Wait in anguish no more.

Good Friday has ended and tomorrow we will celebrate Resurrection Sunday. Today we wait. We wait and we remember the events of the crucifixion and we recount the story of Christ’s resurrection to be celebrated at our sunrise services and Easter brunches tomorrow. But what about that Saturday?

What must that day have been like? What pain must have been felt?

My mind immediately goes to Peter because he’s my favorite disciple. How Peter must have replayed those denials of Jesus over and over in his head. How he must have thought, “if only I had done something, I could have saved him.” How he was awakened by the rooster crowing that Saturday morning and he remembered those words of Jesus telling him that even before the rooster crowed, Peter would deny him 3 times. And he did. How he would be haunted by the sounds of a rooster for the rest of his days. Don’t you know that in those moments on that Saturday that Peter and the other 10 were in complete anguish, completely unsure of what they would do next?

Do you ever think about the shame and guilt and pain that was felt by Judas as those 30 pieces of silver jingled as he ran back to the Temple to try to take it all back? Jesus had not even been crucified yet, only handed over to Pilate at this point according to Matthew’s gospel yet he was already full of shame. Matthew 27 tells us that when the chief priests and elders refused to reverse the deal made with Judas, to take back the money, and free Jesus as he begged, Judas threw the 30 pieces of silver to the ground in the temple and went and hanged himself. Even the chief priests would not take back the money because they saw it as blood money and they used the money for a field to bury strangers, calling it the Field of Blood. The money exchanged for Jesus’ life was used to prepare a field for the burial of strangers. I can’t help but see that as the way in which Jesus redeemed even Judas’ betrayal in caring for those seen as outcasts/strangers by the Jews.

When we read about Jesus’ burial in each of the gospels, we are introduced to Joseph of Arimathea. John 19:38 describes him as a disciple of Jesus who kept it secret for fear of the Jews. He went to Pilate and asked for the body and then provided a proper burial for his Jesus. Can you imagine the shame of always keeping his devotion to Jesus a secret due to his fear of the Jews? For staying silent? For never speaking out boldly in belief? As he went back home after securing Jesus in linen and placing his body in the tomb, how he must have wept.

Matthew’s gospel places Mary Magdalene and “the other Mary” at the tomb for the burial of Jesus. Much research has went into which women were actually at the tomb and you can read more about that here. This is of no surprise to me. That was their nature, to serve Jesus to the very end in ensuring that he was given a proper burial. Luke’s account in chapter 23, verses 55-56 reads, “The women who had come with him from Galilee followed and saw the tomb and how his body was laid. Then they returned and prepared spices and ointments. On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment.” They rested. They recognized and observed the Sabbath according to the commandment. They didn’t work. They didn’t keep themselves busy as I would be inclined to do just to take their minds off the events they had just witnessed. They rested. And don’t you know they felt the anguish in the waiting? Don’t you know they wept? They grieved their Jesus on that Sabbath.

Today as we anticipate the celebration of the resurrection tomorrow, may we be reminded that just as the anguish in the waiting experienced by those closest to Jesus was redeemed that Sunday morning, so is ours. We do not have to sit in our pain because we know the Savior who conquered death and can wait, not in anguish, but in hope and expectation for his promised return again.

Maybe you find yourself in a season of waiting. Waiting for an answered prayer, waiting on healing, waiting for answers. Wait not in anguish but in joy because Jesus has proven himself faithful in the text of the gospels and in our own lives as those redeemed by the blood of the lamb of God who was slain. Wait in anguish no more. He has risen! And he will come again!

I encourage you to spend some time today reflecting on the pain felt by those who were mourning their Jesus only to be redeemed upon Jesus’ resurrection. All Sons & Daughters’ song “Buried in the Grave” is a great song about that Saturday between Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday. It’s my favorite to listen to on repeat on this day each year and I pray that it encourages you heart today as well.

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It’s about the heart work…

There are FEW things more special to me than seeing college students give their time to serve the Lord in missions and getting to serve alongside them. It’s so much more than just the work that is being done but the work in their hearts and within our ministry that is being done through the Holy Spirit as we walk in obedience.

It’s the deep conversations had while painting at an orphanage where chains are broken and hearts are set free. It’s the surrender of hearts that’s found in a quiet time with the Lord at a picnic table before the physical work for the day has begun. It’s the unity that’s formed among our team through the vulnerable sharing of hearts during worship each night. It’s the unlikely friendships that are formed through sweat and blisters on our hands as we shovel concrete and dig postholes. It’s in the prayers shared around a circle for one another, for the people we are serving while we’re away and for the hearts back home that need to hear the Gospel when we return. It’s in the voices and hands raised giving praise to the King of Kings who works all things, redeems all things, and restores all things for His glory and our good.

There’s hard work that’s done through blood and sweat but it’s the heart work that’s done through the moving of the Holy Spirit among the team that can only be fully understood by going yourself. So parents, don’t be afraid of the commitments that your students desire to make but trust that the Lord who created them and who began a good work in them is bringing it to completion. Support your students as they desire to give more of themselves for the sake of the Gospel. Church, give so that more students can go and experience the fullness of joy as they serve in missions. Brothers and sisters, link arms and lay hands over one another as they move forward in taking the Gospel to the ends of the earth. As they run their race, join them stride by stride by using the gifts that you’ve been given through your praying, giving, sending and going.

As a college student myself, a popular song moved me to tears each time I would lead it as I looked out on my friends who were making bold strides to take the Gospel to those who had never heard the name of Jesus. The second verse sings, “I see a generation rising up to take their place with selfless faith. I see a near revival stirring as we pray and seek. We’re on our knees.” I can’t help but believe in my heart that what I experienced in serving alongside 26 students this week was fulfillment of those words. College students today are making bold leaps of faith in following after what God is calling them to do instead of what the world and their families say they should do. It’s contagious and it’s a movement that would serve the church well to stand behind and push them forward as they step out in faith to proclaim the name of Jesus. The American dream will do nothing but leave us empty, seeking more of the world but the Kingdom dream that is being cultivated in the hearts of today’s college students will only give more of what this world truly needs – the love and the hope of Jesus Christ.

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The time is now…

Legacy

billyIt’s a word that I am seeing a lot today as we celebrate the life of Rev. Billy Graham as he has completed his earthly life and is now living in the presence of Jesus. Social media is flooded with photos, videos and quotes that share of his deep devotion for the gospel of Jesus Christ being taken to the masses. I kept seeing posts about his crusades and his movies and the great man of God that he was and the example that he was to our nation. But one post that I read from a facebook friend this morning stuck out to me: “Let us pray God raised up someone to fill his calling.” Now, I recognize that this friend was likely referring to Rev. Graham’s calling to be a mighty warrior of an evangelist but the comment didn’t quite sit well with my spirit because I’m afraid that it’s a question that is lurking in the hearts of many.

The truth is, God has already raised up someone to fill his calling. The calling on Billy Graham’s life is the same as the calling that God has given to each of us who claims Christ as Savior. The question is: are we walking in the calling that we have received? Billy Graham recognized the calling that God had placed on his life as someone saved by the blood of the lamb.  He recognized the weight of sin and he recognized the weight of redemption. He recognized that his time on earth was limited and that he must use his time on earth to proclaim freedom to the captives. And the same is true for us, we have no time to wait. The time is now.

I have the honor of serving on a college campus with a campus ministry where I get to see students stepping out and sharing Jesus boldly with their classmates and their professors. I get to see them step out on faith and commit their breaks from school to travel to geographical areas deemed “unsafe” by society for the sake of the gospel. I get to see students who came into college with plans set for them by worldly standards, and even their parents agendas, boldly changing course to pursue the direction that God is leading them. God is raising up an entire generation to fulfill the same calling that was lived out by our beloved Billy Graham. But that calling isn’t simply for these young adults who are rising up to take their place. It’s for all of us who have put our faith in Jesus. And we can’t waste any more time in our “busyness” to keep from sharing this message of truth and freedom that is available through the cross of Jesus Christ.

You may never preach the gospel to thousands of people in an arena and you may never be on staff at a church but your calling remains the same. I challenge you today to look at the earthly life lived by Billy Graham and ask yourself how God is calling you to walk in light of that same calling? How can you share the love of Christ and the gospel message of Christ to those you encounter on a daily basis?

I know school teachers who arrive early to their classrooms in order to pray for each child that enters their classroom by name. I know nurses who are constantly being invited into spiritual conversations by their patients and who take the time to share Jesus and to pray for them. The family owned flower shop where I grew up was always a place of refuge for patrons to pull up a chair and sit and talk for hours with my mom and grandmother and they always left with their shoulders feeling a little lighter. I have worked in the corporate world with brothers and sisters who have the joy of Christ spilling out of them onto every person they encounter. God has placed his people in strategic places for the sake of the gospel but it’s up to us to be obedient to walking in the calling we have received and to be an encouragement to those in our churches and in our homes as they set out to live out our calling as well.

One of the many posts I read this morning was an excerpt from a conversation between Kathie Lee and Megyn Kelly about Kathie Lee’s relationship with Billy Graham and the impact that he made on her life. Read and watch the interview here.

 

 

 

College Students: Why Missions?

A few months ago I took a leisurely stroll through Target. You know the one I’m talking about. I have 45 min to kill, I’m going to grab a cup of coffee at Starbucks and take my time walking up and down every aisle. Naturally, I found myself looking at shoes and I stumbled upon the cutest pink faux suede slip on sneakers with a bow detail. I immediately loved them, found them in my size, tried them on and had to have them. But then came the dreaded tag flip to see the damage – $7.48. I could have cried right there in the Brentwood Target! But I pulled it together and I took out my phone and I snapped a photo and posted it on my instragram stories for everyone to see the deal I had scored so that they could run to their own Target and snatch those babies up! What can I say? I am my mother’s daughter!

Whether you’re scoring a killer deal on shoes or you’ve just heard the news that Chip and Joanna are having baby #5, you go tell someone! You share the link or the post – It’s what you do! So naturally when I have exciting news like the kind that is wrapped up in the gospel message of Jesus Christ – of how he lived, died and rose again to free us from the chains of sin to walk in his abundance here on earth and live eternally with him in glory – you go tell someone. Because the life change that occurs when you accept Jesus as your savior is far better news than any post we’re sharing on social media. That’s why missions. Because if this message has changed our lives, we should not hoard it to ourselves or within our churches. No. This is a message that empowers us to go and tell everyone because this message of redemption is for everyone.

And if the calling from Jesus himself to spread this message wasn’t enough, the act of obedience in the going and in the telling of this message is just as life changing. And that’s why we can’t stop talking about it. Outside of accepting Jesus as my savior, there is nothing else that I have done that has impacted me as greatly as serving in missions. In the short one week trips and especially in the summer experiences I had in Maine, Argentina and Nepal – I saw God move in my own heart and I would not trade any of those experiences for anything that the world can offer. And it’s because that’s how God had ordained it from the beginning.

God in his perfect plan has chosen to use broken people like you and me. There is nothing special about any specific trip or opportunity to go and serve – it’s in the obedience. It’s obediently listening to that tug in your gut to share your story with your classmate and it’s in the obedience to sign up for the disaster relief trip to Texas. It’s in the obedience of taking ownership of the same scriptures that have been driving this message for generations before you and will continue for generations until Jesus returns. God’s work in reaching the nations with the Gospel will continue with or without you but you have the opportunity to be a part of it and that is not something to ignore. It’s something to explore and the time is now.

Our obedience will take us to far greater places on this side of Heaven than we could have ever planned for ourselves and yes, there are trials along the way. But in saying yes to Jesus to go and take his message to the ends of the earth and everywhere in between, we are placing our trust in his plans. And that takes guts. It takes bravery. It takes hard conversations with our family. It takes saying no to other things that the world will tell you are more of a priority. But there is no job, class, internship, wedding or vacation that will grant you the life giving and life changing experience that comes from taking a step of faith in walking in obedience to God’s clear call in scripture to share the gospel where we are and to take his message around the world.

Saying “yes” to serving in missions is 90% of the prep-work; the rest is just logistics.

If you’re reading this and you’re at all curious about ways you can serve in missions, email me here and let’s pray through opportunities available for you to serve in missions.

Celebrating Freedom

Today is special. Today we celebrate a ministry milestone on it’s 1 year anniversary. Of course this wouldn’t be a Casey story without giving you all of the backstory. You know me better by now.

Since college I had known that God was calling me to do something bigger than myself and I still had no idea what that looked like or how that would play out. And for nearly 10 years I had been in a season of waiting whether that was waiting through college, or waiting for a job, or waiting to get married.

In 2013, I knew God was moving me toward a physical move to Nashville from Jackson. I had prayerfully applied for countless jobs and had asked God to place me in the job where He wanted me. I ended up in the middle of the cell phone industry where I worked in retail and business sales for 3 years. This time was good for me and I know that was God’s way of providing financially for us. In those 3 years I bought a car, I got married and was able to pay for our wedding, we paid off my husband’s student loans and a large portion of mine and we bought a house. Those things would not have been possible without my time working in such a fast pace sales environment and I’m thankful for that time yet along the way, I knew God was moving us toward something different.

In August of 2015, another benchmark in my faith journey, I attended a conference with a couple of friends and I felt the Lord drawing me in to seek him in what would be next for me. I shared with one friend that I just didn’t know what God was calling me to do but that I was ready to move forward in whatever that was. That’s when she said something that will stick with me forever. “I think you’re always going to wonder what it is that God is calling you to do until you just take a leap of faith and do something.” And there is was. Just do something. My waiting season was nearing a close and I was pressing onward toward something and I had no clue what it was. I had prayerfully applied for a few ministry jobs that I knew would be ways I’d love to serve but none of them worked out. But I knew I just had to do something. I had to take a leap.

Based on my pay schedule, I knew that July 1st was the best time for me to leave my full time job in pursuit of what was next and so I did. I had no plan other than I knew I was going to do something. I said goodbye to my team during a Friday morning meeting. A few of those closest to me knew I would be saying goodbye and I’m so grateful that our store leadership allowed me the opportunity to share with my team that I’d be leaving in pursuit of what God was calling me to do, even if I didn’t have that part figured out just yet. I said goodbye, gave lots of hugs, turned in my badge, my work issued iPad and phone and that was it. 3 years of hard work and stress was over and I had never felt more free!

That same friend that spoke those words into my life in August had been praying with me through this 11 month process of figuring out what “just do something” meant. She wanted to meet me for coffee to celebrate this big step I’d just taken and so we met at a local place and chatted for about 2 hours. Then her tone changed and she said “I came to celebrate with you but I also came to talk to you about something. I want to offer you a job.” As I’m sure my jaw was wide open, this dear friend shared that through her praying for me, she had also praying for a few months about who God wanted to come serve alongside her part time in campus ministry and she couldn’t help but see God aligning those two pieces together.

Two hours after taking the biggest leap of faith I’d ever taken in my life! It was like Jesus himself was sitting with us and whispered, “This is it. This is what you’ve been waiting for.” I called my husband in tears and we prayed about it for a few days but I knew that day that my answer was yes.  He knew that day that my answer was yes. As this same friend likes to put it, “my yes had been on the table” all along, for nearly a year, I just didn’t know what we were agreeing to until July 1, 2016.

So today, on the one year anniversary of that leap of faith, we celebrate freedom. The freedom that we have through faith in Jesus and the freedom that comes from obedience to Jesus. We often get this idea in our head that when we are in control, we’re more free to do whatever we want but it’s the opposite that is true. When we are in control, we are caged by our own limits of what we can do. When we release control over to Jesus and “put our yes on the table” to whatever He is calling us to do, there lies the true freedom because we no longer caged by our own limitations but set free by a limitless God. Children playing in their backyard don’t have to worry about anything because they know their moms and dads are taking care of them. When we walk in obedience to what God is calling us to do, we don’t have to worry about controlling anything because we recognize that God controls EVERYTHING.

As we take the day to soak in the peace that comes from knowing God’s taking care of us, we enjoy things like staying in our PJs and repeat cups of coffee. We celebrate freedom by welcoming our best friends into our home where we’ll undoubtedly eat too much food and play cards all night. We celebrate freedom in playing with Bailey and watching her sleep in the middle of our living room floor. And we celebrate freedom by thanking Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith and our freedom for it is by HIM that we are set free.

College Students: Why They Don’t Serve Pt. 2

maine4In August of 2005,  my mom along with my aunt and uncle made the 2.5 hour haul to my new home where I would attend college as a first time freshman. I really had no choice but to experience enormous growth as I learned how to become the independent, responsible adult I was raised to be.

As the baby of the family, my parents had gone through this before – this was not their first rodeo. They lovingly had a “sink of swim” approach to parenting. Of course I always knew they would be there for me but I was expected to take care of things all on my own. For instance, a few weeks into that first semester I noticed that my bank account was a little lower than I’d like after purchasing all of my textbooks. I wanted a little extra money to go out and spend time with friends off campus. My first thought was to just give my mom and dad a call and ask them to put a little extra money in my account – ha! Totally kidding! That thought NEVER entered my mind! No, I went on campus and found a job. I knew they would have a good laugh at that request. I had a place to sleep, I had a meal plan, anything outside of those essentials I could work to earn on my own.maine

As I mentioned in pt 1 of this series, my faith came alive for me as a college freshman and my parents could see that. When I told my mom that I wanted to go down to Biloxi, MS just 6 weeks after Hurricane Katrina to do relief work, she was supportive but very skeptic of what I’d be able to do to help these family whose homes we would be gutting so they could rebuild. To be honest, I was skeptic too but I wanted to serve. When I returned, she told me she could see a real change in me. And she was right.

Now fast forward a year —> I shared with my mom that I felt I wanted to go and serve in missions somewhere for the whole summer. She replied, “Oh I don’t know Case, you really need to work. You have bills to pay… Hey! Why don’t you go back to Mexico for a week like last year? You loved those kids and had such a good time!” The time came around and I applied for a one week trip like we had discussed. My mom was right. I needed to work again that summer. Except she wasn’t right at all. My mom was a great mom who helped me keep my head on straight and make logical decisions but this was no matter of logic, it was one of faith.

maine5I arrived at summer missions interview weekend ready to tell a panel of campus ministers why I felt led to go on a one week trip but it wasn’t long until I realized that wasn’t true at all. God had impressed on my heart to give my entire summer to serving Him, not just a week. And so on faith that’s what I told the panel. And at the end of the day, I had been selected to spend my summer in Maine, where there are more evangelical churches within a 5 mile radius of my current Nashville home than in their entire state.

When I got home, I sat down with my mom absolutely terrified as I told her what happened at Interview Weekend, where I would be spending my summer and laid out my plan of how much it would cost, how much I would need to save to cover my bills for while I would be gone and how I planned to raise all of the money. I just knew I would hear her lists of all the reasons why I needed to stay home and work but instead she said, “ok”.

My mom knew that this change in me that she had seen for over a year was not going away. She knew I was an independent, strong, determined woman and that I would find a way to make this happen because that’s who she raised me to be.

I write all of this because during my time in campus ministry, I have been heartbroken for students who do not have that same support from their Christian parents when they feel God calling them to serve in missions.

maine3And so I write this to parents of college students. I can only imagine what a tough season this is for you. You have raised these babies under your roof for their entire lives and now they’ve moved away from home and they are making all of these big plans and life altering decisions without you. But I beg you to take a step back and look at the child you have raised. All of that pride that you feel, you should because they are strong and beautiful and God has created them for a specific purpose. Please don’t stand in their way. Trust that you have raised good kids who are now adults and you have to let them be just that and let them make their own decisions.

You children are going struggle with not having your full support because they have honored you as God commands their entire lives but it is God who has ultimate authority over their lives. When they go and do these things without your support, they are not being disobedient to you – they are simply being obedient to God. You have to step aside and allow them to follow God’s direction for their lives even when it is different than what you think is best. This is just as much a step of faith for you as it is for them. Trust that just as God has taken care of you, so He will take care of them.

maine2Before I left to serve in Maine, I received a couple of checks in the mail from churches I had never attended. I had no idea how they had learned of my summer in Maine and so I asked my mom if she knew anyone from these churches. She said, “Well I didn’t want to tell you and get your hopes up incase no one sent you any money but I made copies of your support letter that you sent to our church and I sent it to every church in West TN.” Even when it didn’t make sense, she supported me whole heartedly. And when I got home from Maine that summer, she asked, “so where will you spend next summer?”

I often question what my life would be like if I had just went on a one week trip that summer. Sure I would have worked and made money but God worked in my life that summer in ways that have completely shaped me into who I am today. I will forever be grateful that my mom took that leap of faith with me despite our best logic. God took care of every detail and is still taking care of me today just as she had always prayed He would.

You have raised incredible kids. Now let them rise up into adulthood and follow God’s will for their lives like you have always prayed they would.