Know Your Coffee

You know how a good cup of coffee can just make your day? The smell makes you smile and brings your hopes up for the delicious elixir of life you’re about to enjoy. Then the robust flavors of a well roasted bean hit your tongue and make your taste-buds dance with joy as your mind and body react to the surge of energy it has just taken in.

That’s a little dramatic, but oh well.

So what would happen if when you’ve finally got that cup in your hand, hopes high and mind ready (and wallet crying because $5 is still unjustifiable for this), you take a sip and find that the coffee is weak and bitter? The horror! I would be frustrated and annoyed because I was expecting something better. You know what though? I would probably still finish the coffee. I might even go back to the place I got that coffee, order the same drink, and finish it every time because somehow I hope that it will be better this time because I expect it to be something it isn’t. Even when it doesn’t change, I won’t either because I become comfortable with it. Something about that place and that drink is convenient, and I am willing to settle.

This is my fear; comfort and weakness.

I think too often our message is weak, overly saturated with the wrong kind of comfort. We address the same topics (that are necessary, mind you) while forgetting to teach our brothers and sisters to simply understand the Word. It is important to have sermons on understanding our daily lives through a God-centered lens. It is more important to equip the saints to read the Word for themselves, meeting God in a unique way only He displays to His people individually.

I did not need the repeated messages on why I should not have sex, watch porn, do drugs or party, when I was in the eighth grade. I needed a reminder of why those were wrong, then a deep exploration of the Word of God to show me a better way to use my time. I didn’t need pastors to be funny or try and be relatable all of the time. I already looked up to them! I needed them to teach me how to read the Word, then point me to other people who would do the same. I do not need the overly emotional worship leaders and songs or preachers who love a good clap. I need a face-down respect of God, an understanding of Jesus, and a trust in Spirit who will then lead me to a response when He is in control of my spirit and actions when I am in corporate worship.

Listen to me, friends. As a believer in Christ, I know I have the authority to say this. We do not need more hands clapping, more feel good music, more of what we know. We need knees on the ground in repentance.

I am not so naive to ignore the fact that a person’s response to the Gospel is completely out of my control, but what I am aware of is how I use the time I am given to shepherd the people entrusted to me to the water of life as best as I can. God will do the rest.

Oh, friends. The burning in my heart for truth and revival is so fierce that I cannot contain the flames much longer. Do you ever feel the desire to speak freedom over your fellow man, the desire to frantically point back to the truth, falling on your knees in agony for the blindness of those around you?

I have.

I do.

Our generation begs for an emotional something, a feeling that will band-aid their problems and tell them how to live decent lives, to be normal and good. I don’t know about you, but I have never read a scripture that was normal. All of them are supernatural and are encouraging because they present this idea of something that is not normal as a gift to us. The promises of God are wrapped in a costly grace, and Jesus’ death was anything but normal. Jesus died to bring a RADICAL and DANGEROUS love to us! Praise God I do not have to be normal! It would be awful!

Friends, that you and I would open our eyes and hearts to the goodness of the Word as the Word, and that we would not go to it with our own assumptions, only looking for things that will make us feel good.

The truth that God divinely inspired, divinely acted out, and divinely gifted to us is GOOD.

May we all rest, stand, and speak from our knowledge that God is so so good, and that He has called us up out of our childish ways and back to the truth in a firm, but gentle way that only He can.

In the thick of it,

Jess

“Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” Mark 10:15

(cross references: John 3:3,5 – Luke 8:13, “And the ones on the rock are those who when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in the time of testing fall away.”)

Jesus told them, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6

(cross references: Hebrews 10:20 – 1 John 5:20, “And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.”)

A Floral Dawn

The blooms of the earth remind us of the life that comes from hardship, the freedom that comes when we finally break through the dark.

Nothing short of miraculous, your night is sure to end. You will break into a dawn filled with golden light, unfamiliar but pure and true.

The sun surely rises, behind cloud or brilliantly in front of it, the sun surely rises on the blooms of adversity, the blooms of trial and hardship.

It breathes new life and warmth into the petals of a bud bursting to life and fullness.

See, oh, sweet soul, your dawn is coming.

Jessica Madison

A Vulnerable Start

Have you ever noticed that there is this overwhelming push as of late to be vulnerable on social media? That sharing your flaws with the world is open and acceptable, highly encouraged and praised. I’m in favor of authenticity, because I believe that authenticity breeds change, and that change breeds movements. However, there is something sinister that I’ve found in this recent openness the world has sought.

It creeps in quietly, telling us how great it is that we are being vulnerable. It tells us that we are so strong for sharing. It tells us all about US. I love being told that I’ve done something good, because–in full honesty and knowledge of my point in this post–I crave approval. Identifying this struggle in my life became increasingly difficult because of that tendency.

It feels good, doesn’t it? When someone praises us, it is hard not to take it personally and be happy that someone noticed how hard it might’ve been for us to share a piece of our soul. Vulnerability hurts, and that pain builds character and increases the reach of our story to people who might have otherwise not known that they could relate to us.

The problem is, the world is focusing on the strength of the wrong character. It focuses in on you, your heart, your strength, your motive, and it tells you that you can bring yourself freedom. This is simply not true, friends. Approval from the world does not breed any sort of freedom or change, in fact it breeds slavery.

Have you not noticed the cycle of post after post, like after like, your soul dragging along looking for that same feeling of acceptance by those who you are trying to identify with?

What I have learned in my own wrestling with this demon of approval is that my vulnerability must come from within a right understanding of my identity. When I know that no matter what I share, I am loved by God in an unimaginable way, I can rest easy. Perfection through vulnerability (or making myself seem perfect by sharing my brokenness, no matter how counter-intuitive that seems) is not the way to freedom. However, vulnerability through the strength God has given me to share my story is freedom. That ‘breath of fresh air’ feeling we are craving comes when God chips away at the heart of stone we have built up as we become calloused against the words of the world. The fear we feel as we share will diminish, because we understand the weight of the worth God has given us through Jesus’ sacrifice and through the gift of Spirit inside of us.

Bruises from being open with someone are undoubtedly seared into your mind making you question why you would ever be open with someone. The only piece of hope I can offer you is that the colors of the bruises change, and that they fade. You may remember that pain for the rest of your life, but the feeling of that pain cannot govern your life. God will guide you to do hard things. He will ask of you what seems to be the impossible. This is the cost of walking with Him.

Friends, I can’t pretend to be anywhere near where I want to be on this journey towards a purer vulnerability with you, and with the world. What I can tell you is that I will happily walk alongside you in your own journey towards the freedom God is offering us here in this wilderness space, to lead us out and to lead us home.

From within the thick of it,

Jess

Do not expect perfection, for you will never find it. The soul is quickly broken, quickly turned as cold as stone. Fears consume the heart and take over the body to control its every movement, every moment that you wish it didn’t own. We are only what we want you to see. The bruises we hide make up more of our strength than you’d know. Don’t let the outside fool you; we’re all battered deep within. Broken, but healing, for Jesus died to take our sin. Every day we live and learn how to keep up this fighting life. Fighting demons, fighting things that hold on so tight. But we are free and free we will be. He is the victory in all the pain, all the joy, and all the times we fail over and over again. — Jessica Madison