Perry Noble's book Unleash! I loved being a part of the release of this timely book. We all have things that hold us back in our relationship with Christ. What is God calling you to let go of? How does God want you to live an unleashed life for him?

3. Single Girl Church Problems

This is the post where I really held nothing back. Part frustration, part sarcasm, I had a few moment's of "Oh my gosh, what did I just post?!" What I learned most from the time around writing this post, is that you can't control how weird other people are. What you can do is go out and find people who are less weird. Truth to live by....

4. That 1% Feeling

One of the more vulnerable posts this year, I felt God really dealing with me on that 1% feeling. 99% of the time, I'm fine with the path God had me on. 1% of the time, I face insecurity and fear associated with it. What's God calling me to do during that time? As a single girl, how can I use all the gifts he's given me to advance his church?

5. Jesus Sent Him Away

I was a little surprised to see this posts in the top five of the year. God really had to remind me that we're not called to live in a spiritual huddle. We go to God for fulfillment and then go out to tell people.

I hope this year has been marked by great memorial stones from God. He knows the plans he has for us and he works all things together for the good of those who love him.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Twelve Unlikely Heroes

I recently finished John McArthur’s book “Twelve Unlikely Heroes.” I wanted to share a little about this book because of how it really sparked some great study time for me.
John McArthur is known for his biblical knowledge. His other well-known books in the series include “Twelve Ordinary Men” and “Twelve Ordinary Women.” McArthur has a gift for bringing characters alive. The fact is, these Old and New Testament characters were actual living, breathing, emotional people! They had thoughts, lives, and problems that went along with them. McArthur did a fantastic job pulling some “unlikely heroes” out of the pages of the bible and reminding us of their journeys with God and how He is after using us in the same way. From Enoch to Miriam and Mark and Onesimus, this book covers a broad group of biblical characters.
Granted, McArthur may make some assumptions based on biblical facts, but overall, this book really helped me dig deeper into the lives of some important people of the bible. If you’ve ever studied history, you understand that it’s easy for historical figures to become flat. What I love, is when these important historical figures become real to me. Throughout the entire book, I kept reflecting on the fact that God is the same now as he was then. If you’re looking for a book to help boost your knowledge of biblical characters, then look  no further.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

When I Grow Up

Awhile back, when I was helping with a middle small group, there was one particular conversation that I remember well. I was talking with a group of eighth grade girls who were about to start high school. We were just chatting as we waited for their parents to come pick them up. The girls were all talking about starting high school and the things they were excited about and the things that made them nervous (such as being stuffed in a trash can- true story). As I listened to them, I immediately was transported back to my eighth grade mind. I remember what it was like to start high school. There were so many things ahead! I had a very clear picture of what my life was going to look like by the time I graduated from high school AND college!

As I stood there thinking about that vision, I realized I was way off!

Why are we such stubborn creatures? We all have visions of what our lives will look like in the future. It usually involves a fantastic body, someone gorgeous standing next to you, two kids, a dog (that makes 2.5 kids total), a great house, and no money problems!

I don't know one person who has that life. Sure, maybe you have 2.5 kids and a great house, but somehow the vision of our lives always falls short.

So why do we hold on to it so hard?

I have found that we are so quick to tell God that we surrender our lives to him, but when it comes to our future, we hide that away like Gollum does with the one ring. (That's a little nerd metaphor there in honor of the release of The Hobbit)

Nothing about my life resembles what I had planned. Am I okay with that? Do I trust God's plan enough to let go of my vision for my life?

I certainly think we would agree he is qualified to prepare a plan for us (being the creator of the universe and all).

So what does he have to say?

"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." -Jeremiah 29:11

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts."
-Isaiah 55:8-9
You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
 You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
-Psalm 139:1-3
But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use?
-Romans 9:20-21

God knows a little bit about what's going on in our lives. He has his own vision for our lives.

Someone very wise told me that when our dream dies, God is able to birth his dream in us.

When we stubbornly hold on to some idea about how are lives should look, we end up saying things like, "What am I doing with my life?" "There has to be something else." "Why can't I just get my life together."

It takes daily surrender, but when we fully allow God to direct our lives and replace our vision with his, we find peace. We can fearlessly face the future.

There are times when this can be extremely difficult for me. There are things about my life that I get insecure about because I thought it would work out one way and it didn't. I jump right in to "What did I do?" and "Is there something about me?"

The truth is that I only have to know that God is good, faithful, and sovereign to face the future. I have never looked back at my life and thought my plan would have been better. God has never let me down. I am his daughter. He is a perfect father. He loves me. I want his plan for my life.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Jesus Sent Him Away

Sometimes I find myself asking God why I couldn't just do something easier. Why does it have to be so complicated? Why does it have to be so hard? Why can't it just be me, Him and my bible alone on a desert island?

There are those days when you sit down and read the bible and things are at peace, but as soon as you get out the door, the world is there waiting. Whether it's frustrations, insecurities, selfishness, or just struggling to interact with people, it always seems like it would be easier to just be alone with God.

I was reading in Luke 8 today, where Jesus casts out a demon from a man. That in itself is a wild thing, but it gets even stranger. Starting in verse 38 it says:

The man from whom the demons had gone out begged to go with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, “Return home and tell how much God has done for you.” So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him.
I sat for awhile today thinking about the first part of those verses. Why wouldn't Jesus let the man go with him? I could kind of empathize with this guy. He had been literally battling a demon inside of him for who knows how long. Then, Jesus comes along and releases him from that bondage. That guy probably feels amazing right now!! The weight and struggle finally gone! Of course he wants to go with Jesus! Going with Jesus means security! It means that if anything happens to him again, Jesus is right there to help him! Staying with Jesus probably means a lot of comfort to this guy!
But Jesus sent him away.
On my own I fail at a lot of things. I'm a horrible friend, a selfish child, and a prideful woman. When I'm alone, spending time with God, I feel at peace. I go through phases where I just want to run to my fortress of solitude and avoid other people completely. I have to force myself to interact with other people! Staying with Jesus means security and comfort to me. I can relate to the guy in Luke 8.
But there's something Jesus had to teach both of us. We're not called to live in a spiritual huddle! He sent the man back to the town to tell how much God had done for him.
Yes, we have to spend time with God. He is the wellspring of life for us! We have to be filled up by him!
Then we have to go out.
We are called to go out and tell others. We can't stay on our desert island.
Honestly, this is hard for me. I have to ask God to give me a heart for people. I have to ask him to help me not get focused on fixing myself but on following him! I'm learning to be okay with asking him for that!
It seems like such a simple idea, but I know there are times in my own life when the temptation is to isolate myself. To not be in fellowship with other believers or even tell others about Christ. That's when we have to rely on his grace to be sufficient to cover our weaknesses. While I may struggle to serve people, Christ served them even in death and I know he will give me the grace to love them.
I'll end this by saying that I don't have it all together. I fail at a lot of things. I get down on myself for not being able to "get it together" or for continually bringing problems to people. It's a continual process for me to surrender myself and my struggles to Jesus. The only time I ever have anything to write about is when God has brought me through something. I want him to redeem my struggles for his glory. That's why it's not always easy. That's why it's not always comfortable. It's not about me!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

That 1% Feeling

Awhile back I was reading a blog post, where the author said that 99% she was fine with who she was, but then about 1% of the time she struggled.

For me, this week has been that 1%. It was an often embarrassing display of selfishness, pride, and blubbering tears that resulted in me apologizing to a lot of people who had to witness the spectacle.

For most of the week, I couldn't exactly pinpoint the source of all the internal conflict. After what seemed like endless pleas with God, he finally answered me with some conviction.

99% of the time I'm fine with being single. It's not a big deal. I don't need pity. I don't need a date. I don't need you to tell me "there's someone out there for you." I'm good.

Then something happens, or somebody says something, and I'm launched into that 1% feeling.

This time it started with a feeling of being the "only" single one left. Yep, nobody said fears were rational. I looked around me and everybody had somebody. Then I started in on the spiral of trying to figure out what was wrong with me.

Then I realized the root of all this was fear.

Again, I know fear is often not rational. I had a deep fear of being alone. Not alone as in sitting by myself at lunch. A fear of being alone without any friends or family. Of course that 1% feeling would creep up in tandem with this.

I read something a few weeks ago that really only clicked with me tonight.

"Is it possible that what singles often see and desire in marriage: the opportunity to be a loving and supportive counterpart, lead spirtually, build family through intimate fellowship, and "raise" children, can be found within the church, outside the marriage relationship?"
-Singlehood Redefined

Bring on the conviction. Just like Peter walking on the water, I took my eyes off Jesus and got wrapped up in my circumstance. It's easy for me to feel shame. Shame for things I said or the way I made people feel this week, while working through my muddy mess. It's easy for me to want to find a rock to crawl under!

Thank God that I don't have to live like that! Thank God for his grace and mercy for my messed up life! Thank God he forgives me for my fear and lack of trust! Thank God that he provided me with an answer to my fear.

I love to encourage people. I love to help people. I've always thought about how amazing it would be to be able to be a help and encouragement to a husband (or a particular Needtobreathe band member who shall remain nameless).

What if God provided me that opportunity for that already? We talk a lot about bearing each others burdens as the Church. What if I can direct to encourage to His bride-the Church!

I love the book of Joshua. A lot of the reason is probably because of how many times God tells Joshua to be strong and courageous. Joshua 1:9 is my favorite: "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

What do I have to fear? I don't have to fear being alone! God's provided an entire family for me to be a part of!

I am so thankful for this revelation and most of all the peace that comes along with it. Of course, that 1% feeling comes and goes, but God's given me the promise to be with me and that's what I'll cling to!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

How to be a Friend

I generally consider my people skills to be pretty rotten. I'm working on it, but God has really been showing me a lot about friendships through reading 1 and 2 Samuel.

I have really been struck by the friendship between Jonathan and David. I began to read and study these two men and was struck by their deep brotherhood. We talk a lot about being brothers and sisters in Christ, but sometimes I really wish there was a clear five step plan! As I was studying, God really spoke 4 things to me about David and Jonathan and what godly friendship looks like.

1. Jonathan loved David like a Brother

1 Samuel 18:1 tells us that Jonathan loved David like himself. In order to have a deep friendship with a brother or sister in Christ, we have to love them! That may seem very elementary, but that's the first step. What does that really look like? How do we know if we're really loving our brothers and sisters? Turns out that as Jonathan's and David's relationship grew, we see this demonstrated.

2. Jonathan Encouraged David in His Call from God

1 Samuel 18:4 says: "Jonathan took off the robe he was wearing and gave it to David, along with his tunic, and even his sword, his bow and his belt."

This symbolized Jonathan acknowledging God's calling on David's life and saying he would follow him. What a huge encouragement for David as he's running for his life and probably wondering if he heard God or the fish he ate for dinner!

Also in 1 Samuel 23:16-17, Jonathan encourages David by telling him not to be afraid and that he will be king of Israel. Again, encouraging David in his call from God.

As brothers and sisters we have to affirm each other in our weaknesses. If I've just done something that was really hard for me, it's invaluable for someone to recognize that and tell me I did a good job. Simple as that!

3. Jonathan Fought for David

In 1 Samuel chapter 20, Saul is literally out for blood. Jonathan risks his own standing and his own life to help David.

Are you fighting for your brother and sisters in Christ? One of my wisest mentors said that as Christians, our wins can't come at another person's loss. In your relationship, can only one of you succeed? Can you celebrate with your brother or sister when one of you does well? Are you willing to walk through life with your friend? This isn't a surface level relationship. Jonathan risked everything to be there for David! Are you willing to risk to be there for your brother or sister?

4. David Grieved Jonathan

2 Samuel 1:11-12 says, "Then David and all the men with him took hold of their clothes and tore them. They mourned and wept and fasted till evening for Saul and his son Jonathan, and for the army of the Lord and for the nation of Israel, because they had fallen by the sword."

Starting in verse 19, David composes a song expressing his deep grief at the loss of his friend.

I'm not saying that to be a good friend you have to wait until your friend dies! This part of Jonathan and David's story really struck me because of the reversal of roles. Up until this point, Jonathan has been there for David. Now, David is "there" for Jonathan.

Friendships work both ways. As brothers and sisters we have to be willing to be there for each other through seasons. There may be seasons when one friend is going through a rough time and the other friend has to be there for them more, and then vice versa. Are you willing to walk through those times with your brothers and sisters?

Needless to say, I still have a lot to learn about what it means to be a true sister in Christ to those around me. I mess it up. I get selfish. I get prideful. However, I know that God will continue to teach me how to be a better friend.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Dear Me

Dear me,

Can you please cut yourself some slack? You are not abnormal. You are a little weird, but that's okay.

It's okay to not have everything figured out. It's okay to ask for help. It's okay to admit that sometimes everything is not okay.

It's okay to not be okay!

Dear me, sometimes you have to take a step back to move forward. Take a deep breath and stop over analyzing everything.

You are valued. You are loved. There are people around you who care, but you have to stop letting people's opinions and reactions control you!

Your validation comes from Christ!!

Dear me, God could not love you any more or any less than He does at this moment! That is enough!

Life is but a breath, so stop spending it trying to please people who will never be pleased!

On that note, self, just admit that you are a recovering people-pleaser! It's okay! You have been given a spirit of power, love and self control! You know you have been given everything to overcome that!

Dear me, you are not defined by mistakes you made in the past. There is no condemnation in Christ! He's forgiven you, so you have to allow yourself to move forward. It's okay to learn from the past, but you don't live in it!

If you are abiding in Him, then everything else will fall into place. Cast all your anxieties on Him because HE LOVES YOU!

Dear me, never forget that in all things God is good, faithful and sovereign.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Paul and His Support Staff

Have you ever been reading and something unexpected jumps out at you?

Yesterday, I was "that girl" who locked her keys in her car and had to wait for her brother to get finished at the gym so she could actually get home. I know, it was sad.

Luckily it was one of those rare "fall tease" days and I did have my bible with me. Even though I was fuming with frustration, I figured I would read a little while I waited.

I flipped around a bit to several random readings before I started reading Titus. I don't think I ever actually read this book until I got to college. It's not the source of many Sunday school lessons or sermons. In fact, it's always seemed a little odd to me.

Paul wrote this letter to the young pastor Titus. As with all of his letters, Paul makes an opening greeting:

"Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God's elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness, in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began and at the proper time manifested in his word through the preaching with which I have been entrusted by the command of God our Savior"

There's a lot packed into that greeting! I wanted to share a few things that God spoke to me about this section of scripture:

1.No matter my title, responsibilities, or position, I am first a slave.

That may seem a little extreme. The word "servant" that is used in this greeting is also the word used for slave. Nobody really likes to be called either of those! Our society (and if we're honest, often times ourselves) are all about climbing the ladder. We want to achieve. We want to be somebody. It's crazy to think that Paul wrote so much of the New Testament. He was, by worldly standards, somebody! But here he calls himself a slave. Even more unusual is that this is a theme in his writing.

No matter what I do, I am first and foremost a servant of God. Crazy enough, that's not a bad thing! I am somebody because God has called me his own! I don't have to play society's game and feel defined by the question "What do you do?"

There is joy in serving the one who saved me, who is always there for me.

2. It's not about me!

Everybody needs a dose of humility sometimes. Right after Paul calls himself a servant of God, he says it's "for the sake of the faith." 

He's not a servant of God to pad his resume or have something to "write home about" (HA! that's kind of funny if you think about it..... no? just me). He was a servant of God for the sake of the faith. His highest purpose was to make the name of Jesus known and see people come to Christ. It wasn't about him!

Here's something earth shattering: It's not about you! It's not about me! It's about Jesus. 

Once we (including myself) can have a consistent understanding of that fact, we will be able to become an unstoppable force for spreading the Gospel.

3. Support people are important!

Okay, that may seem a little random but stick with me! I currently have a supportive role. I love it! I love helping people anyways and I enjoy organizing stuff and putting things together (crazy I know). There are occasions when I want to be different. I want to be a leader over people. 

Truth is, God created each of us with gifts and a specific purpose. My purpose is not to be Beth Moore. I'm probably closer to being Beth Moore's assistant. You know what? That's important!

It's interesting to read the very end of Titus. I honestly, find myself skimming these sections, but this time I paid attention:

"When I send Artemas or Tychicus to you, do your best to come to me at Nicopolis, for I have decided to spend the winter there. Do your best to speed Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way; see that they lack nothing."

Say what? Do you know that we really don't know anything about these guys? Here they are just mentioned in the farewell greeting of Titus. The world would see these guys as nobodys. They were just messengers for the great Paul. They were pretty much his secretaries.

Have you ever thought about how instrumental they were? These men carried Paul's letters to many of the early churches. They assisted him in his ministry. Without them, many of the churches would have never received Paul's instructions. We might not even have a record of Paul's letters! 

While they are seemingly unknown, behind-the-scenes guys, they had an important purpose. However, their purpose wasn't about them! They served God for the sake of the faith.

I have to ask God continually to remind me that it's not about me. I also have to remember to thank him for even wanting to use me! 

God gave you a specific purpose. What do you need to let go of to come fully into it? 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Jewish Homegirl Rocks the Exodus

There are some colorful people in the bible. There's also a bunch of stuff that happens where you can't help but go, "Say whattttt???"

Stick with me here.

Sometimes, I really think too many cheesy version of bible stories make us forget that the people in the bible were in fact, people too! We think of them as superheroes or we overlook them completely.

Let's look at one example out of the book of Exodus.

You may remember a Sunday school story about baby Moses. If you don't, I know there are several animated versions that are decent and I'm sure there's a Veggie Tales version out there somewhere (because talking vegetables just make the Bible more interesting).

Baby Moses is born during this crazy time when all Hebrew newborn boys are supposed to be thrown into the Nile. His mother hides him for as long as she can and then sends him down the river in papyrus basket.

Exodus 2:4 says, "His sister stood at a distance to see what would happen to him."

There she is! Miriam is Moses' sister. She undoubtedly watched her parents fret over how to hide Moses and then make the agonizing decision to send him out in the basket.

Sure enough, the Pharaoh's daughter finds little Moses. Then, because of Miriam's quick thinking, Moses' mother ends up being payed to raise her own son! (see Exodus 2:1-10 for that little pip of a story).

So have you ever really thought about Miriam? She's not even named initially in Exodus! However, there some things we can learn from Miriam and about the character of God!

1. She was a faithful woman of God

Miriam was a Jewish homegirl. She would have been raised learning all about God and what he had done in Genesis. From Adam to Joseph, she would have known about it.

Interestingly, we don't hear from Miriam after the birth of Moses until the exodus. It's at this point that we have that crazy Red Sea incident. God parted the Red Sea! We often can skip right over that because we've heard it so many times, but don't miss how amazing that is!

So the Israelites make it through the Red Sea and they immediately start praising God. Miriam comes back in at Exodus 15:20:

"Then Miriam the prophetess, Aaron's sister, took a timbrel in her hand and all the women followed her, with timbrels and dancing."

Miriam was one of only a handful of women that was called a prophetess (i.e, BIG DEAL!) She also acknowledged what God had done by praising him (and pretty much rocking out)!

2. She was a sinner

Skip ahead a little bit to the book of Numbers and we find the Israelites still doing there thing in the desert (by thing, I mean a tiresome roundabout of stubbornness).

We find Miriam again in Numbers 12:

"Miriam and Arron spoke against Moses... and they said, "Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses? Has he not spoken through us also?" And the Lord heard them."

You really could end a that last part with a dramatic "dun Dun DUN!" Miriam and Aaron are having a little power struggle here. The first time I read it, it sounded a lot like when people talk about each other and really try to one-up each other, "Well, is Moses REALLY the only one that God talks through? I mean come on! He's spoken to both of us! Why does he get be the one in charge of all this?"

Well God heard her and talks to all of them and pretty much puts them in their place. Then God turns her instantly into a leper! You heard me! She immediately becomes leprous. That means flesh being half eaten away and everything. Pretty gross stuff to say the least.

God mercifully heals her, and Miriam spends the rest of her life in submission to God and Moses.

3. God used her

So we see Miriam is a woman of God. She is also a sinner. As is God's way, he still uses her to fulfill his purpose. Many, many years later, Miriam comes up again in Micah 6:4 when God says,

"For I brought you up from the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of slavery and I sent before you Moses, Aaron, and Miriam."

Miriam was an integral part in Moses' life and the exodus from Egypt. She is an example of how God takes a sinful, imperfect person and uses them to make an eternal impact.

Are you allowing your past mistakes to hold you back from what God is calling you to do?

What do you need to surrender to him in order to fulfill your God-given purpose?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


What holds you back in your relationship with Christ?

Be honest.

Are you stuck in the performance trap where it seems like no matter how many "good things" you do, you and God just don't seem to be there?

Is there something in your past that weighs you down? Something you've done? Something that was done to you? Do you think that God just wouldn't ever be able to use someone like you?

Are you overwhelmed with where you are in life? Has there been something that came up out of nowhere and pretty much knocked you off your feet?

Ever felt like there had to be something more to this life? Something more in your relationship with Christ?

I've answered "yes" to every one of these questions at some point in my life. My relationship with Christ has been a journey. It's never been simply getting from point a to point b.

I recently read Perry Noble's new book "Unleash." (In stores today!) Having attended Newspring several times and being very familiar with Perry's preaching, I was really interested in how this book would stack up.

Let me tell you that you need to add "Unleash" to your reading list right now! This book is comprised of so many of the truths that I have heard Perry Noble preach about in the past. At the same time, it's a simple read. He doesn't use a lot of big "church words" or confuse the truth with lots of extra fluff. This a straight forward book on how you can unleash your life to reach your full potential in Christ.

I love that Perry Noble didn't make this book one big feel good message. He acknowledges that sometimes, life simply sucks! There's a lot of bad things that happen in our lives, but we have a God that is bigger than them all and wants us to live fully and freely.

I can't really do justice to everything that I got from the book. It definitely reminded me of those times in my life where my only option was to rely on God and encouraged me in my walk with Christ now.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

An Epiphany about Romans 8:38-39

Romans 8:38-39 is my all time favorite section of scripture:

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord

I think that's one of the most beautiful declarations in all scripture. That truth should catapult us to boldness! Nothing can separate us from the love of God! Nothing in all creation!

I like an epiphany. It's that moment where something strikes you and you either react like me, with an audible "hmmmmmmm" or maybe it's simply "ah-ha!"

However you know, epiphanies can bring out something that you may have completely overlooked before.

I know this verse by heart. A good friend painted it for me and it's hanging in my office. But last night I had an epiphany about it.

I've always focused on the external things about this scripture. In a way, I have thought about it like my relationship with God is in a bubble and all the things it talks about in this verse are like things trying to break through the bubble and separate us.

I love the declaration that not even death, angels, demons, or any power in all creation can separate us from the love of God. I'm not coming out of that bubble!

Then I thought, "This verse is kind of talking about me."

In other words, nothing I can do will separate me from the love of God!! (hmmmmmm!)

As someone who struggles with performance based affection, this is something I have to remind myself of. Nothing I can do will make God love me more or less than he already does! He can't possibly love me more because when he looks at me, he see's Jesus!

Let that sink in for you.

As a Christian, there's nothing you can do to earn God's love. There is also nothing you can do to make him love you less! 

Let's run with that today!! Not only is there nothing in all of creation that can separate you from his love, there's nothing you can do to change his love! Let's be bold with this! Let this truth fuel every aspect of your life!

I do love a good epiphany

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Women in the Church and the Questions I Still Have

The theological implications of women in the Church has long confused me. I've pretty much heard every view you can think of. The problem I have is I'm still not entirely sure what God says about it! I've been studying the scriptures and reading the books and commentaries and have narrowed down my confusion.

Let me first say that I am happy in my calling from God. I know he's put me in a place of support and "behind the scenes" work. That fits me great! I'm not really interested in being ordained because I don't really think I need a title to do what I'm doing, but my own curiosity prompts me to know more. From my experience, if I have an area of doubt in my life, satan exposes it to throw off my focus. I'm trying to solidify my understanding of what God says.

Let me lay out what I know:

1. God Values Women
There is no doubt that God also created women in his image and places immense value on women. It's summed up well by simply saying, "men and women are equal in value and dignity by creation and redemption."

2. Women Have Valuable, Unique Roles in the Kingdom
Starting in Genesis we see this idea play out. There was no suitable helper in all of creation for Adam, so God created Eve to fit that role. That's pretty huge in and of itself. Out of everything God created, there was nothing that could fill that role except for Eve!

Further in the Old Testament, we continue to see women filling unique roles. Some of the big names include Rehab, Ruth and Esther. These women were played pivotal roles.

In the New Testament, we see that there were women who traveled with Jesus and the disciples, caring for them wherever they went. When Jesus was being crucified and the disciples fled in fear, these women remained and watched until the end. (Matthew 27:55-56) Mary Magdalene and the other Mary also carried the news of Jesus' resurrection to the disciples. Again, these women were a vital part of the story.

If women have valuable, unique roles, then it is to be assumed that men also have valuable, unique roles to play and the they are different from each other. Men and women were created differently. Every person who has ever thought, "I just don't understand him/her," should know this is true. Men and women were created differently to fulfill different roles.

3. Submission is Not a Dirty Word
In our feminist society, the idea of submission (especially by women) is usually looked at as an antiquated concept that puts the church further out of touch. This is sad. So many women become defensive when we start talking about things like male headship.

Submission is defined as "recognizing your place within the God-given order of society, and to act appropriately to that place, by accepting the authority of those whom God has entrusted it."

This definition of submission is applicable to the authority of the Church, God and a husband. For me, this concept is a little difficult to grasp. It's almost difficult to understand authority without thinking of it negatively. During a recent message on authority I was listening too, I was trying to reflect on this concept.

I was raised by a very strong, independent woman. I gladly submitted to her as my mother but also as my best friend. In that way, I generally understand the concept of the submitting to the church and I've never denied the fact that as a follower of Christ, I am to submit to him. But as I was sitting and listening to this message, I had a thought. If you think of your ideal father, someone that loves you and cares for you just like you want to be loved and the submission that would come from that relationship of love and trust, then you're starting to get a good picture of submission to God. God is our perfect heavenly father and we submit to him in the same way. While husbands are people too and generally imperfect (just like wives), the concept still remains. Submission is birthed from love and trust and is really a beautiful thing.

4. God Doesn't Care About Your Resume
When asked what the greatest commandment was, Jesus replied in Matthew 22:37, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind."

This commandment was not conditional. Think about the Great Commission, "Go and make disciples of all nations." Jesus didn't tell them to go after they completed four years of seminary and and an extensive internship. He said Go!

Loving God with our heart, soul, and mind is an all consuming love. Everything we do is to be done as if it was for God. This means that wherever you are, whatever you're doing, you are serving God. You don't have to be ordained, have a title, or even some kind of credential. God doesn't care about how extensive our resume is, He simply commands us to go and make disciples.

So I'm pretty confident about all that. I stand by those four things.

Here's where I'm still confused:

Reading scriptures like 1 Timothy 2:8-15, 2 Timothy 1:5,3:15 and Titus 2:3-5 leave me with more questions about the role of a woman in church.

What about the idea that all Christian teachers are called to teach humbly under the authority of Christ? Can women teach others, including men, under the authority of scripture and with humility? Can she she be a member of a pastoral team whose leader is a man? Could she be involved in ministry and therefore commissioned (ordained) to do so?

What do you know about all this?

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Single Girl Church Problems

"Hi! Yes, I am, I don't need you to guard my heart. As a matter of fact, I'm pretty sure that Proverbs 4:23 says, "guard YOUR heart....."

Ladies, have you found yourself having that conversation (even if it's only in your head)? Somewhere along the way, Church people started to pity the single. They are the lonely, sad group that only has one thing on their mind.....relationships!

If  you find yourself looking over your shoulder thinking, "Who's she talking about? I'm good with being single," you are not alone!

Okay, so this post is supposed be sarcastic (don't start the hate mail yet). However, it can honestly be a little frustrating to be a single girl in church. This is primarily directed towards "the next generation of leaders" in the Church (twentysomethings).

So if a bunch of twentysomethings get together for a bible study or some other function, people start making comments to the effect of, "Alright people, this isn't a single's mixer or anything." REALLY? You had to make that clear? Heaven forbid that Christian people actually meet in church. In fact, if you really want to "care for someone like a brother or sister" (more on that line in a minute) shouldn't you hope that they do in fact find a solid guy/girl in church? I mean it's not like we have a 50% divorce rate in this country or anything....

Are we ostracising single people in the Church? As twentysomethings, do we have a tendency to say dumb things without thinking? I know that can't possibly be true....... let's look at some examples:

1. I'm trying to guard your heart........... Again, somewhere along the way we've forgotten that the same Holy Spirit that resides in the speaker also resides in the person it's being spoken too. Do you really want to help your brother/sister in Christ? Respect their convictions and check your own heart.

2. You're my sister/brother in Christ....... One day, some young twentysomething theologian wannabe really took this phrase too far. This phrase is supposed to illicit respect between two people. This is not saying that you have to begin or end a conversation with phrases like "sis" or "bro." Yeah... I'm not a Catholic nun.....It should be noted that this is most often used to "clarify" one's "feelings" towards another....translated, "I know we had this great conversation, but don't get any ideas."

3. I'm not being a good brother/sister in Christ to you...... Well, thank you for informing me of something completely random about yourself. Why is this so frustrating? This phrase is primarily used as an excuse to stop talking to someone. Unfortunately, I have seen this used when a guy and a girl get close and then one of them decides they really weren't serious about the whole thing in the first place, so they bring out the brother/sister line. I know twentysomethings are supposed to be "free-spirits" and all, but let's all try to come up with a different line or something that resembles the truth.

Well we've certainly come up with some really great phrases to make sure all the single Christians know exactly what's what.

I had to stop myself from going into all the physical things we do to try to make sure that Christian singles don't get the wrong idea about anything. This includes personal policies against being alone with people of the opposite sex (even if you were in the middle of downtown New York or standing in the middle of the street).

Okay.... so that was interesting. Too harsh? There's a really cheesy thing I heard once that goes, "I dream of a world where a chicken can cross the road without it's intentions being questioned." Chances are, if you're single in the Church, you just "amened" that.

The truth is, my fear is that by continuing these dumb practices, we are alienating an entire group of the Church.

Let's be clear. Singles are people too. God created them with a purpose too. It's true that 98% of people will be married one day, but a mature Christian will not want to waste their years of singleness (and 2% of people will never be married). As future leaders in the Church, we have to stop treating singles with pity and worse, caution. Singleness is not a disease. It is not contagious. Let's get over our egos and our pride that says that every person we meet is "interested" in being with us.

Yes, I understand that somewhere some guy in the church ran off with his secretary and the church fell to pieces and that's why we all need to be cautious with each other. There's actually a simple solution to that....DON'T BE THAT GUY! (see studies on guarding your own heart, purity, and self-control)

Let's start examining our own lives and start treating men and women in the Church with respect without regards to their desire to wear skirts. There's no need for all the extra fluff, simple respect will do just fine.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Fear of Ineffectiveness

Being ineffective is probably one of my biggest fears. That's probably why I was drawn to a field of study (accounting) that people told me would always be needed.

I never want to feel like I'm being ineffective with my job, with people, in my relationship with Christ.

As much I as I always try to work hard, feeling ineffective has a way of creeping in every now and then.

When that familiar feeling started to come back again, I tried to really reflect on what made me feel that way. What was I doing or not doing that contributed to that? I asked God for some direction in resolving that feeling.

Bring in 2 Peter 1:5-8:

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Well, hello there God! That's quite the answer!

As I began studying this passage and what each of the characteristics meant, God really convicted me that when I begin to feel ineffective, I need to examine myself. He has already equipped me to do everything he created me to do. What am I neglecting?

The ESV version uses the word virtue in the place of goodness and it simply means the quality of life that makes someone stand out as excellent. Am I living a life of virtue? Is there some sin in my life that is keeping from living a life worthy of being called a follower of Christ?

The word knowledge here means understanding, correct insight, truth properly comprehended and applied. This kind of knowledge comes from a continual study of God's word and pursuit of him. Am I being diligent in spending time with God? Do I have a desire to know him more by spending time with him?

Self-control seems pretty obvious. It literally means "holding oneself in." It relates to control of the flesh, the passions and bodily desires. Am I practicing self-control? Is there an area of my life where self-control is lacking?

Godliness simply means to live reverently, loyally and obediently towards God. Am I putting into practice what I'm studying? Is there a part of my life where I'm being disobedient to God? Am I listening to and responding to his commands?

The ESV uses brotherly affection in the place of mutual affection. Both mean a type of kindness and mutual respect for brothers and sisters in Christ. Am I really loving people? Am I taking time to pour into other people?

Love is always a big one. Mentioned a lot in 1 Corinthians, love here is a self-giving love that is more concerned with giving than receiving. Am I loving people without any expectation of reciprocation or action in return?

I love how Peter sums all of this up by saying, "If you possess these in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ."

This tells me that I need to be continually reflecting on these things to prevent myself from becoming ineffective and unproductive.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Cultivate Faithfulness

C.S. Lewis once said, "Comparison is the thief of joy."

Psalm 37 says:
Fret not yourself because of evildoers 
   be not envious of wrongdoers!

For they will soon fade like the grass 
 and wither like the green herb. 

Trust in the Lord, and do good;    dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.
Delight yourself in the Lord,  and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Christine Caine tweeted, "The goal is to run YOUR race and finish YOUR course. Stay in YOUR lane; stop looking over YOUR shoulder. Fix YOUR eyes on Jesus!

I have been reflecting on all three of things for a couple of months.
In my experience, nothing will derail you quicker from the course God has set out for you than looking around at other people and comparing your path to theirs.

We can so easily forget the purpose God set before us when we start looking at someone else and their purpose and thinking, “I wish I could do that.”

C.S. Lewis is definitely high up on my list of wise people and he said it so simply. Comparison is the thief of joy. Whether you admit it or not, I bet you’ve experienced this. You’re excited about the possibilities of a new opportunity or the vision God’s given you UNTIL you look over and see your friend doing something completely different and think, “She’s/He’s so much better at that than me….”

God called you for a specific purpose! A SPECIFIC PURPOSE! By the very nature of that statement you can’t compare it to someone else’s purpose. So why do we?

I have Psalm 37 posted in my office, because I need to read it almost every day. The first two verses speak to comparison, but I continually have to remind myself of verse 3, “Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness”

The word "befriend" here also means "cultivate." What the Psalmist is telling us is to dwell in the land (wherever you are with God) and cultivate faithfulness in whatever he’s called you to do.

Someone pointed out to me once that as Christians, so many time we want the result without the process. For me, this means that we want to reach the pinnacle without laboring in the climb.

What has called you to do right now? Not what do you want to one day be doing. What do you need to cultivate faithfulness in today?

Christine Caine summed it up best for me with her tweet. When I’m frustrated with something in my life, I can usually trace it back to taking my eyes of MY purpose.

We need to stop looking around comparing our journey with Christ with everyone else’s and get to OUR OWN purpose. God created every part of YOU! Your talents, your knowledge, your personality were all created to fulfill your unique purpose! THAT’S AMAZING!!

How much more effective would we all be at spreading the Gospel if we stopped the comparison and started cultivating faithfulness in what God has called us to do?

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Even if He Won't.....

Has there ever been a time when God has clearly spoken to your heart and it kind of caught you off guard?

I've been reflecting on what God said and it's still hard.

There are a few times in life where something pops up completely out of the blue and has the power to change your entire life. One conversation, one phone call can alter you life completely in the blink of an eye.

One night after one of these events, I was praying earnestly to God. I knew exactly how this situation HAD to turn out. There was only one option. God had to make this right. "You have to come through, God" I said over and over. You have to come through.

But even if He won't.......

That was all....... WHAT?! What do you mean "even if He won't"???? WHAT?!

After my initial questioning wore off, the next thing I began thinking of was the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego from Daniel 3.

Yep. Heard the story in Sunday school about million times. Shane and Shane made a song out of it...... not sure where you're going with this God.

I actually think I did know where he was going with it, but it took some time for me to really confront it.

So King Nebuchadnezzar has a bit of an ego (understatement). He thinks he's pretty much on the same level as the God of the Jews. So he builds this massive statue of himself (vain much?) When the music begins to play, everyone in Babylon is required to worship the statue. Anyone caught not worshiping will be thrown into the fiery furnace.

Sure enough, the music plays and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego don't make a move to worship. This kind of makes the king mad. He threatens to throw them into the fire if they don't begin to worship him. Look at their reply:

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.
-Daniel 3:16-18

Definitely a bold reply. Did you catch that one part? They said God had the ability to save them and he will save them, but even if he did not, they still would not worship King Nebuchadnezzar. 

If you don't know the rest of the story, the three are thrown into the furnace and God does save them. That's pretty much the good Sunday school version. 

Now let's really think about this. It's easy for us to appreciate the boldness of their reply when we know they end up fine! Can you imagine how much faith and trust that really took to say?

These three men are pretty much staring death in the face. The fiery furnace had probably killed many before them. They knew that this could really be the end. Yet, they acknowledged that God had the ability to save them and they really believed he would, but even if He won't, they would still praise only one god. 

I don't know if you've ever experienced one of those life altering moments. I kind of pray you don't. In the middle of one, God chose to remind me of this story. In the middle of the storm, God asked me if I would still praise Him even if He won't.

I wish I could say I answered immediately. I was surprised He would ask me. I sat back not knowing what to say. A few days later, I stood in church. The band played a song about how much God loves us. I knew the words well. It was one of my favorite songs. I grew up in church. I knew God loved me. But in that moment, it took everything in me to sing the words. 

I can start to understand how bold Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego's reply was. I know God can make this situation turn out right. I know He can show up and work a miracle, but I also know that even if He won't, He is still good. He is still faithful. He is still sovereign. I will still praise Him.

I wish it was easier for me to say. I cried all the way through writing this! I really believe there comes a point where all I can do is keep telling God that I love Him and I trust Him. You are still good. You are still faithful. You are still Sovereign. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Confessions of a Good Girl

My name is Katelyn and I'm a recovering good girl.

Sound strange?

Let me explain.

My testimony is nothing dramatic. I became a Christian when I was seven. I was raised in the church and never left. We went to church while we were on vacation. I participated in Sunday school, vacation bible school, the youth group and the youth choir.

There was no dramatic Paul-like conversion. God didn't pull me out of a pit of drug or alcohol abuse. I've always been the church girl. I went to school, made good grades and finished college; all without even pulling an all-nighter.

Before you stop reading because you think I'm boasting, let me tell you that, while I have no doubt that God designed my testimony for a purpose, I have had to ask my self an essential question multiple times:

What did God save me from?

Watch this video and see if you relate...

This post is not a book review (although that book really is good). I use that as an illustration. Can you relate to any of that? I sure can.

The struggles in my life have not been physical. Instead, they've come in the form of my own internal mess. I care about your opinion simply because you're there. Rejection is something that cuts deeper than anything else. I have become an expert at hiding behind "fine" and a good smile even when I feel like I'm about to lose it. I find joy in listening to other people as they work out their problems, but feel immensely uncomfortable talking about my own. Performance based affection is something I continually have to give over to God.

I would say that the last ten years of my life have been a journey to identifying this mindset and then working through it with God. I'm not even close to having it together. Just being able to admit that is progress.

Every now and then, I come through seasons where the devil really throws everything at me and I feel tempted to return to my good girl roots. A friendship falls apart, I make a mistake that ends up very public, or someone questions my motives. I want to go back to putting up walls. "I'm fine," I say, "Now tell me what's going on with you..."

When people ask about my testimony, I tell them that God saved me from "try harder." When I finally started listening to God and allowing Him to remind me what grace really was, I realized that my worth, my acceptance, my life is not defined by other people.

"Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory"
-Colossians 3:2-4

"I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep"
-John 10:9-11

Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
-Matthew 11:29-30

These are all scriptures that God has spoken to my heart. I have to remind myself daily that God could not love me any more or any less than He loves me right now! Just like Colossians says, my life is hidden in Christ. When God looks at me, He see's Christ. Therefore, it would be completely ridiculous to think that I could ever "do something" that would match or surpass the sacrifice of Christ. The cross was enough. Instead of spending my life trying harder, I am free to spend it praising God for saving me.

God, thank you for the cross. Thank you for the sacrifice of your son. Thank you for saving me from the bondage of the good girl burden. Continue to remind me of your grace. Teach me what it means to live for you instead of others.

Friday, June 15, 2012

The Sheldon Cooper Friendship Theory

One of my favorite shows is the Big Bang Theory. Maybe it's the nerdy humor or watching the lovable underdogs find all the little quirks of life, but either way it's definitely at the top of my lists.

I've been thinking a lot about friendship lately. Last year, God spoke to me a lot about his plan, timing and trusting him in everything. This year, our time together has been dominated by how I interact with other people and what friendship really is.

How does this relate to the Big Bang Theory?

One of my favorite episodes is a Christmas show where we learn Sheldon's view's on gift giving. According to Sheldon, when one person gives a gift to another person, the receiver is expected to give a gift that matches in price value. In other words, if I gave you a book valued at $15, then proper Sheldon etiquette would say that you should also give me a gift that is valued at exactly $15. As you can imagine, this can be quite difficult. In this particular episode, Sheldon's neighbor Penny has told Sheldon that she will be giving him a Christmas gift. In order to be prepared for whatever she gives him, Sheldon buys multiple gift baskets of different values and safely stores them in the bathroom until he finds out what Penny will give him.

Watch what happens.... (dumb youtube requirements say I can't embed the video, so you really will have to go watch it...)

Sheldon was so concerned about matching the value of Penny's gift that he was completely unprepared for a heartfelt gift that had immeasurable value.

Back to friendships. For as long as people have been calling each other "friends," we've told children, "To make friends, you have to be a friend."

What kind of crap is that???

Maybe I'm a little sensitive because I've fallen into that pattern of belief too, but IT'S NOT TRUE!

(First, let me say that I have some of the best friends in the entire world. I have two very close sisters in Christ that I know that I can call at any time and they will love me no matter what.)

Just like Sheldon and his gift giving etiquette, we believe that if we're nice to someone, encourage them and invite them to hang out with us they should return the same level or value of friendship to us........ you see where the myth is starting to come in?

Have you ever been "friends" with someone and no matter how much energy and friend-like activities you expel on them, they couldn't care less? That hurts.

Maybe it hurts because we're thinking about it wrong.

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselvesLet each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of othersHave 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 emptied himself, by 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.
Philippians 2:3-8

For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning,that we should love one another. We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother's righteous. Do not be surprised, brothers,that the world hates you. We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death
1 John 3:11-14

By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.
1 John 3:16

Can you see where this is going? Philippians talks about putting others before ourselves. It talks about a selfless love. This idea is furthered in 1 John when we're reminded to love one another, but also that we shouldn't be surprised if the world hates us. 

Now "hate" is a strong word that I can't bring myself to use very often. I don't think I've ever hated someone that doesn't want to be friends. It's hurt. I've grieved over lost friendships, but the general idea is that not everyone is going to want to be friends with you. Whether you're a Christian or not, we've all experienced that in some way.

I could expound on what I think of friendships and relationships for days. I can rationalize away my behavior or other people's, but the final end-all statement about any kind of relationships is exactly what it says in 1 John 3:16. Christ laid down his life for us, and we should do the same for others. 

That sums it up. We're commanded, no matter how the other person reacts, to lay down our lives for our fellow man. Love sacrificially. 

Something that God's taught me is that sometimes the sacrificial part is any kind of returned friendship. 

God, this entire concept is almost impossible for me to grasp. Show me how to be selfless. Help me give something without any expectation of anything in return. Continue to prompt me to lay down my life for others. Most of all God, remind me that only you can fill that void in my heart that longs for friendship.