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A Part-Time Confession

As of late, I’ve been wanting to find a devotional that I can connect with and apply truly to my life and the stages I’ve lived and am living in. I have to admit that I’m not at all good with starting and actually finishing a devotional with 100% dedication and effort. Either I’ll finish it, but not have gotten anything out of it, started it with a full intent of learning more about our wonderful Creator and then lose that drive and slowly “wean” (if you will) off, or I’ll start it and lose interest quickly.

Was I successful in my search of actually finding a devotional? Nope, not really. But I decided to start with rereading a book I had once read, but I had walls up and was making excuses for my actions at that point in my life. I’m really glad that I decided to reread this book (and I’m definitely going to reread it with a highlighter in hand!) – now, at this exact point in my life, I can’t say I’m completely over everything I’ve gone through, but my heart has softened and my eyes have been opened and I realized so many things I missed when I read it for the first time and how much of the book I had forgotten – parts that shouldn’t of been forgotten.

What is this book? It’s called Confessions of a Good Christian Girl by Tammy Maltby with Anne Christian Buchanan.

I can’t begin to explain the content of this book and the talent Maltby has in writing books for Good Christian Girls who are really broken on the inside and struggling to hold onto life. She covers every aspect that troubles women – writing with wisdom and advice, but also adding a personal touch, like the likes of a journal. A couple of my favorite chapters are chapters two, six, seven and nine. Each chapter is title with a title that often one’s heart will call out. Chapter Two: “I Can’t Take It Anymore” – The Desperate Pain of Suicide, “I Never Meant to Go There” – The Treacherous Trap of Addiction,  “Can God Hear A Crazy Woman?” – The Torment and Stigma of Mental Illness, and “How Much Longer, Lord? – Practical Grace for the Chronically Discouraged. I can’t stress how much I just wanted to reread the lines of those chapters over and over and over – highlighting and copying. The content in those chapters – I don’t want to forget them. I remember reading through them this second time and just going: “Amen,” “Yes,” “Exactly” (and so on so forth).

    Having listed those chapters as my top favorites, I’m sure many of you can guess what I’ve struggled with. Being only a teen, I’ve honestly been through a lot – but so have a lot of other teens, and frankly people in general – especially Good Christian Girls. At one point in her book, Maltby points out that it is often the women who are those Good Christian Girls that struggle the most, yet they – we – hide it, wanting to help others and follow Christ’s example. We push everything down, becoming accustomed and acquainted to the ways we live our lives. I can totally attest to that – I may not be that young woman who is constantly involved with cooking dishes for new moms, potlucks, and Bible studies… but I am that young woman who is constantly striving to grow deeper in my relationship and ministering to those around me. But I’m also that young woman struggling to keep hope, to strive to get one more day under my belt, and constantly battling my own mind in a battle of strength and weakness; to keep from reverting back to ways I’ve always known, the depression that caused me to hit dangerously low points, and memories that bog me down so that I am unable to move on.

    One of the passages in Maltby’s book was a slap in the face – a good slap (if that’s possible), as in it brought me back to reality and realization. And in saying this, I obviously want to share it:

        “This kind of pain can feel like living in slavery. Eternally trapped in our circumstances.
Yearning for release but unable to break free. Sometimes we can’t even imagine what freedom
would be like. Or sometimes the real trouble kicks in after we’ve been released… And we know that God is at work in our lives – we’ve seen the evidence. But still we find ourselves lost and wandering, somehow unable to find our way into the next chapter of our lives.”

– Tammy Maltby, The Confessions of a Good Christian Girl, pp. 203

There were points in my life that I also was testing and questioning my faith – I even strayed for a bit (I won’t go into detail – but I can say it was the worst feeling emotionally, physically, psychologically, etc. I have ever experienced). Even while I read the portion of the book where this passage I found, which I’m about to show you, I was struggling and in reading this and praying, I felt at peace – I knew God didn’t give more than we could handle – but in reading this on a off-white piece of paper brought the thoughts in my head into reality. The portion goes:

        “How do we believe in God and serve Him and love Him with heart and soul and mind and
strength when these very parts of us are compromised? … The answer, once again, is grace [from
God] … He knows our frames, remember. He remembers we are but dust (Ps. 103:14). He knows the limitations of our physical bodies, our sin-wrack souls. And his grace is sufficient enough to cover the ground between the best we can manage and the kind of fulfilling, purposeful life He wants for us.”

– Tammy Maltby, Confessions of a Good Christian Girl, pp. 167-168

It is also important to remember that we are not alone – yes, we have God’s grace, but we also have Christ, who not only is our Savior, but also our Friend… And on an ending note, I want to remind those who maybe be struggling personally, or know someone who is and you want to give advice or don’t know how to work through with them but not abandon them, that “[t]hrough it all, never forget that you have a constant Friend in the person of the Holy Spirit. He is always present with you, a dependable Helper and Comforter. The more time you spend in quietness, waiting on the Lord, the more you will experience His closeness and know His practical grace. He is the Companion you need most for your journey… and He is always there for you” (Tammy Maltby, The Confessions of a Good Christian Girl, pp. 220). I hope that this all makes sense to you all and that y’all can remember to depend on Him and to find that hope in the dark room. It takes time, believe me, as well as dedication and support. But all things are possible with Christ, I know that for a fact – He gives me the strength to carry on day in and day out – even when I sleep and dream (Matt. 19:26).

    – T.L.

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Broken Heart

It’s been a while since there’s been a post on this blog — so, if you’re not looking to read a book, then I’d scroll down the page and see what other posts there are, and if you’re up for a nice fire-side story… please, make yourself comfortable.

Let me start out with saying that the image in this post is over-looking part of a neighborhood in Port-au-Prince, Haiti in the early morning. This picture was taken on the last day, or morning, the team was in Haiti. Yes, I was part of that team if it isn’t already obvious. I won’t elaborate too deeply on my experience, but I will say this: No one will understand, unless they’ve been to Haiti, what I am trying to say. I could try and explain it a million ways and people would still not truly get it.

What is it?

It is my personal experience. For many of the kids on the team, including me, which consisted of 19 people total: 11 high school students, 3 eighth graders, and 4 chaperones/leaders, it was our first time going down to Haiti — and for some, it was their first time leaving the country. I have been on an international mission trip before, but to a more rural and less poverished country — Ecuador. Haiti, for me was an eye-opening experience, as it is for many, but since each person’s background story, life experiences, etc. is different, the experience has a different impact each and every time… if that makes sense.

For me, it was a literal slap in the face. The slap in the face, honestly, wasn’t bad – in fact I desperately needed it. I was struggling with so many selfish desires – these desires were to fill that void in my heart, the pain I felt emotionally. I did nothing out of lustful intents nor anything that breaks the law… but I did hurt myself and the people closest to me because of what I was doing to myself. Basically, what I’m also trying to say is that I hit rock bottom. I was done, I didn’t want to try anymore. I was so done that I almost backed out of going to Haiti, as I was second-guessing myself so much to the point I drove myself into having anxiety attacks. Going to Haiti made me realize that I may have it rough, I may go through trials, but it is nothing compared to what the Haitian people are going through. Despite the severe poverty, crime rates, and so forth, the Christians of that society… I envy their faith. Americans are rich with possessions — most often or not unneeded possessions — while the Haitians who are (for some, literally) dirt-poor are richer than any of us Americans could imagine in their relationship to Christ. Seeing how such a poor and troubled people could be so content, so happy, snapped me out of my own trance.

Our group was working on the floor of a school at the sight of the orphanage our church has been supporting for years, now. During breaks, or when we needed a break from the heat, we would go and play with the orphans, as they were on some sort of break. Gosh, I can’t even describe the feeling of getting to interact, hold, and play with the kids — all whose ages range from 2-18 years. I can tell you, as I’m writing this, I’m smiling like an idiot and starting to tear up at all the happy memories. The bonds/friendships made will last a life-time and beyond. The night we said goodbye was heart-breaking. And at that, it brings me to the main point of this entry…

Recently, I was listening to the music on my phone. I have about 800 songs on my phone… don’t judge. Often or not, I’ll “discover” songs that I had purchased a long time ago – and when I say “a long time ago” I mean a year or so ago. Anyway, as I was listening, a song came up that I had forgotten how much meaning it had written in between the lyrics. That song was “Break My Heart by Jonny Diaz. If you have not heard the song, need a refresher, or would just like to hear it, click the link, and take a minute and listen.

Before going to Haiti, that song to me, had as much meaning as the lyrics plainly state:

I see children in slavery
It’s all too much so I turn off the TV
A world away from the world they’re in
So I give up before I even begin

To try to make this right
To try to love like Christ

So, help me see through the eyes of the hurting
Come break my heart, come break my heart
True grace sees a face, not a burden
So, come break my heart, won’t You break my heart?
Come break my heart

It’s hard to see past my picket fence
So I give a little from a guilty conscience
How can I ever really make a change
When I’m too afraid to even feel their pain

So, help me see through the eyes of the hurting
Come break my heart, come break my heart
True grace sees a face, not a burden
So, come break my heart, won’t You break my heart?

I believe that love can bridge the distance
And I believe that one can make a difference
‘Cause one man on a cross changed the world

So, help me see through the eyes of the hurting
Lord break my heart, Lord break my heart
‘Cause true grace sees a face, not a burden
Come break my heart, won’t You break my heart?

Help me see through the eyes of the hurting
Come break my heart, come break my heart
Sure, Your love should never be a burden
Come break my heart, won’t You break my heart?
Lord break my heart, come break my heart
Lord, break my heart

Taken from: SongLyrics.com

I had never given much thought to the true meaning behind the song. But I doubt I could’ve without a little extra help. After going to Haiti, I heard of the stories of children being enslaved — I even got to meet some kids who had been rescued from the restavek programs, who had been rescued from being sex slaves. I got to see first hand through the eyes of the children, thanks to the wonderful workers at the orphanage. At first I had felt nothing after interacting with the kids, but that was because I knew nothing about their past. Their burdens were not burdens to me, their burdens – well, most had let go of. Their faces would light up as soon as they saw us, and so would ours. Those kids broke my heart right in two. This “heart break” isn’t like that of a relationship between a guy and girl… that “heart broken” stuff, for that, is crap. I’m sorry, but it is. To see a child, who is as much as a total stranger to you as you are to them, come up to you without hesitation and lift their arms up as a gesture to be held, hugged, and loved… well, it is heart breaking. I wanted to feel their pain, to know what they had gone through and then see where the kids were now. My heart broke because of the type of adoration I learned of. This kind of adoration cannot be explained.

That step out of my comfort zone — going while I was struggling, going to a different country without my parents, being held at a whole new level of responsibility — is all just a mere memory now.

That love Jonny Diaz is talking about, for me, did build a bridge. It built a bridge from my heart straight to Haiti and the kids there. Their faces are forever in my head – the smiles, the laughter. I thought that while I was going to be down in Haiti, everything would just be a burden, a painful burden. I had pushed my own burdens aside, bracing for these new ones — I was asking myself, “How can I love these children? How can I show them the love of Christ? How do I communicate it?” the list goes on and on. God answered that: be yourself and simply embrace them. I needed to learn how to love these children on my own, for God knew I’d find the answers to my questions very fast.

My heart will always be broken. It will always go out to the orphans and people of the world, no matter what status they are in society. I cannot wait to go back to Haiti and hug the kids and play with them and work in the heat. I do not care what other people think of me and how I feel towards Haiti and the people. Haiti will have a special place in my heart and I will never get tired of showing God’s love in countless ways, as well as serving Him – wherever, whenever, and to whoever he calls me to minister, too.

My wish for ever person that reads this blog, in general, is that they take the message of the post away with them. And I wish for God to place a burden in people’s hearts to do his will – I also hope that each and every one of you who reads this will get a chance to go on a mission trip, as the impact is amazing and unforgettable.

In Christ,
Tori

If you have questions concerning the statics, etc. of Haiti, feel free to send me a message via the blog’s email (found on the Contact Us page).

Here are a few sites about Haiti and its background, for those interested, including information on restaceks.

RestavekFreedom.org
–> The Issue

Love In Motion

MissionofHaiti.org
–> Haiti Facts

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Writing

Usually when I’m about to make a post, I’ll have written it out, whether it be on a piece of paper or in my journal.

I’m going to try something new. Writing it plain and simple, no piece of paper or page in my journal.

It’ll show my flaws. It’ll show what my writing looks raw. Yes, it’ll be revised. But it’ll be the base material; it’ll have the original piece still in it.

This also isn’t my usual post. Surprise? The last one wasn’t like the posts I usually do.

Welcome to how my mind works.

I go from one topic to another. It is hard to focus, especially when I’m writing. It’s not because I don’t like writing or it’s hard for me to write. In fact, it is almost too easy for me. And as I write my mind goes off on tangents thinking of all the possible topics I could write on or everything that is on my mind.

Just like it is hard for me to focus on My Jesus.

Writing. Write.ing. Two syllable word. A seven letter word. A seven letter word that means a lot to me.
Being able to write. I’m so thankful for it. I use the gift God has given me to be able to do this – blog and share about God’s word. I use this gift to write amazing stories and poems. I also use this gift to my personal advantage. Writing down my feelings. I write down everything, literally, that goes through my mind exactly how I thought of it.

Like I said before, my mind wanders from one thing to another. I do not wish to elaborate, as that’s what my journal is for and maybe someday it’ll be in a post, but as of now… sorry. Of course this post has a point, it isn’t just me going on and on and on writing how I love to write. No, but it has gotten me thinking.

I dropped the line, “Just like it is hard for me to focus on My Jesus.”

It is true. Oh so often I find myself focusing on school, or music, or even cleaning or even my family and the struggle of living. I lose focus on Him. I try to do a devotional each morning. A small one, almost everyone probably has heard of it – it’s called Our Daily Bread. It is a great little devotional. Whether you can relate to the devos or not, it is eye opening and wonderful. But even when, in the quiet of the morning, I’ll be reading it, I still find it hard to focus. I go off planning my day, calculating how much homework I’ll have that day and how long it’ll take me to do it… yadda, yadda, yadda.

I don’t want my mind to wander as I spend time with My Lord, My Jesus. I’m sure I’m not the only one; I know I’m not the only one. I know that I’m proud enough to not admit it right away, that no, life isn’t easy. It’s not easy finding time and just sitting down and spending time with Christ. More often or not I find it easier to sit down and do my homework and listen to music. I just don’t get those people who are like, “Oh, yeah I sit down each morning and spend an hour reading and praying.” I marvel at that, at such dedication, I really do… if it is real true time with Christ. And there are people who spend hours with God and you can tell, you can tell that their faith is unshakable; firm in a solid foundation.

I envy that… “Thou shalt not envy.”

I want that… “Thou shalt not covet.”

But see, I can envy and covet that. That which is an amazing relationship with Jesus.
He wants me to envy and want a relationship with him, because he is My Saving Grace. He is our Saving Grace.

Yes, I’m a strong Christian. I have a firm faith, but it isn’t as firm as I’d like it to be. I want to sort of faith that the people living in persecution have – that no matter what they don’t waver.

Would I be able to stand up to that sort of test?

I don’t want to have to go through that to find out. I want to just know. 

I can feel Him in me. Trust me, he’s there and he’s working.

He is living in my heart, for it is His home. But there is the fact of handing over everything. The deed, the title, the key. And allowing him to rule every part of my Heart and my life. 

My Heart, Christ’s Home.

I may be weak, but the Spirit is strong in me. My flesh will fail, by My God never will fail.

God Gives Me Faith.

His love is relentless. He will never stop seeking to spend time with me, even though I may stop and go. Start and stop and restart. He’s always there, always at the same meeting place. I just have to meet him there, and I will. I go to him excited. Excited that I get to spend time with Him. Cause in the end, he’s all that matters. He’s always by my side.

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The Bravery of Your Ordinary Girl

   Date: March 1, 2014.

   This morning I read the book of Esther. I had always known it was a story about a girl who saved her people from annihilation. But up until now, I hadn’t really read the book of Esther and thought about what really went on in it.

   First off, for those who don’t know or aren’t familiar with the story, it is about a Hebrew girl who becomes the queen of Persia and saves her people from being destroyed by a powerful man in the king’s court. Esther is aided by her gifts of beauty, faith, and wisdom from God along with her cousin and guardian, Mordeci. If you want to really read the whole story (which I strongly suggest you do, it isn’t long), it is found in the seventeenth book of the Old Testament, called Esther.

   Now, I know when I was little, I always thought of Esther as a grown woman, maybe in her 20s – in all the movies, pictures, etc. that was how I had seen her depicted. In which, she was, though she wasn’t in her 20s, but in her time she was considered to be a grown woman. In our day and age she would’ve been considered a girl. Esther was a young woman – a virgin woman – who was probably no older than seventeen. Scary though, huh? (To those teenage girls out there reading this)

   Esther or Hadassah was an orphan. The Bible isn’t specific as to how old she was exactly when her parents died or how they died, but it says she was very young when Mordeci took her in as his own. You may be wondering about the name Hadassah, which means “myrtle” – Hadassah is Esther’s Hebrew name. Esther, which means “star” is her Persian name. When the Jewish people were exiled and captured first by the Babylonians, who fell to the Persians, they were given new names or names that were easier for the Persians to know and with these re-namings, it wiped the Jewish heritage in a sense or covered it up. It was like a supremacy play – renaming was like changing one’s identity.

   As I read further into the book of Esther, parts became familiar. These were the parts of the story that I had heard in those childhood stories. What I didn’t fully recognize was how truly terrified and brave Esther truly was. She was, and can be, definitely deemed as a heroine. In order to saver her people, who Haman was plotting to rid the world of. Esther had to go to the King and plead his blessing (please him) and ask him to reverse a decree Haman had put out. Now, we all may think – or I know I did – she’s the queen, he’s the king, it shouldn’t be a big deal. Customs were different then, unless the king called for the queen, she wasn’t welcome (or anyone for that matter) into the throne room. That idea of the Queen doing whatever she pleased is bologna. Yes, she did have freedom to do as she wished, but she had to obey the King’s laws – when he did summon her, she had to come. No ifs, buts, or whys. If anyone – or the queen – entered and the king didn’t find favor or holds “out [his] golden scepter so that [whoever] may live” (4:11), well it was death for the poor soul that entered.

   Esther was willing to risk it all – she was willing to give up her life to save her people. She had requested prayer and fasting from Mordeci and the Hebrew people three days in advance. God was watching over her. The event that took place wasn’t just chance or luck, it was a God moment. Not only did she gain his approval and kept her life, “she won favor in his sight” (5:2). He even showed compassion and sought to please whatever desires she wished. I think I would’ve fainted out of relief. Her request – well, she asked if the King and Haman would feast with her. She could’ve bailed completely on her plan at that moment  and instead requested riches, luxuries, etc. but she didn’t. She stayed loyal to her people and focused on her plan as well as determined.

  At the feast, or when it was finished, the King asks Esther, “What is your wish? It shall be granted you. And what is your request?” (5:6). I think this threw Esther off a bit – as she was not expecting it, even though in the text she seems calm and collected. She asks that King Ahasuerus (or Xerses I) and Haman dine with her the next night.

  During the course of the night Haman plots to hang Mordeci, though God doesn’t allow it. For what seems like a coincident, wasn’t at all. That same night, after the feast, the King cannot sleep and calls for “the book of memorable deeds, the chronicles” (6:1) to be read to him. He learned that Mordeci had saved the king’s life from two of the gate eunuchs and had not  been rewarded.  The next morning, he calls for Haman, but doesn’t mention Mordeci’s name, and asks what should be done for a man who has essentially saved his life.  Haman tells of the extravagance this man should be clothed in and honored, being paraded down the roads with a high ranked official proclaiming the favor the man has sought from the King. I love how God has such humor and knows how to knock someone off their high horse. The ironic even occurs: Haman must do all he told the King for Mordeci. And he must lead him down the streets proclaiming. This is what saves Mordeci’s life.

  Meanwhile, that even after the feast Esther really confronts the King, or answers his question of how he can grant her wishes.

This is the part that just amazes me.

Elegance. Bravery. Grace. Courage.

Understand that Haman is essentially the second in command; a little below the Queen. He is very powerful. Esther tells the King that there is a person plotting against her and her people – the Jews.

   She had not told anyone of her heritage. Naturally, the King asks who (or not naturally, but relieving). Esther stands up (not literally) to the bully – she says rather boldly, “‘A foe and enemy! This wicked Haman!'” (7:6). As I write this, I never realized why Esther invited Haman. I mean, yes, he was basically the King’s right-hand man, but she needed him there to be able to really point out who, physically. For in the Bible, after Esther breaks Haman’s plot, he is immediately “terrified of [of] the king and queen,” (7:6).

   King Ahasuerus, instead of being enraged by Esther’s reveal, he is enraged ay Haman. Haman doesn’t even try to plead his case – he had enough power, he could’ve. Esther was a Jew. Even the King could’ve thrown her out and called her crazy. But he wasn’t. Haman’s plot in the end becomes his own demise. Esther saves her people and has truly won the heart of the King.

  The application – if that’s what you want to call it – is that anyone, especially girls, can do more than just look pretty. We have voices and are more than able to speak up. Esther was a 16-17 year old girl who became queen and saved her people because of how God worked through her and gave her bravery and courage. In the ancient times, women didn’t have the same freedoms or rights as men. They were seen more as property. In the Twenty-First Century, we have the same rights as men in America. We have the equality. It’s a privilege, too. The fact that the King loved and valued her and listened to her is miraculous, literally. She was respectful. Through God anything is possible (Matt. 19:26). We, as girls, women, can be inspired by Esther – her bravery, faith, and dependence on God is awing. She was just a Hebrew girl. She was not famous, she had no real status. God could’ve pick anyone. Kind Ahasuerus could’ve chosen another woman to be queen, but he chose Esther (mainly though because of her beauty). She really was the star at that time. A star twinkles and stands out against the night sky. She did that.

   We are called to stand out, not only as Christians, but as individuals. The bravery, courage, love, kindness, and so on of one person can change either one person’s life or many people’s lives. God had a plan for Esther, she trusted him – gave him her all. We don’t know what our calling is at first. Some learn early on, some later. Whatever it is, it is amazing and perfect for you. We just have to full believe and trust.

Be brave. Be courageous. Be bold. Be you. Trust Him. Reflect Him.

Invite Him to live in your heart. Watch as your life unfolds and how we works wonders in your life and those around you.

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“Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” – Matthew 10:39 (NIV)

Isn’t it odd to think we’d lose our life if we found it? But that’s not so.
No, instead we are called to lose our life. This doesn’t mean dying for Christ – though in some cases people do lose their life for believing and following Christ – think of the Church in Asia and elsewhere. I think it means we need to lose our life in the way that we die to the ways of the world we live in; die to the society that so often tells us how to dress, act, look and even love. Die to the world’s twisted definition of love. Die to the comfort of our life as a rich American. Die to the broken world that calls us and says, “This is home. This is how it should be.” This world may be our home, but only for a short period of time; we are a people who move around, never staying in one place, as Katie Davis, author of Kisses from Katie, puts it, “I am somewhat of a nomad on this earth. Human beings long for a place to call home, a nest, a sanctuary of their own. I have many and none… But God whispers to me that I really have only one home, and that is with Him,” (128).

When we lose our life; our life in this lost world, then we find our life in our Savior, for how can we strive to follow our Father’s footsteps when we don’t even have an understanding of how he instructs us to truly live? We wouldn’t of ever been able to find life in Christ had it not been for Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. Jesus was dead to the world, he turned his back on society’s rules and blazed his own trail. He was a rebel, he was an essential outcast, he was radical.

Refering back to the persecuted church, I recently read a book called Tortured for Christ by Richard Wurmbrand, and in the book he tells of his life as a Christian living in the Soviet Union, giving his own story along with others. He tells of how they were tortured by being burnt, starved, placed in freezing conditions that they when they were on the brink of death, that’s when the officers would pull them out and warm them up a little. They would beat them, whip them; it is unimaginable to us. The Soviet officers were trying to get them to renounce their faith. They had zero success. The tortured knew what it was like to die in the worldly way, they knew how what it was really like to know Christ. It’s in the situations of persecution, trials, hardship, and materialistic poverty that people have the strongest faith. They have died to their life and found life in Christ. They have picked up their crosses and followed Christ.

We have to ask ourselves, a people who have not really known what it is like to live in poverty, be tortured, or lose everything, the question, “Are we truly able to die to our life of comfort, pick up our cross and truly follow Him?”

Think about it.

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What's a Part Compared to the Whole?

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.”

– Romans 12:1-2, 4-5 (ESV)

Most of my life I have been taught to view the church as the body of God. When I was younger, at first, I thought it was the building that made up the body, for it was the place everyone gathered, where the pastor spoke, and the people sang. But as I grew, I learned that through attending Bible study and youth group, the body wasn’t the church building it was the people; the congregation. My youth group’s “slogan” or theme, is “We don’t GO to church, We ARE the church.” This is were it comes from – the idea that it’s us, we the people, who are the church, we don’t necessarily need a “special” building, in fact many people around the world worship in houses, caves, or even out in the streets. I will admit though, that it’s nice to have a roof over your head, sound equipment, microphones, and air-conditioning when it’s hot in the summer and heat when it’s cold in the winter. But those are just necessities.

The verse that I thought of that goes along with what I’m talking about. It talks about us, as individuals and us as a body of the Christ. In the first couple of verses it refers to us as individuals, how we must present our bodies as living sacrifices. Before you freak out at the phrase “living sacrifices,” let me assure you it’s not as if we’re putting ourselves on a physical alter and tearing our hearts out for God (like the Aztecs did)! The phrase means that we offer ourselves to God holding back nothing, and allowing him to control our lives; we enjoy a new life – for we are dead in sin, but alive (and worshiping) in Christ. Continuing on, we are warned in the second verse not to be allowed to be conformed to this world’s ways.

By just observing and using our senses we can pick out that this world is corrupt – full of hurt, poverty (both materialistically and spiritually), loss (and much more). Our peers, the press, and marketing all put pressure on us. We must act a certain way, dress a certain way, wear this brand of clothing, etc. to be accepted or deemed worthy enough to be considered to be “cool.” I know a lot of people, including myself, struggle with how people think about us. For the teens reading this: our generation/age group is the most targeted group out off young children, adults, and seniors for marketing. We are emotionally unstable, trying to find that “group” we belong in, and we also have jobs – jobs that really just support ourselves, we don’t have to take care of a family or pay a mortgage. People study psychology and they know all we want to do is conform or fit in. Referring this to our faith and mindset, we need to break away from that longing. We must stand out and not follow the crowd – we must allow Christ to transform us, so that our minds and bodies can be renewed; revived. Trust me, standing out is hard, especially when most of the time you’ll get picked on or casted out. But that is what is to be expected – we will be tried, we will be tested. We’ll be tried and tested and through it all, hopefully, we’ll be able to pick out what is right in God’s eyes and plan for us, which is perfect in every aspect.

In the last couple of verses of the passage given, it talks about us as a body of Christ. In 1 Corinthians 12 (verses 17-20, 22, 24-25) Paul references the church body to the human body. After discussing the importance of each part of our body, he makes the comment of, “‘If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell?…God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. On the contrary…God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another… For the body does not consist of one member but of many.'”

Just as a human body has many parts to it -all of them extremely important for the body to function – so does the church. Each part is significant, though some parts may operate in different ways – the brain telling the body what’s going on, the heart beating oxygen and blood through our veins, the lungs allowing us to breath – they all serve the same purpose; to keep us alive. The church just like that – there’s the pastor, elders and deacons, volunteers, and missionaries – all serve in different parts of the body of church, some in different parts of the world, and though there are many of us – we make up one body of Christ, living to serve him and spread about his love and sacrifice he made to make a way for us to live eternally with God in heaven.

To answer the question of: What’s a part compared to the whole? A part compared to a whole is small, but that one part is what makes up the whole (the whole body of Christ). Without that one part there would be no whole. We, as different parts of the body, make up the whole body of Christ. But for us, we would be no body without Christ at the head of it.

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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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