Tag Archives: The Cross

My story in five minutes

3 Aug

As a top commenter for this video said, “Yours forever, man of the cross.”

Yep.

Jen

Concerning bitterness

1 May

Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled. Hebrews 12:14-15

When we’ve been wronged, when we’re the innocent ones, when life all around us seems to be attacking us, it’s easy to feel like a victim. And, it’s really easy to become bitter and unforgiving toward those who have hurt us.

Truth be told, it’s hard to forgive sometimes. It’s especially hard to forgive someone who hasn’t even apologized to us. Even more so, it’s hard to not speak of them in bitterness and anger.

But we MUST fight.

Matthew 18:21-22 tells us that we must forgive others over and over and over again. And, it doesn’t just mean we have to forgive them each time they wrong us, although that is important. But sometimes it means we have to forgive them over and over and over for one sin against us that keeps surfacing in our minds, causing us pain each time we recall it because, well, maybe they didn’t say sorry. Or maybe they did, but we’re still hurting.

I truly believe that if we stay in a bitter and unforgiving place, God can’t work in our lives. He may not change our hearts if we become consumed with self-pity and don’t ask him for help. I have found, in these times, that when we feel bitter, we should ask God for compassion and then pray for the ones who hurt us. Through this, we will learn that compassion! After all, we are all sinners. Not one of us is perfect. And the Word says we have to forgive. So forgive, and love, and pray. It’s hard. But it’s freeing.

In the Hebrews verse I shared at the start of this post, we’re told to “strive for peace with everyone.” If you’ve ever been wronged by someone, you might be thinking something like, “Well, I tried. But they wronged me. It’s not MY fault.”

But it is still our place to “strive for peace”! The bible wasn’t written so that we could point the finger and say, “YOU shouldn’t have done THAT.” Nope, it’s for all of us to learn from. So, to strive for peace when we’ve been wronged might look like this: Not speaking in bitterness. Not only because bitterness drives us to that awful place of self-pity, but also because it may cause others around us to “become defiled” when we speak it.

The ESV Study Bible provides a great commentary on these verses in Hebrews. Check it out:

As they pursue peace and holiness, Christians should watch out for each other in order that no one falls short of the gift of eternal salvation. The author warns against “bitterness” by alluding to Deuteronomy 29:18, which describes one who turns away from God and pursues other gods. A bitter and resentful person is like a contagious poison, spreading his resentment to others.

That last sentence is my favorite. Man, I never want to become a bitter and “contagious poison,” do YOU?! This reminds me of James 3:8, where we are told the tongue is a “restless evil, full of deadly poison.” Um, yikes… This is even more of a reason to stay away from speaking bitterness!

If you can relate to this post today, remember these nine words: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, Self-Control (Galatians 5:22-23). Bitterness is a complete antonym to any of the fruits of the spirit, don’t you think? In such a time when we’re tempted to speak bitterly (or sing bitterly, if you remember my post about Adele’s music), we must exercise that last one (self-control) in order to not cause others around us to fall.

If you’re facing difficulty in your life right now because of the way that someone hurt you, I pray that you would find healing in Jesus, and that you would learn to forgive your brother–seven times 70 times–and that you would not become bitter or spread bitterness.

Instead, choose to live in love, joy, peace, patience, etc. Sounds a lot less miserable too, doesn’t it?

Jen

Someone’s gotta say it: purity is hard work

29 Mar

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Ever since last night I have felt a tug on my heart to talk about purity and walking with Christ in every aspect of our lives, including dating relationships.

I didn’t get a whole lot of sleep last night because of it. I went to bed later than usual and woke up way earlier than I needed to. I ended up praying about ways to pen the words I want to scream on the rooftops to all young people and all unmarried people. I want to do it with wisdom. And I don’t claim to know everything.

I also don’t claim to be perfect or sinless, but I do know that the bible calls us to purity in the scriptures, and that it is absolutely what we should strive for. I recognize that it is SO hard in our culture to stand firm when it comes to this topic. Movies, music, magazines, peer pressure and the Internet make it almost impossible to walk on a straight path when it comes to keeping ourselves and honoring our bodies as the scriptures beckon us to (1 Corinthians 6:18-20 is a good reference if you don’t know what I’m talking about).

I’ve talked with other Christians about this topic, and I’ve also done some observation. It is not my place to judge, so please don’t think that I am.

I just want to make clear something I truly believe in: although every Christian (and unbelievers as well) has their own boundaries and their own concept of what is “too far,” that doesn’t change what the scriptures say. The bible should be our primary source for knowledge and wisdom when it comes to this topic. Otherwise, we’ll find our selves excusing away our human desires, thinking that it’s okay to follow our inclinations because it’s “normal” or “natural.” And we’ll make mistakes. We’ll end up with regrets and scars. Paul didn’t write about sexual immorality, marriage and honoring God with our bodies just for the early church. He wrote it for us, too.

I’ve also recognized something HUGE when it comes to teaching young people about purity: we can’t just tell them they have to abstain and think it’s enough. We also have to make it clear that IT WILL BE HARD. But it is NOT “unrealistic.” Don’t mistake the word “difficult” for “unrealistic.” I don’t think anyone ever told me how hard it would be. Or if they did, I was too naive to accept it.

Young and/or unmarried people, I want you to know that it will be hard. I don’t just want to give you a sugar-coated speech about purity and stop there. I want you to know that it’s a battle and a fight. If you want to be like Christ, that includes every area of your life. It will be tough. But you CAN do it. Don’t just give up because you think it’s impossible or because the “Christians” around you are doing things that aren’t okay. It’s not impossible, I promise.

There is so much more I want to say about this topic, but I want to pray about it and seek the Lord before going any further. I hope that this is an encouragement to someone struggling today. Allow the Holy Spirit to convict you and don’t make excuses for yourself; you are feeling conviction for a reason. He loves you and wants the best for you. And there is always, always forgiveness because of the Cross. You are not alone and you don’t need to live in shame and darkness. There is hope and strength in Jesus…

Jen

One Desire

8 Mar

How often we forget that Christ is to be our one desire.

In the mixed up world we live in, we so often can find ourselves desiring money, possessions or even relationships more than we desire God. Yet he loves us more than anyone else ever could. He sent his Son to Earth to die for our sins on the Cross. He gave everything so that we could live in eternity. How empty that makes the chase of temporary highs!

Here is a sweet reminder of the one who should be our “One Desire.” (Incase I haven’t already mentioned…I love this girl!)

Jen

He makes all things work together for my “good”

28 Feb

You’ve heard it, I’ve heard it: “He makes all things work together for my good” (Romans 8:28). In fact, I quoted it in my last blog about Colossians 1:17.

When I hear that verse, what comes to my mind is something I think comes to many people’s minds: God is good, he is on my side and he’ll make good things happen to me if I believe in him, such as prosperity, success and happiness. (And I mean, not to start a controversy, but that’s what people like Joel Osteen seem to tell us.) Right?

Wrong.

Romans 8:28 is what I consider to be one of the most commonly quoted (and sometimes misquoted) passages of scripture. It’s kind of a feel-good scripture, isn’t it? And it’s even in a popular worship song that we sing at my church frequently (“Your Name High” by Hillsong). It’s great song and a great message, but only if we understand it the way that it was intended to be perceived. So here’s my attempt at explaining it.

If you read the verse isolated, it’s very difficult to understand what Paul, the author, is telling us. That’s why I want to include part of the following verse (v. 29a). This is from the English Standard Version:

 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.

My first observance when reading this is that the promise of “working all things together for good” is only for those who believe. It’s not for the sinners of the world, but for the sinners who have recognized what Christ did on the cross and become believers, whom I like to call “sinners saved by grace.”

Secondly, this “good” that Paul tells us we are promised is not prosperity. It doesn’t mean that our lives are going to be perfect just because we call ourselves Christians. In fact, life can be even harder because we are Christians.

So then what does he mean?

Well, I absolutely love the Word of God, but it’s true that I am no theologian and I have no biblical degree. I went to college to become a writer, but I can promise you I like to know what I’m writing about. So I did a little research. In fact, I pulled out my dad’s massive ESV Study Bible from under the coffee table and flipped it open to Romans. I found this in the commentary for verse 28:

God weaves everything together for good for his children. The “good” in this context does not refer to earthly comfort but conformity to Christ, closer fellowship with God, bearing good fruit for the kingdom, and final glorification.

This definition of “good” is SO different from what we might naturally think. To me, good things are happiness and wealth. Good things are a new car, the perfect job, a family that gets along, etc. I think that’s a pretty natural way for us to feel. But those aren’t things that necessarily bring God glory or things that are “good” for us when it comes to eternity. Nope! But conformity to Christ and bearing good fruit for the kingdom are things that do bring God glory. Things that are truly good for us as his children, in order to further his purpose.

I’d also like to mention that the commentary for verses 29-30 goes on to explain why we can trust God to work things together for good:

Verses 29-30 explain why those who believe in Christ can be assured that all things work together for good: God has always been doing good for them, starting before creation (the distant past), continuing in their conversion (the recent past), and then onto the day of Christ’s return (the future).

I’m sorry, can I just pause right here and say I LOVE THIS?! God has always been doing good for us and always will. Always! So whenever I am in trouble, whenever I am heartbroken, whenever life is more than I can handle, I can know (because his Word tells me) that he is working ALL THINGS together for good. That’s all things…even the tough stuff. Everything that happens to me, everything in my life…all of it is for my good so that I may become more like Christ. That is extremely comforting and it gives me peace!

Also in my Romans 8:28 research, I found this lovely study by Bob Deffinbaugh called “A Solace in Suffering: The Sovereignty of God” that puts this verse into perspective for when we’re going through difficult times in life. Here’s an excerpt:

Paul turns in verses 28-30 to yet another truth which should sustain the Christian in the midst of the suffering and groanings of this present life—the sovereignty of God. Whatever the Christian sees happening, we may be assured that it is not only under God’s control, but its purpose is to produce what is for God’s glory and for our good. When life’s trials cause some to wonder if God even exists, and others to wonder whether He is in control, the Christian may be assured that God is there. He is in charge of bringing about His purpose for His glory and our good. Let us savor the truth of God’s sovereignty. While His sovereignty brings terror to the hearts of unbelievers, it is music to the Christian’s ears.

I really want to challenge you to consider this passage of scripture the next time you find yourself in a place where life is more than you can handle. Know that God is working all things together for good. For our good! Instead of asking God, “Why is this happening to me?” Try asking him, “How can I become more like Christ through this situation?” It’s a matter of trusting, and it’s also a matter of walking in obedience.

I want to leave you with an example of how Christ himself was obedient to God in times of suffering. Hebrews 5:7-9 tells us that during his earthly life, Christ cried out to his heavenly father to save him from death on the cross. Yet God did not change the course of Jesus’ life; God did not change his destiny. And Jesus was obedient. Oh, and by the way, his obedience is what saves us from our sins today. Please savor that today!

Jen