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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Christmas Reinvented

As Christmas draws near, I've been doing a lot of thinking about how I would do Christmas differently this year. Each year, for the past couple of years, I've been convicted about how I go about celebrating Christmas. When I was 17, we finally decided to quit giving out big gifts in my family. Instead, we'd each get a small present. That was very very tough for me, since I had been used to getting many presents that my focus was on the presents as opposed to Christ. Ever since my parents readjusted our focus on Christmas, I've been able to give up certain things little by little each Christmas. Gifts are no longer important to me. What is more important now is, "How do I celebrate the right way?" As I pondered what I would do differently this year, the Lord gave me a vision about Christmas reinvented. He reminded me of the verse about Gehazi which says,

"Is it a time to receive money, and to receive garments, and oliveyards, and vineyards, and sheep, and oxen, and menservants, and maidservants?
(2Ki 5:26 KJV)

Although the verse refers to a whole different scenario, I realized the Lord was speaking to me and telling me that Christmas was not about me, rather it was about others. Christmas is a time to serve others and show them the love of Christ because Christ has given Himself up as a sacrifice for us. His whole life was about serving others, not Himself. Scripture after Scripture describes how He cared for the people. He was weary and tired, but even then, when He was needed, He pressed on to help others. He didn't complain or shoo them away, He willing emptied Himself for others. If Christ could show such love to others in need, isn't that an example to us during the Christmas season of what our focus should be on? I suddenly realized that this Christmas should and would be different. It would be learning how I could help others more so this season. It would be about volunteering my time to help those who need help. Yet even then, the Lord showed me my focus was still wrong! As I phoned and e-mailed places in need of Holiday volunteers, I was baffled that none of them needed help or they never responded or their e-mail didn't even work! I felt as if I had been hindered on purpose. I couldn't understand why, until I began to realize that God wanted me to minister to those around me this year. He wanted my ministry to be using the skills I had learned to benefit others. Simple things like baking cookies or playing the piano for the enjoyment of others was on His agenda for me, not being officially recognized with an organization to be able to show off to others about the wonderful things I had done for others during Christmas. No, He wanted my service to be quiet and unnoticed. So during this season, I have devoted myself to finding ways to help others in need. And although it may be a small task that I am given to help someone, I am very happy this season to know God has helped me to celebrate this season in a way that He would want me to. I would encourage everyone to use their skills to benefit others in need this season. I was even surprised to realize that I could help others, not monetarily or giving of my time, but by using my talents to create things that would bless others. Take a look around you and see how you can bless others in the way our dear Lord has blessed us!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Follow-Up on 3 Months With the King

In one of my previous posts, I mentioned my commitment to "3 months with the King," a time where I was supposed to seek out the Lord, instead of marriage. I wanted to follow-up with the after effects of my commitment, as it was over several weeks ago. Three months without thinking about the topic of marriage was tough! And I had absolutely no clue that three months was a quarter of the year, so I'm very surprised I stuck to it. A couple tactics I employed was not allowing myself to watch, read, or listen to anything that would stir up those feelings about marriage. That was tough as well, but ironically, when I finished my three months, I could listen, read, or watch those things without having those feelings stirred up inside of me. Instead, my thoughts directed of how I felt about the Lord rather than wishing something were happening to me. I was quite pleased with the results. I had also mentioned that I committed myself to giving up my desire of marriage for a quarter of the year. That had an interesting effect in the end as well! By the time the three months were over with, I was ready to ask about that marriage business! That was no surprise, but what came as a surprise was the fact that after that first day, I seemed to forget about praying for marriage. I had been so drawn into that mindset of "No you cannot until this is over with!" that I just assumed that same mindset after my three months were over with. Another lesson I learned during my three months was the fact that even though I had a difficult time laying aside the flesh, God was showing me that I was placing Him as the most important thing in life and laying aside the idol I had held in first place for so long. At one point I can remember being discouraged, thinking that this idea wasn't helping me lay aside the idol of marriage. That is when I realized how I had laid aside my idol in order to place God first, even though I didn't feel like I was accomplishing anything, I truly was by my commitment not to ask for marriage. It's great to hear God's voice in those moments when everything seems to go wrong, just to know that He sees something different within us!

With that being said, there are still going to be those tough times concerning singleness. And even during those times, I see the Lord encouraging me. This was especially true just recently when a dear friend sent me the link to this radio series on singleness by David Jeremiah. She had no clue about my situation, but her thoughtfulness was so timely, I was sure the Lord had placed it on her heart to think of me and send me the link. God is so good to work through those around us to encourage us! It was a direct blessing to me, an encouragement to use this time for ministry to the Lord, to draw closer to Him, to love Him even more than ever before. I want to use this time of singleness, or opportunity, to say that I spent my time wisely like God would want, serving Him to the utmost of my ability, to the maximum capacity. With that being said, I would encourage you to click on the link and listen to the two-part series on singleness. The Lonely Single May it bless you as it has blessed me!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Lessons Learned

The past couple months have been spiritually trying for me. I've been asking God to change me into His likeness more and more each day, and I certainly have found out I need a LOT of changing to do! At first it was quite depressing to realize my true character was anything but nice and kind. I suddenly realized I had a whole lot of work to do and was in great need of an ENTIRE transformation. That's how much sin I have to fix! It's very hurtful but helpful at the same time. There have been so many things He has been teaching me that I will probably have more posts about the lessons I've learned over the past couple of months, but for now I wanted to focus on one important thing I have been learning: having faith.

As some of y'all know, I have been doing a Bible study at a local church in the area, separate from my current church, because it doesn't conflict with my work schedule. I have thoroughly enjoyed it too! I'm so glad God opened this opportunity for me to continue my Precept Upon Precept Bible studies. This semester I finished Esther, and I have now started studying the book of Isaiah. It is anything but easy. I have studied several other books of the Bible, and none have come close to the complexity of Isaiah. It's been challenging and rewarding. In particular Isaiah 7 has been quite a blessing to me. Here is a section of it:

And the LORD said to Isaiah, "Go out to meet Ahaz, you and Shear-jashub your son, at the end of the conduit of the upper pool on the highway to the Washer's Field. And say to him, 'Be careful, be quiet, do not fear, and do not let your heart be faint because of these two smoldering stumps of firebrands, at the fierce anger of Rezin and Syria and the son of Remaliah. Because Syria, with Ephraim and the son of Remaliah, has devised evil against you, saying, "Let us go up against Judah and terrify it, and let us conquer it for ourselves, and set up the son of Tabeel as king in the midst of it," thus says the Lord GOD: "'It shall not stand, and it shall not come to pass. For the head of Syria is Damascus, and the head of Damascus is Rezin. And within sixty-five years Ephraim will be shattered from being a people. And the head of Ephraim is Samaria, and the head of Samaria is the son of Remaliah. If you are not firm in faith, you will not be firm at all.'"
(Isa 7:3-9 ESV)

Once I reached this section in Isaiah, I was told to cross-reference other Bible passages about Ahaz. I initially found out that Ahaz was a very wicked King. So the thought that came through my mind was, "Why is God promising HIM deliverance? Why is He good to someone like THAT?". I went through a couple cross-references in Kings and Chronicles as well concerning what Ahaz did after God told him about the deliverance from his enemies. Now what do you think someone who has been specifically told by God Himself not to fear does? Not fear and take comfort, right? Well, not for Ahaz. Instead, he went out and took the money from the House of God and gave it to the king of Assyria, begging for their help. After continuously begging for the Assyrian's help, they gave in and conquered his foes. Talk about a slap in the face! Ahaz desecrated God's temple, the God who just promised victory to him, and then trusted in MAN rather than GOD. How unbelievably disrespectful! Did Ahaz honestly disbelieve God would do what he said? I was shocked at the way he treated the word of God that was spoken directly to him. As I thought of this, I suddenly realized I was like Ahaz. I'm a sinner saved by grace, but I still sin. Just like Ahaz heard the voice of God and disbelieved Him, so had I. Instead of trusting in God's Word, I doubted. I grew impatient, and then I ran to man to fix my problems quickly. I sought man to help me, rather than trusting in God's Word. I was guilty of being just as wicked as Ahaz. And just like that, God showed me I was no better than Ahaz. I realized that sometimes we are no better than those who were before us. It takes a lot of hard work to have faith and trust that God will do what He says, even when directly spoken to us! I seem to think that God has forgotten about me and my situation and that He needs me to workout the situation for Him. I know He doesn't, but I treat Him that way. Then this verse came to mind about Moses' words of faith when standing up against the Egyptians,

The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.
(Exo 14:14 ESV)

Imagine that. God is fighting for us while we wait. We don't need to grow impatient or take matters into our own hands. God sees our situation, He has heard our prayers for help, and He is working, though we cannot see it. We have only to be silent though while God answers our prayer. Silence shows patience and obedience to our Father. It shows that we trust He is handling the situation. Silence is something I've been working on as well. It's a very powerful way of placing our faith in His hands.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

3 months with the King

I recently started up a new Bible study on the book of Esther. It has been a tremendous blessing just to study this book verse by verse, very slowly. As I was reading about Esther's three day fast before going into the King with her petition, I drew some similarities with my situation. A lot of my blog posts have dealt with the topic of contentment, something that is very sporadic with me. One day I'll be content, the next discontent, and back and forth. Contentment about what? Being single! It always seemed to be a very tough battle. And I always seemed to lose and let discontentment creep in. I realized that my way just wasn't working. I was praying God would bring along the right person constantly, all the time, knowing that God was saying, "not right now." I insisted on asking, and then one day I thought, "What would life be like if I finally surrendered that desire and just said, 'Okay God, no more asking'?" Although it had taken a very long time before I had reached that breaking point of surrendering to God's will, I decided to take a chance and submit. I just thought Okay God, three months- that's how much time I'll set aside in devotion to you, seeking you out, without ever asking you to bring along the right person. And so just like that, I started my three month campaign with the King, the one person on earth I'm supposed to desire more than anything. I really didn't know if I'd make it! Every time those words concerning marriage would fall on my lips in prayer, I'd stop myself, remember my promise, and then ask God not to heed those words should they slip out during those three months. After awhile of this practice, I felt very very discouraged. I didn't think anything was happening! I felt like I was trying to grow closer to God but utterly failing, picking myself back up, and doing the same thing over and over again. But little did I know that it was a subtle change that was taking place and would gradually become more noticeable later on. First of all, mom noticed that I wasn't talking about my issues with being single and not married. She noticed it though, and I didn't. And then gradually I realized my meltdowns and strong desires to be married had suddenly disappeared. Something else very strange started to occur- marriage suddenly lost all of its appeal. It wasn't enticing anymore. I suddenly started to enjoy this time I had to be all I could be in service to God and His kingdom. The appeal of singleness and all the work to be done in this period of life grew more desirable than ever to me. I started to realize that God was working in me, even though I could just barely see the changes taking place, they were drastic and good changes.

Although my commitment has thus far been a bit over a month, I have had no major problems with my single estate like I did before. Even though I feel like my efforts to wholly serve God have thus far seemed futile and slow, I've come to realize that God honors the effort to seek Him out and guides us to change. He helps us get up in the wee hours of the morning to lengthen our time with Him. He's there throughout our failures, encouraging us to continue on even if it seems like we are a hopeless case. It's ironic how a challenge that seems so insignificant could radically change my worldview. I was the one who had unintentionally made marriage an idol, who longed for it so intensely sometimes it felt unbearable. And during those times, I'd pamper this sin by asking God to fulfill my desires instead of surrendering my desires to Him and doing as He pleased. I went from one of those people to a person who is learning and re-training herself to desire God alone, to a person who doesn't think about marriage much and is truly happy with her estate. I would encourage those who are in the same boat to take the 3-month challenge. It really works, if you make a concerted effort. You're probably thinking, "So what are you going to do after the three months are over with?" Well, I might just take the challenge again if the Lord gives me the same answer, but I'm not so sure that I will desire to ask for that, since I know it all happens in His good time. I will keep taking this challenge until God changes my circumstances.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Newfound Joy

About a month ago or so I had been very discouraged about the work at the Center. Sometimes it is so hard to see the good that we, as the Center, are doing in the lives of the community. Yes, we help those who need free services, but that is not the greatest need of the women there. Their greatest need is Christ. So there I was, very discouraged that as I tried to communicate with clients, I noticed their hearts were closed to spiritual things. It was quite frustrating. I felt like there was absolutely no one whose lives we were eternally impacting. I knew that I was wrong about that. I knew God would prove me wrong in due time, but I got caught up in the feeling of discouragement. Little did I know though, God was truly working in the life of someone who would end up at our center. Now as the work that goes on there with clients is confidential, I can’t give out names or specifics. I have to be very basic and generic when I speak about this incident.

I had watched a client come into our center, go through the same things every client goes through, pregnancy test, parenting classes weekly, ultrasounds, etc. This client came in though with an interest in knowing God. She didn’t fully understand about salvation, but her heart was tender. So a few times after she kept coming in, one of the volunteers was able to talk to her and explain the Gospel so she would understand what salvation really is. This talk was not some two-minute, “You are saved for praying a prayer!” kind of talk. No, it was good and long. I have no clue how long the woman had been in there for, but during that time, she was saved. This to me was a genuine conversion. God had planted a seed in that woman’s heart and allowed our center to water it. I was thrilled, hoping my intuition was right at this recent convert. And I believe it was as I have watched her come in and have been able to see her change. She is growing in Christ and being discipled right there at the Center. As I watch this event unfolding, it is so sweet and sacred. The love of Christ to us is the dearest and most beautiful love known to mankind. And this woman gets a taste of what we have! What a joy! Think about how radically her life has been altered- this child growing in her belly is a child that will grow up knowing who Christ is, and hopefully through the mother’s example will also come to the knowledge of Christ. You see what an amazing event is taking place? 2nd generation Christians. That is what is in the making. One life impacted can spread very quickly, just like a fire. I look forward to seeing this young woman grow in Christ and lead her child in the the way of the Lord. I thank God that He is giving this unborn life hope to one day know Him and that He saved this woman for eternity. I am also thanking God for encouraging me when I was discouraged. If she is the last person to ever get saved at the Center, I will know that our work wasn’t in vain because at least we, through God, were able to impact one life.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Some Thoughts to Ponder

Recently, I just started reading Suffering and the Sovereignty of God by John Piper, mainly because my teaching will involve some apologetic knowledge as well. Aside from that, I do find the topic very interesting, and I would like to present it in a light that is able to help others understand why God allows suffering in this world. As I was reading through the book, I came across a story that made me think like I'd never thought before. John Piper explains the story, from a Pastor's point of view, of a woman whose life eventually led to tragedy. The pastor writing the story describes the woman's initial childhood- raised to serve the Lord by Godly parents and from early on desired to serve the Lord. She had a heart for the Taiwanese people and wished to marry someone who had the same desires, serving God as missionaries to Taiwan. She decided to wait for the right one to come along, and when she began college that man entered into her life. He had the same desires as she. They courted for a few years, and when he finally proposed to her, she sought out the Lord in this decision for a few months and found that this was definitely the one for her. A couple years after they got married, this woman found her husband to be unfaithful to her. When asked to repent of his sin, he did but went right back to it after a while. This cycle continued for a few years as they sought out counseling, but the husband grew worse and ended up filing for divorce, leaving her pregnant and single. Her one question to the Pastor was this, How could God choose this man to be her husband, specifically give her an answer that he was the one, if this man was only going to cheat on her and leave her? How could God allow this to happen to someone who had desired only to do God's will her whole entire life, who had prayed earnestly for the right one, and let this happen?

After I read that, I let it sink in. I had actually never thought of such a scenario before! As I pondered it, I suddenly came to the conclusion that "Yes, it is possible for God to allow such an event to occur in the life of a believer." Perhaps you came to the same conclusion as well or perhaps you are saying, "What is wrong with you??? God would NOT do that!" I have my reasons that I will further develop in the next few paragraphs. For right now though, I want you to assume that the story you just read above leaves the woman absolutely blameless, as she is portrayed. Yes, we don't have all the facts from both sides, but let's just assume that she was a true believer,she had not strayed to her will in the matter of marriage, and that there were no indications of this man's strange behavior before their marriage. In order to believe this situation, one must also assume that God, through the Holy Spirit, had spoken clearly to her that this was the man she was to marry. Now that we have made all those assumptions, I'll explain why this still can happen to a blameless person.

We know that God allows bad things to happen to good people,as the Bible verse states that "the rain falls on the just and unjust." This is also seen in the book of Job where Job, a blameless man, is befallen with many trials, leaving him with nothing but his life. God knew Job was a just man, but God allowed Satan to attack Job with all these trials for His glory and to see if Job would still love God and obey Him, despite the circumstances. In the end, Job did so and glorified God in the process. What Satan had meant for evil, God intended for good, and in the end, Job was restored back what he had lost with more to go around! This is a clear example of God allowing evil to occur in a blameless person's life.

I would go even further to say that another book in the Bible supports the idea of God allowing a marriage to fail, though the one was blameless. That book is Hosea. Hosea was told by God to marry a harlot, named Gomer. Hosea did so and had children from her harlotry. She ended up leaving him to go back to her harlot ways, and Hosea had to pay a price to bring her back. Gomer was in no way faithful to Hosea, but Hosea was obviously a Godly man since he was a prophet of the Lord! If God can allow Hosea to have a broken marriage, then couldn't he do so in the life of a Christian?

I think so. It's not a pleasant thought, nor is it one that we would want to accept. God uses circumstances like that though for good ultimately in the end, for those that love Him. I think many times we have this misconceived perception, me included, that if we wait in obedience to God for the right person, follow His will, and live holy lives, we will get a Godly young man/woman and live "happily" ever after (excluding the trials in marriage that are not affair related). God doesn't make happily-ever-afters on earth for everyone though, and there is a reason for that. It isn't always punishment for sin, it can be as an example to others like Hosea was,or it could just be a time of faith-building and strengthening like it was for Job. We don't know all the reasons behind the why of what God does, but I do know He does what's best. The thought of the possibility of this happening when I get married does not make me cringe though, as I know that if God so permitted to do so, it would be just and right. The Bible says, "Shall not the judge of all the earth do right?" Yes. Yes He does! And even though I may be "blameless" in my ways (hypothetically speaking, not actuality) I still don't deserve anything I have here on earth because I sin everyday and will do so until I get to Heaven. With those thoughts in mind I can see no reason why it would be unjust for God to allow someone to marry someone knowing full well the marriage would end within a few short years. Your thoughts?

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Weekly Gratitude

Here is again! It is really good for me, when I'm down about something, to continuously find things to praise Him for and realize just how good He is to me! It helps to divert the focus off of myself and focus on being thankful for all the things He has done for me!

1.) Meeting new people
2.) Continuously revealing the faults I have that I need to work on
3.) GRACE!
4.) Being comforted by precious Scripture
5.) Hope
6.) Air conditioning
7.) People who are an encouragement to me
8.) Rain :)
9.) Summer
10.) Bible studies

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Gratitude for Every Week

I decided to copy off a friend of mine who does this, except she calls hers "Thankful Thursdays." It's a great idea and one that I've been meaning to employ for awhile. I realized that being thankful and expressing that thankfulness out loud develops a true spirit of gratitude that is able to be expressed even in times of hardship. The truly grateful heart will still be thankful and at peace when things go wrong. I want to cultivate that so that when the rough days come, I'll be able to stand, despite the rain and not be beat down because I have fixed my gaze on Christ! So with that, here are the things I have been thinking about this week that I am most thankful for!

1.) The days are longer- darkness settles around 8:30 in the evenings. I love that!
2.) Walking outside to my beautiful backyard and soaking in the beauty of God's creation that seems to have been made just for me
3.) The ability to even have a garden
4.) Opportunities to serve others
5.) The trials in life eventually come to an end- always. That is a promise from God to His believers. So keep on keeping on!
6.) One day we will be perfect and not have to struggle with our sin nature! Hallelujah!
7.) Light always overpowers darkness and evil. When the Light comes, there's no room for darkness!
8.) I am His and He is mine :)
9.) I never have to worry about my future- I can just pray to God about decisions and let Him lead and guide me.
10.) I'll never be alone ever again :)
11.) I am saved.
12.) I don't have to pretend I'm someone else to receive recognition. I can be who I am because I know I'm not perfect and God is changing me to be more like Him with each day. I don't have to worry about what others will think of me- all that matters is what He thinks!
13.) I am thankful that God is continuously working on changing my feminist mindset and creating a more God-honoring mindset :)
14.) That God can still use me, despite my faults, and I do have a great deal.
15.) That God makes me happy- always. Whenever I am sad or lonely, He seems to cheer me up just when I need Him. He is able to turn an ordinary day into something extraordinary even though nothing new or interesting has happened, He is just able to make the day brighter!

There is my list for now. Each week it'll be different. So what are you grateful for this week?

Monday, May 23, 2011

Wait, Don't Wait, Wait, Don't Wait?

Confusing title, right? What is this all about? Well, after a friend of mine had mentioned the topic of marriage at a young age, I thought a lot about the views concerning the right marriageable age according to the world’s standards and according to Christian standards. The world says that one should wait to get married until they’ve done everything they wanted to: had as much fun as possible, gone to college, and had a successful career. By that time, the person should be in their mid to late twenties, which is the best time for marriage according to the world. They say that a young person should wait to get married until all those things have been fulfilled. The Christian realm, well from what I’ve been exposed to, takes on the belief that a young person should get married as soon as possible. It seems that when one hits twenty, the Christian realm believes it is imperative that a spouse is found for that young person. So what is a young person supposed to do when they are pushed and pulled by these views from both sides? One says “Wait!” the other side says “Don’t Wait!” The views are conflicting, and in my opinion, both are detrimental to the young individual. Yes, I said it. BOTH are detrimental. The world’s standard, as we know, is wrong because it puts the selfish needs first. It says that the flesh should enjoy it’s worldly pleasure of independence and freedom before settling down. Because of this view, I have noticed a trend among the world to put off marriage for years. Supposedly these couples have found their soulmate, but they don’t want to be “tied down” just yet. In turn couples could be dating for years before they decide to get married. So we know that the world’s perspective is wrong, but the Christian perspective is too? I would definitely say it is. Marriage at a young age is not for everyone, and it should not be pushed upon anyone either. God works in His timing, and to push marriage upon someone who is not ready financially, spiritually, mentally, and physically is just not right. And some people may have all these things together but God has not allowed the right person to enter their lives yet. Who are we to say they should be married young? It’s all in God’s timing. It seems the Christian standards place unimaginable amounts of pressure on young adults concerning this matter. This is detrimental to impressionable young adults. How? Well for starters, if this idea is bred into them at a young age, their mind will always revolve on “I have to be married by ________ years of age.” They have this goal set in their minds that one has to be married by a certain age. So here this young person has this mindset and is so consumed with finding the right person, their thoughts are on nothing else but the need to be married by that age. When the time comes closer to that age they have “set,” and the right person has not showed up, the only thing that will be left is deep sorrow and utter despondency as to why they are not married. The young adult might start to think that there is something wrong with them because they are not married and many other lies. Notice that the focus was on marriage and not God? They spent their whole time obsessing over their timing instead of waiting on God. God doesn’t work on our time.

I know the subject arises about the Bible concerning early marriage, so I will explain this as well since you are probably thinking “But the Bible encourages marriage at a young age!” I believe this verse is used for that statement

Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one's youth.
(Psa 127:4 ESV)

I can understand where someone gets the idea of marriage at a young age from that verse, but we need to look at this in the perspective of the culture of Israel in those days. For one, it was normal in the Israelite culture of the Old Testament to be married in the teens, for men and women alike. Young men and women were ready to take on the responsibilities of adulthood because they were trained to be ready by then. We live in a totally different culture today. In our culture, it would be very hard for someone to get a full-time job to support a wife and family as a teenager. That’s just a rarity in our culture. One usually has to go through school first in order to support a family. And our culture prepares children to stay adolescents until they’re out of college. The difference in culture is a main reason why I would suggest it doesn’t apply necessarily to today’s culture, especially since many parts of the Old Testament were specifically written to the Israelites of that time period.

A more Biblical example to further uphold my statement would be to define the definition of “youth.” I studied this for a bit in order to understand what the exact age of a “youth” was. In the Strong’s Concordance, the definition really wasn’t definite. The word “youth” in Psalm 127:4 is defined as this according to Strong’s Concordance, “ youth, the state (juvenility) or the persons (young people): ---- childhood, youth.” It was very basic and inconclusive, so I took it upon myself to look up what exactly defined a “young” person in the Bible. Instances of the word “young” (pertaining to humans) are inconclusive in the Hebrew. They uphold close to the same definition of “youth” in the Old Testament. So I decided to see how “young” is defined in the New Testament as the definitions of “youth” in the New Testament were inconclusive as well. Since “young” is part of the definition of youth, I figured it would be a good idea to see what the New Testament Greek defined “young” as. This was conclusive. I took the passage in Acts, pertaining to the young man named Eutychus who fell from the window when Paul was teaching:

And there sat in a window a certain young man named Eutychus, being fallen into a deep sleep: and as Paul was long preaching, he sunk down with sleep, and fell down from the third loft, and was taken up dead.
(Act 20:9 KJV)

Strong’s Concordance defines the definition of “young” as this, “a youth (up to about forty years):--- young man.” Opposed to what we normally consider “young,” the Bible clearly uses the word “young” for anyone under forty years of age! I believe we can also conclude that the passage in Psalms refers to someone up to forty years of age as well. So in reality, the word “young” for marriage isn’t necessarily the picture we have in mind. It also would explain why there are some young adults who aren’t married until they are in their late twenties or thirties. If the Bible truly encouraged marriage at a “young age” according to our perceived standards, wouldn’t we all be married in our early twenties or sooner?

With that all said, I believe we should have a healthy and fresh mindset of marriageable age, not conforming to the standards of those around us, but conforming to God’s will for our lives. In God’s time he will provide the man or woman for marriage. It doesn’t matter if we’re eighteen or forty when we marry. And we shouldn’t feel as if it did. God is the author of time and He will bring about marriage in His timing.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Always More of the Lord's Goodness

God is always working in my life when I don't know it, and this time, He did it again, as He always does. And I'm excited to tell you about the next development in my life!

First of all, I must start off thanking and praising the Lord for even being in my life. Isn't it astounding when you can see God's hand throughout each step in your life? I'm always amazed with my God,that He would even choose to work in my life, not understanding why He chooses to do so. I'm humbled, and I'm grateful for His goodness to me, even though I don't deserve it.

My last big step in life was becoming a teacher to homeschoolers,which I am and will continue to be in the fall. In the fall, I'll be teaching four classes, and I'm very excited about that event as well! God has also led me in a different direction that took me by surprise! When I took on a job to teach, I had intended to get a summer job, hoping that in the Fall I could keep a part-time job alongside my teaching job. It was all "hoping" though. I started applying for jobs in February, hoping by the time the semester finished out, I'd have another job waiting for me. As the months past, I became bothered that nothing had turned out! A couple of weeks ago I was rethinking about how I had gone about applying for jobs. I realized I had done it all wrong, once again, as usual. I went about it without praying first. Yes, I've done this many times before as you can probably see from my previous old posts. I know, I need to quit doing that. I should know by now that God's way is best. I'm pretty much like the children of Israel in the wilderness though, always forgetting how good it is to follow God rather than myself. So once again, I was reminded that I needed to pray about this instead of hastily applying for anything. So I prayed for God to send the right job along and to forgive me for hastily applying for any job without asking Him if it was best first. A couple days later, the director where I volunteer at asked me to come in and talk with her. I had no clue what she would be talking to me about. Then I found out she was offering me a job there at the Center for Pregnancy! As she started telling me about the hours, I knew this was the job God had intended for me all along. She told me that I'd probably have a large amount of hours in the summer and short ones in the fall. That was exactly the kind of hours I needed to coincide with the summer break and beginning of the semester in the fall with the students! Not only was that a blessing but also the flexibility of being able to schedule work around my teaching. You see, my schedule is so odd, I probably would not have been able to find a job that fit with my teaching and volunteering schedule. This was indeed a blessing from God! Everything just seemed right, like God had intended for this to occur all along. I found it amazing how God had had me in mind this whole time, knowing that I had hoped for another job to start up in the summer. Thinking about it makes me laugh, when I remember in the beginning when I was applying for jobs, I said to myself "God has always done things at the last minute for me. He'll probably give me a job right when I need it, and only when I need it." And my thinking was spot on, since I finish the teaching semester at the beginning of May. I'll be starting my job, Lord willing, the last week of April. Isn't it wonderful how God works things out? Right now, I'm relishing in all that the Lord's been doing. I love to think about how God had His hand in this situation since the beginning of my volunteer work, six months ago. I love to be reminded how intricately devoted and involved He is in our lives, how He takes the time to be involved. I love to know that He had already answered my prayer before I even asked.

Before they call I will answer; while they are yet speaking I will hear.
(Isa 65:24 ESV)

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Your Great Name

Just a song I was thinking about and how it relates to the upcoming Easter Sunday. I love the words to this song, and thought I'd share it. The second video is the same song but the acoustic version, as I know some people don't like the drums- but I still think the first version is the best one. Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Reflections upon the Upcoming Easter

As I was starting up a new Bible study on the Proverbs 31 woman, I came across the story called “The Bridge.” It’s a fairly common illustration used to represent the sacrifice God made for us by sending His only Son to die on the cross for our sins. It’s what Easter is about. As I finished reading the story, I was impacted by the author’s very words about how we should live

Obedient to the point of death, Jesus hung there so that we could spend eternity with Him in heaven. Such amazing grace proves His great love for us. Knowing this, do we dare spend our lives, as those people on the train, doing whatever we want? (Folkerts 26)

The reference to “those people on the train” is what you’ll see when you watch the movie (based upon the story mentioned above which is linked at the end of my post).They are the people who go on in life, not realizing or caring about the sacrifice God made by sending His only Son to die on the cross for our sins. Her words penetrated my heart. How can I live my life doing as I please when I owe my life to God?

I was especially reflecting upon this thought the other day. At a certain point in life, you take a look at the big picture, the responsibilities and duties, problems without answers, and suddenly life looms over your head like a nightmare. It’s not the wonderful life you knew before. And then life just gets you down. I think everyone has been there. I know I certainly was there! Suddenly I just wanted to quit on life. I wanted to say “STOP!” and make everything stop so I could do what I wanted. I wanted to say, “I’m tired of fighting the good fight and trying to do right- I want to just relax and not think about it!” I just wanted to be able to “quit” on life. The truth of the matter was and is that you simply cannot quit on life. You just can’t. It continues on. So here I was facing this obstacle of not being able to quit but wanting to, praying that God would take these awful feelings away and give me strength, and then suddenly I was thinking about the aforementioned quote and the story. How dare I even think about quitting when Christ paid the ultimate sacrifice for me? My problems are (believe me, they really are) miniscule in the schemata of things. Others are far worse off than I, and here I want to give up just because life is overwhelming? I owe my life to God, yet suddenly I decide it’s too much, and I’m ready to throw in the towel. Did Christ do that to me? Did He say, “I can’t take it?” No! He endured it, with much pain and suffering, knowing that the outcome would be joyous for Him to be able to save us.

looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
(Heb 12:2 ESV)

If Christ, who went through so much more suffering than I have ever been through, was willing to go all the way to the cross to suffer for us, shouldn’t I be willing to continue on doing what I’m doing, fighting the good fight? God apparently thinks so:
Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.
(2Ti 2:3 ESV)

For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God.
(1Pe 2:20 ESV)

I owe it to Him. It’s a given that we will go through tough times, but we must take heart, remembering the ultimate sacrifice Christ paid for us, knowing before the beginning of the world what He would have to do, yet never shying away from his duty. As we remember this Easter season, let’s look to Christ for our strength to get through the tough times in life; He is our joy. He is ours and we are His.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Focusing on the good, not the bad

Lately, through various outlets such as my Bible reading, messages, and my recently finished Bible study, the Lord has been showing me something I need to work on in my life. It seems as if He were slowly revealing my eyes to this topic, and I wanted to share it with you here on my blog.

A lot of times we go through many trials and bumps in the road, mostly unexpected twists and turns in life. As a Christian, we know that we will suffer but we never seem to expect we will have to go through so many trials! It always hits me by surprise, and during those moments I am prone to be discouraged and upset over circumstances. While reading through Deuteronomy, I came across this passage in my reading,

And you murmured in your tents and said, 'Because the LORD hated us he has brought us out of the land of Egypt, to give us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us.
(Deu 1:27 ESV)

I am pretty sure I laughed when I read that verse. How could the Israelites ever possibly even think that God hated them? He had promised to be there with them throughout their journey into the promised land!!!! Had they not noticed all the miracles He had performed for them? But the Israelites only saw the image of defeat in their minds because they felt the Amorites were too powerful for them to overtake. The Israelites weren’t looking at the big picture, rather they were only seeing the giant standing in front of them that they couldn’t defeat by themselves. They had forgotten the power of the Lord. And even though Moses assured the Israelites that God would fight for them and defeat the Amorites, they didn’t believe it! They were so focused on the bad, they didn’t know that good would ultimately come out of the situation. And yet again we see a similarity in the New Testament in this passage

And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. And he said this plainly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, "Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man."
(Mar 8:31-33 ESV)

Jesus had specifically told his disciples the impending trials that would come upon Himself, but that in the end all would be well for them when He would rise from the dead. Apparently though, all the disciples could think about was the awful impending doom of Christ’s death. Somehow they never realized that Christ would rise from that death and not be bound to physical death. In another version it explains that once Christ told them this, they were filled with despair. They had missed the big picture!
Trials do and will come our way. A lot of times though, we focus on the horrible moment, the difficulties, instead of realizing that trials are to help produce endurance in us, and that they momentarily produce pain, but in the end the outcome is good whether we realize it now or later. Instead of focusing on the problem, we should take a look at the ultimate picture. The outcome in the end will produce sweet fruit, just as is told in Isaiah

The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad; the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus; it shall blossom abundantly and rejoice with joy and singing. The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, the majesty of Carmel and Sharon. They shall see the glory of the LORD, the majesty of our God. Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who have an anxious heart, "Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you." Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy. For waters break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert;
(Isa 35:1-6 ESV)

Those who are weary, those who are going through tough times, notice that there are streams in the desert. There’s always a good side to a bad situation. Recently, I had been praying to the Lord about something I was going through. When I received my answer from the Lord, it was not the answer I had hoped for. It was the answer that caused me grief and distress. As I started to wallow in my sorrow, I suddenly realized that God had been so good to me in that moment. I realized He had given me a stream in the desert place. He had answered my prayer! Did you hear that? He answered it! Oh yes, it wasn’t the answer I wanted. I know that the ultimate answer to that prayer will produce more good for me than harm; I just cannot see it now, but I have to continuously train myself to realize that God’s plan is always better than my own! It was the answer that ultimately caused me grief, but He took the time to incline His ear to my prayer and listen, meaning that He cared and cares for me. I stopped right there to thank God just for answering my prayer. Sometimes we need to take a step back and look at the big picture and just say, “What good in this situation can I thank God for right now?” Sometimes though it is tough to do that, and I still seem to think like the Israelites, “The Lord hates me!” It sounds silly, but I think we’ve all been in that situation where it just seems like God keeps pounding us with unbearable trials. When we take a close look at the Word of God and read it, we can definitely see that just because we have trials in life, doesn’t mean God hates us. As I was finishing up my Bible study in Jeremiah, these passages really stuck out to me.

For Israel and Judah have not been forsaken by their God, the LORD of hosts, but the land of the Chaldeans is full of guilt against the Holy One of Israel.
(Jer 51:5 ESV)

And I will bring to an end in Moab, declares the LORD, him who offers sacrifice in the high place and makes offerings to his god. Therefore my heart moans for Moab like a flute, and my heart moans like a flute for the men of Kir-hareseth. Therefore the riches they gained have perished. "For every head is shaved and every beard cut off. On all the hands are gashes, and around the waist is sackcloth. On all the housetops of Moab and in the squares there is nothing but lamentation, for I have broken Moab like a vessel for which no one cares, declares the LORD.
(Jer 48:35-38 ESV)

The context of the first verse is after Israel and Judah have finished their punishment from God for serving other gods. God tells them that even though they did evil and though He punished them with another evil country, they would be avenged by their oppressors. He still loved them enough to bring ultimate justice in the end. The context of the second verse is about a nation who never served the Lord that is soon to be punished. Notice how the verse says that God mourns over their impending destruction? My first thought was, “Why would God mourn over someone who never knew or cared about Him? They deserved to be punished. They brought the punishment upon themselves and God is sad because He has to punish them?” Then I realized that it’s just like our God to show compassion to those who don’t even care for Him. If God so loves those who don’t care about Him, how much more the ones He has saved? He cares for His children greatly! Though He may allow tough times to come into our lives, He continually watches over us, knowing the ultimate end will produce good for us and to His glory! If God mourns over the sufferings of those who are not His own, how much more His children as well? That is comforting to know that He literally goes with us through those trials, experiencing the same sorrow as us. There are definitely streams in the desert place, just carefully look around you and you’ll find them.

Monday, March 7, 2011

A Character That Outshines All Others

As I had stated in my last post, the Lord revealed some other things to me while I was there in counseling training. Since it is a totally different topic, I decided to devote a whole post about the character of a Godly man. So what in the world does that have to do with counseling training? A lot! Most people think that a pregnancy crisis center is for women alone, but we tend to forget the women who come in have a partner, whether it be their husband or boyfriend. Not only do the young women need to be ministered to but so do their partners. Most of the time the partners are young men who sit in the classes with their girlfriend or wife. I’m sure it can be quite awkward for them, especially since there is no program specifically designed for them- no men acting in as mentors to these fathers-to-be either. There is a dire need for men to step out and volunteer at pregnancy centers. The volunteer training this past weekend included training for the new volunteers of the new pregnancy center opening up in the city nearby. As I looked across the room and recognized our volunteers and scanned over the volunteers for the other center, my attention was directed towards the young men in the room. Yes, I did say YOUNG men. Not only were they in the room on a Saturday morning spending their time training to counsel, they were there the ENTIRE day for training, which lasted about 8 hours. This act of kindness stood out to me and struck me as one of the most important characteristics a young man should have, at least one of the tops ones. I couldn’t help but think this is so unlike the character of young men today, what has prompted this act of kindness? When we think of the word “volunteer” we always think that’s the woman’s job. Most of the time volunteers are women, especially at a crisis pregnancy center. So what made this more impressive was that these young men were wanting to help out in this vicinity of volunteer work. To me, it showed the true nature and character of their hearts. It was apparent they had a servant’s heart, one that was willing to give up a Saturday and even a part of their week every week to help out the center for pregnancy. So let me say this, I’m not easily impressed, but this impressed me. Their character, which most definitely mirrored a character of a servant of the Lord, was impressive and commendable- highly commendable. So why is this such a jaw-dropping impressive feat to me? Well for one, most young men are absorbed in their own pleasures and enjoyments. Even if a young man does volunteer, it’s doing what he wants to do, not anything outside of his comfort zone. Young men also tend to have a terrible problem with foolishness and being non-sensible. I have noticed that trend. Young men seem to think that they’ll impress girls with their lack of sensibility and dare devil feats, but really they’re just casting themselves in the worse light possible. A young woman wants a man that will lead with wisdom and make wise and unselfish choices. Doing dangerous feats is very unimpressive to me personally. When I hear about the foolish things young men do I think Wow that is so silly, something a child would be doing. When are they going to grow up? This is why an act of generosity goes a long way. We live in a culture where young men are trained to be children for as long as they want to be and act like children, when they should be developing Godly traits of a man in their teens. So take note young men. If you want to impress a girl, develop those Godly character traits of sensibility and compassion, for those are some of the most impressive and delightful character traits around!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Amazed with my God

After praying for the Lord to give me the words to say for my next blog post, I realized what He wanted me to talk about this morning as I went through my counselor training for the center for pregnancy. I have such a conglomeration of different things the Lord revealed to me as I sat there listening to the speakers, that I have no clue what to title this or how to gather all these thoughts. I am first and foremost so thrilled that God has answered my prayer and given me what HE wants me to write about as just yesterday I had been thinking about writing about whatever, just so I could hurry up and write a blog post. I get impatient most times, but this time I stopped myself and said, “No, this blog is about what GOD wants me to write about- not what I want to write about.” So I decided to pray God would give me the words to say, and today I was blessed with an answered prayer. Sometimes it just makes me want to quote that famous poem to God,

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday's
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints,—I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life!—and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.
~ Elizabeth Barrett Browning

As God answered my prayer, and I realized what I would write about, I felt Him revealing so many things to me this morning. As some of you know, I have been battling my fear to counsel the young women at my local crisis pregnancy center. I enjoy volunteering there, and I’ve been a counselor-in-training for about a month, but I feel so inadequate! For starters, I am quite young, and I have no experience with counseling young women in a crisis situation. I know that I want to help, but I don’t know how to. As the director of my center, also longtime friend, got up and started speaking, she started off with these verses-

And now, O LORD my God, you have made your servant king in place of David my father, although I am but a little child. I do not know how to go out or come in. And your servant is in the midst of your people whom you have chosen, a great people, too many to be numbered or counted for multitude. Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?" It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. And God said to him, "Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches or the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, behold, I now do according to your word. Behold, I give you a wise and discerning mind . . .
(1Ki 3:7-12 ESV)

I felt exactly like that verse, O Lord, I am but a child! I need your strength for I have no clue how to minister to these women or what to say! And when I heard my director speak those words, I knew God meant it for me. I felt very reassured like my God was telling me He had placed me here, you can read about that blog post from last year, and He would give me the words to say at the right time just as He had done for Solomon, so He would do for me. I know God has placed me here; He will fulfill my calling. Then God brought this other verse to mind

When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
(Mat 10:19-20 ESV)

If the Holy Spirit so graciously imparts to us the words to say during times such as those, how much more as ministers of God’s love? I was relieved to realize that although I don’t have the words to say that will minister to these young women, God does, and out of His goodness He will place the right words at the right time. I also took great comfort in knowing that despite my inadequacy God is willing and wanting to use me- He sees me differently than I see myself. It’s amazing that despite our inadequacies and our weaknesses, He chooses to use us just like He used David. He can see the potential in our lives that we cannot see within our own selves! No, that does not mean I’ll be the best counselor ever or that I’ll even be good when I start out. It means that God will be with me along the way- He knows I have the ability to do the task set before me.

The next thing I was struck by were the videos about the choices several young women had made. I saw the hurt and grief in the words and faces of the women who had chosen to abort their babies. I realized why we had received Kleenex at the beginning of the session, I wanted to cry with them. No longer did I feel the need to say, “How could you do that to your child?” Rather, I wanted to hold them and tell them that God forgives them, and with Him they can get through it. And then once again, I was utterly amazed by God’s calling to me in this vicinity. It was there that I said, once again, “God you knew I was meant for this when I didn’t even have a desire for these young women!” I was in awe again of my God. Just when I think that I wish I would’ve volunteered to minister to another group people, it’s then God shows me that He knows what I need the most. I love this volunteer work, and I wouldn’t trade it in for the world. If you remember from a previous post awhile back I explained my struggle to enjoy working at the pregnancy crisis center to now finding true joy and delight in ministering to the young women. Sometimes though my heart longs for something different, and each time it does, God shows me differently. Once again my God knew what was best for me, and I’m so glad that though I initially had NO heart for these women, I obeyed His calling,and He gave me the desire in the end. Isn’t it a funny thing how God can change our hearts? How he knows what is best for us and furthermore that our desires in the end will coincide with His? Sitting there made me realize what I love doing best- helping others. I hope to work in other volunteer vicinities with young women, but for now God has called me just to this place, and I’m so happy that God sent me to this place! This was only a fraction of what God showed me this morning, but it’s such a long post I’ll save the rest for later. So be sure to watch out for my next blog post in the next few days!

Monday, February 7, 2011

More than blessed

Not many people know, but I am a huge fan of Kay Arthur’s Precept on Precept Bible Study series. I’m currently working on Jeremiah, the second half of it, this semester. Her Bible studies are very intense, requiring anywhere from thirty minutes to an hour of homework five days a week. Kay’s Bible studies are intended for the student to delve in deeply into God’s word, very deeply. They have always been insightful to me, even though I have only been doing them for about a year.
As I’ve been studying the second half of Jeremiah, starting off with chapter 25, I have been greatly blessed with the things God has been teaching me. In particular, my heart was blessed today with the study of Jeremiah 31. No, not blessed, amazed. Astounded. Face-to-the-earth astounded. It was that powerful, and I wanted to share it with you.
As part of the studying of Jeremiah 31, the focus was on the new covenant God had prepared for the Israelites. Kay Arthur explains that this is the only place in the Old Testament where “new covenant” is mentioned, so that must mean it’s very important! The few verses in Jeremiah 31 that mentioned the new covenant did not have many detailed things to say except that the new covenant would be better than the old one. In order to understand fully what the new covenant is though, we have to go forward into the New Testament and see what the Bible has to say there about the new covenant.

And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, "This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.
(Luk 22:20 ESV)

In that verse we finally see the impending fulfillment of the new covenant, which is fulfilled in the blood of Christ, the hope promised to Israel’s hundreds of years earlier is about to take place, and even now it has! In Hebrews 9, we read about the perfect blood of Christ which is able to eternally sanctify us, as opposed to the blood of lambs and goats which were temporary purification. Then we get to the most intense part of this new covenant and realize that this new covenant mentions US within it. Be excited!

Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called "the uncircumcision" by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands-- remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
(Eph 2:11-13 ESV)

We are the Gentiles, and we are the recipients of the new covenant God promised to Israel and Judah in the Old Testament. We, who were and are not God’s chosen people, we who had absolutely No hope, we are now part of this new covenant. We are invited into this covenant. Gentiles are now allowed to be God’s special people! It’s a wonderful thought, isn’t it? That God would feed the dogs the crumbs. A marvelous thought. Even more marvelous and incomprehensible is this thought,

So I ask, did they stumble in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean!
(Rom 11:11-12 ESV)

Because Israel sinned against God, we were allowed into the new covenant. Their rejection allowed us the ability to be received by God. God saves us so that His chosen people will come to Him. What does that mean? That’s right. If Israel had obeyed God, we wouldn’t be able to receive that heavenly inheritance. Sit there for a moment and let that sink in. Scary and humbling thought, is it not? To think that we were that close to not being children of that promise of eternal life! Oh how I thank God for including us into His promise! That verse just makes me appreciate and love my God even more than ever, for I have no clue where I’d be without Him.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Joy, joy, joy

It’s been awhile since I blogged. I’m so sorry! Lately as I have been reprioritizing my life and spending more quiet time with my Lord, I have noticed a recurring theme in my readings. I have currently been bombarded with the theme of joy, joy joy. I know we all know what that word means, but lately it has gone deeper than just having joy during awful circumstances. There is much more to joy than that. I am beginning to learn that my all-compassing joy should be in Christ. The other day, I was given a link, from one of my dear friends, to a magazine by Leslie Ludy, and I was struck by her article about watching television and movies. She spoke about her long struggle to just sit down on the couch, relax, and unwind with the television turned on. Yet this is what struck me, she used this verse

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
(Psa 16:11 ESV)

That hit me. Here Leslie was, and I do the same, finding more pleasure in Hollywood than in sitting down with a quiet time with God. I was shocked. When I go to relax and take a break, I do something I enjoy, that being, anything but spending time with God. I find more pleasure in material things than in God. Yet the verse clearly tells us that in His presence we experience joy? It’s very true, but it’s so hard to follow, something I’ve been trying to work on lately. My focus has been totally messed up by the world’s viewpoint that rest and enjoyment come from material things, that I have had to readjust my thinking to “God is my rest and my joy.” That’s a tough one to swallow.

Not only should God encompass our joy over every material form of entertainment, but furthermore He should become our all-consuming joy in life. John Piper had much to say about this in his book called, In Our Joy. Piper talked about what it means for Christ to be our joy. Here is the verse he used

"The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
(Mat 13:44 ESV)

Notice that the man who has found eternal life sees it as more wonderful and incomparable to anything that this world has to offer. Because of the joy that the man has found in Christ, he sells everything he has just to gain that joy he has found within Christ. Did you catch that? Everything. It’s hard for me to swallow too. Do I truly feel the same way about my Lord? No, I cannot say I do. There are things I know I am still attached too, as my actions speak loud, and I would deem them more joyful than the hope I have found in Christ. Awful, isn’t it? It’s been something I’ve realized needs to be reprioritized, that is, finding joy alone in my Christ. He should be the only source I looked to for my joy. I should be willing and ready to give up whatever He wants me to give up because the joy in Him is far greater than any joy I could ever experience here on earth. I know it’s true, but my flesh wars against the spirit and leads me to believe that the things on this earth are more desirable than He. That is not true and that is a mindset we must all battle to conquer each day.

Pivotal to understanding the meaning of finding all-consuming joy in Him alone is realizing that He had joy for us, knowing that we would cause Him pain

looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
(Heb 12:2 ESV)

Notice the word joy and who it belongs to? Yes. Christ saw us as His joy, so he endured the pain because of what lay ahead. We who are unworthy to be called God’s children, we who cause our Lord pain each day as we sin, we who do not see Him as our only source of true joy, we are the ones Christ calls “Joy.”

Today I have been putting these words into practice. As I wake up each morning, I say to myself, “There is nothing like waking up to You. Today You will be my joy. You will be the one I spend my day with because you are more important than anything.” As I set my mind to focus on Christ, I find out that I try to shape my day around that saying. As my day begins to mold around that saying, I realize how truly joyful it is to know Christ. I desire to make Him my all-consuming joy, will you do the same as well?