3.02.2015

PERSEVERANCE

"I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have." - Revelation 3:11
I am sure of three things:

1.) Jesus is coming back soon.
2.) The past year has been the hardest year of my life. 
3.) Faith requires perseverance.

I love Jesus, but I hate storms. I have a feeling, though, that Jesus loves storms. It was during a raging storm on the Sea of Galilee that Jesus proved His sovereignty to His disciples. Coincidentally, it was during this past year, during some of the largest storms of my life, that He proved His sovereignty to me, as well.

I don’t feel like I’m overstating things to say that these past several months have been tough, really tough. Often, I struggled in my relationships with family and friends. After I graduated college in May, I found this to be a time of more difficult transition than I had been expecting—career decisions weren't clear, different jobs I was supposed to take fell through; in turn, I dealt with depression and anxiety, as I faced numerous other challenges. During all this turmoil, I could have turned to many things: alcohol, drugs, or other idols. By His grace, though, I didn't. Instead I turned to Jesus. Agonizingly, however, for the longest time, it seemed as though He wasn't listening or maybe didn't care (though I knew better). But, of course, He was and He does. Jesus himself said,
 “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” - John 13:7
And He was right. Looking back now, I know what God was doing. He took away everything that could have taken His place. He removed all the idols. I reached a place of brokenness and despair where all that was left was God and His Word. In that place, Scripture became real to me. The Bible wasn't just ink on a page anymore; it came alive. Verses like 1 Peter 5:10 were real; they were a true experience I had with God and could now share with others.
"And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast." - 1 Peter 5:10
In the depths of my despair, God became closer than ever before. At my church, Summit Church, they always preach that “God is in control and Jesus is enough.” I know that now. God revealed that to me.  He has full control, and no matter what happens, no matter how bad things become, He is still good, and Jesus is still enough. And the best part is that Jesus is coming back to save us. Actually, He has already saved us. He nailed Himself to a cross and gave the ultimate sacrifice so that we may live freely. He gave His life to reconcile the world back to Him, and now we can believe in Him and His goodness. This world is broken and it may cause us pain and suffering, but Christ gives us hope. As I talked about in my last post, an eternal weight of glory is coming soon, and these current afflictions are momentary. So whether it be Jesus returning to Earth to save His people or our own passing over to Paradise, hope lives.

And because hope lives, we persevere.
“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love Him.” - James 1:12
So long as we endure, we will receive crowns of life whenever Jesus returns or takes us home. He calls us to keep going, to fight the good fight, to finish the race, to keep the faith. And when we feel that we cannot go on, His Spirit enables us to do so. He freely gives us all that we need.
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” - James 2:4
Now, I know that I am nowhere close to being fully mature and complete in my faith, but I know that because of the recent trials in my life, I am closer. God uses the storms in our lives to grow us, to shape us, and to make us more like His Son. Because of this, be encouraged when you suffer, because after you have done so, you’re more like Jesus. And that’s the goal. If we are more like Jesus, then this world is more like Heaven. And until the glorious conclusion of it all, God is glorified in this: that we become more like Jesus, this world becomes more like Heaven, and the result is more and more of the people He created giving Him the glory He deserves.

So to that end, we press on.
"The one who endures to the end will be saved." - Matthew 24:13
Thanks for reading.


-Kass

9.16.2014

GREATER - What I Learned While Backpacking Europe

After traveling Europe for forty-three days, seeing twenty-two cities in eleven countries, I feel like I have garnered enough travel tips and useful knowledge to write a hundred blogs. However, I'm only writing one; yet it has nothing to do with any of that. Now did I learn how to live efficiently out of a backpack for six weeks? Yes. Do I know how to navigate major cities using whatever public transportation available or necessary? Of course. Could I tell you what to see and what not to see in places like Paris and Amsterdam? Definitely. Did I discover how to avoid lines at must-see sites such as the Colosseum or Michelangelo's Statue of David? Most certainly.

But that’s fodder for another time. That's not what this blog is about.

What I truly learned in Europe far transcends any shortcut, statue, or strategy, and the place where I finally realized it was in Corinth, Greece.

As we (my friend Taylor and I) strolled out of the train station in Corinth, a Mediterranean port city like any other lay before us. A few taxis waited for stranded travelers, much like dogs waiting for crumbs to fall from the table, and the first cab driver we approached took us away to the ancient ruins of the old city of Corinth. But this was not just another city. Ruins lie everywhere, and although we had seen plenty of ruins by this point in the trip, something felt different. Something felt good, and right. This ancient city marks the place where Paul took the Gospel to the Corinthians in the first century A.D. Excited to go where Paul had been and to see what he had seen, I had no idea what I was in for. As we walked into the entrance of the old city, we saw a map that pinpointed exactly where Paul had stood and preached and suffered, so we immediately made our way to that point. As I walked up onto a central berm, I noticed a square stone with writing in both Greek and English letters. Marking the exact spot where Paul experienced his trials and his triumphs in Corinth, the inscription on the stone read:
“For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.” - 2 Corinthians 4:17. 
At that moment, as I read the Scripture in the place where one of the greatest men of the faith suffered obediently in his passionate pursuit of Christ, it all became too much. Tears streamed down my face because the weight of glory was suddenly tangible. I believe that the presence of God can be felt anywhere at any time, but I felt God in this moment. More than ever. And it's a moment I won't forget.


Stone marking the spot where Paul the Apostle stood while preaching the Gospel to the Corinthians
Suddenly, I became completely aware of what God had been teaching me the entire trip (and honestly for months before the trip as well). In that moment, God told me, "I am greater." And it all made sense.

Throughout our trip, Taylor and I visited some of the most extraordinary places in the world. We saw beyond-description architecture, breath-taking landscapes, marvelous works of art, and so much more. 

We went to La Sagrada Familia, the most awe-inspiring cathedral in Spain, Notre Dame, the well-known cathedral in Paris, St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City, one of the most famous churches in all of the faith, and many, many others. What I discovered about all of these is that, although they are considered to be some of the most amazing, incredible and famous houses of God on the face of the Earth, they are nothing compared to the dwellings of our Father in Heaven. 

We viewed the Mona Lisa in Paris, the Hall of Mirrors in Versailles, and the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City. These all were made by the hands of mere men and are a petty attempt at rivaling the creativity, majesty, and wonder of our God.

We also experienced nature at its finest. We trekked to Les Calanques near Marseilles, France. We went canyoning in the Swiss Alps. We hitchhiked across the beaches of Greece. All of these places were astonishing, but they still fail in comparison to the eternal splendor of God and all of the heavens and Heaven He created.

Not only did I learn that God is greater when it comes to artwork and architecture and get to lay my eyes on the majesty of His finest handiwork in nature, I also gained exponential wisdom from personal life experience. From tumultuous relationships with those close to me, to job uncertainty and an unknown future, I have learned that I am not in control. God has a greater plan for me than I could ever construct for myself. Finally, I'm trying to rest in that. 

We read it all over Scripture... Psalm 145:3 says, "Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; His greatness no one can fathom." Jeremiah 10:6 reads, There is none like You, O Lord; You are great, and great is your name." 1 Chronicles 29:11 proclaims, "Yours, Lord is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in Heaven and Earth is Yours." The Bible repeatedly declares: God is greater.

It doesn't take a trip to Europe to learn this truth. Look around. Think of your circumstances. Gaze at the stars. Stare at the ocean. Take in a sunset. Ponder where you would be if God hadn't stepped in. He is greater, and we know it.

Therefore, we press on. Pursuing Him in all His glory. Because He is greater than anything else we could chase after or hope for. 

Thanks for reading.

-Kass


P.S. If you want to see more photos, visit my Instagram account here, or my Facebook album here. Also, if you really would like travel tips or just to hear more about the trip, I would love to chat. Contact me via email: kassidygcook@gmail.com.

6.08.2014

PURSUIT

diokoto run swiftly in order to catch a person or thing; to run after; to press on: figuratively of one who in a race runs swiftly to reach the goal; to pursue

The main purpose of this blog is because of the word above. I spent the first two summers of college at a Christian discipleship project called Kaleo. While studying the Bible in depth during my second summer, a friend introduced me to the word. It essentially means to pursue something or someone with great passion and zeal, and it was during those summers that I began this zealous, passionate pursuit of Christ. 


"Dioko" is a Greek word used 44 times in the New Testament. Because the word has a few slightly different meanings, its context varies throughout Scripture. The author who used it the most was Paul. Initially, Paul uses the word to describe the way he pursued and persecuted believers during the onset of Christianity (Acts 8). However, after he met Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9), the meaning changed. From this point forward, Paul uses the word to describe the way he pursues Christ and pursues holiness. 


Perhaps my favorite use of the word comes from Philippians 3:14 when Paul writes:

"I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."
Because isn't that all we're really trying to do as believers? We press on. When life comes and troubles mount, we press on. When Satan tempts and our flesh is weak, we press on. When it seems as though the darkness is closing in, we press on. 

Why, you ask? Because that's what Christ did, and does, for us. When Jesus was carrying the Cross toward Calvary with agony ever-growing, He pressed on. When Jesus asked His Father why He had forsaken Him, He did not relent, He pressed on. And as I write this simple, stammering blog, in an attempt to quantify the goodness and glory of His grace, while never coming close to the true infinity of His love, that same love presses on. 


You see, His love is relentless. He never fails, never quits, never turns His back, He presses on. So let us follow suit. Let us press on toward Him. Let us pursue His goodness, His righteousness, His holiness. And when we feel that we no longer can because the mountains we face seem insurmountable, let us press on. Give it to Him. Jesus says in Matthew 11:28-30:

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."
When we are on the brink of giving up and giving in, let this be our encouragement. Because when all is said and done, I want to be able to say what Paul said in 2 Timothy 4:7:
"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith."
That is why I press on, and that is why I write this blog: in hopes that someone reads this and chooses not to turn their back and walk away, but instead, runs swiftly toward Jesus.

The upcoming blogs may have little to do with this topic, yet at the center of it all, I try to pursue everything with that same passion and zeal that Christ so relentlessly pursues me.


Thanks for reading.


-Kass