My Christian books and devotionals kept me from growing closer to Jesus

 

 

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Sometimes I wonder what I would do without my planner and to-do lists. They keep me on track and remind me of the many responsibilities I am tasked with. For those that know me, know how important my relationship with Christ is. I’m always looking for new ways I can grow closer to Him and strengthen my relationship with Him. But I think I hit the point where I let my good intentions weaken rather than strengthen our relationship. I looked at my to-do list and felt so overwhelmed. Overwhelmed to the point where in fear of not being able to complete something fully, perfectly, I just chose not to do anything. Here is what my list looked like:

  • Finish reading the book of Isaiah
  • Finish reading The Lipstick Gospel
  • Do my Soul Script sessions
  • Finish my Lent Study from She Reads Truth
  • Finish Risen Christ Study from She Reads Truth
  • Journal
  • Listen to sermons

On top of that this was my list to start:

  • IF Gathering- Knowing Jesus
  • Write the Word
  • Wholeheartedly
  • Girl Defined
  • Redeeming Love and Hosea study

Studies on the way:

  •  IF Gathering- Redeemed

And my list to buy:

  • The Devo Company devotional
  • Rose and Thorns
  • Cultivate What Matters
  • She Reads Truth Bible
  • Seamless
  • An Unexplainable Life

Whoa. Are you exhausted yet? Because I am! When did my relationship with Christ become just a thing to check off of my to do list? I know it’s important to be intentional and make sure Christ stays number one in my life but do I really need to be reminded?

Finish, finish, finish. Do, do, do. When did those words replace my vocabulary of love, enjoy, renew? How would you feel if your significant other, an important relationship in your life, had to pencil you in? I’d feel like a burden and the last thing I would want God to feel like is some burden in my life. God is my life. It’s important to not let our quiet times with the Lord slip through the cracks with the worries and stresses of the day. But let’s not be so hard on ourselves that we forget to enjoy our one true love.

This past weekend I just wanted to enjoy Jesus. Spend time with Him. Love Him. Not something to check off my list because I’m some good Christian. But something to renew my faith, ignite my hope, and remind me of who I really am- daughter of the King, loved beyond comprehension, and blessed beyond measure.

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photo credit: mortsan Essay Writing… via photopin (license)

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My biggest influences on my no-sex-before-marriage stance: twenties

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My last blog post focused on what influenced me during my teen years to remain abstinent but I think we can all agree that it can get somewhat more difficult to keep that same commitment during your 20’s. It’s interesting how expectations and norms seem to change. I think in your teens you get made fun of for being a virgin but at the same time, it’s understandable. When I hit my 20’s especially the later years, the conversation shifts from “have you had sex before?” to just assuming you have. So whenever it gets brought up in conversation that I haven’t, it’s a little awkward. But that’s okay because that’s my whole goal. Okay not to make things awkward lol but to change the stereotypes a little, if not a lot. And that’s why I’ve been so grateful for the invaluable resources I have found along my journey to both strengthen and encourage me. I get messages from people letting me know they are waiting too and it just makes my heart so happy. We don’t have to do things the same way as society- there is another way.

The resources that stick out the most to me are two pastors and their sermon series and two books.

The New Rules for Love, Sex, & Dating- Andy Stanley

I will more than likely do a four part series on Andy’s messages but you still need to watch/listen to them! I listen to them about every six months. I’m surprised I don’t have them memorized at this point. The four messages include:

The Right Person Myth • Gentleman’s Club • Designer Sex • If I Were You

What stuck out to me most throughout this series was the bluntness and the reality that many people don’t face. You will not die if you don’t have sex. The way we sabotage our own relationships by listening to the devil’s temptations that make absolute no sense. It’s even comical at times. I think my favorite piece that touched me the most was a story about a young girl he had shared. This girl was raised Christian but she wanted to live in the world a little, experience it- sow her wild oats, so to speak. And she did. She was used and abused, going from one guy to the next to fill her void and in an attempt to find love. One night she was at a party and starting talking to this nice guy. He was successful, good looking, sweet- and it was apparent he was a solid Christian with strong convictions. She was so excited about this guy. She went home to tell her mom and went on and on about this guy, listing all of his good qualities and traits. The mom was excited but she was also a realist and she told her daughter that it was fantastic but that the problem was a guy like that isn’t looking for a girl like you. Wow. In that moment she just broke and realized the way she had been living. She decided to take a year off from dating and really focus on who she was and what she wanted in life. One of my favorite quotes from his series that I am always thinking about and constantly telling people is

Are you the person the person you are looking for is looking for?

Go ahead and read it again- it took me a few times before I really understood the magnitude of it. Anyway, it’s an amazing series and I encourage you to watch it.

Sex & Dating- Ben Stuart

I did a two part series on this and you can read it here: Part One: What to look for when you are looking for marriage & Part Two: How do you date

All in all, Ben is a great pastor at Texas A&M and has a great gift for ministering to college students. Even though I’m a tad bit older now;) I still listen to him. I linked up where you can find his podcasts. Unfortunately I don’t think the ones I listened to are available anymore. My notes pretty much cover it though;-)

When God Writes Your Love Story

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Okay so I must confess something here. I have always hated to read, always. As I have matured (hehe) I have tried to love it. But certain books make me forget how much I hate to read. I actually don’t want to put them down and this was one of those books. It’s about a husband and wife who share candidly about what it’s like to be a Christian waiting for the right one God has for you. I could have sworn that by the end of the book I was BFFs with the authors. The overall theme was about how God is the author of romance and how He desires to pour out that love to you and how when you surrender control to Him, He blesses you in more ways than you could have even imagined. Here’s just one of my many underlined quotes on seeking a spouse from the book:

“…This doesn’t mean you remain passive in the process. But your role is not to frantically search for a spouse and then ask God to bless your selfishly motivated decisions. Rather, your role is to pray, to trust, to build your life around Him, to listen to His still, small voice of guidance… and let Him take care of the rest. If you desire a beautiful God-written love story, your time will be far better spent cultivating your relationship with Christ than searching the Internet or the local coffee shops for good-looking potentials… God gives His best to those who leave the choice to Him.”

Made to Crave

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The reason I love this book so much is because it puts things in perspective for me. It really got to the root of our issues and addressed those “cravings.” Once again I underlined sooo much in this book and I laughed at some of the things I write in my books. If you couldn’t tell by now, I generally say exactly how I feel. Proof:

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I learned SO MUCH in this book and I honestly think anyone could get so much truth out of it. Here is one of my favorite quotes from this wonderful book:

“Our feelings follow our actions so much, in fact, that our actions become one of the primary tools we have at our disposal as we try to turn our cravings toward God and away from counterfeits. If you really truly want to honor God and change what you are craving, you must first change what you are doing… The cravings we feed will grow bigger and stronger, and have more hold on us. But the cravings we starve will wither, weaken, and eventually die. To the degree we “feed” God’s way of filling our God-shaped hole, we’ll find that way so much more compelling. And to the degree we “starve” all the old, unhealthy ways of filling that hole, we’ll find they are much weaker, and have much less power and temptation over us.”

Whoa. Can we just think about that for a second? That statement is so true. I just pray we all muster up enough courage and strength to say no to what we know is not good for us.

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My biggest influences on my no-sex-before-marriage stance: teen years

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I’ve been asked numerous times about my beliefs. Everyone that knows me knows the three things I get most passionate about are God, relationships, and politics. I can seriously talk for hours on any of those. Whether you are curious or simply looking for possible resources to use, I decided to do a mini series on what has influenced me the most in regards to remaining abstinent until marriage. I would like to preface this with the fact that everything I will talk about will all be supplemental as my one and only reason needed stems from love and respect for God and His rules. I know that everything He says is only for my benefit and I trust Him. As I’ve grown through the years, everything I’ve come across in regards to saving sex for marriage just confirmed my decision and showed me why God desires for us to share that level of intimacy with the one we choose to spend the rest of our lives with.

A book. A speaker. A movie.

I Kissed Dating Goodbye

This was an extremely popular book at the time. I also had the biggest crush on the author, Joshua Harris. I honestly don’t remember too much about the book but it primarily focused on giving up on the traditional way of dating and trying a new method. He talked a lot about what happens in the current dating culture of what I like to refer to as mutually using relationships. It’s very me-centered rather than other-centered and that’s why Josh proposes a different idea.

I must confess, I did not read the entire book. He talked a lot about the idea of courtship which I’m not really sure where I stand on it yet. I think it depends on one’s age honestly and I don’t really think there is a one size fits all method. What I appreciated most about this book was the encouragement I received that there are others out there who do live their lives against the grain- right up my alley;-)

Pam Stenzel

Oh my gosh. I absolutely loved listening to this lady. She was a firecracker. Pam is an abstinence spokeswoman and I just had to look her up because it’s probably been 10 years since I’ve listened to her! She talked a lot about the consequences of sex that I don’t think younger girls hear sometimes. She talked about both the physical and emotional effects which I wish were talked about more. Why isn’t it talked about more?! I either hear people talk about it like it’s no big deal or people just won’t talk about it. Relationships are one of the most important things in life and I think we can all agree sex is a part of that. Why is it so taboo? Blah. End rant. Anyway, one of my favorite things Pam said and something that has always stuck with me whenever I’ve been weak or tempted was something to encourage women. It was in response to a sexually active girl making fun of a virgin (because we all know it happens) and the response was simply “Any day I can choose to be just like you but you can never again be like me.” Wow. And I don’t say this to be arrogant or pretend like my purity is some type of badge that makes me better than anyone else. But what I do wish is that people did value it more. Treasured it. Held on to it. Because honestly I just feel people don’t and it breaks my heart. It is so valuable. And so special. And people are doing everything they can to make you think otherwise.

Pamela’s Prayer

This movie had such an impact on my life. I think it’s what keeps me going sometimes with my own vision and ideas. To know that someone’s idea or vision changed the whole course of my life. Maybe, just maybe, I can make that kind of impact on someone else’s life. This movie followed the life of a young girl. But once again, only one thing stood out to me from this move: she wanted to have her first kiss on her wedding day. I thought this was the coolest idea and decided to make the same commitment right then and there.

I do have a funny story about this. I did acting in high school and when I was 16 I got the lead at our local theater and was Snow White. Side note, I still wish I could be a famous actress. Anyway, I’m sure all of us know what happens toward the end of the story- Snow White gets a kiss from the prince while she is “dead” and then she magically comes alive and they live happily ever after. All throughout rehearsals the prince would kiss me on the cheek. Well, at our final dress rehearsal I was lying down dead, covered head to toe under the sheet, when the director tells the prince to go ahead and give me a real kiss this time. Sometimes I do things without thinking all the way through and this was one of those times. I immediately shot up and said “No no noooo!” Everyone started laughing and then giving him a hard time thinking I just rejected him but I tried to say that wasn’t the case. It turned out to be a funny moment and we agreed on a stage kiss- essentially he kissed me close to my mouth and it was no big deal. Always a fun memory though.

I wish I could say I stuck to my ‘no kiss until my wedding’ idea but I can’t. I have kissed one guy and I only did because I thought I was going to marry him at that time. I haven’t since and I’m very of glad. It’s not that I think there is anything wrong with kissing necessarily, but it helps me to focus on what matters most to me and keeps me from getting emotionally attached to guys I’m attracted to but don’t really like. It is my hope that the next guy I kiss will be my husband.

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