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Jessareh T.

Today, Jessareh speaks to us about true and effective evangelism, her life as a new mom and her life overseas.

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Jessareh T.

Tell us a bit about how you grew up and your childhood: I grew up in a Christian home, just outside of Seattle. We centered around family around spending time together, church, and sports. We were always busy but I really appreciate how my parents stressed the importance of prioritizing time together. We always went to each others sporting events, waited to eat dinner together if at all possible, and often played card games and hiked together. One of things I most appreciate about my childhood was that my parents taught my brother and I from a young age that being a “Christian” didn’t just mean that you went to Church on Sundays, it was a daily walk.

My mom showed us this by going through a Bible story devotional with us at the breakfast table every morning, and my Dad was intentional to pray with us each night before going to bed. What was just a routine communicated to me as a child that God had a place in my daily life far beyond Sunday School.

“One of things I most appreciate about my childhood was that my parents taught my brother and I from a young age that being a ‘Christian’ didn’t just mean that you went to Church on Sundays, it was a daily walk.”

Inspiring biblical passage of the moment: Currently, I am clinging to the truth found in Isaiah 43:10. It says, ” ‘You are my witnesses’ declares the Lord ‘and my servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me.'”

The Holy Spirit has reminded me of this passage over and over again recently. The past year we’ve welcomed our first child into the world. We adore her. But, my life looks completely different and is seemingly much less effective. As someone motivated by achievement, it has been hard. It is easy to think that being home with my daughter the majority of the time is limiting my effectiveness in sharing the Gospel with others. God keeps reminding me thought that more than a servant, I am His child. Yes, He made me a witness and gave me a testimony to share with others, but God also made me a witness and a servant for me and my good. So that I could know Him, so that I could believe Him, so that I could understand Him. Me knowing, believing, and understanding who God is more fully excites Him and is what He cares about most.

“Yes, He made me a witness and gave me a testimony to share with others, but God also made me a witness and a servant for me and my good.”

Spiritual growth focus at the moment: GRACE. I want to be so overwhelmed by the grace God has extended to me that it overflows into extending it specifically to myself, as well as my husband. Both truth and grace are needed in helpful and healthy relationships. With friends and most of the people in my life I can lean hard on the grace-side of things and struggle with extending truth. But, with myself I’ve always been completely the opposite, extending too much truth and very little to no grace. It has been harmful to my emotional and mental state, it has impacted my relationships, it has stopped me from being vulnerable and trying things that are outside of my comfort zone because I lack belief in myself and belief in how God could use me.

It has also impacted my relationship with the Lord as I often try to rely on myself to live the “perfect” Christian life instead of the Holy Spirit. This makes me miss out on a more intimate relationship with God, seeing Him provide, and spiritual growth. The past two years that I’ve been married, I’ve realized I unfortunately treat my husband the same way I treat myself – all truth, no grace.

It devastates me because I know firsthand how harmful, imprisoning, and life-sucking this can be. And honestly, I’ve seen it and he’s seen it impact him negatively. I want so badly to extend grace to myself and my husband but my sin makes it so difficult to. It isn’t going to happen overnight because it’s so ingrained in me, but I’m trusting the Holy Spirit to work this out in me.

Profession: I work for Cru, a college ministry that focuses on helping to fulfill the Great Commission in power of the Holy Spirit by helping people come to know and walk with Jesus, building believers up in their faith, and sending them out into their daily lives owning the Great Commission as their own and confident in their ability to be used by God to help others come to know Him. While I’ve worked and been a part of Cru in the United States, our family has felt called to live in Moscow, Russia and walk alongside students in their spiritual journeys here for a season.

How do you incorporate your connection with God into your daily, secular work? While I don’t have secular employment, I am a new mom which is also a job, and I’ve really enjoyed figuring out what it looks like to incorporate God into our daily lives with my daughter. While my daughter doesn’t understand much at this point (she’s only 10 months old), we are trusting God to already be working on her heart. In faith, my husband and I read a Bible story to her every night and we pray together before bed and before dinner. I also often pray with her throughout the day, make talking about God a normal thing, and point out places I see God to her in our daily life. Incorporating your connection with God into your daily life should be a natural result of living your life genuinely, vulnerably, and openly. If God is at the center of lives, He will come up naturally as you open yourself and your life up to others.

If you wrote a memoir, what would the title be? It would probably be titled “Pearly Living” – the same as my blog. The thought behind the title “Pearly Living” comes from Matthew 13:44-45. The concept of the memoir would be one of growing in understanding of the value of the Kingdom of Heaven as well as finding your own value in God and how He views you instead of through less steady things – brains, beauty, athleticism, popularity, career, wealth, relationship status, the list could go on and on. I would want the memoir to be a book that helps people to live life acknowledging both God’s value and their own in day-to-day living.

When did you first encounter God and how did you encounter Him? My parents starting bringing me to church regularly when I was just weeks old. I always knew about God. But, the Summer between my 6th and 7th grade years I went to a Christian soccer camp. My counselor for the week challenged me to get up just 15 minutes early every morning and spend that time with God. I was used to reading the Bible with my Mom over breakfast in the morning but I had never done it by myself. That week though, I tried. I just opened up my Bible and started reading a little bit each day– having no clue what I was doing.

One morning I happened to read Matthew 13:45, the parable of the pearl of great value. It says “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.” That summer, I was coming off of a year in school that was really difficult. I didn’t know very many people at my middle school and dealt with some pretty negative comments for my sensitive, 6th grade heart. At that point, I took whatever anyone said (no matter how much or little they knew me) as truth, and it caused me to have very little self-worth.

Reading this verse, I felt like God was speaking right to me at a time when I needed so desperately to hear it. I heard Him tell me that I was of great worth to Him. Seeing God meet me exactly where I was in a comforting and loving way gave me the confidence to start making my faith my own. And seeing God use the Word to speak to me lit an excitement within my heart for what the Bible had to say and how God could use it in my life.

What has helped you grow spiritually in this season? In this season, my new role as a mom has been helping me to grow spiritually. My role as parent has allowed me to relate to God in a new way since He describes himself as our Father. I feel like I’ve been able to learn more about how God looks at us, relates with us, and loves us. Being a mom really has been such a sweet gift to get further insight into how the Lord sees me as his daughter.

Just read/currently reading (and what has it taught you?): I just finished The Meaning of Marriage by Tim Keller. This is the second time I’ve read it, but the first time since being married. When I read it single, it helped to give me a proper view of marriage. When I read it this time it was really convicting as it pointed out so much of my sin and places in my marriage that I am not allowing the Lord to enter into out of my pride. My favorite quote from this book defines love as to “look at another person and get a glimpse of the person God is creating, and to say, ‘I see who God is making you, and it excites me! I want to be part of that. I want to partner with you and God in the journey you are taking to his throne. And when we get there, I will look at your magnificence and say, ‘I always knew you could be like this. I got glimpses of it on earth, but now look at you!”

This quote makes me emotional every time I read it because I want my marriage to be like this. I want to love my husband this well. I want our relationship and love to be centered on helping one another know and reflect God more fully.

Top three essentials: My Bible, my phone, and baby wipes (my newest essential but seriously, they can be used for everything).

How did God speak to you recently? A couple days ago, I was reading in Isaiah 53 and felt God asking me to really slow down and think about verse 11, “Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.” I often think about Jesus’s willingness to die on behalf of my sins. But, what God pointed out to me here was that Jesus was not only willing to die on my behalf but he was satisfied, he was happy to do so. All of the pain, all of the anguish, all of the suffering he endured on my behalf was worth it to him. The cost was great, it was an incredible burden to bear. I don’t want to minimize the cost, but it’s not about the cost as much as it is the great love Jesus has for us and how great His desire was for us to be accounted as righteous. Our forgiveness was so important to Jesus that He not only was willing to die on our behalf, but He was happy to do so.

Hobby: I love plant-based cooking and baking, coloring, and hiking.

Top three practical tips for staying spiritually strong:

1. Be in the Word on a regular basis;

2. Get plugged into a local Christian community – the Christian walk isn’t an easy one, we need support to survive and thrive;

3.  Ask yourself daily if you are ready to surrender control of your life to Christ. Do you sincerely desire to be directed and empowered by the Holy Spirit? This prayer and act of surrender is not just something we do once. While it saves us and secures our identity in Christ in a single moment it also allows us to daily experience intimacy with God and enjoy all that He has for us.

Favorite person in scripture? This is such a hard question! I admire so many different traits from different people in the Bible. One person that always sticks out to me though is Peter. I love reading about Peter in the Bible because he seems so real, so relatable. He loyal but also cowardly and fearful which gets in his way. He is emotional and rash, but loves Jesus so intensely. He is disappointed in himself when he betrays Jesus but knows Jesus’s character well enough to run (or in his case swim) to Him without hesitation. And I love that God chooses to use someone so relatable, so normal to lead His church.

What do you want people to learn about God when they look at you? One of my hopes in living overseas is that both people here in Russia and people back at home would see that God is worth your whole life. It isn’t easy moving across the world to live in a country away from family and friends, a country that speaks a different language than you. But, giving Russian college students an opportunity to hear the Gospel is worth the cost. I want them to hear the Gospel so badly that I am willing to learn Russian to be able to share it with them in their heart language. And as much as we, as a family, are willing to give up to give them an opportunity to know Jesus, God gave up so much more – it cannot be compared. Jesus to left His home, He left His throne, He lived in another culture, He gave up what His relationships with the Father and Holy Spirit looked like and so much more, all so that people would have an opportunity to know the truth and experience life with God.

“Jesus to left His home, He left His throne, He lived in another culture, He gave up what His relationships with the Father and Holy Spirit looked like and so much more, all so that people would have an opportunity to know the truth and experience life with God.”

How do you leave your mark on your community? I want to leave a mark on my community by simply loving the people around me well. I want to intentionally look for ways to love on the people I find around me. These could be bigger things like inviting people into our home, or serving people in some way. Or it could be in a small way. When I was younger, my Dad used to say goodbye to my brother and I for the day by saying “see how many people you can make smile today.” To this day, I still think about and love this thought. Each day we can make an impact on our community by simply being intentional and faithful with the people and opportunities God places before us, it can be as simple as seeking to put a smile on someone’s face.

“When I was younger, my Dad used to say goodbye to my brother and I for the day by saying ‘see how many people you can make smile today.'”

Favorite holiday? Christmas of course! How can you not love a holiday that’s all about family, food, and Jesus? Plus, I love giving gifts!

A goal you have? I have two goals that come to mind right away… I hope that’s ok! One goal is related to 1 Thess. 2:8, “So we cared for you. Because we love you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.”

As a family, we have a goal to live this way. We want to share the Gospel with people and believe that is something God has called us to, but even more difficult than sharing the Gospel with people we desire to share our lives with the people we are ministering to, as well. It takes just a few minutes to share the Gospel with someone and while this takes bravery, it takes so much more bravery to open up your life to someone and invite them into it. There are no places to hide. It is more time consuming. And it is hard to love people well. But, this is how God loved us.

He didn’t just share the good news with us, He came down to us. A second goal I have is related to 2 Timothy 2:2. It says, “And what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.” I would love and feel so honored if God would choose to allow me to be a part of a spiritual legacy and spiritual multiplication. I want to be able to invest in a few who can invest in a few who can invest in a few all together making a great spiritual impact beyond what I could ever image or dream. I want to meet people in Heaven one day that I played a small role in their spiritual journeys but never met, maybe someone I invested in invested in someone who invested in them. How cool would that be!

“It takes so much more bravery to open up your life to someone and invite them into it. There are no places to hide. It is more time consuming. And it is hard to love people well. But, this is how God loved us.”

A special tradition you and your family engage in or keep: Growing up, my mom made “dirt cups” for dessert every year on Earth Day. Because of it Earth Day was always a special holiday in my family. I plan on keeping the tradition alive in my family as well!

Question you will ask when you get to heaven? God, why don’t you allow newborns to sleep through the night by themselves right away? It would have made my past year so much easier!

Thing you want to raise awareness about: One thing I’d like to raise awareness about is the Great Commission. It’s found in Matthew 28:18-20, it says, “And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always to the end of the age.”

I want to raise awareness to the fact that this commission is meant for every believer. Evangelism is not just for those with the gift of evangelism, it is not just for those that are in full-time ministry. Evangelism is an essential part of the Christian faith. I know the word “evangelism” evokes different emotions in everyone, anything from fear to anger to hurt to excitement. And I’m sorry to anyone that has been hurt by people evangelizing. Often it is done in a way that is unloving. But, it can be done in a personal, caring, thoughtful, and loving way. This is the way it was intended to be. One of the main purposes of evangelism is sharing the beliefs of the Christian faith and being available to answer questions and help process though thoughts.

I would argue though that the #1 motive of evangelism should be bringing glory and praise to Jesus. I think that if we shifted our focus from having the perfect explanation and convincing to simply praising, we would be better and more frequent evangelists. Praise-focused evangelism eliminates a lot of stress by shifting your mindset from saying all of the right things and having all of the right answers to genuinely sharing your awe and excitement about who God is and what He has and is doing. All you have to do is openly praise God and trust the Holy Spirit to do the rest.

Evangelism, no matter how you view it, will never be easy or comfortable, no matter how many times you initiate conversations like this. But, allow that sense of discomfort to push you towards relying on the Spirit instead of yourself. People need to know the Gospel if Jesus is not in their life. Whether they realize it or not, they are missing out on life in all of it’s fullness and they are trying to fill a God sized whole with other things that just don’t do the job. At the end of the day, God is working and will work through evangelism.

People are ready. People will come to know Him. And one day the Great Commission will be fulfilled and people from every tribe, tongue, and nation will be praising the Lord together. How amazing will that day be! I can’t wait! And guess what, God wants you to have a role in the preparation for that day, in fact He commands you to have a role in it. It is a role that is privileged and honored, the question is if you accept the commissioning, as your own.

“Evangelism is not just for those with the gift of evangelism, it is not just for those that are in full-time ministry. Evangelism is an essential part of the Christian faith.”

Morning time routine: My daughter isn’t sleeping through the night yet and is always waking up at different times (anywhere from 4 am to 7:30 am), so I haven’t figured out my morning routine as a mom, quite yet. Ideally, if my daughter slept until 7 or 7:30 in the morning, I would love to wake up around 5:45 to spend from then until 6:30 either working out or spending time in the Word (I try to alternate days), and then I’d take a shower, get dressed, and make coffee from 6:30-7, so that I’m ready to go when my daughter wakes up. From 7 am-8 am, I’ll play with my daughter once she gets up, talk with my husband as he eats breakfast before heading out to work, and eat breakfast myself (lately my go-to breakfast is an açaí smoothie bowl). At 8 am, I normally nurse my daughter, and shortly after, I will make some “real food” for her to eat for breakfast as well. Then, we play until she goes down for her morning nap at 10 am.

What is on your nightstand? Nothing very interesting… normally, my phone is there charging and my glasses are there at night, but that’s it.

Define Christianity in a sentence: Christianity is knowing, loving and following Jesus to the point of surrendering your will to His own and trusting Him alone to secure your salvation.

For more Jessareh:

Blog: https://jessarehtillman.wixsite.com/pearlyliving

Instagram: @pearly_living

Pinterest: pearlyliving

Until next time, keep witnessing!

XOXO

 

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