Making a Difference

Summer courses.

Ahh, the love/hate relationship. Well, enjoy/tolerate/dislike would probably be a more accurate description. I mean, it sounded great back in April to knock out 3 more credits in the middle of the summer, right?!

Well, turns out an online summer class made my already-busy schedule filled-to-the-brim, and it’s been difficult to find any spare free-time, BUT! There’s a bright side.

In this course, one of the assignments has been to develop a comprehensive vision statement outlining your life purpose and goals for the next 3 years. Though this is challenging and sounds out-right intimidating at the get-go, the act of intentionally writing down what you want the next few years to look like is well worth the time. In fact, I’d say it’s a key ingredient to living an organized and purposed life.

My vision statement is this: “My vision is to use the written and spoken word to make an enriching and eternal difference in the lives of children, teen girls, young women, and older women by shining Christ’s light in their lives and influencing them to obey His Word.” 

Of course, these aspirations are narrowed down and fleshed out a bit more in a more detailed mission statement, which includes aspirations of writing Christian articles and study/devotional books for women of all ages. But what I want to focus on today is the phrase of my vision statement, “make an enriching and eternal difference”.

I’ve always seemed to have a desire to influence others, particularly in spiritual matters. Somehow I’ve always known that I’d want to become an author or teacher (or both), in which I’d have limitless opportunities to shape young minds for Christ. But in this dream lies application – not only for me, but for all who desire to make a difference in this world.

If I want to make a difference, I have to be different. If my vision is to make an eternal difference in the lives of others, my first action step must be to showcase that eternal difference in my own life.

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Romans 12:2)

I’ve often struggled with the tendency to “fit in”, be accepted by the group, or just to go with the flow. It is comfortable and requires the least amount of effort. But going where everyone else is going will not get you where you want to go.

This summer course has been a tremendous learning experience for me, especially in defining what a leader is. A leader is not merely someone who is placed in an authoritative position or has a naturally charismatic personality to get others to do what he/she wants them to do. True leadership means influencing others to create change. This definition implies that anyone – male or female – can be a leader in his or her own community. It doesn’t mean taking the lead all the time; it means recognizing the gifts God has given you to influence others for Him. Influencing others for the Lord is another way of expressing evangelism: sharing the gospel. The gospel means radical change – because of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection, we can be changed from our old selves and become a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). This change in us should inspire change in others. That’s true leadership, and that’s truly making a difference.

If we want to influence others for Christ, we must first allow Him to influence our lives and renew our minds to be aligned with His will. Only then can we truly influence others to create change because they will see that same change reflected in us.

“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:13-16)

Home

 

Recently, my mom, sister, and I had the pleasure of taking a road trip down to Florida for a dear friend’s wedding. We were also able to sight-see and take little adventures up the coast. This excursion of ours lasted almost a full week, including the drive there and back. It was a lovely trip, but needless to say, by the time it had ended, we were ready to come home!

This morning I have been able to enjoy some resting time after being on the go all week long. I’m back in my cozy room, morning light pouring softly through the window, with my cup of coffee and open Bible – my favorite place to be, and I thought, “There’s truly nothing like coming home.”

When you think of your “home”, what do you think of? Home is a wonderful thing to think about, and it often means something different for everyone. Perhaps this is why “home” has both a tangible aspect and a non-tangible aspect. Though we may think of a certain house or a specific area, most of us tend to associate our home with the people with whom we occupy a certain place, or even with the memories made there. The saying rings true, “Home is where the heart is”. Why is that? Why does a certain place or even a group of people (like family) make our hearts feel at home?

I’m sure we could all give different answers, but I believe it all boils down to love. You could be born in a certain place, but it takes the people you love (and those who love you) to truly make a place feel like home.

The same is true of our spiritual lives, is it not? In John 14:23, Jesus tells His disciples, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.” Do you feel at home with the Lord? The Bible tells us that it is indeed possible! A similar passage is found in Revelation 3:20: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” 

But, just as physically going home implies the action of moving from one location to another, so it is with God. In Luke 15, we read the familiar parable of the prodigal son. A father had two sons, and the younger wanted his share of the family inheritance to spend it on himself. The text says that he “journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal [or reckless] living” (verse 13). Soon he ran out of both money and food on which to live and took a job of feeding pigs. Yet, it didn’t take long for this rebellious son to realize how wrong he had been, and that he needed to go home to his father, though he felt so undeserving of a home (verses 18-19). Rather than punishing his son, the father ran to meet him on the road and kissed him, welcoming him as a part of the family once more (verse 22-24).  The younger son had all he could ever need while growing up with his family, but it wasn’t until he knew what it was like without it that he knew just how much he truly needed it.

The younger son in this story represents us, and the father represents God. Though we are born into a friendship with God, our sins separate us from Him (Isaiah 59:1-2). It is only by the saving power of His Son’s blood that we are brought into the family once more. Ephesians 2:12-13 says, “Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”

Remember how Jesus phrases His promises in John 14:23 and Revelation 3:20: He will “come in to” us and make His home “with us”. The wording here is very similar to Ephesians 2:13 above, and implies a specific process of how Jesus comes to live “in” us. We are able to dwell “in Christ Jesus” only by “the blood of Christ”! Why? Because it is only by Christ’s blood that we are able to be cleansed of sin, qualifying us for a relationship with God: “How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Hebrews 9:14) Revelation 1:5 describes Jesus as “Him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by His blood”. Acts 22:16 tells us how to be cleansed and contact Jesus’ blood: “And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” Thus, Paul’s words make sense in Galatians 3:27: “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” 

By reenacting Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection in being immersed in water, our sins are forgiven, and our hearts are made ready for Him to dwell in us (Galatians 2:20). No matter how far we may wander, our Father is ever ready to welcome us back home with open arms, loving us with a love greater than we could ever ask for. Truly, there’s nothing like coming home.

“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” ~ Galatians 2:20

“Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God.” ~ Revelation 21:3

The Journey

If you have ever scrolled through Pinterest or walked through Hobby Lobby you have seen the quote, “Life is a journey, not a destination”, or “life is all about the journey – enjoy the ride”. We hear (and even sometimes sing) the song that proposes that life “Ain’t about how fast I get there, ain’t about what’s waiting on the other side; it’s the climb.” In a manner of speaking, these quotes can be true. As we move through life, we are on a hypothetical road trip. There will be bumps in the road, pit stops, detours, and even a wreck or two. We never grow old enough to say, “I have finally arrived at where I want to be.” We are always working to be better, stronger, and higher.

However, the question yet remains: if life is all about the journey, where are we going? The world likes to embrace the wanderlust metaphor so that they can feel free as a bird, going wherever the wind may take them, seldom taking thought for what comes next. But if we live by a philosophy of “enjoying the ride”, we may end up somewhere we never intended to go.

“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there.” ~Lewis Carroll

As followers of Christ, we have a different mindset. Having been transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2), we now possess a higher perspective. Our life is a journey – on the way to somewhere far better than we could ever imagine.

“This world is not my home, I’m just a-passin’ through. My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue. The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door, and I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.”

Heaven. Do we believe it? Jesus Himself tells us, “In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” (John 14:2-3) John tells the believers, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.” (1 John 5:13) We don’t need anyone or anything on earth to convince us that heaven is as real as the words we just read from Scripture.

If we believe in heaven, we can know we are going there. If we know we are going there, that’s where we find our destination, our goal, and our purpose.  We can abandon the aimless living of the world because we are now filled with a clear focus: “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 3:20) God didn’t create us to live upon the earth forever; we belong to Jesus! If we are citizens of a heavenly city, that’s where we already belong, for we are only “sojourners” and “exiles” in this world (1 Peter 2:11). 

Many people are uncomfortable talking about what comes after this life – some have reason to be. But if we are washed in Christ’s blood (Acts 22:16; Hebrews 9:14), we have our passports stamped and verified. We have no reason to fear death – Jesus has already overcome it! He died in order to save us from that bondage of fear the devil places on us just so we can spend eternity with Him (Hebrews 2:14-15).

“But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” ~ 1 Corinthians 15:57

Life is not just about the journey; it’s also about the destination – for the type of journey we take will ultimately determine our destination. For the Christian, it does matter what’s waiting on the other side. Life on earth is simply a camping ground, a temporary stop, until we reach our final goal. Where are you traveling? Will the path you’re taking take you to where Jesus lives?

“I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” ~ Philippians 3:14