May 31, 2011

Prince Charming Does Exist

We live in a world that is full of sin.  Sin can shatter our dreams and leave us with broken hearts.  We end up disappointed and totally destroyed but there is good news.  We do have hope.

Before I go any further, this particular posting is for any woman who has been hurt by their spouse or “boyfriend”.  This is for those who have been abused and beaten to the point of feeling totally and completely worthless.  This is for those who have never felt good enough and have had their heart broken in to a million pieces.  Those who have experienced these things are those that understand the pain and need the hope.

As little girls, we grow up dreaming of one day becoming a princess.  We imagine our Prince Charming riding in on a white horse and making us blissfully happy.  Not to burst anyone’s bubble, but that man does not exist.  No human has the capability of making all of our dreams come true.  (i.e. Prince Charles and Princess Dianna)

Now before you get discouraged, like I said before, there is good news.  You do not have to stop dreaming.  There is a Prince waiting just for you.  Once you find Him and discover His perfect love, you will never be the same.  He is a true Prince and He will change your life once you devote your heart to Him. His name is Jesus.

When our hearts have been broken (and I am not talking about the broken heart that comes from a wayward child or a friend who has betrayed us) by the one person who promised to protect us, it is imperative that we find healing.  God has to be allowed to reveal the mistakes that we made ourselves within the broken relationship so that we may learn from those things.  Forgiveness has to be sought after and it is most important that we forgive the one who broke our heart.

My next choice is to begin to move forward.  If I want to move forward, then I MUST trust God.  Once of the great and most difficult lessons I have learned through my journey is that of distancing myself from those things that distract me from fully pursing my love relationship with Christ.   I found myself worried about feeling deprived or lonely from separating myself but I have learned the incredibly happiness and joy of finding complete fulfillment in Christ.  By choosing to pursue Him above all else, He has filled every need and enhanced every empty part of my life.

Now the hard part. I have had to learn that I cannot assume that I will never meet another man that I can trust.  I cannot assume that men who will treat me with dignity and respect do not exist. I am learning that I need to allow untrustworthy individuals to pass me by while I wait on God.  I will not sink into depression (again) but instead live my life to the fullest, growing in my faith and allowing God to work in my life. 

I HAVE to remember that my trust HAS to be placed in Christ.  There will never be a man that is able to fulfill my deepest desires.  There will never be a man to rescue me from my circumstances or to make all of my dreams come true.  That place HAS to be reserved for Christ alone.  He HAS to be my priority and with that, everything else in my life will fall into place.  He alone will fulfill my hopes and dreams but only if I choose to trust Him with the entirety of my life and my heart.

Song of Songs 8:6-7: "Place me like a seal over your heart, or like a seal on your arm. For love is as strong as death, and its jealousy is as enduring as the grave. Love flashes like fire, the brightest kind of flame. Many waters cannot quench love; neither can rivers drown it. If a man tried to buy love with everything he owned, his offer would be utterly despised."

In order for these things to be accomplished, Christ HAS to be my foundation.  I have to allow myself to trust and go deeper into a relationship with Christ.  Once I trust, I will begin to discover all the great plans that He has set aside for me.  Once you realize that He IS the Ultimate Prince, your entire world will change.  Think about it.  He should be the ONE that I measure every other relationship against because He made the MOST amazing romantic gesture when He gave up His life in order to save mine. 

John 3:16: "For God so loved the world that he gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life."

John 15:12-13: "I command you to love each other in the same way that I love you. And here is how to measure it-the greatest love is shown when people lay down their lives for their friends."

May 25, 2011

My Great Romance

Article first published as My Great Romance on Blogcritics.


Love.  What is love?  As Christians, we struggle with this word.  We watch as mainstream presents love as a fairy tale with "happily ever afters" and "true loves first kiss" and we fight it.  We are scared to talk about love as anything other than an institution created by God for fear of setting our expectations too high and being let down. 

We are surrounded by marriages that have failed, pregnant teens and abused women, which leave us feeling hopeless.  For appearance sake, it seems as if love just does not exist. It even feels as if it does not exist.  My personal experiences have taught me that love is conditional.  We must meet certain requirements in order to have the love of another and that if we do not meet those requirements, we are not worthy of love. 

This is where I began to learn that I have had it all wrong.  I really believed that true love was earned. I believed that romance was dead.  That none of it existed. Then my world changed.

I have now come to believe that God created romance and true love.  He designed it.  Love exists because God exists.  (But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love. 1 John 4:8) Romance exists because God created it.  He created the sunrises and sunsets.  He created the colorful fields of flowers and their sweet fragrances.  God created the waves that crash upon the shore and the sound of birds singing overhead.  God created the fire and sparkle of diamonds and gems.  God gave us fire to sit before basking in its warmth and He gave us music that calms our hearts. In fact He serenades us. (For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.  Zephaniah 3:17).  God created poetry. Some of the most beautifully written words can be found in the Bible, and are much better than any adult romance novel. 

Kiss me and kiss me again,
      for your love is sweeter than wine.
 3 How fragrant your cologne;
      your name is like its spreading fragrance.
      No wonder all the young women love you!
 4 Take me with you; come, let’s run!
      The king has brought me into his bedroom.

Song of Songs 1:2-4

Because God created us, He knows what stirs our hearts.  He knows the things that "take our breath away" and He created every one of them.  God created us with the desire to worship and He created us with the desire to love. We are drawn to that which is beautiful and because of this, there is a connection between beauty and love. 

Love can best be seen as an action. (Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with ACTIONS and in truth.1 John 3:16) It is devotion and not based on emotion or how we feel.  Of course, emotions are involved but they should not be the criteria for how we love.  True devotion for another is what will always lead to true love.
To understand devotion we must know its meaning. The Dictionary defines devotion as strong attachment (to) or affection (for a cause, person, etc) marked by dedicated loyalty, profound dedication, earnest attachment to a cause or person. Devotion requires loyalty.  It says that we will stand by someone through thick and thin because we are “attached” to them.  

 From understanding devotion, the only other way to identify true love is by what we find in God’s word.
 2 Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. 3 Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace.  Ephesians 4:2-3
“Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.” 

Romans 2:10

When we match our relationships to what the Bible defines love as then we can truly confess that “we love” and understand love.  

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

Because we are human, the way we love not only comes from our ability to see the worth of another but also from the worth we feel of ourselves as well.  In other words, our ability to love is determined by our self worth. Hmmm, this could be a problem.  If there is no source of worth outside of ourselves or greater than ourselves than how in the world can we love one another?  The question then becomes how can we love if we ourselves have no self-worth?

I want to be pursued.  I want to be desired.  God understands those needs within me because He created me.  He created me in His image, which means that He understands my needs because He too longs to be desired and pursued.  

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13

“Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near.” Isaiah 55:6

“I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands.” 
Psalm 119:10

This is the discovery I have made.  I have experienced the greatest romance of my life and now better understand what true love looks like.  After many years of feeling unloved and unworthy, I have realized that my worth cannot come from others.  My worth has to come from God and God alone.  I have had to learn that people look at outward appearances while God sees the heart. “…The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7  Now that I have finally accepted this, my self worth has begun to change.
 
In life, we often times find ourselves pursing the wrong objects trying to satisfy those empty places within us.  Whether it is material things or a person, those things will never fulfill those places that long to be loved and pursued.  That special place can only be taken by a love relationship with Christ.  Now that I understand this, I see the romance around me.  God knows what stirs me.  He knows what makes me feel loved. When the sun sets at night, it sets for me.  God knows the stirring I feel inside when I smell the sweet scent of jasmine and He places them around me.  He brings me flowers daily.  When I need a love song, His word, through music will play through my radio. 
 
True love does exist.  Romance does exist.  Once we find our worth in Christ and understand His love for us, we in turn are able to love those around us and experience true love.

May 20, 2011

The Power of Love: Dr. Charles Stanley


I love nothing more than when I am really struggling with doubt, choices  or decisions that are keeping me awake at night, and I wake up to find the answer in my devotion for the day. God knows my needs and hears my prayers and I am thankful that He gives me just what I need to know that He is there.



Today’s verses teach that love does not “rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth.” This means believers aren’t to dwell on another man’s wrongs and give up on him as a hopeless, despicable criminal. Love enables us to hate the evil unjustly visited upon the innocent while valuing the one who committed the act. More simply, we hate the sin but love the sinner.

In spite of everything that seems apparent about someone who’s been driven to sinful actions, God has created him or her with the potential to be made into something good. Outwardly, it may seem as if substandard upbringing, poor treatment, or negative influences have corrupted a person’s morality and worldview beyond repair. For such individuals, the capacity to love and rise above circumstances can get buried so deep that it may seem nonexistent.

God still considers the most evil and corrupt person worth saving. How do I know this is true? Because in the first verse we teach our school children, He said that whoever believes in God’s Son will haveeternal life (John 3:16). Many of us are guilty of thinking we deserveHis love because we look so good compared to unlovable kinds of people. God doesn’t work that way. He loves every single person, no matter how awful his or her sin may be.
God doesn’t want anyone to mistreat others; such sinful action will bring repercussions or divine discipline. But the Lord does extend His care, His mercy, and His salvation to anybody who wants it. He keeps no record of wrongs. He loves without conditions. And He wants us to love in the same way.

For more biblical teaching and resources from Dr. Charles Stanley, please visit www.intouch.org.

May 3, 2011

Crashing Waves

Article first published as Crashing Waves on Blogcritics.


“And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off?”
Luke 18:7

What does God do when we are waiting out a storm? Does He leave us to our own vices?

The disciples experienced a storm in which they were left alone. (John 6:16-24)
 Jesus told the disciples to get into the boat and they obeyed Him.  They boarded their boat and set out across the lake. While out on the water, a storm developed.  It caused strong winds and large waves, tossing them about in the dark of night.  Where was Jesus?  John says in a distressing phrase, “Jesus had not come to them”. (John 6:17) 

What thoughts were stirring in their minds?  Jesus had told them to do something, they obeyed and now they are caught in a storm.  Why did they have to suffer through such a storm for doing what their Master told them to do? It is a tough lesson to learn that we will not always avoid suffering because we choose to do right.  We assume that peace is what always follows obedience.

The disciples had been at sea for many hours.  They were in a storm and they were alone.  Rowing for nearly four miles (John 6:19) probably left them a little tired and quite scared.  I am sure that more than once they scanned the darkness looking for Jesus on the shore.  I imagine that they even called out his name.  What was taking Jesus so long?

The storms of life will leave us feeling alone and wondering where God has gone.  We yell out His name searching through the darkness but it appears He is nowhere around. The waves toss us leaving us to think that we just may drown. 

Though the disciples felt alone, Jesus saw their struggles.  He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them.” (Mark 6:48) He sat on the shore praying. He watched.  He waited. He was waiting for the right moment. When He knew the time was right for Him to go to them, He did.

We do not know the reasoning Jesus had for leaving them out there for many hours but we know that God’s timing is perfect.  He had a reason for making them wait and for making them endure the storm.  Even when we think that God is not present, He sees and hears all things. There are no accidents where God is concerned, and all things that happen only bring us closer to Him.

Another great example would be that of those that wandered for forty years.  Did you know that the route from Egypt into Israel is only about an eleven-day hike?  There is a huge time difference between forty years and eleven days.  Why did God allow the Israelites to wander for so long?

 “Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. 3 He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. 4 Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years. 5 Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the LORD your God disciplines you.”
Deuteronomy 8:2-4

I love this passage.  It describes and answers for us why it was that God allowed it.  He tested their hearts and dealt with their issues of pride.  He showed them repeatedly that He would provide for them their every need. 

We may find ourselves in a storm but we are not alone.  God records every tear, sees every wave and hears our cries for help.  He may not always answer right away when we call but it does not mean He is not listening.  He has a plan.  He has a purpose for our storm and at just the right moment, He will come.

“They saw Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the water; and they were frightened. 20 But he said to them, “It is I; don’t be afraid.” 
John 6:19b

So where does this leave us in the midst of our own struggles?  We row.  We follow the example of the disciples and we struggle through the storm.  We endure.  In the end, we trust that God has a plan and that it is for our good.  When the time is right, He will appear so don’t give up!  He loves you too much to hurt you so even though you cannot hear or see Him, just trust Him.  He is praying just for you.