Anna's Alcove

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Tag: love (page 1 of 2)

Realizing Our Identity in Christ

“Love has been perfected among us in this:
that we may have boldness in the day of judgement;
because as He is, so are we in this world.”
(1 John 4:17)

Read that last line one more time – “…because as He is, so are we in this world.”

Now take a moment to really think about it. If you still don’t fully comprehend it, that’s just fine. It took me over a year to figure out what that part of the verse meant in my life and, to tell you the truth, I’m still getting revelations about it.

It all comes down to your identity. Do you really understand who you are in Christ? What being a son and daughter of the Most High God means for your life? Dan Mohler, a pastor known for his enthusiasm and unashamed passion for Christ, has a series on YouTube called “School of Kingdom Living.” It details who we are in Christ and how a realization of that identity can completely change our lives.

One of his points is that Christians tend to base their potential in Christ off of what they feel. If they don’t feel super spiritual one day or if they’ve stumbled in some way the next, then it’s as if they’ve fallen to the bottom of the slippery slope and have to crawl their way back up to the top. That’s not the way it is at all, according to Mohler:

“He did not die to expose that you’re sinners.
He died to remove sins and to expose that you’re sons!”
(Dan Mohler)

It’s not like we have to earn a certain number of points in order to perform miracles in the Spirit or to hear from God. He sees you as a completely new creation and is ready to reveal Himself to you in this moment.   All you have to do is confess or declare that it’s not you that stumbled and thank God that the old you is dead and gone. Praise Him for making you a brand new creation and step into the revelation that Christ is still within you. There’s no way you could ever lose your sonship.

Overall, it’s an understanding of love that opens our hearts and minds to this revelation. By believing that “love has been perfected among us in this…” we realize who we are in Christ. Through that, we can live by what we believe and manifest that in the world around us. So don’t get down on yourself about how you may have messed up or how far you have to go to obtain that level of righteousness.

Receive and accept the identity that has been granted to you today through Christ!

 

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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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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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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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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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New Year Resolutions

It’s a new year and you know what that means… New Year’s resolutions!!!

The beginning of the year is a good time to reflect on the things you wish you had done last year and resolve to achieve your goals for this coming year. I personally have never made a new year resolution, but many people will try to reshape their eating habits, others try to prioritize their lives and still others want to get in better physical shape.

But what would happen if we dared to go deeper, to make a resolution that has the potential to change your life?

I’m talking about making it a goal to pursue a closer relationship with our amazing God this year. Open up and completely surrender to His will, letting His love fill you up and overflow into the lives of those around you.
While it may not seem like much, making a point to daily seek after God with your whole heart, soul and mind will start you on a journey that’s bound to turn your world upside down!

How do I know this?

“But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find Him with all your heart and with all your soul.” (Deut. 4:29)

“… if you seek Him, He will be found by you…” (1 Chronicles 28:9b)

“If my people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14)

“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matt. 6:33)

It’s all throughout the Old and New Testament. When God’s people actively pursue a relationship with Him, seeking Him with their whole heart, soul and mind, He will be found by them.
God wants us to get to know Him more and longs for us to be more like the people He created us to be. The only way that can be accomplished, without Him stepping in and taking control, is by us humbling ourselves and making it a point to spend time in His Word and prayer.
Read the Bible as if you can’t get enough of it.. take notes… pray about everything… talk with brothers and sisters in Christ about what you’re reading and learning (they can offer good feedback and encouragement during the rough times).
I challenge you (and myself) to seek God first in everything you do; when you wake up, throughout the day and before you go to sleep at night. Make Him a part of your everyday life and just watch the change that is bound to happen!
Happy New Year 🙂
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Give thanks in all circumstances

Take a moment and count your blessings.

Seriously.

Get out a piece of paper, a journal, anything to write on and start making a list of the blessings you can think of.

What’s beginning to happen? You start writing down the obvious ones (I’m thankful for family, friends, that I woke up today, that I have food to enjoy, a warm house, etc.), and each of those brings to mind something else, which leads to more ideas and realizations of other blessings you had overlooked… the list gets longer and longer.
You see what I’m getting at?
There are so many different kinds of blessings that happen throughout each day. Small ones that you barely notice or take for granted and big ones that actually make you sit back and say, “Wow! That’s awesome!”
This past week, I’ve been thinking more and more about my life and what has happened up to this point.. and am still blown away by all that God has done.

1. That Christ willingly humbled Himself to live and minister among us, went to the cross, took all of our sins – past, present and future – upon Himself, paid the price we could never afford and conquered death so that we may have the free gift of eternal life!

2. That He has allowed me to grow up in a strong, Christian family with parents who love each other and are committed to our family and leading us to Christ.

3. That He granted me the money I needed in order to go to two good colleges (Northampton Community College and Edinboro University of Pennsylvania) and get a bachelor’s degree in Print Journalism.

4. That He’s blessed me with an amazing group of friends at Bible study, swing dancing, game night and other places.

5. That He has always provided for my every need, no matter how big or small.

And the list goes on!

Being thankful is a huge theme in the Old and New Testaments. Some of the well-known men of God in the Bible – Moses, David and Paul – made a point to encourage others to give thanks to God for everything. Not just the big things (such as bringing the Israelites out of Egypt, giving David success over Goliath or even granting Paul the opportunity to minister to the Gentiles), but in everything.
Here’s what they have to say on the subject:

“Give thanks to the Lord, call on His name; make known among the nations what He has done.” – 1 Chronicles 16:8

“Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise His name.” – Psalm 100:4

“But thanks be to God! He give us the victory through our Lord, Jesus Christ.” – 1 Corinthians 15:57

“But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of Him.” – 2 Corinthians 2:14

See what I mean? As children of the Most High God, we’re supposed to give thanks for everything each and every day.

It should be a natural reaction for us. It brings to mind the chorus from “Jury Duty,” a song by the O.C. Supertones:

“You know I haven’t had the best of days, but I want to stop and thank you anyway…
Cuz every single moment, whether sleeping or awake is Your creation,
and what You made is good. I don’t always thank You
for the rough days and hard times in my life,
even though I should.”

Now, I’m not saying that I still don’t struggle to find something to be thankful for on the really rough days.. I’m not perfect yet.

But the more I read and study the Bible, it’s encouraging to see that these great men of God (Moses, David and Paul) had to go through their own times of struggle and doubt before they came to the point of constant thanksgiving.
So, take it day by day. Try to make a point of thanking God for one or two things right after you wake up in the morning and right before you go to bed at night. I can guarantee it will soon become second nature and you’ll be able to live each day with a spirit of thankfulness (which is one of the fruits of the Spirit!)

“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances,
for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

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Love covers a multitude of sins!

There may be time where it feels like you’ve done something so terrible that there’s no way you can make it up to God. You’ve fallen into the trap of sin over and over again, it seems impossible to approach the throne of grace and ask for forgiveness one more time. You’re left with this feeling of being unclean and unworthy of the love that God is holding out for you.

I know that there have been many times in my life where I kept putting off asking God for forgiveness because I was afraid. Afraid of rejection, afraid of coming face to face with my sin, afraid of seeing the hurt in my Father’s eyes.

But the minute I slink into the throne room (figuratively of course), stumbling under the heavy burden of guilt, I immediately feel the power and glory of His presence. I fall to my knees in awe and shame, afraid to look up, afraid of what I might see.

Then I hear Him say “My child, I love you and nothing can ever change that. Give me your burden and let me fill you with My grace and love, for My yoke is easy and My burden is light. I’ll cast your sins as far as the east is from the west, washing you white as snow. For you are Mine and no sin can ever snatch you out of My hand.”

A feeling of peace and love overwhelms me. Tears streaming down my face, I feel the weight lift off my shoulders and am wrapped up in a huge hug by the Father who would never disown me.

Each time I enter God’s presence, I come away wondering why I hadn’t done it sooner. He’s so full of love and compassion and He understands us completely!

That’s the wonder of grace. We don’t have to earn it, per say. It’s a gift!

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves;
it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”
Ephesians 2:8-9

As it says in 1 Peter 4:8 –

“Above all, love each other deeply, for love covers a multitude of sins.”

This unconditional love was ultimately demonstrated at the cross.

One of my Facebook friends had posted an excerpt from the book “When God Weeps” by
Joni Eareckson Tada and Steve Estes. It gives such a graphic visual of what happened at the cross that fateful day and what exactly our Savior had to go through in order to offer us the free gift of salvation:

The face that Moses had begged to see—was forbidden to see—was slapped bloody (Exodus 33:19-20).
The thorns that God had sent to curse the earth’s rebellion now twisted around his own brow…
“On your back with you!” One raises a mallet to sink in the spike.
But the soldier’s heart must continue pumping as he readies the prisoner’s wrist.
Someone must sustain the soldier’s life minute by minute, for no man has this power on his own.
Who supplies breath to his lungs? Who gives energy to his cells? Who holds his molecules together?
Only by the Son do “all things hold together” (Colossians 1:17).
The victim wills that the solider live on—he grants the warriors continued existence.
The man swings.
As the man swings, the Son recalls how he and the Father first designed the medial nerve of the human forearm—the sensations it would be capable of.
The design proves flawless—the nerves perform exquisitely. “Up you go!”
They lift the cross.
God is on display in his underwear and can scarcely breathe.
But these pains are a mere warm-up to his other and growing dread. He begins to feel a foreign sensation. Somewhere during this day an unearthly foul odor began to waft, not around his nose, but his heart. He feels dirty. Human wickedness starts to crawl upon his spotless being—the living excrement from our souls. The apple of his Father’s eye turns brown with rot.
His Father! He must face his Father like this! From heaven the Father now rouses himself like a lion disturbed, shakes his mane, and roars against the shriveling remnant of a man hanging on a cross. Never has the Son seen the Father look at him so, never felt even the least of his hot breath. But the roar shakes the unseen world and darkens the visible sky. The Son does not recognize these eyes.
“Son of Man! Why have you behaved so? You have cheated, lusted, stolen, gossiped—murdered, envied, hated, lied. You have cursed, robbed overspent, overeaten—fornicated, disobeyed, embezzled, and blasphemed. Oh, the duties you have shirked, the children you have abandoned! Who has ever so ignored the poor, so played the coward, so belittled my name? Have you ever held your razor tongue? What a self-righteous, pitiful drunk—you, who molest young boys, peddle killer drugs, travel in cliques, and mock your parents. Who gave you the boldness to rig elections, foment revolutions, torture animals, and worship demons? Does the list never end! Splitting families, raping virgins, acting smugly, playing the pimp—buying politicians, practicing exhortation, filming pornography, accepting bribes. You have burned down buildings, perfected terrorist tactics, founded false religions, traded in slaves—relishing each morsel and bragging about it all. I hate, loathe these things in you! Disgust for everything about you consumes me! Can you not feel my wrath?”
Of course, the Son is innocent. He is blamelessness itself. The Father knows this.
But the divine pair have an agreement, and the unthinkable must now take place.
Jesus will be treated as if personally responsible for every sin ever committed.
The Father watches as his heart’s treasure, the mirror-image of himself,
sinks drowning into raw, liquid sin. Jehovah’s stored rage against humankind from every century
explodes in a single direction.
“Father! Father! Why have you forsaken me?!”
But heaven stops its ears. The Son stares up at the One who cannot,
who will not,
reach down or reply.
The Trinity had planned it. The Son endured it. The Spirit enabled him.
The Father rejected the Son whom he loved. Jesus, the God-man from Nazareth, perished.
The Father accepted his sacrifice for sin and was satisfied. The Rescue was accomplished.
Joni Eareckson Tada and Steve Estes, “When God Weeps.”

The bottom line is this. No matter what you’ve done, no matter what you’ve been through, Jesus paid it all. He went to the cross for your sins. Not just the small ones or the big, life-changing ones, but ALL sins. He took them upon Himself and paid the price so that we could be washed clean and live eternally.

Satan wants us to believe that we’re unworthy, that we’re too dirty for God to even bother with.

That’s not true at all!

Remember…

“The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill and to destroy.
I have come that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”
John 10:10.

Praise Him!

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