Never Alone

This past week, I had the pleasure of spending an entire week alone in my house, minus the company of my dog, Chance, and Grandma who I asked to come over often. Needless to say, that “pleasure” quickly turned to sorrow as the longer the days grew and the darker the nights, the lonelier I became.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love quiet. I love a well-lived-in home full of life, but quiet at night. However, when it really comes down to it, once you’ve heard every creak, crack, and bump in the night, many of us don’t like being alone as much as we thought (myself included).

Walking out to the porch one evening that week, even poor Chance wailed his loneliness of humanity through the hollowest howl of horrifying sorrow I’d ever heard. Perhaps it was a lingering revelation that his fellow brother Buddy (who had to be put to sleep a week earlier) was really never coming back, or maybe it was a simple longing for me to come back in the house, even for just a few moments because he couldn’t stand the thought, the feeling, the presence of being alone…even when I was just outside the door he couldn’t see through.

And in some odd parallel of a lonely dog singing opera and a twenty-something girl full of anxiety and fear of being isolated in her bedroom, I tend to wonder if God at the beginning of time felt this way about His creation.

Creation of Community

In the Scriptures of Genesis chapter 2, we learn that just a few short days after God created the Universe and His creation of Adam, left this one human longing for something that even God knew needed provided. And did this mean that God wasn’t good? Of course not! Did it mean that He had made a mistake? Certainly not. But, it did mean that He recognized a need for His people even before they asked for anything, and in His goodness, He gifted us with something no other could: community.

Breathing His own life into dust to form the lungs of Adam, our Word records that Adam was created with a purpose. He was given a mission to care for the land, avoid the tree of Good and Evil, and live in the presence of our Heavenly Father. What a joy that sounds! Yet, even with this purpose and calling, Adam had no other human interaction. And before he knew it, I’m sure he felt much like me this week when the Word reflects:

It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him – Genesis 2:18, NLT

God, who recognized a NEED in His people, even before they would beg, cry out, and ask for it on their own. A need not just romantically, but relationally.

So the Lord God formed from the ground all the wild animals and all the birds of the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would call them, and the man chose a name for each one. He gave names to all the livestock, all the birds of the sky, and all the wild animals. But still, there was no helper just right for him. So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep. While the man slept, the Lord God took out one of the man’s ribs and closed up the opening. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib, and he brought her to the man. “At last,” the man exclaimed. “This one is bone from my bone, and flesh from my flesh! She will be called ‘woman,’ because she was taken from ‘man”- Genesis 2:19-23

And you know what I love about that Scripture? That, as much as I want caring for things to be enough. As much as I want my dog, Chance, to be enough. Even as much as I want God in solitude to be enough, He wants a community for us, and without that, we will utterly be alone. But look! This Scripture not only tells us that God doesn’t want us to be alone, but it also reveals that God will always provide for our every need. In friendship, in a relationship, in family, even before we ever speak a word.

Psalm 139:4 declares with eloquence, “even before a word is on my tongue, You know all about it, O Lord.” Nothing proves this more than the Creator of the Universe providing for the first man on the planet, not because he asked for something, but because God knew that a lack of humanity would never be enough for Adam.

Never Alone with Christ

On Thursday this week, I finally saw my parents, and as eager as a child in a candy store, I couldn’t resist the urge to tell them how much I missed them this week. And in that short span of five seconds, I realized something profound: even in their lack of physical appearance this week, I was reassured every night by the voice of my parents that they cared for and loved me the same, even when I couldn’t presently see them. I couldn’t help but think that the same principle applies to our Father in Heaven who profoundly longs to hear, speak, talk to, and remind us that we’re never alone.

Even when we can’t see Him behind the door.

Even when we can’t hear Him and we scream at the top of our lungs with a wailing sorrow.

Even when we can’t speak because we’re so full of tears that all that comes out is a blubbering mess of emotion.

Even when it’s just a week and you know your parents will be back again (as silly as that sounds), but you miss their presence and community, know this:

He’s still there. He still cares. And regardless of if we can physically see, hear, or experience Him; He doesn’t want us to be alone.

Jesus the Passover Lamb: A Study in Biblical Theology

lamb of god

“For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.” – 1 Corinthians 5:7

Travel back in time with me for a moment. We’re likely in Bethany by the Jordan River the day after John the Baptist baptized hundreds of people (likely Jewish), who had placed their trust in the coming Messiah (John 1:28). All of a sudden, John the Baptist sees this man walking by and proclaims, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).

As Gentiles, the phrase would’ve seemed confusing to us. We probably would’ve asked why John identifies a man as being the Lamb of God. But for Jews, this bold statement would’ve turned heads and shocked many. We often forget the context behind certain phrases in Scripture, but what John the Baptist proclaims is profound. John likely identified Christ as the “Lamb of God” [Passover Lamb] because he knew that he is the fulfillment of Exodus 12 and Isaiah 53. Not only does John the Baptist see this fulfillment, but also the Apostles. In fact, Paul clearly identifies Jesus as the “Passover Lamb” (1 Cor. 5:7). I will present to you the three most important blessings we see in Scripture of Christ being our Passover Lamb.

 

The Lamb Delivers His People from the Bondage of Sin (Exodus 12)

The first blessing is that Jesus delivers his people from the bondage of sin. Associate Professor of Biblical Theology at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary James M. Hamilton Jr. describes typology as when “the biblical authors [draw] attention to people, events, and institutions where the divine author [God] has caused actual resemblance. To examine biblical typology is to examine the orchestration of the sovereign God.”

The physical Passover Lamb in Exodus 12 points to Christ as the Lamb of God, the physical sacrifice in our place. The requirement that the lamb must be unblemished points to Christ being perfect in every way. Ultimately, the result of Israel being delivered from slavery to Egypt points to the day when Christ delivered his people from the bondage of sin for all eternity on the cross.

 

The Lamb Atones for Sin (Isaiah 53)

The next blessing is that as our perfect sacrifice, Jesus atones for sin. Some of the most powerful verses in the Bible come from Isaiah 53, which describes the Deliverer as the Suffering Servant, the one who would take on sin and impute his righteousness to his people. 

Consider Isaiah 53:4-5:

Surely he has borne our griefs

and carried our sorrows;

yet we esteemed him stricken,

smitten by God, and afflicted.

But he was pierced for our transgressions;

he was crushed for our iniquities;

upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,

and with his wounds we are healed.

Christ was brought to death like a lamb brought to the slaughter, yet he didn’t resist (Isaiah 53:7). All of this he did to atone for our sin. For those of you that may not understand what atonement means, I’ll give you a helpful way of understanding the term. Basically, atonement means “at-one”ment with God. This means Jesus reconciles us to God by shedding his blood on the cross. Isaiah 53:12c, which says, “Yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors,” portrays this image of Christ bearing our sins as the sacrifice in our place, and the one who reconciles us to God.

 

The Lamb Blesses His People with Worship (Revelation 5)

The final blessing is that in his sacrificial death on the cross, his resurrection and exaltation, he blesses his people with worship for all eternity. I would imagine that there were a few Jews who wept tears of joy in hearing the Baptizer announce Jesus as the Lamb of God; they personally and intimately knew what that meant. They knew that John just announced their Deliverer has come. He heralded that the One who would be the sacrifice in our place has entered into the story of redemption. Our hope in redemption, however, would’ve all been lost if Christ is not risen.

If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. – 1 Cor. 15:19

The glorious plan of redemption finds its rest in the resurrected and exalted Lamb, whom Revelation 5 describes as the One who receives all “power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing” (Rev. 5:12). By his blood he has ransomed a people for himself “from every tribe and language and people and nation,” and this beautiful people he has made “kingdom and priests to our God” to reign with him and worship him for all eternity (Rev. 5:9-10). Ransomed people of the Lamb of God, let us worship him in spirit and in truth (John 4:24).

Should the Bible Be Trusted? Is It Really the Word of God?

trust bible

To validate the Bible as the inspired Word of God, we must look into internal and external evidence. However, some internal evidence might seem as if the Bible is claiming itself as the Word of God, and some people criticize this as circular reasoning, which basically means that it will not serve as substantial evidence. Even though for some this evidence is not enough to prove its authenticity, it is crucial we examine it. 

 

Internal Evidence of the Bible

In 2 Timothy 3:16-17 it says: 

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. – 2 Timothy 3:16-17

This extract from the second book of Timothy, written by Paul, clearly states that the Bible is the Word of God. This is one of the internal pieces of evidence we can find inside the Bible, alongside many other verses that testify of its divine origin. 

In addition, we can find in the Bible detailed prophecies regarding Israel and other nations, along with prophecies of the Messiah. Approximately 2,500 prophecies have been fulfilled exactly as they were described centuries before they even occurred. These prophecies were 100 percent accurate in their predictions, meaning there were no errors. For example: 

In the fifth century BC, a prophet named Zechariah declared that the Messiah would be betrayed for the price of a slave—thirty pieces of silver, according to Jewish law-and also that this money would be used to buy a burial ground for Jerusalem’s poor foreigners. – Zechariah 11:12-13

Bible writers and secular historians both record thirty pieces of silver as the sum paid to Judas Iscariot for betraying Jesus, and they indicate that the money went to purchase a “potter’s field,” used—just as predicted—for the burial of poor aliens (Matthew 27:3-10). 

 

External Evidence of the Bible

On the other hand, external evidence also suggests that the Bible is the Word of God. The Bible narrates historical events accurately and truthfully, and it has been proven by archaeological discoveries. It is said that the Bible is the “best-documented book from the ancient world” (Got Questions Ministries). The Smithsonian Department of Anthropology said that the Bible is “more accurate than many of the Egyptian, Mesopotamian, or Greek histories.” Many monuments found in Egypt, Assyria, and others had the names of at least 29 kings, who are mentioned in the Bible. 

Now, the most controversial issue while trying to justify the authenticity of the Bible is the fact that the authors of all 66 books are humans. It is to note that God used these men to write down His words. If we take a look at the lives of these men, they were respectable men, and some were well-known in other countries. 

For example, King David, the writer of many psalms, was recognized as a ruler by multiple countries in the region. Another example is the life of Paul, formerly known as Saul, who went from killing Christian to becoming an Apostle. Most of the Apostles lived with Jesus while He was on Earth until His ascension to heaven, and they were also first-hand witnesses. The lives of these men and their willingness to die for what they believe in is proof that the Bible is the Word of God.

Throughout history, many have tried to destroy the Bible, but it has been demonstrated to be indestructible. How after many attempts to vanish it is it still the best-selling book of all time? Why do many people read the Bible? What else is there to actually rely on the Bible? Maybe the answer is to test it personally, and by reading the Bible we can become convinced that the Bible is truly the Word of God.

Finding Joy in a World of Work

Joy work

Why should we work? Should we work to have enough to live? Should we work to have enough to live comfortably? To live well off? Can we find joy in work? People often say that they are “married to their career”. Others say they can’t wait for 5 PM on a Friday night when they are done with their drudgery and can get on to what they actually want to do. If someone doesn’t have a passion, we think of them as lost. When we meet people, we often ask “what do you do?” Or, in college, “What are you majoring in? What are your plans after college?” As I considered the classic question of what I wanted to do after college, I found myself asking myself these questions: Why should I work, and what should I work for?

I have always heard in church and around that I should work for God, but I know that I can work for God no matter what I do. Beyond finding the topics that interest me and the ones that I am skilled in, how do I work in a way that allows me to be the most faithful daughter of God?

Ecclesiastes has a simple answer. Enjoy your work and/but find joy in God.

Enjoy: To see good

Something that always surprises me in the Bible is the way it calls us to view life. Every passage in the Bible almost seems to add a whole new dimension to what I see daily. Whether it be the lens of godliness, the lens of love, or the lens of the Gospel, the Bible always challenges me to see the world differently than how I saw it before. Ecclesiastes is no different. Overall, it calls readers to view the world through the glasses of “vanity.”

He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity. – Ecclesiastes 5:10

In most sections of Ecclesiastes, everything is given the label of “vain”. Whether it be money or youthfulness or honor, the writer concludes prioritizing any of these things ultimately has no impact on our lives. I wonder if we were to actively realize all the “vain” things we do in life if our lives would look extremely different.

Instead of spending those extra minutes worrying about that spot on our faces that doesn’t look “perfect” (after all, vanity is vain), or instead of spending those extra minutes dreaming about the perfect meal, would we be living differently? Would our lives prioritize different concerns?

When it comes to work, Ecclesiastes strongly suggests yes.

I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man. – Ecclesiastes 3:12-13

As I read these words, I wondered what it means to “take pleasure” in work. So, I looked in the Bible for other places where the same Hebrew words were used. It turns out that the same phrase is first used all the way back in Genesis 1.

God saw that the light was good – Genesis 1:4

The Hebrew words used for “was good” are the same words used for “take pleasure” in Ecclesiastes. God was working during the creation of the world. He was focused on creating a world that He could see the “good” in. When we work, we must also look to create “goods” that are “good”. This is what will allow us to enjoy our work.

Instead of looking to work as purely a means of making money or a means to find our lives’ purpose, Ecclesiastes suggests that work should be a lot simpler. It should be enjoyable, knowing that we are creating something good. Whether it be knowledge (for those working in education), health (for those working in healthcare), experiences (for those working in service), or anything else (for those in other careers), the final products should be good.

Joy: Only from God

Although the previous section may have challenged many of us who work without enjoying our jobs, those who are career-driven may have felt pretty comfortable. Unfortunately or fortunately, for us who are career-driven, Ecclesiastes does not stop there.

Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot. Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil—this is the gift of God. For he will not much remember the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with joy in his heart – Ecclesiastes 5:18-20 [Emphasis added]

At first glance, the passage above seems purely encouraging. The word for “enjoyment” above is again the same term of finding the good. However, the passage is also challenging. Although we should “see the good” in our work, Ecclesiastes 5:20 reminds us that our lives are short and that we should be living for more than ourselves.
Ultimately, the passage points to the fact that God and only God should be our source of joy. This joy is different from enjoyment. Joy is more than seeing the good in something. It is entering into a state of being.

As one theologian explains:

Joy is more than happiness, just as happiness is more than pleasure. Pleasure is in the body. Happiness is in the mind and feelings. Joy is deep in the heart, the spirit, the centre of the self. – Peter Kreeft

Joy is deep-rooted. It transforms our perspective and our life. Work often tries to become the space that we use to find joy. However, work can only be used to create goods that allow us to enjoy our labor. Work cannot give us ultimate joy.

No matter how many “goods” you create, how many hours you work, how successful and famous you become because of your work, you cannot find ultimate satisfaction in the fruit of your hands. When we turn our eyes to God, everything else fades away. Our fruit become background noise in the light of the glory of God. God takes over our minds in giving us joy and transforming us.

Conclusion: Consider your fruit

So, at the end of the day, let us all work to create good products in the world and still find our ultimate joy in God. Let us especially consider the “fruit”, the products that we are creating.

Are we creating products that give us a source of identity? Are we creating products that are second-rate just to get a paycheck? Are we putting work over God? I hope we all can grow and find joy in producing the fruit of our work with our hands that please God and that impact the world for Him.

Honest Reflections of a Young Christian in College

Young Christian in College

As a young Christian in college, I think it’s safe to say that college life is not what I expected it to be like. Whether it be class schedules, registration, time management, having an actual social life, and of course, church-going. None of it goes exactly how we planned.

I, for one, moved abroad to pursue my studies, and then COVID struck… I know for sure none of us saw this coming. Life sure does have a way to surprise us.

Though some of our peers have tried their best, none of us have been fully prepared for everything that happens. College isn’t what movies and TV shows portray it to be. And it’s even worse now since COVID. This is why I wanted to share my honest reflections with hopes to encourage, sympathize and show grace to every other young Christian and college student.

 

1. Attending Church

College years are often the years where many young people either stop attending church, rarely do, or have left the faith altogether. The stats are high and many things contribute to this factor.

I waited a whole year to find a church home. I visited multiple churches in the area before I stuck with one. And then COVID happened. We managed to attend two services. I seem to have lost track of the whole COVID situation, but we’re in 2021 and I’m finally going to have the opportunity to attend church.

There are a lot of reasons why some don’t attend church anymore. The most common ones are time management, personal struggles, and believe it or not, ill-treatment on behalf of (some) church folks. Having lived some of those things myself, I can see how some of us stray away from the church, the Gospel, and God.

 

2. Challenged Faith & Deconstruction

This one is most likely inevitable. Especially knowing that most of us Christian youth go to some public institution of some sort. And I do think that no matter where it is one has gone to pursue their studies, their faith will be challenged at some point.

Many things are happening, ideologies being pushed unto us and meeting people from different backgrounds and beliefs. Depending on one’s background, they may or may not be prepared for it. My faith was most definitely challenged by just being in a different environment than the one I grew up in. All “challenged faith” and “deconstruction” journeys look different. In my case, the Bible is what prompted it. The Bible challenged a lot of what I was taught and used to believe. I was now discovering the word, desperate to know what is true.

I didn’t leave the faith but others have, and they need our prayers. This should also humble us and cause us to let grace abound. It’s not something you just get up and decide to go through with. Because it just happens.

 

3. Quiet Time & Devotion

I personally love the Bible. It’s intriguing and so full of knowledge. Still, I’m not the best at reading it every day. To this day, I still struggle to maintain a set schedule for Bible time. I’ve gotten a little more consistent in consuming bible content thanks to The Bible Recap (Bible plan & podcast).

With class schedules, work schedules, and all the in-between, it can be pretty difficult to find time to spend time in God’s word. Sometimes, you just have to set time aside to do so. And if you really can’t, try implementing it into the little gaps throughout your day. I started doing this ever since my quiet-time schedule wasn’t working for me as much anymore.

That being said, it may not have been easy or instagrammable but it’s a beautiful privilege: you get to learn more about God. Some passages can be harder to understand, but the Holy Spirit provides guidance and clarity. I can vouch for Him. I’ve often read the Bible without asking Him for help because “I didn’t have the time,” and it’s not the method I’d recommend.

Remember to invite the Holy Spirit. And if you forget to, go back to Him for help.

 

4. God is there for the college students

There are a lot of things that go down in college. What I shared is not an exhaustive description of everything that happens. One thing that keeps me going and I hope that it does so for you too is knowing that God is there for us and with us.

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. – Isaiah 41:10

God loves us. He knows and sees the struggles. God will strengthen His people and will always guide His people. He is willing to forgive and is faithful. And He uses every part of our stories for our good. We can lean on Him and trust His character. And the best part is that He keeps His promises. And one of those promises is that He’ll never leave us.

This last part was my favorite. As it is a reminder that no matter what life, college, or COVID throws at us, we have an unshakeable someone there for us. In times of challenged faith, God is patient with us. Even when we try to cram everything into our busy schedules, He doesn’t leave us. And that is the hope I want to share with you. The hope that will keep you going.

How Does Holy Punishment Create Heavenly Hope? A Study of Micah 1-3

Micah

In a world where injustice seems to reign and sin runs rampant, I often find myself wondering why God has allowed this. Recently, I have been asking this question, and I have found solace in the pages of the book of Micah. I hope and pray my words and thoughts surrounding these verses can help you see that God is still working amid injustice and hardship.

 

The History of Micah

I know history can be a little boring, but with the Old Testament especially, it is SO important to understand the historical context going along with God’s words. A lot of times, we can’t understand why God is so wrathful in the Old Testament, but often that’s because we aren’t aware of the whole story.

Micah was a prophet in Southern Judah when he wrote this book (around 735-700 B.C.) Believe it or not, the people of Judah were NOT listening to what God was telling them. The people of Judah claimed to know & believe in God, yet they still worshipped idols and relied on the devil rather than the Lord. God was heartbroken that His people had turned their backs from Him yet again. God was also burning with righteous anger.

Through Micah, God told His people that if they didn’t change their ways, Judah would be overtaken and destroyed. The people of Judah didn’t believe that God would destroy their holy city. After all, it was the site of God’s temple, so they believed they were automatically considered holy and right before God. Yet they worshipped idols, lived in sexual sin, and allowed pride to overtake them. And dear friends, this is so like us today. We think because we throw around the term “Christian” that it makes us holy. But only believing in the atonement of Christ can make you holy enough to stand before the Lord. Atonement is the first step, but we must also die to our flesh to live a life for God.

Through Micah, the Lord intertwines the ideas of judgment and mercy. He points to the true meanings of justice, and He reminds us of all the promises He has in store for His children. While God is a wrathful judge, He is also a forgiving Father and an Author that has written a salvation story over each one of our hearts.

Open your Bible to the book of Micah and let’s get started!

 

Micah 1: The Lord Sees You

1:1-4

To start this chapter off, God tells His people that He will bear witness against their sinful actions (1:2). He wants His people to hear His words of truth and repent. Verse 3 even declares the Lord is coming down from the heavens to be with His people. Part of this declaration was to prove His mighty power as a reminder that without change, His people would be punished.

But I also think this creates a sense of intimacy and closeness between the Lord and His people. So often we view punishment as only a negative thing, but God’s punishment is not rejection. God’s punishment is to remind us that there is something better in store for us than the worldly things we are chasing. Imagine, a Creator of the entire universe, caring so much about YOU that He wants to spend the time and effort to correct your path amd bless you. We must also remember that God is a perfect and holy judge. He sees the sin we choose to ignore or that we are blinded to, and He wants to help us purify ourselves; We must only let Him in.

1:4-5

In verse 4, the Lord says something striking. He says, “But all of this is Jacob’s transgressions, because of the sins of Israel. What is Jacob’s transgression? Is it not Samaria? What is Judah’s high place? Is it not Jerusalem?” (these questions refer to the split of the 12 tribes of Israel) And I can totally see the people of Judah saying “YEP!! That’s exactly what it is, it’s all their fault! You can leave us alone now! :)” And just like the Judahites we so often allow our sins to get muddled into acceptable behavior because we make excuses like:

  • “Well, I only did this because…”
  • “It’s their fault, not mine…”
  • “I didn’t know I was doing something bad…”

But God CLEARLY draws the line between good & bad within His Word, and we must be willing to incorporate His sense of justice and goodness within our own lives. And I know from a worldly perspective, not every situation or decision has a clear “good or bad” answer. Sometimes there is a gray area, but during those times reach out to God and ask for guidance!

1:6-7

Then, for the next couple of verses, God talks about the destruction He will bring upon the city. But something that caught my attention especially was verse 6, when He says,

I will make it a heap of rubble, a place for planting vineyards. – Micah 1:6

And honestly, I don’t know the first thing about vineyard planting, maybe rubble is just a great place to grow grapes, but this verse is talking about how out of destruction, God is bringing a new wine- Jesus Christ!

1:8-12

The next subtitle in my Bible is called “Weeping and Mourning.” And guess what the people of Judah were doing…. yeah, weeping and mourning! I get it, God has come down and threatened destruction. God then makes the point of WHY are you weeping like I haven’t warned you for years that change must happen? WHY are you asking me to help you when you ignore the needy and oppressed in your own country? WHY do you think I will allow you to define the standards of justice?

And everyone, right now, WHY are we still doing that?! And the simple answer is because of human nature, but that is no excuse to hinder justice when the Lord gives us specific standards to live according to His Word. Please do not mistake my words as harsh, but see them as the Lord’s Truth, because when we choose a life from God, we are committing ourselves to a life of sin.

God so clearly reveals His utter heartbreak and fury at watching His children twist the name of justice for their own good. God is justice. His Word is justice. His peace, comfort, and power is justice. So why are we so afraid to really dig into the true meaning of justice? Of love? Of compassion? And I think Micah says it best when he says the injustices of Judah are like an “incurable plague.” And YES there is a seemingly literal incurable plague going on right now but throughout the Bible, God gives us the “cure” to combat the plague of injustices, even though it certainly does seem “incurable.” As we continue through the rest of the book of Micah, you will clearly see how what went on in Judah relates to us now.

1:13

In this verse, the “horses and chariots” refer to a leader. Who will lead in such a time as this? As Christians, we cannot be afraid to be the leaders of justice. This world is a corrupt place, and without the power of God’s children, nothing will ever change. So be that change and accept the calling God has placed over each one of our lives.

1:13-16

The second part of verse 13 is a reminder that we all are consumed by sin. But we have the choice to hand it to God and live freely. If not, we become slaves to evil and will never feel the freedom that God intends to bless us with. Micah cleverly paints a picture of this slavery when he tells the Judahites who refuse repentance to “shave their heads in mourning, make yourself as bald as the vulture, for they will go from you into exile.” As believers today, we have a second option: repent and be free.

 

Micah 2: God’s Plan Over All

2:1

Evil thoughts lead to evil deeds. In all of your ventures, be fair and loving to eliminate the spread of evil, and promote the spread of the Gospel.

2:2

This is a warning from Micah to avoid using power and position to take advantage of others. In 1 Kings 21: 1-16, Jezebel had a man killed simply so the king could use the man’s garden whenever he pleased. The leaders of Judah were making similar mistakes as they oppressed their people and led lives of sin. So when you are given authority, be just with your decisions and work with your people, not against them.

Similarly, we should be praying for rulers all around the world to embrace God’s truth and rule with heavenly power rather than earthly distractions.

2:3-5

These verses describe the punishment God is going to put upon the people of Judah for their sins. While all of His people will be punished, God makes a promise that He will divide the land among the righteous believers, and the oppressors will receive nothing. This reminds me of the beatitudes that Jesus preached as He said, “Blessed are the poor, blessed are the meek, etc.” While we may not feel blessed during times of trial and hardships, our reward is coming in the form of an eternity in paradise!

These verses also reveal the immense power behind God’s words and His plan. He is Almighty. No matter what we say or do, the Lord will always have ultimate power. And I think when a lot of people hear “ultimate power,” especially in the context of Micah when the Lord is threatening destruction, they immediately think that God is some sort of a dictator. But that’s not the case at all. God gives us free will. However, He uses His divine power to transform our lives into something beautiful on the account of His goodness. With the people of Judah, the Lord knew that without destruction, His people could never recreate their society to reflect their religion. Sometimes, as crazy as it sounds, reaching rock bottom is the biggest blessing because it allows us to completely rebuild our lives upon the Rock.

2:6-11

In the verses, we are warned about false prophets. People will sweet talk us and try to steer us away from our faith. We must root ourselves in the Word. This kind of false jargon is one of the devil’s biggest tools to distract us from what really matters: Our relationship with God.

The people of Judah fell for this talk from the devil. They turned their backs on God, and God was not only outraged but heartbroken. God tells Micah that, “Lately my people have risen up like an enemy” (2:8). Ouch. If we so willingly rise against the Lord, why are we so angry when He sends punishment? Do we not deserve it?

But despite this, God still sent Jesus Christ to take the punishment for us (John 3:16). Yes, we will still have hardships. But we will never have to endure the separation from God that sin so wickedly brings.

2:12-13

The Lord promises deliverance. He promises His people that He will “bring them together like sheep in a pen, like a flock in its pasture.” He will leave the 99 sheep to find the one for He is the good shepherd. The Lord then says He will go before them, preparing the way for goodness and glory. In Judah’s case, and many others, punishment is preparation. And undergoing that preparation can lead to eternity.

If that’s a little confusing, let’s go back to the historical context. God’s punishment for Judah ended up being captivity by the Babylonians. There were many years between this capture and the walk of the Messiah, but during their oppression, Judah realized that the Savior was coming. In the end, God’s punishment for their sin gave them more hope than they would ever have because it forced them to turn their eyes to a higher place. They realized they were called out of sin and into righteousness. And that’s what the Lord wants for you!!

 

Micah 3: Justice Above All

3:1-7

The leaders of Judah were oppressors. They hid behind a mask of faith, only to turn their need for God on and off like a light switch. They ravaged and killed their people for their own satisfaction, yet when anything went wrong in their lives, they turned to God and demanded help. God was heartbroken and angry. He revealed His plan of punishment if the leaders did not change their ways, but then He went into a time of grieving when He “hid His face from them because of the evil they had done” (3:4).

God’s face is brilliant and bright. In Exodus, it is described to be the brightest light ever seen and Moses could not look at it. When Saul was walking and saw the face of the Lord, he was instantly blinded. The Lord hid His face because His children in Judah were choosing darkness over light. Yes, the light of the Lord will always have victory over darkness, but we cannot live in both. When the days of revelation come, the Light will rule all, but right now, we choose where we stand. And both simply is not an option.

Even later in this chapter, the Lord says,

Those who lead my people astray…the night will come for you. The sun will set for you and the days will go dark. – Micah 3:5-6

Choosing to allow injustices to rule tears us away from the Lord. Look around the world right now. What do you see? I see destruction and injustice and oppression. But I also see hope. I sense the kind of hope that envelopes your whole spirit and brings you peace during the darkest times. I feel the hope of Jesus Christ.

3:8

After all this, Micah then says,

But as for me, I am filled with power from the Spirit of God. – Micah 3:8

Micah believed fully, trusted extensively, and served faithfully. But so many of the people around him saw God as a crutch to their problems and used Him as so. But when we put our faith in Him, and when we fully lay our lives down for the good of the kingdom, we are filled with HIS power! A quote from my study Bible says: “You can’t witness effectively by relying on your own strength, because fear will keep you from sneaking out for God. Only by relying on the power of the Holy Spirit can you live and witness for Him.” We cannot get strength from the Lord only during hardships. We need strength from the Lord CONSTANTLY in order to truly accomplish the kingdom work that He has in store for us.

3:9-12

The leaders of Judah “distorted what was right” (3:9). The Lord promised punishment. But He also promised hope and redemption. While most of the leaders of this earth are crooked and unjust, know that God will attend to them. It is not our place to judge or condemn them. It is our job to have hope for a better future in the belief that the Lord will provide. Yes, go fight for what is right and make changes to the injustices in this world; we NEED to do this. We need to stand firm in justice and mercy, we need to stand strong within our churches and families. But when you feel helpless and you cannot act, simply believe God will make every wrong into a right and His justice will one day be established over all else.

God’s Will Be Done…Even It It’s Not My Will

God's Will vs. My Will

Right now, I’m in a shattered and broken place of figment dreams, heightened comparisons, overwhelming circumstances, and an unthinkable mindset paralyzed by fear, anxiety, and depression. A place where everything I thought I ever wanted has come to the realization that sometimes God’s will for our lives is not the (insert your name here) will we have set for our lives. Sometimes, it’s scary to trust in God’s will vs. my will.

God’s Will vs. My Will

All my life, for instance, I can tell you three solid facts about myself that have always been true. I’ve always been a writer and felt called to pursue that as a career, I’ve always been a dancer and felt called to continue that through ministry, and I’ve never wanted children because I felt a calling that God had something different in mind for my future. Yet, when I think about it, fully surrendering to His will, His way, means that if at any moment God takes away my ability to write or dance, or not fulfilling those callings, that I have to be okay with that.

Now of course, I don’t believe that a good God would take away good desires that align with His will. But I am not the one in control of my life, and even when my desires are in track with His, I have to surrender the authority that whatever God decides to do with that is best for me, even if that means not being a writer, not flourishing a ministry, or having children if that desire within me changes. And in all honesty, that last one scares me more than you know and pushes me to a much deeper faith than I’ve ever known because I would do anything to have that come true.

What a tough pill to swallow.

But, as tears well up in my eyes and my heart pounds, I know that God has my best interest at heart. I know when I am faced between God’s will vs. my will, His is always better. As long as I am continually and fully pursuing Him, He will watch and guide over me, always providing everything I need and more along the way. That means surrendering my everything to Him in full acceptance that His will be done, even if it isn’t to the consent of my will that I think I want for my life.

Ouch. Yeah, that last one hurts a bit, doesn’t it?

Living a Life According to God’s Will

Following God’s will vs. my will is demonstrated through our actions. In James 4:13-17, James addresses this concept in encouraging those of the faith to live that faith out, not just in their words, but through action and deed. Within this particular chapter, he warns us to align our views with Christ, draw close to God, and then fully submit and surrender anything within us and our plans for this life so that we will not boast about our self-confidence, but the residing power of Christ in us.

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them. – James 4:13-17

Did you catch that? Scripture tells us, “if the Lord Wills”; it does not say “if Amber Wills” or “if Amber desires,” or “if Amber demands.” It says, “if the Lord Wills,” and that is a sharp command from the Father to rest in the promise that though I cannot control or boast in plan making, I can boast and rejoice in the one who does.

We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps. – Proverbs 16:9

And indeed, the less we listen to the mind of man and the more we listen to Him, the more that the path ahead of us will be marked straight and He will lead us where we are meant to go (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. – Proverbs 4:25-26

Trusting in God’s Will, Not My Will

So, what does this mean for us? How can we as selfish and prideful humans be entirely sold out and wholeheartedly devoted to Him, no matter the will he has in store? We T.R.U.S.T.

1. We THANK God

Even when things are going wrong, and we feel like our world is ending, it is crucial to praise God. Thank God, you might be questioning, doesn’t that sound a bit odd? Shouldn’t I be telling God what I want? On the contrary of how it seems or feels though, thanking God in both sorrow and joy strengths our faith.

He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. – Isaiah 40:29

Just like Solomon praised God before the victory in 2 Chronicles 7:1-11 (God doesn’t answer Him directly until verse 12, yet he praises in the waiting!), we too can thank God when nothing else makes sense because, at the core of our issues, He is still good. He is still worthy. His will is always best.

2. We REMEMBER God

Once we have thanked God in our sorrow or joy about the never-ending scenarios that haunt us, we remember who God is regardless of how our emotions are telling us that we feel. His plan might include that job, spouse, or plan that you have, or it might utterly flip those things upside down. Yet regardless of these things, we can know and trust that God:

  • Is close to the brokenhearted (Psalm 34:18)
  • Provides strength (Isaiah 40:30-31)
  • Provides for His will (Isaiah 40:27-28)
  • Calls us by name (Isaiah 40:26)
  • Brings life through His Word (Proverbs 3:1-3)
  • Holds all wisdom and understanding (Proverbs 9:10-11)
  • Has an unfailing love (Romans 8:31-39)

Those plans you made? They may fall through. Those desires you have? They may change. That guy or girl you love? They may not be in the future. But by resting in who God is and His promises, we have everything we need (2 Peter 1:3).

3. We seek to UNDERSTAND God

After praising and reflecting on who Scripture tells us God is, it is time to dip deep into His Word and seek to follow Him. Taking time to pray, journal, and read His Word pours profound spiritual truths into our hungry and thirsty souls that only God can satisfy.

Man cannot live by bread alone, but by every word that comes out of the mouth of God. – Matthew 4:4

When we seek to understand God and want what He alone wants for us, we are less likely to be overwhelmed by the thoughts and plans we try to carry out on our own.

4. We SURRENDER and SUBMIT to Him

Through thanking, remembering, and seeking to understand God, we must also truly surrender and submit to Him. Here, we must be willing to lay down the plans we have for ourselves, and authentically know that even if our dreams, hopes, and ideas come crashing down, He will provide. When we surrender to God, we are saying, “thy will be done, not mine.” When we submit to Him, we accept whatever plans He has in-store to replace ours.

But these things, I must tell you, are not easy. They aren’t like ripping a band-aid off a healed wound. In fact, they are more like tearing it off of an injury that hasn’t healed yet. Despite this pain, when we do these things, our faith, love, and trust in Christ will grow. Daily, we must surrender our ideals to Him, and with that, submit to whatever He has planned for our future. To obey, and fully submit oneself to that which lay ahead. There is joy and freedom in submission to Christ.

5. We THANK God again and TASTE His goodness

Finally, after we release everything of ourselves and accept everything that He alone is, we are given the freedom to thank God again for what He will do and taste the fruit of His goodness. I’m sure you’re all familiar with the Biblical fruits of the spirit we sang as a child, but honestly, His fruit is good, and He desires to give us good gifts. No matter the circumstance, pain, or joy, those who follow Christ will be rewarded for their faithfulness to Him.

Taste and see that the Lord is good. – Psalms 34:8

Taste the goodness of Him who provides, even before you see the fruition of His promises. When faced with the decision between God’s will vs. my will, I remember the promises of goodness the Lord has given.

Following God’s Will

Though I keep questioning, I rest in the promise that He alone is the answer I am looking for. I know when I am faced between God’s will vs. my will, that His way is the answer. No matter what my will wants, He knows best for me.

Rest in that today, my friend. He is a God of goodness and mercy and surely has nothing less than a perfectly planned will set in the eternity for you today.

The Supremacy of Christ Above All: A Study of Hebrews 1:1-4

In recent months, I’ve been looking at replacing my current truck with a newer truck. As car buyers and owners know, this process involves looking at different brands, years, motor types, and much more. When you ask people about their choice of truck, some would say, “Chevy is the best; Dodge is the worst.” Others would say that Ford ranks higher in towing capability than any other truck on the market. Yet even some would suggest that Toyota has trucks that look the most stylish. Whatever preference people have, the fact is still true: they’re convinced that “their brand” is the “supreme” brand compared to other brands. 

In a much similar way, Christians unknowingly get caught up in the mess of defending their political party, their culture, their denomination, and other convictions that they hold as “supreme,” and forsake the supremacy of Christ in the process. Let me be the first to say that I’m guilty of this fault as much as other Christians are. We’re a people of passion and conviction. We want to exercise our convictions and beliefs in a manner that is influential and convincing. In the process, though, we cannot lose sight of the supremacy of Christ that shapes how we exercise our passions and convictions in our daily lives. Christ should be the focal point of which we shape our worldview and opinions, not the current culture we live in. In this article, I’d like to look at Hebrews 1:1-4 and give brief reflections on the passage:

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets,  but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,  having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs. – Hebrews 1:1-4

After reading this passage and meditating on the profound truths it contains, we can observe that Christ is supreme in character, in redemption, and in authority.

Character

If we are to follow anyone closely to understand the character of God, it can only be Jesus Christ that we study. After all, God has spoken to His people by Him. Christ perfectly radiates God’s glory; He’s exactly like Him! “For in Him the whole fullness” of God is pleased to dwell. 

In Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority. – Colossians 2:10

D.A. Carson rightfully asserts that Jesus is “God’s ultimate self-disclosure.” Those who seek to know the Creator, Ruler, and Redeemer must look to Christ, since He is God incarnate (Jn. 1:14; 8:58).

 

Redemption

We can also see that He is supreme in redemption. Only Christ has made “purification for sins.” People often ask rhetorically, “Isn’t the answer to our problems that we have a political leader or ourselves or others fix all of the problems in the world?” The Gospel reminds us that in our sin and rebellion we are helpless before a holy God; we cannot justify ourselves before Him. We cannot fix our own mess, even though we often think we can. Our problem runs much deeper than the need for the right leader to rule the world and to fix our problems through political reform. Our redemption rests on the blood shed by Christ on the cross to atone for sin; hallelujah! 

And you, who were dead in your trespasses . . . God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. – Colossians 2:13-14 

THIS is what makes the Gospel the supreme message to a world in dire need of redemption.

 

Authority

Finally, we see that Christ is supreme in authority. He’s at the right hand of God and, by divine right, is appointed as the heir of all things in the universe. No president will ever control the universe. No country will reign to the degree that Christ reigns over the cosmos. As Charles Spurgeon said so eloquently, “The kings of the earth wear their crowns and sway their scepters by license from his throne.” What little authority the rulers of the world have is graciously granted by Christ, until the day he comes in glory to establish his rule and reign “on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10).

 

Final Reflections

We worship the supreme Ruler of the cosmos (Col. 1:16-17). Christ is the Alpha and the Omega, the eternal Word (Jn. 1:1). He is the Son of God and the Son of Man. No one even comes close in comparison to Him (Ps. 89:8). In suffering Christ displays His supremacy as the One who loves unconditionally (Matt. 20:28), and in glory He exercises His supremacy as the rightful King of kings (Ps. 110). As we go about our days as pilgrims in this world, whether it be studying what brand truck is best or what theologians to learn from, never cease on meditating on Christ’s supremacy above all. In your pursuit of your God-given convictions and passions, never lose sight of Christ’s glory that shapes how you live and you radiate His glory.

God Speaks in the Hills & Valleys of Unknown Adventure

Recently, God has been talking to me a lot about control, surrender, submission, my heart, mountains, adventure, spontaneity, emotions, fear of the unknown, mustard seeds of faith, and taking up my cross. In hindsight, all of these things have come to me within the past week, and to be honest, they’ve all been a bit scary and overwhelming; a bit equivocal and questioning as to how one puzzle piece matches the other to form an overall picture. But you know what, I think that that uncertainty and foggy clearing is what God is trying to reveal to this spontaneously searching heart, trapped in the body and mind of a girl who loves to cling to perfectionism, order, and anything but chaos.

 

Relying on God to Carry Our Cross

On Wednesday of this week, I began to feel a strong presence of God’s Spirit prompting my heart. Attending a Theology talk at my college, the father of one of my beloved professors talked about the struggles we all go through when pain, heartache, and bad things happen to “good” people. Relating our experiences to how he and his now-deceased wife endured a long battle with cancer, he encouraged us to rely on two things to get us through these times: 

1) To ask God every morning whose cross we can help bear that day but then remember to give it back to Him as the sun fades away.

2) Recognize that when God tells us we can move a mountain, we aren’t literally moving a mountain, more so, we are allowing our mustard seed of faith to chip away at that struggle we are facing.

Pondering those thoughts when I got home that night, I realized a few things not only about my faith but the battles I had been facing. As an incredibly empathetic person, the conclusion came to me that I have been so exhausted from pouring into others because I did not remember to give those crosses back to God at the end of the day. Simon of Cyrene helped Jesus carry His cross on the day of His crucifixion, but at the end of that long and hard road, he also remembered to give it back to Him, for only Him who would fully pay the price would bear the eternal weight of the cross (Matthew 27:32). And perhaps, we in our humanness need to take a lesson from that, realizing that we can only help those around us when we are in surplus of an overflow that comes from taking up our crosses daily.

If anyone would come after me, He must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. – Luke 9:23

 

Freedom in Surrendering

Surrender is a daily up and down of the cross, and this is where real freedom begins.

Thinking that these truths were all God had in-store for me for the week, I was surprised when God again began to prompt my heart in pursuit of what He wasn’t done telling me. Arriving at my 7:45 a.m. writing class, a daily writing activity asked us to write about our favorite place, and thinking back to the mustard seed of faith moving a mountain analogy shared the night before, I produced the following poem that did more than shock my mind, but it recollected my heart:

            Spacious skies and wintergreen, the firs cry out to the Heavens.

            Dancing in the wind like fragments of intangible thoughts and ideas,

             my heart lurches at the sight of misty fogs and the highest heights.

            Crunching over the leaves and branches at my feet, I stop at the edge of

            on looking at nature surrounding me.

            Deeply breathing in and out, I inhale serenity and exhale my fears.

            Glistening at my reflection in the waters, I thank God for this beauty.

            The beauty that lay around me and within me, but I so often fail to

            recognize and value.

            In their crisp size, sprinkled design and free spirits, this is the mountaintop,

            the hills, and valleys- the forest and woods of my spontaneously searching Heart.

Zoning out for a few moments in class and looking at what I had just written, I realized that the truth of my heart that had been hiding came out in the rawness of my inability to contain the vulnerabilities any longer. Longing for someone to take me away on an adventure, to hike the mountains and appreciate the beauty of this world while soaking up God’s goodness, I let these thoughts quietly resonate in the interior of my mind. Not really understanding what was happening, my mind was pulled back to reality as those around me continued to talk in anticipation of the day’s assignment. Yet, in a daze, the next prompt was given, and my now exposed heart was lurching to be heard, writing the following in response to a free-write on a memory:

“I remember when I used to be a carefree person because for as long as I can remember, I’ve not been one. That being said, the last time I recall freedom was before the age of 14 before I started self-hate and obtained fear and anxiety. Before an OCD, perfectionistic, compulsive personality began to overtake me; I was a typical and happy pre-teen/teen. My eyes glittered with ambition as my heart pulsated with adventure, and my mind spontaneously sought beauty, joy, and optimism in everything. But sadly, I transformed into something I didn’t want to be, and though I appreciate who I am now in segments, I still long to go back in partiality to that which I used to be. A little bit more mature, a lot more thoughtful, and a pinch more sincere, still full of adventure and goals/dreams as high as the sky, but realistic and free of the perfectionism and planning that now haunts me.”

And don’t get me wrong, it has taken a very long time for me to grow and understand these things I’ve battled and I know that God has blessed me with an extreme gift for organization, planning events, and living life to the fullest, but I want to do so with freedom, spontaneity, and a lack of seriousness that I used to be, long to be, still want to go back to be.

Because perhaps, if I’m honest, I miss that childlike me, and though I am scared to go back, I long for that young girl’s joy. No, I don’t want to change myself, but I know that God wants me to be free of anxiety, worry, fear, and the future of anything holding me back, especially the vulnerabilities of my regrets and past that haunt me.

Newsflash self, God can do this in you, but that starts in a firm trust and reliance in Him who formed me. He created me to be free in the Spirit.

Trusting God in the Unknown Adventure

So, what does all of that have to do with what God has been revealing to me?  Well, I suppose that in retrospect, it all connects to the following series of events that began to unfold from that day. Leaving my writing class to meet the professor and talk about the career crisis, I sat in his office as he let me vent about my problems. Gently listening and caring about my concerns, however, he surprised my mind when he said, “Amber, I took your email very seriously and I want to encourage you in your dreams, and what you want to do, but I also have prayed a lot and really feel like God wants me to tell you not to be afraid of the unknown, no matter what that may be or where it leads”. Quite frankly, freaking me and my comfort zone, plannerized mind out, I nodded as he then continued to share a poem with me entitled: Open Road: Adventure, with a picture of a mountain on the side.

Now obviously, my professor had no prior contact with the students in class, and their writing prompts, nor did he know that I had just written in my journal about mountains being my favorite place, seeking a heart of adventure, and learning to obtain a spirit of spontaneity.  However, he did eagerly pray for me, so I knew that when he spoke each of these words, he was genuinely attempting to pour more of Christ and His truth into my life.

Reaching a level of “Amber is now highly freaked out with everything happening and God speaking,” I went to chapel to relieve my questioning and confused soul only to be met by a friend who had more words for me. Telling her about all of these weird rema (basically the Christian version of karma) events occurring, her face softened as she said, “Well, I wasn’t going to tell you this, but I don’t think God is done speaking to you yet.  When I was praying for you last night, I felt like I should pray that you come to surrender those things that you have sought control over for so long”.  Literally hitting me with like a third and final frying pan of reality, my soul was comforted by God’s ability to use so many different people to speak to me.

Choosing to study various Scriptures that night regarding the fear of the unknown, praying in His word, and talking to a few friends, I began to become very fearful of what God was telling me.  Through Scriptures such as Isaiah 26:3 and Psalm 32:8, I cried and laughed as I realized what God was trying to tell me. As I prayed in solitude, I noticed a pattern in all of these signs: that I wanted control and I always have. I’ve never been the type just to let go entirely, and though my life has been surrendered to Christ since I got saved at the age of 8, I realized I needed to align them again.

You will keep in perfect peace Him whose mind is steadfast, because He trusts in you. – Isaiah 26:3

That night, I decided to close my time of worship by listening to random worship songs on Spotify, and when the song “In-Control-Acoustic” by Hillsong Worship began to play, I couldn’t help but think of God’s love, laughter, and sense of humor looking down on me.  He was speaking to me in monumental ways; I just had to take the time to really listen.

Awaking Friday morning to the support of my friends and family, I smiled as the devotional was focused on control and surrender. Talking to my dad that night and then doing an in-depth study on verses within that context such as Psalm 46:10, James 4:7, Job 11:3, I wrote a prayer laying it all down (not knowing what all God was asking for) and listened to those around me saying, “I feel like you need to surrender your heart… It sounds to me like God really wants you to give Him control…Just trust that while pursuing the act of ‘letting go’ and letting God have control, we as Christians have the privilege and comfort of knowing that our good God has control of the situation …Everyone struggles with wanting control over uncontrollable situations but start in little steps…God doesn’t want perfect results from us, as much as He wants our hearts to be turned towards Him.”

That night, and now into Saturday morning, I realize how all of these things interconnect and are just a small portion of my future life that He is revealing to me. I still am and probably always will want control, after all, I love planning and mapping out my life to the fullest. However, I have also concluded that by giving God complete control, I surrender and submit all I am to Him, especially within the depths of my heart that will align with His will for my life.

And in a final prayer, this is what my heart now fully knows and rests upon: “I relinquish every desire I have, even those I most want to cling to and ask that they are surrendered in alignment to your control. In asking for freedom, take these things of my heart and take control.  Let me see you move in them through me, for it is never my power of spirit, but yours ALONE.  How good it is to serve a God that loves me enough to put up with me but loves me for who I am and where I am amidst the struggles. I give you control of my anxiety, depression, fear, wanting to be in a relationship, craving love, finding substantial friendships, my future, my career, my ALL. As I continue to read and study Scripture and then end in prayer, let me be ever more thankful and in love with you. For who you are, what you are teaching me, and the JOY NOT fear in knowing that it is OKAY I AM NOT IN CONTROL because you are and you know exactly when I need what according to your will. Let the desires of my heart, mind, and emotions be flooded with more of you. Set my sights on you and like the chipping away of that mountain through the mustard seed of faith, chip away at the things that hold me back and replace them with full peace, comfort, adventure, and steadfast love in a heart that is now utterly loved and known and used completely by you.”

I do not know my future, but I know the one who holds it. Someday I will seek those mountains, and other days I will travel across them to tear them down. But one thing is for sure: in these moments of uncertainty, covered in the grace and love of things unknown, a known and loving God purses and runs after me, continually transforming me into who, what, when, where, and why I am meant to be them.

Remember, God speaks in the hills and valleys of unknown adventure.

Adoration of God

We often look at what is around us without truly seeing. Only looking at the surface, we only recognize the goodness and beauty of what is around us, without diving deeper into the portals that God has given us that lead us to Him. But if we do dive deeper, we learn more about the attributes of God, allowing our finite minds to draw closer to His infinite one. 

 

Defining Adoration

In Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer, C.S. Lewis argues the importance of adoration as a form of worship. In the book, C.S. Lewis argues that, 

Gratitude exclaims, very properly, “How good of God to give me this.” Adoration says, “What must be the quality of that Being whose far-off and momentary coruscations are like this!” One’s mind runs back up the sunbeam to the sun. – CS. Lewis, Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer

C.S. Lewis believes that adoration is a vital form of worship for our relationship with God because it allows us to truly see Him. Adoration is when our minds go further than surface level, which is when our minds see attributes of God in the world around us. Even though adoration is difficult to achieve and is not natural for us, we should practice it in order to understand more of God, which draws us closer to Him. 

We often falsely believe that all we could learn about God is encompassed in the Bible, and there is no other way that our finite minds could further understand His infinite one. But like how an athlete would not be a good player if he merely read about the sport and did not practice, nor could we further understand God if we focused solely on the Bible and did not build off that foundation. We have the capability, and responsibility, to learn further about God by observing what He has given us. For example, think of a tree. One may think about the shade that it gives on a sunny day, the immense size of the tree, or the leaves that adorn it. One may think about how God has given us that tree, but what if we were to go a step further? What if we were to think of the qualities of the tree that exhibit God? The tree tells us that God is a purposeful God because of the various benefits the tree provides. It doesn’t just give us beauty, but it produces air, it gives us shade, and it houses animals. Like how a sunbeam goes “to the sun”, our minds should go to God. We should not merely look at the surface, but we should go deeper because that is where we will find God. 

Now, do not believe that finding attributes of God in a tree means that you are loving God through the tree. We can not love God by loving the tree. We love the tree because it displays attributes of God. We love the tree in the first place because it is good and beautiful, which are attributes of Him. Adoration is when our minds wander back to God when we question what He must be like when we experience His blessings. Therefore, the tree is an asset in our spiritual lives. Finding attributes of God in the tree allows our minds to go to Him, allowing us to experience more of God. This enables us to further understand God, allowing us to be able to love Him more. 

 

Practicing Adoration

This sort of attention is not easily achievable; therefore, we must learn to walk before we can run. We must overcome the obstacles that inhibit adoration. First, we must overcome inattention with the right type of attention. We must start opening our eyes in order to take in the world around us. Although, we must not give attention to the wrong things or believe that we are seeing God in the things that do not show Him. We must only give our attention to the things that reveal Him. 

What is the importance of this concept of adoration? Why must we go past surface level and look for God even in the simplest of things and the things we take for granted? Adoration is important because if we do not practice it, then “we…shall not be able to adore God on the highest occasions if we have learned no habit of doing so on the lowest. At best, our faith and reason will tell us that He is adorable, but we shall not have found Him so, not have ‘tasted and seen.” In other words, as children we start by crawling, then we walk, and then we run. We must learn to give God adoration for what seems negligible and basic to us. The sunsets, the wind, the snow, and the flowers may all seem like minor blessings compared to His grace and love and the ways He delivers us from difficult circumstances, but adoring these simple blessings enable us to be able to give God adoration for the major blessings. Adoration enables us to recognize and praise God for the blessings He has given to us, both big and small, because they all reveal the heart of the Father who loves us. Additionally, if we step outside of our faith and reason and look for God in the world around us, then we will have seen Him. There are things in life that we simply cannot fully understand by only readings and teachings, but by experiencing firsthand. No one would fully understand the feeling of the wind if they did not go outside to feel a gust of wind, nor would we fully understand God if we did not experience Him firsthand in our lives. Looking for God in the world around us leads our minds back up to Him, which brings us closer to Him. 

That cushiony moss, that coldness and sound and dancing light were no doubt very minor blessings compared with “the means of grace and the hope of glory.” But then they were manifest. So far as they were concerned, sight had replaced faith. They were not the hope of glory, they were an exposition of glory itself. – CS. Lewis, Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer

Our relationships with God are inhibited when we do not look past surface level. God is beckoning us to experience Him in the world He created and in our daily lives. But when we go past surface level, we find qualities of God, which allows us to experience Him. This grows our understatement of God, allowing us to draw closer to Him, and enables us to adore and worship Him in both the small and big moments of our lives.