Jesus may still love you, but do you love Jesus?

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“I can do whatever, I sin daily and Jesus still loves me.” Hannah Brown, the current season’s Bachelorette and self-proclaimed Christian, stated this in a preview for an upcoming episode. Luke Parker, one of the guys competing for her this season, has stated that while he is not a virgin, he is now committed to waiting until marriage for sex. And that was part of her response during what is being perceived as judgmental comments from Luke regarding her sexual decisions.

I knew early on there would be attempts to desensitize people to sex outside of marriage. To not only normalize it but also paint a picture of what the type of people that decides to wait until marriage for sex look like. There was Colton Underwood- the inexperienced virgin. Not that he was honoring God and his commandments regarding the marriage bed but that he waiting for love. I could go on a tangent about how those should be one in the same, but I’ll digress for now. Now we have Hannah- one who proclaims her faith often; one who has admitted she is not a virgin, which is fine. It’s what follows that I struggle with most.

There is a difference between not being perfect and blatantly sinning.

When we talk about the grace of God and His love for us, do we actually know what that means? God’s grace doesn’t demand perfection but His salvation does default to obedience. It was never designed to be a free pass to sin. It’s this nonchalant attitude- it’s this taking advantage mentality that makes me so sad. How would we feel if our spouse treated us the way we treat Jesus?

“Because I know she’ll still love me, I’ll cheat on her…”
“Because I know he’ll forgive me, I’ll flirt a little…”

Our hearts would break as we realize our spouse couldn’t really love us and feel that way, act that way. So what are we doing in our relationships with Christ?

“True love for God means obeying his commands…” 1 John 5:3

“Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him…” 1 John 2:4

“No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God.” 1 John 3:9

“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?  By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” Romans 6:1-2

How are we showing God we love Him?

I think we are quick to justify because something in us knows we are wrong. We know we messed up. But we know condemnation comes from the devil and that is what Jesus freed us from. So we fight back because we don’t want to feel condemned.

We know we aren’t perfect but the difference between Christians and non-Christians lies in our love.

As Christians, we’ve experienced the love of Christ and that love compels us to do nothing but attempt to love Christ back. Have you all noticed how easy it is to love others who consistently love us? When we don’t attempt to love Christ back, it makes me question whether or not we’ve truly experienced Christ’s love and realize what we’ve be rescued from. I’m not talking about hell right now. I’m talking about being rescued from our own selfishness and sin- our flesh. We are no match for the devil in our own strength but Christ, through the Holy Spirit, not only convicts us but helps us to overcome. That is why it is crucial we don’t throw out our convictions for the sake of ridding ourselves of condemnation.

Hannah argues that “your faith is something personal and a relationships and it’s not to judge others.” And she is right… to an extent. If you are to read the Bible in its entirety, you will see that that God judges but He also forgives, that Christians aren’t to judge but we are to hold each other accountable. On the surface, it may seem contradictory but as a whole it tells a beautiful love story.

“It’s all washed and if the Lord doesn’t judge me and it’s all forgiven, then no other man, woman… anything can judge me,” Hannah continues. Jesus does wash away our sins, but these common words surrounding being washed by Jesus’ blood comes at the critical crossover of accepting Christ’s love AND full repentance*. Unfortunately, the repentance part is often left out, thus resulting in the majority of American culture claiming to be Christian with no evidence thereof.

*The Hebrew the term (chazar b’t’shuvah) refers to turning back to God (and away from sin). You move. You change directions. You don’t continue your same patterns, same decisions. There is distinct action that follows a true repentant heart. It involves both a change of mind and a turning from sin.

The beauty of Christianity is the extent of the unfathomable love the Creator of the universe has for His children. But that love was never meant to be abused or taken advantage of. It’s impossible to say we believe and not change; it’s impossible to accept His love and not act. When we truly experience the love He has for us, we can’t help but love Him back. Jesus’ love would result in a one-sided relationship otherwise; without our love for Him, the love story never comes to fruition, resulting in eternal separation from the love that was once so easily accessible.

“For this is how much God loved the world- He gave His one and only, unique Son as a gift. So now everyone who believes in Him will never perish but experience everlasting life.” –John 3:16 TPT

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*** 1 John is an excellent book of the Bible to study this concept more in depth. Here are a few of the passages I referenced with more context:

“Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Messiah is God’s spiritual child and has been fathered by God himself. And everyone who loves Father God loves his children as well. This is how we can be sure that we love the children of God: by having a passionate love for God and by obedience to his commands. True love for God means obeying his commands, and his commands don’t weigh us down as heavy burdens…” -1 John 5:1-3 TPT

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.” 1 John 2: 2-6 ESV

“You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God. 10 By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.” 1 John 3:5-10 ESV

 

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Why I’ve never been a fan of “The Five Love Languages”

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I’ve sat on the post for years now. Trying to figure out what it is exactly I don’t like about this book, what bothered me so much about the concept behind this idea. And if I could sum up my thoughts into one sentence it would be this:

I think it’s a cheat book that doesn’t actually allow you to experience the full intimacy of real love.

Now that’s a pretty bold statement for a book with the tagline “The secret to love that lasts.” I didn’t come to this conclusion lightly. I wanted to like the book, especially as a relationship blogger, especially as a Christian. I kept reading and reading and couldn’t help but feel something was missing, something was just off.

You can’t work your way to love. Actions are the result of love, not the other way around. Sure, you can choose to do nice things for someone but we can’t assume the root is always love.

Actions are a choice. Love is not.

As I read the book, I started to notice a common theme of doing all things mentioned with whoever I was dating at the time. I was excited to. I looked for opportunities to do each one.

Words of affirmation.
Gifts.
Physical touch.
Quality time.
Acts of service.

I did these because I love. I watch and observe. I notice little things. And I started to pick up on what he liked best. I think that’s what made it more special, honestly. Not that he had to tell me but that I cared to notice. You see, love and hurry don’t mix. Yet, this is what we’ve become accustomed to knowing, to doing.

When the Bible speaks of love, patient is the first attribute mentioned.

However, we live in a world of hurry. Efficiency. How can we get there quicker, faster, sooner.

We hurry with God.
We hurry with our spouse.
We hurry in our relationships.

The result is lost intimacy and counterfeit love.

I don’t want a cheat book. I want to figure it out on my own. I want to figure you out on my own. Isn’t that part of the fun?! I want someone to intentionally get to know me because they love me and want to know everything about me.

Not she told me she likes gifts so I will give her gifts. Or I will make time for him because that’s his love language. It’s not the gifts we are after, the time, the acts, the touch, the words… No, it’s the heart. A heart that’s full of love. That manifests itself through these common avenues. We chase these areas because they give us some glimmer of hope, perhaps a spark of love that satisfies us for a moment. But true love, real love is so much more, something so much deeper.

When real love hits, it’s not as complicated as we make it out to be. We won’t be chasing bandaid approaches that have a way of masking what is otherwise a loveless relationship, hanging by a thread. No, when you find love from the Creator of love, you won’t be able to help but love. Something changes. Your default changes. And all these tools and assessments will simply fall short when compared it.

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Is singleness really a gift?

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I used to view singleness as a season, rather than a gift. When you view it as a season, you see it as a period of time to get through, perhaps enjoy, but a season that will definitely end nonetheless. We focus on the duration of the season, leading us to never realize what the gift of singleness actually means, what it really offers.

We get caught up on the superficial benefits of singleness that we unintentionally miss the spiritual growth awaiting us. We interchange singleness and independence quite often. For me, it’s been a time to focus on education, career, and being free and flexible to go wherever God calls, with little concern for another human being. But when married, you have to now consider your spouse, and once you have kids, them as well. Is this perhaps what Paul was referring to when he stated it is better to remain single in 1 Corinthians 7?

Can I say yes and no- what about maybe partially? It’s been hard for me to reconcile that would be all he meant- that you can’t do what you want fully because you have others to think about now. Because I’d argue with the right spouse, it would perhaps be easier to pursue your calling than it would if you were single. I have to believe it has more to do with our spiritual state and our relationship with God and less to do with our calling and what we are to accomplish here on Earth. I think he was referencing a level higher than we are accustomed to viewing.

As we focus on God, not just because we are supposed to but because we want to, things begin to change. This process has evolved for me. It’s like when you build a relationship with anyone; you enjoy getting to know that person and spending time with them- the more you learn, the more you know, the more in love you fall. I think I’ve just recently begun a process of experiencing God in a new light.

Not that my relationship with God in the past was bad, it just wasn’t as deep.

And when it’s not as deep, I think it’s easier for world to compete- for us to slide in and out of the world, for our priorities to become tangled, for our vision to become blurred. These were the times I struggled most with my singleness- the more my early 20’s grew into my late 20’s. The times I just knew marriage was in my cards because why would God keep anything good from me if He loved me? Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart, right?

My relationship with God very real at this time but perhaps more immature than I’d like to admit.

It’s hard to know what you don’t know at this time, but I’ve always pressed forward knowing God has a plan and that He loves me. I’ve never doubted that. And I think that’s what’s helped me to remain faithful.

Choosing to live more by what I know to be true and less by what I understand at the time.

But I’m just now realizing what a gift singleness has been for me personally. I’m at a different point in my life right now- a new point- where things are just different. My desires have shifted drastically- marriage and family desires perhaps still there in the background but an overwhelming desire to experience God deeper- trumping everything else in my life.

I crave it.
Crave Him.
Talking to Him.
Seeing what He does throughout the day.
Watching what He does through me.
What He allows me to do.
How He allows me to experience Him.

My love for Him has been what’s fueled my desire to “do” for Him, that I’ve only recently began grasp how much more He desires simply to “be” with ME!

He yearns for me. Longs for me. Where I’ve known He loves me, this is so much more. It fills me in ways I can’t begin to describe. There are no words. I honestly don’t know if I would have been able to experience the spiritual growth I have been lately without this time. How would I know I love Him more than everything I thought I always wanted if He had already given it all to me? He’s changed my desires and longings away from the things the world offers and more for eternal things- more for Him.

It’s not that singleness is a gift for us to be selfish and do what we want; it’s that singleness is uninterrupted time in our lives to spend with our Savior. To spend time with Him. Grow in Him. And fall more in love with Him. And for me, I don’t really know what could be a better gift than that.

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Release: My 2019 Word for the Year

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Consistency: Faith & Family- My 2019 Commitments. That was the original title of this blog post when I started writing it in the middle of December. I was so excited I had discovered my word early and happy with how crisp and clear my goal list was becoming.

And then something happened.

The last few days in December were spent going to church. Actually multiple churches. More than usual. I was on vacation and I found myself visiting churches I’ve never been to and spent some time just enjoying God and His presence. Sometimes I get so busy. Sometimes my checklist rules me rather than me ruling the list.

Rather than me enjoying my list.
Rather than me enjoying God.

I am such a control freak. I feel like I can fix anything. And I try. I’m a huge fan of “You do your best and God will do the rest.” The problem is, more often than not, my actions show “You do your best and God will allow you to do the rest.” As if I am in charge of it. Fixing it. Solving it. I do my best and it’s done. It’s hard for me to do my best and wait. Extremely hard. But I think that is where God is teaching me, leading me lately. To understand, more fully, that I don’t have to do it all. In fact, God doesn’t want me to feel I have to either. He wants to do it. He wants me to watch and see.

Release.

I never use this word in my vocabulary. I had to make sure I even remembered how to spell it correctly. But it became so crystal clear. Stop focusing on doing. Focus on stopping.

Release.
Give it to God.
Relax.
Stop.
Let go.
Be open.
Simply enjoy His presence.
Release.

It was like a ton of bricks had already been lifted. It’s not that my passions are wrong. It’s that my methods on how to get there just needed some tweaking. I needed to remember my place. My position. My role.

I’m not someone fighting on my own. I am the daughter of the King. I have Someone that goes before me, Someone that clears the path and fights on my behalf.

I wanted to be more consistent in my quiet time. My commitments. Spend more time with God. Less time in the world. But I’ve realized many of my goals, my previous words for the year, are all by-products of letting go and letting God lead. My job is rather simple. As I spend time with Him, He directs my path, my actions, my words, my time. And that’s all I really want in life.

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To the Christian having sex outside of marriage

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I was watching an episode of the Bachelorette last week. Becca, the Bachelorette, has a very prominent cross tattooed on her hand. She’s mentioned her faith before so I think it’s safe to assume she calls herself a Christian. And this happened to be the episode Colton decided to let Becca know he was still a virgin. I was excited to see her reaction to seeing someone who (may) takes the principles of God seriously. That has convictions he can commit to, standards he’s set for himself.

As Christians, we know one of God’s teachings is saving sex for your spouse. There are numerous scriptures on this subject. Lots of benefits to this as you can see from several of my other posts. But the fact remains, regardless if we know these benefits or not, do we trust God and His Word?

With this mindset, I would assume that anyone claiming to follow Christ would strive for this. It would be widely accepted and expected in the Christian community. Not something taboo or avoided. And most certainly, not something frowned upon.

Becca’s reaction was quite different from what I was expecting. She needed a moment to wrap her mind around Colton’s virginity and referred to Colton as one who isn’t as experienced. A “Christian” being disappointed in someone saving himself or herself for the right person, as if the lack of experience was a bad thing. We can say it’s TV but unfortunately, I see it all around me. I was shocked but not at the same time.

Do people, especially Christians, correlate abstinence with inexperience rather than commitment? Do people really view sexual experience as more attractive- desiring physical satisfaction over emotional commitment? I just can’t believe that is true. Not long term. Not when we get vulnerable and completely honest with ourselves. Not when doubts, insecurities, and comparisons start rising up as we struggle to push them back down.

Christians having sex outside of marriage has become almost expected. I saw it consistently when I was doing online dating- the “christian” box checked, along with the “as long as marriage is imminent, sex is okay,” “in the context of a loving relationship, sex is okay,” or “I accept sex as a natural part of dating” answer given. And it’s something we don’t talk about. It’s something we avoid. We can go down the whole rabbit trail of everyone sins or no one is perfect, but this is a continuous choice with no heart of conviction or repentance seen. It’s simply not logical to group this sin with others. This is a consistent, ongoing sin, justified or ignored in the Christian community.

We now have statements like “I didn’t know you were that type of Christian” or “the Bible is outdated” and “God cares more about your heart” or “I believe in God but I’m not that religious” in an attempt to justify decisions we want to make, as to almost try and take advantage of our loving Father. Funny how we sometimes can talk about how much God loves us but forget to show God how much we love Him…

It’s like we want a convenient god. One there when we want him for his perceived benefits, without having to follow his way. One we can push to the side, as we slip into bed. A god we can mold into our own image. So we cover ourselves in feel good paraphernalia:

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Cross symbol
Fish symbol
Faith
Hope
G >∧∨

We have these cute sayings and symbols on jewelry, tattoos, cars, offices- everywhere but our hearts. Do we understand what they were designed to mean? Are we living them out in our daily lives? Do we really believe what we say we believe?

God is greater than my desires.
I will put Him before myself.
I will remember what He did for me, and choose to use my life to make Him known.
I have a faith in who He is that brings a hope for what is to come.
Faith that He knows what He is doing when He gives us rules.
Hope that His ways are far better than ours.
And that we’ll choose to trust even when it doesn’t make sense, even when it doesn’t feel good.
That He, above everything else, is truly greater than the highs and lows.

The way He loves us and relentlessly desires what’s best for us amazes me. And honestly, the more I realize His love for me, the easier it becomes to follow His ways. It’s become easier to wait for marriage because I know He wouldn’t withhold anything good from me. I just pray and hope you know that type of love. That you realize how much He cares for you and desires nothing short of the best possible plans for you to be so holy and full of so much joy.

I think, at the end of the day, it comes down to not really believing what we say we believe. Because if we truly believe in God and truly love Him as we say, wouldn’t we want to follow Him? Less to do with sexual desires, more to do with our faith levels? Because it’s not our legalistic rule following God is after, it’s our heart full of trust in Him He desires. So I pray you search your heart. I pray you have the courage to cut off whatever sin is still lingering out there and choose to trust that His way is in fact, truly so much better.

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No Guys in 2018: Sixth month update

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First off- how the heck have I made it this long?! I was a serial dater. Not a serial committer, just a serial dater. Jumping from one guy to the next. Giving guys the benefit of the doubt with no real commitment. Actually, if I’m honest, emotional commitment without the relationship label. But is that really even better?

If I could use one word to sum up how I’m currently feeling, it would be seasons. I think this word gets tossed around a lot without fully appreciating what it means. It’s like we are always hoping for the next season to come without fully embracing the season we are in.

I want to date.
I want to get a job.
I want to go off to college.
I want to be married.
I want to have a different job.
I want to have a kid.
I want to have more kids.
I want the kids to leave.
I want to have grandkids.
I want to retire.

Never fully satisfied and constantly searching for more. Aside from a few relationships, I’ve been single my whole life. But I think this is the first time I’ve been able to fully enjoy the season of singleness. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve loved my single years in the past. But I fear I wasn’t experiencing the freedom I thought I had at the time. A relationship wasn’t consuming my life but guys still were. I have never, in all my years, fully realized how much of my time and emotional energy had been spent on guys. Guys feeding my ego, guys as potentials, going on dates just for the fun of it (which I’ve come to believe isn’t a real thing).

But this year feels so much freer. Like really free. What other word can I use to describe it? A control freak who has given up control. A planner open to new possibilities. A deeper trust allowing me to live my best life right now. And most importantly, a life so crazy and full of impossible moments, that only God can get the credit.

I’m surprised by how much I’ve done so far this year. But most importantly, I’m surprised by how much I’ve grown. It’s been a time for me to reset. To really prioritize and be intentional with my time. To push my limits. To say yes to scary moments. To figure out what I want most and what I don’t. To hear God, free of distractions. Knowing that whatever God has planned for me is far better than whatever I could ever hope or imagine. I know because it’s already happening.

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What are your demons?

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Whatever it is that tempts us, whatever it is we struggle with, it’s there for a reason. What pulls at you the most? What is it that puts you in conflict- that has you questioning God?

It’s easy to say you’re good, if you never have the opportunity to be bad- to choose what’s right over what you want, over how you feel. No, good is choosing what is right no matter the perceived cost. The problem is most of us make our decisions based on our vested interest and selfishness is easy to hide. So how can we judge?

While our demons may not be the same, we all experience them in some form or fashion. How we deal with them, how we choose to handle them is what sets us apart. I went through the bulk of my temptations in junior high and high school. It was a war. A war many people, unfortunately, choose not to fight. They surrender. They give in. And most of the time, people on the outside never know the difference- never know the choice you made. Yet, we remember distinctly if we’re willing to face it.

There are times we pray for the temptation to go away rather than for the strength to overcome. And when the temptations linger, we question God, we question ourselves. But I think there’s a reason God doesn’t allow those temptations to go away so easily. If they go away, nothing changes within. The temptation may be gone but we are still left weak. In bondage. But what if instead we chose to take action. Fight. Sometimes God wants to show us we aren’t as weak as we think we are. Not when we have Him. That we are capable of choosing what is right even when it is the hardest. Isn’t that when our true character shows?

This is what I love about my no guys in 2018 challenge. I remember hearing a sermon years ago about a girl who gave up dating for 6 months. I was shocked. I literally said, “ I would never do that. That’s stupid. What happens if you meet your husband during that period?!” I don’t think I was spiritually mature enough at that point to understand the pureness of a heart like that.

For so many years I thought a guy could fill holes in me that God couldn’t. I wanted God AND a husband. I thought I knew myself. I thought I knew what would make me happy. God has slowly but surely been teaching me a new type of peace. I want God and that’s all. Not because I don’t want a husband, rather I want what God has for me more.

I feel what I always knew.

God wanted me to choose Him. Not when it was easy, not when it was comfortable. But when it was hard. Even when my feelings pulled me in a different direction, He wanted to know if I thought He was worth it. If I truly trusted Him as much as I had claimed.

I think I needed to know too.

How easy it is to trust Him when things are going well. How hard it is when things are not. We face these tests everyday. Tests that reveal to us who we really are.

So who are you?

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photo credit: emiel bleidd Defeating Demons via photopin (license)