What Love is This?

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I write this as I mourn for the heart of a lost friend.  I am in the first semester of my freshman year of college and I have learned more about God and my faith than in my whole life.

This summer, I went on a mission trip which opened my eyes to the scope of God’s unconditional love.  I fell in love with kids I had only known for a few days and really bore their struggles with them and desired for them to have relationships with Jesus.  I cried for joy when I saw two of the girls come to salvation and wept after I left the camp with my family.  I remember thinking that if my love for these kids could be so great after being with them for a few days, how great is God’s love.  He created us and knows us intimately and desires a relationship with us.

I was hit by this truth later at summer camp, when the Spirit made me truly believe that God cares about every little detail in our life.  “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?”  God created the stars and put the earth in motion.  He knew exactly which stars we would see and when we would live.  He puts each person and event, even the small moments, like a hug from a friend or a beautiful ray of sunshine in the afternoon, in our lives purposely.  Nothing escapes his notice.  “Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.” (Psalm 8:3-5)  It is amazing to think that he made each of us differently, with unique lives and circumstances, and yet he is ultimately in control.  I cannot wrap my mind around it.

Flash forward to my third month in college.  I have just finished a conversation with a friend I have been praying for from the first day I met.  I have been waiting on the Lord, trusting for his promised salvation.  I crave the faith that Abraham had, “when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance.  And he went out, not knowing where he was going…For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.” (Hebrews 11:8, 10)  He waited for the promised son for twenty five years.  I have been waiting to see my friend’s salvation for three months, and I wrestle with discouragement.  But God has been showing me something greater.

I thought I had learned a lot about God’s love on my missions trip, but I have learned even more in the three months that I have been in college.  God calls us to love the people that will never love us back, or who cannot love us the way we love them.  Even when those people hurt us when we are trying to be an example of Christ to them, we are still to love them.  I have found that while it is hard to love those people, it is nearly impossible not to.  This is a supernatural love from the Spirit.  I have felt such a burden as this for several people, but three stand out in my memory.  One of those, and the one I am closest to has never really experienced unconditional love.

For the past two days I have felt a greater pain because of the sin of someone else and a greater burden for that person’s salvation than I have ever felt in my life.  It hurts, but it is a hurt filled with hope.  My efforts will not save this person, but God is still using me.  As he is using me, he is revealing to me his love.  Not only does he love this person more than I do, he loves everyone with this type of love.  I am astounded at the love Christ felt when he went to the cross.  Did he cry when he was being nailed to the tree?  I believe he did, not just because of the physical pain, but because his heart was broken for the people he saw.  In the garden of Gethsemane, he prayed for those who would come to know him.  In the darkest moment on the cross, Jesus cried, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)  He was not just asking for those mocking him at the cross, but for every person who mocks the love of the Savior.  For every person who has let their heart be hardened to God’s unconditional love, Jesus asks forgiveness.  That is incredible love, and it brings me to my knees.  It comforts me and strengthens my faith.

At a time in my life, especially in my faith, where it looks like I should be under extreme pressure in stress, I feel more peace and love than I have ever known.  Yes, I struggle.  Yes, I feel pain, but hallelujah!  I feel the love of my Savior.  This is how I know that though my circumstances look bleak and the future is uncertain, I can rest in my God.  He is my rock and my refuge.  He is my ever-present help in time of need.

“I believe

that I shall look upon

the goodness of the Lord

in the land of the living.”

-Psalm 27:13

 

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Marriage: It’s not all about you

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It’s time for a long-overdo post addressing a controversial, relevant topic.  Marriage, specifically, homosexual marriage.  The recent Supreme Court decision over SCOTUS stated that a homosexual marriage recognized in one state must be recognized in all states.  In this post, I will not address the unconstitutional nature of this decision (violates the 9th and 10th amendment, in summary: individual Constitutional State laws cannot be overridden by the Federal government, and all rights not given to the Federal government are reserved for the individual States), and instead address the issue of marriage itself.

I am approaching this topic with a bias (for all you skeptics who like to make comments about bias), I am a Christian who believes that the Bible is the inerrant word of God, but I am going to use as much logic as possible and examples, historical and Biblical, in this post.

I realize that the title of my post will immediately cause one to be defensive of their motives for getting married, for who gets married with selfish motives?  According to many many people, Christian or not, marriage is a partnership, right?  This is true, marriage is a partnership, but it is a special and sacred partnership.

The history of marriage starts with the Creation of the world.  God, the Creator, desired to create an organism (for lack of a better term) in his image, one who could create, have emotion, have intellect, and desire relationships.  Therefore, he created man, “in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them,” (Genesis 1:27).  Instead of speaking this new creature into existence, as he had for everything else, God got down in the dirt, and formed man from the dust, breathing life into his nostrils, (Genesis 2:7).  God then placed man in a beautiful garden and gave him the special job of naming all the animals and cultivating the garden (Genesis 2:8, 15, 19).

This man, God named Adam.  At this point, God had not created woman, because God wanted Adam to learn something.  As Adam was naming the animals, he noticed that they came in pairs, male and female.  He also noticed that there was not another creature like him, no creature fit to work with him, (Genesis 2:20).

Why had God not given Adam a partner?  God wanted Adam to realize that he needed a partner, to desire a relationship.  “So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh.  And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man,” (Genesis 2:21-22).  When God brings the woman to Adam, Adam is amazed and full of joy at this perfect partner.  Adam and his wife, Eve, enjoy the first marriage, completely without shame or dishonesty, (Genesis 2:23, 25).

A few observations from this passage.  First, relationships, especially marriage, are necessary for a society to thrive.  Adam and Eve worked together in the garden, and would eventually parent children that would marry and have their own families and populate the earth.  Secondly, Eve, the woman, was created from Adam’s rib, symbolizing her status as Adam’s partner and equal.  Eve was not created from Adam’s head, symbolizing dominance, or foot, symbolizing servitude, but from his side, a very carefully planned action by the Creator.  Finally, God did not make another man for Adam, but a woman.  This is significant in two ways. One, that God’s creation was not complete with a man, but with man and woman, woman is necessary.  Two, that though Adam and Eve were created equally, they were created with different roles and functions which compliment each other.

God created marriage for several good reasons.  Marriage was created for the procreation of children and the pleasure of the married couple.  Marriage was created to secure the family.  there are several reasons why marriage was created, but the most important reason is that it reflects the Unity of the Trinity, and this is why marriage is sacred.

Our culture has believed many lies about marriage and the family, but the biggest one is this, that marriage is about being happy.  While happiness should come with marriage, it should not be the focus of the marriage.  This sounds completely crazy in our world, but it is true.  Making happiness the focus of the marriage will ruin the marriage.

Two hard truths for me to accept as a romantically minded girl who grew up watching Disney movies were that there is not “One” out there for me and that romance is not everything.  One does not have to feel that special spark to marry someone, and there is not one person alone who can give one the perfect feeling.  While this principle seems super unromantic and boring, it actually helps marriages last.

Why does the principle of “no one true love” make marriages last?  Because feelings change.  One could feel the “spark” from another person and think that because he/she felt that it means that he/she is supposed to be with that person.  All cares are tossed to the wind, and the romantic relationship begins.  The couple lives happily ever after, right?  Wrong.  What happens when that romantic feelings fades, or one partner lets the other down?  Does that mean that he/she is not the “one” and that its time to end the marriage and move on?  That is what Hollywood would have us believe.  However, this is just not realistic.  A couple that can work through the hard days will have a better relationship afterward.  Yes, there are circumstances when one partner is abusing the other, but could that be because the relationship was initially based on a “spark” instead of on something more foundational, like trust?

That is my reasoning why feeling romantic about another person does not justify marrying them, no matter how “in love” one is.  True love is demonstrated by sacrifice, its not just a feeling.  The idea of getting married for love is actually a very modern one, and not a completely perfect idea.

For thousands of years of history, marriages were arranged.  In many pagan cultures, these were not good arrangements for the wife, who was often much younger than her husband, and usually one of several wives.  In cultures such as Mesopotamia, the husband could send his wife away just with the charge of adultery.  A man could accuse his wife of adultery, and even if the charge was false, the woman was executed.  This was a tragedy, but it was not because the marriages were arranged, but because the people who practiced this were immoral, and evil.

The ancient Hebrews also practiced arranged marriage.  However, because of the laws of Yahweh, the God of the Bible, these marriages lasted much longer and were much happier than many in other cultures.  The eighth commandment states, “You shall not commit adultery,” (Exodus 20:14), but in the Hebrew law, if a man or woman committed adultery, unlike in other cultures where typically just the wives were punished, both the proven adulterer and adulteress were put to death.  All other sexual immorality was also punished by death.  This is because God considers marriage sacred.

In the New Testament, Jesus points again to marriage as God created it, “But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.  Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh.  What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate,” (John 10:5-9).  In this verse, Jesus talks about how special marriage is by saying that a marriage is a man and his wife becoming one flesh, and that a marriage should not be separated.

Finally, I believe that marriage between a man and a woman is special and Biblical because it reflects the relationship between Christ and the Church, (Ephesians 5:22-33).  This passage also describes the roles of the husband and wife in correlation to the Church and Christ.  The best marriages have Christ at the center, with the husband and wife serving each other, praying for each other, and sacrificing for each other.

On side note, although marriage is not for everyone, God commands that everyone who remains unmarried remain celibate.  In fact, the apostle Paul preferred to be single, because he believed that he could do more ministry that way. (1 Corinthians 7:25-40).

In conclusion, I believe that according to the scriptures, the only true marriage is that between a husband and a wife.  Marriage is a sacred covenant and should not be entered into lightly.  Romance is not everything, although it is part of the pleasure of marriage.  All in all, the unity of the marital relationship is something created by God to reflect the unity of the Trinity, thus it is sad to see it lose its value in divorces, adulteries, and other sexual immorality.  However, there is always healing for the broken, so even if a person has had a broken sexual past, he or she can find redemption at the cross, with Jesus’ sacrifice of love for all.  That is the greatest example of love in history, and it was done for every person who ever lived or will live.  That day, love won.

Reflections on 2014

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I know that this post is a little late since it’s already January 2, 2015, but I thought I should write it anyway as the new year is still young and the past year is fresh in my mind.

Two-thousand fourteen was a big year for me, as I started my junior year of highschool, got my first job, my drivers licence, and my first car.  There was some tragedy, some good, and a lot of grace.  My overall experience this past year can be summarized pretty well by two songs.

First, “Keep Making Me,” by Sidewalk Prophets, summarizes my growth in my relationship with God this year.  There are several convicting lines in this song which can definitely relate to me this year.

“I want to run to you with heart wide open

Make me broken”

Though I did not have any huge breakdown in my life this year, I have had mini struggles with feeling like my life does not matter.  I also mourned the loss of a friend this spring, and saw those close to him brought closer to God.  This was the first of many events this past spring and summer which changed my outlook on life.  The second huge struggle I had this summer was when one of my best friends was diagnosed with cancer.  This friend loves the Lord so much and has always been healthy and active like any other teenager.  I could not believe it when I learned he had cancer, and I remember crying out to God that day for strength for my friend and for trust.

God has been so gracious and faithful, my friend has gone through months of chemo, and now his cancer is mostly gone! Praise be to God!  The greatest part of this trial was watching many of my friends, including my brother, grow in their faith.

Make me empty, so I can be filled. 

‘Cuz I’m still holding onto my will.

And I’m completed, when you  are with me. 

Make me empty.”

Confronted this summer with the prospect of choosing a college major, school, and future job, I was scared.  I know it is only my junior year, but it’s a time to start thinking about life’s big decisions.  I had no idea what I wanted to do as a future career, other than being a wife and mother.  I was worried about the load of homework I would have to face this year, as I’d heard junior year is the toughest in work load.  I also had to start thinking about a part-time job, so that I could start saving for college.  All of these piled up on my mind this summer, making me pray a lot.  Always having been so confident, I was definitely emptied and humbled.  God has been so gracious to me in so many ways concerning these issues, and now I have some direction.

Make me lonely, so I can be yours,

‘Til I want no one more than you, Lord.”

Being a very relationship-focused person, I have always valued my friends above a lot of other things.  There were times throughout this year where certain circumstances made me feel less included than usual, or isolated.  This was not done by my friends purposely, but was more of an emotional projection.  I like to go deep in my closest friendships, and when I felt I had lost some of that depth with a few of my friendships, it made me break down several times.  This is a struggle that I have trouble sharing, and have always had trouble sharing.  I guess it reveals that I’m more insecure than people might think.

One particular day, I was crying as I wrote in my journal about the possibility of losing friendships to time after high-school, when the realization hit me that I would never lose my relationship with God, and that one relationship would only grow deeper, even after times of distance from God.  My relationship with God is a treasure laid up in heaven, as well as all the other Christ-focused friendships on earth.  Even if those friendships are not forever, they will benefit me so much more than any other relationship, no matter how long it lasts.

The second song that could summarize my life this year is “Overwhelmed,” by Big Daddy Weave.  There have been so many ways I have seen God’s power and grace  this year, that I truly have been overwhelmed.  These include my friend’s healing from cancer, getting my first job (!), finding a general career path for my future, bonding within my class at school, getting a (free!) car, and looking at Creation.  I have been blessed beyond measure, and often forget that or take it for granted.

Overall, the biggest lesson I learned over 2014 was to trust God, that those who trust in the Lord will not be put to shame. This theme started at the beginning of this year, but really was made clear to me early this summer, through a short passage in Isaiah 17,

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD.

He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when the heat comes, for its leaves remain green, 

And is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.”

            –Jeremiah 17:7-8

Here is quite a lengthy summary of my year, but it hits all the most important points.  It’s amazing what can happen over one year and the places I went with my life that I’d never imagined I would.

Why Christians Can’t Reject Genesis

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Some Christians today believe that the Bible is fallible, at least some of it.  A particular book that several Christians think can be rejected is the book of Genesis.  Because modern “science” argues that the Earth is more than six thousand years old and that the world was formed by macro-evolution, some Christians reject the idea of a six-day creation.

I would argue that all scripture is inspired by God and is therefore infallible.  I would also argue that the book of Genesis, especially the first three chapters, is essential to the Christian faith and therefore cannot be rejected by Christians.

Herbert Spencer, a brilliant philosopher and proponent of Evolution of the late 19th/early 20th century, stated that all matter could be divided into five categories: time, force, action, space, matter.

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”-Genesis 1:1

In the first verse of Genesis, all elements of reality are introduced.  Time: “In the beginning,” when time was first created.  Force: “God,” the greatest force in the universe.  Action: “created.”  Space: “the heavens,” the cosmos and all they contain, as well as literal space.  Matter: “and the earth,” the first matter discovered by man.  Men have tried but cannot deny what stands obviously before them, truth.

Genesis is a book of origins, and it starts with the origin of the universe.  God spoke everything into existence.  What I do not understand is why people do not want to believe that God created everything in six days.  God is God, and as God, he can do incomprehensible, amazing things that only God can do, like creating the entire cosmos in six literal days.  In six literal days, the universe and all life was created.  First light and night and day, then water in heaven and in the seas, then the land and plants, then the planets and heavenly bodies, then sea creatures and birds, then land creatures and man.  Six days.

Not only does Genesis talk about the origin of creation, but it also talks about the origins of order and complexity, man’s love for beauty, marriage, culture, government, nations, and much more.  Genesis 3, all the way at the beginning of scripture, tells of the origins of evil, judgement, and salvation.

The man and the woman were tempted and succumbed to temptation, doubting God and allowing sin to enter their hearts.  Knowing that they had sinned, they hid from the God with whom they had been able to directly communicate and have a relationship.  Adam and Eve were punished and  sent from the garden, knowing that they were mortal and doomed to death.  However, God spared them from death that day and gave them hope for a savior.

And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head; and you will strike his heel.”

-Genesis 3:15 

The “he” referred to in this passage is the savior, Jesus Christ, who was not due to come for four thousand years.  This gave Adam and Eve, the first man and woman, hope that someday, their relationship with God would be restored, that the savior would crush sin and death, bringing humanity back to its God.

The reason Genesis is so important is that it gives us the story of where we came from and why things are the way that they are.  In it is the story of a holy but loving God and his relationship with man.  I will not tell the whole story, because the believer must read it for himself.

If the Church tries to fit its faith to the world by twisting it and taking away fundamentals, nothing will be left of Christianity.  Thus, we must hold fast to the word of God, the inerrant scriptures.

We’re All In This Together

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Today I have truly felt the love of my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ and I do not know what I would do without them.  This past weekend has been difficult for me, my church, and my family, and today I felt very emotionally and physically drained.  This morning, after experiencing the unity of the body of Christ in a Sunday morning worship service, I received hope through the Spirit in a sermon about the characteristics of a disciple of Christ.

Tonight at youthgroup, yes, we had a good message, but I was more encouraged by the people that I talked to afterward.  With one girl, I shared the difficulty of the week and listened to her, and together we recognized how ready we are for heaven.  I also had a good conversation with a friend, a conversation that I had worried about before hand.  My friend was understanding and gracious, which was a blessing to me.  I talked to a few other friends too, but the conversation that really blessed me tonight was one that I had with one of my best friends.

My friend and I often mutually encourage one another, and tonight, I really needed that encouragement.  I poured out my heart and emotions to her, and she listened and explained how she was doing too.  What I remember most was her encouragement, which was straight from scripture, to set my mind “on the things above, not on things on earth.”  After that, we mutually experienced joy in talking about how much we long for Jesus, and learned that we both are memorizing the same passage of scripture.  Our God is amazing!

I am so thankful that God does not let his people walk through life alone, that he created a community that we could find encouragement in.  The community of faith is one of the greatest blessings God has given me.  Without the Church, I do not know how I could get through this life.

I thought I would let all my brothers and sisters in Christ know how thankful I am for them.  I thank God, the father of my Lord, Jesus Christ, when I pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will with all spiritual wisdom and understanding, that your love may abound more and more, and that you will not lose heart, but continually grow in Christ, setting your mind on the things of heaven.  May God’s kingdom come in his Church!

You Can’t Deny It

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Throughout their lives, many people deny various truths.  They do this because they are uncomfortable with or threatened by the truth.  In the end, it helps no one to deny the truth.

A truth that people have denied throughout the ages is that there is a fundamental problem with them and the world around them, the problem of sin.  Even if they acknowledge this truth, they deny that sin has consequences, or even if they accept this truth, they deny the way to be freed from the consequences of sin.  In short, people deny the gospel.

Men deny the gospel because of their hardened hearts, they do not want to have to admit that they have to rely on a savior, Jesus Christ, for salvation.  This is why, people over the ages have denied that Jesus is truly God.  If Jesus is truly God, then men must acknowledge that they are sinful and that they need the salvation of Jesus.  People just say that Jesus was a good man.  One should automatically know that this statement is false if one knows anything about Jesus or what he said.

Jesus claimed to be God, so he could not simply be a good man.  He was either lying, and was therefore a bad person, not God but believed he was, thus insane, or he was telling the truth.  This is the simple argument put forward by philosopher and apologist C.S. Lewis.

Was Jesus a liar?  Besides claiming that he was God, all of Jesus’ statements have been recognized as truth.  Furthermore, Jesus was a humble and truly good person.  Liars are not humble people, nor are they known for doing good deeds.  What did Jesus have to gain by claiming to be God?  In fact, he made a lot of enemies and was eventually crucified because of this claim.  A wise man would have recognized the consequences of such a claim.

Was Jesus crazy?  Afterall, he claimed to be divine!  Surely that is an insane statement.  However, Jesus showed himself to be wise in his discussions with the Pharisees and Saducees.  He was able to answer every one of their challenges.  Jesus also performed astounding miracles, miracles that would have to come from God when put with such truthful teaching.  Therefore, it does not make sense that Jesus was a lunatic.

In conclusion, one can see that Jesus fit one of three categories, he was either a liar, insane, or God.  As shown above, Jesus was neither a liar nor insane.  Therefore, Jesus must have been and still is God.

“Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” -John 8:58

Sweet Little Things

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Children truly are a blessing from the Lord, even if they can be  pains sometimes.  While I have no children of my own, I have so many “little” friends that I love.  I help in my church’s second-grade Sunday school class and every week, some kid makes my day!

Kids say the funniest things, the meanest things, and the sweetest things.  They have so much enthusiasm!  They have the biggest dreams and hopes.  They give love so easily.  I love talking with little kids, hearing what’s on their hearts and what is going on in their world.  No one has made me as happy as a child telling me that I’m beautiful.

Once, I was walking home from the pool with my cousin and he told me, “Emma, you’re my favorite cousin…if somebody saw you, he would love you.”  That made my heart melt, especially since I often struggle with insecurity.  A little girl told me something just as sweet just the other day.  She said that I was fascinating and different from other people.  I knew that she said this as a compliment, since I’ve received many a hug from her.

What I love most about little kids is their fascination with God.  Though they may not be able to comprehend the whole gospel, they understand that God is big and they are small, that they are sinners and that God is good.  They know that Jesus “died on the cross for our sins,” and love singing about how much they love Jesus.  They do not question that God exists, they do not question the fact that he loves them.  Their faith is beautiful.