Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Passion 2016

I didn’t know my heart needed wrecking until the Lord came and brought the most beautiful wave of truth across my life.

I didn’t realize how much I had been missing Paige until I heard the testimony of a church planter named Levi Lusko who lost his daughter when she was five years old to an asthma attack.

I didn’t ever occur to me just how convicted I was about using my writing and my life for His glory until Christine Caine said that the greatest title we could ever gain in life was being called Christ’s servant.

Let me back up a little bit.

This weekend I traveled with the college ministry at my church to a conference in Atlanta, Georgia called Passion.  It was my second time attending this conference, but this time around God moved in me and around me more than I could have ever asked for or imagined. 

Passion is a conference that has been taking place for the last nineteen years, a gathering of college students, a generation united for Jesus’ fame and glory.  Each year we are given the opportunity to hear from world renowned Christian speakers, authors, pastors and musicians.  This year we had the privilege to hear from Louie Giglio, John Piper, Ravi Zacharias, Christine Caine, Levi Lusko, Chris Tomlin, Hillsong United, the Passion Band, Matt Redman, Christy Nockels, Rend Collective, and David Crowder.  

Oh, and did I mention it took place in THREE arenas in two different cities with a total of 40,000 students and their leaders?

Yes, it was incredible. If I haven’t convinced you of how awesome it is, just keep reading. 

We arrived on Saturday night and I left that night and headed back to our hotel so filled with the Holy Spirit and the joy He brings that I thought I might burst.  The next morning, however, I should have known that God was trying to show me huge things because I could feel the enemy vying for my attention. 

I began to get frustrated with simple things: it took us forever to get into the arena, we missed part of my favorite band, it was *according to me in the moment* 1,000 degrees where we were sitting, and I was starting to get a headache.

But then God said, “Just stop complaining and listen for half of a second, just remember why you are here.”

So I breathed in deep and did just that.  

It was then that Levi Lusko came on stage and began to share his testimony.  He began by telling us about the church that he and his wife had planted and how much God had been doing in their lives in the last ten years.

Then things shifted as he began to share that his five year old daughter had passed away three years ago from something so preventable, an asthma attack.  

Tears immediately filled my eyes and I thought back to three years ago when we lost Paige just as unexpectedly. 

He continued to tell us about how God had been glorified in the next few days when two of her nurses came to believe in Jesus Christ at their church’s Christmas Eve service that took place just days after her death.  He told us how God had begun to heal and put his family back together after going through such huge tragedy.

Tears fell down my cheeks as he spoke with such certainty about the sovereignty of God.

Because even within these past few months, especially the last couple weeks, I’ve missed Paige more than I have in a long time.  I’ve started asking God once again why He took her, why I can’t have her here as I walk through college and face the challenges that it brings.  I’ve wondered why Christmas hasn’t been the same since she’s been gone.  

But as I sat listening to his testimony, God wrapped His arms around me and reminded me that all of this has a purpose, and that purpose is that He may be glorified.  He reminded me that if I viewed suffering as a bad thing, that’s what it would become.  But if I viewed trials and suffering as a way to grow closer to Him and to glorify my Savior, that’s what it would become.

In the words of Levi Lusko, “Suffering is not an obstacle, but an opportunity to be used by God.”

Words can’t convey how much healing the Lord brought me as I sat in Phillips Arena with one of my best friend’s arm around me while I sobbed and Levi Lusko prayed over those longing for healing and hope in the midst of grief, prayed for us to see trials and suffering as a blessing in disguise. 

I left that session in awe of God, but little did I know what that night would bring.

Last year we got to hear Christine Caine speak, so I knew that her message for us would be nothing short of amazing. 

Little did I know God had even more reminders for me.

Long story short, she spoke about how the greatest people in the Bible we called servants of God.  Before Joshua was a servant of God, he was Moses’ aide, meaning that he served in the background for years on end while God built his character and prepared him for being a servant of God.

She pointed out that so often we want to be a servant like Moses without first putting in the unseen and hard work of an aide like Joshua.  But we must be willing to be an aide to Jesus Christ and those around us so that God can prepare us for the straining work of being a servant.  

He needs to build my character while I am an aide so that in my life and in my heart, the spotlight on Christ is greater than the spotlight on me. 

When it came down to it, she challenged us to do the hard work to reach all of the nations for His glory, trusting that God’s ability is greater than any of our human limitations.  To believe that impossible is where Jesus begins, miracles are what He does, and that we are able to complete the calling and the dreams He’s put in our lives in His power.

God reminded me that He gave me a love for writing not for myself, but for those who need to hear the good news, for those who need to know that He has a plan for their lives.  He reminded me that whether I end up being a teacher in a title one school on the east coast, or in a small Ugandan village, there will be people who need to hear about Jesus.  No matter where I end up or what I end up doing day in and day out, my purpose remains the same: to bring glory to His name and share His love with all people.  

Even as I write this, I can’t put all that He has done into words.  All I can say is that I’ve never been more excited to start a year as I am about 2016 because I know that my Jesus has such an amazing future planned for me.

But for now I’m going to write.  I’m going to love my family and pour into the lives’ of my friends.  I’m going to learn and prepare myself for whatever He has in store.  And I’m going to depend on and fall in love with Jesus more and more every day, pursuing His heart and His Word more than I ever have before. 

So here’s to 2016 and my Jesus and the hope that I have, we all have, in Him.