A Rare Strength

As a short, buck-toothed, freckled-faced little elementary schooler,
I stood at a church league softball ‘tryout’ beside a blue eyed, blonde haired girl who would
eventually become my worst enemy…
and then my best friend.

It’s funny how the Lord redeems the ‘irredeemable’ in my life over and over again.
In a little less than 10 months, I will stand beside that blue eyed, blonde haired girl as
she makes a covenant before the Lord with the man she has given her heart to.
Obviously, this is a big milestone, and it has caused me to reflect a lot on the bond the Lord has created between Kayla Hampton and I.

The Hampton family – including Shannon, Joan, Ashlee, Kayla, and Brett – moved to Charlotte, NC
when Kayla and I were in 4th grade.
Little did I know what I large impact this family would make on my life.
The Hampton’s served as missionaries in the Dominican Republic and Argentina
until their son, Brett, was diagnosed with Autism.
They then moved back to the States to make sure he had more than adequate care,
and they now serve the Spanish community in Concord and plant churches there.

I watched as this family found unspeakable and inexplicable joy in serving one another.
Taking care of Brett was and isn’t easy, but never once have I heard any of them complain.
In fact, I would say that their family is closer than any other that I have spent time around as a result of all that they have endured together.
They see Brett as their angel,
and I see all of them as mine.

Every time I went to the Hampton’s house,
I quietly sat and observed how the interacted,
how they loved, served, and grew with one another.
Little did any of us know how much that bond would be needed.

The summer of 2011, Mrs. Hampton had a severe stroke in her home while going to check on Brett.
I remember the phone call from Kayla, I was sitting in my bedroom floor,
and I just listened to her sob on the other end of the phone.
All I could think was, “Why them, Lord, why?”
In the coming days and months,
I believe I had this question answered.

Though they had no idea if Mrs. Hampton would recover from this stroke and if so what her life would look like afterwards, but the Hampton’s had a firm foundation to stand on and their faith did not waver.
I remember taking food to their house the day after Mrs. Hampton had the stroke and the girls were getting in the Word, proclaiming the promises of God, and believing in His goodness.

I just sat there, overwhelmed by the faith of a family who has been tested in more ways than I can count.
They have walked through the fire together and have stood firmly together.
Their response to everything they have ever been through has brought so much Glory to the Lord.
I can think of countless stories of lives being changed as a result of His work in the Hamptons’ midst.
He gets the Glory.

Over a year after Mrs. Hampton’s stroke and a miraculous recovery,
I asked Kayla how they made it through everything.
She said, “What my dad always says…the joy of the Lord is our strength…that’s how.”
This may seem like a simple explanation, but it is the root of everything.
The root of their resilience, gusto, peace, patience, humility…everything.
Jesus is their life.
The Hampton family has taught me that if my life is rooted in the joy of Jesus Christ,
I can weather any storm, endure any trial, and face anything that comes.

I know that Kayla and Bryan are promising that kind of love to
one another as they stand at the alter on August 3rd.
Glory to Him!

Nehemiah 8:10
“…the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

Mourning, Mercy, & Liberty.

Around this time last year, I was so broken that I believed myself to be irredeemable.
Few people in this world saw the depths of my brokenness,
as I clung to sin with a death grip and saw no way out.
But those few people will attest to the fact that
even getting out of bed was nothing short of a miracle in that season
and that the promises of God seemed unfathomable.
I believed that I was ruined.

I had fiercely run from the arms of Christ for 5 years,
persistently going my own way.
During that time, I learned a lot about sin:
It knows no end.
The devil comes to steal, kill, and destroy.
And he will certainly do just that.
Your destruction is his aim.

But, beloved, Christ came that you might have life and have it abundantly.
He conquered sin and death on the Cross,
and His power is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
You do not have to live in chains to your sin a day longer.
Fight for and embrace freedom today.

Psalm 40:1-3
“I waited patiently for the Lord; He inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps to secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord.”

Psalm 30:8,11
“To You, O Lord, I called;
To the Lord I cried for Mercy…
You turned my wailing into dancing;
You removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy.”

These two verses have been my anthem for the past year.
But when I first read them last fall,
I had to ask for the faith to believe the Lord could turn my ashes into beauty.
Because goodness knows I thought it was impossible.
But He did, He so did.
In fact, He did all that I ever cried out to Him for and so much more.
God cannot and will not ever break a promise that He is made to His children.

Maybe like me you simply need to have light spoken into your darkness
and to have words of hope poured upon you.
Hear me say that sin does not have you.
He who is in you is greater than He who is in the world.
There is more mercy in Christ than sin in you.
You are not the exception, you are within His grasp.

“In all things, we are more than conquerers through Him who loved us.”

Glorious Tension

This Monday morning, I sat on an airplane taking me back to Birmingham from Charlotte
beside a 40-year-old man named Steve.

I pulled out my Bible and journal,
as I wrote out a prayer asking the Lord to give me boldness in furthering the Gospel
and clarity in what role foreign missions will play in my life.

Steve looked down at my Bible and asked if I was a Christian and if so what my testimony was.
For the next few minutes, I proceeded to tell him about the reality of the Gospel
and the Lord’s faithfulness in my life.

The conversation eventually turned to the topic of foreign missions
and his experience in various cultures overseas.

Steve told me about the 7 short-term mission trips he has been on,
but he said something that I will never forget:
“You know, Jordan, I felt so guilty every time that
I came back to the States after a mission trip.
It was like I wanted to sell everything I had give it all up so that I could go tell people about Jesus.
It’s like this inner conflict never goes away…
Maybe I will always wrestle with the temptation
to feel guilty for the life God gave me and all of my blessings.”

There is a common trend in Christian circles to diminish the weightiness of the Gospel and
the profound call that every follower of Christ has to spread the Word.
We find the Gospel offensive and its commands inconvenient,
so we [myself included] compromise and ‘soften’ the Gospel.
But comfortable Christianity is really not Christianity at all.

Matthew 19:21
Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor,
and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”

Matthew 6:19
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth,
where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal…”

Hebrew 13:5
Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have,
for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

1 John 2:16
For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—
is not from the Father but is from the world.

1 Timothy 6:9-10
But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.

As I have been praying through the words of Jesus in the New Testament, such as those above,
I keep coming back to the question:
“Do I believe Jesus really meant what He said?”

Because if so, maybe the guilt that Steve referred to was really holy conviction,
and maybe selling everything to spread the name of Jesus is not so radical after all,
and there’s a possibility that the ‘inner conflict’ he referred to is actually the glorious tension that should never go away.
Every disciple of Christ really should live with an inner tension
that drives them to surrender and submit their lives to the Lordship of Jesus Christ day in and day out.

Steve was right that his life was given to him by the Lord,
as were His blessings,
but the temptation that he faces is not to feel guilty for them.
The true temptation is to buy into the lie that they are his to do with them what he pleases.
In fact, this is the temptation we all face.

Because, just as 1 Corinthians 6:20 says,
“[We] are not [our] own, [we] have been bought with a price.”

I do not, in any way claim, to live the Gospel out well every day,
Or to be completely faithful to the commands of Christ,
But I do know that when He speaks He does not stutter.

I simply pose the question to you that I have posed to myself every day for the past few months,
“What would life look like if I took the words of Jesus literally
and did not place my comfort above His commands?”

May His grace abound in our lives as we seek to discern His voice.

Something Better

Do you ever find yourself constantly longing for something more, striving for something ‘other,’ pursuing endless passions and emotions in an attempt to satisfy a deep inner longing?
Do you feel incomplete, unfulfilled, deficient, as though you are lacking something?

If so, then I am not alone. 

My life seems to be an endless cycle of trying to satisfy this deep inner hunger.
I have tried to fill the void with almost anything imaginable:
the approval of man, material wealth, academic success, popularity, external beauty.
I cry out to God to grant me the things for which I truly believe will fulfill my longings once and for all,
But time and time again I am left feeling emptier than before.

Confusion and defeat set in and I’m met with the question:
What am I to do with all of these “natural desires” running rampant within me?

The Lord spoke clearly and consistently through the pages of
Elisabeth Elliot’s Passion and Purity this week as she wrote,
“We are not meant to live merely by what is natural. We need to learn to live by the supernatural. Ordinary fare will not fill the emptiness in our hearts. Bread will not suffice. We need extraordinary fare. We need manna. How else will we learn to eat it, if we are never hungry?…
My heart was saying,
“Lord, take away this longing, or give me that for which I long.”
The Lord was answering,
“I must teach you to long for something better.”

And in these words I found my answer.
It’s not that the Lord wants to withhold blessings from His children,
or to live life with an inner emptiness that gnaws away at us constantly.
He simply wants us to yearn for the One thing that will complete us.
He wants us to want that which God alone can grant us,
and that is Himself.

We have this inner hunger and endless desire for one reason alone:
To realize that sufficient satisfaction is only found in Jesus Christ.

I believe He is beckoning every person on this Earth to stand with open hands,
surrendering anything and everything that He might ask of us,
so that we may receive the One thing that will satisfy every desire we have.

He is more, He is greater, He is better,
than any paycheck, romantic relationship, drug, corporate job, or dream.

In the words of Tiffanie DeBartolo,
“We’re all searching for something to fill that big, God shaped hole in our souls.”

“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing
worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.
For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish,
in order that I may gain Christ.”
Philippians 3:8

May we be willing to loose it all so that we might gain something better.

Light In The Darkness Of Doubt

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Whether it was which high school I should go to, the friend group I would surround myself with, my views on dating, the college I would choose, my major,

or the church I would go to,

Doubting the Lord’s will for my life has been a common theme.
However, I have begun to realize lately that this pattern of thinking has prohibited me from
engaging in life fully and walking confidently with the Lord.

I truly believe Satan loves to render Christians ineffective and useless by causing them to become wrapped up in the “right” and “wrong” of God’s plans for our lives.
There is no freedom in living this way and the burden is heavy. 

1 Thessalonians 4:3 says, “For this is the will of the Lord; your sanctification…”
As I came across these words recently,
light shone into the darkness of my doubt.

What is the Lord’s will for my life?
He simply wants His children to become more like Him,
to be conformed to His image,
to think His thoughts and to praise His name.

In light of this reality, I have clung to these 3 truths in order to transform my old thought patterns:

1. You are exactly where you are supposed to be.
2. Wherever you are, be all there.
3. Bloom Where You Are Planted.

So whether you are at Samford or Stanford,
single or in a relationship,
sure of your major or you just changed it for the 6th time,
know that you are safe in His sovereignty
and that you cannot escape the loving grasp of the Lord.

So stare at Jesus
and embrace His eternal promises that are not dependent
on time, location, or the changing events of this life.
There is work to be done, wherever you are today.
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