Thursday, February 15, 2018

Why Valentine's Day and Ash Wednesday Go Together

I know this is a day late; I had already posted an entry yesterday morning and was busy the rest of the day with my husband.

Yesterday was Valentine's Day, and Ash Wednesday happened to fall on the same day this year.  On Valentine's Day, we focus on our loved ones - whether it's a significant other, family, or friends (though it's typically the significant other).  Ash Wednesday is when we focus on Jesus' final hours before dying.  Ash Wednesday then opens up Lent (I believe for 40 days before Easter).  You may look at the title of this entry and ask, "How do they go together?"  Welp, glad you asked 😄

First, why do we celebrate Easter?  Easter isn't about bunnies, candy, and dyed eggs (though those are fun things for Easter).  First we have Good Friday, where we reflect on Jesus' sacrifice for all of us.  Good Friday can be a bit depressing for me because of that.  Then on Easter we celebrate his resurrection!

Jesus took our punishment - he took what we deserved onto himself.  It was God's way of telling us how much he loves us - by rescuing us from what we deserved - death.  You may say, "People still die today."  Physical death, yes, people still die.  But our souls don't die.  Our souls when we die will either go on to live with Jesus in paradise, or it will be forever tormented in hell.  Hell is not something I enjoy talking about, but I can't tell you all fluff and stuff you want me to tell you and not be honest about it.

When we look at what Jesus went through, it was God saying, "I love you so much, that I'm going to pay the price for you."

I heard this story once (I don't know if it's a true story or not) where this miner had gotten a lot of money and was on his way home to be with his family.  As he was on his way home, he saw a slave market.  There was a woman there for sale, and he heard what the other men were saying about her and what they wanted to do with her.  It broke his heart and he couldn't take it.  The miner went up to the guy selling her and said, "I'll pay twice the highest bidder."  This had never been done before!  The guy asked, "Do you have the money?"  The miner said, "Yea, I've got the money."  So he bought the woman.  They were walking together and she spit in his face and told him how much she hated him.  He wiped the spit off his face and they continued to walk together.  They stopped at an office and he gave her some papers.  She didn't know how to read, and didn't understand what the papers were.  She said, "I hate you."  He asked, "Don't you understand?  These are your papers!  You're free now!"  She asked, "Wait, did you buy me to set me free?  You paid more than anyone ever has.  You bought me to set me free?"

We were slaves to our mistakes, our screw-ups, the darkness itself.  Jesus bought us to set us free!  He died to set us free!  He was betrayed, brutally beaten, tortured, mocked, and ultimately killed to set us free!  If that's not love, I don't know what love is then.

We celebrate Valentine's Day for love - Jesus showed the ultimate love for us.  This is why they go perfectly together - in my opinion that is.  Ironically, Easter this year falls on April Fools.  I was talking to my husband last night about that.  I told him, "There are probably going to be a lot of jokes mocking Jesus this year."  It made me kinda depressed thinking about that.  Here he did so much for us, yet there is a deep hatred for him in a lot of people.  Trust me, I get it, I used to be one of those people.  Seriously.  But when I thought about it some more, my husband and I were both like, "Easter falling on April Fools this year could be Jesus' way of saying, 'Jokes on you Satan - I beat you at your own game!"

Even though Valentine's Day is over, let's take some time to reflect on how God really, REALLY, loves us.




Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Yours Again


               "Without you my world is darkness, I won't let go again."



I remember my life without Christ - it was a very dark place to be; a place with no hope and no purpose.  I've been there twice.  I wasn't a believer until I was fourteen years old.  Then I left the faith a few years ago, then came back.  It's a lonely place to be.  When you survive three suicide attempts, you wonder why you're still alive.  "What is my purpose?  Surely there's a reason why I've survived!"

You may be thinking, "I don't follow Jesus and my life is okay.  The purpose in life is to be a good person, live life to the fullest, and make a difference in the world to be remembered for."  Those are good things no doubt, but there is an emptiness without Christ - it's an emptiness I think most people who are broken really feel.  We feel alone and rejected.  We see the darkness in the world that others seem to be blind of.  The world is a cruel place to live in, and we've not only seen it, we've lived it.

When I left the faith a few years back, I felt so empty, alone, and afraid.  See, I knew God was real, I believed Jesus was God, but my life was in such turmoil that I thought he didn't want me anymore.  He was done with me.  That's a very depressing thought.  The God of the universe, the Savior of the world - well, everyone other than me that is (or so I had thought for a long time), wants nothing to do with me anymore.  If he didn't want me anymore, why waste either of our time?  So I left.  My husband was very afraid.  He wasn't sure what I'd do.  I mean, I had morals, but at the same time it's like, "If I'm not following Christ anymore, what am I free to do now?"  When my husband talked to a friend about it, his friend said I wouldn't be gone for long.  He was right - I came back three days later.  You may say, "Three days?  Then you didn't really leave."  Oh no, I did leave.  I told my husband if God really wanted me, he would come for me.  Then again, why would he come for me if he didn't want me anymore?

I was very much afraid - especially at night.  I remember thinking since I left, God would no longer be protecting me from the darkness.  In a sense, I've opened myself up to things I had no desire opening myself up to.  I left the Shepherd, and was at the mercy of the wolves that want to devour me.  I was also afraid of where I'd go since I had basically apostatised.  Apostasy is a pretty big deal - would that mean I'd be going to hell?

Three days later, I had a dream that changed me.  Jesus came to me in a dream and rescued me from the darkness.  He broke my chains that held me captive and embraced me.  Even though I had cursed him in my dream, he still rescued me.  He came for me - just like I told my husband he would if he really wanted me back.  Now, I don't recommend putting God to the test like that.  Jesus did say "Don't put your God to the test" after all.

After having that dream, I have remained in the faith.  I'm not perfect, and I realized this past summer that my foundation had actually been very weak.  Only since this past summer has my foundation in Christ been getting stronger.  I had to destroy the little foundation I had, and put new foundation instead.  Instead of building on sand, I've started building on rock (Matthew 7:24-27).  Do I feel empty at times?  Yes, sometimes that emptiness comes back - but not like before.  Do I feel hopeless at times?  Yes, but not like before.  Put your hope and trust in Jesus, and you won't regret it.

For years I have wondered why I am still here after three suicide attempts, and many close calls where I've basically been thwarted from making other attempts.  What is my purpose for being here?  My dreams I've had growing up are unachievable and now I need new dreams.  The plans I had for my life I can't do, so what do I do now?  Well, recently I think I've started to see what my purpose might be.  I don't know for certain, but I think I may be on the right path to finding it out.

Hold onto Christ and don't let go.  If you have let him go, return to him!  I know what it's like to think, "There's no way he'd ever take me back."  I've been there - the prodigal.  But he wants you to return to him!  Many times in Scripture, God says to return to him from our wicked ways (such as idolatry).  Jesus even made it clear in the story of the prodigal son!  He will RUN to you with open arms - holding you tightly!  If you've left, tell him "I'm yours again!  I'm not letting go again!"




Broken Things





Ever feel like God could never use you because you're too broken?  Maybe you've made too many mistakes in your life.  Maybe you went through something so traumatic that you relive it every day.  Brokenness comes in many different forms - EVERYONE is broken.  There isn't a single person out there who isn't broken in some way.  Yet, we look at people and say, "God is able to use them," but we don't think He can use us.  I get it, I really do - I struggle with the same kind of thinking.  Here's the thing though, God doesn't use "perfect" people, He uses broken people.

There are TONS of people in Scripture that God used who were broken!  Moses killed a guy.  Rahab was a prostitute.  David, you know, the guy who defeated Goliath?  He had an affair AND killed the husband of the woman he had the affair with!  Jonah, the guy who got swallowed in the belly of a fish?  He was running away from God because he didn't want God to save his enemies!  Jeremiah, the prophet?  Yea, he struggled with MAJOR depression.  The prophet Elijah?  He was suicidal.  The apostle Peter?  He denied he knew Jesus three times, and when Jesus needed him in his time of need, Peter ran away in shame.  Paul?  He killed people who followed Jesus.  There are MANY more examples I could give you.  God uses broken people.




Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise.  And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful.

I Corinthians 1:27




God uses the foolish, the powerless, and the broken - not the "perfect" people who have everything together.  Consider this: the disciples who followed Jesus, did any of them have everything together?  The people who hung out with Jesus, did they have everything together?  No, the people who thought they had everything together were the ones who wanted to kill Jesus!

No matter how broken you may feel, God can, no, God will use you still.  You've just got to let him.



Monday, February 12, 2018

Take Courage








What does courage look like?

I'm a very fearful person - a coward if you will.  I can't really think of anything that I'm not afraid of!

When we think about courage, we think of people who are fearless!  When we think of someone with courage, we think of characters like Rambo or John McClane.  What if our views on courage aren't true though?  What if TRUE courage was something else?

What if courage isn't the absence of fear, but rather in the presence of fear?

I really like Isaiah 41:13



For I am the LORD, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.



There are TONS of places in Scripture that says to not be afraid, but at the same time, God tells us that He will be with us when we are afraid.  He knows we'll never, not have fear.  We all have something we're afraid of.  If I listed all my fears we'd have to write a book as big as the Gutenberg Bible!

When you are afraid, put your trust in Jesus; put your hope in him.  He won't fail you.  He's greater than any fears we have.  He's conquered death.  He's defeated the Adversary.  He's brought the dead back to life.  He's casted out demons from people.  He's healed the sick and lame.




The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.

John 1:5




There is always that light that will NEVER go out - even if it seems far away and dim, it is ALWAYS there - follow that light!

Courage.....

True courage isn't the absence of fear, but rather saying, "I am going to put my trust in the One who will protect me, even though I'm terrified!"

One of my biggest fears is that I'll be completely alone - everyone will leave me.  So many people have left me, especially in my time of need - and it leaves me terrified that there will be no one left.  This may seem like an irrational fear, and that may be true.  Most fears are irrational; but even if that did happen, there is one who would NEVER leave me - Jesus.  People have promised me they'd never leave me, and in the end many of them did.  But God promised He would NEVER leave me nor forsake me, and He keeps His promises.  In my fear of being completely alone, I need to put my trust in Jesus that he will always be with me, just as he promised.





Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the LORD.

Psalm 31:24



I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me.  Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows.  But take heart, because I have overcome the world.

John 16:33





Put your trust in Jesus, he has overcome the world.  He will always be there for you, even when no one else is.




Saturday, February 3, 2018

In Your Arms




He will cover you with his feathers.  He will shelter you with his wings.  His faithful promises are your armor and protection.

Psalm 91:4



Listen!  The LORD's arm is not too weak to save you, nor is his ear too deaf to hear you call.

Isaiah 59:1




What do you turn to when you're in distress?  Maybe you turn to your family or friends.  Maybe you turn to a hobby to distract yourself (such as writing or drawing).  Maybe you turn to some bad coping skills (such as cutting for me), or even isolation.  I know for me, I tend to isolate myself - A LOT.  It's one thing to have some alone time for a little bit to calm down and get your thoughts together; but when you spend all day every day laying in bed or sitting on the couch by yourself, then you may be isolating too much.  What if we turned to God in our distress though?  What would that look like? 

Well, for one thing, he promises to never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).  Have abandonment issues (I do)?  Well he's always going to be with you no matter what!  Jesus said no one can snatch us away from him (John 10:28).  He promises that if we seek him, we will find him (Matthew 7:7).  He pursues us (Luke 15:4-6).  These are only a few of his promises.  Maybe in a future blog entry I'll get into more details on his promises.

If we are sheep, Jesus is our shepherd (Jesus uses this illustration).  He is VERY protective over us, like a good shepherd is protective over their flock.  Hungry wolves want to eat the sheep (us), and if we have no shepherd, we're going to get eaten by the wolves one way or another.  If we have a bad shepherd, they're probably not going to be very good at protecting us either.

I often see myself as a little lamb that often gets itself into trouble.  I tend to wander away from the shepherd and other sheep, and then I get lost.  I'm all alone, even injured at times.  That's when I get surrounded by the wolves.  On my own, I am no match for the wolves, and they'll tear into me until there's nothing left but my scattered bones.  I'll cry for help, but I'm too far away from the other sheep to hear me - they don't even notice I'm away.  But my Shepherd, heh, he ALWAYS comes to my rescue!  When I think I'm all alone, I'm really not, he's been following me all along from a distance!  Just when the wolves are about to devour me, he jumps in and fights them off with his staff! The wolves run away, he bandages up my wounds, and he carries me on his shoulders back to the rest of the flock.  This is how I see myself - the sheep always getting into trouble, yet is always rescued when I need it most.  This is your story too though, not just mine!  We are all like dumb sheep, and he comes to our rescue when we need him most.



Jesus holds us in his arms and will never let us go.  There's only one way to leave his arms, and that is we have to WILLINGLY leave them.  He's not going to force himself on you - that's why we have free will after all.  A relationship consists of both parties wanting to be with the other.  If one person leaves the relationship, then the relationship is over.  He's not going to let you go, and no one can take you away from him - but you can willingly leave him.  You may ask, "I already left, but I can't return, he'd never take me back."  No matter how far away you've gone, if you return to him he will ALWAYS accept you back.  You're the prodigal child!  He will RUN to you while you're still far off in the distance on your way to him!




His arms are wide open for you.


I had this vision once (it wasn't a dream because I was wide awake when I had it).  I had been following Christ for a couple years, which meant I had not actively looked at porn for a couple years.  I still struggled with it though.  Even though I wasn't acting out on it, the images would still come to mind at times, and I'd even have dreams of it at times.  This one particular night as I was lying in bed trying to sleep, images kept going in my head that I didn't want.  I prayed and begged God to help me get rid of the images.  I was in tears.  Then, I saw this vision.  I was in a small room - no doors and no windows.  Everything around me - the walls, floor, and ceiling, were all like playing videos of the stuff I used to look at.  Images, sounds, all of it.  I sat on the floor crying, covering my ears so I wouldn't hear the sounds, and tightly shutting my eyes closed so I wouldn't see the images.  I kept begging God to help me.  Then, I heard footsteps in front of me, and somehow I knew they knelt down in front of me.  They held me tightly and I instantly knew who it was.  I cried on his chest, covering my face so I wouldn't see the images.  He told me gently that everything was going to be okay.  The vision ended, and the images in my head were gone.  Most of my dreams I've had of Jesus (which are not very many), he is coming to my rescue from something.  When I need him most, he always comes to my rescue.  A few years back, I walked away from Christianity.  I felt like God didn't really want me.  After three days though, I'm not kidding, he came in a dream and rescued me.  What's so ironic about this time is that I told my husband (who was distraught that I had left the faith), "If he really wants me, he'll come for me."  On top of that, my husband talked to a friend about it and his friend said, "She won't be gone for long."  Well, three days later he came to me in a dream and I returned to the faith.  When we really seek him with all our hearts, and when we need him most, he will always come to our rescue.  "Seek and you will find."  Those are Jesus' words.  Run to him, run to him and jump in his arms!  He will not let you go.





Friday, February 2, 2018

Mended




Do you ever feel so broken, like you're beyond repair?  I often feel like I'm this broken toy no one wants to play with anymore.  So I'm discarded in the garbage, crushed and shredded in the garbage truck, and off to be burned in the flames.  Do you ever feel this way?

I often feel worthless and useless.  How could God ever use me?  As broken as I am?  There's no way I could be used for God's glory!  I've made so many mistakes, I can't do anything right!

These are the thoughts that plague me ALL the time.  How about you?  Do you think this way about yourself?  If so, know this - you are greatly mistaken!

No matter how broken you may be, he can heal you.  You may think you're beyond repair and without Christ, you're right.  We can't fix anyone - whether it be someone else or ourselves.  We certainly try, but we tend to make things worse.  But Jesus can heal you!  He can heal your brokenness.

God is close to the brokenhearted (Psalm 34:18).  It often feels like he's far away from us during dark times, but he's much closer than you think. 



"God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs." 
Matthew 5:3



When we are broken in spirit, he is there.  It is during those hardships that he's even closer.  When we feel like we can't go on anymore, he holds us in his arms, comforting us.  He can mend your brokenness.  He can heal your broken spirit.

A couple nights ago I was really discouraged about something - to the point where I was in tears and was tempted to give into one of my addictions I've been trying to work past.  My head kept telling me "I'm going to do it" but I kept telling it to get out of my head.  I talked to a friend and I prayed - giving thanks and asking Him to help me through this.  After that I listened to "Mended" by Matthew West.  Since then I've been listening to this song on repeat nearly ALL day.  Every time I hear it, I nearly break down and weep.  God sees us differently than we see ourselves, and he can heal our brokenness.  I definitely recommend the song - listen to it and listen (or read) the lyrics.  Christ is here with you, right now, this very moment, and he has always been with you - since before you were even conceived!  He sees your brokenness and he is not ashamed of you for your struggles.  He knows your struggles and still loves you even when you give in.  He will never stop loving you.  He will never abandon you.

Let him mend your broken heart.





Wednesday, January 31, 2018

God is not Ashamed of You

For a long time I really struggled with thinking God was angry with me.  That he didn't love me, and that he was ashamed of me.  Like some day when I see him, he'll be like, "Oh great, now I have to deal with her for an eternity (literally)."  Maybe you struggle with the same thing.  I want to tell you something though, and I want it to really sink in - really think about it.  Are you ready?

God is not ashamed of you.
God is not angry with you.
God loves you.

Let those words really sink in - really meditate on them.  Brothers and sisters in Christ, he loves you so much, more than you could ever know; and one day, you will have an eternity finding out just how much he loves you.  I wish I could tell you how much he loves you, but I don't even know how much he loves us.  It's something so extreme that we can't understand in this life.  We can't wrap our brains around it.  My guess is if we even understood half of his love for us, our brains would combust because it's just impossible for us to understand it.  So much of the Scriptures describes how God loves us.  Even in his anger he loves us.  He has every opportunity to wipe humanity off the face of the earth with just the tip of his finger!  But he doesn't do that.  Does he discipline us?  Of course!  A good parent disciplines their kids when they're acting up.  It doesn't mean they don't love their kids though right?  Does he want to discipline you?  Well, I can't read God's mind, but my guess is he doesn't enjoy it.  He doesn't just sit there waiting for you to mess up and jumps at the opportunity to discipline you.  He doesn't sit there waiting to smite you.  He's very patient.  So many times in Scripture people turn to idols instead of to him.  People replaced him - the Creator of the universe; the One who gave them breath!  The One who saved their butts every time they cried out for help!  They would turn from him, then expect him to come to their rescue - every. single. time.  Not once did he throw his hands in the air, "That's it!  I'm done with these people!  Time to get rid of them all!"



Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins.

Ecclesiastes 7:20



God has had every right to get rid of us.  He's given us chance after chance after chance, though he hasn't given up on us.  Sometimes people give up on us for a number of reasons - but he NEVER will give up on you!  He will always be there with you and for you.  The world may give up on you; you - yourself may even give up on you, but he never will.



So be strong and courageous!  Do not be afraid and do not panic before them.  For the LORD your God will personally go ahead of you.  He will neither fail you nor abandon you.

Deuteronomy 3:16



He will never abandon you.  You are his most precious child, his pride and joy - his most treasured creation.  He IS for you, not against you (Romans 8:31)!  Often times we reject his love, but he wants to give us his love to the fullest!  He wants to overwhelm you with his love and I can tell you, it can be overwhelming for me.  It can drive me to tears.  It can cause me to feel a bit embarrassed.  I mean, how can a perfect God love someone so messed up like me?  It can cause me to be more bold (I'm a really timid person honestly).  This blog for example.  It can be difficult to be so raw sometimes.  It's difficult to be so vulnerable.  People scare me.  But if God really does love me, and he is always with me, what do I have to be afraid?  What can man do to me?  Can my feelings get hurt?  Sure.  But Christ offers his shoulder to cry on, while he gently holds me, letting me know that he won't hurt me and will protect me.

I know I can never love him as much as he loves me, and I can't love others as much as he loves them (it's not going to stop me from loving anyone though).  My hope is that I can show you just a glimpse of how much he loves you.

God is not ashamed of you.
God is not angry with you.
God loves you.