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

 

Which finger should I wear my purity ring on?

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So I didn’t know this was a thing actually. I thought everyone wore their purity ring on their wedding finger. I think most do. But two things I’ve noticed as I’ve gotten older: some people do actually wear it on a different finger… and more and more people tell me I should wear it on ANY finger but my wedding finger. What?!

I do understand where they are coming from though. I think they genuinely care about me finding someone and believe it is deterring guys from me. Btw, I just looked at synonyms for the word deterring and got discouraging, daunting, dissuading, preventing, and frightening. Oops! I guess those could be fair assessments at times. Yet, I can’t fathom placing my ring on a different finger. It’s almost as if I’d rather be single the rest of my life than to let go of what my ring, on that finger, symbolizes to me. It’s not just a purity ring to say to my future husband “I waited for you.” It’s my commitment to God and a symbol of my love for Him and trust in Him. I feel if I were to take it off or move it to a different finger, a part of that love and trust would be going away with it.

But what if the right guy won’t approach me because he thinks I’m married? Maybe I’m stubborn. Maybe my expectations are too high. But my ring is a band of Christian fish. Maybe it’s a pipe dream but I want a guy that is able to recognize a purity ring when he sees one. Someone who would understand me and my values. Respect me and love that about me even more.

At the end of the day, I’m not sure God cares which finger you wear your ring on or if you wear one at all. But what He does care about is your heart. And my heart is after Him, first and foremost. So I’ll keep mine on my wedding finger. It’ll continue to be a conversation starter. And maybe, just maybe, that conversation will be the one I’ve waited for all along.

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photo credit: MTSOfan The Ring, Please via photopin (license)

You don’t want their life

I hate it when we fight. Jonathan just turns away and pretends I don't exist.

So stop. Whoever’s life you keep looking at, stop looking. I promise you don’t really want their life. I’d like to blame social media, but we’ve had these issues long before social media existed. Look at their house, they have a maid, do they cook better, does their husband have a more successful job… I could go on and on. We question and wonder, why does it seem like the evil prospers while I keep struggling? What am I doing wrong?The problem is we think we know someone else’s life when we really don’t.

I remember going out with this guy a couple times. They were fine dates but nothing special. He ended up going back to his ex. And it looks like they have the perfect relationship. Perfect marriage. Both have successful careers and they are always posting pictures of their exciting memories. But few people know he broke it off and dated other girls. Even fewer people know he’d drink a little too much at times and complain about how he is not happy in his relationship and doesn’t really love her. These are the things we don’t see…

Another couple I know. Gorgeous photo shoots all the time. Lots of money. New adventures almost every month. Posting pictures of how in love they are. But there’s one thing few people know. She desperately wants to have kids. He doesn’t. She thought he’d’ come around but he hasn’t. It’s been several years. He’s getting older and isn’t changing his mind. You would never guess looking at them. She cries herself to sleep every night…

There’s another couple I know. The guy seems to adore her, worship the ground she walks on. Buys her whatever she wants. And I start to wonder if I could have a man shower me with perfect gifts. But there are strings attached. He has anger issues. There are certain people he’d rather her not be around. There are certain things she can and cannot do. As long as she follows his lead, his commands, they are great. But if she doesn’t…

These are just three situations I happen to know. What about the people I don’t know on that deep of a level? We don’t always get to see their full story. We don’t get to see the bad stuff. It’s too vulnerable. And we want to believe our lives are better than they really are sometimes. We imagine others have this perfect life in our head and then began to compare our imperfect lives to it. We try to make our lives appear better on the outside while an internal struggle begins on the inside. This is how we see the world today. So many lies that lead into even more lives.

Maybe we can’t force others to be honest but we choose to be honest with ourselves. We may never know their life. But you know who does? God. And He knows our lives too and just what we need, just what we want. Amazing things happen when we start to look away from the façade we see from others and begin to look above to the One who gave us life to begin with.

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photo credit: Ed Yourdon I hate it when we fight. Jonathan just turns away and pretends I don’t exist. via photopin (license)

Why I stayed with an abusive man part 2    

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For the last two weeks I’ve blogged about abuse (Why I stayed with an abusive man- part 1 & 8 reasons people stay in abusive relationships). It’s something we don’t talk about often. Maybe we are ashamed. Maybe our definition of love has become so distorted we afraid to face reality. Afraid to admit we’ve been living in a fantasy world we created to help cope with the pain. Society and Hollywood only helps with confusing us more as we attempt to figure out what love is.

We can go back to Shakespeare. Hamlet drove Ophelia to suicide and yet, at her funeral, states that 40,000 brothers could not make up the sum of how much he loved her. Othello kills his wife in a jealous rage and tells us he loved not wisely, but too well. What does this teach us today? That love and violence goes hand in hand?

Abuse can mask itself in many different ways. Here’s 7:

Guilt

Promise you’ll never leave me.

You need to adjust your behavior and make promises to cater to his upbringing, to his baggage. So your desire to initially stay with him slowly changes to staying with him out of pure guilt. You don’t want to hurt him so the only option is to stay with him.

Control

Him: Hey, you’re not going to wear that shirt out tonight are you?
Me: Why not?
Him: Because it’s way too tight. Guys were looking at your earlier…

He’ll start to make you feel uncomfortable about your decisions. Get you to start depending on him as to what decisions you should make.

Obsession

He calls every hour and expects you to answer. Do you have a life outside of him? Sometimes this behavior is masked as love, devotion, the fact that you are soul mates… He can’t stand the thought of you having fun without him.

Don’t forget to leave your phone on…

And you make sure you don’t because he will freak out on you if you don’t.

Him: Hey, I’ve been texting you. Why haven’t you answered.
Me: In class.
Him: Well leave it on silent.
Me: I don’t want the teacher to see us talking.
Him: If you love me, prove it- leave your phone on.

Disrespect

He has no respect for rules in general. Then it becomes no respect for the rules you are supposed to follow. And then no respect for you…

My dad was right. You girls get together and you talk trash about guys and tear them down. My ex was a terrible person, always trying to accuse me of stuff and make me feel bad. I thought you were different. If you don’t trust me what’s the point?

You’ll soon see this disrespect toward you is actually hate. But sometimes that’s a hard pill to swallow. It requires us to admit we were completely wrong. Not only does it make us doubt our judgment, it makes us wonder if we can trust our decisions ever again.

Self-pity

You begin to cover up for him. After he hurts you, he attempts to paint himself as the good guy, the one that should be pitied.

Him: I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.
Me: Stopppp.
Him: I can’t help it, I’m scum, I don’t even deserve to breathe. I didn’t know it was coming. When you started saying that crap about me, wondering if I was telling the truth. I never thought I could hurt you. I still can’t believe I hit you. At least I know now all that messed up stuff that is inside of me because of my dad- I can watch out for that. You could have told your parents but you didn’t.
Me: I don’t understand how everything could have been so perfect…
Him: I had one bad minute, actually 2 bad seconds. It’s not like it was for no reason- you were acting all suspicious of me- you were talking about me behind my back. It hurt me so bad that you didn’t trust me. The way that I love you I’m wide open. I mean you have the power to kill me. It’s worth it for me I mean even if I get hurt sometimes. I mean don’t you feel the same way?
Me: I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I should have thought about what I was saying. I didn’t mean to make you think that I didn’t trust you. Sorry. Sorry.
Him: It’s okay- I’m not mad at you. I could never stay mad at you.

Crazy how the tables turn so quickly…

Manipulation

You begin to piece together the pieces. Maybe you have enough strength after all to leave.

Him: Why haven’t you answered? Can you sneak out? If you really want to be with me you’ll find a way.
Me: I have a lot of homework.
Him: And that’s more important than me. I’m calling you right now where’s your phone. I asked you a question.
Me: I’m breaking up with you.
Him: Are your parents listening?
Me: No. I’m serious. It’s over I’m breaking up with you.
Him: But you love me.
Me: I know but I’m still breaking up with you.
Him: Why?
Me: Because I don’t want to be scared anymore.
Him: Why are you scared? I haven’t hit you again.
Me: You call me constantly. You try to control where I go…
Him: Where is this coming from.
Me: It doesn’t matter.
Him: Well then I’m going to kill myself. I can’t live without you.

Hate

And then you cycle back to guilt. You start doubting. You start remembering the good times. And part of you wants to go back. Not because you miss him but part of losing him also consists of losing some of yourself since you’ve bound yourself so tightly to him. And sometimes we go back. We dug ourselves in a hole and we feel that we can’t get out. Do we really deserve something better? At least we know what his faults are… But sometimes, if we’re lucky, we may get a text so shocking that it wakes us from our trance.

You are a liar. You just want to be with some other guy. You don’t deserve to live.

This isn’t love. You don’t control, hit, kill people you love.

We aren’t stupid for falling for these guys but I think sometimes we have to be honest enough and ask ourselves- am I sure this is how I want to be treated for the rest of my life?

(Points are taken from the movie Reviving Ophelia, showcasing the subtle, calculated takeover of sweet innocence.)

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photo credit: Mitya Ku 167 via photopin (license)

After 15 years of mediocre Valentines, I now have the perfect one

I don’t know what it is but I could never master one of my favorite holidays. Oh, how I desired love so badly. Maybe this year would be my year as I recalled all of the fights, the pain, and the loveless dates year after year. Hanging onto broken relationships. Going out with complete strangers. Would I ever experience true love?

Last night I went out with my boyfriend to celebrate our first Valentines together. The first time I ever felt truly at peace, truly at home. If you would have asked me last year that I could feel this way, I would have probably rolled my eyes and said you’re crazy. But I hope to give you hope. That maybe you can look at my life and see. See that it’s not always easy, not always perfect. But God is paving a way for something so much better than your wildest dreams. Looking back, I am so glad I didn’t settle something less, for something no where near what I have today.

Age 17: I baby-sat my niece. Try to contain your jealousy.

Age 18: A guy I just wanted to be friends with was ruining things with a new guy I started hanging out with.

 Age 19: So I ended up dating the new guy I started hanging out with. He was my first official boyfriend. It started as just wanting to hang out and quickly progressed, as he was 8 years older. We were in another fight. But somehow I let the flowers and candy left on my doorstep, with sidewalk-chalked hearts drawn all over my driveway and sidewalk, get to me. It’s funny how we equate these gestures to love. And then watch how that feeling of love seems to somehow makes things okay temporarily. If only it actually lasted permanently.

Age 20: A guy I had been flirting with wrote back to me “I have a girlfriend, by the way.”

Age 21: An excerpt from my journal- “There is nobody I like right now. I wonder if I’ll ever be able to find someone that can love as much as I do.”

Age 22: After an awkward friendship/love triangle, I ended up going out with a guy I thought I liked. When we actually tried to date, it didn’t work. Besides, he actually hated Valentine’s Day. So while the idea was nice, I couldn’t really enjoy the reality as much.

Age 23: A new guy ends up coming into the picture. This ends up being the most serious relationship to date. Unfortunately, also a very volatile one. We actually end up going to dinner the day after Valentine’s Day because we were fighting. This marks the beginning of the end.

Age 24: An excerpt from my journal- “Things are going okay (with the same guy I was dating).” At least they were at this point. We would soon break up.

Age 25: Same guy wants to see me later. But I’ve already moved on. I can’t go back to that.

Age 26: I had a secret admirer this year- a huge card, flowers, and candy left outside my house. To this day, I still have no clue who it was.

Age 27: I had been going back and forth with one of the worst manipulators I’ve seen. At this point he wanted to know if we’d be just friends or friends with the potential for more. Life does not have to be this complicated. This was the worst emotional roller coaster I had been on.

Age 28: An excerpt from my journal- “All I did was watch chick flicks and get fat lol.”

Age 29: I went on a first date with a guy. Yes, you read correctly- first date. First time ever really talking and first time meeting in person. We had a bunch of mutual friends in common and thought why not?! We had a nice time. But we both knew nothing would come of it. We’ve never communicated since that night.

Age 30: An excerpt from the journal- “I have no desire to be with someone I really don’t want to be with. #mature”

Age 31: And here I am. Celebrating this special day with the one my soul loves. Maybe I had finally gotten it all out my system. Maybe I finally reached the point where I was fully and completely content with the life God had given me. Done searching for love and choosing to trust God more. Instead of trying to force love with the wrong guys, freeing my time to allow God to bring the right one in. All I can say is wait. Don’t settle. I look back and see all the times I almost did, wanting to make it work because I didn’t know any better. But someone will come along. And they will make you realize exactly why it never felt right with anyone else.

Happy Valentine’s Day! May you feel God’s love more than ever!<3

jamessarahvday

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Modest is [NOT] hottest

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We grow up in church hearing modest is hottest in an attempt to encourage young girls to cover up in a world that screams “take it off.” Should this really be our aim? Our goal should not be to be called “hot.” Google the word. Sexually excited or receptive. Sexual attraction. Attractiveness on the basis of sexual desire. These are the definitions that come up. Are these the thoughts, the actions, the behaviors you hope your body, your life, your pictures bring out in others?

In this generation, the hottest, most popular girls are the ones who are, most likely, showing more than enough skin. Society glorifies this behavior instead of correcting it. And then we wonder why girls think beauty is defined by the way their body looks & how guys react to it.

Scroll through your newsfeed and you will find an abundance of girls posting immodest pictures. Skin. Seductive looks. These are beautiful girls. But you know what they are doing. They are seeking attention and I think we are all guilty of this to some degree. “Look at me.” “Validate me.” “Tell me I’m worth something.” There is a difference between the cute pictures and the sexy ones. You see so many beautiful women posting sensual pictures and then you see the thousands of guys who like them. Some of whom are Christians. All you are doing is encouraging this behavior. Encouraging women to post pictures that elicit sexual desires instead of purity, goodness, and respect.

If a guy really loves you, he will love all the cute things God has wired within you. Your personality, character, and all the adorable quirks & charms that make you, you. You don’t want a guy wanting you just for your body because then he truly doesn’t see you for anything special. And that can be a hard pill to swallow. Especially after we invested so much time into using our body to attract him.

Sometimes these truths are easier said than done. You want to be the “good girl” and you want to do what’s right but you start to wonder if you are enough. You get overlooked. Passed over. And you wonder if it’s worth it and if you should compromise just a little. Where is the line? Just remember, our worth comes from who we are in Christ, not from what some man thinks of us. You are not your body and you know it. And I think you know deep down if that’s how you have to get a guy, then you don’t want him. Your future husband is worth it too. The guy you’re looking for isn’t like that. He wouldn’t encourage women to be that way. Rather, he’d love them and encourage them to love and respect themselves. When God puts the right guy in your path, he will love you for all the right reasons and in all the right ways.

So what we should be striving to be called instead? Modesty is not hot; it’s beautiful, it’s pure, it’s cute, it’s pretty. It allows others to see beyond your body and into your soul. Your beautiful soul.

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photo credit: KristinaJ. dockside midi dress modest summer dress via kristina j blog via photopin (license)

The movie “Me Before You” certainly lives up to its name

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I had wanted to see this movie ever since it came out in theaters. Though confused by the name, I thought it to be another romantic love story. Perhaps another cheesy chick flick. But wouldn’t “You Before Me” be more appropriate? Unfortunately not with this film, as the underlying tones promote selfishness masked in a smoke screen of selflessness.

Clarke is a young girl looking to help her family make ends meet. By society’s standards, I’d say she already had a somewhat normal boyfriend, Patrick. But then Will came into the picture. Will was the total package having money, fame, success, and good looks. His life drastically changed when he became paralyzed from a car accident two years prior though. His girlfriend, his best friends fizzled out. Clarke meets Will when she gets a job being his caretaker and through time, a deep love begins to form.

They bring a new level of excitement to each other’s lives. A deeper love they didn’t think was possible. So many are alive but never really live. Clarke quickly became the reason Will woke up every morning. Though he couldn’t do the things he once did, he was feeling the things he’s never felt before. However, he couldn’t get over the fact that he couldn’t be who he wanted to be anymore, who he once was. His value came not in his capacity to love but in his ability to perform. And it was this thinking that led him to believe he couldn’t give all he felt Clarke deserved. But if he only would have known what she needed all along… What she really desired… What made her really feel alive… Will chose suicide. Some may only dream of experiencing the type of love Will and Clarke had and yet, Will threw it away. Will didn’t see how Clarke felt; he saw a life he didn’t want to live. He didn’t just rob himself of love. He also took it away from Clarke.

What is love? Will says he wants Clarke to go live her life, now with money and the freedom to chase after her dreams. But what he fails to see, what he fails to mention is that a life without love is no life at all. What makes us alive, what makes this life worth living is one full of love, which is the only thing that can lead to true happiness, to true joy. You see, Clarke may go through life without a care in the world in terms of money and freedom. She may chase her dreams. But her life will never feel more alive than when she loved and felt love from Will. Love understands how rare that loves comes around. Love understands that’s all this life is really about. Love says “you before me.”

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