Heard at Café: 8/27/2019

While enjoying chocolate milk and Oreo balls (the greatest dessert CCF has to offer if you ask Lauren Hessler), the second café of the semester brought good discussion and laughs.

We heard a talk from the great Jeremy Lawler on Luke 5:1-11, the passage in which Jesus calls his first disciples.

On one occasion, while the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret, 2 and he saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets.3 Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon's, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat. 4 And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” 5 And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” 6 And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. 7 They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. 8 But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”9 For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, 10 and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” 11 And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.

In this passage, we see that Jesus meets a few fishermen who have been fishing all night but haven't caught anything. Jesus tells them to throw their nets out one more time, and when they do, they catch more fish than they can even handle. Jesus then calls these people to follow him, and they do, leaving everything behind. This can only make us wonder -- what were the disciples feeling? They said yes to Jesus, so to some degree, there must have been anticipation and excitement, but also fear and doubt.

For the disciples, they chose to respond in spite of the fear and doubt by leaving everything (including all of the fish they had just caught!) and following Jesus. What's our version of following, and how do we handle fear and uncertainty? Jesus calls us to anchor ourselves to Him, so that He is our guide. Following Jesus is a challenge to live differently, and to see the world with a new perspective. It's in him that we find purpose, grace, and hope.

The disciples had just one glimpse of the good that Jesus could bring: the catching of enough fish to break all of their nets. Something ordinary, like fishing, turned into something extraordinary and began a great journey for these fishermen. This event changed their lives, and their response to it in turn changes ours, too.

Heard at Café: 4/23/2019

The last Café of the year was Marvel themed, with the premiere of Avengers: Endgame in just a few days. We drank Hulk's greenocolada (which was so good) and ate Aunt May's banana pudding.

Tonight, we discussed endings and change, especially in the context of this year coming to a close. More specifically, we looked at Mark 16:1-8. This is the passage that comes right after Jesus' crucifixion, when people begin to realize that Jesus had resurrected.

When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. 2 Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb 3 and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?”

4 But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. 5 As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.

6 “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. 7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’”

8 Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.

Image result for inukshuks
The reactions to Jesus not being in the tomb are ones of fright, bewilderment, and trembling. They're confused, but they get surprised by God because Jesus' death was not an ending; it was a beginning. 

Inukshuks are structures made of flat stones. The Inuit people would build them up pretty high, walk until the structure had almost disappeared from sight, and then build another one. They were markers that served as signals for people who would travel after them. It was a sign that someone had been there; it was a symbol of hope. 

The resurrection in is a symbol of hope for us. It says that God IS with us, and that ultimately, confusion isn't so unknown because Jesus was ahead of the disciples in this passage, and he's ahead of us, now. It also removes the expiration date from Jesus. It means that He's God, and that's worth paying attention to. It means that He has the final say on His life. 

The semester is ending. For some of us, it's exciting. It means graduation or the start of summer or rest from busy weeks. For some of us (like me), this is difficult. It means that people will graduate and move on. It means that a lot of things will be changing. Either way, Jeremy reminded us tonight that life goes on, and that there is hope of good things in the future. Our stories don't end here, they only just begin. 




Heard at Café: 4/16/2019

At the penultimate Café, we celebrated the premiere of season 8 of Game of Thrones with delicious cheesecakes. We also had Penultimate Café Bingos, with spots ranging from Jeremy saying penultimate 7 (yes seven) times to Stephanie saying "my friend mugshot."

This week was also Holy Week, a term that describes the week leading up to Easter. Tonight's talk focused on the time right before the crucifixion.

We discussed Matthew 26:36-46, the passage describing Jesus praying in the garden right before he's handed over to be crucified.

36 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

40 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. 41 “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

42 He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”

43 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. 44 So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.

45 Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. 46 Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”

In this passage, the disciples are falling asleep. They think it's just another night, but obviously it's not; everything is about to change. Jesus tells them repeatedly to stay awake and pray with him, but clearly, the disciples don't understand what's about to happen.

Reading this and knowing what the rest of the story is, we can often criticize the disciples. Why wouldn't they stay awake? All Jesus asked them to do was pray and be there for him, and yet they weren't. At the time, though, it most likely didn't seem important. They didn't know that Jesus was about to be betrayed. In the end, though, they leave him at the time when he needs them the most.

Jesus basically loses his community in this passage. He's shown to be fully human here: he's surrounded by his best friends, but he's still completely alone and scared. His prayer consists of asking to have the cup taken away from him, an indication that he was afraid of the next part of the story.

From these verses, we can find comfort that Jesus went through a lot of what we do. He experienced worry, fear, and the loneliness. If God remains with Jesus through everything that he went through, we can be assured that he remains with us, too. The thing that we should pay attention to is that the cross means that God has remembered us this whole time-- even in the darkness and the silence. He tells us that we don't know how our story will end, so we should wake up and pay attention because we shouldn't miss what's at hand.

Heard at Café: 4/9/2019

Tonight, we got to enjoy snickerdoodle cookies from a recipe by our very own Britt McCord! They were absolutely delicious.

We also got to hear from three of our interns tonight: Shoeman Williams, David English, and Christian Shaheen. These interns shared their stories and a message of hope with us. We looked at Romans 5:1-5:

Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. 3 And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

These verses say that suffering leads to endurance, endurance to character, and character to hope. This is the pathway that Paul challenges us to follow. This path from endurance to hope does not mean that suffering won't happen, but rather that when it comes, we have the endurance to withstand it.

As Christian defined for us tonight, hope is an alert expectancy. It means that we're alert to our surroundings and God, and we're expecting for Him to show up. This is a complete mindset shift from the suffering to the positive outcome.

Each of the interns shared with us the ways in which this kind of hope has been present in their lives. Each person's story ended with the realization that the things that we go through push us to place trust in a God that calls us to a better future -- one without pain and sorrow. These kinds of sufferings also allow us to build trust with the community around us in the support that we receive in these times.

The interns reminded us that our stories don't end here. They end with hope, restoration, and Jesus.

Whatever you might be going through, CCF opens its doors to everyone. We have great staff and interns who are always willing to sit down and talk with you whenever you need them. If you would like to get in touch with any of them, visit http://www.gtccf.org/staff/ for contact information!

Heard at Café: 4/3/2019

Tonight we had Globalscope Café! Globalscope is just like CCF, but in a different country. Students are able to intern abroad in different countries and be a part of the culture there. It's a great way to share God's love and learn more about yourself and a new country.

Dessert was make your own milkshakes. Each table represented a different country and held several different toppings from those countries to be mixed into ice cream. It was delicious, and we discovered that mini churros are really good!

The talk carried this theme of going out into the world, with a focus on 1 Thessalonians 2:1-12.

You know, brothers and sisters, that our visit to you was not without results.We had previously suffered and been treated outrageously in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in the face of strong opposition. For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you. On the contrary, we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts. You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed—God is our witness. We were not looking for praise from people, not from you or anyone else, even though as apostles of Christ we could have asserted our authority. Instead, we were like young children[a] among you.
Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well. Surely you remember, brothers and sisters, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you. 10 You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed. 11 For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children,12 encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.
These words come from a person who lived life with and really loved the people of Thessalonica well. As Jeremy said, Paul's intention was to share his life and the love of God.

We also got to hear from four students who followed in Paul's footsteps. They took the steps to reach out to areas with which they weren't comfortable, and they shared their stories tonight.

First, we heard from Jancy Durrence. Jancy was inspired by the quote: "Ships are safe in the harbor, but that's not what ships were made for." She made the decision to Globalscope at The Garden in Australia the very first semester it was opened, the fall of 2017. Many of the students who visited The Garden weren't even interested in learning about Jesus. Jancy shared how this was a new but incredibly eye-opening experience. Through this, she was able to see how faith and love are shown through how you live your life; it's not about words, but actions. She also shared how coming back was difficult and frustrating: it felt like she had hit an all-time spiritual low. She explained that any faith that hasn't flatlined has its highs and lows, and this was an important lesson that she learned through her experience in Globalscope.

Next, Walker shared his Globalscope story. Walker went abroad to Uruguay the fall of 2018. He shared that he actually prayed that God would make him uncomfortable as he was making the trip to Uruguay. He realized that having a future where you have complete control and one where God has complete control are mutually exclusive -- it's not possible to have both. Walker told us that he learned that ministry is using what you love to do life with the people around you. He also gave some sound advice: "put your heart into whatever you love and the people you do it with, especially in groups outside of CCF." It's important that people beyond CCF experience the love that we get to within the CCF house. Walker concluded by relating his story back to Paul's: he learned what it was like to be in a place for a short amount of time but come to truly love the people around him.

Elyse Martin was the next student that we heard from, and she talked about her experience Globalscoping in Thailand. Elyse had a very different experience from Jancy and Walker. She was incredibly homesick the first couple weeks there, and at most of the events that happened, there weren't a lot of students who participated -- sometimes as few as two would show up. When traveling overseas specifically to do ministry, this can be seen as frustrating or not worthwhile, but Elyse had a much more positive take to this situation. She shared how she was able to reach out to a student by tutoring him. She explained that God had literally sent her across the world just to give this student love. As Elyse said, "God is a God of big things, but he's also a God of small things, and those things matter just as much." Even though Elyse had many fears coming into this experience, she learned that fears show us what we need to learn about God and the people around us.

Finally, we got to hear Karen Herrera-Teague's story. Karen had sort of a flipped situation from the other Jancy, Walker, and Elyse; she moved here from Mexico, and she shared what her experience with this was like over the last 5 years. Karen was able to find a new home here in the United States. She pointed out that even though the environment was completely different from what she was used to, she was still able to find a community that she could call home. She also learned that no matter where you go or what you do, you can always be yourself. Karen was able to share her life and love with the people here, and she explained how when she moves to Washington at the end of May, that she knows she will be able to do the same thing there. God made us to be people who live our lives with each other, and this was exactly Karen's experience after moving here from Mexico.

The common thread among these stories is sharing life. The Bible shows us the picture of God coming to dwell with us, and this is what we should strive to do with the people around us, as well. God works through people and experience. This boils down to verse 8 from the passage we discussed today:
Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.

If you would like more information on Globalscope, many of our interns have Globalscoped and would love to answer your questions! You can also visit https://www.cmfi.org/explore/who-is-cmf/university-student-communities/ .

Heard at Café: 3/27/2019

Tonight was a good night. We had Oreo balls for dessert, and that's enough to make any night a good night.

Today at Café, Jeremy spoke about grace and peace. In particular, we looked at 2 Corinthians 11:21-31.

21 To my shame I admit that we were too weak for that!
Whatever anyone else dares to boast about—I am speaking as a fool—I also dare to boast about. 22 Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they Abraham’s descendants? So am I. 23 Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. 24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one.25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. 27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.28 Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?
30 If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. 31 The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, who is to be praised forever, knows that I am not lying.

We also looked at Philippians 2:1-11:

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first dayuntil now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heartand, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.
And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousnessthat comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.

Grace and peace. These two words are at the beginning of every letter that Paul writes in the New Testament. These are the two things that gave Paul life and keep him going, and he extends that to everyone. Why does he do this?

The grace and peace that Paul greets his fellow believers with is of a different variety than what grace and peace meant in those times.

Grace was used as a term for favor. In this context, grace is about God's full favor. Paul, once a person who passionately persecuted Christians, has himself received this grace and quite literally turned his life around. This grace means that God is for you and that you're forgiven. Paul offers grace to everyone, the same way that he was offered grace. Can I say grace one more time dang

Peace was a term used to refer to being free from violence and war. The Romans ruled in a way that presented peace under a threat of fear. Peace from God is completely different. Peace here speaks to the idea of shalom: wholeness and completeness, where everything flourishes. This means that everything is the way that things should be.

Paul lived a life that shows that even when things aren't going well, it can still be well. Paul wrote the letter in Philippians 1 from jail. We can also see from 2 Corinthians that Paul lived a life full of obstacles and troubles.  It's hard to imagine how someone who has experienced what Paul has could write letters filled with such joy. As Jeremy said tonight, even when it feels like it's the most absent, grace and peace still remain. God tells us to take heart because He's overcome the world [John 16:33].

Where do we seek shelter from the things that rob us of peace? We need more than an education or a paycheck; we need something more complete -- the things that go far deeper.

In the face of struggles, will we choose Jesus?

Heard at Café: 3/5/2019

This week is Compassion Week at CCF. Each day, we focus on a different issue facing our society, and challenge ourselves to step outside of our comfort zones to put ourselves in the shoes of those dealing with this issue. Today, the focus was on electricity.
Seven months after Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico in September of 2017, 100,000 residents in Puerto Rico still did not have power. Today's challenge was to go the whole day without using electricity -- lights, laptops, phones, all of it. Because of this, Café was a little different: it was Café Unplugged! This meant that we sat a little closer together, we used candles for lighting, and worship was acoustic.

We talked about 1 John 3:16 - 18 tonight:

 16-17 This is how we’ve come to understand and experience love: Christ sacrificed his life for us. This is why we ought to live sacrificially for our fellow believers, and not just be out for ourselves. If you see some brother or sister in need and have the means to do something about it but turn a cold shoulder and do nothing, what happens to God’s love? It disappears. And you made it disappear.
18 My dear children, let’s not just talk about love; let’s practice real love.
This passage talks about real love. In a world where the problems feel the most real, this passage calls us to bring life, light, and love to the people around us. It's the actions that make us trust the words. This is love in action: not just talking about love, but actually putting it into practice.

Tonight, we also got to hear from 4 people who do just this: Kirby Kasischke, Kathryn Higinbotham, Ashton Hattori, and Chris Williamson. Each individual talked about his or her experiences with service over the last few years, what it meant to them, and why they do what they do.

Kirby mentioned the unity behind service: each person brings what they can to the table, and together, the team can actually make a difference. Service to Kirby means giving thanks to God. God teaches us that showing love to others shows love to Him, and by showing love to others, we can give the gifts God has given us back to Him.

Kathryn talked about the worth that we give to others through service. By attributing worth to the community around us, we can also have our own worth reaffirmed. In the end, the way that the passage states, if we have the means to help others but choose not to, we aren't showing God's love to the people around us.

Ashton discussed how we can see results when we invest in other people. When we give up our time and energy in order to better the society around us, we have a part of someone's life which in turn helps us to move forward and grow. Giving up what we have can have direct impacts on other people.

Chris spoke about how service can break down walls. Serving can break down the barriers between "us" and "them," but this has to go beyond our friends -- it has to extend to the community at large. Sharing the love that is shown to us can make all the difference in another person's life. As Chris said, "We should treat the people around us less as numbers, and more as neighbors."

God challenges us to live the fullest of lives, and this includes serving and bringing worth to others. When we make a choice to leave our comfort zones, the world can see the hope and reconciliation that comes from the kingdom of God. We are called to reflect God to the world around us, and we can do this practically by backing our words with actions.

If you would like to get more involved with compassion events around CCF, you can sign up at www.gtccf.org/iwantcompassion or learn about opportunities at www.gtccf.org/compassion.

Heard at Café: 2/26/2019

Tonight was Classy Café! We rolled out the red carpet, dressed in our classiest clothing, listened to a string trio, and sipped on blackberry Bella Bellinis.

This semester, we've been talking about what it means to live a full life. Jeremy's talk tonight was about our possessions, and how they can factor into our definition of a full life. Specifically, we looked at Luke 12:13 - 21.

13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”
14 Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?”15 Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”
16 And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. 17 He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’
18 “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. 19 And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’
20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’
21 “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”

In verse 15, Jesus says that "life does not consist in an abundance of possessions." The word abundance indicates that not only did this rich man have enough, but he had a surplus-- he had more crops than he needed. The rich man instinctively wanted to build more barns to store all of the crops, but Jesus tells him that this is a waste. Jesus challenges us and the rich man to use the "enough" and the "surplus" for something beyond ourselves.

This story points out that the rich man had a lot, but none of it was being used to benefit others. This is a mindset that many of us can easily fall into: wanting things for ourselves so that we can have things our way. We focus on building our world the way we want it to be rather than the way God wants it to be.

The sin in play here is greed. Greed creates a false sense of security in our own ability. Generosity is the antidote to greed, and practicing it leads us to a full life. Jeremy reminded us that we should be rich towards God. We should be mindful of where we invest our treasures and our hearts, and give our energy to things that will remain.  The story continues:

29 And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it.30 For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.
32 “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

When our trust is in things of this world, we're easily disappointed. When our trust is in God, we look at the things we have and do what we can to share them with other people. Jeremy's advice to us tonight on living full lives was simple: go, give, serve, love.

Heard at Café: 2/19/19

Tonight was Café Refill, which means that we took some time to rest. Life is busy, and it moves fast, and it's too easy to get caught up in the stress that comes along with it, especially as college students. This week, we took a break from all of that to just enjoy time for ourselves. This looks different for everyone. For some, it's journaling. Others may use the time to read, do art, or even just sit quietly. The idea is to set aside time to do something that brings you peace. If you didn't get the chance to come to Café Refill tonight, take some time this week to just intentionally rest, however this might look for you.

Heard at Café: 2/12/2019

Tonight, we celebrated Valentine's Day! We got to hear about the melodica for creative spotlight and about eating dinner with our friends in Wachovia Park for compassion spotlight. We also ate pink cherry cookies and drank Shirley Temples!

This week, we had the opportunity to hear from Michal Ruth, the speaker from the JIBR retreat this past fall. Michal Ruth had a lot of wisdom to share with us on the topic of loneliness.

She began by sharing a story about washing dishes, a perfectly normal everyday activity. She talked about how these dull moments are the ones that are usually skipped over in the movies -- usually briefly shown through montages. In reality, though, these condensed scenes in movies are a much bigger part of our lives; these mundane moments last so much longer than the 30 seconds they are shown on screen.

It's usually in these moments that we start feeling what Michal Ruth called "pity of self," a pit where our minds go in circles, and where fear and doubt are the loudest things we can hear. A lot of times, on top of the pain and fear that we feel, we also experience isolation because we think that no one can understand what we're going through. It's in these times, though, that we have to remember that fear is a liar and that we are not alone.

Michal Ruth shared 1 John 4:7-19 with us:
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
13 This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. 16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.
God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
19 We love because he first loved us.
In this passage, we can see a perfect picture of love from God. This is a love that is unconditional and leaves no room for fear. We also read that we are given love so that we can give it away to others. Michal Ruth shared that what holds her together in the depths of loneliness is remembering who God is -- His love, character, and integrity of a perfect father. God is love, and that is something to hold onto.

Michal Ruth gave us a few points as key takeaways from this talk:
1) Transformation most often takes place in the ordinary. Whatever causes us fear, doubt, and strife is a gift because it's in this weakness that we are enabled to see who God is.
2) None of us are alone. The same love that God gives us is the love that we share with each other, and we can go forward encouraging each other in that love.

Having God's love is a powerful thing. Tonight, Michal Ruth reminded us that even when we feel as though there's no one who understands us, even when we experiencing crushing fear and doubt, even when we feel totally isolated, there is a perfect love that drives out fear every time.

Heard at Café: 2/5/2019

With TRFKATCR right around the corner, the CCF house was decked out in pink, complete with Rick, the inflatable flamingo pool float. We enjoyed refreshing strawberry milk and hibiscus tea, and dug into Oreo turf cups.

We discussed the idea of forgiveness, of how we've shown and received forgiveness. Specifically, Jeremy spoke from Luke 5:17-26, the story of Jesus healing and forgiving a paralyzed man.

17 One day Jesus was teaching, and Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there. They had come from every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was with Jesus to heal the sick. 18 Some men came carrying a paralyzed man on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus. 19 When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus.
20 When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.”
21 The Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, “Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
22 Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, “Why are you thinking these things in your hearts? 23 Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? 24 But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the paralyzed man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” 25 Immediately he stood up in front of them, took what he had been lying on and went home praising God. 26 Everyone was amazed and gave praise to God. They were filled with awe and said, “We have seen remarkable things today.”

Remarkable --- this is the what the people in this story take away: that they have experienced remarkable events. They saw something totally unexpected.

Jesus redeems us from sin. Because of sin, the relationship between God and His people has been broken. Throughout the entire Bible, the underlying factor is that there is restoration in Christ from this sin. We have a tendency to overlook the needs of others and ourselves, and it takes honesty to admit that we are all sinners.  When we are faced with fears and sin, when we believe that God might be angry, upset, or disappointed with us, He calls us friend. He tells the paralyzed man, "Friend, your sins are forgiven." Jesus literally puts himself on the same playing field as the paralyzed man. This makes room for a relationship with Him rooted in good.

In the same way, Jesus looks at our sin, at our broken lives, and He calls us friends. He reminds us that He is with us, and that we can be at rest if we find peace in Him. God wants to restore all things, and that includes us. He takes our broken and restores us.

Without a doubt, we have all sinned. The great thing is that Jesus still wants us; He still loves us, and calls us His own. As Jeremy puts it, "We are human, we are broken, and we are forgiven."