Anna's Alcove

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Category: Love (page 1 of 2)

Bask in the Presence

“He is jealous for me, loves like a hurricane, I am a tree, bending beneath the weigh of His wind and mercy.
When all of a sudden, I am unaware of this afflictions eclipsed by glory and I realize just how beautiful
You are and how great Your affections are for me.” 

“How He Loves Us” is one of my absolute favorite worship songs and it’s recently become my life goal… to realize just how much God loves me! Have you ever taken a moment to just meditate on how vast and how deep that love must be?

Let me tell you, it’s something worth contemplating 🙂

Ever since marriage, God has been opening my eyes and heart to the meaning of pursuing a love that never fails and what is actually possible when we live our lives in complete dependence on Him.

 

DSCN7908I recently joined the worship team at my church as a second female vocalist. Over the last few months, we have done two outreach events at different parks (one in Easton, PA, and the other in Quakertown, PA) and He has shown up every time. We just did the outreach in Quakertown this evening and I was told before we started that God was going to speak to me during our worship time. Of course that got me all excited and, sure enough, about halfway through singing I hear this voice in my head that said, “I love you, My child.”

Woah.

I grinned and kept right on singing, just losing myself in the worship and not worrying about the people who might be watching (which is a new thing for me, because a few months back, I would be super nervous about singing in front of people).

Then I heard this: “Just bask in My presence. Pursue me and I will do things that are beyond your wildest dreams.”

Imagine the tears of joy that welled up when the next song was “How He Loves Us:”

“And we are His portion and He is our prize, drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes,
if His grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking. And heaven meets earth like a sloppy wet kiss
and my heart turns violently inside of my chest.”

When God speaks, it’s not always a clear voice. He’s spoken to me in so many different ways – creation, His Word, a thought, books, photos, people – and this was just a crystal clear thought that came outta nowhere and stuck in my mind. I’ve been asking God to reveal Himself to me in new ways each day and He has! In Matthew 7:7-8 it says:

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and it will be opened to you.
For everyone who asks receives and him who seeks finds and to him who knocks it will be opened.”

It’s that simple. All we have to do is ask.

God loves us. We are His special, chosen people who He wants to bless (1 Peter 2:9). During the short time that I’ve been on the worship team, He has opened my eyes to the true meaning of worship and how freeing it can be. It doesn’t have to be a routine, gotta-get-it right-every-time type of thing. Yes, you have to be good stewards of your talents and practice, but don’t get so caught up on the technicalities that you lose sight of the reason you’re up there.

As the author of Hebrews said in chapter 13:

“Therefore, by Him, let us continuously offer the sacrifice of praise to God,
that is, the fruit of your lips, giving thanks to His name.” (vs. 15)

Make it a daily practice to bask in His presence and in His Word. Pursue your Heavenly Father and He will come running to meet you! Once you realize or remember the joy and wonder of being in constant praise and adoration of our Savior, you’ll never want to stop 🙂

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The Most Beautiful Poem in the Bible

Last Sunday, our pastor challenged us to take some time to read through Song of Solomon, to get a feel for the passionate love within marriage that depicts God’s love for the church.

OK, that sounds easy enough: read through the passionate love poem written by Solomon for his new bride and see how it parallels the love that our Creator has for those who seek and follow Him.

So I started reading it out loud during my morning devotions… and I was completely caught off guard.

It took a couple minutes to get the feel of the New King James way of talking, but soon I was able to read at an easy, comfortable pace.

Tasting each word as it rolled off my tongue and speculating on the various phrases and stanzas, a wonderful, crazy thing happened: I found myself lost in the beauty of the Word of God.

Song of Solomon is one of the most beautifully written poems in the Bible. Seriously, have you ever read the entirety of the book or heard it read out loud? I’m not talking the PG-rated portions, but the entire thing, beginning to end. Have you ever experienced what it’s like to hear those words of love and passion so boldly proclaimed, without shame?

As a teenager and a young adult, before marriage, whenever I skimmed through this book, it almost always set me daydreaming about the man I would marry. Would he look at me the way this man looks at his bride? Will he tell me over and over again how beautiful I am?

Now, as a married woman, there’s a completely different perspective and a whole new appreciation for the words of love written out in this book. What seemed like overkill or complete nonsense back then now make a little more sense.

Love – true love – can be that passionate.

It can get to a point where you just have to keep repeating the same phrases over and over again because you’re too giddy to think of anything new to say that describes your love for the other person, the longing for your husband the minute he leaves the house is a real thing (yes, I enjoy having the house to myself at times, but it’s always nice to have him near by) and the way his eyes light up when I walk into the room makes me feel like a princess.

And then I came across these verses:

Set me as a seal upon your heart, 
As a seal upon your arm;
For love is as strong as death,
Jealousy as cruel as the grave;
Its flames are flames of fire,
A most vehement flame.
 
Many waters cannot quench love,
Nor can the floods drown it.
 
(8:6-7a)

Wow…

Just take a moment and read that again.

“Set me as a seal…”

When I think of a seal, I think of something permanent, of claiming ownership and saying, “This is mine, no one else can have it.” While that may sound very possessive, I like knowing that my husband has chosen me to be his and his alone. He wouldn’t like it if I started checking out other guys or if other guys started hitting on me whenever we’re out somewhere… and the same goes for me. He’s my man and that’s the way it’s supposed to be in a committed relationship 🙂

“For love is as strong as death,
Jealousy as cruel as the grave…
 
Many waters cannot quench love…”

It’s very hard to break up true love. Especially when it’s a cord of three strands (with God as the third strand).. then nothing will be able to touch it!

This all reminds me of the song “Oh, How He Loves Us” by the David Crowder Band, where it says:

“He is jealous for me, 
Love like a hurricane, I am a tree
Bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy,
When all of a sudden, 
I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory,
And I realize just how beautiful you are
And how great Your affections are for me.
 
Oh, how He loves us!”
If you asked me what I got from all this, I would tell you that God is love. He is the definition of love and the passion He has for His creation to draw near to him and to have a lasting, eternal relationship with us is more than our mere words can express.

It makes me want to soar through the air, bask in the sun, dance in the fields, sing at the top of my lungs, feel the rain on my face and just celebrate being alive and loved by my amazing, wonderful Savior.

So, my question for you is… what are you waiting for?

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On the brink of adventure!

All my life I have been dreaming of my prince charming – that dashing young man who, when our eyes meet across the room, falls madly in love with me, sweeps me off my feet and carries me off to his castle where we live happily ever after.

Crazy right?

But seriously, what girl doesn’t wonder what her future husband looks like, what he did that day, what he’s thinking about? Will he be handsome? Will his eyes be blue, brown or hazel? What will we do? How the heck will we find enough things to talk about?

And now, in just a few days, on Dec. 28, 2014, I’ll be walking down the aisle toward the man of my dreams. I still almost can’t quite believe it. He matches everything on my “Mr. Right” list and is so much more than I could ever imagine or ask for.

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Photo courtesy of Gina Meyers Photography

He’s a strong believer in Christ and is actively growing in his relationship with our heavenly Father, he is kind, caring, fun, has a sense of humor, puts my needs in front of his own, does whatever he can to make me smile, enjoys spending time with my family and friends, welcomed me into his entire life (work, friends, family – there isn’t an area in his life that I’m not privy to) and the list goes on!

You know all those Bible study books (such as “Every Young Woman’s Battle,” “Captivated” and “Lady in Waiting”) that have that chapter about waiting for Mr. Right? How we, as maturing women of God, shouldn’t have to go out and find ourselves a man, that he will come into our lives at the right time. No need to worry, right?

It took me until age 23 to figure out what that means.

At first, I thought it meant that if I lived each day in expectation that I might meet my future husband, putting a little extra work into my appearance and greeting everyone with a smile, the right guy would find me irresistible and ask me out on the spot.

Right?

Nope!

While that was all well and good, the joy wasn’t real.

Living in expectation of something that wasn’t fully guaranteed took a toll on my emotions, leaving me exhausted and grumpy. I started thinking I wasn’t pretty enough or that I wasn’t a good enough Christian to deserve “the right guy.” Thoughts were running through my head every day as I watched my friends enter into relationship, get married and start families of their own.

Why didn’t I have that special someone in my life? All I’ve ever wanted was to be married to a great Christian guy, grow in Christ and raise a family together. What’s so wrong with that and why the heck was it taking so long to find my future husband?

In reality, if we want to become all that God has planned for us to be, to live our lives as the women of God that we are, we can’t live each day wondering when and if we will ever meet our future husband. Like I said before, it gets tiring and disappointing.

To be naturally filled with the joy of the Lord each day, we have to shift our focus from us to God and actively invest in a relationship with our heavenly Father.

When you start focusing on Christ, your whole perspective changes. You start seeing people through Christ’s eyes and your heart begins to overflow with love for others. Your smile will be genuine and your life will begin to fill with joy.

Not the joy that comes from having a super cute guy glance your way, but the joy that comes from an awesome love relationship with the Lord of all!

The kind of joy that makes the little things (a cup of coffee, sunlight, the chirping of birds in the trees, a smile, a chocolate bar, etc.) seem like big things…

… that makes the fact that you’re single fade to the background…

… that makes the sun shine just a little brighter…

… because if you think about it, you’re in an amazing love relationship with the Creator of the universe! And He loves to shower you with blessings that bring a smile to your face…

… and that is more than enough to make your joy complete without too much effort or wear and tear on your emotions 🙂

Trust me – lay down your worry about never marrying and becoming a nun at the throne of grace and leave it there! Walk away from it with your head held high, a smile on your face and the joy of the Lord in your heart….

… and start running full speed toward Jesus Christ. He’ll welcome you with open arms!

And who knows? Your prince charming may be just waiting around the corner…

… mine was 😉

So, dear friends, this will be the last time that I sign off as Ms. Anna Tielmann… because the next time I post, I”ll be known as…

… Mrs. Charles Crossan!!!!!

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God-Dependent

“To become a [true] servant is to become radically strong spiritually”<
[Be] God-dependent rather than spouse-dependent”

During one of my mornings with God last week, reading from a book called “Sacred Marriage” by Gary Thomas, these phrases popped out at me and got me thinking…

What does it mean to be “God-dependent”? How does that come through in every day life?

I know that most of us, growing up in Christian homes and churches, have been taught at a young age to put our trust in Christ, to have our happiness depend on God rather than our family or friends. To a young girl, that seems easier said than done.

My happiness depends on a God I can’t even see? How does that work? He can’t make silly faces that get me to laugh, He can’t tell me a joke or take me somewhere fun or sit for hours to just talk and catch up.

But as I got older, I began to realize what being “God-dependent” really means.

Throughout high school I got excited whenever one of the older guys happened to smile at me or when one of my friends invited me out to a girls’ night. Then college came, I got a boyfriend and felt like I was on cloud nine because I finally had someone who seemed to value me for who I was and who I enjoyed spending time with.

And what happened?

I broke my heart multiple times because those high school boys were just being nice and had no interest in me whatsoever. Most of those girls’ nights ended up being gossip-fests that I couldn’t share in because I was homeschooled and didn’t know anyone outside of church. Half of the guys in college, including my then-boyfriend, weren’t interested in a long-term relationship and eventually started to push me away.

The bottom line is that people will let you down, whether intentionally or unintentionally. It’s just the way we are with the sin nature in our lives… and that’s why we’re encouraged to allow God to become the source of our joy and happiness.

David realized this when he wrote Psalm 28:7:

“The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in Him and I am helped;
therefore my heart greatly rejoices and with my song I will praise Him.”

What does he do in this verse?

David owns the truth by saying “my strength” and “my shield.”DSCN7730

By claiming that truth as his own and striving each day to place his dependence on God alone, David was able to “greatly rejoice” and “praise” the God of joy and peace!

So, how would that apply in real life?

The verse that popped in my head was Ephesians 5:21, which says:

“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

As we start to turn our focus toward Christ and work to base our joy off of our relationship with Him, everything else will fall into place.

It’s just like Thomas says:

“If [you] are faithfully serving [your spouse] when [they’re] in a surely mood and [they’re] not exactly falling over [themselves] to show [their] appreciation, [you] still receive an inner affirmation and sense of fulfillment from God. [You] have that inner witness that tells [you] that [your] Creator is pleased with [you]…”

When we place our identity in the One who is the source of joy and happiness, it won’t matter so much what other people do to us, as long as we’re faithfully striving to serve our heavenly Father and do His will by loving on those He created…

… because He will be pleased with us.

“There is true joy when true service is offered up with a true heart”

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Happily Ever After

There comes a point in every girls’ life where she suddenly realizes that boys don’t have cooties, that it seems like the kid in her class may just be flirting with her or that her best friend that she’s grew up with is actually kind of good looking.

Most of us have watched all the Disney princess movies, can belt out “A Whole New World” with the best of them and sigh dreamily every time the prince rescues the princess, captures her heart and they ride off to his castle together, to live happily ever after.

Yes, I pretty much described myself and I was that hopeless romantic at a very young age. My first crush lasted a good 13 years (it started at age 4 or 5) and I started “planning” my wedding when I was about 16. I’ve always been a sucker for Christian romance novels and romantic comedies. Being married to a godly man and becoming a stay-at-home mom is really all I’ve ever wanted from life.

I’ve been praying for my future husband for several years now and for my happily ever after. God has been faithful and pretty much landed me a fairy tale of my own!

Some of my Bible study friends convinced my sister and me to go swing dancing one night, we got hooked and came back the next week. The minute I walked through the door, this guy across the room caught my eye. I can’t really explain it, but for some reason, I couldn’t stop glancing his way during the hour-long lesson and when the social dance came around, he asked me to dance, taught me a couple dances and we talked and danced the night away.

I’m not kidding 🙂

The next day, he asked me out on a date, we went biking along the river, talked some more over ice cream, he asked to meet my Dad (which was one of my “Hey, God, could you give me a sign if he’s the one?” things) and the rest is history.

Fast forward about 10 months.

We get back from a week at the beach with my family and everyone has finally unpacked and gone to bed. Charles and I are just hanging out and talking, when he suggests we take a walk outside to see the stars (there are some big corn fields near where I live, so it’s perfect for star-gazing). As we’re walking, we both catch sight of one of the brightest and longest shooting stars I’ve ever seen. We get to the field and, as we’re looking at the stars, he asks if I figured out why he hasn’t been able to stop smiling all day. I said that I thought he had enjoyed himself at the beach and was enjoying the moment.

Next thing I know, he’s down on one knee in front of me, holding out a box with a sparkly ring inside it and I hear him ask, “Will you marry me?”

Needless to say, I said yes!DSCN7439

But now with being engaged and the wedding date set for Dec. 28, 2014, I’m finding it hard to pull back on the reins on my wedding planning. I just wanna go, go, go and get every last detail figured out now instead of spacing it out over the next 5 months. But, in reality, that’s crazy.

My loving fiance has amazing patience for putting up with my random texts, messages and constant talking about the little details as they pop up in my head. When I started to get worried that a certain detail may not work out the way I think it should or that we wouldn’t get the venue we wanted, he will gently remind me of how much God has already provided for us and that He has everything taken care of. All we have to do is take a deep breath and trust him.

And it’s true. I mean, one of my favorite verses is Psalm 37:4,

“Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart”

I know this verse can be confusing to many people. Some take it to mean that when you follow after God wholeheartedly, He will bless you with everything you ever wanted. Others take it to mean that when you follow after God, He will bless you with the things He thinks are best for you, whether you desire it or not.

To me, it means that when you fully commit to following after God, diligently seeking Him in His Word and prayer, your desires begin to align with His. That part of you that was all about making yourself happy and getting what you want just falls away and is replaced by a heart after God’s own heart.

Yes, that original longing for love and happily ever afters will still be there, but it won’t be about you anymore. As you’re delighting in the Lord and chasing after Him for all your worth, your focus will shift. It will be more about how you can help another person to feel and experience the love of Christ through you.

Now, I’m not saying that the minute you start pursuing God, your Prince Charming will show up. It doesn’t happen that way. It takes time.

We may feel like we’re ready – and maybe we are – but what if God is still working on the other person? What if they’re not isn’t at the point where they can genuinely demonstrate the love of Christ to you?

I know I felt like I was ready for a committed relationship the last year and a half before I met my fiance, but a part of me hadn’t fully become content in Christ. I was still occasionally moaning to God, asking Him why I was still single at 23, why there seemed to be no husband-material on the horizon…

… then something changed.

I don’t know what it was exactly, but during a prayer, I was all of a sudden filled with peace and contentment. The days after that, I woke up each morning with joy in my heart and a genuine smile on my face. Life was good!

The whole time I was halfheartedly pursuing God in His Word and prayer, the Holy Spirit was working on me. As I got deeper and more committed in my pursuit of getting closer with God, praying that He would strengthen my faith and reveal Himself to me day after day, He was faithful in His promise and helped me to become fully content in Him.

And shortly after that was when I walked through the doors at Fearless Firehall and met my future.

God’s timing is perfect… trust me 🙂

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To love like Christ

Your hatred is for individuals, whereas mine is for certain actions and ideas.”
Matt Walsh.

Recently, one of my favorite bloggers, Matt Walsh, wrote a response to all of the hate mail that he has been receiving for voicing his opinions on some of society’s issues.
Whenever a breaking news story comes out or an issue gets heavily debated on social media sites, you can almost guarantee that Walsh will have something to say on the matter… and it’s refreshing to read a Christian viewpoint on what’s happening in the world.
He doesn’t blatantly shove the Bible in his readers’ faces or act as if he’s superior to them. He states the facts and explains why he thinks the way he does (with plenty resources to back up his viewpoint).
So, my question is, why do we, as Christians, get so much hate for voicing our opinions or not agreeing with the way society thinks?
 Some people claim that Christians are just out to condemn others for their sinful ways and to bring down judgement upon them. Still others seem to see us as cold-hearted Pharisees that follow a strict set of rules and look down upon those who don’t believe the way we do.

“They laugh hysterically when a Christian suggests that it’s possible to condemn the homosexual act without hating the homosexual person. I’ve attempted to make this
clarification so many times, and, on every occasion, I’m told that such a distinction is impossible. Hate what a person does, hate the person. It’s that simple.”
Walsh

But that’s not it at all!
As Walsh says in his post: “I hate attacks on marriage, on the family, on my faith, on liberty, on truth, on reason, on the constitution, but I don’t hate the attackers. I hate what they stand for, I hate their agenda, I hate their lies, but I do not hate the individuals.”
Why?
Because, as children of the Most High God, we are called to love one another; as God has loved us, that we also love one another. By this all will know that we are Christ’s disciples, if we have love for one another. (John 13:34-35)
That’s all there is to it. Since God is love and, as the sons and daughters of God, we have the likeness of Christ, we are called to spread that love to those around us, not hate.
Yes, it is not our place to pass judgement on anyone for God “has committed all judgment to the Son… [whose] judgment is righteous, because [He] does not seek [His] own will but the will of the Father who sent [Him]” (John 5:22, 30) and sometimes it might seem as if Christians are judging others for their actions left and right (and maybe sometimes we are unintentionally).
But we’re not perfect either. As Christians, we should all be striving to follow in Christ’s footsteps and that’s what grace is all about), and in reality, we are condemning the sin and hoping to reveal the truth to those around us.
 So, in short, yes, I believe it is possible to hate the sin and love the sinner.
I mean, there is a spiritual battle going on all around us all the time. Satan is fighting to claim as many souls as he can and will do all he can to confuse and mislead those who are still stuck in their sin. He will keep leading them in endless circles, away from the Light of the One who is calling out to them in Christ’s name, offering hope and salvation.
As Walsh put it in his blog, if we were really out to get people, we wouldn’t be approaching them about the issues we see in their lives. If we “hated” them, we would just ignore it and let them sink deeper and deeper into the pit of despair until they were overcome and consumed.

But the thing is… we care. The love of Christ drives us to do all we can to save those who haven’t realized the truth.

“For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”
Luke 19:10

“So, if you get upset at any of us, get upset at those of us who think we know the truth yet are too lazy and selfish to speak up and share it. Indeed, just because someone voices a disagreement with you doesn’t mean they hate you. Often, it means the exact opposite.”
Walsh

To read the full post that I based this off of, visit http://themattwalshblog.com/2014/06/05/this-person-is-planning-to-kill-me-in-order-to-teach-me-that-shouldnt-be-mean-and-hateful/2/#HvUev1Y8obubj19i.99

 

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An Approachable God

What is normally the first thought that comes to mind when something unexpected or exciting happens in your life?

“I’ve gotta tell somebody about this!!”

And who would that be?

Probably your best friend, spouse, parents or someone who just happens to be sitting next to you at the time, right?

But have you ever thought about telling God – the One who had orchestrated that exact moment or circumstance because He knew it would either bring you joy or draw you closer to Him? He may already know about every single detail, but in reality, He loves to hear about it directly from us.

Sadly many people, when they think of God, get this picture of a vengeful, supernatural being who is watching their every move, getting ready to blast them the minute they mess up. There’s no way we, as mere humans, can just talk with a God like that, right? Yes, it’s true that He is a wrathful, jealous God who cannot look upon sin:

“Take heed to yourselves, lest you forget the covenant of the Lord your God which He made
with you and make for yourselves a carved image in the form of anything which the
Lord your God has forbidden you. For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.”
Deut. 4:23-24 NKJV

… but that’s only a small part of who He is.

When I think of God, I think of the God who “so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

Also,

“… love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God…
In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent His only Son into the world,
so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we have loved God,
but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins…
God abides in us and His love is perfected in us.”
1 John 4:7-12 NKJV

What’s the one word repeated over and over again in those two passages?

LOVE

He is the God of love who gave up the only thing (Jesus Christ, His Son) who could make it possible for us to spend eternity with Him. He is the God of love who seeks out new and different ways to connect with us, on our level, in order to reveal more of who He is.

Honestly, He’s not as big and scary as some people make Him out to be. He certainly can be terrifying and wrathful when He wants to – like when the devil just won’t let up on us or when thousands of people are pretty much spitting in His face by refusing to change their ways (see Genesis 19 for the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. You’ll see what I mean).

But the side of God I’m talking about is the God who wants to hear all about our hopes and dreams for the future. He delights in spending time with us, listening as we talk about the latest thing that has happened in our lives. He’s also very good with giving a comforting hug and a compassionate ear when we need someone to lean on during the hard times.

You see…

… this is the God who wakes me up with either a bright ray of sunshine or gently falling rain in the mornings.

… this is the God who I rely on for strength to get me through each day.

… this is the God who I talk to late at night as I’m falling asleep, telling Him all that I experienced throughout the day.

So, take the time to get to know this caring, compassionate God that we serve. It’s just like having an ongoing conversation with your best friend throughout the day. He loves to hear from you anytime, anywhere.. whether at work, home, out shopping, etc.

“I pray because the need flows out of me all the time, waking and sleeping.
It doesn’t change God, it changes me.”
C.S. Lewis

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Live Out Loud!

Walking along a city street, strolling through the mall with your friends or shopping in a farmers’ market, you’re bound to bump shoulders and be jostled by at least a dozen or more people of varying backgrounds, ethnicities and beliefs. Guaranteed.DSCN1978

Some of us relish the opportunity to lose ourselves in a crowd, experiencing the excitement of navigating our way through a throng of people, diving for that open space when the moment is just right. Others dread having to deal with crowds and will attempt to plan their outings when the volume of shoppers, walkers and employees is significantly lower.

But we all interact with people at some point of our day, extroverts or introverts alike. Now, take a moment and think about the number of people you come in contact with throughout the day. How about in two days? Three? A week? A month? A year?

The numbers have increased, right?

You’re probably thinking, ok, so what? Yes, we know that dealing with crowds is just a part of life, so what’s the big deal? You just shove your way through or impatiently wait in line to check out, surfing Facebook on your smartphone as the customer in front of you pays for their items…

… but wait a minute!

How many of those people know Jesus? How many of those people have heard about the free gift of salvation that He’s holding out to them? How many of those people are headed to eternal punishment because no one reached out to them with God’s love?

Puts it into perspective, doesn’t it?

A couple Sundays ago, Kevin King, one of the missionaries my church supports who is based in New York City with his family, shared about what God has been doing in his life and what He has laid on his heart.

Their mission in NYC is to share the gospel with students from other countries (Muslims, Buddhists, etc.) while they’re studying here in America. As they come to know Christ as their personal Savior, King disciples and teaches them more about the Bible and how to lead their own studies.

That way, when they head back home, which is more likely than not to be located in the “10/40 window” (a section of unreached countries, tribes and people located in Japan through China, India, the Middle East and Northwestern Africa), these students can share what they’ve learned about the gospel in places where our missionaries are unable to go.

This seems to be one of the most effective ways to reach countries where Christian missionaries are not welcome. These students grew up in the villages and can easily get back into these countries, where they’ll have the opportunity to take what they’ve learned during their time in NYC and start Bible studies and churches with the people they know.

The goal of the Kings’ mission is to create relationships with the people they come into contact with on the streets, in schools, at stores, etc., spreading the love of Christ and sharing the Good News. They don’t wait for opportunities to come to them.. they intentionally seek out anyone who needs to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ!

Some of us get stuck in the thinking that we’re not qualified or don’t know enough to be a good witness for Christ. What if they ask us questions we don’t know the answer to? What if what I say ends up sounding stupid or doesn’t make sense?

Yet, God still chooses to work through us to spread His Word. God can use common and ordinary people to do extraordinary things!

While talking with our congregation, King used the example of Peter and John in Acts 4:1-13. The men were arrested and brought before the Sanhedrin. When questioned by what power and in whose name they acted in, Peter started to testify:

“Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, ‘Rulers of the people and elders of Israel: if we this day are judged for the good deed done to a helpless man, by what means he has been made well, let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole. This is the ‘stone rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.’ Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (vs. 8-12)

Now, you’d think the whole place would go ballistic after a claim like that, but they don’t. These leaders heard what Peter said and “when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus.” (vs. 13)

Peter and John didn’t go through seminary. They didn’t spend years studying up on the Scriptures. No. They were just stating a fact and giving an eye-witness account of what they did. And it was evident through their actions and straightforward answers that they had been with Jesus.

Another example King used included the woman at the well (John 4) and how “many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, ‘He told me all that I ever did!'” (vs. 39). She just shared her story and told about what Jesus had done in her life. There wasn’t any exams she had to take or memorization of Scriptures. It was just her story and the love of Christ that was evident within her.

Also the demon-possessed man in Mark 5. After Jesus cast out his demons and the man begged to go with Him, Jesus wouldn’t let him. He said “Go home to your friends and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you and how He has had compassion on you.’ And he departed and begain to proclaim in Decapolis all that Jesus had done for him and all marveled.” (vs. 19-20) Again, this man was just sharing his story. No training. No studying. Just talking with his friends and family.

I’m not saying this is an easy thing to do. It can be really scary to go up to someone in a public place, introduce yourself, build that 5-minute relationship and steer the conversation toward religion and what they believe. Some may turn you down directly, others may be really interested and ask a lot of questions that you may not know the full answer to.

But that’s ok. No need to freak out or worry that you don’t know the answer. This is an opportunity for you to continue the relationship after this conversation by promising them that you’ll get the answer for them at a later time. Admitting that you don’t know everything reveals that you’re still human, not some super godly person who is superior to them.

When Jesus says to go and make disciples of all the nations, He mostly meant to build relationships. Strike up those conversations. Sit with someone in the food court if they look like they could use a friend. Put your phone away and talk with people in line while you wait to check out.

We’re created to be relational and we should use that to our advantage!

Let’s work on living out loud for Jesus by building relationships and sharing what He has done for us each day, no matter how big or small 🙂

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Love Never Fails

Many girls have dreamed of having their own fairy tale endings. You know the ones I’m talking about: meeting the right guy and hitting it off right then and there, a whirlwind romance and then riding off into the sunset with Prince Charming on the back of a white horse.

Or growing up with a best friend that, as you got older, you discover you just can’t live without, so your friendship blossoms into this beautiful romance that leads to marriage and a happily ever after.

In some cases, that last scenario can actually happen. Rarely, but it does.

Yet, these days, love can be seen as a convenience and something that doesn’t include commitment to the other person. Couples can stay together for as long as they want and, when they get bored or tired of each other, they can just move on. Yes, it will hurt for a little while, but they’ll get over it the minute they find someone else to latch onto for fulfillment.

With Valentine’s Day coming up, I’ve been thinking what real love is supposed to look like. I know it’s so much more than just a feeling and it can be hard to distinguish true love from the twisted view of love that the world keeps feeding us.

We’re constantly being bombarded by mixed messages from the media, peers and society in general when it comes to what love should look like. Messages such as:

– having sex before marriage is okay as long as you use the correct protection
– love should be completely physical and based on your feelings of passion and lust
– if you’re bored, you can get out of it by just leaving or through divorce.

Just go with the flow. You’ll get the hang of it and pretty soon you’ll be a “love expert” who can pick up and drop relationships just like that.

That doesn’t sound like it could emotionally scar people for life, right? Wrong!

Created by a relational God, we naturally look for relationships, romantic or otherwise. But, as Christians, we shouldn’t look for love as the world does. We should…

“… love because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)

Ok, I got that, but what does that look like?

Paul describes it a little better in the “love chapter” of the Bible: 1 Corinthians 13, where verses 4-8 say something like this:

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, 
it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 
Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, 
always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”

Now that’s something I can work with!

Love is patient, love is kind – That’s pretty self-explanatory. Maybe a little hard to put into practice at times when the patience is running a little thin, but something to strive for.

It does not envy – Envy is when you want or desire something that another person has. That’s not what love is based off of. If we’re talking true love here, we should be happy for the other person instead of plotting how to get what they’ve got.

It does not boast, it is not proud – There are certain stages of pride. You should be proud of your friends or boyfriend/girlfriend for what they accomplish, yet you have to be careful to not let that pride get to the point where it’s not uplifting others and its only aim is to make you feel better about yourself.

It is not rude, it is not self-seeking – Love should drive us want the best for the other person and not twist situations around so that they benefit us and us alone. Going out of our way to do something for someone else is one of the best ways to demonstrate how you feel towards the other person.

It is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs – There will be times when your “fairy tale romance” won’t go as planned and this is why our fulfillment shouldn’t be based completely on another person, but totally on God. That way, when relationships hit a bump in the road or encounter an obstacle, the grace of God can shine through and begin the healing process in order to make the relationship stronger.

Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices in the truth – Again, self-explanatory. We should not hope for bad things to happen to others and be happy when things do go right for someone.

It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres – What’s the one word that is repeated over and over in this line? Always, always, always! People should never give up on other people. Yeah, there may be times when they need to step back and let them figure things out for themselves, but in the end, we all need each other. No matter what happens.

So, the bottom line is, forget what the world is telling us.

Yes, the romance part of relationships is awesome, but that’s not the whole point. Basing a relationship off of friendship, being open with each other and striving to honor God in all things is really the only way to go.

I’m no love expert.. far from it. But from what I can tell, true love based on the design God has given us in His Word is definitely a love worth waiting for and working toward once you find it.

Why?

Because that kind of love never fails 🙂

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The heavens declare the glory of God

Waking up on a Thursday morning can go two ways…

You crack open an eye at the sound of the alarm, groan, smack the “snooze” button and drift back to sleep because you know you still have two whole days to get through before the weekend officially begins. Getting out from your cocoon of blankets is the last thing you want to do.

Or

You open your eyes, taking in the soft sunshine pouring through the window. You stretch luxuriously and yawn, thinking, “The weekend is within reach! Only two more days to go!!” The smell of the coffee brewing downstairs wafts up your nose.. you let out a happy sigh; nothing can get you down today!

Normally, I’m the first option on a Thursday morning. I am not a morning person and some days it just seems extra hard to get out of bed, especially when the weekend is just out of reach.

But this past week, God gave me a pleasant surprise.

As the alarm went off, I stretched and started to hit the “snooze” button, when something caught my eye. The movement of the blankets had sent a small puff of air toward the blind, making it swing back and forth ever so slightly.

I sat up, grabbed hold of the blind, gave it a tug and, as it rolled itself up and revealed the entire window, my jaw dropped:

I stared at it for a while, in awe of the many intricate designs that were all over the bottom window pane, and then I kicked off the blankets and dove for my camera, snapping a few quick pictures while the lighting was just right.

It’s moments like these that reaffirm the fact that there is a Creator and that He delights in making beautiful things, which is evidenced in the words repeated over and over again in Genesis (1:4, 10, 14, 18, 21, 25 and 31):

“And God saw that it was good”

Everything God created, down to the last miniscule detail, was and is considered good by His standards (which is pretty awesome if you think about it. I mean, this is God we’re talking about, and if He says it’s good… well, it must be really good!).

As Creator, God enjoys making new things, perfecting each detail, and making it beautiful.
This is also seen in Matthew 6:28-30:
“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. 
They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon 
in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 
If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, 
which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, 
will He not much more clothe you?”

If it pleases God to spend so much time on the designs on the petals of the flowers in the fields or the frost on the window that is here one moment and gone the next, how much more time will He spend on you… shaping, molding, breaking and strengthening you to become all that He wants you to be?

Let that sink in for a moment.

“O Lord, You have searched me and You know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; 
You perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; 
You are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue You know it completely, O Lord… My frame was not hidden from You when I was made in the secret place. 
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, Your eyes saw my unformed body. 
All the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be.” 
(Psalm 139:1-4, 15-16)
The next time you start feeling overwhelmed by life or that things are careening out of control, just take a look around you.
“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands” 
(Psalm 19:1)
Look at all of creation and remember that there is a Creator who is orchestrating your life down to the last detail. He’s got everything under control and He won’t let you down. Take the time to get to know Him more and He will reveal Himself to you in ways you never expected or experienced before.
Spend time in His Word.
Spend time enjoying His creation…
… and give Him the glory!
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