“In whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit”- Ephesians 2:22
by Amy Kellogg
Amy is one of LLI's first alumni. She and her husband live in California where she is completing her mental health internship. She writes, "There are so many lessons that I still use from LLI. Two of the biggest are how to continue to use my gifts as an encourager on a team. Even when encouragement seems forced, it can still change the dynamic of a team or group of people! Thank you LLI for encouraging me in that gift. I also view multicultural teams as so beneficial now as well. I would not have learned how to work with people from other cultures if it wasn't for LLI. Such a gift!"
As believers in Jesus Christ, it can feel as if we are constantly being squeezed dry by the pressures of the world. Take a second to think about the people you felt pressure from today, people that may have made you feel less than or ashamed. Did you disappoint someone? How did you feel about yourself afterwards?
The lie we often tell ourselves is, “I disappointed someone, therefore I am a disappointing person”.
This cycle becomes a search to make others happy through our behaviors so that we become a “good” person. It’s easy to fall into a dangerous cycle of people pleasing in order to make others happy. We can often justify this harmful behavior by calling it humility, or self-sacrifice, when in reality we are searching for our identity apart from Christ. This pattern will always lead to exhaustion and a desire to quit.
We can also put negative pressure on ourselves, and easily get wrapped up in a continuous cycle of trying to work hard, and please God through our actions. God calls us to a life of holiness (1st Peter 1:16), but we cannot live that life without Him. He has promised His Spirit to guide us. He tells us that He will use our trials in order to build perseverance in us.
We will make mistakes, and we will face trials from the world. However, we can trust that God is using these things to build us together. If our identity and self-worth is based on our circumstances, we will always be disappointed. Pressure will come, and we persevere when we believe that our identity is built into Jesus Christ and not our circumstances.
Pressures from this life will come, Jesus promises that in this world we will face trouble, but then He tells us how to persevere when he says, “Take heart for I have overcome the world” (1st John 16:33).
How do you take heart? We have to know what God says about us. Take some time to go through your Bible, look at verses that talk about who you are in Jesus. Romans 5:10 says we were enemies with God, but through Jesus’ sacrifice we have been reconciled to Him.
We also have to take time away from our busyness to spend time with God. We must allow God to care for our souls in order to stand up against the pressures we face. We saw Jesus do this throughout the Gospels.
Find the ways you connect with the one whose burden is light, whether through prayer, music, worship, nature, art, studying theology, journaling, or another form. Try different activities that are relaxing for you and connect you to your heavenly Father. Daily, make time to study the Word and learn more about your identity as a child of God.
by Marissa Martzolff
About a week ago, I was reflecting over the amazing opportunities I’ve had over the years, and I realized that everything I’ve done have fallen into one of three categories: activities I continuously pursue, activities I have completed and have not returned to, and activities I never completed.
With the majority of the things I’ve partaken in, I have either continued to pursue them or was involved until their completion. Yet, looking back, I couldn’t help but focus on the activities I stopped pursuing.
For some, I left for health reasons (illness or injuries), others were for the busyness of my schedule. But there have been a few instances where I didn’t see the activity through to the end because I simply didn’t want to. Interestingly, I’ve found this to be true with my writing.
I’ve written stories my whole life. When I was in fourth and fifth grade, I wrote my first books (averaging about fifteen lined-paper pages each). Following those books, I began the crafting of at least a dozen other stories leading up to my senior year in high school. I found myself abandoning ship with all of these stories, never seeing them through to the end.
That senior year of high school, I decided to change this. I researched topics for my genre (I exclusively write historical fiction stories), read how to improve my fiction writing abilities, and laid out plans for my book. This time, I was determined to complete it.
But then I faced roadblocks. I found plot holes. The motives of my protagonists didn’t make sense or seem realistic. The research of the era in which I was writing became a daunting task that I dreaded. As you can guess, I abandoned this book as well.
Recently I’ve revisited the concept of the book, reinvented my characters and plot, and researched more thoroughly the era in which the story takes place. It’s been a challenging process staying committed to this book, as I plan for it to be the length of a novel (opposed to the 15-page stories I’ve written previously). But I’ve always desired to achieve this goal of completing a book, and no matter how long it takes me to complete it, I will stay committed until the last sentence of the book is typed.
Some of you are probably thinking, that’s great, Marissa. I’m, um, glad to hear about all this… kinda. But, why am I reading this? Can we skip to the part where we start talking about how this applies to faith?
To which I say:
If you’re familiar with the New Testament, then you’re no stranger to Paul (What an incredible story of transformation and grace!). You’re also most-likely familiar with Paul’s topics of endurance and perseverance. Often, he used analogies regarding runners in a race to help readers relate to his message.
But there’s a different path I want to take with this concept. Instead of focusing on the race, I want to focus on the training.
Although running has been one of the activities I’ve personally been unable to complete due to health issues and injuries, I’ve still had the opportunity to experience training for 5k’s and for other runs I’ve completed in the past.
Almost anyone can tell you this: you can’t wake up on the day of a half marathon and expect to run the full distance if you’ve never trained to run. It’s a recipe for disaster.
Rather, you have to train yourself psychically to prevent injuries and to breathe properly. Not just physically, but also mentally: half of the battle is pushing through the doubt in your mind, the voice telling you to quit.
If we’re running this spiritual race for the rest of our lives, that’s going to take a lot of endurance and perseverance. And the only way you can receive that is through training and strengthening those “spiritual muscles.”
When we encounter the bumps in the road such as persecution, doubt, laziness, or life circumstances, we’ll be equipped to handle them. Our knowledge of God’s Word, having it hidden within our hearts, will help us overcome those “mental blocks” we receive while running. Not only this, but the more we exercise those spiritual muscles and principles while training, the more prepared we’ll be when we encounter larger ones during the race.
So what does the application look like for us as Christians as we embark on this life-long race?
When we begin to strengthen our spiritual muscles and train for the long-run, we’ll be surprised at the results we’re able to achieve through God’s help. Ultimately, the prize that we seek will be more rewarding than anything we can receive on this earth. All it takes is perseverance and endurance.
Marissa is graduating this April with a Bachelors degree in Marketing and a minor in Communication. She has always been passionate about writing, and this past November she launched her faith-based blog, His New Creation. She desires to use this blog to encourage others, and to also share The Good News!
by Steve Meeker
Steve has the privilege of serving as the director of Leadership Lab International. His passion is to step alongside young leaders in order to help them grow in their love for God, their skills to lead and serve together on teams, and in their commitment to fulfill Jesus' Great Commission.
Stepping off the plane in Estonia was a dream come true. We had envisioned this day when relational discipleship and team building training could be offered outside of Croatia through LLI. As we emerged through customs, our team was greeted by an Estonian delegation including Mari Vahermagi, the SU Estonian National Director, who had an even bigger dream to bring together young leaders from other Baltic nations for training in their beautiful nation.
God dovetailed these two visions and transformed them into reality.
Members of teams of volunteers from Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia learned together about each other and what they each contribute to the body of Christ. They began to understand more about Jesus’ model for discipleship and how they are to be involved with the Great Commission. It was a time of discovery, fellowship and empowerment as each reflected on abiding in Christ.
Vision needed empowerment and that is where so many of you played an important role. This training event could not have taken place without your partnership. Our team took a step of faith and opened up the 2017 LLI Virtual Run event and in May participants started the race.
Whether you were in a group or pressing on alone, pushing a baby stroller, tackling another hill on a dirt bike or cycling through the streets of your city, every ounce of exertion mattered. One team of three even raced back from a river beginning to spill over its banks to complete the event. Why? So young leaders could be trained to serve like Jesus and fulfill His command to go and make disciples.
Your efforts made life changing impact possible! Thank you for being a part of the team. As Zane from Latvia said, “Thanks to LLI I really understood what discipleship means and I was encouraged to change my life completely. Now I know I want to follow God’s will in my life.”
Zane was one of three who attended this training in Estonia that decided to apply for our summer Transformation Training. She is also seen as one of the future leaders in outdoor camp ministry in Latvia.
Today, as I look back at what God did in the hearts of those who came to this ABIDE training, I am grateful for everyone who walked, ran and biked in order to step alongside this dream and to make it possible.
May this encourage your day as you remember the race you joined last year to help others follow Jesus’ command to abide in Him and to “Go and make disciples.”
Gratitude: What is one thing you are thankful for today?