Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Things from Kings

Reading through the Old Testament is hard.  This is my second attempt at it, and I just recently finished 2 Kings.  I would much rather read the New Testament over and over, but I would say it is probably unwise to neglect the rest of the Bible just because it isn't as interesting.  In an attempt to better understand the information that I've digested from 1 & 2 Kings over the past weeks, I'm going to share a little of what I've learned.

"You will drink from the brook, and I have directed the ravens to supply you with food there." 
- 1 Kings 17:4

In this verse, God promises to provide Elijah with food and water.  It is such a simple verse, but it came at a particularly important time for me.  You see, it's not always easy to trust God with everything.  I tend to look to other sources for provision.  Sometimes that source is my parents or my friends or something that I hope will come in the future.  No matter what that source is, it should always be secondary to God.  I'm not good at remembering that or applying it to my life, but I needed that reminder.  God was able to provide for Elijah using a raven, and God is able to provide everything we need in more spectacular ways than we can imagine.

2 Kings 6:1-7

In this passage, God (through Elijah) makes an axhead float.  In the story, a group of men are cutting down trees when the axhead fell into the water.  This seems very insignificant, but it should not be overlooked.  God cared enough at that time to make the axhead float so that they could continue what they were doing.  This shows that God notices what happens in our daily lives, and He cares.  In this case, He cared enough to make their lives easier by doing the impossible.  Not only does He care, but God is willing to work miracles in our daily circumstances.  Never be afraid to ask God for something extraordinary even if the situation seems insignificant.

2 Kings 20

In this passage, God tells Hezekiah that he is going to die.  Upon receiving this message, Hezekiah asks God to heal him and to extend his life.  God agrees and adds fifteen years to Hezekiah's life.  When I read that Hezekiah asked God to change something that had already been decided, I was surprised.  Part of me thought that it was rude.  God had decided his time was up, but Hezekiah asked for a change of plans.  I doubt I would ask God for that sort of change, but maybe God wants us to ask Him to do greater things.  I'm not saying we should challenge what God has declared.  What I am saying is that maybe I should challenge more of what life throws at me.  I tend to think that I'm meant to go through a challenge if it has been brought to my doorstep.  What if I started asking God for miracles in these circumstances? What if I challenged life a little? It would give God the opportunity to show me more of Himself, which would increase my faith.  It may even make life a little easier at times.  I know we aren't called to live easy lives, but I think God wants us to ask for His help sometimes.  This may just mean that our circumstances are less of a final verdict than I originally thought.  

Monday, August 31, 2015

Music Monday: Joy

My original intention with Music Mondays was for it to appear on a fairly regular basis.  My apologies for that not happening, but it is not going away altogether.  I never want to force content.  Instead, I prefer to wait until I have the time to share about a song that really means something to me.  That being said, the second installment is here!

"Joy" is a song that I first heard a month or two ago.  At the time, I was struggling with various things going on in my life and my mind.  As soon as the song began, I let down some of the walls that I so carefully erect in my mind to keep a semblance of order to my thoughts.  The lyrics in the song and the sincerity with which they are sung gave me peace.  Even though I felt that I was unraveling, it was important for me to acknowledge what I was facing.  I needed that song to tell me that I wasn't alone in what I was facing.  As I listened to each word, I found that each one perfectly fit the emotions that were rolling through me.    

In the past week, I've been reminded of some of those struggles.  My roommate and I have been continually repeating the phrase "Life is hard."  When I feel this way, it's difficult for me to feel God's joy in my life.  I get stuck in a place that's hard to describe and even harder to get out of.  Last Monday was the first day of classes for yet another year of my college experience.  For many, syllabus week is considered easy, but for someone with anxiety that is simply not the case.  I'm not going to lie, the first two days were difficult.  It got better from there, but those days reminded me once again of this song.

This got a little heavy, but I won't leave it at that and neither does this song.  Despite all of the hard things we go through in life, it is a comfort to know that God is right beside us.  He somehow allows us to have joy through the most difficult of circumstances.  Because of that, I will proclaim His greatness through each trial that I face.  Even when I don't feel joy, even when life is hard, it is well with my soul.

by Page CXVI

I've got the joy, joy, joy, joy
down in my heart down in my heart 
I've got the joy, joy, joy, joy 
down in my heart down in my heart 

And I'm so happy so happy so very happy 
And I'm so happy so happy so very happy 
I've got the joy, joy, joy, joy 
down in my heart down in my heart 
I've got the joy, joy, joy, joy 
down in my heart down in my heart 
And I'm so happy so happy so very happy 
And I'm so happy so happy so very happy 

And I can't understand 
and I can't pretend 
that this will be alright in the end 
so I'll try my best 
and lift up my chest 
to sing about this... joy, joy joy! 

When peace like a river attendeth my way 
when sorrows like sea billows roll 
whatever my lot 
thou has taught me to say 
it is well, it is well, with my soul

Monday, August 17, 2015

An Abundance of Grace

Last summer was a busy one for me.  I traveled to multiple states and learned a lot through my experiences.  This summer has been more calm, so I want to take some time to reflect on what God has been teaching me these past few months.  Having all those new experiences last year was great, and God really used those to shape me.  However, He has also used the calm of this summer to teach me some valuable lessons.

Back in June, I began reading "The Search for Significance" by Robert S. McGee.  I really enjoyed this book and all that it taught me about myself and my relationship with God.  Also, I now realize that this book was perfectly placed in my life.  What I mean is that God placed it in my path at just the right time to teach me something that I might have missed at another point in my life.  When I began reading this book, I was also just starting a new job for the summer.  I was getting caught up in a lot of guilt over not doing things right at my job.  I felt that I needed to perform perfectly in order to be accepted by my coworkers.  Additionally, I felt that perfection had to be achieved in order to feel good about myself.  My mind was operating in a dangerous and unhealthy way. 

Truth began to seep into my mind and overtake the unhealthy thoughts as I read what McGee had to say.  He mentions multiple times in the book that we are fully pleasing to God.  This concept was a difficult one for me to grasp.  How can sinners be "fully pleasing"?  I wanted to fight back and tell God all of the reasons that I am not fully pleasing.  However, as I began my argument, I felt God pushing back.  I heard Him telling me to stop fighting the truth.  I am, we are, fully pleasing to Him because we have been made righteous by accepting Jesus.

When God began to fight back, I began to listen.  I realized that my view of myself is not always correct.  Just because it's my opinion does not make it right.  This began a new way of thinking about myself.  I had to start resisting my own unhealthy thoughts and accepting the healing words of God.  Even when I messed up at work, I had to tell myself that everything was okay.

God's grace (unmerited favor) is so much bigger than my imperfections.  It covers the large and the small mistakes.  It covers the intentional and unintentional sins.  His grace has no limit.  While I understood that before, I had trouble applying it to my life.  I struggled with giving myself grace.  To be honest, I still struggle with giving myself grace.  In the society we live in, grace isn't natural.  We are told that every action has a consequence.  In no way am I saying that we have a free pass to sin, but I am saying that love and grace need to be the basis of our approach when we find that we have sinned.  So, in response to God's abundant grace for us, go and be gracious remembering to love God, love others, and love yourself.

Confession #3: Grace isn't always easy

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Proverbs 16:24

Gracious words are a honeycomb,
sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. 

I think we can all learn from this verse.  Just last week, gay marriage was legalized in the United States.  Since then, there have been many  Christians spewing hateful words towards the gay community.  No one will ever be attracted to Christ if we call them a sinner and make them feel like they are somehow less than Christians.  They are, in fact, our equals.  I'm not just talking about homosexuals.  Everyone sins, and all sins are equal.  Sometimes it seems that certain sins come with a label, but don't allow a label to determine how you treat someone.  You don't have to agree with everyone.  However, it doesn't make sense to call yourself a follower of Christ and to be pushing people further away from God. 

Let's remember who we are to be representing.  Jesus hung out with the lowest of the low, and He loved them.  That means that we must show everyone the same respect and love.  There is nothing wrong with sticking to what the Bible says.  We just have to be careful that we don't stop loving others in our pursuit to see righteousness prevail.

I know this isn't the most uplifting thing I have ever written.  I just want the body of Christ to be aware.  Maybe this doesn't necessarily apply to you, but I've seen enough hate being spread that I had to say something about it.  Go on with your day and live life spreading gracious words.