Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Filling the Void

This is going to be a relatively short post, y'all, and I know it's been awhile....it's just something God's been really weighing on my heart recently. Every single one of us, even those of us who are passionately in love with God and give our relationship with Him an A+, have some sort of vice that competes with God for our time. For me, I try to fill my time and occasional emptiness or loneliness with cooking or eating food, anything funny, school, working out, a hobby, obsessing over relationships or "primping" and trying to "become more beautiful." It could be anything and I'm only just now realizing how easy it is for anything to be an idol in our lives. Maybe you have a prized possession, characteristic, talent, person, goal. Maybe your idols swing the other way and you've let yourself become overwhelmed with negative thoughts, stresses, standards, and rules. Maybe you, like me, allow other people's opinions of you to control you at times or focus on creating a some sort of identity to "become." At various times in my life, I've gone through phases of trying to be "the athletic one," "the attractive one," "the funny one," "the smart one," "the one who's got it all together," or even "the Christian one."

It's so easy for us to get caught up in everything around us, from our daydreams and thoughts, to our desires and goals, to our actions and habits, to our stresses and worries, to our relationships, friends, and family-- even a comfortable lifestyle complete with the daily Starbucks latte can become an idol. My point in all this is to provoke a sincere, honest self-analysis. What are the things in your life that take your attention from your Creator, the One who knows you better than you know yourself? He wants our full attention and to have our full trust! If we're telling Him we trust Him while trying to, simultaneously, do our own thing....what's the point? When we allow ourselves to step back and find Him in the midst of our schedules, to-do lists, and goals, when we search for Him and His perfect will in all that we do, when we surrender our plans (from where we'll retire one day to what we're doing this afternoon) to Him, and when we seek His peace in the midst of all this craziness, we will find His promised joy and calm.

When we let ourselves really be vulnerable before our Father and Maker, when we disclose our feelings, fears, doubts, desires, and plans....and then lay them at His feet and rest in His constant arms, we will find the contentment that can only be found in Him. When we don't have that contentment, we search for it in every possible domain of life, but will only find more emptiness. Seek Him in every aspect of life, surrender your plans for His, and bask in His love and mercy for us. He will fill that God-shaped hole in our hearts and still have plenty left.

Hebrews 13:5
Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you."

Saturday, March 26, 2011

It's Not Neat to Cheat...

You might've seen this title and thought I was going to go off on a tangent about cheating at school. While that topic is equally worthy in importance, I'm actually focusing on a kind of cheating you might not ever have realized you were doing: Cheating on your future spouse. I know, I know. Again, my posts can seem really extreme. Need I say, again, that these posts really aren't to harp on you or make you think you're sinning or something? It's brain food. So, as I've said before, just bear with me.

I've always been one to struggle with lust. I think alot of people are. That might sound odd to some people, but have any of you people seen a shirtless male? They make me stumble so fast and it's so difficult to keep a pure mind when you have that all up in front of you. The Bible says that when you look upon a woman lustfully, you're already committing adultery with them in your heart. (Ok, that sounded super wrong. I don't have that problem. The context was Jesus was talking to a MAN....so obviously idea can be applied to women about men.) And the 10 commandments say not to commit adultery. My point was this: Looking at someone you're not married to in a lustful way, isn't right. That's such a big struggle for me, and it's something of which God's convicting me on like a daily basis.

I think here's a good place to put that I think there's a GIGANTOR difference between "lust" and "desire". Lust is wrong, it's looking at someone in a completely objectifying way. Desire (in the context of physical stuff, as in NOT desire for money, or whatever) is what married people have for each other, and is not wrong at all (in my humble opinion). Here's something to chew on: Think about your future spouse. Ok, ok, you love them and all that. Does it make you happy to think about someone else checking YOUR man/woman out and obviously not thinking about Daniel and the Lions' den? Exactly. So keep your eyes on the prize (aka Jesus) and do your best to think about people in a pure light. Heads up, you'll fail. But try anyway.

Matthew 5:28
"But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart."

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Be Chill. Don't Kill.

I'm sure many of you saw the title of this post and thought to yourselves "Gee, I can't wait to read this because that's one of my top sins! I really struggle with controlling my murder sprees." Relax. While there might be a select few of you who have squished one too many bugs in your day, (That is not a confession of any kind on my part...) I'm actually not referring to physical murder. That does not in any way mean I'm advocating man slaughter, because that's wrong too. I'm simply offering a new way to look at one of the commandments God gave us. I already had one post on words and their effect, but those were negative ways to use words. This post is focusing on lifting people up, how our words can affect people and actually kill a part of them, and using our words for good and not bad stuff.

All of us have heard at least ONE "Mom saying" from our relatives. For example, "Say that again and I'll wash your mouth out with soap!" "Our words should lift each other up, not tear each other down." Or my personal favorite, "If you can't say something nice, dont say it at all." While all of those little phrases may seem kind of cheesy, and believe me they are, I never really thought about the serious meaning behind the cheesiness. The reason our moms tell us to watch our mouths, is because they know how powerful our words can be. Our words are ridiculously laden with strength! I don't know about you, but when someone randomly says "Wow, Jessica, your hair looks freaking GOOD today!" to me, I'm on cloud 11 for the next couple hours or maybe even the entire day! On the other hand, if someone says something mean to you, it's ruins your day and it's difficult to forget for awhile. Have you ever wondered where the phrase "I was stabbed in the back" came from?  Usually, the person saying that is alive (unless it's one of those survival shows, where someone was literally stabbed in the back, which is horrifying and certainly not what I'm referring to) and was simply referring to someone who was betrayed (often words are used to do so). Words have the incredible ability to lift people's spirits. However, when you are not careful with what you say, you can end up squishing someone's spirit just like those poor little bugs you stomped on when you were five. (or eighteen...) Deflating someone's spirit like that, in my opinion, is a kind of murder. So...be chill; Don't kill. Just my 2 cents.

Proverbs 16:24
"Encouraging words are like a honeycomb; Sweet to the soul and healing to the bones."

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Now, I Lay Me Down To Sleep....

Have you ever wondered why we pray? I mean really....why do we pray? I don't know about you, but for the longest time, my prayers have sounded something like this: "God, please heal my stuffy nose." "Jesus, help me not to fail this exam, etc" Or maybe for some of us, it might be out of routine. Maybe, you pray before you hit the sheets at night, or maybe right before you eat. Up until just recently, I didn't see the point of prayer. I didn't see a reason to pray, because I couldn't imagine why God would need us to say "Dear, God, please help my mom feel better." In my mind, either it was His will for momma to be sick OR He would just make her feel better. He didn't need me for stuff like that...right?

It took me FOREVER to realize that it wasn't Him needing my prayers....it was me needing to depend on Him. Sure, He thrills in hearing from his children, but He doesn't need them. It's not like God is surprised when you pray to Him. He doesn't hear you and think "WHOOOOAAA, JESSICA HAD THAT JOB INTERVIEW TODAY?!" No, prayer is for your trust in Him to become stronger with each one. When God answers your prayers, you can look back and see how He was there for you. God just may not answer them how you want Him to. I'm still learning this and I don't think I'll ever have it "learned" completely.

Prayer is about getting close to God and deepening a relationship with Him. When you love somebody, you want to hang out with them, right? Well, prayer is exactly that! Prayer is, in a way, becoming vulnerable. We are acknowledging to both ourselves and to God that we can't do it by ourselves, that we need His help and guidance. We're showing God that we truly DO believe that He is our Source of strength. With our prayers we praise Him, confess to Him, simply talk with Him, ask him for comfort....Prayer is so powerful! It's important to remember that we have to pray about everything, not just the bad stuff. We can't just pray when things are going wrong, it has to be all the time!

It comes down to this simple fact; If you don't pray, you can't continue to grow in Christ. Sure, you might know alot about Him and His word. But without talking to Him, you just cannot keep growing in Him. Accepting and understanding this fact is crucial, and I say that with certainty. Another thing to remember, is it has to be sincere and heartfelt. You can't just say "Dear God, You are the source of my strength. Forgive me of the bad stuff I do....now let me win the lottery!" It has to be about Him. You'll find that the more you try to seek Him, the more powerful your prayers will become. There's my 2 cents...

Ephesians 6:18
"And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints."

Friday, May 7, 2010

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall...

...Who's the fairest one of all? Don't lie. You know in your mind you want that mirror to say "YOU are, you gorgeous piece of human. You are the fairest one of all...." Or something to that effect. This would of course have to mean your mirror talks, which is irrelevant to our discussion today.

I really struggle with where my motives lie. In general, I rank many things above God and He is slowly convicting me of this. So where do the mirrors come in, you ask? Well, mirrors are just one example of the many distractions out there that keep me from getting stronger with God. Maybe not actual mirrors, of course, but the reflections IN a mirror can pose quite an obstacle in my walk with Him. (although there are probably people with mirror fetishes out there somewhere. It's ok. God loves you too.) There are tons of obstacles, not just mirrors. It could be your social life, a bf/gf, work, a favorite object, money, family, facebook, or even living comfortably. My point is to be careful with what distracts YOU from God, because it's different for every person.

Now, I'm sure you don't actually refer to your current top priority an "idol." I'm not saying I think you wake up and think "Hmmm, I think I'll go worship and fraternize with my idol, facebook, today!" Hate to sound harsh or blunt, but that's pretty much what you're doing. God needs to be first in all things. If something is more important than being with God, it's an idol. Plain and simple. God says not to make unto ourselves any graven images. That can mean ANYTHING under the sun. I got this in a text message from my youth pastor, Will, and I think it's very fitting here. Just to make you think, of course... "I wonder what would happen if we treated our Bible like our cell phone? What if we carried it around in our pocket? What if we flipped through it several times a day? What if we turned back to get it, if we forgot it? What if we used it to receive messages from the text? What if we treated it like we couldn’t live without it? What if we gave to the kids as gifts? What if we used it when we traveled? What if we used it in case of an emergency? This is something to make you go "hmm". Where is my Bible? Oh, and one more thing. Unlike our cell phone we don’t have to worry about being disconnected because Jesus already paid the bill. Makes you stop and think —where are my priorities? And no dropped calls!"

My point is short 'n sweet. Pay attention to what SHOULD matter to you and what actually DOES. God should be first, but we often find that this is not the case. Maybe it's time to do some re-evaluating...just my 2 cents.

Exodus 20:4-6
"You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments."

Friday, April 30, 2010

Life is a Gift...

Unfortunately, guys (and girls), the topic for this blog post was inspired by a tragic story. Today, there were 4 highschool seniors involved in an accident at HPCA, a private school near me. One guy, Justin Simmons, was ejected from the car and killed on the scene. Jacob Nance, the driver, was also ejected from the vehicle and injured severely. He is currently in a coma, after having had surgery. Apparently, speed was a major factor in the accident and the car flipped several times. I didn't have the pleasure of knowing them personally, but that doesn't take away from the fact that one died. I repeat, they were seniors. For those of you who don't know, I am a senior. I am not in any way trying to make this about me, no sir. I wanted to write this post today because when I hear of things like this, I literally am shattered. My heart breaks to hear about death. I realize that, if you are a believer, we will one day be united with Jesus, without pain or affliction. In my opinion, that doesn't make the idea of one's life being terminated sound any better.

When I hear about things like this, I always begin to really reflect on MY life. I begin to ask questions like this: How can I take life so for granted? Do I wake up every DAY and remember that the physical act of existing is a MIRACLE? How can we take away the ultimate gift of life from the innocent? How can I forget that every day when I get in my car to go to work, I am risking death? How can I procrastinate when I am not promised the next minute? What will I do with this life I've been given? Am I making an impact on anyone's life right now? Will my time here help influence someone or be used by God to lead someone to Him? Will I leave a legacy?

Guys, life is a gift. It's such a forgotten, neglected gift. We couldn't do ANYTHING without this gift. Nothing. Every day, when we wake up and sigh about the unearthly numbers on the clock before us, or groan because it's monday and not friday, or even if you wake up filled with hatred for this gift...we have to remember that we wouldn't be who we are without it. I, Jessica, would not be who I am without the LIFE that God GAVE me! Too often, life is squandered or smothered with distractions and meaningless things. Or, to take what I said literally, it is smothered. Everyday, babies are aborted without ever having been able to experience life. Everyday, someone, some person, some human being's LIFE, is extinguished by another. Everyday, someone, a person, a human being takes their own life. Think about that! Life is precious and we abuse that gift every day.

This won't be the longest post ever. As a matter of fact, it will be a very short one. But, life is short too, guys. I implore you all to really step back and think. What would happen if someone close to you, died in the next 5 minutes. What would happen if YOU died in the next 5 minutes. Make something of the time you have, guys.

UPDATE: 5/1/10, Jacob Nance died this next afternoon, after being taken off life support. R.I.P. Jacob.

Romans 6:23
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

70 x 7 = 490

I'll bet the very first thing you thought when you saw my title was "Oh, I am overjoyed. Jessica can do arithmetic."  Or perhaps you thought "It's about TIME for a post, it's been FOREVER!" In effort to be humble, however, I will assume that these posts have not been sorely missed for lack of depth, etc. The length of time between now and my last post, through the fault of my own, would be because I simply have not made the time to do so. I apologize, profusely. Anyway, today's post is about forgiveness. Oh yes. It's such a difficult thing when this "friend" was a real jerk to you and you just want to hold a grudge. Or when your brother (or sister) ...(or parents) really embarrassed you in front of your friends or annoyed you. It's just tough. However, Jesus says to do it. No matter what happened or what was said, Jesus wants us to forgive. We have to do it in order to glorify God.

I just want you to think about this for a second. Any POSSIBLE sin that anyone could POSSIBLY commit has been paid for by the blood of Christ. Not only that, but if someone has done something wrong against you, they did it directly to God too. The same goes for when you sin against someone else. You have hurt God, to His face. God is able to forgive at the drop of a hat! At the flip of a coin! If you made a mistake, would you not want your friend to forgive you? Or even if someone isn't your friend. If you are looking me in the computer screen right now, reading these very words and telling me that you are a serious Christian who is striving to obey Him, then shouldn't obeying HIM be the more important thing here? Seriously. If you honestly want to do what God says, it shouldn't be an issue to forgive someone who has wronged us. Whether that someone be a friend or someone you don't agree with or get along with very well. But it IS an issue. Why?

I mean it, WHY do we have such trouble forgiving? I know my struggles and areas of serious sin but I don't know yours. Heck, you may be the kind of person who forgives really easily! There is one person, I ain't saying names, that I have yet to fully forgive, to this day! I really want to get over that, and it's hard. Now, if I really wanted to start some kind of fight, I would just tell you to read my post on anger and then argue that forgiveness shouldn't be an issue because we shouldn't even be angry at somebody in the first place. This is assuming that we've already gotten really upset. Some reasons I, personally, might have trouble forgiving is because either my reputation has been ruined in someway, and I am selfishly dwelling on this imperfection that others might now know about or because I am jealous of that person. I mean, honestly, I am. I compare myself to people and when I see or know someone who I think is better than me, I am eager to cling to any flaw that I find out about. If that flaw happens to be something that they did to me, I don't want to forgive them because that would mean letting go of the one thing that I know isn't perfect about them. Selfish, isn't it. I think my next post'll be on jealousy.

Now, there are a million different reasons why you might harbor a grudge against someone. And frankly, I don't know what those are because every person is different. So, I encourage you to really think about WHY you don't want to forgive someone and really ask God to help you in that area of your walk with Him. To be plain and simple, God wants us to lean on Him, worship Him, be out-of-our-minds crazy about Him. We can't do that if we are busy thinking of ways to get back at someone or even just silently festering with fury at someone. We have to let it go. God will deal with them, it's not our business.

 Matthew 6:14-15
For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.