Five Things God helped me see more clearly in 2016.
While on vacation I had the opportunity to reflect on some of the things the Lord has graciously shown me over the past year, and I wanted to share five of these reflections with you for your encouragement. I wrote this back in January, and meant to post it earlier this year... but better late than never.
1. How my awareness of my identity affects my relationships
In 2016, God revealed some insecurities in my life that I was completely blind to. These insecurities were the result of a lack of faith in the work of Christ, the fruit of fearing people more than God, and of fearing people more than loving people. God has been saying “be more direct with people, that’s one of the ways you can truly love them. Look them in the eyes and be confident in my love for you. Stop worrying about what they think of you. Just love them as I love them.”
2. The problem is with my heart
God is taking me deeper in understanding that when I'm faced with negative emotions, I need to recognize that the root problem is not with my circumstances nor with other people but with my heart. I may find myself in the worst of circumstances, but if I’m succumbing to anxiety, I can’t blame the circumstances. The issue is ultimately something going on in my heart.
3. To confess my fears and respond rather than react to them
Related to number two, I’m learning how prone I am to react to fear that comes from things going wrong with other people or my circumstances. Jesus has been so kind in showing me that I need to slow down and respond by asking what it is that He wants to reveal to me through these negative situations and what heart issues he wants me to be set free from. He is relentless in His pursuit! He loves us too much to let us stay the way we are. He brings us through difficulties to set us free from our sins and purify us for Himself. See James 1:12-18
4. The danger of emphasizing mission without emphasizing relationship with God
The gospel is about God bringing us to Himself through the work of Jesus, for His glory and our everlasting joy in Him. He’s crazy about us. And it’s not because of anything we’ve done, it’s all by His grace. We need to live from a place of communion with God. We haven’t been justified and pardoned simply to not go to hell, but to be with God. Hell is living without God. All of our mission must flow from this emphasis on union and communion with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Jesus says, "abide in me and you will bear much fruit" (see John 15). The abiding comes first. We can’t get this turned around. We need to stress the truth that God has not only saved us to live on His mission but that He has saved us for relationship, and it is through that relationship that we’ll actually bear fruit and effectively live on mission for His glory.
5. How precious the church is and how vital it is that we are committed to one another
The individualism in our culture has corrupted our thinking in so many ways. We make all sorts of important decisions without considering the community of believers that God (the good and all-wise king and maker of the universe) has given us. God, in His kindness, has been showing me how guilty I have been of this as well––it’s always easier to see it in others. A couple of times in the last year, my kids asked me why certain people, who still live locally, are no longer a part of Kaleo. I explained to them that there are legitimate reasons for a follower of Jesus to leave one local church and go to another, and reminded them that we are all still a part of the universal church. I did not speak negatively about anyone who has left. Yet their question was fascinating because it came in the context of them having spent their entire lives in a church that strongly emphasizes the truth that we are a family. I realized that for them, they actually do see the believers here at Kaleo as being their family––probably just as much as they see my biological family as being their family. The idea of someone just leaving seemed unthinkable to them and demanded an explanation.
Over the past year, this truth has struck me quite a bit. We need to go against the flow of our culture and be committed to one another through thick and thin. Our culture says, “your marriage is tough? Well, get a divorce!” and to others “just let her move in with you, avoid making a serious commitment at all cost! Enjoy the benefits of marriage without the responsibilities of it.” This is how some today are treating the church, there is a fear of commitment, and it breaks God’s heart. The Spirit has taken me deeper in seeing just how crucial (in my own life) this commitment to God and to His community truly is. There have been numerous times that I’ve felt like giving up entirely and God has used His precious church, my beloved band of brothers to lift up my soul and keep me on the narrow path. I am so thankful that we can serve as soldiers of the cross together. May we all be able to say of our brothers and sisters “my place beside you. My life for yours. ‘til Jesus comes!”
Nathan Cedarland is a servant-leader of Kaleo Grays Harbor, a church plant in Aberdeen, WA. He is passionate about God, his family (his wife Julissa and their five kids), his church family, equipping the Spanish-speaking church throughout the Americas, and film-making.