Apr 29, 2017

What I Learned From Three Days Without Internet

Monday started out as a typical morning.  I hugged Dad goodbye as he left for work, ate breakfast, and had my quiet time.  But sometimes God likes to give us curve balls in life.  As I turned on my computer ready to jump into the busyness of Mondays, the internet shut off.

Refresh.  Nothing.  Refresh five more times and still nothing.

Even my computer-savvy brother couldnt fix the problem, and when we called the internet provider they said they would plan to fix it before Wednesday night.

Which means three days without internet.  No posting on my blog, no submitting assignments on online classes, no corresponding with friends, no searching online for quick questions.   Without computers, what is left in the world?  (Lol!  But really it feels like that sometimes!)

We cancelled classes, contacted teachers and friends, and are now just waiting it out.  Im typing this blog post on an offline document, not knowing when Ill be able to actually post it.  But thats not what I want to spend my time talking about here.  I want to share something I learned from three days without internet.

Earlier in the year we talked about what it means to abide in Christ.  1 John has a lot to say about what abiding truly means.  (see 1 John 2:6, 24, and 1 John 4:15-16)  Over these last few months, Ive realized more and more that to abide means to base your life off of something or someone.  If we are abiding in Christ, our actions, thoughts, desires, and lifestyles will be honoring to Him.  We will have a passionate relationship with Him and humbly desire to give up our lives for Him.  Christ alone will provide our wisdom, fulfillment, and joy.

This week I realized that those three things wisdom, fulfillment, and joy are ones we often look for in the wrong place.

When you face a decision in life or dont understand a concept, do you turn to Jesus and the Bible or do you switch on your computer and ask a friend or *cough* Google?

When you are restless or bored, do you spend time building a relationship with your Savior, seeking true fulfillment, or do pull up your email account, contact friends, or search through Pinterest, Goodreads, and other online website?

When you are sorrowful or depressed, do you bring your cause before the One who loves you most or do you again search for joy in the trivial, earthly things of life?

The internet quite often takes Jesus place in our lives.  It sits on the throne of our hearts, mocking our weak efforts to replace it with Christ.  Im convinced that a lot of us (myself included) abide in our online pursuits (relationships, websites, activities) more than we abide in Christ.

I completely understand that computers are wonderful tools of ministry.  We can (and should, if God so leads) use them to bless others and build friendships.  We can correspond with our far-away friends and encourage one another in love.  We can take online classes, look up information, and even study the Bible online.  These are good things!

But tools need to remain as tools.  They cannot derive us of our best hours and free time.  We cannot use them to find wisdom, fulfillment, and joy!  Those things only come from seeking God through prayer, reading the Word, fellow-shipping with other believers, reading Christian biographies, etc.

It reminds me of what Father Christmas told the Penvensie children in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe:
"These are your presents and they are tools not toys. The time to use them is perhaps near at hand. Bear them well."
Are we using tools that God has given us in the wrong way or are we bearing them well?  Computers, books, movies, and relationships can all prove to be tools that God uses in our lives.  But have we turned them into toys?  Are we wasting our time?

The internet is dangerous.  Satan can use it to ensnare us in a pretend world that doesnt exist.  We can waste hours of our lives scrolling through pages and making small talk with people we dont even know.  It can even ruin real-life relationships by pulling us away from our families.  Is that what a servant of the Lord should look like?

I have a friend who realized that the internet was consuming too much of her time.  She majorly cut back on everything blogs, conversations, social media and now has free time that she desires to give to the Lord in ministry.  Her arms are open to Gods will in her life because she is ridding herself of earthly pursuits and seeking a heavenly mission.

Are computers pulling us away from Christ and our families?  Take a handful of days as a computer fast, and youll realize how important those online things truly are to you.

Perhaps to abide in Christ we need to close our laptops, power off our phones, and refocus on what truly matters.

And maybe you dont struggle with this, but there are other areas in your life that try to pull you away from having an eternal mindset.  No matter what it is, we need to push it aside and fix our gaze on Jesus Christ, the only One who deserves our heart.

You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things and by Your will they exist and were created. Revelation 4:11

Apr 18, 2017

Is it Possible to Serve God Wrong?

The topic I am going to write about here is not one that I've mastered. This is a fairly new idea for me – a struggle that maybe you've never faced. Or perhaps it's something you're in right now and don't even realize it. But please don't just accept my ideas. Examine the Word of God and see if they apply to you in your own unique circumstances. That's all I ask.  =)

One of the blessings of living in the 21st century is that it is so easy to do things for God. Don't get me wrong – serving God can be one of the most difficult things you'll ever do. There's a good chance that He might ask you to do something that's painful or difficult. But think about it – we can share the Gospel without even leaving our homes. With access to the internet, the world of blogs, and social media, we can have best friends we've never met. That also means that we can pour out our lives into others in easier ways than ever before.

I love doing things at home. Thus, I have found myself in an ever-increasing amount of "ministries" online. I blog. I write. I email friends (saved and unsaved). I take online college classes. And I can serve in even more ways at home – being a good friend, sister, daughter. 

Is it possible that having the mentality of "give, give, give" can actually lead me away from Christ?

Oswald Chambers said,

"Christian work may be a means of evading the soul's concentration on Jesus Christ."

I think that sometimes we measure our level of faith by looking at the work we do for Christ. We serve in this way...and that way...and even that other way. We must be fantastic Christians!

Sorry to disappoint you: Our relationship with Christ is not measured by how much we do for Him.

My friend Jordy recently explained an aspect of life in this way. Too often we do things for God. We write blog posts...for God. We join ministries and share the Gospel...for God. These are good things! But how often do we serve...with God? With diligent prayer, seeking His face, and walking by His side? Do we serve in that way?

All this serving, this "give, give, give" attitude, has overwhelmed me. I serve God in so many ways. Doesn't that mean that my relationship with Him should be at its finest, shining for all the world to see?

Instead I'm tired. No, I'm exhausted. I've been living life for God instead of with God.

It reminds me of the story of Mary and Martha from Luke 10:38-42. Siblings were hosting an honored guest: Jesus Christ. As Jesus entered the house and began conversing with them, one sister sat by His feet, listening intently. Mary hung on to every word, treasuring them in her heart. The other sister – Martha – rushed to and fro preparing supper. Her serving made her lose sight of what was important. Instead of building a relationship with the King of Kings, she busied herself serving Him. In the end, it was Martha who was rebuked, not her "lazy" sister Mary.

But I've realized that so often we are like Martha. We are serving God when we could be living life with Him. 

Serving is a wonderful privilege. God wants us to be a blessing to others, share the Gospel, and bring hope to the hopeless! Doing that should bring us joy and excitement. But if you're burned out or feeling tired, perhaps it's because you've been serving God so much that you haven't taken the time to really get to know Who He is.

Sitting at Jesus' feet is more important than "making Him happy" by doing things for Him.

Remember what Samuel told Saul?

"Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice..." - 1 Samuel 15:22

And what did Jesus say was the most important commandment to obey?

"Jesus said to him, 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.'" - Matthew 22:37

My question stands: Is it possible to serve God wrong? And my answer would be yes. If we are serving God instead of loving and building a relationship with Him, we are serving Him in the wrong way.

Dear friend, this is my plea for you and for myself. Don't let serving God overcome your desire to build a relationship with Him. Let us serve God with Him instead of for Him. Allow Christ to become your best Friend, the One you delight in.

How has God opened doors to serve Him and others? Do you find yourself doing things for God or with Him? How might one change their focus?  Comment below!

Apr 12, 2017

Blossoms and Thorns | the Love in Easter

I've always loved spring.  The warm breezes melt the snow, and tiny, green buds start to grow.  The world turns from dull shades of grey and brown to vibrant greens and pinks and whites.  I've watched spring showers fall on tender, newborn grass.  The air is pure.  Our animals begin to give birth - lambs, kids, chicks, calves.  The world is just so new, so fresh.

One thing always stood out to me.  I would walk down to the creek by our house that sang its merry song and sit among the flowers.  Always flowers.  Golden dandelions, wild daisies, violets - purple and white, maroon trillium flowers, and my favorite - pale, purple phlox.  The phlox has the most fragrant scents, and their violet colors cluster the forests.  I would pick bouquets and smell them over and over again.

But we moved.  We have different birds, plants, flowers.  I found daisies aplenty, budding trees, and thousands of dandelions.  But no phlox.

I visited out old home and found the flowers in full bloom.  There was a sense of love there, and I could almost feel God's arms wrapped around me.  Listening to the creek bubbling by my feet and watching the phlox's gentle colors...I took my New Testament and read the story of Jesus' crucifixion.  His love was so close to me.

I came home.  School started hard again on Monday, reading more than an hour of history about World War II.  Pages are lined with death, pain, and war.  I felt distracted during my time with Jesus.  Where had that Love gone?  That pure, beautiful presence?  And why would God allow something as horrible as war to exist?

Finally, history was finished, but I had other things to do.  I wanted to catch up on emailing, write a blog post, spend time with siblings...but instead I knew I needed to spend more time with Jesus to refocus.  Thus, I grudgingly grabbed that New Testament again and trudged down to our new, little creek.  Through the woods, the branches grabbed at me.  I brushed off bugs and looked for a place to sit down.

And there they were.  Waving in the wind happily at me.  I felt so far from God, and He was there all along.

Patches of violet-colored phlox lined the creek as if waiting for me.  I was so distracted by life that I almost missed them.  God's love shown in little, purple flowers.

I sat down to read 1 Corinthians 13, replacing the word "love" for "God".  And how true it is.
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not God, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not God, I am nothing.  And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not God, it profits me nothing. 
God suffers long and is kind; God does not envy; God does not parade Himself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 
God never fails.
 Did you read that?

God never fails.

When we are so distracted, and we wonder why bad things happen in life, God never fails.  When we can't feel His presence and think that maybe Christianity isn't what we thought it would be, God never fails.  When we are broken and hurting and the rain is pouring down on our lives, God never fails.

And then, sitting by the merry stream, I saw another sign of God's amazing love for us.

And the soldiers twisted a crown of thorns and put it on His head, and they put on Him a purple robe. Then they said, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they struck Him with their hands. - John 19:2-3
Think about it.  God has given us so much.  He put the purple flowers there for our pleasure.  Everything around you - the beauty of nature, the song of the chipping sparrow, the friend who makes you smile when life is hardest, the emotion that pours out of your heart - everything is a gift.   Everything is love.

Do you know how amazing that is?!

The God of the universe love us and placed us here in a beautiful world to enjoy Him forever.  He allows us to have a relationship with Him.  He never abandons us; He never fails.

And what did we do to repay Him?

We scourged, mocked, spat on, struck, and crucified Him.  We weren't there when it happened, but every time we ignore His commands, isn't it the exact same thing?  Our Savior died for us, and we mock His sacrifice by living in sin!

Easter is a beautiful celebration of His love.  It's a time to remember that He cared for us enough to leave His palace in Heaven to come to a sin-stricken, disease-infected earth.  He took broken hearts and wove them into valiant warriors.

That is how much He loves us.

As Easter comes close, remember that love.  Remember the thorns, the pain, and the death.  Remember that God never fails.  He is our strong tower, our shelter, our Savior.

I have disabled comments for this post because I want you to focus on Him alone this week.  Please meditate on His love and realizing how awesome it is.  Read Isaiah 53Matthew 27John 19 or one of the other Gospels that explains His sacrifice.  Realize how perfect His love is by reading 1 Corinthians 13.

The only gift we can give back to Him is our undivided love, attention, and lives.  Are we willing to give that to the One who gave up His life for us?
But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.  -Isaiah 53:5 

Apr 5, 2017

A Dangerous Enemy

Today in my history textbook I was reading about the rise of a prominent leader.  I don't know much about his early years, but he had a dream.  He grew up with a desire to be an artist.  Unfortunately for him, his drawing skills were greatly lacking.  He wasn't good at drawing at all.  Thus, his dream died, and his life took a radical change for the worse.

His name was Adolf Hitler.

We know the rest of the story.  We know how Hitler came into power and the devastation he caused.  We read about the horrors he heedlessly created.  It's not difficult to see the evil in his heart and actions.

As I learned a little bit more about his early life, I wondered.  What was it that turned Hitler around?  What made him change into a wicked leader?

Think about other infamous people throughout history.  People like Hitler, Stalin, or Lenin.  Or maybe villains from the Bible like Jezebel, Judas, or Herod.  As I was reading the pages of history, I noticed that every single one had something in common.

These people, known for their evil deeds and wicked schemes, all struggled with a similar issue.  It's even one that you and I struggle with today.


Unheeded, dangerous pride.

I'm not talking about taking pride in your country or your family.  This pride goes much deeper.  It's a matter of the heart, a monster that overtakes your life.  The lingering thought that whispers "All that matters is that I'm happy."  The "me" mentality we have that causes us to focus on ourselves.

Hitler was proud and wanted more power.  He ended up killing millions of Jews.

Jezebel was proud, wanting herself to be promoted and well-known.  She led her nation into idolatry.

Judas was proud and wanted to gain money.  He ended up sacrificing a close friendship with Jesus as a traitor and giving Him up to be crucified.

Many of us are proud.  We want to live comfortable, happy lives.  We want religion as long as it brings us joy and fulfillment.  Jesus is only there to bring us eternal life, right?

Sorry to throw you off, but you picked the wrong "religion".  Throughout history, believers have been mocked, scourged, imprisoned, stoned, sawn in two...the list goes on and on.  (see Hebrews 11:36-38)

Nevertheless, we still struggle with this mess called pride.  It ensnares us, and we often don't even realize it.  It's like a trap waiting to be triggered...and we don't see it hiding in the leaves only feet ahead of us.

Pride is the act of elevating our own self.  It is telling God that we deserve more time and attention than He does, and He can sit around until we need Him.  It is seeking our own will instead of His, thinking that we are simply more important than He is.

The Bible says pride goes before destruction (see Proverbs 16:18).  It says that pride is evil and defiles a man (see Mark 7:20-23).  God resists the proud (see James 4:6), and the proud is an abomination to Him (see Proverbs 16:5).   The list goes on and on.

Recently I have been focusing on two different aspects of the Christian life - abiding in Christ (focusing on Him throughout the day and building my entire life on Him) and making Godly decisions.  How does pride affect these areas?

If we have pride in our lives what will be thinking about?  Who will we be living for?  We most definitely will not be abiding in Christ!  We will be focusing on our own desires, plans, and dreams.  In the end, Christianity will likely become a "side job" or an activity that we participate in for what it brings us.

To make Godly decisions, we need to be asking God what His plans are for us.  But if we are full of pride and self-seeking, we will only see what we want and what our plans are.  It is impossible to make Godly decisions if we have pride in our hearts.

It's not hard to see that pride is dangerous.  It's consuming, devastating, ruining.  It takes a life and twists it into an ugly picture of evil.

On a more personal level, pride makes us feel lofty and above those around us.  It causes us to not want to associate with certain individuals.  It makes us desire attention and admiration.  Simply put, pride takes Jesus off the throne of our heart and puts self in His place.

The villains throughout history all lived under the rule of pride.  Do we struggle with the same problem?

I challenge you to take this matter before Christ and examine your life.  Do you truly love others more than yourself?  Do you love the Lord your God will all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind?  Can you willingly say, "He must increase, but I must decrease"?

As Jesus humbled Himself and washed His disciples' feet, may we also humble ourselves and serve, love, and respect those around us.  May we be willing vessels to do the will of the Lord.

It's so hard - even impossible in our strength!  But isn't that why we don't have to live life on our own?

What is one way that pride sneaks into our lives unnoticed?  How can we fight this evil tendency to think of ourselves more than others?  Comment below!