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.

It’s Not About Who You Are

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After reading part of Max Lucado’s No Wonder They Call Him the Savior, I was bothered by this phrase which I hear so often in the world around me, “God loves you for who you are.”  While I understand why people say this, I disagree with the wording of this phrase.  If God truly loved us for who we are, He wouldn’t love us at all, since we betrayed and rebelled against Him.  Furthermore, if God loved us for who we are, then sin would be no big deal.  By saying that God loves someone for who that person is, one is saying that God’s love is conditional.  All three of these things are false, therefore, God does not love us for who we are.

God created man in His image, and He created man perfectly.  God loves His creation, and man is included in that love.  God loves man because He created man.  At that point in time, man, Adam and Eve, had a perfect, whole relationship with God.  Nothing came between the first two people and God, they completely loved, trusted, and shared with one another.

Sadly, this perfect world ended with the entrance of sin.  When God created man, He gave man the ability to choose to love Him.  Adam and Eve chose to sin.  Sin is rebellion against God.  God hates sin because it is everything that He is not, evil, twisted, and deadly.  When Adam and Eve sinned, they were no longer able to experience God’s perfect love.  God had to force Adam and Eve out of the garden, because a holy and perfect God cannot be near sin.

Every human being since Adam and Eve has sinned, we are all sinners.  People are defined by their actions.  All one has to do to look into another man’s heart is to observe his actions.  Thus, anyone who sins can be defined as a sinner.  Because God is holy and we are sinners, He could have and should have destroyed us.  However, God is a loving, and merciful God.

God did not want the story of the world to end with the destruction of man, so He provided a way of restoration in the sacrifice of Christ.  Romans 5:8 says, “but God shows his love for us in that we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  God loves us, not for who we are, but because of who He is.  He is love, as 1 John 4:8 points out, “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.”  God loves man unconditionally because it is a part of His very nature.

Finally, if God loved us for who we are, i.e. what we do, then there would be no reason for anyone to repent of his sin.  God, because he is holy, hates sin.  God judges sin, because sin is fundamentally evil.  Over and over in history, individuals and nations have fallen because of their sin.  Sin is a problem.  Thankfully, God has provided us a way to turn from our sin and back to Him.

In conclusion, we should praise God that He does not love us for who we are, that He does not treat us as we deserve.  Thus, I think that we should amend, “God loves you for who you are,” to a much more beautiful statement, “God loves you because of who He is.”

My Daddy

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I wish I had more time to cram all the things in here that I want to, but I only have so much space, time, and continuous thought.

Sixteen years ago, my dad became a father for the first time, I was his baby.  Since, then, my dad has done his best to love me, provide for me, protect me, and be the best dad ever.  With God’s help, he has done an amazing job.

My dad is gentle and kind, he is caring and thoughtful, he is strong yet sensitive, and when he messes up, he apologizes.  He is the spiritual head of our home, and leads us well.  I am very close to my daddy, and still love to give him tackle-hugs and sit on his lap.

I trust my dad, and I know that he wants what is best for me and my siblings.  He has this whole amazing dating plan.  Good luck to the young men who want to date and marry me or my sisters, you have to pass my dad’s inspection first.

To the man who teaches me how to love God, shows me what a godly man looks like, taught me how to throw a football and play baseball, who compliments me on my cooking, and who insists that I look too grown up,  I love you!

Thanks for all the fun, the love, the hugs, the discipline, and the encouragement.  Thanks for being my father and choosing to be a great daddy!

Love,

Emma

A Letter to My Friends

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To my good friends,  best friends, and everyone who makes me laugh.

Good friends are the people you can get irritated at and tease and still love.  Good friends are the people you can laugh with at nothing.  You may talk about nothing special, or talk about really deep things.  You just enjoy being around each other.

You can be totally mad at your good friends…until they make you laugh.  You cry with some of them (some of them are too tough) you hug some of them (others find that too weird), but you love all of them.  You would not trade them for anyone else.

All my good friends, we have one thing in common.  We all love Jesus.  He, as well as our friendship, is what binds us together.  He is the glue that holds our broken puzzle pieces together.

This is not the best post I’ve written, nor the most eloquent, but it’s from the heart.  My good friends, you are the ones who encourage me when I’m feeling down, humble me when I’m just too proud, and hang around me even when I’m annoying.  Thank you, I cannot imagine life without you.

My Definition of Love

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Before reading this post, I’d encourage you to watch this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wPtOm9UXfnU

Dictionary.com defines love as “a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person.”  This is the emotional side of love, what we typically think of.  My definition of love is giving up your life for someone else.

My definition of love, in its truest sense, is a person.  A perfect person, who watched the people whom he had created destroy themselves.  He wanted to save them, so he became human.  He became human though he was God.  He suffered all kinds of affliction.  Though he never committed any sin, he was condemned to die.  Condemned to die on a cross.  There, on the cross, Jesus faced the worse torture a man has ever known.  He felt pain, rejection, and the weight of the guilt of every person ever born.  Crying, “It is finished,” he died.

The love story does not end there.  After lying in the grave, dead, seemingly defeated, for three days, Jesus did something amazing.  By the power of God, Jesus came back to life.  He came fully alive.  In fact, he was more alive than he had been before he died.  He conquered the grave for us!  That is amazing love.

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him, should not perish, but have everlasting life.

Frozen

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After a long Christmas break, I have decided to finally write a new blog post!

Over break, my family went to see the new Disney movie, Frozen.  While it would not make my list of top three Disney movies, I really enjoyed it.  With the fantastic songs and cute characters, what I loved most about Frozen was its theme of unconditional love.

The two girls, Anna and Elsa, are sisters and best friends who grow up without a care in the world.  Elsa, who has inherited an ancient power, is able to create snow and ice.  The girls use this power in their play, until an accident happens and Elsa is forced to conceal her power.

In an effort to conceal Elsa’s gift, the king and queen send away most of the servants and keep Elsa in her room.  Anna is confused about why her sister is shut up in her room.  The movie shows the sadness and loneliness Anna feels growing up without her sister.  Although Anna is lonely and feels ignored by Elsa, she does not grow bitter.  Elsa, on the other hand, feels like no one will accept her, and isolates herself in her fear.  She hurts herself and the one closest to her, Anna, because of her fear.  In the end, love wins the day when Anna sacrifices herself for Anna.

Frozen clearly shows the Biblical theme of true love throughout the movie, exhibited by characters like Anna, Olaf, and Kristoff.  In one scene, Olaf explains to Anna that true love is putting someone else’s needs above yourself.

Furthermore, this movie shows the dangers of being desperate to fall in love, like Anna.  While a girl may be infatuated with a boy, or vice versa, that does not mean that they feel “true love.”  It takes more than a conversation or a romantic moment to truly fall in love.

In conclusion, I would say Frozen is a great family movie.  The songs, humor, and characters are all very good, especially the whimsical snowman, Olaf. 

1 John 3:16

“By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.”

Love Stories: Sleeping Beauty vs. The Little Mermaid

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Most little girls love princesses.  They love to be the princess, watch the princess movies, and play with princess dolls.  These little girls of someday having a love story like their favorite princess, and dream of a prince like those in the movies.

I was one of those little girls who dreamed of being a princess, though I would not consider myself a girly-girl.  Instead of playing with dolls and having tea-parties, I went on imaginary adventures in my backyard, or dressed up and pretended to be Belle or Cinderella.  As a little girl, I was influenced by Disney movies.  Now, I am surrounded by pop culture and movies, advertisements, songs, and celebrities grasping for my attention and allegiance.  They try to tell me what I should want my life to be like.

In many ways, the world wants us girls to be like Ariel, or the Little Mermaid, who rebelled to find her happiness.  She wanted more than what she had been given, though she lived in a wonderful world as the daughter of a loving king.  She gave up her voice, and ultimately her family, to find life and love.

I would rather be like the sleeping beauty, Princess Aurora.  This may sound strange, after all, she was tricked by a wicked witch into pricking her finger and falling into a deep sleep.  She wasn’t independent, and she was lucky that her prince found her.

Contrary to what many may think, there are many reasons why I would rather be like the sleeping beauty than the little mermaid.

Ariel was born a princess, with a loving family and beautiful kingdom.  She was gifted with a beautiful voice and vivacious personality, making many friends under the sea.  However, she was not content with her life.  She wanted to see what the human world was like, with all its “gadgets and gizmos a plenty.”

After rescuing the handsome Prince Eric, Ariel fell in love with him.  She did not love him because of his character but because he was human and handsome.  Because she was so in love, she went to the sea-witch, Ursula, to be transformed into a human.  The witch’s price for this transformation was Ariel’s voice, her greatest gift.  To remain human, Ariel had to make Prince Eric fall in love with her and kiss her.

Ariel is taken in by the prince as an act of charity, and they spend their days together.  Ariel has to work to attract Eric’s attention, though he is already attracted to her, and he does not realize how much he likes her until they go on a romantic boat ride.

In an attempt to keep Ariel from reaching her goal, Ursula transforms herself into a lovely, seductive woman, who has Ariel’s voice.  Immediately, Eric falls under the spell of her voice, which is the voice of the girl who saved him.  He prepares to marry this new woman, who is actually Ursula.

In the end, Ariel defeats Ursula and marries Prince Eric.  However, I would definitely want to have a love story like hers.

Ariel gave up a wonderful life where she was respected and love to try to earn the love of a prince.  Though this prince was handsome and kind, he was not very virtuous.  He fell for the pretty girl, though she did not have a good character.  Ariel nearly lost everything because of her rebellious decisions.  In contrast is the story of the sleeping beauty, Princess Aurora.

From the day she was born, Aurora was loved.  Her parents hoped and prayed for a child, and she was born.  A little while after her birth, they threw a party to celebrate her life.  People from all over the kingdom were invited.  She was given gifts of beauty, grace, and kindness by sweet fairies.  Then, she was cursed by a witch to prick her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel, and die on her sixteenth birthday.  The witch hated her family because she was jealous of their power.

In the panic of the moment, the last fairy stepped forward to change the curse so that the young princess would not die, but only fall into a sleep that would be broken by love’s first kiss.

Though the princess was protected by the fairy’s magic, her father loved her so much that he burned all the spinning wheels in the kingdom to protect her from her dreaded fate.  Then, in an ultimate sacrifice, her parents let Aurora be taken into hiding in the care of the fairies.

Only parents who truly loved their daughter would be willing to sacrifice so much to save her.  I would hope to have such a family as this, who not only would love me before my birth, but would be willing to protect me no matter the sacrifice.

Second of all, the princess was married to a man who was truly virtuous.  Aurora was betrothed from birth to Prince Philip, the son of a neighboring king.  Her parents would not have promised her to just any man.  They must have known that the king was a good man and would train his son to be a good man.  Philip’s virtue was proven when he faced the hardest of obstacles to rescue the princess.

First, Philip was kidnapped by the witch so that he could not save the princess.  Then, when the fairy’s freed him, instead of abandoning the princess because of the possible danger, he went on to save her.  He was not stopped by the hedge of thorns around the castle, nor by the witch-turned-dragon guarding the gate.  He fought courageously, and was finally able to rescue the princess.

I do hope to one day be married, though my story probably does not involve a prince.  I want my parents’ direction and approval.  I pray that I find a young man full of virtue, willing to sacrifice himself for other’s benefit.

That is why I hope to have a story more like Aurora’s than Ariel’s.  Though it will not be as glamorous as a fairy tale by any means, I am sure it will have it’s own glamor.

Life may not be perfect, but it’s worth living to glorify God.