Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Shh... Don’t talk about it.

The secular world pitches us this concept of both physical and mental health. They claim that healthy individuals engage in enjoyable activities and that participating in something negative will result in diminished health.

Take sex, for example.The Bible may teach abstinence, but the secular society preaches “self-awareness” and pleasure. Because sex is desirable to us by nature, it would make perfect sense that we must actively engage in intercourse. Everybody thinks sexual thoughts; we all crave it. We’re created for sex. Abstinence means denying ourselves something that we need to be healthful, happy individuals--right?

Um... No.

Satisfying a desire for unsubstantiated sex makes no more sense than satisfying a craving for a fat, juicy Big Mac ©. I may love to eat this genetically-altered, cholesterol-filled delicacy, but this action will ultimately result in physical harm. Therefore, I may choose not to eat Big Macs © anymore (See 2 Timothy 2:22.).

Does that mean I don’t believe in eating? No. I simply recognize what actions will increase my personal well-being, and I pursue those things. When something harmful appears, I reject it, despite its supposed beauty.

Sex is a wonderful gift from God--in correct boundaries. However, intercourse outside of marriage complicates an individual’s life in more ways than one. The physical bond between two individuals results in an emotional bond that is not easily broken. Rarely do people that are so open to intercourse remain with their first partner, causing issues down the road. On top of that, unwarranted sex results in STDs, unplanned pregnancies (and, unfortunately, abortions) and a life void of self-control.

Too often, people view Christians as vehemently opposed to sex of any kind. That’s biblically inaccurate. We can celebrate how God has created us, but we must grasp the consequences of abusing this gift. Only then can we live the healthy and wholesome life of walking out God’s will.

Wondering what the Bible says about abstinence? Here are some Scriptures that address the issue:
Ephesians 5:31-32, 1 Thessalonians 4:3-4, Hebrews 13:4, 1 Corinthians 6:18, Colossians 3:5, Galatians 5:19-21, 1 Corinthians 7:2

Monday, February 4, 2013

A New Season of Life

Instead of blogging about something elaborate, like I sometimes enjoy, today I want to write from the heart of my current circumstances. As an 18-year-old senior, I face the greatest transitional period yet to occur in my life.

I’m going to college.

And with that realization comes the realization that everything I have ever known will soon change drastically: a new home in a new town, a new school, a new church, a new friend base, and on the list goes.

Sometimes the clouds of transition seem to pool on the horizon, threatening to overwhelm me with their storms of change, but then I remember that I have been dreaming for my future since I could form a thought in my mind. Now the opportunity arises for me to receive the training to fulfill God’s calling on my life as a musician and writer. How could I reject such an offer?

Of course, in order to move on, I must know where God wants me to go, which brings up a beautiful subject because He has taken care of every possible detail. I can see the connections He has made between my future professors and myself, and I see how He has comforted the parts of me in disagreement with His plan with the simple promise that He knows best.

It’s strange, though, because I have spent my entire childhood working tirelessly with my career as a goal, and now my career has peeked out from behind the door. What in the world would it feel like not to dream about life overseas, but to work overseas? Well, just a few short years separate me from finding out.

I cannot help but think that God works this way on purpose. In Matthew 13, Jesus speaks about the parable of the seed. Most people only focus on the harvest produced from the seeds which fell on the good soil, but they seem to forget the blood, sweat and tears that the farmer must have sowed into that crop. God brings us through preparation seasons so that we can bring forth a fully matured harvest. Attempts to force the “hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty” before the harvest time prove futile (Matthew 13:23, NKJV).

I am thankful for the years of preparation, but I also rejoice in the excitement of a fully matured harvest! God will work mightily when we allow Him, and I know that strongholds on that university campus will crumble under the all-encompassing power of Christ.

What about all of you? Leave a comment about the stage of life in which you find yourself and how God is working in your life.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Joy's Missing Link

In the presence of God, there "is fullness of joy” (Psalm 16:11, NKJV).

I love this encouraging verse; it shows me that God offers true joy in the midst of sorrow and confusion. However, we often forget a key facet of this truth:

In the presence of God, our iniquities arise, and we see our filth.

In the words of Isaiah, “[we are] undone” (Isaiah 6:5, NKJV). God’s purity and wholeness leave no room for offense, bitterness or insecurity. For that reason, approaching God forces us to face the hard truth of our imperfections.

Isaiah experiences such a “reality check” when called to the Lord’s work in Isaiah 6 and 7. Upon seeing God in the temple, the first thing Isaiah vocalized was regret at his unclean state. Only then did God cleanse him and call him to the people. Even though God called Isaiah to preach judgment, Isaiah found great joy in being used by his Savior.

So, yes, God brings fullness of joy, but is joy our goal? Not really. We need wholeness. Unfortunately, I have to admit that coming before God doesn’t always reveal my sin, because I enter the throne room on a mission of my own conjuring. Later, I expect to experience joy, but I remain unhealed within. 

From now on, I pray that the overwhelming power of God would overtake us every time that we enter into His presence. May we seek healing and forgiveness with no ulterior motives except to draw nearer to our Savior, and only then may we experience fullness of joy.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Too Full to Move?

There may come a time in our spiritual walks where Jesus’ teachings are no longer impactful, not due to any fault of His, but due to our tendency to take life-transformational truths for granted. This is especially true for those of us who have grown up in the church. We hear the stories of Noah or Daniel and the Lions’ Den and fail to realize the weighty importance they hold.

But I have to wonder: Does extensive exposure to the Word of God excuse a lifestyle devoid of a revolution in our thoughts, words and actions?

Jesus speaks about dying to the flesh, but do we really die to pride?

He speaks on uplifting language, but do we really encourage one another?

He speaks on glorifying our Savior with every action, but can others see Christ in our lives on a daily basis?

Sometimes I wonder.

Reading the holy Word of God with fresh eyes provides such a thrill as we uncover new truths in even the most popular passages. May we be renewed day-by-day as we seek to know God more (2 Corinthians 4:16).

But He answered and said, 'It is written, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God."'” (Matthew 4:4, NKJV)

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Jesus' Health Insurance

I sit here in the hospital waiting room, waiting for a loved one to return from back surgery. As I look around, I see people from all walks of life, all here for one reason: a need for medical attention. Regardless of their pasts or their home lives, regardless of their incomes or their possessions, every single one of them receives loving care and assistance.

Ironically, this hospital catapults me into deep thought regarding our churches. Shouldn’t the body of Christ operate in the same manner? The wounded and weary should feel welcomed as God’s servants prepare them for the spiritual surgery to come. They should rest peacefully as we surround them with support through the recovery process and ensure that all of their needs are relieved.

Instead, we see Christians spewing hateful words against homosexuals, prostitutes, pimps, drug addicts, abortion doctors and any other person who may violate our “code of conduct.” But I have to wonder: Isn’t this the kind of behavior that Jesus came to dispel?

The Pharisees were ready to stone the adulteress, judge the disciples after they did not wash their hands, and even lead Jesus to His crucifixion (John 8:4-6; Matthew 15:2; Mark 14:53-65). One particular time, Jesus spends time with the “sinners” of the day, and the Pharisees have a fit! Jesus responds brilliantly. He reminds them:

“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.' For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance” (Matthew 9:12-13, NKJV).

Did Jesus agree with the schemes of the tax collectors? Absolutely not. But He knew that they would never see life if life did not see them. As followers of Christ, we hold the key to peace and wholeness. Instead of hatred, let’s make an effort to show Jesus’ love to all people.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Parable of the Frozen Hot Dog

The other day I found myself in a very familiar position: scrounging up some lunch. Tired of turkey sandwiches and apples, I finally came upon some frozen hot dogs in the freezer. Not wanting to deal with the grill, I decided to cook one on the stove.

After a few minutes, the hot dog seemed to be done; it displayed the appropriate brown spots and felt warm to the touch. Upon cutting the hot dog open, however, I discovered that the inside remained frozen.

Hungry and desperate for any successful strategy, I decided to slit the hot dog down the middle and turn the heat higher. It finally cooked.

“Why in the world is she writing about her lunch?” you may wonder. Well, oddly enough, this little hot dog an accurate depiction of our lives.

Many times we think we are “ready for public consumption” based upon the cooked outside of our lives.  In a condition of blindness and ignorance, we continue living as if no frozen core exists. However, a healthy dose of introspection just might reveal the ugly truth.

We are tough and raw.

Hard to accept, right? In contrast to the shallow teachings of our modern-day society, Jesus did not believe in skimming the surface of the matters of life. He knew that healing comes from digging deep within ourselves to the very fears and pains we try so hard to hide and from revealing them in their entirety. God inquires us to come before Him with nothing hidden. Sure, He can see straight through our disguises, but He asks us to willingly lay down our secrets, so that we might receive His freedom (John 8:33). If we don’t open up, how can we cook to our full potential?

Also, notice the key cooking element: heat.

While it would have been much easier and quicker to stick the hotdog back in the freezer, I knew what I wanted. I also knew that the end product would overshadow the extra cooking time and efforts completely.

God allows us to suffer in order to develop us into the final product. Can a hotdog cook without heat? However, He does not harm us in the process (Lamentations 3:33). He also does not leave us or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6).

No, He will not walk away, forgetting about you as you burn to a crisp. He cares. That’s the only reason He places us on the stove in the first place.

Now we have a decision to make: Will we fight God for allowing the heat or thank Him for the opportunity to reach our potential?

You can fight if you want, but it just might leave you tough and raw. 

Friday, August 10, 2012

Live from Louisville 2012: Merited Humility

Lights flash and music plays as thousands of teenagers worship God in a relentless pursuit after His love. Meanwhile, one of the thousands sits in contrast to the crowd, ferociously scribbling on her pad of paper. 

OK. I must admit that I am this girl. God has taught me various lessons on the subject of the Fine Arts Festival, and I couldn’t help but share:

Behind many things lays a root of pride. Whether excessive shyness, arrogant boldness or a variety of other problems, these actions tear us from God. For that reason, it makes me cringe when others refer to FAF as a “competition” where we “perform.” However, knowing a truth in our minds differs sometimes from living a truth from our hearts. 

Two weeks ago, I could easily preach the proverbial lecture on humility, failing to see the pride of my own life. God showed me through Monday night’s service with Tim Ross that I need to stand up and walk out of my pride. Sure, I can talk day and night about denying myself and following Christ, but in reality, I still pictured myself in front of thousands of teenagers presenting my spoken word. I still thought and even dreamed of "superiors" and merit awards. Why?

For my own personal gain. 

“Oh, but Amy,” you may assert, “those things are good. They help you have confidence that God really works through your gifts. Everyone loves awards.”

Does God need justification? Do we really need others’ approval to know that God uses us? If everyone loves awards, does that necessarily mean we need them?

No. When we allow God’s cleansing stream to sweep away all impurities, we recognize our emptiness without His flow. In reality, we do nothing without Him. Acts 17:28 reminds us that “...in Him we live and move and have our being” (NKJV). If that’s so, then we must rely on Him for all of our FAF presentations. He must minister through us.

The Fine Arts motto is “Discover. Develop. Deploy.” Obviously, FAF participants have discovered and wish to develop their gifts, but we often lose the deploy aspect. We think we must set up a specific time to do street outreach or play for the offertory. In reality, the deployment starts here. It starts now. The listeners in the audience, even the judges, need God’s ministry, and we have the opportunity to deliver that message. 

Even with that knowledge, we often find ourselves sucked into the “self-ministry” vacuum, thinking that we must invoke reaction among the audience. We try to measure the “efficiency of our deliverance.” Really, God works, whether visibly or invisibly. We simply need to trust Him. Then, He can use us to greater levels because our flesh has left our lifestyle.  

This revelation transformed my Fine Arts experience this year. Instead of stress, anxiety and chaos, I rested in Christ’s confidence, knowing that I could not fail in the ministerial sense because I never carried that obligation in the first place. God upheld me, and I can now reap those benefits. I invite you to do the same.