February 26, 2010

Love As Action

This is from a talk I was privileged to give at the church I attend in my hometown over Winter break. The first part, not included below, is my testimony up to the point I decided to cut away the worldly influences in my life and chase after God. I cut it out for brevity, as well as to not publicly dwell on parts of my past in which other people were an integral part.

I had said over and over again that I was a Christian, that I loved God, but I discovered that if you don’t fully embrace what that means you will fall until you do.

I began to seek my Savior every day through His Word and prayer. I realized how starved I had been, and had always had the lingering conviction to take action in spending time with Him every day.

I began looking for a new church; I was never able to connect with the people at my old church [in Williamsburg], and I felt suffocated by the start contrast between the amount of polite smiles and honest hellos I would get. A month and a half later, in a letter from another country, I found out about a bible-following, God-loving church in my college’s town. Using his Holy Spirit, His word, and His servants there, our Father led me through a time of explosive spiritual growth. I was constantly smiling.

That spring, I fell in love with Jesus, with God. Don’t just gloss over those words or take them lightly; when I say “in love,” I mean the Romeo and Juliet kind of love. The kind where the first sixteen lines spoken between us were a perfect sonnet with rhymed couplets, considered by Shakespeare and his contemporaries to be the highest form of poetry, the most elevated way to speak words, the purest expression of emotion. That’s what I mean by “in love.” [This is] Not to say that I’ve been perfect ever since; by no means. But there is a connection there that hadn’t been before.

By then I had become a serious threat to the enemy, so there was a pretty big roadblock thrown my way in the form of family trouble; I won’t go into detail. Since then, growth has been not quite as explosive; it has looked slower, but it has been deeper and He has built up my foundations in several ways through a very tough time. Foundations that probably weren’t going to be built up any other way. And He’s show me that [He] never let[s] go… His peace is with me through each step I take, when I dedicate time each day to seeking His face and loving Him.

God never only said He loved me, but many times I had only said I loved Him. I never showed him that with my actions. He redeemed for his Kingdom all my wrong turns. Turns he didn’t want me to make, but ones that he would redeem as soon as I let him.

Jesus says in John 14, verses 15-17:
If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever- the Spirit of truth.
In verse 21:
Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.

And in verse 23 [emphasis added]:
If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My father will loves him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching.
Obedience and love are very much linked. I will balance this by saying that we cannot only follow the rules without doing it for the right reason, as that will just lead to frustration and sin. We should be like the child who runs out to meet their parent arriving home from work. The running isn’t work. It’s steps taken out of love and a desire to be with that person.

I look back on my life through God’s eyes and see that I wasn’t always obeying his teachings. I wasn’t without him in high school, but I hadn’t surrendered all my desires to him. Times of testing came later which showed that my morals had been founded on sand.

I challenge you to look into the Bible and seek out God’s teachings for our lives, and to follow them. Pray for wisdom and brokenness. Do both of these things daily. Don’t you affirm your love for your fellow humans daily? Do you take a day off from telling the person you’re closest to, “I love you” because it’s tedious? Also, don’t take on this journey alone, get involved in a small group… God will use those people to nurture and challenge you in awesome ways.

Look at yourself through the standards of the Bible. Look at Jesus on the cross and see his love as defined by his actions, cleansing you and me of all filth and redeeming missed opportunities. Then, don’t only say that you love him… he has never only said that he loves you.

Shared at Hope Christian Fellowship in Warrenton on January 3rd, 2010.

February 25, 2010

Peace in Uncertainty

This is something I've learned in a very practical way recently; my train of thought was sparked partially by a friend of mine who's looking at going to school in Richmond as a possibility, but is very uncertain about whether he would live here or there and whether Richmond is where he's supposed to go. He talked about how he gave those plans up to God, and until he gets confirmation through prayer or open doors he's going to just dwell on the fact that God's in control and knows the situation perfectly.

The tough part's just existing in a state of uncertainty, which is a very active thing. But it teaches us to pray to God concerning these choices and situations; and then we wait. We just wait, keep serving God and pursuing a relationship with him, abandoning our insistent need for control over what's going on in our lives. In His time, He'll bring us guidance and wisdom... be confident of that.

Habbakkuk 1:5...
Look at the nations and watch— and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.
While this was a prophetic word to the Israelite people, I believe the bigness of God's plans for His people have not diminished. When you are uncertain and worried and grasping at the wheel, just remember that whatever God brings about will be used for His great plan for you, if you let Him.

There's one last tool in our spiritual toolbox that works wonders for these situations, and it's found in Philippians 4:7:
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Other translations say "God's peace, which exceeds anything we can understand;" "the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension;" and "God's peace, which goes far beyond anything we can imagine." The point is that God will give you peace that doesn't make sense from a worldly point of view, because you're trusting in the power of someone the world doesn't want to acknowledge. Pray for peace, and keep spending time with Someone who won't waste it. He'll lead you through in time.