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Speaking Of…

Speaking Of...

Recently, I’ve encountered a lot of talk on “relationships and love” with people – and it got me thinking about God’s love. How his love sets us apart (as well as himself) from all the other people and their religions/beliefs. This also made me think of how even when we fall into chaos and unknown territory – he is there; he’s always there, for us. And he’s never mad, even when we fumble big-time, or turn out backs on him, or even commit a serious wrong or hold a grudge against someone that we need to let go of – he’s always there calling to us. And when we find him – his bright and ever-lasting light in the darkness of our lives, he opens his arms wide and embraces us, crying or laughing, or smiling with us.

There’s a verse my youth past told us and taught about to us on Sunday (11/3). This is about God’s love and relates to all the things I’ve said. Luke 6:27-33:

“But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do no withhold you tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.

If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.”

Now, I want to first point out that the first phrase of the verse says “to you who hear.” Why do I point this out first and foremost? Because Jesus is calling people to really listen, as what he’s about to say hasn’t been said before. He knows – as well as you and I, that some people just zone things out or do that “half-listening” thing when people preach/teach on a topic that’s been heard before. He wants to get everyone’s attention, letting them know that this is a new topic, it’s a topic that people really need to whole-heartedly pay attention. Make sense, right? I hope so.

Okay, with that covered, let’s talk about the rest of the verse. This verse is obviously about loving our enemies and treating others how we want to be treated, right? In fact, one of the verses (vs 3) – “do to others as you would have them do to you” as many know it by – is a very well-known verse to many people (not just Christians). And at a first glance of the verse, people get the obvious theme (which I pointed out at the beginning of this paragraph) – be kind to people I don’t like/are considered my enemies, treat others fairly, and take care of the needy. Easy right? No. Is there more to the verse? Of course. Now, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t tend to those who need help or turn the other cheek, or treat others wrongly – their all great and wonderful things to be practiced, but I want to focus on the last bit of the verse plus a few in-depth details about the first part verse.

I’m going to start at the end – with verses 32-33 (the last paragraph of the given verse). Jesus is saying that when we love and treat those who are good to us and love us – what’s the point? What do you truly gain? Yes, it’s crucial for those who love you to love you and for you to love them back, but what about that kid who bullied or you really bad once – maybe more? It’s easy to hold a grudge against them, hoping something bad will happen to them, just as something bad happened to you, or if they try to apologize, you want them down on their knees begging for mercy while you have your arms crossed, foot tapping, and your head angled enough to look down on them making a disgusted face and refusing – until they collapse – to forgive (Jesus even points out that when we love those who love us – even murderers, prostitutes, etc. love those who love them – that’s what he’s referring to when he says “sinners.”) Why is it easy to hold a grudge and not “love our enemies” as we’re instructed? Let me tell you a secret – it’s called flesh; sin. We want to have revenge; satisfaction, making whoever made us feel unloved, unwanted, and not good enough… we those who weren’t good to us, have the same feelings, if not worse.

See, if we only love and do good to those who love us and do good to us, then we do not truly treat those how we want to be treated, we don’t understand truly what it is like to love our enemies. We don’t know what it’s really like to show them God’s love, and we don’t try to understand how to act or reply in a Godly way to those who wrong us. Just like in school, teachers teach and have the students practice the concept they teach – for without practice how can we truly learn and know the material?

Rewinding to the first section of the verse (vs. 27-31)… try applying what I just said about verses 32-33 to these verses. Have a different perspective now? What about a new plan or way to approach situations in relation to these?

Now, in verse 27, isn’t just loving loving your enemies that “Oh, that wasn’t nice – but all well” attitude, it’s about coming along side them, helping them; showing God’s true love, and forgiving them even if they haven’t asked forgiveness. As a Christian, we should always strive to go that extra step. And – or more – but, when these situations come up, we need to check ourselves – giving/praying (to) our hearts to hearts to God and letting him take those grudges and put them away – destroy them. We also need to make sure our actions are for self-glorifying reasons.

You know that sarcastic phrase that people (you) often mutter when in or towards a situation that comes up and is hurtful, benigning, etc.? The one that goes: “Well, that was a slap in the face.” Literally, it could of been – but that’s also when you show grace and turn the other cheek. Don’t lash out, don’t retaliate. Humbly offer the other side of your face. Either they will “hit” you again or be in shock from your actions. And even if it seems that your actions had no effect – let me assure you, they did. God is planting that seed in their heart through you. Some may often even come back asking questions, because their so dumb-founded, of “Why?” and “How?”. That is your opportunity to tell of the “why” and “how.” The same application can go for the second half of verse 29 – where it talks about offering someone your “tunic.” When someone begs – have a compassionate heart. Give to them – and don’t demand repayment or ask for what you gave to be given back to you. Whether is was simply loaning a money to a friend who forgot their lunch at school to food to someone needy… don’t ask for repayment. These actions and showing love sets us Christians apart (and God), as I said before.

You do need to be careful though, of people who have a false claim, do show them God’s love, but be wary, going to God and seeking counsel on the situation you’re in. It’s sad, but there are people who imitate and act in ways that are deceiving to gain things they are have and don’t need.

Referring back to the first paragraph – where I was talking about how we oh-so-often struggle, I want to conclude partially in reference to Tammy Maltby’s book, Confessions of a Good Christian Girl. In the book, she talks and tells of women who struggled – these were good Christian women, leading Christ-like lives and living well, or that’s what it appeared. Yes, they loved God, but these women were conflicted with suicide, cutting, addictions (drugs, alcohol, pornography), self-image and confidence. The book tells countless testimonies of how in the deep dark, these women found the light, the love. One of the quotes Maltby put in her book, which is by Angela Thomas, goes:

“Jesus wants you to know that when you are broken, shivering, alone, or afraid, with nothing left and nowhere to go, then you can turn in His direction and lay yourself at the foot of his love…. God wants you to know that when everything is gone, that makes more room for Him, and every time there is more room for Him, you are blessed.”

(pg 5, Maltby)

In this we can take an apply the concept of that when we hold on to grudges, hate, and hurt (etc.) when you give them up and lay “yourself at the foot of His love” we are revived with his love and forgiveness. This helps us make that step to forgiving those who may have hurt us or even ourselves. Because just as other people may be our enemies and slap us in the face, we can do just as much damage, if not more to ourselves; we can easily become our own enemy. We must learn to have compassion on ourselves and others and to have respect for ourselves and others.

I wish I could write on about this topic, but time is such an enemy to me lately, so short and demanding. Before I part, until next time, here’s some verses in parting. Don’t just go, “Oh cool, verses to look at!” and ignore them or think I’ll look at them later. Look at them now. It won’t take much time.

Psalm 36:5, 1 Corinthians 13:4-13, 1 John 3:1-2, 1 John 4:7-12, 16-18

Some questions for reflection:

  1. Are you able and confident that in times when people wrong you, you can stand up, humbly, forgive, and give your burden to God, even though it’s not easy?
  2. Even when you mess up, or others, are you able to go the extra mile for God’s sake?
  3. Loving your enemy will be hard, but will you be able to rise above the offense and “offer the other cheek?”
  4. In times of distress it’s easy to forget about God – it’s easy to blame him, and in times when you want something badly, and it may not be his will – are you able to accept him and trust him to lead you 100% through?
  5. Sometimes it’s our very selves that get in the way of seeing truly what’s right – having a personal conflict is hard to accept, confess, and be able to reason and respect yourself, but sometimes that’s the first step to forgiveness. If some of these questions were hard to answer, maybe start deep in your heart and soul. Really think about it.
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Hello All!

I am very sorry for the lack of posts on here. I know the excuse for absence is cliche and honestly not a very good excuse, but I have been very busy with school work and work. I am making a goal for myself to post each week (on Sunday), so please bare with me as I see how well I am able to achieve this goal.

I also want to say a hearty thank you – seeing all the views, comments on how our posts really influence people (etc.), and followers means a great deal to me (and Andi)! Please let us know (see “Contact Us” for the site’s email) if there’s any topic you want us to go over, etc. – we’d love to help out or answer any questions you may have.

Thanks Again!

-Tori

Prayer & Perspective

Prayer & Perspective

A verse that I’ve thought of on and off lately is the Lord’s Prayer – or as I like to call it ‘The Disciple’s Prayer’ – since Jesus gave the prayer to his followers as a guideline of how they should pray; Jesus already knew how to pray. I’ve always thought of prayer as something more than “special wording meant for Jesus.” It’s a personal thing; and that’s how God intended prayer to be – he wants your true thoughts and word, coming straight from your heart. A prayer shouldn’t be something you memorize and recite each night; it shouldn’t be like a script for then it loses its whole meaning.

I am only using the first four verses of the passage (Matthew 6:5-9), but the whole passage can be found in Matthew 6:5-18. I use the ESV version for verses.

“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward,” (vs. 5).

Pause there for a second. Before I go on, I want to point out these lines alone, are the first verse. This is a crucial verse. For oh-so-often, too many Christians get caught up in themselves – believing they know it all. The modern day “Little Christ” is not like the early, first Christians. “Little Christ” is what Christian means – it was coined when the first disciples were teaching, and actually the word Christian or “Little Christ” was meant as an insult.

The modern day Christians often think highly of themselves; thinking of how much better off they are because they know Christ and others don’t. They don’t care about the poor and needy – their focus is on money, while they teach Jesus’ sermons on how to care for the poor, broken-hearted, and lost souls. This is wrong, wrong, wrong; the opposite of how a Christian is supposed to act. Sadly, by preaching and having people look at them and either marvel or scoff, they get their reward of satisfaction. They are not true Christians – they do not live up to the definition of a “Little Christ.” Because these Christians are so caught in themselves they do not receive or get to experience the amazing wonders, things, and feelings that Jesus has to offer us.

“But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who is in secret will reward you. And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him,” (vs. 6-8).

It is true, often it is the short, simple things that work best. Long, drawn ouutttt things make people lose interest, especially if they aren’t to the point. When people ramble on and just add “fluff,” they really don’t know what they are talking about. As it says in (some concordance to) verse 7, they are just wasting their breath and their words are “heap[ing] up [like] empty phrases” – they have no meaning.

God knows what is on our hearts and minds, he’s more than aware of our needs – but he also knows that we need a way to communicate our feelings, needs, and what is on our minds and hearts to him (not just other people). He gave us a way to do so: prayer. This, to me personally, meant so much, knowing I had a way to connect to my Father in heaven. Knowing there was someone, someone who was so powerful and perfect, was always there for a sinful ridden and hurting person like me… is just indescribable. He always listened. He always comforted in some way. He won’t tell anyone. And to me, that meant a lot, as my trust to certain people has been cut. I know that when I can’t find the words to express how I’m am feeling – he knows exactly what I’m feeling and going through. All I have to say in my mind, in the quiet of my room, is: “Father, help me – you know my heart and thoughts. Please help me to get over this painful feeling that’s tearing me apart in an indescribable way.”

He’ll always listen to you in your hardest moments.

It is comforting to know that my Father knows what I need before I ask him, that relationship between Father and daughter (or son) is unbreakable and imaginable by people who don’t truly know what it is like to know such a force. Those people who stand on the streets proclaiming out loud don’t hear when God calls them, like we do, they don’t hear it because of all the noise they’re making. For God doesn’t normally communicate in the form of a thunderstorm (per-say) – loud and noisy, but he comes like a soft wind, blowing gently. Only those who are quiet and listen can hear it.

When God calls to those lost people out proclaiming on the streets or elsewhere, they don’t hear him, or if they do, they ignore him. Even when fellow believers try to humbly point out that their ways are wrong or try to kindly help them in the right direction, they most often push them off. They point their finger at them, saying they are the wrong-doers; they are the false believers. And it is sad, but it is reality. We live in a fallen world and we are waiting desperately for our Savior to return to take us home.

Our Lord is like a shepherd – he calls and pulls us back when we are lost. He is most persistent and never gives up, even with those who are stubborn. But there are cases when flesh must die and their time to be redeemed runs out or the sheep don’t want to live under the wing of their shepherd. They believe there is something better; they get lost in the ways of the world.

I hope you all got as much as I did out of this verse – if not more.

I am no longer eager, bold, and strong

  All that is past; I am ready not to do

At last, at last, 

  My half day’s work is done,

And this is all my part,

  I give a patient God

My patient heart.

p 265, March by Geraldine Brooks

Remember When

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“See what kind of love the father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are… Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.”
– 1 John 3:1-2 (ESV)

Remember when you feel down, unloved, and worthless; not good enough for people’s standards – whether it be peers or family – your Father in heaven is looking down on you with pride and indescribable love. You are perfect the way you are, don’t let people change you because you don’t match society’s contorted and twisted ways and standards. You are you, and no one else; “Just be yourself, everyone else is taken,” (Unknown). When you don’t feel like you can’t please or make your parents proud enough, do remember they love you, dearly, if you need extra comfort, God is there for you; he’s ready to take you and hold you in his arms, hear what you have to say, and to smother your tears with love and joy.

We are all children of God. One day all this pain, the feeling of unwantedness, and hurt will all be gone. For one day we will join God in heaven either when our days are up on earth or when Jesus returns to claim what is his and create a new earth and heaven.

Dear Everyone,

I am sick of people trying to sit around and tell me that modesty has nothing to do with the way your dress- just the way you behave. Or that modesty is a ‘heart issue’ and what you ‘feel is appropriate.’  Someone once told me, ‘You can’t stop the guys from looking or thinking. that is their job.’ and that pretty much sums up what all my girlfriend’s say about their summer clothes.  Yet, as a sister in Christ to all of you whom are walking with God, let me say this:

There is no excuse you can come up with for wearing those short shorts, bikinis, tank tops (the ones that show your colorful bra or ride so low the only thing not showing is your nipple), or any summer items along those lines, that is Godly.

As brothers and sisters in Christ we are asked to help each-other in our walk with God. (Mathew 18:5-7) We are not to help each-other stumble on the fringes of sin without going over or blatantly walk straight into sin; we are to help each-other FLEE from it. God directly tells men not to lust after a girls’ beauty. (Proverbs 6:24-26) To understand what is modesty and what it is not, is not as simple as saying ‘what you feel in your heart.’. If it was, a girl could say ‘ I don’t think wearing a bikini is immodest because I am still covering my lady parts,’ just as easily as she could say,’ I think I need to wear what the nuns wear,’ the next day. ( http://www.therebelution.com/modestysurvey )

This is not saying we shouldn’t take care of how we look, but we do need to be more concerned about what’s on the inside and our walk with God; That includes helping one another with each-other’s walks. (Timothy 2:9-10) So is it just the guys problem to deal with? No. It’s also ours. Giving up what society says is fashionable for what God says is one of the simplest ways we, as girls, can show not only guys but God Himself how devoted we are. When we began our walk with Him, we pretty much said ‘Here I am Lord! Come into my heart and use me!’ But if we cannot sacrifice a few clothing items for Christ’s sake, then are you really allowing Him to dress you in His righteousness? We are suppose to portray a Christ like image- these scanty outfits are doing no good to that cause, they are hurting it. So please do not take this as a bashing or me knit-picking, but rather a thought to ponder on and research. Don’t think ‘oh, I’ve already done that. I don’t agree.’ and log off. You stuck by and read this whole thing for a reason, let God show you that reason.
(The link I posted above is a study done on what guy’s think of girl’s clothes)

~A

A Good Thing to Remember

Good Thing to Remember

I was talking to one of my best friends, about how tonight (or the night of September 6, 2013), at bible study, one of my old youth pastors, was visiting, and he talked about how there are good Christians, Christians who study the Bible, go to church, to good, etc. but they don’t really live for Christ. What they (we) really need to do is die to ourselves, so that we can live for God. We need to focus on the things he’s given us each day, and when we have accomplishments, we need to not praise ourselves or be happy. We need to praise and thank Him.

There are times, when I’m desperate I go to God. But most of the time, maybe I’ll say a quick prayer and go on my way. But it’s only in time of need, when in reality I should be talking to him each day, not just when I need that “lean to” person, even though he’s happy to help and is always there for us. God also wants us to focus on him all the time. He wants us to go through trials. He’s going to test us; to see how well we stand up and also to remind us again (and again if necessary) that we need him. More than ever. And when we get lost, he knows how to capture us and bring us back.

My friend made the comment of: “That’s definitely hard to remember to do every day. We get so caught up in our lives that we forget about Him who gave us life.”

My username on so many accounts is “CapturedbyChrist.” And it’s true. But I sometimes don’t let him capture me, I’m like a mustang, running away, not wanting to submit; to live my own way, when in reality, I need to submit to him as my leader, the one I need to trust, depend on, love, and always remember no matter what. He’s always there for me.

We do, we get so caught up in school, how our grades are, what homework we need to do. We’re always planning ahead. We don’t take each day step by step. We take each week leap by leap. With God, we oh so often as for what our future is going to look like; what’s the master plan, when instead, we need to be asking him what the next step is. Not leap. Step. One foot in front of the other. Slowly, steady, constant. No leaps, jumps, or haste. Patience is key.

Some of this little “philosophy” is based off a book (I don’t remember the title), and how it states the “Joseph Principle.” Of how, in the end when Joseph was thrown in the pit by his brothers, was sold into slavery, then by his wisdom, became the 2nd in command of Egypt and it just so happened the Israel was having a famine and his brother came to Egypt to seek food, Joseph recognized them, at first he was a little angry. But he forgave them, and he was able to save his family and bring them to Egypt. All this wasn’t by his own power, or glory. It was by God. God had a step-by-step plan for him. God knew what he needed, he knew the whole story, and he knew, even when Joseph celebrated, that he wasn’t doing it for himself, patting himself on the back, no Joseph was thanking God. Joseph knew what God had done. God’s grace and mercy are ever over-flowing and present.

How to: Pass the Test of Faithfulness

If you do not wish to read the passage in this post, 
you can also read it here (for those visionally challenged): Daniel 1:1-21 (ESV)

“In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with some of the vessels of the house of God. And he brought them to the land of Shinar, to the house of his god, and placed the vessels in the treasury of his god.  Then the king commanded Ashpenaz, his chief eunuch, to bring some of the people of Israel, both of the royal family and of the nobility, youths without blemish, of good appearance and skillful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding learning, and competent to stand in the king’s palace, and to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans.

The king assigned them a daily portion of the food that the king ate and of the wine that he drank. they were to be educated for three years, and at the end of that time they were to stand before the king. Among these were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah of the tribe of Judah. And the chief of the eunuchs gave them names: Daniel he called Belteshazzar, Hananiah he called Shadrach, Mishael he called Meshach, and Azariah he called Abednego.

But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank. Therefore he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself. And God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs, and the chief of the eunuchs said to Daniel, “I fear my lord the king, who assigned your food and your drink; for why should he see that you were in worse condition than the youths who are of your own age? So you would endanger my head with the king.” Then Daniel said to the steward whom the chief of the eunuchs had assigned over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, “Test your servants for tens days; let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then let our appearance and the appearance of the youths who eat the king’s food be observed by you, and deal with your servants according to what you see.” So he listened to them in this matter, and tested them for ten days. At the end of ten days it was seen that they were better in appearance and fatter in flesh than all the youths who ate the king’s food. So the steward took away their food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables.

As for these four youths, God gave them learning and skill in all literature and wisdom, and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams. At the end of the time, when the king had commanded that they should be brought in, the chief of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar. And the king spoke with them, and among all of them none was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Therefore they stood before the king. And in every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters that were in all his kingdom. And Daniel was there until the first year of King Cyrus.”

– Daniel 1:1-21 (ESV)

In this chapter of the book of Daniel and observing and dissecting it, before we dive in, let me point out that in verses 1-2 we are given a brief history lesson. And in this history lesson, we see that the year is about 605 B.C.

Now, discussing Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. All of these names are names of teenagers. And these teenagers’ names were changed into Babylonian names; names that were linked to the Babylonian gods, not Yahweh. The boy’s Jewish names mean (in order that they are listed above): “God is my Judge,” “Yahweh is gracious,” “Who is what God is?,” and “Yahweh is a helper.” As for the Babylonians names, they invoked the help of the Babylonian gods Marduk, Bel, and Nebo: Belteshazzar means “O Lady [wife of the god Bel], protect the king!” Shadrach means “I am very fearful [of God],” Meshach means “I am of little account” or “Who is like Aku?” and Abednego means “servant of the shining one [Nebo].” The Babylonians wanted to change the Jew’s identity completely; they wanted to extinguish their faith.

Testing reveals who and where you are. Daniel 1:8 is the key verse in the who chapter. The word “defile” means “polluting or staining.” When Daniel didn’t accept the food, he wasn’t rude in any manner, he just simply said, I don’t want to be defiled. Daniel knew that if he took this little step and did eat the food and wine of the king, it would eventually lead to bigger problems. We have to be steadfast and keep those good little things near, practice them and keep them close, for if we don’t and we slowly take little steps away from what is right, it can lead to bigger problems. When Daniel didn’t accept the food, he knew that he was taking a risk, as Nebuchadnezzar was not the type of guy one stood up to. Daniel and his friends had made up their minds before that they wouldn’t compromise – no matter what the consequence would be.

People fail because they don’t plan. Failing to plan is planning to fail.

Those things that we count valuable cost us.

The top four things things that Christians struggle with are materialism, laziness, staying accountable, and staying true to the word. When people are accountable, and they plan ahead, and realize that they need to stay focused on God, they stay on the right track. When trying to pass a test, you want to have confidence, but if you have too much confidence, things can go awry. For example, you didn’t study, but it was because you’re confident you know the material, you set yourself up to fail. Studying is crucial; especially studying God’s word.

Making your faith stronger is just – if not the most – important thing to do. God is the one who is the strongest and will help us overcome the tests of life. We need to be able to stand up to people who try to change us. We need to refuse to “bow down” to the worldly things and stay committed to our relationship and journey with God.

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