Feb 28, 2017

If All Was Stripped Away...

A dark, wrinkled face bows low to the ground, paying homage to the only god she knows.  Its terrible face looks down at her, frowning in the mid-afternoon sun.  She has given up everything she can, but still, when she leaves the temple, her eyes are sunken and drop to the ground.  Rags cling to her body, but they cannot cover the shame, the fear, and the loneliness.  Her feet drag down the dusty street.  Her shoulders rise and fall with each shallow breath, but one thought lingers deep in her mind.  Do the gods hear?  Do they see?  Do they care?  She gave them her life, and they seem to have thrown it away like the worthless trash under her feet.

On the other side of the world, a man pulls himself to his full height.  His dark hair is slicked away from his forehead, and his suit coat is spotless.  His square jaw loosens into a smile as he examines his newest fortune.  Surely this mansion, this second home, will bring him happiness.  The building towers above the tallest trees, casting a magnificent shadow on a full-sized pool, gardens that lay as far as the eye can see, and his collection of spotless vehicles.  A butler opens the door, bowing his head.  But as the man lays alone in a plush bed that night, the doubts creep in.  Lost marriages.  Fake friends.  Failing businesses.  Fear crawls up his spine and into his heart.  It grips him with unyielding force.  Would he ever find joy?  Would he ever find someone who truly cared?  But as the moon dipped below the horizon, the fears only grew stronger.  Something was missing.

A teenage girl pushes back her chair and grins at the computer screen.  Her hair falls down to her shoulders in tight curls, but she fails to notice, ecstatic over her huge success.  200 followers!  What other blogger had that many people who wanted to read about herself?!  She pushes back her shoulders, her blue eyes flashing in pride.  Grade A student, successful blogger, the most popular girl in the school...what else could she want?  She ignored the voice of her mother calling her down for dinner and placed her fingers on the keyboard.  Her new goal: 250 followers.  Nothing could get in her way.  But when the stats rose again and she reached her goal, the success felt empty.  A divorce shattered her family.  What did achievements and popularity mean anyway?  What was the point of life?  Was there something more than this endless cycle?  Would anyone remember her after she died?  Suddenly, nothing seemed to matter anymore.

These three lonely people, though fictitious, represent so many around the world today.  They represent every human on earth who is seeking joy apart from the True source of Joy.  They represent millions of souls that are hurting, longing for someone to see, someone to care.  They might have everything under control on the outside, but their hearts know otherwise.

Everyone has a master.  Someone (or something) that they live for and seek joy from.  Perhaps it's to make a person love them, to attain a certain amount of money, to have a certain amount of followers, to achieve a certain goal...the list goes on and on.  There are so, so many things that catch our eyes, and, before we know it, we are giving our lives trying to gain that objective.

There's a name for that.  The Bible calls it idolatry.
Idolatry:  The worship of idols, images, or any thing made by hands, or which is not God...excessive attachment or veneration for any thing, or that which borders on adoration.  (Noah Webster, 1828)
While idols can indeed be a man-made object that you literally bow down before and worship (as in my first example), this is not always the case.  I mean, how many people do you know actually visit a pagan temple or own idols in their home?  But as I was reading a book by Randy Alcorn titled Money, Possessions, and Eternity,  I realized something.  He quotes A.W. Tozer:
"What do we value most? What would we most hate to lose? What do our thoughts turn to most frequently when we are free to think of what we will? And finally, what affords us the greatest pleasure?" - A.W. Tozer
Hmm...hard questions.  But really, think about them.  Go back (right now!) and reread them.  What do you value most?  What would you most hate to lose?

Based on these questions, what is the thing you are seeking in life?  What is your treasure?  What is your goal in life?

If your treasure, your source of happiness is anything other than Jesus Christ, be wary.  If Jesus is not your all in all, what else is sitting on the throne of your heart?

Matthew 6:24 states that no one can have two masters.  You can only serve one person or goal or object.  There is no alternative.

Idolatry is worshiping anything other than Jesus.  This doesn't mean literal worship in the sense you may be thinking.  You don't have to sing songs or bow down to something for it to be an idol. To "worship" means to give something or someone a place of honor in your life.  To glorify them.

In the stories above, I mentioned three people.  One worshiped idols - fake gods.  The second worshiped the idol of materialism, riches, and comfort.  The last worshiped the idol of success and popularity.  Idolatry is loving anything more than you love God.  Riches, relationships, success, comfort, sports, possessions, a job or hobby.  Anything.  Even religion can become an idol if your heart is in the wrong place.  Do you read the Bible, pray, and serve God out of a love and passion for Him or a "check off the box" duty to make yourself feel good?

If you have an idol in your life, you will not be abiding in Christ.  It will be impossible.  Futile.  Purposeless.  You cannot serve God and yourself at the same time.

That's what it so often comes down to, doesn't it?  Worshiping yourself or God?  If your love for things, success, followers, popularity, or anything else is first in your life, you will not abide in Christ.

Randy Alcorn writes,
"Materialism begins with our beliefs.  Not merely what we say we believe - not our doctrinal statement - but the philosophy of life by which we actually live... materialism is first and foremost a matter of the heart."
What (or who) are you living for?

To take this a step further, I encourage you to stop right now and watch this 3 minute clip by Leslie Ludy.  It challenged me greatly in this area of life, and I think it will make you think deeper.

I don't know about you, but I desire to have a constant honeymoon with Jesus.  I want love Him so much that if everything else was stripped away, it would be okay.  Sadly, that is so often not the case.  This world has millions of distractions.  And every single one threatens to pull my attention away from the eternal to the temporary.  How can we keep our focus pure and un-diverted?

I wish I had all the answers, but this is something I struggle with.  How does one live life without losing focus?  How is this even possible in all the craziness, the turmoil, and the distractions?

While I struggle for answers, I know this is true.  If we really want to abide in Christ - to make Him our all in all - we cannot have idols in our life.

This is my challenge to you.  And not only to you, but this challenge is also for myself.  Examine your life.  Pray desperately, pray openly.  Let God show you if something is in the way of your relationship.  Ask yourself those important questions once again.  What do you value the most?  What is one thing that you could not give up?  Where do your thoughts wander to when you are alone?

If there are any distractions, let us esteem them as rubbish and direct our gaze on what is truly important.

I end with one last quote,
"There was once in man a true happiness of which there now remain to him only the mark and empty trace, which he in vain tries to fill from all his surroundings, seeking from things absent the help he does not obtain in things present. But these are all inadequate, because the infinite abyss can only be filled by an infinite and immutable object, that is to say, only by God Himself." - Blaise Pascal

If everything was stripped away from you, would Jesus be enough?  If not, what is standing in the way of having a deep, abiding, and personal relationship with Him?  Comment below!

Feb 21, 2017

Knowing the Groom

Here I am the night before a post goes up with a completely blank screen staring at my face.  I had a different post all nicely planned out, but for some reason I feel like it's not the right one for this Tuesday.  So please forgive me if my words are mixed up...it's getting late over here. ;)

Last week I wrote about Who God is.  I started with a list of the different Names of God and went from there.  I could have covered so much more ground had I the time, the space, and the wisdom to do so.  But I don't know Who God is.  I know bits and pieces.  I know some of His characteristics...loving, true, faithful, pure, righteous...but I don't know exactly Who He is.

Today I was reading John 17.  I came upon this verse...
John 17:3,  "And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent."
Eternal life comes through knowing God and the One He sent.  But...what if we don't know Who He is?  It's impossible to fully understand anyone, much less the Creator, the Great I AM, the Everlasting God?  What type of "knowing" is this?  Is this a Saber or a Conocer type of relationship?

Using an online site called Bible Hub (I have only recently begun using this site, yet it has been very helpful in my research.), I dug deeper by looking at the text in its original Greek.  The word for "knowing" is γινώσκω (ginóskó).  They offer several different definitions in English, but most of them meant, "to learn to know, come to know, get a knowledge of..."

I felt like God put a thought into my head.

What if being a Christian wasn't about knowing God.  What if it was about coming to know God?  About constantly pushing farther, digging deeper, searching harder.  What if John 17:3 read something more like: And this is eternal life, that they may come to know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.

Is it possible to know every aspect of God?  Of course not!  Thus, doesn't it make sense that abiding in Christ means that we are getting to know God?

Perhaps you can think of it this way.  Before you get married, you take time to know your fiancé quite well, obviously.  Before you say your vows to marry "until death do us part", you know the groom's beliefs, opinions, thoughts, future plans, etc.  But after you marry, you get to know him much deeper.  You start to learn his favorite foods, silly quirks, make inside jokes that only the two of you understand, and become best friends.  At your 50th anniversary, you should truly know him by heart.  Even so, you will never understand him completely.  A human being is so complex and unique that it would be impossible for you to know another soul like you do yourself.

Is this a picture of our relationship with God?  Before we become Christians (or marry into a relationship with Christ), we know about Jesus' sacrifice, His love, His mercy, etc.  But after we take the leap of faith to pursue a relationship with Him, we discover deeper truth.  We read the Bible and understand how God has been working throughout the history of the world until this day.  We see Him working in our own lives.  The "knowing" isn't over...it's just beginning!  Yet even if you live to be 100 years old, you will never reach the point where you have "mastered" God.  You will never understand Him completely.  You could listen to sermons, memorize the entire Bible, go to conferences, and still badly fall short of knowing Him.  Why?  Because He is impossibly bigger than our minds can fathom!

As a Believer seeking to abide in Christ, we cannot stop and admire the scenery.  We cannot declare our thankfulness and joy in being saved and not press on towards bigger things for His Kingdom.  Our chains are gone...but if we stay in the prison cell, we aren't doing any good.

To abide in Christ, we need to be getting to know Who He is.  We can't stop with our being set free.  We don't meet God once and stop there.  We need to be ginóskó-ing God - learning to know Who He is.  It will take a lifetime (and beyond!), but wouldn't it be worth it?

How can we do that in a practical way?  How can we take the first step?

Here are a few simple ideas...

Those are some thoughts to start with...but these are my questions for you:  How can we be learning to know Who God is?  And how are YOU going to start doing that today?

I shared this quote before, but it is so true:  "Christianity is not a religion; it's a relationship."

Don't worry if you don't understand Who God is completely.  No one truly does!  Just take a step of faith, and begin the process of coming to know Who He is.

Feb 14, 2017

Eternal Infinite Sovereign

Abiding in Christ.

I have been noticing that abiding is much harder than I first imagined.  Keeping my eyes on God 24/7 feels impossible.  How can I give up everything for Him?  And...why would I choose to do that?

Then I realized something.

If we truly knew Who God is, we wouldn't think twice about placing our lives completely into His hands.  The problem is...we don't know Who He is.  It's beyond our imagination.  Our brains are complex and amazing, but this is bigger than we can comprehend.

"In the beginning, GOD..."

Four words.  But those four words changed the universe.  God has been here from the beginning.  Actually, He was here before the beginning.  He is eternal.  Infinite.  Sovereign.

We can't fit Him into a box, try as we might.  But if we want to truly abide in Christ, shouldn't we at least know who He is?  Shouldn't we be familiar with His personality, His characteristics, His Names?

A name is important.  By it we can remember people, animals, things.  But a name also holds deeper meaning that (quite often!) describes what that person is like.

We need to know God's Names if we want to get to know Him.  Thus, I sat down and wrote a list of every Name of God that I could think of.  I referenced my Bible for help.  I used my index.  I looked at charts.  And I know that I still missed plenty!  Even so, perhaps this list of some of the Names of God will allow you to realize a little better Who He is.  Perhaps you will get a better picture of how awesome, how loving, and how wise He is.  I encourage you to make your own list...and pray through it.  How do these aspects of God apply to me?  Take them, one at a time, and soak in the goodness of God.  He truly is beyond our imagination.

I know this is long...God has many Names!  (and now that I found an online list, I can see dozens more that I didn't find in my first search!)  But if you truly want to know Who He is, take some time and thank Him.  Thank Him for being our Savior, our Redeemer, our Father, our Teacher...our Friend...

God.  The Supreme Bring; Jehovah; the eternal and infinite Spirit; the Creator, and the Sovereign of the universe. (Noah Webster dictionary) 

Psalm 90:2, "Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever You had formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God."

Isaiah 26:4, "Trust in the Lord forever, for in YAH, the Lord, is everlasting strength."

Yahweh - Jehovah.  "The existing One"  (it is said that many religious Jews would not even pronounce this Name because it was so holy.  So powerful.  They esteemed it that highly.  Wow...what an example.  And we have the audacity to utter His name in vain?!)

I AM.  Exodus 3:14-15,  "And God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM." And He said, "Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, 'I AM has sent me to you.'"  Moreover God said to Moses, "Thus you shall say to the children of Israel: 'The Lord God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you. This is My name forever, and this is My memorial to all generations.'""

Shield, Horn of my Salvation, Stronghold, Refuge, and Savior. 2 Samuel 22:3, "The God of my strength, in whom I will trust; my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge; my Savior, You save me from violence."

Maker. Job 4:17,  "Can a mortal be more righteous than God? Can a man be more pure than his Maker?"

Redeemer. Job 19:25, "For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth;"

Lord Most High. Psalm 7:17,  "I will praise the Lord according to His righteousness and will sing praise to the name of the Lord Most High."

Father to the Fatherless and the Defender of WidowsPsalm 68:5,  "A father of the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in His holy habitation."

Holy One of Israel. Psalm 71:22,  "Also with the lute I will praise You — And Your faithfulness, O my God! To You I will sing with the harp, O Holy One of Israel."

Judge. Psalm 75:7, "But God is the Judge: He puts down one, and exalts another."

Teacher.  Isaiah 2:3,  "Many people shall come and say, 'Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths.' For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem."

Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace.  Isaiah 9:6, "...And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."

Creator.  Isaiah 40:28,  "Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable."

The Mighty One of Jacob. Isaiah 60:16,  "...You shall know that I, the Lord, am your Savior and your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob."

Potter. Isaiah 64:8,  "But now, O Lord, You are our Father; We are the clay, and You our potter; and all we are the work of Your hand."

Immanuel.  Matthew 1:23,  "Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a Son, and they shall call His name 'Immanuel,' which is translated, 'God with us.'"

The Christ and the Son of God.  Matthew 16:16, "Simon Peter answered and said, 'You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.'"

Son of Man.  Matthew 18:11,  "For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost."

Servant.  Matthew 20:28, "Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."

Jesus, the King of the Jews. Matthew 27:11,  "Now Jesus stood before the governor. And the governor asked Him, saying, 'Are You the King of the Jews?' Jesus said to him, 'It is as you say.'"

Prophet of the Highest and the Dayspring. Luke 1:76-78, "'And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Highest; for you will go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways, to give knowledge of salvation to His people by the remission of their sins, through the tender mercy of our God, with which the Dayspring from on high has visited us;"

Word of God. John 1:1-2, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God."

Messiah. John 1:41,  "He first found his own brother Simon, and said to him, 'We have found the Messiah' (which is translated, the Christ)."

Bread of Life.  John 6:35, "And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst."

Light of the World.  John 8:12, "Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, 'I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.'"

Door of the Sheep.   John 10:7, "Then Jesus said to them again, 'Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.'"

Good Shepherd.   John 10:11, "'I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.'"

Resurrection and the Life.  John 11:25, "Jesus said to her, 'I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.'"

The Way, the Truth, and the Life. John 14:6,  "Jesus said to him, 'I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.'"

Our Helper and the Holy Spirit. John 14:26,  "But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you."

Vine. John 15:5,  "'I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.'"

Friend.  John 15:14, "You are My friends if you do whatever I command you."

Our Father.  Ephesians 4:6, "...one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all."

Author of Eternal Salvation.  Hebrews 5:9, "And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him."

Love.  1 John 4:8, "He who does not love does not know God, for God is love."

Lord of lords and King of kings.  Revelation 17:14, "...for He is Lord of lords and King of kings; and those who are with Him are called, chosen, and faithful."

Faithful and True. Revelation 19:11, "Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True..."

Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last. Revelation 22:13  "'I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last."'

The Root and the Offspring of David and the Bright and Morning Star. Revelation 22:16,  "'I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things in the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star.'"

Can you share other Names of God that I failed to put on this list?  Which Name stands out the most to you in this time of life?  Why do you think God has so many names?  Comment below!

Feb 7, 2017

Saber | Conocer

Hello Readers!  I'm back from my blogging-fast!  This was a much-needed rest, and I feel more energized to step back into the world of writing.  =)  January was a crazy, fast-paced month with school starting up again, editing/being an early reader for some author friends, living life, and striving to keep focus on Jesus during the busy times.  I don't know how I could have taken time to add blogging on top of all of that...this break was wonderful. =)  And while I don't know exactly what the future holds for Having a Heart Like His or if God has plans that I don't see yet, I am excited to be on here again with you all.  Thus, let's jump right into the new blogging series that has been on my heart for the past weeks!

Languages hold secrets. Mysteries that once discovered shed light on the truth. Meanings that are deeper than just the outward appearance.

But sometimes those deeper meanings are just confusing. I have been learning Spanish for at least eight years, and I still haven't mastered it. Some words seem to mean the exact same thing, but they have slight differences; you can't mix them up. It's frustrating. I stared at these two words wondering what in the world was the difference: Saber and Conocer. They are both verbs that mean "to know." So what's the difference? Why can't they be reversible? Can't I just use whichever one I want? But then my friend Lydia explained it to me. And underneath the Spanish words were a deeper meaning that made me think. They inspired me. 

The definition of the Spanish word saber is "to know." ) But that is only the surface. Saber means to know a fact. To know a skill. You could say that you saber how to swim. It's the basic word for knowledge.

The definition of conocer is also "to know." Yet it has a much deeper meaning. Conocer is to know something intimately. It means that you know someone personally. You don't just know their name, their favorite color, and their birthday. You know them

Here's an example. I saber (know of) Chris Tomlin. I know his name. I know that he is a music artist, and I could recognize his songs. I know what he looks like. But do I really know him? Of course not! However I conocer (know personally) my mom. I know not only her name but also what she looks like, her favorite color, her pet peeves, her struggles and worries, her love languages, etc. I know a lot about her. I have spent time with her, and I know her personally. Deeply.

Perhaps these are still just two words for you. Perhaps the meaning doesn't impact you like it did me. But it made me look at things differently. 

What would it be like if our relationship with God wasn't just a saber relationship? What if we truly knew God in a conocer way? Imagine if we didn't just know of God but we knew Him as a friend?

Knowing that there is a God isn't enough. (see James 2:19) Knowing the Bible isn't enough. Knowing how to be a Christian isn't enough.

I don't remember who said this, but it is so true. "Christianity is not a religion; it's a relationship."

It's a relationship between a person and God. It doesn't involve your parents, your friends, or anyone else. Christianity is YOU and GOD.

The Bible has a term that I have been studying for several weeks. We can't just call ourselves Christians. We need to be abiding in Christ. Our lives need to be revolving around Him. We should live each day with our eyes focused on our Savior. Our own desires, plans, and dreams should be dim and lifeless because we are so enamored with Jesus Christ.

I haven't mastered this. I struggle to abide in Christ continually. My eyes often loose focus; my feet often stumble. I live in my own strength and fall short so many times. This isn't about me. It's about Christ. It's about a relationship. 

Because this is something I want to dig deeper into (and I hope you do too!), I want to truly discover what abiding means. Over the next few weeks, months, or as long as it takes, I want my life to be changed. I want us together as sisters and brothers in Christ to press on together to become more than saber Christians. I want to conocer God. I want to know Him deeply and intimately. I want to understand what abiding is and live that out. 

I don't know what will happen on this blog as we explore this topic...but I want my life to change. I want my relationship with God to deepen. I hope you will join me.

Is your relationship with God deep or only on the surface? Do you saber or conocer God? How can we practice abiding in Christ as a lifestyle? Comment below! 

*note If you are a Spanish-speaker and see a flaw in my use of these Spanish terms, please let me know. I am a beginner and am open to learning more. =)