Sunday, February 24, 2013

I've Moved!

In case you have not heard, my blog has moved to a brand new home:

There, you will be able to access all of my old posts, as well as all new posts. Similarly, you will find some content such as my photos, podcasts, and a few upcoming projects that aren't available yet.

Thank you so much for coming here and following my posts, and I urge you to visit, add it to your blog roll, google reader, etc. Again I say thank you for all of the encouragement you have given me!

See you at the new website!!

Friday, February 22, 2013

A Relationship Gauge

Do you want to have a relationship with God? More than that, do you want to have a close, meaningful relationship with God? If you do, there are some things you need to do. You see, like any relationship, a good one doesn't just happen. A lot of people say 'relationships take work', but that isn't true. A crummy, no good relationship doesn't take a lot of a work. A relationship that is one-sided doesn't take a lot of work on one person's side of the coin. But a good relationship, ah yes. Good relationships take work. And so, to have a good relationship with God (and not just a One-sided one), you must work at it. Fortunately for all of us, Scripture tells us exactly what we need to do in order to dwell with God on His holy hill.
"LORD, who may abide in Your tabernacle? Who may dwell in Your holy hill? He who walks uprightly, and works righteousness, and speaks the truth in his heart; he who does not backbite with his tongue, nor does evil to his neighbor, nor does he take up a reproach against his friend; in whose eyes a vile person is despised, but he honors those who fear the LORD; he who swears to his own hurt and does not change, he who does not put out his money at usury, nor does he take a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things shall never be moved." Psalm 15
First, we should note that this psalm is describing someone who is already in the relationship with God, and so in New Testament speak we mean that this person has been baptized and is enjoying a covenant relationship with God. But like all relationships, things can fall apart. This list provides a checklist of sorts, things to make sure we do (or don't do) to keep ourselves close to God.

Now, what do all of these things mean? Let's quickly look at just a few.

"He who walks uprightly" - Hold on, it's about to get technical in here. The word literally means "complete, perfect, full" or "without blemish". This is a person who doesn't walk in sin, but instead walks in a way that is perfect, blameless. In 1 John 1:7, we see that Jesus' blood will cleanse us if we walk in the light, thus making us perfect and blameless before God. If we will confess the sins we do commit (v. 9), we will be forgiven. Thus, to walk uprightly means to stay away from sin, but when we do sin, we confess that sin to our heavenly Father, who craves that intimacy with us and is faithful to forgive us to ensure that our relationship stays close.

"He speaks the truth in his heart" - Basically, this means you are who you say you are. You don't live a hypocritical life, or put on some sort of front. We know that God sees our hearts (since He formed our innermost parts!), and He can see if we mean the things that we say and do. He knows if our faith is genuine. He knows if we went to worship Him because we love Him, or if we simply went because people would look down on us if we didn't. If your heart doesn't reveal that truth that you proclaim, your relationship with God isn't real.

"He does not backbite with his tongue" - Ephesians 4:29 says, "Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers." If the words that we speak aren't kind, our heart isn't loving. If our heart isn't loving, how much contact have we had with the God of love? You see, God is love, and when we approach His throne in prayer, we ought the leave the throne room changed. Our hearts ought to be more loving, more forgiving, gentler and kinder. Because of the love and mercy God above has extended to our lowly existence, we should graciously love and forgive those around us. But if we backbite and tear down and destroy, we aren't behaving like God, nor are we behaving like we are in a relationship with Him.

"In whose eyes a vile person is despised, but he honors those who fear the LORD" - Question: what do your friends say about you? Are your best friends Christians? Are your role models Christians?  Are the people you talk about the most Christians? You see, if we live our lives praising and admiring those who are evil and wicked, are we living a life that is in a close relationship with the perfect and sinless God of heaven? 2 John 10-11 tell us that we are not to greet those who abide in false teachings and trespasses, because if we support them, we are sharing in their evil deeds. What do the people in our lives say about us? That we honor and uphold truth, or that we condone wickedness? If you want to be close to God, you must resist anything and everything and everyone that has the Devil's fingerprints all over it.

While we could talk about every single phrase within this psalm, we won't for time's sake. Instead, let's focus one final thought on the last line of the psalm:

"he who does these things shall never be moved". You see, when my relationship with God starts to slip, starts to suffer, guess whose fault it is? Well it isn't God's. God never moves. He is always watching for and anticipating our return, just like the father in the story of the prodigal son (Luke 15). He is always there, ready to receive us when we draw near to Him (James 4:8). That means that when our relationship starts to drift, it is my fault. I am the one who moves. And yet, if I will do all of the things that Psalm 15 mentions--if I will keep myself from sin, and walk uprightly in the light of Christ--I will not be moved. I will not wander away from God. Because as long as I am trying my best, God will keep me there, in the hollow of His hand.

How blessed we are to have a Father who is so merciful and forgiving and welcoming. How blessed we are to have a Father who is always ready to keep our relationship alive, even when we abandon Him for days, weeks, and years.

If your relationship with God is suffering, move back to Him. Draw near to Him again. Do your best to implement Psalm 15 in your life. Keep yourself from backbiting, from hypocrisy, and from hurting others. Keep yourself on the righteous path, confessing your shortcomings to the forgiving Father. Whatever sin stands in your way (and it is always sin that separates us), remove it. Cling to God again; He will not resist. He never resists.

Thanks be to God that He loves us enough to welcome us back into the fold every single time.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

God Forgets

God is all-knowing. God doesn't forget things. He knows everything--from before the world was formed all the way into eternity. God knows all things. That's one attribute that makes Him God, and we love that about Him.

We love that He knows when we're hurting (1 Pet. 5:7). We love that He knows the number of hairs on our head (Matt. 10:30). We love that we can go to Him, night or day, and that He will never leave us or forsake us (Heb. 13:5-6). We love, maybe most of all, that He knows exactly what we need before we even ask (Matt. 6:8).

God doesn't forget about us, the lowly created, not even for a second. He is always there, always watching, always caring and guiding and loving and protecting.

And yet Jeremiah 31:34 says this:
"For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more." 
While God knows created and thus knows all things, He chooses not to remember our sins. All we have to do is submit to His terms (repentance + baptism) and confess our sins (1 John 1:9), and He remembers our sins no more.

Why?! Why does the God of the universe, Who knows all things and sees all things and created all things, choose to forget anything?!
"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever should believe in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life."
God loves you. Yes, He created all things. Yes, He holds the entire universe in His hands. Yes, He knows the plans He has for you & the entire world. But, first and foremost, He loves you. That is why He chooses to remember your sins no more. Isn't that beautiful?! We have been given such a wonderful gift! Not only that God would give His only Son to die, but that He would love us enough to forget our iniquities. To wipe them clean. To remove them from our charge.

Thanks be to God! We are so unworthy. We are sinful and dirty and rough around the edges. But God loves us. So much that He sent Jesus. We are all so incredibly blessed.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

A Daily Recitation

Recently, while reading through Psalms, I discovered a beautiful verse that I'd somehow overlooked previously. Today, I want to share with you a verse of a psalm that I hope to implement into my daily meditation and prayer in hopes that you will join me.

In July of 2011, I married the man of my dreams. That evening, Robert and I stood before a crowd of people and vowed to honor, cherish, and love each other until death parts us. Would our relationship be what it needed to be if we did not implement those vows into our daily lives? Of course not! Saying something one time doesn't make it stick; instead, we must daily admonish each other and daily proclaim our love and devotion to one another. That's what makes our relationship close.

In the same way, it is so fitting for us to renew, day by day, our commitment to our Lord and Maker. That is why I love this verse, because it does just that.
"I will love You, O LORD, My Strength." Psalm 18:1
How simple and easy. No frills, no fuss; just a pledge of love and devotion from the created to the mighty Creator.

Join me, won't you, in making this verse a part of your daily life. It isn't enough to be baptized once for the remission of our sins and then never proclaim to our God that we love Him! Instead, we must daily tell our Strength that we adore Him. Much like a marriage relationship would suffer if 'I love you's' weren't spoken, so our relationship with our God will suffer should we not purposefully communicate our love to Him.

It is so easy to get caught up in asking God for what we need. It is so easy to beg God to heal the sick and and keep us safe. It is so easy to beg for forgiveness and focus on ourselves. Purpose, today and every day, to dedicate at least a few moments of your day to recite these words, and tell your God how much you love Him. And don't only tell Him you do, promise you will always. Promise to stay committed. Promise to stay true.

Promise that you will love Him, today and forevermore.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Cut to the Heart

The phrase 'cut to the heart' is one that I can empathize with. You see, there have been multiple times in my life that I have been cut to the heart. Once, on a Sunday morning in late July, I was cut to the heart, realizing I was living in sin. And so, I decided on that day to put on my Lord and Savior in baptism. Just a few simple words from a sermon, and my little heart was changed.

You see, words are powerful. Words can cut to the deepest parts of who we are and change how we think, how we act. Sometimes, that's a good thing. Other times, not so much.

For instance, in Acts 2, Peter delivers the first gospel sermon, and boy is it a good one! He goes back to the Old Testament and proves to the Jews who are listening that the Jesus they murdered was the One who was promised all those years ago. In verse 37 we read,
"Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and to the rest of the apostles, men and brethren, what shall we do?"
From those bold words Peter proclaimed, these men were cut to the heart, realizing they had to make a change. Their hearts were pricked into submission. What a beautiful, powerful thing words can do!

Sadly, the same is not true later in the book of Acts. Stephen, a deacon and proclaimer of the message of Christ, is delivering a sermon similar to Peter's to another Jewish audience. He tells them that they murdered Jesus. He tells them that their forefathers had murdered the prophets. He spoke boldly these very true, very moving words, yet in verse 54 we read,
"When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed at him with their teeth."
These men shut their ears to the words of Stephen, literally. Verse 57 says they stopped their ears and ran toward him to stone him. Ultimately, they were successful in killing Stephen, most notably known as the first Christian martyr.

But wait, weren't these sermons similar? Weren't Peter's and Stephen's words nearly identical? Doesn't the Bible record that both groups of listeners were cut to the heart? What was the difference?

The difference is in the heart that's cut.

You see, our hearts show who we really are. When your heart is cut, pricked, it shows what kind of person you are. Either you are pricked with guilt and anguish, knowing you need to change, or you are pricked with anger and resentment. Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 2:15-16,
"For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life."
How is it that the same fragrance can smell like death to some and life to others? It's all about the heart.

You see, I don't believe that those men to whom Stephen was speaking were incapable of feeling guilt. I don't believe they were incapable of repentance. Why, then, did the words provoke such a rage within them? Because their hearts didn't want to change. Their hearts didn't want to be different. They were scared of that change, angry that they needed to change, and ultimately took that hurt and insecurity out on a man of God.

When the gospel is preached in any given setting, people are going to respond different to the same, powerful words. On Mars Hill, Paul spoke the same words to a crowd of people, and yet the Bible records for us that some mocked, some said they would hear him again, and some believed (Acts 17:32-34). Again, it all comes down to heart.

What does your heart say? When the powerful words of Jesus are given to you, what is your response? Do you examine yourself and seek out ways to change to be more like Him? Do you repent of your evil ways and vow to return to them no more? Or do you resent the fact that someone wants you to chance? Do you hear that sermon and think of how it applies to others? Do you, quite simply, respond more like the men in Acts 2, or the men in Acts 7?

It is my prayer that I will always have a heart like the men in Acts 2. You see, I will always struggle with sin. I will always commit sin. I will never, ever, be free from the temptations of the devil--not until I die. That is why I pray to always be cut to the yielding heart. I pray that I will always seek out ways to better serve my risen Lord.

How is your heart today? I pray that it is willing and yielding. But if not, if your heart has been hardened by sin and by hurt, I pray that it will be changed, so that one day you will be able to.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Leading Ladies: Abigail

One of my favorite women from the Old Testament is Abigail. She is the picture of grace, virtue, and beauty. Her story is intriguing, gripping, and shocking. Mostly, though, I love Abigail because she makes me question everything about myself. Could I be the person she was? Do I have the character to react the way she did? Let's examine her life a little closer today and see just how much we can learn from this Old Testament woman.

The text in which we find Abigail is 1 Samuel 25. In verse 3 we find out that she is married to a man named Nabal, and he's not exactly a great person. Short-tempered, rude, and disrespectful are just a few of his less-than-desirable traits, and yet it is to such a person that the altogether lovely Abigail is married. In verse 13 we see that Abigail's entire family is about to be wiped off the face of the planet because of her husband's blatant disrespect and pride. Alas, by verse 33, Abigail's quick thinking, poise, and smooth-talking have won over the heart of David and have saved her entire family! Well, except Nabal, who would die sooner rather than later. Still! Abigail saves the day! Hooray!

So what, exactly, can we learn from this super woman?

1: Abigail is the definition of prepared. As a pretty new player in the game of housewifery, I can attest that being ready at any given moment to feed more people than just me and my husband is a difficult things. Some days, just being able to find the time to feed us seems like a huge undertaking. And yet, in verse 18, the text tells us Abigail 'made haste' and 'took' 200 loaves of bread, 200 cakes of figs, and five sheep 'already dressed'. What's the significance? Oh, she had all of that on hand!

We know from 1 Peter 3:15 that we are to be ready always to give an answer and defend the Word of God and the hope that is in us. It is vital that we, as children of God, have knowledge of His word 'on hand' already. We shouldn't wait until someone asks us a Bible question or until we run into a certain temptation that we find the time to see what the Bible has to say about it. Instead, we should give ourselves over to study constantly, so that whenever a trial or question comes our way, we are ready to 'make haste' as Abigail did! Who knows but what our preparation may save us from some scheme the Devil has ready for us.

2: Abigail is the definition of a peacemaker. What is the reason that David is coming after her family? Is it not because her husband flew off at the mouth and disrespected the future king? But in verse 24 Abigail says, "On me, my lord, on me let this iniquity be!". You read that right! She took the blame for something that most certainly was not her fault.

Romans 12:18 tells us to live peaceably, as much as depends on us, with all men. Sometimes, that means taking the blame for something that isn't your fault. Sometimes, that means placing your pride aside and seeking forgiveness when someone else is to blame. While Abigail could have sat back and waited for something to happen, because after all it wasn't her fault, she was instead proactive. She made peace, even for something that wasn't her fault. I know that I can learn from this woman of God. How easy it is to sit back and wait for things to "play out" because we have been wronged and thus don't want to make the first move toward peace. Yet, Abigail reminds us that sometimes, being a peacemaker (and we are all commanded to be) means apologizing for something that isn't your fault.

3: Abigail is the definition of persuasive. As soon as Abigail dismounts from her donkey, she falls on her face and begins an epic speech. Throughout her spill, David says nothing. Instead, this lowly woman has a commanding presence, with words (and beauty) that halt a warrior in his tracks.

Perhaps verse 35 says it all, when David says, "See, I have heeded your voice and respected your person." Truly Abigail was a woman with a great sense of persuasiveness. As children of God, we ought not try to persuade people to follow Christ with false pretenses. We must not ever try to conform the Gospel message to fit the needs and relevancy of the culture. Instead, we must show our world, with powerful and persuasive words, the relevancy of the Gospel! Peter is a great example, declaring on the day of Pentecost, "This Jesus, whom you crucified (Acts 2:36)." How could you not be moved by such passion and zeal? How could you not be persuaded to follow after this One who died for you?

No doubt Abigail was as persuasive as she was because her and her family's lives depended on it. We must persuade those around us to follow the Gospel as if our life depends on it. Because in all reality, their eternal life does!

There are so many great lessons we can learn from this powerful woman of God. Perhaps the greatest lesson of all is that Abigail, because of her faithfulness, was chosen to be David's wife after Nabal died.  Likewise, if we are faithful, and will die to our old self and our covenant with sin, we will be called the bride of Christ (as members of His church - Eph. 5).

Saturday, February 16, 2013

It's Been a Year

One year ago today, this blog came into existence. Now sure, I'd been blogging long before that, and yet a transition in my blogging career was necessary. Being a preacher's wife (and just a wife in general) changes you. And so, deciding that the silliness of my old blog was just a bit immature, I moved on over here to help me in my daily devotionals and my all around knowledge/study of God's Word. Maybe you haven't been with me the entire year, and maybe you have been with me much longer than that. Either way, I thank you for being here now, and as a bonus for your effort, I am including some links from the past year for you to sift through and enjoy! 

Also, thank you for visiting my blog on its birthday. It appreciates it. Please, no presents.

Links to Love

1: The most popular post - Tough Stuff Tuesday: Beating Bitterness

2: The time I was attacked by a bat - A Bat, a Scream, and a Lesson 

3: A message to unfaithful Christians - Better Not to Have Known 

4: A message of self-worth - Tough Stuff Tuesday: Self Worth

5: Thoughts for the teens of today from a teen of yesterday - Camp Rules for Life

Check out these links, pass them along, whatever it is you need them for in your life right now. It is my prayer that these words can be of comfort or encouragement to someone who reads them. Not because I have penned them; no, but because God is the Author (of His Holy Book) and I am just a tool who tries to get the message out. Let's all be His tools in spreading His beautiful story to all of those around us.

Thanks again for sticking it out with me for a year. Exciting things are on the horizon, so stay tuned!

Friday, February 15, 2013

A Heart of Thanksgiving

I spent a portion of yesterday feeling sad. You see, in the midst of all the hustle and bustle and instagramming of roses & candy that was Valentine's Day, a somber event occurred. Around 1PM, Robert led a small group of individuals in some solemn thoughts about death, as a feeble gentleman sat on the front row, mourning the loss of his wife of nearly 52 years.

52 years. Should God give us until July, Robert and I will celebrate our 2nd wedding anniversary. These individuals had been married 50 years longer than Robert and I have been. These individuals were married 27 years before Robert and I came into existence. They spent a lifetime devoted to each other, and even as I leaned in and whispered my condolences to this man, he looked to his wife's casket and remarked how beautiful she looked. Their love was the defining characteristic of their lives.

In the midst of the sorrow that surrounds any funeral, you cannot help but feel a sense of thankfulness. And so, today, I felt the need to express my deepest and sincerest thanks to the God of not only the universe, but of my lowly existence. In the wake of such a love-centered day, will you join me, please, in thanking our Maker for the days He has allowed us to spend with our loved ones.

My Maker and My Father, I thank You for this day.
I thank You for the countless blessings You have sent my way.
I offer up sincerest thanks for each day with my loved ones.
Especially, my Father God, for days with my sweet husband.
My greatest need You have supplied, a chance at sweet salvation.
I thank You, my Almighty God, for Christ's propitiation.
I thank You for, not only that, but every other blessing.
Innumerable ones, new each day, I can't begin to start addressing.
So thank you, Father, for this day, and every one before.
And thank you, most of all, my God, for what you have in store.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

My Valentine

In case you have ever wondered some of the ins and outs of mine and Robert's relationship beginnings, I am here to give you a link to the past! In preparing to write this post, I reread all of the 'month of love' posts I had written 2 years ago, and fell in love with my wonderful husband all over again. If you're interested, they're there for your viewing pleasure. If you're not interested, the link is there so I can easily go back over and read them anytime I want to!

Now, moving back to 2013. Ok, not really.

You see, February 14, 2013 is special for many reasons. 1: It's Valentine's Day, and who doesn't love Valentine's Day when you're married to an amazing person?! 2: It's the five year anniversary of mine and Robert's first date. Let the aww-ing begin!

You see, five years ago I didn't know what I was getting into. I knew that I was nervous. I knew that it was taking me far too long to get ready to go to the same restaurant I went to every Thursday evening with the same person I always went with. I knew that I was feeling really awkward when the same waitress at the same restaurant made a big deal about it just being the two of us. And I definitely remember wanting to crawl under the table when the same group of friends we always came with showed up later that evening and caught just the two of us.

What I didn't know, though, was that this handsome boy sitting across from me would become my husband (though, I may or may not have said he would be about a week later). I didn't know that he would completely change my life and make me a better person. I didn't know that I'd actually want to move back to the small town where he grew up. And I definitely didn't know that beautiful way he'd end up loving me.

While I am completely partial, I cannot help but love mine and Robert's story--the good and the bad. Why? Because it is uniquely us. From our first date to our first kiss to our wedding day...our story is uniquely us. And though it hasn't all been sunshine and rainbows, it has all been a part of God's design for two of His children, and I am forever thankful for that.

When I decided to go to Freed-Hardeman, I didn't think I'd quit the volleyball team. I didn't realize I'd be asked to start working at a TV station and ultimately decide to pursue broadcast journalism as my major. I definitely didn't realize that the boy I shameless made fun of in the Chinese restaurant would ever, ever become my best friend. And I didn't know that I'd start taking a broadcasting class and sit down beside the boy who would ask me to marry him. And yet, that's how it happened.

Five years later, I still get nervously excited about going on dates with my husband. Five years later, I am still beyond giddy to sit across from this handsome boy at restaurants. Five years later, I cannot imagine this amazing man not ever being in my life. While five years can seem like a long time in some respects, it honestly doesn't feel that long at all. Time with my Robert has flown by; especially the last year and a half. I am beyond blessed to be in a marriage covenant with such a godly, inspiring, wonderful man, and beyond blessed that he asked me out five years ago.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Go to the Source

In our teen girls Bible class on Sunday mornings, we're going through the women of the Bible and gleaning lessons from their extraordinary lives. This past week we talked about an unnamed woman, mentioned in the books of Luke and Mark and known mostly by her condition: having an incurable blood flow for 12 years.

If you've been reading for a while, you know we've covered her in our Leading Ladies series, found here. However, in studying for my class on Sunday, and even in teaching it, I found myself overwhelmed by Jesus and His healing power.

So often in our world today, people are searching. They need to be healed of some debilitating spiritual disease, and they go around (unsuccessfully) to various sources trying to find the answer, much like this unnamed woman of Scripture did (Luke 8:43). And yet, the Source of all healing and comfort and peace is available! Still, how often do those people go to the Source? How often are we, personally, leading people to the Source?

This woman of great faith knew that if she could just touch the hem of Jesus' garment, she would be healed. She didn't let her situation stop her, or the embarrassment of being unclean keep her from going to Him. She didn't talk herself out of going, deciding she could figure it out for herself. She didn't sit at home, knowing she should be seeking Him out, yet keeping herself at a distance from the Great Physician. No, she sought out the Healer and was immediately freed from the chains of her ailment.

Sin is a debilitating disease. Without Jesus's blood, we will never be healed. Yet, how often do we keep ourselves from the Source? How often to we let circumstances keep us at arms length from the Savior? How often do we talk ourselves out of going to worship or going forward when that invitation song is sung? How often do we fail to repent and change our ways, even though we know that without Jesus, we will forever remain in our sickness?

Had the woman with this issue of blood known Jesus could heal her and yet stayed home anyway, we would have called her crazy! Why would she want to remain in that condition?! And yet, the question is the same for us today.

Jesus was then and is today the only source of true healing. His blood has a cleansing power that will wipe away every sin we've ever committed. Why, then, do we keep ourselves from Him?

Every single day we must go to the Source for spiritual healing and forgiveness. And every day, we must point our sin-sick, dying world to the Great Physician, who is willing and able to free them from the terminal illness that is sin.
"Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance." Mark 2:17

Thursday, February 7, 2013

How Can God...

If you type in the phrase 'How can God' into Google, the drop down gives you a glimpse into what our society's heart looks like. The top three answers that Google provides are (in this order): how can God help me, how can God use me, and how can God forgive me.

Truly these are some great questions, and ones that we have probably all considered at some point. No doubt we have all been in a situation where we needed help, and we wondered how that help could be administered to us. When we are grieving over the loss of a loved one, burdened by the financial stresses in our lives, or struggling with an illness of our own, we often wonder how God can help us.

The Psalms are replete with cries of help to the God of the universe. Should you ever find yourself in a situation where you need God's help, please remember these verses:
"Let all those who seek You rejoice and be glad in You; Let such as love Your salvation say continually, 'The LORD be magnified!' But I am poor and needy; Yet the LORD things upon me. You are my Help and my Deliverer; do not delay, O my God." Psalm 40:16-17
While we may hurt in this present life and find ourselves in troublesome situations, our God and Father has salvation. If we will trust in Him, He will deliver. He is faithful to save!

There may be times, though, when we feel strong and confident in God's promises, and yet we feel aimless and without purpose, so we ask ourselves how God can use us.

Jesus said in Matthew 28:19-20, "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you." Should you ever question your purpose in life, or where exactly your focus should be, look only to these words of Jesus. He has given us a specific purpose: to teach others the way of salvation and bring them to Him. Each and every child of God should be out teaching other people how they can become a child of God. And if you aren't a child of God? Please read this post on how to get into the body of Christ!

Finally, the question of how can God forgive me. This is a question that I have personally asked time and time again. How is it that God can forgive all of my sins? How is it that God will remember none of my sins anymore? How is it that God won't get tired of me coming and asking for forgiveness for the same old sins? And yet, the Bible tells us that we can be confident that when we ask, He is faithful and just to forgive us (1 John 1:9).

I love the book of 1 Corinthians, and this passage may be one of the reasons why:
"Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but your were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God." (6:9-11; emp mine)
Regardless of how many sins within this list you are guilty of, there is a way to overcome, and that way is by being washed in the blood of Jesus. These Corinthians had been homosexuals and thieves and drunkards and adulterers, and yet they weren't anymore. What changed? First, they quit practicing those things (repentance). Next, they were washed (baptized) clean of all of those past sins.

God can and will forgive you. How? Because He loves you so much. So much that He gave His only Son to die a cruel and painful death for you (John 3:16). How blessed we are to have such a God that will hear our cries when we need help, who will give us purpose and direction in life, and will forgive us of all of our sins so long as we confess them, turn away from them, and are washed in His Son's precious, cleansing blood.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Leading Ladies: Eve

Eve was the prototype of women. When God designed the female species, He made Eve exactly how He wanted woman to be. She was perfect. She was handcrafted by God to meet the needs of man; to be his helpmeet and companion. We know that Eve, prior to sin being entered into the world, had a perfect relationship with God and a perfect relationship with her husband. Truly, she was 'living the life'. 

And then Genesis 3 happens. Eve is tempted (and lied to) by the serpent, and she partakes of the forbidden fruit, then shares in that sin with her husband. We know the rest of the story: their eyes are opened, they hide from God, and they are banished from the garden as well as cursed and plagued with a death they weren't designed for. 

From Eve, the mother of all creation, there are some valuable lessons we can learn.

1: Sin ruins relationships

Eve's relationship with God and with Adam was perfect. And yet, the first thing that happens after partaking of the fruit: Adam and Eve are hiding from God, and are then deceptive by not offering up why they are hiding and how they know they're naked. Deceit is an ugly characteristic for a relationship, and yet after this initial sin has taken place, that is exactly the characteristic Eve implements into her relationship with God. As for Adam, he immediately blames Eve for his sin. We know that blame and resentment are divisive components of a relationship, and yet this is how this first married couple are now treating each other. All because of this newly introduced sin.

When we let sin into our hearts and relationships, it ruins them. Truly the Deceiver recognizes that strong, godly relationships are a great asset to salvation. That is why he does his best to ruin them! He tempts us with bad attitudes, harsh words, and blame. He tempts us to be deceitful and hurtful. These things ruin relationships: relationships between parents and children, relationships between friends, relationships between husband and wife, and even relationships within the body of Christ. 

Why is it that we often hurt those the closest to us? Why is it we have the worst attitudes with them? Perhaps it is because we let our guard down. We stop trying to 'impress' and 'be on our best behavior', and instead we start letting Satan creep in a little at a time. We must guard our relationships from Satan, because he is divisive and aims to tear people apart. 

2: Sin has progression.

Why is it that Eve is tempted to partake of the forbidden fruit? Had she been staying as far away from the tree as possible, would she have likely been tempted to partake? Or does it seem to you as it does me that Eve was inching closer and closer to the tree, getting as close as she could without actually involving herself in the sin. Perhaps she only wanted to look upon the fruit, or maybe even smell the fruit. Perhaps she just wanted to see what all this fruit fuss was about! Regardless, Satan gets to her because she has availed herself to such a temptation. 

Psalm 1:1 tells us, "Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful" The progression of sin is a very real and present threat to us! As soon as we start walking past it, we're tempted to stand right in the middle of it (though still not 'partaking'), and yet, before we realize, we're sitting down in the midst of all of the wickedness and are sharers in it. 

Satan gets to us inch by inch. He makes us believe that certain things are ok, when really they are evil and wicked, and we are just lessening them in our heads to justify our actions! For example: will Satan ever be able to make us fall into the temptation of drunkenness if we never take the first sip? Will Satan ever be able deceive us into being involved in sexual immorality if we have fled from even the appearance of such? Will Satan be able to lure us into lusting after the flesh if we will stop ourselves from going into those movies (Magic Mike?) or buying those books (50 shades of whatever?) or pinning those pictures of actors (onto an "mmmm!!" board, really?). If we will distance ourselves from the appearance of sin, we will be less likely to fall into such a temptation.

Had Eve stayed as far away from that tree as possible, would it have been as easy for Satan to bait her like he did? The same goes for us. Don't be easy bait for Satan. Stay as far away from 'the line' as possible. 

3: Women have a huge influence over the men in their lives

Was it very difficult for Eve to convince Adam to sin with her? It doesn't appear so. We know from history and even our own experiences that men tend to behave the ways they do in order to impress women. In high school and college, for example, the boys tended to dress a certain way and talk a certain way and participate in certain things to garner the attention of the females. They bathed regularly and wore cologne and dressed to the nines so that the females around them would notice. 

With great power, ladies, comes great responsibility. 

We have the ability to make or break the men in our lives. And so, if you are in the dating pool, make the boys/men around you behave a certain way. Require the guy you date to pray before the meal you share together. Require that he open doors for you. *As a side note, if the boy doesn't respect you enough to open a door for you, chances are he won't respect you enough to not touch you inappropriately or speak to you in certain ways.* We have the ability to make the men around us better, or worse, depending on what our expectations are.

Now, does that mean we should all have unrealistic expectations for the men in our lives? Absolutely not. But it does mean that we should require a degree of godliness in the men we are around. We should praise the boys in our youth group who lead singing or pray before the congregation. We should not give the time of day to the boys who cut up and text during Bible class or worship. We should praise the boys for seeking out wholesome, modest girlfriends, instead of tearing those girls down and making fun of them for dressing 'weird'. We should praise the boys for acting mature and including the smaller boys in the youth group, instead of acting put out by the immature children hanging around. 

We can make a difference in our lives and the lives of the boys/men around us if we will not settle for less than God expects. 

Monday, February 4, 2013

Blessings from God

There are so many day that I rush through life and forget to stop and say thank you to the One who has given me all of those gifts. Today, join me in thanking our Almighty Father for the bountiful gifts He has given us, including:

Free will -  I'm going to let you in on a little secret: I'm super competitive. And, while that can be fun and great when you're on a collegiate volleyball team or playing in the state finals in tennis, it can also be a curse if you're playing against someone who isn't really that into it. There is nothing worse than playing against someone who is letting you win. It takes all of the fun out of it. That is why I am so thankful that God designed His creation as free moral agents. We aren't robots that are forced to do His will and serve Him. Instead, we are creatures who get to choose to love Him and choose to serve Him.

Maybe you have never been in a relationship or friendship that was one-sided, but let me tell you, it is no fun. And so, while there are some who will not choose to love and serve their Maker, there are others who will, of their own free will, choose to enter into a relationship and covenant with God; one that will be enriching and beautiful. Would I enjoy being a Christian and having a relationship with God if I had to? Maybe not. But do I love being in a relationship that I choose to be in with the Almighty? Absolutely; because I recognize that this isn't a right I have. Instead, it's a gift. The created have no right to be so close to the Creator, and yet He loves each of us individually and I, for one, am so thankful that He does.

Being members of the church - Just recently I was hanging out with two of my friends and I thought to myself how amazing it was that I was a part of their spiritual family. It is so amazing to have like-minded people--people with some of the same struggles and fears and hopes and dreams--who only want to help you get to heaven. It is so uplifting and encouraging to sit around a table with 10-15 people your age who are all interested in going to heaven. It is absolutely amazing to sit under a shed with 1500 people who have all gathered together to sing praises to their God! I am so thankful that Jesus designed His church to be a family. Every single week I am encouraged by my brothers and sisters--those who live in the same town that I do and those who are spread out over thousands of miles. There are even some days that I don't think I could make it if I didn't have their advice or encouragement or support, which is exactly why the church was designed this way. I am so thankful for the foresight and mercy that was shown in creating the body of Christ. Truly God and His Son had people's feelings and emotions in mind when they made such a beautiful thing.

Prayer - If you are like me, sometimes you stand in awe of the fact that at any given moment, you can go to God in prayer. Most of the time, it is when I am in need of forgiveness or strength that I find this blessing to be so awesome. It is unfathomable that we, lowly and sinful human beings, can have a direct line to the Creator of the entire universe at any time we wish. Truly we are a blessed people, whose Maker only has their best interest in mind.

Today, I am so thankful for so many things, but for these especially. I am thankful that I get to choose to be in this relationship with God, and not only that, but that the choice is even made available to someone as sinful as I. I am thankful that, not only do I get to be in a relationship with God when I put on Christ in baptism, but I also get to be a part of a huge family whose one desire is to be in heaven when this life is over. And probably the greatest blessing of all is that we have a direct line to our Father, so that when we mess up (which for me is so often), we can beg for His forgiveness at any time, day or night.