Posted in Devotion

Falling In Love Part Two

It is so easy for me to spend time with my boyfriend and look forward to that time. I want to talk with him each day. Sometimes life is busy and our conversations are limited to text messages, but that’s not enough. I desire that focused conversation time whether in-person or over the phone. I want our friends and family to know us and to like us together, so we’ve spent time hanging out with other people. We do fun things like play games, mini-golf, or shoot pool, but I also relish the time we get to talk and do nothing else. Just like I started discussing in a previous post, our relationships with humans should reflect our relationship with God.

A married woman in my Bible study group compared her relationship with her husband to how she should treat her time with God. She talked about how sometimes her husband wants to be lovey-dovey, but she just wants to watch the TV show or do the dishes. She spoke of how sometimes it’s okay to talk with him while doing other things, but she recognizes that they need time in their marriage where it’s just the two of them being together. Likewise, it’s so easy to multitask while we pray and claim we are “praying without ceasing”. That’s fine, and God wants that constant communication, but He also wants the intentional time as well. Just as a spouse, or boyfriend in my case, wants and needs the focused alone time, God wants us to set aside everything and spend time with him.

These thoughts leave me with a few reflection questions for myself that maybe we should all be asking. Do I crave the time with God like I desire the time with my boyfriend? Do I long for opportunities to introduce God to my loved ones? Can I just sit and talk with God for hours? Do I set aside everything to have that daily time with God?

I’m thankful that God is loving and merciful because I can’t honestly answer yes to all of those questions every single day. I thank God for this metaphor, and pray that God would stir my passion for him every day. I pray that each of us would clear our minds and hearts for focused God time each day. I hope we all start falling in love with God just a little bit more.

Posted in Devotion

A Battle To Fight

On Sunday at church, my pastor made the statement that “when we worship God, we engage in warfare.”

Several times in the past month Ephesians 6 has come into my life: my daily devotional, a Wednesday night service at my boyfriend’s church, and the following Sunday at my church. If you’re not aware, Ephesians 6 cautions Christians to be ready for spiritual attack and gives practical advice about spiritual armor to don.

The Reality of Spiritual Warfare

Honestly, as many times as I’ve heard this passage or read it myself, I’ve never really thought about the battle going on spiritually. Yeah, I believed there was and I liked the metaphor of the armor, but I didn’t really take it seriously. Now, though, I realize it’s real. Not only is Satan, the world, and our flesh trying to keep people from knowing God at all, it’s also trying to keep us from following God’s will. Just based upon the negative thoughts in my head alone (see my previous post) I believe that spiritual warfare definitely exists. Satan and the world try to draw me away from God’s truths by convincing me that I am not enough in one aspect or another.

Another way we are attacked is through blinding to God’s work. Luke 24:32 says “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scripture?”.  How many times has God worked in my life or around me and I have been blinded? Maybe I attributed it to hard work or coincidence when really God was behind it. Maybe I was just so consumed by the work or negativity that I didn’t even notice the blessing.

We have be careful not to give Satan too much power though. Firstly, not all spiritual warfare comes from him; some of the attacks come from the world/society, and some of them come from our sinful fleshly nature created by the fall in the garden. Secondly, Satan is not equal with God. Satan was an angel who fell and was banished from God’s presence. That does not equal God. Satan really doesn’t have powers; he works mainly by manipulation and deceit. That’s why he’s called the “father of lies”. Ever read The Screwtape Letters? Notice that those demons can’t actually force anyone to do anything- they simply suggest to the humans that there is a different way than God’s way and make that darker way look more enticing.

The Effects of Spiritual Warfare

When there are spiritual battles taking place, no one is safe. My pastor gave a definition for war zone, “a combat area where the rights of neutrals are suspended”. This means that no one is safe during a battle. Think about an earthly war. In the war zone, innocent people get hurt or killed simply because they are in the wrong place at the wrong time. I used to think that the spiritual warfare stuff was for more mature Christians, and I would just sit on the sidelines and pray for those fighting the battle. The truth is that we’re all in the battle, even those who don’t believe in God. That led to think about the question of why bad things happen to good people; the answer seems clear- there’s a war going on and innocent people get caught in the effects.

The Antidote to Spiritual Warfare

Both of the sermons I heard about this passage and topic, which were given at completely disconnected churches two hours away from one another, said the best way to fight against spiritual warfare is to love others. Sounds simple. Well try loving a teenager who consistently says no and is distracting the rest of the class from the lesson. That’s warfare, and in those moments I must figure out a way to still express love to that student.

Ultimately the antidote to the war is Jesus. We can’t fight without him, but the also the reality is that he has already won the war. Colossians 2:13 says that Jesus “disarmed principalities and powers”. In fact, Satan knows the war was won when Jesus died and rose again, but he runs around deceiving us that he still has a chance to succeed. He tries to distract us from praising, praying, and loving by causing bad things to happen.

Call to Action

It’s time we take off our blinders and stop succumbing to the distractions and noise. It’s time we look at God and realize the battle is already finished. It’s time we start praising God and telling Satan, the world, and our flesh who really is boss of this world. It’s time to kick some spiritual butt.

 

 

Posted in Devotion

Fully known, Fully loved

Let’s get real. Being vulnerable and letting others see the real me is not easy or something I do very often. I imagine I’m not alone in this either. One of my deepest fears is that someone will see past my surface and not like what they see. It’s a struggle with self-confidence, and it’s not only a problem for teenagers.

Some days I can clearly see all of the good qualities God has given me, but other days I feel blinded. So I hide. I allow the lies of Satan to convince me that trusting will only lead to heartbreak. He tells me that there’s nothing inside that is worth sharing. If you’ve had the same thoughts, they’re lies. Maybe letting other people in will lead to heartbreak, but God made us for relationship. Maybe there is some badness inside each of us, but God can redeem anything if we let him.

The truth of the matter is that God, the one whose opinion matters most, has already seen all of my flaws and accepts me just the way I am. Nothing I do can separate me from him now that we’re connected. That truth gives me the freedom to trust earthly relationships. God is holding my heart so even if it gets hurt by someone who rejects me, God will keep it together and mend it.

Even in my insecurities I publicly proclaim, borrowing the words of Tauren Wells, “I’m fully known and loved” by God.

Posted in Devotion

Falling in Love

I remember the moment I accepted Christ’s gift of salvation, but I can’t pinpoint the exact moment I really fell in love with God. When I accepted Christ and his gift of salvation from my sins, I said yes that I wanted to start this relationship with him. I acknowledged his pursuit of me, recognized that he wanted to show me love, and desired to learn more about him. That was a decision, but after that it has been a journey of first learning how to be in that relationship and eventually falling in love. It really has been a sweet, sweet time, but it’s also had its rocky moments when I started to stray.

God designed relationships between men and women to reflect his relationship with us. There is a pursuit, similar to how God draws us close to him, and then a period of mutual attraction and interest, much like the time when we are learning about God before complete acceptance. Eventually a decision is made to establish a relationship (the DTR as it might be called), which resembles the moment of acceptance of salvation. After that, though, the couple has to figure out how to be in a relationship, and the relationship grows to love. Through watching movies and people in my life, I know that part is sweet and can also be rocky. Falling in love and maintaining love in a relationship is an ongoing choice to forgive mistakes and see the good in the other person.

Just like in earthly relationships, figuring out the relationship and falling in love with God can take time and work depending on the individual’s background and experiences. Take heart in your relationship with God if you feel like you are messing up on your end or don’t love him enough: God is better than any earthly partner. He’ll never give up on you no matter how long it takes for that falling in love stage to come to completion or how many times you allow something else to become more important than your love for him. God is faithful to forgive, and his love is deeper than any earthly relationship will ever offer.

**By no means am I trying to trivialize a relationship with God to fully resemble human relationships, which are easily flawed. Know that my experience with relationships is limited to the little I’ve experienced and what I’ve watched in other’s lives, but I pray some of this gives you hope and encourages you to fall more in love with God each day until we reach heaven and can love fully like He does.

Posted in Music

My Own Pocketful Of Sunshine

I don’t think Natasha Bedingfield meant her song “Pocketful of Sunshine” to be a song of praise to God, but I’m going to take it that way anyway.

The song begins by saying “I’ve got a pocket, a pocketful of sunshine”, and the overall message of the song is that one can escape her sorrows and stress by going to a hidden place. Well, I’ve got a pocketful of sunshine in my soul as well because I have a relationship with God. That hiding place she talks about? Well several Psalms talk about God being our hiding place.

You are my hiding place; you preserve me from trouble; You surround me with songs of deliverance. Psalm 32:7

She says “I’ve got a love and I know that it’s all mine”. Oh yes! I do have a love from God and I know that nothing can take that love away from me. It’s a love that I still haven’t fully comprehended, but just to give you glimpse, it involved a completely innocent man dying because God knew I wouldn’t be able to have a relationship with him otherwise. This love surpasses anything I can do wrong or right, and it is completely free to me. It causes me to sing, dance, and smile. It urges me to love others just a bit more because I am so so thankful for the love God has given me.

Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8: 35-39)

Bedingfield’s claim is that “you’re never gonna break me, sticks and stones are never gonna shake me”. As a Christian, I know that to be true because God has armed with a full armor of truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation, and the sword of the spirit (Ephesians 6). With that kind of armor, mere sticks and stones don’t stand a chance. With God, I am stronger than any army.

I can do all things through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13

To her enemies, she proclaims “wish that you could but you ain’t gonna own me, do anything you can to control me”. That’s what I yell at the Devil. When the devil tempts me and tries to control my mind or actions, I can rebuke him with scripture just like Jesus did in the garden. Because of God’s reign in my life, the Devil has no place in my life. God is bigger than the Devil.

Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. 1 John 4:4

The bridge to the song says “There’s a place that I go that nobody knows, Where the rivers flow and I call it home, and there’s no more lies and the darkness is light and nobody cries; There’s only butterflies”. My place that I go? Into the arms of God. I can hide in his words and his comfort. In that place there are rivers of life (John 7:38), no lies (Numbers 23:19), and the darkness is made into light (John 8:12). There may not be butterflies, but the fact that Jesus is there is greater than anything. The presence of God is truly somewhere I can call home.

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

As I walked home this afternoon listening to this song, the line “the sun is on my side, I smile up to the sky, I know I’ll be alright” caught my ear (and led to this post). I’ll take a little liberty here and replace the word “sun” with “Son” referring to Jesus. That Son is on my side, so on rough days or good days I can look up toward heaven and know it will be alright because God has a great plan that ultimately ends in my eternity with him in heaven. Praise God!

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

So if you see me walking with my earbuds in bobbing along with a smile on my face, I just might be thinking about how I have a pocketful of sunshine. For me, this will be a song of worship.

Posted in Devotion

Brokenness Restored

Last night at the concert, I kept noticing the family in front of me. The entire time either the mother or father had their arms around the teenage daughter. There was such love in that family. Coming from a broken family, that image always brings up mixed emotions for me. Through the image of this family, the words spoken, and a memory, God did something in my heart.
Earlier this year I graded essays for the academic team. The prompt was to argue whether the media should adjust their image of the modern family due to the large variety of family types. Most students argued that media should represent more broken, single parent, or same sex families, but one student argued that the media should portray a solid family with a mother, father, and kids because we shouldn’t portray something less that what God intended. I recognize that brokenness in families exists because of sin, but I think that student had a point to make in that God intended families to be a certain way.
Towards the end of the concert the band manager came to the stage and spoke of how he felt God leading him to pray for the families in the room who were breaking or hurting for one reason or another. As I prayed for the broken families at the concert, God began to shift my perspective just a bit on the “perfect” family in front of me. The pain and jealousy eased, and I felt hope. Families that represent God’s plan still exist. Brokenness will still happen as long as sin still reigns in hearts, but there’s hope that God can produce and mend whole and perfect families.

Posted in Bible Study, Blogging for Books, Book Review

God Loves

I don’t have much, if any, experience in the romantic love department, so I’ve often just skimmed over Song of Songs as I’ve read the Bible. Dee Brestin’s He Calls You  Beautiful helped bring out the metaphor of the book. It’s not just a physical romance between a man and a woman; it’s the image of us as the dark-skinned scorned woman being wooed and falling in love with our King, God. Here are some truths I derived from reading this book.

  • God desires to have a relationship with each of us in spite of our sin.
  • Our eyes are to be like dove’s eyes: focused forward, avoiding distraction.
  • Just like in a marriage, God asks us to love him in sickness and in health. God never gets sick, but it may feel at times as if he’s not present or a little crazy. We still love him.
  • Just like the groom leaves the bride after she refuses to leave her mother and marry him, sometimes God leaves us to the consequences of our sins. Just like the groom though, God comes back to call us to him again.
  • In the bigger context, the bride in Solomon’s story represents the day when Jesus’ followers will be reunited. In her name you can literally find peace and in many instances she represents the new Jerusalem. You’ll have to read the book to get a better understanding of this metaphor.
  • At times my faith may become lukewarm, but just like the lover in the poem, God will stand at the door of my heart and knock until I open back up to him. Similarly he also leaves us with his word just as the groom left myrrh in the door to remind us of his love and push us to run back to him.

Though my earthly heart longs for marriage so much that it hurts at times, I am thankful that this book reminded me of my position as a bride of Christ. He has wooed me, chosen me, and continues to express his love for me. Someday we’ll be joined together for eternity in heaven, and it will be more sweet than any earthly marriage. For now I’ll keep preparing myself to meet my King, and maybe an earthly husband will be in God’s will as well.

Many waters cannot quench love, nor floods drown it. (Song 8:7)

I received this book from Blogging for Books.