Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Crossroad

Man... I gotta post on here more often.
Here's the scoop-- I often have articles on both Come Fill Your Cup and KatharosNOW... check em out if you get some time!
Also, I have an article in the upcoming December issue of THINK magazine (issued by Focus Press), which you can buy in Barnes and Noble Bookstores! Thanks for reading. Hope I can be of some help to you.

This is a poem I wrote. I got the idea from a C.S. Lewis quote about how if we're not pointing someone to Heaven we're pointing them the other way... we can't be neutral. I don't remember the exact quote, but that was the gist. It's not great but it's not bad and I think it gets the point across. Enjoy!
Travelers choose between two roads in life:
One purely pleasure, one with some strife.
One road is narrow, and the other is wide
And you, Christian, you must help them decide.
These sad, empty pleasures soon lead to despair,
Yet many still travel that road, unaware,
Not knowing the narrow–harsh and hard though it seems–
At its end holds a treasure beyond mortal dreams.
The Signpost is clear, and yet many ignore
The fate that their easier road has in store,
But there you stand, Christian. Will you let them be?
Will they go to their deaths, or will you make them see?
Can you stand in silence, and watch them walk on,
When their chance at Life will quickly be gone?
Or will you shine your light on the Sign’s saving words,
Screaming the truth in hopes to be heard?
Remember this truth, for they won’t be here long:
If you don’t point them right, you are pointing them wrong.

~green eyes :)

Friday, October 29, 2010

Was Blind, But Now I See

Yet another CFYC repeat... sorry guys. Hopefully not many people have read it yet. :)

I was reading my Bible recently when I came across the account in John 9 about the blind man at the pool of Siloam. The first few verses hit me pretty hard. They read: “As He passed by, He saw a man blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he should be born blind?’ Jesus answered, ‘It was neither this man nor his parents, but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in Him.’” (verses 1-3). Wow. What an extreme sense of purpose there is behind that statement! God can take any circumstance, any hardship, any deformity, and use it to do His work.

Whether we can see physically or not, as imperfect people, we are blind alone. We cannot see spiritually without God. In Isaiah 59, the prophet writes about the iniquity of his people and the separation from God it caused. In verse 10, he writes, “We grope along the wall like blind men, we grope like those who have no eyes.” However, there is hope for us. Jesus tells us so in John 9:5: “While I am in the world, I am the Light of the world.” How do we get rid of this deformity of spiritual blindness and allow God to display his work in us? Let’s see.

Obey. Take a look at verses 6 and 7. The text reads, “When He had said this, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and applied the clay to his eyes, and said to him, ‘Go and wash in the pool of Siloam.’” The blind man could have dismissed Jesus as a lunatic. He could have scorned this avenue of healing, much like Naaman in 2 Kings 5. However, he didn’t do either of these things. He saw the hopelessness of his situation, recognized Jesus as his only hope, and “went away and washed, and came back seeing.”
Much as Jesus’ instruction might not have made much sense to the blind man, we might not always understand God’s instructions for the way we live our lives, but if we will follow Him, He will perfect and complete our lives. As Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 1:18, “the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” Studying to understand God’s commandments is essential, of course, but they’re not up for debate if they don’t make sense to us. Like the blind man, we need to realize that we need help, and that only Jesus can give it. We need to obey His plan for salvation (hear, believe, repent, confess, and be baptized) in recognition that it is the only way to heaven (Acts 4:12).
In so doing, we allow God to make the needed change in our lives, and can begin walking in His Light (1 John 1:7).

Make the change visible. This healing did not only affect the blind man, but also the people around him. John 9:8 tells us that “the neighbors, and those who previously saw him as a beggar, were saying, ‘Is not this the one who used to sit and beg?’” What good is our salvation, our spiritual sight, if no one else even notices it’s there? Following Jesus’ example, we are to be “the light of the world” (Matthew 5:12). If we’re true Christians, others around us WILL notice—the change is as clear as a blind man receiving sight.

Defend your Lord at all costs. If you’ll read over John 9, you’ll see that the once-blind man is taken before the Pharisees, because Jesus healed him on a Sabbath (this was an offense because Jews were not to work on the Sabbath day). At first the Pharisees try to pass it off as a hoax, but the testimony of the man’s parents crushes this theory. Even though his parents basically abandon him to fend for himself (v. 21-23), the man continues to testify that Jesus’ power comes from God. He knows very little about who Jesus actually is, but to the Pharisees’ accusation, he replies, “One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see” (v. 25). He further reasons, “Since the beginning of time it has never been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, He could do nothing” (v. 32-33). The Pharisees proceed to throw him out of the synagogue.
This man’s faith amazes me. He hardly even knew who Jesus was, but he defended Him just the same, at the risk of being ousted from the religion he’d followed probably since birth. How much more should we, who have a good understanding of Christ and His gospel (and an amazing Book outlining everything there is to know) defend Him when He is scorned? 1 Peter 3:15 commands us always to be “ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you.” Through an accurate handling of His Word (2 Timothy 2:15), we will be prepared to defend Jesus when the time comes.

If we openly and visibly obey God’s commands, and defend our choice to do so, we display God’s work in us, just like the no-longer-blind man. What better way to end but with the lines of the old song? I once was lost, but now am found; was blind, but now I see.

~green eyes :)

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Spiritual Boot Camp

This is another repeat from Come Fill Your Cup. Someday when I have time again, I will write new things. I promise. :)
How many of us have ever been in a war zone? If we were all in a room together, maybe a couple of hands would go up, or maybe none. I think it’s safe to say that as a modern day American, if you haven’t served in the military, you’ve never been in the thick of a battle, or at least you’ve never seen bullets flying through the air or bombs going off. But guess what? We all walk into a war zone every time we leave our Christian homes, or part from our Christian family in the church. It’s not a physical war zone… it’s a spiritual one.

I want to look at a passage that’s probably pretty familiar to you: Ephesians 6:10-17, which talks about the armor of God. Let’s look at verse 10—
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.”
What’s that? Be strong in yourself and the strength of your own might? Of course not. Our power comes from the Lord. If we’re going to be successful soldiers, we have to give the credit to our Commander.

Verses 11-13: “ Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.”
We’d already established that this battle we’re fighting is a spiritual one, but look at the language the apostle Paul uses to describe our enemy. “The world forces of this darkness” and “spiritual forces of wickedness” sounds pretty intimidating, doesn’t it? Not only this, but verse 11 mentions the “schemes of the devil.” Satan doesn’t usually make a straightforward attack… he deceives us with his tricks. We can’t take on this enemy on our own; THEREFORE we must put on the armor of God to be strong against it. Another point: does it say “some of the armor of God” or “most of the armor of God”? No, it says “the FULL armor of God.” Keep that in mind as we go on.

The next verse begins, “Stand firm, therefore, having girded your loins with truth.” Wait… what on earth does that mean? In the culture of the time “gird up your loins” basically meant “get ready.” (see 2 Kings 4:29, Job 38:3, Jeremiah 1:17) Men in Biblical times wore long tunics that limited their movement. Girding up their loins meant pulling the tunic between their legs and tucking it into their belt to prepare for a journey or, particularly in this context, a battle. So what does it mean to gird up our spiritual loins with truth? Well, in order to be ready to fight in this spiritual battle, we must know the truth and be able to utilize it. If we’re misunderstanding the Bible or just not applying it in our lives, we’re not ready to fight.

The next part says, “Having put on the breastplate of righteousness.” Just like a Roman soldier’s breastplate protected his heart, righteousness protects ours from the schemes of the devil. Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart; for it is the wellspring of life.” Whatever we let into our hearts is what’s going to come through in our lives, but if we guard ourselves with righteousness, our hearts will stay pure and ready for a spiritual fight.

The next verse says, “and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace.” Let’s think—what good is a shoe that doesn’t go anyplace? None at all, of course. So we have to take the gospel places! We have to spread it! Otherwise it will do us no good in this battle.
Next: “In addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.” What are some of these arrows? A few I thought of were doubt, worry, and uncertainty. However, if we have faith, all of these arrows Satan uses are powerless. God will take care of us, so we needn’t worry about life or doubt His power and care.

“And take the helmet of salvation.” The brain, like the heart, is one of the most vital organs in the human body; excessive damage to it is almost always fatal. We can understand the truth, have righteousness and faith, and understand the gospel, but if we’re not wearing the helmet of salvation, we’re going to die in this battle. No question. Just being a good person isn’t enough—we must hear, believe, repent, confess, and be baptized in order to wear the helmet of salvation. However, if we’re ONLY wearing a helmet, without any other armor, we’re definitely going to die there too. Go back to verse 11: the FULL armor of God. We need it all if we’re going to succeed.

“And the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” The Bible is our only offensive weapon, but it’s the best weapon we could possibly have. With it we can deflect the blows of Satan (as Jesus did in Matthew 4) and bring others into our camp. (See Hebrews 4:12).

Well, that’s it: God’s instructions for a Christian soldier’s attire. Paul gives us one more tip in 2 Timothy 2:4—“No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier.” Our lives need to revolve around God, such that our Christian walk IS our life, and everything else is just extra. If we do all these things, together we can be an effective army for the Lord.

~green eyes :)

Friday, September 10, 2010

Secret Keeping

This is another repeat from Come Fill Your Cup... Sorry, I'm REALLY busy lately. It's also mostly applicable to women, just so you know. Enjoy! :)
As girls, we can appreciate the pleasure found in knowing a secret that nobody else knows. We like knowing that our friend trusts us enough to allow us to be the one person she tells her secret to. Not only does it make us feel special, but it also strengthens our friendship. Whether we’re married or waiting for our future husbands, as Christian women, we have a secret that is only for our husbands, a secret that is only to be revealed after marriage, and only to the men we marry. We want our husbands someday to appreciate that we thought enough of them to keep ourselves a secret for them, and that this secret-keeping will strengthen our bonds with them. So how do we keep this secret a secret? With modesty.

Why is modesty important? The virtuous woman of Proverbs 31 is said to “do her husband good and not evil ALL the days of her life.” I don’t know about you, but I don’t know anyone who’s been married all the days she’s been alive. This can only mean one thing: I’m supposed to do my husband good before I’m married to him, and before I even know his name. This means not sharing my secret and keeping it safe by being modest. Needless to say, if you’re married, this includes you too; you just have the blessing of knowing the man you’re secret-keeping for. Not only this, but modesty keeps us from causing our brothers in Christ to stumble. Guys need to stay pure for their wives just as much as we need to stay pure for our husbands. Matthew 5:28 says that any man who lusts after a woman has already committed adultery with her in his heart. Too often we write off lust as “the guy’s problem.” We think that if guys are lusting after us, they’re being pigs and need to control themselves. However, if we’re dressing in a lust-provoking way, we’re not helping them out! Look at Romans 14:13. We need to quit judging the guys as pigs and start removing the stumbling blocks! Let’s keep in mind, too, that our physical appearance isn’t modesty’s only factor. A woman can be completely covered from head to toe and still betray her secret by talking suggestively and provocatively. Our speech and actions play into our purity just as much as our dress does.

How do we stay modest? In this day and age, it’s hard to find modest clothes, especially if you’re a teenager. Sometimes it’s even hard to tell if something is modest or not. If you’re having trouble, here are a few tips:

1. Ask your sisters in Christ for help in deciding if something is modest. Multiple opinions from good, God-fearing women who care about your purity usually do a lot of good.

2. As women, it’s not always easy for us to tell what’s going to cause guys to stumble, because we’re not guys! If you’re not sure, always ask your dad. If you’re married, ask your husband. He’s a guy, and he knows what’s a problem for them and what’s not. This way you can get a man’s perspective without causing any stumbling.

3. I’ve found the Modesty Survey to be helpful. It contains the collected opinions of over 1,600 religious guys about whether certain types of clothing or actions cause them to stumble or not. It can come in very handy.

4. Lots of otherwise immodest clothes can be “fixed” with layering. A low-cut top can be fixed with a camisole (provided the cami comes up high enough to help). A jacket easily fixes a strapless dress. I’m sure you get the picture.

Modesty doesn’t mean we have to hide the fact that we’re women. The objective is not to dress like men and/ or to dress in a way that isn’t flattering. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being physically beautiful and feeling beautiful as long as we are doing so in a God-glorifying way. However, no matter how we look on the outside, it is important to realize that our true beauty comes from within. Read through Psalm 45:9-13. These gorgeous descriptions are how God sees those who follow Him. If we’re emulating Christ and setting His example, we’re TRULY beautiful.

“Your adornment must not be merely external—braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God.” 1 Peter 3:3-4

~green eyes :)

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Five Easy Steps to a Beautiful Soul

This article first appeared on Come Fill Your Cup (a Christian women's blog I write for sometimes), so there's a good chance you've read it before. However, I revamped it a bit, so it may be worth a reread. Enjoy! :)

“Inner beauty is important… but not as important as outer beauty.”

That was the first line of a commercial I saw the other day. Seriously. Of course, we all know the world’s standards of beauty, but I’d never heard them put so blatantly before. Apparently, all I have to do is buy some cream, some lash-lengthening mascara, some long-lasting lip color, and I’ll be an “easy, breezy, BEAUTIFUL Covergirl.” My personality isn’t important, nor is my character. As long as I’m pretty, I’ll be successful, I’ll attract men, I’ll be popular with my peers… you name it. Makeup companies will happily feed us these lies to get us to buy their products.

Don’t get me wrong… there’s nothing wrong with makeup. There’s nothing wrong with trying to look pretty physically—in fact, I think it’s one of the most fun things we get to do as girls. We enjoy dressing ourselves up and looking beautiful, and that’s absolutely fine. The problem comes when we start focusing much on our physical beauty, and ignoring the “appearance” of our souls. How’s our spiritual “makeup” holding up? Here are God’s five easy tips for achieving and maintaining stunning inner beauty:

1. Choose the right foundation. Before we put on any other makeup, we have to put on foundation. Our souls are the same way; as Christians, the foundation for our souls should always be our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Check out 1 Corinthians 3:11: “For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” In this context, the apostle Paul is using the analogy of a building, but I think the concept applies for our spiritual “makeup” as well. Even if we are basically “good” people, if Christ isn’t our foundation, our good deeds are useless.

2. Make good use of your blush. To see what I mean, take a look at the first part of Jeremiah 6:15: “Were they ashamed because of the abomination they have done? They were not even ashamed at all; They did not even know how to blush.” During the writing of Jeremiah, Israel had fallen away from God, turning to sin, especially idolatry. Blushing was at that time an expression of downright shame at one’s transgressions. This passage tells us that Israel’s conscience was worn down, that they could hardly separate right from wrong. Are we as Christians ashamed of our sins, or do we justify them, or brush them off completely? In Jesus’ parable about the Pharisee and the taxcollector, the latter, when he prays, is “even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’” Which am I like: the people of Israel or the taxcollector?

3. Give yourself pure eyes. Most people consider a woman’s eyes to be her most beautiful feature. For spiritually beautiful eyes, however, we need to be careful what we see. Philippians 4:8 tells us to dwell on those things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, or praiseworthy. How do ideas enter our mind in order for us to dwell on them? Through our senses! Through our eyes and ears! In kindergarten Bible class, we used to sing, “Be careful, little eyes, what you see.” Do we keep that principle alive in our teen and adult lives? Are we careful about our entertainment choices, or do we allow unwholesome books, movies, etc. to clutter our minds, to “blur our vision”? If so, we need to get rid of those impurities. On the other hand, fixing our eyes on Jesus will lead us to “lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us” (Hebrews 12:1).

4. Take good care of your lips. Our lips can be the greatest detriment to our spiritual appearance; however, they can also be our greatest asset. We can use them to lie to a brother or sister, but we can also use them to kiss a crying child’s forehead. We can use them to fight with a friend or family member, but we can also use them to encourage and support others. Makeup commercials are always advertising “fuller lips”—as Christians, our lips should be full of encouragement and evangelism, full of concern for a brother or sister who is spiritually faltering, full of thankfulness and praise to God. If they’re full of harsh words, spite, negativity, or lies, we need to keep it to ourselves.

5. Check a mirror regularly. Most girls check a mirror throughout the day to make sure their makeup has stayed through the wear of the day. We know we looked all right that morning when we left for school, work, etc., but we know that no one is perfect and we all need touchups every now and then. Look at James 1:22-25:

“But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.”

See? Our spiritual mirror is the Bible, and by studying it, we can find out where we need “touchups.” Of course, just looking in the mirror will do us no good. Would we ever go right outside after looking in a mirror to see our hair messed up, or our mascara smudged? Of course not! We’d stop to fix it first. In the same way, simply reading the Bible does us no good—we have to apply it in our lives and fix our areas of weakness.

Here’s the bottom line: outer beauty fades. Makeup comes off. Do we really want to rely on things that are so transient, so beyond our control? We can, however, control the longevity of our inner beauty, and that sort of beauty is worth infinitely more.

“Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.” –Proverbs 31:30

~green eyes :)

Friday, August 13, 2010

Passport to Heaven

This was written by my little brother. He's eleven and did this as a devo for the entire Wednesday night attendance at my congregation. It was so good I had to share it here (with his permission, of course). Enjoy!
Imagine you're in an airport, ready to go to a foreign country. At the gate, the guard stops you-- you never went to get a passport! Here is something even worse. Imagine you're in an airport and you drop your passport. When you drop your passport, you don't go looking for it. Are they going to let you get on the plane? Of course not! Are you going to be able to get where you're going? No! Think of the passport as Christianity and when you drop it, you fall away. Our foreign country is Heaven. As Christians we need to keep hold of our passports. If we drop it, we need to go find it. In Matthew 6:33 it says, "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." What it means is that we need to seek His kingdom to go to it. Some people drop their passport and do not go looking for it. Most people don't even have their passport. But the plane is going to take off soon and leave without them if they do not find it. Matthew 25:44 says, "For this reason you must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will." The "plane" is piloted by Jesus, and it could be earlier or later than we expect. So how do we get a passport? Hear, believe, repent, confess, and be baptized. To keep it, we remain faithful. So here is the question I will leave you with... do you have a tight grip on your passport?

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Worthless to Work of Art

Whether you're into art or not, I dare say you've heard of Michaelangelo. Many people know him for painting the magnificent ceiling at the Sistine Chapel; however, the great artist often preferred sculpture to painting. The David, the Moses, and several of Michaelangelo's other sculptures are today considered some of the finest artistic masterpieces of all time. When asked about his artistic philosophy, he once said, "Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it."

Michaelangelo, like any other sculptor, started out with a rock. Just a rock. Rocks aren't generally worth much, and even the ones that are, like marble, don't do a thing in the world by themselves. In their original state, they're not much to look at, and they certainly don't take any kind of action or get anything done. They can't preserve themselves or even make themselves any better than they are. They're just rocks. Plain and simple.

So what on earth does this have to do with anything? Well, dear readers... by ourselves, we're just rocks. Think about it. Are we worth anything by ourselves? Do we have any true power in and of ourselves? Nope. We really don't. Without God, without our Master Sculptor working on us, we're just worthless lumps of earth with no eternal value. Now that's kind of dark. But don't worry, there's hope. As I mentioned, there is a Master Sculptor, and He can work on us if we'll let Him.

The first thing a sculptor has to do when crafting a statue is pick out a good rock. In our Christian lives, however, it's flip-flopped; we as rocks have to pick out THE good Sculptor. We can turn to several things to try to change ourselves into the kind of people we want to be. Some people turn to money, others to relationships, others to drugs and alcohol, others to themselves. However, the only thing that can TRULY help us to shape our lives is a strong relationship with Jesus Christ. Part two is perhaps harder-- the process of sculpting. Like Michaelangelo said, every rock has a statue inside of it, has the potential to become something beautiful-- we just have to find that potential and allow the sculptor to pull it out. Lucky for rocks, they have no willpower fighting against that of the sculptor. Can you imagine a rock telling its craftsman, "Nah, I don't think I'll be a horse. I want to be a human. Thanks for working on me, though, I still want to be friends..." No! That's ridiculous! However, we do this all the time (or at least I know I do). We decide we want to follow our own plans instead of what the Lord has planned for us. We know that a rock ultimately gets no say in what it becomes, and our lives are similar. Proverbs 127:1 says, "Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; unless the Lord guards the city, the watchman keeps awake in vain." If our plans for ourselves do not coincide with God's plans, they will ultimately fail no matter what we do. According to James 4:10, if we humble ourselves in the presence of the Lord, He will exalt us. If we humble our will to God's will, then He can make us into the beautiful statues we were meant to be.

Of course, this is easier said than done. I looked up some information on how marble sculpture actually works, and it doesn't sound too fun for the rock. First, the carver knocks off the impure pieces of the marble that he knows he doesn't want in the sculpture. Our spiritual lives, too, require this "pitching", as it is called. 1 Peter 2:1 tells us that we ought to be "putting aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander"; these are only a few of the sinful qualities that we must "pitch" to be good "statues". Next, the sculptor uses a hammer and mallet to shatter some of the stone in order to get the correct shape. We, too, must sometimes be "shattered" in order to achieve God's will in our lives, but in the end we become a stronger sculpture. James the Lord's brother tells us to "consider it all joy when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance" (James 1:2-3). Sometimes when we feel like God is breaking us, He's actually making us. Finally, the sculptor uses various tools to refine the look of the statue. God has given us two such tools to make us stronger-- the Bible, and prayer. Through the Bible, we can look closer at ourselves to see our weaknesses, as if in a mirror (James 1:22-25); and through prayer, we can grow closer to our Maker, give Him the glory that is due Him, confess our weaknesses, and ask for strength.

However, any artist can tell you that an artist's work is never truly done. No piece of art is ever completely perfect, and in the same way, neither are we. No matter how much we improve, there will always be room for more improvement. We still sin, we still make mistakes, we still fall short-- but if we follow God, "pitch" the sin out of our lives, and submit to His will, we'll be pleasing, beautiful "statues" in His sight.

"On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, 'Why did you make me like this,' will it? Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use? What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory." -Romans 9:20-23

~green eyes :)

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Friendship... or Force of Habit?

This is mostly just my thoughts again... but I ended up getting a lot of feedback on the last post, so I'll go with it and post anyway. I think the more real I am here, the more people can relate to it and maybe get something out of it... we'll see.

Recently I lost touch with a really close friend of mine. I say "lost touch" because I don't have a better phrase the situation-- it's a long story, and honestly, I don't care to relate it, so please don't ask-- but I think you have to know that for this thought to really hit home. It hurts a lot to lose a friendship. If you ever have, you know what I mean, and if you never have, I hope you never experience it. The worst part is the silence, the not talking to someone you really, REALLY want to talk to. That's how it is with this friend of mine. But you know, it's got me to thinking... how long can I go without talking to God and not really notice or care? I could tell you almost exactly how long it's been since I talked to this earthly friend, but the One who should be my BEST friend, the One who loved me so much He DIED for me even as I rejected Him, the One who created me, sustains me, gives me salvation... how long has it been since I talked to Him? Am I desperate to tell Him what's going on in my life? What my problems are? My triumphs? Do I miss talking to Him when I don't? And do I care what He has to say to me? Do I bother to study to see what His message to me is?

I wish I could answer "yes" to all of these questions, but the truth is... I can't. Yes, I pray. Yes, I read my Bible. But I think I kind of treat it like a checklist, and not a relationship. It's more force of habit and expectation than that I actually WANT to do the things I should do. Shouldn't my relationship with God be to the point where He literally is my Best Friend? Like if something good happens, my first thought should be to thank God for it. If something bad happens, my first thought should be to tell God about it. If I need help, my first thought should be to ask God for it. If I need advice, my first thought should be to go to His Word. I mean, really, my friends are utterly fantastic. I love them more than I can say. You guys reading this, you know who you are... HP, AV, RA, NA, MM, KB... I could go on until the Lord comes back. As close as I am to you guys though, I need to be closer to God. If I'm not even as close to Him as I am to the earthly friends that He's blessed me with, no matter how awesome and amazing and Christlike they may be... that's a problem. The truth is, I'm not there yet. That's where I want to be, and where I should be, and I'm trying to get there. I'd greatly appreciate your prayers in getting there.

Here's what I've learned: God never leaves. No matter what, God is there. He's the one Friend that is always there to talk to, no matter what time of the day or night. God loves you unconditionally, even though you hurt Him by sinning, even though you don't even begin to deserve His love. God is a rock. You can lean on Him when there's no one else to lean on. And no matter what happens, as long as you walk with God and stick with Him, He'll make everything work out for the best.

Thanks for listening, everyone... this was Green Eyes at her core.

"I love You, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge; my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold." -Psalm 18:1-2

"Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends if you do what I command you.
No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you." -John 15:13-15

~green eyes

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Who Am I?

This post isn't so much an article as just thoughts... so bear with me. :)

Lately I've kind of been wondering who people think I am. To some people, I'm the brain from school. To others, I'm the girl at church with the really long hair. Maybe I'm the girl who sings really loud. Maybe I'm the girl with glasses. To some of you, I might just be a green and black computer screen, because all you know of me is what you see on this blog. Maybe I'm the girl you see at church or at school but don't really talk to. Maybe I'm one of your best friends. I hope some people (okay, I hope LOTS of people) think I'm a nice girl who's got her head on straight. I might have hurt some of you. Maybe some people think I'm annoying. Maybe some people can't stand me.

Just a couple of thoughts:
1) No matter what my reputation is, no matter who you think I am, whether good or bad, God knows exactly who I am. In fact, He knows me better than I know myself. He knows if I'm a "pew sitter" or if I'm truly worshipping. He knows what I do when I'm by myself. He knows if I'm sincere or not in my love for the people around me.

"For God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." -1 Samuel 16:7

Doesn't my outward appearance include my actions as well as how I physically look? Sure, some people might stereotype me based simply on my outward appearance, but more than likely people judge me based on what they see me do and say. It's very possible to look like a great, spiritual person when you are, in fact, not. I think I struggle with this more than I should. I feel like a lot of people think I'm this great person (not to be full of myself or anything), but in reality, I struggle a lot. My faith falters way more than it should. I'm real good at talking the talk, but can I walk the walk? I'd appreciate your prayers for that.

2) There's one thing I want to be to all of you, no matter who else I am to you. Whether I'm the girl with the long hair or the nerd or whatever else to you, I want people's first thought when they hear my name to be: "Oh, that's the Christian girl." I want it to be *that* obvious what I believe and how I live. I want my name to be inseparably linked to the Lord and his church. And if I'm resented or disliked, as weird as it sounds, I want to be resented or disliked BECAUSE I'm a Christian. Not that I want anyone to resent Christianity, but I want that to be the only fault people can find with me, because that's not an actual fault, if that makes any sense... it makes sense in my head. Even if you're my best friend in the whole world and you have millions of other connotations with my name, I want you to be able to honestly think, "Oh, her. That's the friend I can look up to spiritually, that will always give me good spiritual advice and bring me closer to God."

Now, don't get me wrong, none of this is on any of you. I'm not telling you this is how you're supposed to think of me. I have to EARN that. I have to get to the point where you can't help but think of me that way. That's my goal.

"I have been crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ lives in me; and the life that I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me." -Gal. 2:20

Thanks for reading my ramblings... ~green eyes :)

Monday, May 31, 2010

Follow Your Heart...Or Not?

You see it everywhere. The message is drummed into our heads from toddler-hood on. It's in books, movies, even an American Girl CD I had when I was seven. Have a problem? Can't decide what to do? Just follow your heart!

It sounds good at first glance, doesn't it? It's an almost romantic idea. Like "follow your dreams" or "shoot for the moon", it's a pleasant ideal. We want to believe in the truth of it. However, what is it that we should really be following? Our heart, or something (or someone) else? Let's see what the Bible has to say about it. Take a look at Mark 7:21-23:

"For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man."

Does that sound like something we want to be following? I didn't think so. Now I'm not saying that your heart is inherently evil and nothing good can come from it or your emotions. We know that you can "make melody with your heart to the Lord" (Eph. 5:19) and we can hide God's word in our hearts (Ps. 119:11). However, our heart should certainly not be our number one "go-to guy" when we can't make a decision or we need guidance, because our heart can lead us astray. Look at Samson! His heart was certainly gunning for Delilah, but she certainly wasn't the right choice for him if He was going to be a spiritual man.

So what should I do with my heart? First, I have to purify it. In Psalm 51:10, King David pleads, "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me." This should be my constant plea. My heart cannot possibly be any good unless it is right with God. That means finding my mistakes and working to correct them. Secondly, guard it in order to keep it pure. Proverbs 4:23 says, "Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flows the springs of life." We have to be careful what we invest our heart in, and what we allow it to get caught up in. If we let it sink into sin, or invest it more highly in other pursuits than in our spiritual life, that's an issue we have to fix. Thirdly, I have to trust and love God with it. Look at Proverbs 3:5-- "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding." This is what we should do if we have a problem or need guidance... we should go to GOD, and trust Him to lead us, not just simply act on our own impulses and wants. Believe me, I know this is easier said than done. Sometimes we want something so much that we can't see how it could possibly be the wrong way to go, but that's OUR OWN UNDERSTANDING. The thing we're NOT supposed to lean on. We have to learn that God knows better than we do. Finally, I have to fix it on things that are not of this world. Take a look at Colossians 3:1-3 (one of my favorites):

"Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God."

Hidden. Our life is hidden with God. It's not ours anymore. Our hearts are literally lost in God. That's how our hearts should be.

There's an old song called "Turn My Heart"; I feel the lyrics are applicable.

"Lord, I surrender to Your work in me,
I rest my life within Your loving hands.
Turn my heart, O Lord, like rivers of water.
Turn my heart, O Lord, by Your hand,
'Til my whole life flows in the river of Your spirit
And my name brings honor to the Lamb."

~green eyes :)

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Just a quick note...

As you might have noticed, my postings have been few and far between lately. As soon as I'm out of school (which is soon) I will *hopefully* be posting more often. If there are any subjects you would like me to post about, I would love your suggestions! Also, I have a few articles on Come Fill Your Cup, a blog for Christian women. Several other Christian sisters are posting as well... it's a truly phenomenal site. Check it out!

~green eyes :)

Monday, April 19, 2010

Surviving Nairobi

I had never been so miserable in my entire life. My family and two others from my congregation had been traveling on a mission trip to Tanzania for nearly two days, and we'd finally landed in the airport in Nairobi, Kenya. I don't think there's a single chair in the entire Nairobi airport, and I know there's not a single restaurant. My brother and I were both dehydrated and throwing up. The theme songs from "The Brady Bunch" and other old TV shows were playing over the loudspeakers. It was without a doubt the weirdest, most excruciatingly agonizing twelve hours (that's right, TWELVE HOURS) of my life.

After a short plane flight, however, we finally reached the Kilimanjaro airport. Within the hour, we were on our way to a restaurant, a hotel (a bed! a shower!), and, though I didn't know it yet, the most incredible two weeks of my life. We were still in the van on the way there when my little brother looked out the window in amazement. "Sissy, sissy, look!!" So I did. Words can't even begin to describe what I saw. With the Milky Way as a backdrop, a million pinpricked stars stretched out across the sky. It's cliche, but I've truly never seen anything so beautiful. My brother then said, and I quote, "This is the best trip ever! I love Africa!" And he was right. All the "blood, sweat, and tears" we endured to get to Tanzania were eclipsed by all the amazing things we experienced once we got there.

Life is like the Nairobi airport. Granted, unlike the Nairobi airport, it can be wonderful at times, but most of us would agree that life is no picnic. It can be really hard. However, we can get through the Nairobi experience through the knowledge that someday we'll finally get to Tanzania; we can make it through life by the knowledge that someday we'll finally get to heaven. Let's take a look at the words of Peter:

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed at the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold, which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ." (1 Peter 1:3-7)

As Christians, even at the deepest, darkest part of our lives, we have hope. And it's not just a passive "Oh, I sure hope this happens" hope-- it's a LIVING hope. It's active. We get our hope through Christ's resurrection, through our Christianity and faithful walk with God. What is our hope? To obtain an eternal inheritance: heaven. Read Revelation 21. (No, seriously. Go read it and then come back.) As wonderfully beautiful as these descriptions are, they are just the earthly manifestations of what heaven will actually be like. We just can't even comprehend with our temporary minds how wonderful heaven will be. Note Peter's word choice in the passage above, too: "FOR A LITTLE WHILE... you have been distressed." Two days of agonizing traveling was just a fraction of the two weeks I would spend enjoying my trip. In the same way, our earthly life is only an infinitesimal speck in comparison with eternity (James 4:14).

Too often we feel like it's too hard. Like we can't go on. We feel like giving up on heaven. Does it make sense to give up on getting to Tanzania just because the Nairobi airport is awful? Of course not! Even though trials can bog us down, we can never, NEVER give up. Instead of discouraging us, trials should make us want heaven all the more-- they should be another spur toward our eternal goal.

You might have heard the old song, "Heaven Will Surely Be Worth It All":
Often I'm hindered on my way,
Burdened so heavy I almost fall.
Then I hear Jesus sweetly say,
"Heaven will surely be worth it all."

Heaven will surely be worth it all,
Worth all the sorrows that here be-fall.
After this life with all its strife,
Heaven will surely be worth it all.

Many the trials, toils, and tears,
Many a heartache may here appall,
But the dear Lord so truly says,
Heaven will surely be worth it all.

Toiling and pain I will endure
Till I shall hear the death angel call.
Jesus has promised and I'm sure,
Heaven will surely be worth it all.

"We also rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope. And hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us." (Romans 5:3-5)

~green eyes :)

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Dancing with God

(Note: This post will mostly be applicable to teenage girls. I'm sure you can find application even if you're not a teenage girl, but that's my audience.)

Girls are always looking for Mr. Right. That's why we love chick flicks (or chick books): there's always a seemingly perfect man involved. It was true in the 1800s when Jane Austen wrote about Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice, and it's true today, in the age of Edward Cullen and Jacob Black. There's a longing inside all of us girls for that one special guy, the perfect guy who loves us unconditionally and treats us like a princess. The one we can talk to about anything. The one who can solve all our problems. Wanna know a secret? That guy exists. The problem is, we're looking in all the wrong places. We look for the perfect guy among imperfect people.

The truth is, people are always going to let us down. Don't get me wrong, this doesn't mean we shouldn't love people. We should. But people are imperfect. To expect perfection from imperfect people is unfair to both sides, and it's only going to leave us disappointed. So what are we supposed to do? If this is true, all hope is lost, right? The perfect man isn't out there, and all our Prince Charming hopes and dreams are shattered... right? WRONG!

If there was ever a master of perfect, unconditional love, it's Jesus Christ. If there was ever a man who treated his bride like a princess, it's Jesus Christ. If there was ever a man we could talk to about anything, it's Jesus Christ. If there was ever a man who can solve every problem, it's Jesus Christ. See, Jesus is that perfect man, the one we've been looking for, our "Mr. Right." And yet, we find it so hard to be content with him until we find our earthly "Mr. Right." Why? It doesn't make any sense!

You might have heard the expression "Dance with God; He'll let the perfect man cut in." I love this analogy-- it's so perfect. Think about it. The dance is like life. Think of it like a waltz; the guy leads, and the girl follows his lead. If God is the guy in the dance of our life, we will follow His lead. We will submit to His will for our lives. 1 Peter 5:6 says, "Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time." His plans are better than any of our plans could ever be, and if we'll only let Him work it in our lives, it'll be better than anything we ever dreamed. To be a good dance partner, we can't "step on God's toes", so to speak, and try to put our plans before His. But let's go a little deeper. Would you want to dance with someone who was dying to dance with somebody else? Something tells me that wouldn't be too enjoyable. If we're not content with Jesus, we can never be happy, and I can't imagine He likes that too much. Now, I'm not saying romantic love is bad, or that we shouldn't fall in love with an earthly person. God certainly doesn't think it's bad-- He's the one who instituted romantic love in the first place! But right now, we're dancing with God, and He needs to be the focus of our heart. If we look into His eyes, someday He'll say, "There's this guy I know that would be great for you." And introduce us to the man that's right for us. Of course, this is where the analogy falls apart, because our dance with God doesn't stop when we meet our earthly Mr. Right. A relationship without God will ultimately fail no matter what; but if a relationship between two people is centered on God, it is the strongest relationship possible. "A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart." -Ecclesiastes 4:12

Here's the clincher: whatever relationship we're in, it all comes down to the fact that we're dancing with God. It's up to Him to let a man step into our lives, and He is to be in control of our lives no matter what. Until then, we're to be content in Him and leave our lives up to His plans.

"Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith." -Hebrews 12:2

~green eyes :)

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Using Your Barriers

At my church camp, we play a game called the Flour War. It's basically Capture the Flag, but with a little twist: each team is given "flour bombs" (tissues rolled up like sleeping bags with flour inside them) to throw at the opposing team and "kill" them. Oftentimes there are cars parked all along the battlefield, some belonging to the Blue Team (or the winning team) and some belonging to the Green Team (the losing team). Before we started last year, our Blue Team general told us to use the other team's barriers against them. While they set up their cars to hide behind and defend themselves, we can use the cars offensively to sneak closer to the enemy flag.

Obviously, our war with Satan is much more serious than a church camp Flour War, but there are some similarities. First, there is a war, and as Christians we are soldiers of Christ. We don't get involved with the sins of the world because we want to please our "general", Christ (2 Timothy 2:3-4). The other "team," Satan wants to win just as bad as we do; he is not a passive enemy. He can sneak around in the woods of our lives just as easily as a person playing capture the flag, so we have to be on the lookout for him (1 Peter 5:8). God has given us both an offensive weapon, His Word, and defensive armor in the form of faith, truth, righteousness, and salvation (Eph. 6:10-17). And just like in the Flour War, we can use the Devil's barriers against him.

How often does God use bad things for good? Look at the story of Joseph in Genesis. Joseph was sold into Egyptian slavery by his own brothers, then put in jail for a crime he did not commit. Personally, I can't think of many situations worse than that. However, the story doesn't end there. God used his awful situation to bring Joseph up to second in command in the most powerful nation in the world at the time. Look at Jesus' crucifixion. No event in history can possibly compare with the horror and agony caused the day men killed the Son of God. But through that event comes the greatest blessing we have ever received: forgiveness and salvation from sin! If we allow him to work in our lives, God can turn these bad things, things we would see as the Devil's barriers, into good things that we can use to work against Satan.

The first one to come to my mind is health problems. I have a very good friend who has a LOT of health problems and she's a teenager about my age. You have no idea how much I admire her. Personally, in her situation, I would have given up hope. I would have been mad at God for all my struggles. But my friend uses her health problems to reach people. Her joyful attitude alone is enough to make people wonder why she's different, giving her the opportunity to lead them to Christ. But she doesn't just take opportunities, she MAKES opportunities. When she's in the hospital, she goes to visit other kids who are sick and encourage them. She is the PERFECT example of using barriers for God and against the Devil.

However, not all of us have health problems. A more common barrier is technology. Now, I say "barrier"; but technology is in itself a neutral thing. Just like the cars during Flour War, its "goodness" or "badness" all depends on who's using it and what we're using it for. The first thing that comes to my mind is Facebook. I am a self-proclaimed Facebookaholic. Chances are you got to this blog by clicking a link on my Facebook page. Like I said, Facebook is a neutral thing, but how much time do we spend on it? Are we wasting valuable time we could be using for the Lord? Do we spend more time harvesting for the Lord, or harvesting our crops on Farmville? Do we spend more time "facing the Book" than on Facebook?* Not only this, but there are several quizzes and applications on Facebook that Christians simply should not be a part of. One in particular that bugs me is Mafia Wars. I'm not saying you're going to hell if you play Mafia Wars or anything, but it's a game all about killing and stealing. As Christians, can we really be okay with that?

However, we can use Facebook for such great GOOD in the Lord's church. I have 404 friends. That's FOUR HUNDRED AND FOUR PEOPLE that see my statuses every day (in theory). That's how many people I can potentially affect. Pretty awesome, huh? So if I post a Scripture on my status, 404 people will see it. Some of those 404 people aren't Christians, so I'm potentially reaching out to them. Some of those 404 people ARE Christians, so I'm potentially encouraging them. And all I have to do is type a few words. Like I said, pretty awesome. And not only do people see what we do post, they see what we DON'T post. If any of you have non-Christian friends, you've probably seen some pretty raunchy things on people's Facebooks. Non-Christian people are going to wonder why we don't curse, why we don't post inappropriate pictures, why we don't take dirty quizzes. And that gives us an opportunity to TELL them why-- because Christ has saved us and we're living our lives for Him. (My suggestion for friends who post dirty things on Facebook-- we don't need to see that. However, they do need to see what we have to say about God. Unless they comment on your statuses or post on your wall a lot, I would hide them instead of deleting them. That way, you don't have to see their inappropriate postings, but THEY can see the Scriptures you post and your example and you can potentially lead them to Christ.)

In a completely different way, hard times in our lives can also be barriers. However, when we're at our lowest, God is at His highest. These hard times in our lives, these tests of our faith, lead to endurance (James 1:3). We have to keep in mind at all times that WE'RE CHRISTIANS. Even during hard times. That means that God is going to take care of us as long as we live for Him (Matthew 6:25-34). Hard times are another opportunity to praise God and thank Him for His goodness and His care. It seems to me the times we need to rely on God most are the times we try to rely on ourselves, but we can't do that! The more we need Him, the more He takes care of us if we'll let Him, and the more reason we have to praise and thank Him!

Henry Ford once said, "Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off the goal." The trick is to not see barriers as barriers, but to see them as assets to our faith and the faith of others. If we keep our eyes on God and our goal, Heaven, everything else will be okay.

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

~green eyes :)

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Secret Life of the Christian Teenager?

Most of us have heard of the TV show "The Secret Life of the American Teenager." The show centers on a girl dealing with teenage pregnancy/motherhood and her friends, their relationships, and their all-around "drama." Although it airs on the ABC Family channel, "Secret Life" is anything BUT a family show. I've never actually watched an episode, but I Googled it for this post... I was appalled. The plot includes MANY sexual relationships outside of marriage, a gay character, and perhaps the most shocking, a "Christian" girl considered crazy and annoying until she breaks her vow of purity and loses her virginity to her boyfriend. And yet, one reporter could say "the show's themes are presented in a relatively wholesome, heartfelt context that's both entertaining and non-threatening." If this is non-threatening and wholesome, I'd hate to see unwholesome.

Whether she's intended to or not, this reporter has captured our culture's attitude toward teenagers: raunchy is the new wholesome. The title of the show says it all; the "secret life of the American teenager" is sin and corruption. Teenagers aren't expected to be innocent, pure, or spiritual; we're expected to be sexual, reckless, and worldly. Here's my question: as Christians, particularly Christian teens, are we going to take this? Are we going to let the world hold us to the stereotype? Are we going to let the world keep this view of us?

"Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe." -1 Tim. 4:12

As teens, we love this verse. I can't speak for everyone, but I always used to think, "Ha, world! You can't look down on me! It says right here in the Bible!" and stick out my metaphorical tongue. However, this verse has a but. And it's a big but.

"BUT RATHER in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe."

This isn't an instruction to the people trying to look down-- it's an instruction to the youth! We are to be so exemplary and Christlike in our speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity that it is IMPOSSIBLE for anyone to logically look down on us.

As Christians, we are not to have "secret lives." These secret lives can take one of two forms. The first is having a secret sinful life. Are we Sunday/Wednesday Christians? Do we take off the armor of God the moment we step outside the church building?
We can't be hypocrites in our faith. See how well that worked out for the Pharisees?

"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness." (Matt. 23:27).

Not a very pleasant image, is it? Simply going through the motions, going to worship, singing songs, taking the Lord's Supper, isn't going to get us to heaven, or make us right with God. Take a look at Hebrews 10:5-7. (No, really. Open your Bible and read it.) Even under the Old Law, God didn't want robots practicing rituals. He wants our obedience to Him. Now we ARE commanded to gather with the saints (Heb. 10:25), take the Lord's Supper (Luke 22:19), and sing praises to God (Eph. 5:19). But if in fulfilling these commandments we are only "going through the motions," these are of no value to God, to ourselves, or to the people watching us as examples of Christians.

The other secret life is just as bad: having a secret CHRISTIAN life. We all know the song: "This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine." As children, we refused to hide our light under a bushel, or let Satan blow it out. Do those promises made in song carry into our lives today?

"You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven." (Matt. 5:14-16).

There are two points in that last part. First, men are to be able to see our good works. Are we living Christlike lives? Are we serving Him both in the church and in the world? Are we acting like the set-apart people we are? Francis of Assisi once said "Preach the gospel at all times. If necessary, use words." Do our actions preach the gospel at all times? Second, our good works are to lead them to glorify God. Do our friends think we're simply "good people," or do they know we're Christians? Do we share the gospel verbally and point people to God?

So, are you a Christian teenager with a "secret life?" Get rid of it! As Christians we are to be black and white, clear followers of God, no matter what company we're currently keeping, no matter what situation or setting we're placed in.

"Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to the world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect."

~green eyes :)

Friday, February 19, 2010

Can You Imagine?

Lent makes no sense to me. That might sound a little harsh, but it just doesn't. Never has. I don't find Lent anywhere in the Bible, and that alone is enough to tell me God doesn't require it. However, that isn't the part that confuses me the most. What I don't understand is the disproportionality of the whole idea. People give up one thing. I've heard everything from facebook to chocolate. The most devout Catholics give up food all together except for one meal a day. That seems like a great sacrifice, but nothing we can ever do can compare to what Jesus sacrificed for us.

"Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped,
but emptied Himself
taking the form of a bond-servant
and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance a man,
He humbled Himself by becoming obedient
to the point of death,
even death on a cross." (Phil. 2:5-9).

Notice the downward trend. Sometimes it is easy for us to remember Jesus' sacrifice of His life, but how often do we remember his former status? He was with God in the beginning (John 1:2). HE LIVED WITH GOD. As Christians we can appreciate the desire to be with God; after all, that's the entire reason why Heaven can be greater than this earth. Now imagine being with God, being in Heaven, and having to leave. As humans we can appreciate the pain of knowing what we're missing. Can you imagine walking this earth, fully aware of how wonderful Heaven is, completely comprehending its splendor, knowing EXACTLY what you're missing?
Not only did He leave Heaven, but he took the form of a bond-servant. He could have been a king, or someone with great power, but He chose to be a carpenter's son. Not only this, but He humbled Himself, both to men and to His Father. In John 13, we see He washes His disciples' feet. Keep in mind that people in Jesus' time either wore sandals or no shoes at all on dusty, dirty roads. It was usually a slave's job to wash a guest's feet when they entered a house. Jesus took on that responsibility. Can you imagine having your feet washed by the SON OF GOD? It's an amazing thought. That's how humble Jesus was.
He also humbled Himself to God and his plan. Think about it-- Jesus knew long before anyone else exactly what God's purpose for Him on earth was, including His impending death on the cross. Can you imagine living years of your life knowing you were going to die the most painful death possible? That's exactly what Jesus did. In the Garden of Gethsemane, just hours before his arrest, he prayed, "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not as I will, but as you will" (Matt. 26:39). That is PERFECT submission.
Imagine the physical terror of the cross. Before the crucifixion was flogging; pieces of glass or broken pottery were often tied to the tails of the whip in order to rip flesh from the victim's back. The crown of thorns woven by the spectators would have been made up of four to five centimeter long spikes which would have dug deep into Christ's scalp. Crucifixion itself was invented by the Romans, and they knew better than anyone how to induce pain. Nails were most likely placed between the radius and the ulna (the two bones of the lower arm); this spot not only kept the nails in place (instead of ripping through the arm due to the weight of the body) but also was the most painful place for the thick wrought-iron nails. Clothes were taken anyway to violate modesty. What actually killed the person being crucified was suffocation. The body was positioned on the cross such that one had to raise himself to take a breath. Once he could no longer push himself up for air, the victim would suffocate. The entire process could last hours; Jesus' crucifixion lasted roughly six hours. Can you imagine the intense pain, the agony? What is even more amazing is that He was there for the creation of those nerves. As every cell, every atom in Jesus' body cried out in pain, He knew the exact science of why they hurt. He had designed them with the ability to go through that much pain. Incredible.
And then you have the even greater spiritual terror of the cross. As He was slowly dying, Jesus cried, "My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?" (Matt. 27:46). We know God cannot tolerate sin (Hab. 1:13), and Jesus bore our sins on the cross. God had to literally turn His back on His only son to carry out His plan for our salvation. Can you imagine the intense, unbearable pain on both sides? A perfect Father turning His back completely on His son; a perfect Son rejected by His Father, knowing He had not committed any of the sins He was dying for.
So often we sing the song: "He could have called ten thousand angels to destroy the world and set Him free." (That's based on Matt. 26:53). Do we realize how true that is? No power on earth could have kept Him on that cross against His will. Another song goes, "The nails that were used weren't enough, it was His wondrous love for me... Love held Him to the cross. Love held Him captive and set me free." Nothing but Jesus' perfect, selfless, boundless love for us could have kept Him on that cross. He loves you THAT much.
"I'm giving up Facebook for 40 days because Jesus died for me."
It just doesn't fit, does it? My point is, Jesus doesn't want you to give up part of your life for Lent. We are commanded to give up our entire life to Him when we become a Christian, and that includes all areas of our lives.
"I have been crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I but Christ lives in me. The life that I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself up for me." -Gal. 2:20

~green eyes :)

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Princess Bride

"Your TRUE LOVE LIVES! And yet you marry another. True love SAVED HER in the fire swamp, and she treated it like garbage. So, bow to her if you want. Bow to her. Bow to the queen of slime, the queen of filth, the queen of putrescence. Boo, boo! Rubbish, slime, filth, muck! Boo! Boo! BOO!"
Alright... name that quote! If you read the title of this post, you probably guessed it's from one of my favorite movies of all time: The Princess Bride. Chances are, you've seen it. If you haven't, the quote basically explains the situation: Buttercup (though she is actually dreaming) has just married Prince Humperdink, even though her true love and savior of her life, Westley, is still alive.
This is a very dramatic scene in the movie (or at least as dramatic as The Princess Bride gets). We are devastated. Buttercup has to marry Westley! Who in their right mind would give up their true love to marry someone else, especially if that love had saved their life?
We do the exact same thing every single day.
Jesus Christ is our true love. He saved us from something far worse than the fire swamp. He saved us from an eternity in hell. So why on earth do we leave him for the world? It doesn't make any sense.
1 John 2:15 says, "Do not love the world, nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in Him." James 4:4 says, "You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God." Note the word choice there: ADULTERESSES. When we sin and follow the world, we're cheating on the love of our lives!
So how do we get back in a right relationship with our True Love? To continue with my Princess Bride application, let's return to the beginning of the movie. How does Buttercup realize that Westley truly loves her? "She was amazed to discover that when he was saying 'As you wish', what he meant was, 'I love you.'" If we really love Christ, we're going to do AS HE WISHES!! John 14:15: "If you love me, you will keep my commandments." It's as simple as that!
But what if it gets hard? Will Jesus cease to love us if we fall short of his expectations? Of course not!
"Westley and I are joined by the bonds of love, and you cannot track that--not with a thousand bloodhounds, and you cannot break it--not with a thousand swords."
Romans 8:38-39: "For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Now here's the critical question? Which will you choose? Humperdink, or Westley? The sinful world, or the Savior, Jesus Christ? If we choose Him, obey His word, we will reach our reward in Heaven, reaching as a church our beautiful wedding as Christ's "Princess Bride."

~green eyes :)