Thursday, April 30, 2009

Explicit Lyrics Week 2

Requests and Dedications: Falling in Love

It may seem that I'm a little belated in writing up my thoughts on this past week's message. I was in the nursery on Sunday and have just now listened to it from our
website. It really isn't quite the same as hearing it in person, but I'm thankful for the opportunity to hear it all the same.

This Sunday the theme was dating/courting. Jeff asked everyone to discuss with their neighbor one of three dating experiences: their first date, their most embarrassing date, or their most memorable date (cautioning that the most memorable probably should be one they experienced with their spouse). I honestly don't remember when or what my first date was. It's hard to classify dating when you're in high school and neither person can drive. :-) Since I didn't know I was supposed to swap dating stories with Alex in the nursery, I'll share with you here.

I think my most memorable date was my first Valentine's Day with Adam. During the day he brought me six red roses, each with a little paper heart attached to them. Five of the hearts listed his favorite memories with me in the five months we'd been dating and the sixth was for our future memories (swoon!). He also gave me a note inviting me to his apartment that evening for dinner. When I arrived, he had prepared London broil, broccoli casserole, and chocolate fondue. Yummy! After dinner, he started telling me all of the things he liked about me, but about the third one in he started saying, "I love..." which was a big deal because we had not said "I love you" to one another and Adam had said that he only wanted to say it to the woman he was going to marry. So, I was freaking out in my head (in a good way) and not listening at all to what he was saying (which I have learned was going to be a habit for all of Adam's great romantic speeches, unfortunately). Finally he said that he loves me and I said it back because I do. Such an awesome day!

Thinking about the paper hearts made me want to read them again, so I stopped in the middle of my typing and found them in a little scrapbook I had started when we were dating. I found them along with two poems I had written that Valentine's day before the awesome evening. They're kind of silly and sophomoric, but I'll share one anyway and then get back to the sermon (long sidetrack, huh?).

Questions of Love
When?
I looked into your eyes
Those gorgeous brown eyes
That penetrate deep inside
That see exactly who I am
That reveal so much
I can read your thoughts
Your emotions
Your desires
How?
With every part of me
With Christ's example
My thoughts
My actions
My smile
Why?
Because of Christ in you?
Because I see you?
Because you see me?
Because of the way you make me feel?
Just because?
Does it really matter why?
I only know that I do
And that makes all the difference.
So after all of that, back to task. The sermon went through Song of Songs 1:15-3:5. Adam said that Jeff read SoS 2:16 which is the verse inscribed inside his wedding ring. Jeff talked about how you should never stop dating your spouse and even issued a challenge to the men to take their spouse on a date this week and to be creative. The women were to email Jeff at mystudmuffin@cccobb.com with the details for the chance to win a free dinner for two. I wonder how that'll go.
In the message Jeff talked about how time and separation should kindle (not dwindle) love if you are courting the right person. Just before he said this I had been thinking about how awesome it was that Adam was willing to endure unusual circumstances in order to date me. I mentioned in my post about week 1 of this series that I was concerned about starting a relationship when I was going to be on another continent for a semester. You often hear about the perils of long distance relationships and it seems kind of odd to START dating someone you can only contact via email and telephone and won't physically see for the rest of the year. While we didn't officially term ourselves dating when I headed out, we communicated A LOT via the avenues available to us. In fact, it wasn't until one of my fellow study abroaders asked about our relationship that everything was defined. She asked, "Do you have a boyfriend?" I said, "I don't know, maybe." I then spoke to Adam about what he told people on our next phone call and he said that he said we were dating, which was fine with me. When I reported back, she asked, "Are you exclusive?" Um...*shrug* So you know what the subject of our next conversation was. I said I didn't want to date anyone else and Adam said he didn't either and so we were officially in an exclusive dating relationship. Nice and simple. :-P Anyway, I think our circumstances really allowed us to learn a lot about the other person without the distraction of physical temptation. Of course, when we finally did see each other again...in the airport...with my mom...and two friends, it was a little awkward. Good ole' mom, though, made me walk Adam out after he'd dropped us off at our hotel so that we could have a little one-on-one time. Wow, way sidetracked.
I LOVE our story, can you tell? It's so crazy and awesome and always makes me smile.
Jeff also said that we should feel more alive and our faith should grow when we are with that person. Courting is about emotional discovery and airing out our past. If we aren't comfortable sharing our past with our boy/girlfriend, we should not give them our future. During this time we should also talk about our future plans and hopes to make sure the relationship is on the right track.
His final thought was that God can do incredible things in our lives, but only if we obey him. I think he was referring to being obedient in our relationships, specifically in regards to purity within them.
Obedience to God has kind of been a theme for me recently. Jill and I talked about it on Tuesday. I mentioned it in the last message response post. Jeff talked about it in this message. I guess that continues to be my application until I get it down. Not that I am necessarily being purposefully obedient. It is more of recognizing God's will for me and acting on it. Doing what is necessary regardless of how I feel. Sacrificing selfish desires and personal needs to show God's love through my life.
P.S. - Somehow the paragraph spacing stopped after the poem and I don't know how to fix it again. Anyone who knows what may have happened, please let me know. It looks fine in compose mode, but when I hit "Preview" it all squeezed together. Thanks!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Romance and Beauty

Yesterday’s message made me think about romance. It is obviously involved in a relationship between a man and a woman. The question is, why does it seem to decrease inside marriage?

In a dating relationship, the man is generally trying to woo the woman and makes gestures to prove his interest in her. He pays attention to what she says and likes and demonstrates his recall in things like acquiring concert tickets or bringing her her favorite variety of flowers. This is definitely what helps increase the interest on her part. It lets her know that he cares about what she likes and that she is important to him. The man knows that he needs to continue to express his interest in her in order for the relationship to progress. Yes, a woman must also do the same, but she tends to have more of a natural inclination for nurturing relationships.

However, it seems that, in many relationships, once the ultimate romantic gesture is given, in the form of a marriage proposal, the man does not seem to deem romance as being as important in the relationship as it once was. However, the problem is that the woman generally still sees romance as evidence that she is desirable to the man. It can be a hit to her self-esteem when it feels like the husband sees no need in continuing to pursue his wife and continue to deepen their relationship. Does the husband feel that since he has “won” her, he’s done? Perhaps he is overwhelmed and busy due to all of the changes and new responsibilities. Maybe he thinks that she should know how much he loves her because he did marry her, after all. I don’t know the reasoning because I am not a man. And I want to say that this does not mean that all men do this. There certainly are men that continue to be romantic throughout their relationship with their wives. I also want to say that there are also women that stop doing the things they did when they were dating – be it dressing less attractively and more frumpy, wearing less makeup, whatever. This is also not right or beneficial for the marriage relationship.

People need to realize that marriage takes continuous effort and work to be the best it can be. We know that all things that are worth it take work. Paychecks require work. Children require work. A close walk with God requires work. Good health requires work. Successful relationships take work.

I’m really not trying to blast men. I know that I don’t always do what I ought to do in my relationship. I can be selfish with my time and motives. But, I don’t want to be and I pray about it often. I want a great, godly marriage and want to do whatever is needed for it to remain that way.

On a related note, it is interesting how romance and beauty are related. In Song of Songs 1:10-11, Solomon says “Your cheeks are beautiful with earrings, your neck with strings of jewels. We will make you earrings of gold, studded with silver.” Jeff said that passage indicates that Solomon knew that every kiss beings with Kay. But it is interesting to think about grand gestures of romance. They tend to involve jewelry, flowers, fancy dinners, etc.

Jewelry is considered pretty and is designed to enhance beauty. It also is meant to convey value or worth. Not just anyone is given expensive adornments, right? It says, I value you and want to express your value by giving you something of value that esteems your worth to me.

Flowers are beautiful and fragrant and are sort of symbolic of a woman. They are a gift of beauty to a beauty. To me they also are a reminder of all of the beauty God has placed in this world. That’s probably why I love spring and fall because I get to see all of the different varieties of beauty. I take pictures of creation because I am in awe of it. Unfortunately, the photos rarely do it justice. A gift of flowers is a reflection of the beauty a husband sees in his wife.

Fancy dinners are another example of expressing someone’s worth. It also usually involves dressing up which speaks to beauty. In this scenario, it is sort of a desire to show off the one in whom you find beauty and value.

I think this is why romance is so important. It helps to convey to the woman that the man finds them beautiful and of great value. We all like to know that we are desired, wanted and accepted. That’s what I love about God. He knows just what makes me feel special and hasn’t stopped showing his love for me since the day I became his. He certainly wooed me before I chose him, but he has not stopped and I know that he won’t. Sometimes I do feel a great need to experience his love for me, but I am not afraid to ask him. I know that he is willing and able. Sometimes my lack of feeling God's love is because I am unable to see his loving gestures even though they are there.

God’s word is such a comfort to me. I love these verses found in the second chapter of the book of Hosea.

“Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her. In that day,” declares the Lord, “you will call me ‘my husband’; you will no longer call me ‘my master.’ I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion. I will betroth you in faithfulness, and you will acknowledge the Lord. I will plant her for myself in the land; I will show my love to the one I called ‘Not my loved one.’ I will say to those called ‘Not my people,’ ‘You are my people’; and they will say, ‘You are my God.’” v. 14,16,19,20,23

Explicit Lyrics Week 1

The Couple's Skate: Love at First Sight

Yesterday's sermon was from Song of Songs 1:1-11 and talked about attraction, the first stage of a relationship. At the beginning, a video was shown of some couples from the church talking about what attracted them to one another. This, of course, caused me to think about when Adam and I knew we were attracted to one another.

Adam would probably say something like he was checking out the ladies in the Statistics class (all 10 of us - it was, after all, a class for engineers) and thought I was the cutest. (He is free to dispute any inaccurate information). I believe he mentioned one day in particular when I wore a pink ribbon in my hair (I know, hard to believe I would do such a thing, huh?).

My point of view is that we met in Statistics class spring semester, he being the guy that kept staring at me and eventually asked to sit next to me in class. We became friends through me trying to witness to him (crazy but true), studying for tests (where we actually talked more than anything) and throwing the frisbee. I'm sure we flirted as well. My thoughts didn't really change from friendly to something more until late summer. That is when my ex-boyfriend (whom I had been dating when I met Adam) told me that he knew I liked other guys, one of them being Adam. I recall thinking, "Adam, why would I like Adam?" This, of course, led me to think about Adam and all of his wonderfulness (even making a list of his qualities - I'm kind of a dork), which brought me to the realization that, yes, I did in fact like him as more than a friend.

You'd think that I would then let him know that I liked him, but things aren't always that simple in Meganland. You see, in less than a month I was headed to Spain for the semester, which meant we wouldn't see each other for four months. My rational self thought that it didn't seem like a good time to pursue a relationship so I prayed a lot about it. Eventually, all of our time together made it obvious to both of us that we liked one another. So, that means that Adam felt some attraction right away, but Ms. Oblivious over here took her sweet time of seven or eight months. Boy am I glad Adam's patient.

I learned in church yesterday that one kiss burns two calories and that Jeff encourages all married men to make out with their wives. In fact, it was assigned as homework. I hope Adam is not a procrastinator. ;-)

Jeff mentioned Proverbs 31:30, which was such a great reminder to me. Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Not that we're not supposed to make ourselves look nice. Our focus should be on our relationship with God. After all, according to Jeff, there's nothing more attractive to a godly man than a woman who is confident in her relationship with God and comfortable with how he made her.

Men were instructed to ask their wives if there was anything in their character that made them unattractive. The women were to ask their husbands if there is anything they can do to be more attractive to them. I wonder how those conversations went yesterday.

So, in all of this, what is my application? Obviously, not to get lazy in my appearance and start wearing sweatpants and baggy tshirts all the time. I guess also to be confident in my relationship with God and not be afraid of what others may think of my passion for the Lord - as it's supposed to be my most attractive feature.

If you are interested in listening to the message for your own application, click here. Jeff and Neal are at the Exponential Conference this week so it may not be available online until this weekend. I would still suggest checking it out.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Easter...Beyond a Shadow of a Doubt

Jeff was supposed to be starting a new series, Explicit Lyrics, but he got sick on Friday. Neal spoke about doubt, as the title above implies. You can listen to the message here.

He started with a video that you can watch here. I enjoyed it because sometimes, as a Christian, you feel that you always have to believe that what the Bible says happened is true simply due to the fact that you weren't there to witness any of it. Sometimes I do think it's a pretty incredible story to believe.

The passages discussed were Matthew 28:16-20 and John 20:24-29. They talk about some of the disciples doubting that Jesus had risen from the dead. Eugene Peterson's message version of Matthew 28:16-17 says "Meanwhile, the eleven disciples were on their way to Galilee, headed for the mountain Jesus had set for their reunion. The moment they saw him they worshiped him. Some, though, held back, not sure about worship, about risking themselves totally. " In the NIV, it says that some "doubted" rather than "held back...". It seems like it would be hard to doubt Jesus' resurrection if your looking right at him. But I can definitely see how they could be wary about risking themselves totally. They can see that there's a lot of power surrounding Jesus for him to be alive again. What will happen to them if they completely surrender to following Jesus?

In John, the focus is mainly on Thomas wanting to see Jesus and touch his wounds for himself in order to believe, which he is allowed to do. Jesus is so gracious! I especially like the last verse of the section where Jesus tells Thomas, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." Jesus is talking about me! It certainly takes a lot more faith to believe something you haven't seen or touched yourself. It's comforting to know that we are blessed for our belief.

Neal mentioned the note in the Life Application Study Bible about this passage. Jesus wasn't hard on Thomas for his doubts. Despite his skepticism, Thomas was still loyal to the believers and to Jesus himself. Some people need to doubt before they believe. If doubt leads to questions, questions lead to answers, and the answers are accepted, then doubt has done good work. It is when doubt becomes stubbornness and stubbornness becomes a life-style that doubt harms faith. When you doubt, don't stop there. Let your doubt deepen your faith as you continue to search for the answer.

I like that it points out Thomas' faithfulness in spite of his doubts. It helps us to see that it is okay to doubt as long as we are also searching for a response to the doubt rather than allowing the doubt to make us stagnant.

The questions I wanted to ask myself from this message are as follows:

What would it look like for me to risk myself totally for Jesus?
What am I currently holding back? What am I protecting or keeping from him?
What doubts do I have?

Sometimes I do doubt that it is all true - mainly because there is no indisputable fact and all of the major events that define my faith occurred so long ago. I don't fully commit because I am afraid of what it will cost me. I am afraid of being ridiculed and rejected by others. I am afraid of the changes to my life (and current lifestyle) that may occur. I am afraid that God won't be enough. I do feel bad for thinking these things, but God knows my inmost thoughts so why try to pretend they aren't there? I do want to believe and trust fully.

I think part of the issue is that I struggle with fully grasping and comprehending the full measure of God's love and grace. Obviously, Easter is the ultimate demonstration of God's love for me. My issue is that it is more head knowledge than heart feeling. I know it's true, but I don't always feel its truthfulness. I want to live abundantly out of God's love for me, but sometimes I feel like I'm on empty. I do see and receive God's blessings in my life, but somehow I can't connect it to feeling loved by him. I want to be filled up with him because only then can his love flow out of me and into others. My acts of love toward others are a result of God's love for me. It's hard to be loving when you don't feel loved. And yet Jesus did not stop loving throughout his persecution, but I suppose that is because he felt his Father's love.

So this is where I am. I desire to experience God's love in a real and powerful way. I want to feel like his beloved. To feel special to him. In my head, I know that these things are true, but I don't know how to translate that to my heart. I have been praying to receive his love in a real way and am reading his word. I don't know what the hangup is. I feel stuck and blah and I just want God's love to be real to me. And I think that's really why I'm holding back right now.

So what's my application? I guess to continue to pray that I would grasp/experience God's love for me in a real way. But perhaps it's to commit totally in spite of this - choosing to trust what I know over what I feel. To trust that God is enough and is able to meet all of my needs (Philippians 4:19).

Do What It Says

I was listening to a sermon recently by Steven Furtick of Elevation Church in Charlotte. It's from The Essential James series and was based on James 1:22-25.

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does.

Steven mentioned how, when he was in college, he realized that he was not getting anything out of the chapel times so he decided that he would make a point to find something in each message that he could apply to his life and then apply it some way that week. I found that very interesting because often I will write notes on the sermon I hear but most of the time the notes stay in my Bible until the next Sunday and nothing was really done about what I heard. So I thought that I would try to take a step toward application of the word by writing my thoughts on the messages I hear on here to see if that doesn't help me be more action-driven.

Speaking of "doing what it says." Philippians 3:16 says, "Only let us live up to what we have already attained." The note in my Bible does a great job of explaining this verse. "Christian maturity involves acting on the guidance that you have already received. We can always make excuses that we still have so much to learn. The instruction for us is to live up to what we already know and live out what we have already learned. We do not have to be sidetracked by an unending search for truth."

There is a lot that I already know but don't always obey. For example, I don't always love my neighbor as myself. Nor do I always consider the interests of others. There are plenty of verses that need to be applied to my life now. I don't need to know everything the Bible says I ought to do before I start doing some of it. So I have started a little notebook of God's truths that I should learn and abide by. Though, really, if I could get a grasp on the first one I have written down, then pretty much everything else would fall in line, I bet.

The first one I have written is Mark 12:29-31.
"The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this: 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these."

To sum all of this up, I am planning to post my thoughts/application from the messages I hear. Hopefully additional action will follow.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Believe and Not Doubt

If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.
James 1:5-8

I was reading this passage this morning and the words really hit me. When I pray, do I pray in belief that God will answer my requests? Or do I just pray because I ought to without any thought as to whether God will hear and act? For a while now I have really had the desire for a powerful and effective prayer life. I want my time with God to matter and to count. I want to feel like each time I meet with God in prayer, I encounter Him. I want my prayers to be answered. Yet, when I think about my prayers, how often do I seek diligently and wait patiently for God's answer and how often do I continue on with my day without a second thought about what I prayed?

The question is, does this mean that I don't believe that God will answer my prayers? I know I certainly want him to but that doesn't equal belief. I guess it comes down to what I believe about God. Do I trust that He has great plans for me? Do I trust that he cares for me and loves me? Do I believe that he has the power to do immeasurably more than I could ever ask or imagine? Do I believe that God is who he says he is? I mean, if he has the power to raise Jesus from the dead, what can't he do?

Last night in prayer group, we focused on Psalm 37:1-7 which talked about delighting in the Lord, being still, and waiting patiently. It was a great reminder to be thankful for God's blessings and for his work in the world and in our lives. I know that I struggle with being still and waiting patiently. Our culture definitely does not help to cultivate these beneficial qualities. It's all about noise, distraction, and now now now.

I must choose to believe that God can teach me to be still, to wait patiently, and to believe and not doubt in prayer. I must continually ask for His help in changing my heart and mind. I need to be like the father in Mark who tells Jesus, "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!"

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Selling Jesus

I have been reading Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller and I am really enjoying it. He speaks so openly about his experiences and thoughts about God. I appreciate the stories about his interactions with others. Some of the things in here are really getting me thinking and doing a little bit of convicting. Below is a little excerpt that I want to share.

The thing I loved about Nadine was that I never felt like she was selling anything. She would talk about God as if she knew Him, as if she had talked to Him on the phone that day. She was never ashamed, which is the thing with some Christians I had encountered. They felt like they had to sell God, as if He were soap or a vacuum cleaner, and it's like they really weren't listening to me; they didn't care, they just wanted me to buy their product. P.46

I think that sometimes the reason I am hesitant to talk to others about God is because I feel like I have to sell it. The truth is that I want to share my love for God and his love for me, but I don't really know how to explain it. Jesus is giving away grace for free and I act like that's a hard thing to let others know about. It shouldn't be.

I know it is a fear of not being able to convince others that He exists, even though I know He does. But my job is not to convince others. I am simply called to tell of God's love for his creation. There will always be people who can make a strong argument against God and those that can make a strong argument for God. I am not one of those people. I know about God through my interactions with Him, through His hand in my life, through the Bible. I do want others to experience God's love, but I don't always live in a way that shows that I feel His love. I am full of contradictions. I feel like I am rambling through this post. All I know is that I am a fraidy cat but I'm praying for courage and boldness so that my actions may mirror my desires and beliefs and that my love for God and His love for us may be evident to all.

I'll close with a few other morsels from the book.

I can't explain how freeing it was, to realize that if I met Jesus, He would like me. P.47

I think Laura was looking for something rational, because she believed that all things that were true were rational. But that isn't the case. Love, for example, is a true emotion, but it is not rational. What I mean is, people actually feel it. I have been in love, plenty of people have been in love, yet love cannot be proved scientifically. Neither can beauty. Light cannot be proved scientifically, and yet we all believe in light and by light see all things. There are plenty of things that are true that don't make any sense. I think one of the problems Laura was having was that she wanted God to make sense. He doesn't. He will make no more sense to me than I will make sense to an ant. P.54

The problem with Christian belief - I mean real Christian belief, the belief that there is a God and a devil and a heaven and a hell - is that it is not a fashionable thing to believe. P.107

Laminin

I thought I would try to share a video of something that I found incredible. I don't know whether you were already aware of laminin, but I was amazed. Watching it all is worth it.






video