Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Hello 2013!!

Alrighty.... First off: I'm super disappointed in myself for not keeping my New Year's resolution from last year. But then again, I'm pretty sure I warned everyone that I'm terrible at keeping resolutions anyway, so it was doomed to fail from the very beginning, I guess. Darn. I had hoped to keep up my blog and post at least one Bible study a month, but it didn't happen. Not that I didn't study, but I just didn't take a whole lot of time to write it all out and post it on here. I DID study. A lot. God worked on me a lot over the year 2012. And I had a lot to learn from Him. But, I'm not going to talk about 2012. I'm talking about 2013!

My main goal for this year is going to be, as it always should be: To grow closer to God. This includes: Diving deeper into His word; reading, studying, meditating.... I want to grow closer to God through my friendships, through my relationships with my family members, and also through my relationship with my boyfriend. January 1st is a chance to have a fresh, new start to things. To me, January 1st kind of reminds me of when we first accept salvation. If you think about it, at first it seems all exciting and wonderful and we just want to do more and more and change our lives around completely as fast as we can, etc... Well, I feel like that's how we start out every new year. Think about people whose resolutions include better health and fitness (I've been there.) Most of the time we start out doing really great and it might last about a month (for me it always last a couple.... of weeks.) ;) And then, we slowly start getting bored and it seems really monotonous and we just get tired of it and eventually, we give it up altogether. Well, sadly, a lot of times that's how we get with our relationship with God. Believe me, I've been there, too. I've experienced that. But, I'll tell you, that's not somewhere I want to be, again. I want to, this year, make a commitment to God. To grow closer to Him, no matter what. No matter how boring all of the little details and lineages (is that a word? Not sure...) and all of those things are in the first several books of the Old Testament might be. Or how hard it may be for me to follow through with reading Isaiah and Jeremiah. It's time for me to say "Enough is enough" and to die to self and decrease in order to be fully alive in Christ, allowing Him to increase.

COMMITMENT. This is my word for the year 2013.

Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines this word as: "An act of committing to a charge or trust" or " the state or an instance of being obligated or emotionally impelled."

I want to feel emotionally impelled to follow God's lead in my life. I want to commit to Him and trust Him with my whole being. I want Him to be my driving force in life. My all-consuming fire. And the only way for all of this to happen is for me to stay in the Word. To be constantly seeking the Lord's will, through His teaching.

I'm going to make this a short post, but I want to leave you with some verses that I will be meditating on this week. I pray that you will do the same, and if you have any to add to the list, please share them with me! :)
  • Psalm 119:105~ Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
  • I Chronicles 16:11~ "Seek the Lord and His strength; seek His face continually."
  • Psalm 31:3~ For You are my rock and my fortress; for Your name's sake You will lead me and guide me.
  • Psalm 37:23-24~ The steps of a man are established by the Lord, and He delights in his way. When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong, because the Lord is the One who holds his hand.
  • Psalm 48:11~ For such is God, our God forever and ever; He will guide us until death.
  • Psalm 119:9-11~ How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your word. With all my heart I have sought You; do not let me wander from Your commandments. Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against You.


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Who Sets Your Standards?

Have you ever had those moments where you know God is really trying to teach you something, because He keeps dropping you subtle little hints about it? Like, maybe you're going through something and He puts people in your life that are going through the same thing, or maybe it comes up in your daily devotions (A LOT), or maybe you hear a sermon at church that deals with something similar....? These are just a few things that have happened to me recently. God has been at work on my heart again. He's been hitting me pretty hard with some really awesome stuff and I wanted to share it with everyone. :) This is a tough subject for me, though, because it is something that I've struggled with for.... I guess as long as I can remember. But, it's come up so much in my life here lately that I feel like God is just telling me to get it out and let it go. So, this is what He's shown me.

First of all, I should just go ahead and say: I am a very self conscious and insecure person. I just am. I always have been. I over analyze everything and I'm always worried that I'm going to make mistakes. I have a fear of not measuring up to other people's standards or of not living up to their expectations. And, when I don't, I often feel like a failure or like I'm not good enough. I think I've gotten better and lightened up a bit over the years, but I still have a tendency to be that way. Ever felt like that?

Well, I've always tried telling myself that it doesn't matter what anyone else thinks. I need to just live my life for God to the best of my ability and not worry about other people. But, you know what? That is sooo much easier said than done. We humans have a natural desire to fit in and please people. But, the fact is, the more we worry about what other people think about us, the more we tend to fall into the patterns of this world. I mean, think about it. It's easy to fit in with the world. It really is. What's hard is standing out. Especially standing out for Christ.

You see, I know God is calling me to do something different, and the only thing I can do is just trust Him and follow His plan. But, my biggest problem is that what I'm doing doesn't look "normal" to the world. So, I get criticized for it. And, that's hard. But, get this: Christian life is not supposed to be easy. There are countless verses to prove this statement. I'll just share a couple with you.

II Timothy 2:3~ Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.

I Peter 4:16~ but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name.

I've come to realize that God has set standards for my life. God has expectations for me. And, I don't have to live up to the expectations or standards of anyone else but Him. If I base my success or my failure on what others think, I'm going to end up extremely disappointed. Humans are imperfect and they're not always going to give me the answer or the reaction that I want or need. I'll give you two examples.
  1. When we're trying to follow what God has for our lives, we have to die to self and accept God's plan as more important than our own. It's a John 3:30 thing. "He must increase, but I must decrease." But, sometimes we get undesirable reactions from people. We are told that what we're doing isn't good enough and we'll never go anywhere or doing anything in life because of what we're choosing to do. But, my question is: Who do we let be the judge of that? Why should we let ourselves believe that following God's calling on our life is unimportant? Just because other people think that we should be doing something else? Personally, I believe that God's plan for me is better than my own plan for myself.
  2. Sometimes we get a reaction from the other side of the spectrum. Maybe we are told that we ourselves are not good enough for the task that we feel God has called us to accomplish. And, we start to believe that we actually aren't good enough or that we're inadequate. Well, let me tell you something: We are not good enough. And, we never will be. On our own. But, here's the good news! II Corinthians 3:5 tells us that we are inadequate in ourselves, but that our adequacy is from God! By God's grace, we are good enough to walk out His plan for our lives. We just have to do it! :)
A lot of the time, God uses things or people that we would consider to be the most insignificant in order to fulfill His purpose. Look at Moses. He had a speech impediment, so he didn't feel like he could do what God called him to do. But, God still used him to lead His people out of slavery in Egypt. Or look at David. He was the youngest of his father's children, he was small, and he was just a shepherd boy. But he took down a giant! God can use you.

So, my point is, if God calls me to do something, I need to automatically say "Here I am Lord, use me!" regardless of what others may think. Instead of listening to all of the other voices and opinions around me telling me what I should or should not be doing with my life, I need to tune God in more than anyone else. I read this verse the other day and it really hit me:

Colossians 2:8~ See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.

Instead of doing things just because someone else thinks that you should be doing it, why don't we try listening to God's voice and following Him? I don't want to do things just because I was talked into it by someone else or because it's "normal" or because it's what people expect. I want to do things according to Christ and His plan.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

~Do Not Conform, Be Transformed~

James 1:26-27~ If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man's religion is worthless. Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

I don't know how many times I've read this verse, but for some reason I've always just taken the first part of verse 27 into consideration. 'Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress...' It seems like that's the only part of that verse that most people look at. But, it hit me that pure and undefiled religion in God's eyes is also keeping ourselves unstained by the world.

To me, that means: Not being tainted by the world. It automatically reminded me of:

Romans 12:2~ And do not be conformed to this 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.

  • Conform- "To be or become similar in form, nature, or character."
  • Transform- "To change in condition, nature, or character."
  • Renew- "To be restored to a former state; become new or as if new again."
So, here Paul tells us not to be similar to the world, at all. And, he basically says to be changed to a new person completely, by letting God change the way you think. That way we will be able to demonstrate what the will of God is by our actions.
Now, there are also a few other verses that come to mind that talk about being transformed and what that actually looks like.
This passage is an example of what we are to change from:
Colossians 3:5-10~ Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience, and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them. But now you also, put them all aside; anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him--
And, this passage is an example of what we are to change into:
Colossians 3:12-17~ So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.
In I John 2, we are also told not to love the world. In verse 15 it says that if we love the world, the love of God is not in us. And, it goes on to say in verse 16 that all that is in the world- the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life- none of that is from God. It is all worldly.Verse 17 tells us that the world is passing away, along with all of its lusts. But, those who do the will of God live forever.
I also wanted to talk about a couple of things that are very important to me regarding this subject.
Modest: Observing the proprieties of dress and behavior. Behavior, manner, or appearance intended to avoid impropriety or indecency.
The word "Modest" applies especially to deportment and dress as outward signs of inward chastity or purity.
We all have our own definitions of the word... "Standards of modesty vary by culture, or generation, and vary depending on who is exposed, which parts of the body are exposed, the duration of the exposure, the context, and other variables."- Wikipedia
I want to point one thing out: God does not go by our standards of modesty. He doesn't care about the standards of our culture or our generation. He Himself, sets standards for us, and we can either choose to follow His or we can follow our society's standards. It's so easy to just go along with what everyone else is doing and follow the different trends.. But, it's so much more worthwhile to follow God and his standards, no matter how hard it may be.
Some of my favorite verses on this are:
I Timothy 2:9-10~ Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments, but rather by means of good works, as is proper for women making a claim to godliness.
I see by this verse that if I am claiming to be a Christian, I need to act and dress like it. Now, I'm not saying that I think women should have to wear long dresses to their feet and long sleeves or really baggy clothes or anything like that. As a girl, I like to look nice and wear clothes that are flattering (although, my usual is just a pair of sport shorts and a t-shirt, haha.) I would like to be considered outwardly pretty/attractive. But, I don't think that it's very wise for a girl to put her body on display by wearing revealing clothing. Your body should NEVER be on display. Your spirit should be. Christians should look different than the world does, not only inwardly, but also outwardly.
Proverbs 31:30~ Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised. (This is my absolute favorite verse.)
This verse basically tells us that the way we look outwardly is nothing. It is deceitful, because it doesn't always tell people what we're like on the inside. But, our inward appearance is lasting and important.
So, girls, I just want to encourage you to ask yourself these questions the next time you're out shopping: "Would this be pleasing to the Lord?" or "Is it really necessary for me to show that much skin?" Your [future] husbands will be so pleased and thankful that you didn't try to show yourself off to anyone other than him. :)By the way, modesty is an issue for both girls and guys. So guys, you could definitely apply the same verses to yourselves. Your [future] wives will appreciate it just as much as you would from her.
This is a really tough subject. Personally, I don't think that it's wrong for (unmarried) women to go to college and have careers outside of the home, but I do think that it's not the right choice for myself. There are some people that think it's very wrong for women to have jobs and work outside the home, and on the other end there are some people that think it's very wrong for women to be homemakers. It's actually a topic that I struggled with for many, many years, myself.
Here's my take on this subject: I graduated from high school in April 2010, and decided to take the next year off from school. The reason that I did that was because I wasn't quite sure what I was supposed to do after that. I had always wanted to go to college and be independent. To say the least (and this is my opinion about my attitude, not my parent's), I was very strong-willed, pretty feminist, and almost slightly rebellious. But, during my senior year of high school, the Lord went to work on my heart. And, let me tell you, it wasn't easy. I went from my junior year, knowing exactly what I wanted to do (Forensic Science was calling my name. It seems creepy looking back on it...) to the end of my senior year, being completely lost about what I was supposed to do. That's when I decided that I needed to take the year off, spend the year praying and meditating on the Lord and what His will was for me. Because up until that point, I had everything planned for myself, and it didn't really matter to me if that was the Lord's plan or not. So, I took the year and was in constant prayer about this. The Lord really hit me hard with Titus 2.
Titus 2:3-5~ Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.
These verses apply to me in many ways. I am older to some girls, and I'm younger to other women. So, my jobs as a woman, in general, are laid out before me completely, in these verses.
Now, the way that this ties in with the rest of the note is: The world tells us that women are to be completely independent. That we don't need to rely on men to do everything. And, like I said earlier, I don't think that it's wrong for a woman (unmarried) to have a career outside of the home. Some women are not called to marriage (I've written another post on that topic.) But, we also need older women encouraging the younger women to stay at home and care for their families! The sad thing is that the world seems to *discourage* homemakers. The world tells us that, obviously, women that stay home with their families weren't intelligent enough or didn't have enough motivation to maintain a career. But, for a good number of us, that isn't the case. I'm just as smart as anyone else; I've just chosen a different path, or rather, a different path was chosen for me.
So, older women, I ask you to encourage us younger women to be keepers at home, if that is what the Lord calls us to do! We need all the encouragment we can get! And, younger women, when we are being encouraged to do this, we need to listen. I understand that this isn't for everyone, but we need to be thankful for the encouragment when we get it. And for those of us who have chosen this direction, don't be discouraged by the world. It's hard, but know that the Lord has great plans for you, whether you are out working in the world or at home keeping your house and caring for your family. :)
And, one more thing!
What does it really mean to be a Christian? To me, Christianity is not just something that you pick up on Sunday's for church, but it's more of an everyday lifestyle. Living your life for Christ EVERY SINGLE DAY. I don't want to be the kind of person that lives life however I want to during the week, and then walks into church on Sunday morning in order to "justify" my behavior every other day of the week.
If I make a claim to Christianity, that means that I need to live my life that way. I need to be an example to other people. I need to plant seeds for the Lord.
How am I supposed to know how to live my life?
Psalm 119:9~ How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your word.
So, I need to read the Bible to know how to live. So, for me to know how to live every single day, it would only make sense to read the Bible EVERYDAY!
Deuteronomy 17:19~ "It shall be with him and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God, by carefully observing all the words of this law and these statutes..."
I also want to encourage everyone to read Ephesians 5:1-21. This passage has so much wisdom poured into it about how to live as Christians! :)
These are just three topics that are particularly important to me. I would like to encourage you all to consider the verses that I've shared, and apply them to your own lives in whatever ways the Lord leads you to.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Dwell On These Things

Well, Sunday night I was convicted that I have been spending way too much of my time dwelling on things that are not in the least bit profitable. I think God has been trying to get hold of me for a few weeks now and I guess I've been unintentionally resisting. I have had so much on my mind lately that I feel mentally exhausted. Obviously, I haven't had enough Jesus in my diet, because according to Philippians 4:7, "the peace of God...will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus." So, seeing the truth in this verse, I have realized that God can give me peace from my exhaustion. He has hit me with a few key verses the past couple of days and I thought they were worth sharing.
The first verse that came to mind last night was Philippians 4:8. And, I think the only reason for that is because of the last few words in the verse: "...dwell on these things." And, then I felt compelled to dig in and study about what I'm supposed to be dwelling on. So, here we go!
Philippians 4:8~ Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right (just,) whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.
  • So, what is truth? Prime example:
John 1:14~ And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.
John 14:6~ Jesus said to Him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.
Jesus Christ IS truth.
  • What is honor? Well, to be honorable, is to have a good reputation. To have a good name. To be honest. Fair. To have integrity. And the very first person that came to my mind when I was thinking of someone honorable was : Jesus. I mean, He came to this earth in human form, died a terrible death, and then rose again, ALL FOR YOU AND ME! If that's not honorable, I don't know what is.
Jesus is honorable.
  • What is right or just? The Webster's dictionary gives this definition for 'just:' Acting or being in conformity with what is morally upright or good; righteous. Who comes to mind, yet again? Take a wild guess..
I Peter 3:18~ For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit...
Jesus is just.
  • What is purity? To be pure is to be spotless, unblemished, blameless, etc. You want to know who is the very definition of purity? I think I see a pattern developing here.
I Peter 1:18-19~ ...knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.
Hebrews 4:15~ For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.
Jesus is pure.
  • The definition of 'lovely' is: Delightful for beauty, harmony, or grace; attractive. Now, I for one, do not think that Jesus was physically beautiful. I almost feel bad for saying that, but if you look at the Scriptures, it clearly says that He wasn't. I would probably say that he was closer to being down right ugly. That sounds even worse!
Isaiah 53:2-3~ He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to Him, nothing in His appearance that we should desire Him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces He was despised, and we esteemed Him not.
It seems to me like He was actually a very unattractive guy. Physically. But, guess what? I, personally, think that Jesus was the most attractive person that has ever walked on this earth. Spiritually. His inward appearance is incomparable. No one can match it. He had (has) amazing character. And, since the Bible tells us (over and over again) that it is what's on the inside that counts (I Samuel 16:7,) I consider Jesus to be VERY LOVELY person.
  • Good repute? That's an interesting one. To me, this means to be well spoken of or to have a good reputation. And believe me, Jesus Christ is well spoken of around our house. I'll tell you why that is.
John 15:13~ Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.That is the ultimate example of love. For Jesus to give up His life for us is priceless.
He has an amazing reputation.
  • The definition of 'excellent' is: Superior; very good of its own kind; eminently good. I encourage you to read all of Hebrews 1, which talks about Jesus' superiority, but I'll share the first 4 verses just so you get a piece of it.
Hebrews 1:1-4~ God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they.
Jesus is excellent.
  • Now first of all, I'd just like to say that if Jesus fulfills all of these characteristics, I think He's pretty praiseworthy. But, we are also commanded, all through the Bible, to offer Him praise. I'll just list a few examples, though.
Psalm 145:3~ Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; His greatness no one can fathom.
Psalm 96:4~ For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; He is to be feared above all gods.
Psalm 150:2~ Praise Him for His acts of power; praise him for His surpassing greatness.
Jesus is praiseworthy.
As I was thinking about Philippians 4:8 last night, I was trying to think of things that fit the descriptions in this verse. And, although there are other things that do fit those descriptions, I kept coming back to the ONE who fit them perfectly. Jesus Christ is the pure essence of Philippians 4:8. So, it seems to me, that whenever I am being totally focused on myself and whenever I have other things taking up all of my time, that is sin. Whenever I'm feeling exhausted because of what I'm choosing to dwell on, that is sin. My thoughts need to be completely consumed by Jesus. At all times.