Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Beauty in the Transparent

My natural tendency in life is to hide my struggles and hardships.  In fact, I think most people do. For whatever reason we want to live in our own little bubble and keep the hard things to ourselves so when we go out among friends everyone is wonderful and happy and we can escape the hardships waiting for us in our minds. But really, is this wise or Biblical? What if in the Bible none of the authors ever wrote about their faults or the struggles of others? But instead only wrote of triumphs, miracles, and encouragement. Those triumphs, miracles, and encouragement wouldn’t mean anything unless there was loss, sickness, and hardships beforehand. Those times of loss, failure, and confusion make a triumph all the more beautiful, when we can see how God orchestrated events and thoughts and plans to bring about His perfect will that is far more perfect than we could have ever imagined. 

What if Simon Peter never told anyone he denied Christ three times, and it was not recorded in the Scriptures? What if we had never heard of King David’s adultery and murder? We’d have a very different picture of these men and would see them almost as “supermen” instead of the sinful but godly men they were. The same applies to us. Part of remaining humble is to share struggles and sins. But so often our pride gets in the way and we prefer to post a rosy picture of ourselves and not share our true struggles.

When I think about when I’ve had the most encouragement either from a talk, sermon, friend, or advisor, they are the times when they have shared their struggles and shortcomings and then how they overcame it with Christ’s help. Now I’m not talking just about how I struggled with selfishness for the last couple of years, or depression early in my life. I’m talking about specifics, the nitty gritty, specific situations. Such as how I spoke rudely to a friend and how it damaged our relationship and then how we grew back together. Or how I used to say this thing to my husband and how it wounded him and caused strain in our marriage. Or how I was so self centered in my family and here are the examples of how it caused pain. 

Most Christians can say they’re struggling in their prayer life, or being too lazy with Bible reading, or lacking motivation for this and that and not feel too bad about it. It’s almost the “thing to do” to make it look like you’re a good Christian and aren’t too proud. But I ask myself, when was the last time I confessed a specific sin to a friend, or really shared what was on my heart and made myself vulnerable? Vulnerable. No one likes to feel vulnerable. Yet vulnerability is what draws true friends together. As bad as you might think your sin is, I can guarantee you many, many people have struggled with the same thing before. So do you want those around you and after you to struggle with the same thing again? Or would you rather share your struggles and how you dealt with it to encourage them in their Christian walk? James 5:16, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”

Next time you’re with a dear Christian friend, share what struggles weigh on your heart. What sins are you fighting against right now? What lessons has God taught you recently? Name some of the ways God has answered your prayers in ways you never could have imagined. Share God’s unexpected blessings in your life. Give hope to those around you and share stories of God’s faithfulness. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Athens day 1

Our last stop on the trip was Athens. I've always wanted to visit Athens after seeing so many pictures of it in history books. The city of Athens isn't particularly nice, the economic downturn shows. Countless beautiful old buildings are abandoned, falling apart, and covered in graffiti. Sad.

The incredible view from our hotel room. This is the temple of Zeus. You can't see it in this picture but just to the left you can see the Acropolis. 

This is what most of the buildings look like, beauty underneath but hidden by dirt and graffiti. 

I was so excited this day. I felt like I had stepped into my history book. 

This is Mars Hill. It's right next to the Acropolis and is the hill where Paul gave his talk in Acts 17. Like the previous Biblical places we had visited, to be where Paul spoke is very moving. 
Pastor Morecraft gave a wonderful talk walking us through Acts 17. 

This is the Antikythera. The function is written below. The most amazing part of this device is how old it is, before Christ, and yet they knew how to measure the placement of the sun, moon, and tides. 

There is one big rule in Europe. Eat gelato. It's 100 times better than the US.