A Life of Crazy Love

In my experience, debate/ argument is valued by many Christians. Honestly, I used to be included in that group. I loved a good debate, where I made my point (and of course won 😉 ). My desire to be right has diminished in recent years, which I’m sure I can only attribute to God. I still enjoy having challenging conversations about things that are important, but I think I have a stronger value for how the other person feels during the discourse.

A couple weeks ago, I turned on my Bible app’s audible reading option. Because I was busy coloring, I listened to Romans 8 all the way into the next book, 1 Corinthians! It was eye opening to listen to all those passages strung together. (I highly recommend listening to big passages of Scripture read out loud. You get so much out of it!) Anyway, a theme came to my attention. Our actions as believers should be chosen because of our brothers and sisters in Christ.

“Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” (Romans 12:9-10)

“Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.” (Romans 13:8)

Paul specifically addressed how to live with those who had different convictions on what was okay to eat. Today, this can be applied to diet restrictions or any other kind of restriction a person places on them self because they feel led to. It is made clear that each person will give an account to God and that it’s not the place of any other believer to judge their choices.

“As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions.” (Romans 14:1)

“Therefore let us not pass judgement on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.” (Romans 14:13)

What a humbling way to live: for others. To make every decision based on how it  would effect the people around us seems a little crazy! We have been given the perfect example of this kind of living in Jesus, though. He showed love, sought after others, did not seek to quarrel, and ultimately died for people who didn’t deserve to be loved. We are called to be like Jesus. It takes a whole lot of vulnerability and humility, but it flows from our receiving this very mind-blowing gift ourselves. We’re just passing along a little bit of what we have been given.

So how can you put your brothers and sisters in Christ first this week? And beyond the family of God, how can you show this crazy love to those who don’t know Jesus?

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Hosea

“For she did not know that I gave her grain, new wine, and oil, and multiplied her silver and gold– which they prepared for Baal.” (Hosea 2:8)

This portion of Scripture is talking about a harlot, a wife who is unfaithful. It is an analogy that represents God’s people, Israel, though. Even now, Christians are called the Bride of Christ. We belong to Him.

In chapters 2 and 3 of Hosea, the man’s wife only comes back to him when she can’t receive sustanainse from her lovers. It wasn’t clear to her that her husband was providing quite well for her, but rather she thought her lovers were. She used the bountiful gifts given to her by her husband to serve other men, foreign god’s, and her own self.

The analogy is pointing to God’s people serving other gods with what He has given them. Specifically, Baal was named here, but in our American culture, our gods could be success, busyness, or influence.

Because the woman did not recognize the gifts as from her husband and used them to serve the purposes of worshipping false gods, they were taken from her. (Hosea 2:9-11) All that she had received from her gods and her lovers will be taken from her. (Hosea 2:12-13) Then, when she has been brought low, her husband brings her out to the wilderness and comforts her, gives her gifts, and restores the love relationship. (Hosea 2:14-16)

I love this story! As God’s people, how often do we forget that everything we have is from Him and for Him?  Yet, in our forgetfulness and rebellion and focus on other things, God’s goal is to bring us back into a restored relationship with Him. That restoration involves spending time in the wilderness. Who really wants to go to a desolate place? But if it is a place where God comforts us and draws us back to Himself, maybe we shouldn’t be so scared of it.

What You Can Know When You Want to Say, “No!”

I was scrolling through Facebook and found a quote that cut right to the heart of what I have been learning lately:

“Only if your God can outrage you and make you struggle will you know that you worship the real God and not a figment of your imagination.” – Timothy Keller

It’s just like any other relationship, only more because God’s thinking is so much higher than ours. There will be conflict between what we believe or want and what God says or asks of us. When this happens, we will struggle with our heart.

In Luke 9:57-62, Jesus makes it clear that following Him will be hard.

 As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

The one that sticks out to me is having nowhere to call home. I hate that. A couple summers ago, I volunteered at a summer camp. The dorm-style rooms we stayed in were not very welcoming and overall did not feel like home. I looked forward to the weekends, when I could spend at least a few hours in a real home. A kitchen, a couch, a bedroom, a normal bathroom, decoration- it’s all so beautiful. Being home allows me to relax. But Jesus makes the point that sometimes we won’t have simple luxuries like home. Sometimes saying “yes” to Him means giving up something very valuable to you. Other times, it means jumping in right now without having everything squared away.

God’s plan is not our plan. To follow Him, we often have to let go of dreams and sometimes go against what makes logical sense. And that is okay because we serve a God who can turn water to wine (or blood), calm a ravenous storm, make the blind see and the seeing blind, and so much more! He knows what He’s doing and we can trust Him, even when it hurts, even when it doesn’t make sense. More so, we can know we serve and worship the real God when what He asks of us goes against our will and heart.

Waves That Crash

Over three weeks of the semester have passed. In this time, I’ve made friends and learned some fascinating things, but most of all I’ve been drained. A roller coaster of emotions and stress has drained my energy. Maybe you noticed that I haven’t been posting as often. This is the reason why.

This place of feeling tired isn’t new, and I find that my reaction each time it visits is to carefully control my activities and to dread the coming day or week. To an extent, I think stuarding the energy we’ve been given, along with every gift, is wise, yet always holding back and dreading is no way to live. (Especially in God’s upside-down kingdom.)

A couple summers ago I worked at a summer camp for two months and was beyond exhausted all the time. God came through for me in a way I had never experienced, though. Looking back, I know His strength is the only reason I made it. Each day I made it through and the days added up to two months.

By the Lord’s prayer, Jesus taught us to ask for daily bread. In other words, the sustanence for today. Another beautiful truth we are reminded of is that His mercies are new every morning. God doesn’t give us the mercies we’ll need for the whole week at the beginning. Each morning we can look forward with eager anticipation to seeing how God will provide.

I’m learning a lot through this trial, especially about relying on Jesus each day, but that does not negate the dilemma of having less energy. Therefore, for this semester, I will post when I can but that probably won’t be every week.

Hope this post finds you well,

Sarah

70. Troubles and Mercy Entwined

There are whole books in the Old Testament that I have never read. (Yes, I feel bad about this.) Recently, my devotional led me to read in Lamentations 3- one of those books that I’ve never laid eyes upon.

I read the prophet Jeremiah speak of God: “He has walled me about so that I cannot escape; he has made my chains heavy; though I call and cry for help, he said or my prayer; he has blocked my ways with blocks of stones; he has made my paths crooked.” (Lam. 3:7-9) And he went on to describe many other terrible afflictions.

It’s weird, but this encouraged me. I feel like I experienced something very similar when I got sick: I went to the pit of despair and my plans were ruined. But I found out during that time just what Jeremiah did: “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,” says my should, ‘therefore I will hope in him.'” (Lam. 3:22-24)

(Maybe I have read that select verse from Lamentations about God’s mercies being new every morning… Who knew?)

I went into that hard season of sickness thinking God owed me something for my service to Him. As Christians, though, there’s one thing we are promised in this life and that’s hardship. Jesus came to heal and give eternal life – absolutely- but we must remember that He is our prize, not a perfect, enjoyable life.

I don’t know about you, but I like this version of Christianity better. There are less life experiences to reason out in my heart and I can trust God no matter what happens. Not to say that I have this pat down. It’s just something I’m learning.

“His mercies never come to an end.”

59. A Righteous Ruler’s Promise

Is it really already Thursday? I feel like that will be my thought most weeks over the next semester… it’s just what college does to you. Time starts to fly, and you’re along for the crazy ride.

My goal is to keep up with this blog, posting every week. But I’m saying sorry in advance, because I’m sure I’ll miss posting at least once.

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” – Isaiah 41:10

When I read this verse at the beginning of the week, it struck me that it’s so hard to remember and believe the promises of God. They are just so crazy good! In real life, if something sounds too good to be true, it’s because it is. Another verse helped me to take this particular promise to heart as I started school this week.

“But to the Son he says, ‘Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom.” – Hebrews 1:8

I see this mental image of God giving Jesus a throne, a kingdom, and it’s defining feature is uprightness, righteousness. The one who came, died, and rose again; the perfect one who is now seen by God instead of sinful me. That’s the God I can see keeping the promise to uphold, be with me, and provide strength. That’s the God I can see fulfilling those words.

College has been a source of anxiety and panic in the past, so after a year off, I was nervous about starting this semester. It’s cool to see how God has set up “guardrails” this week to stop me from going too far into that anxiety, though. He was with me every moment and I’m slowly getting used to that idea. God wants to work in our lives/ bring His righteous kingdom: we just have to leave room for Him.

57. The Catalyst: Prayer

Prayer. It means many different things to many people. For the American culture, prayer is mostly a stress-reliever , pray to some higher being who may or may not be there. You find so much more power in prayer when you pray according to promises and who God wants His people to be, though.

Last week, I wrote on how God is capable of doing anything. But, as I’ve been learning, a foundation of prayer usually comes before God moves. He can certainly move of His own will, but in much of life our prayers of faith allow God to work in and around us.

While there are multiple tricks to praying effectively so that God moves, there’s one in particular I’d like to share. ‘War Room’ introduced the idea of praying the Bible to me. In the movie, the main character begins writing out certain verses to pray over herself and her family. It inspired me. I asked God to show me the verses He wanted me to pray over myself and others. Some of them made no sense at the time and I even tried to ignore them, searching for a different verse instead. Looking back, though, I can see how praying each and every verse prepared me and my family for what was to come.

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Praying scripture funnels our prayers toward God’s will, heart, and promises. When we simply pray our emotions and thoughts, we miss out. There is a melding together of God’s purpose and our concerns while praying scripture. The verse becomes a guide for the prayer. If you think it sounds boring, I dare you to try it.

Just a few examples:

“Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” – John 4:14

God, help me to run to You when I am thirsty- when I desire more. Help me not to go to empty wells for the life and pleasure I desire.

“He trusted in the LORD, the God of Israel, so that there was none like him among all the kings of Judah after him, nor among those who were before him.” -2 Kings 18:5

God, I want to trust You. Build in me a heart that trusts You and Your leading in any situation. Let others see that quiet trust and praise You.

“Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him.” -1 Corinthians 7:17

Grow contentment in me to be where You have placed me. Let me value who You made me to be, and not go running after something else.

Prayer is one of the most powerful tools we hold against the enemy and for letting loose God’s power, especially when that prayer is guided by the Word of God.