Sorry I’m a little behind on posting these. The thing is that I usually do them at night, so I can’t post until at least the next morning.
My challenge for day 4, which was 2 days ago, was to pray for the world.
That sounds like a pretty heavy challenge, doesn’t it? There’s a lot of tragedies happening in the world right now, which means there’s a lot to pray about.
As I was praying, I found myself becoming irritated with the world. I obviously wasn’t going to blame God for what was happening, so who was left to blame?
People. Us. You. Me.
It’s so easy for us to point the finger at God and say, “If He is a merciful God who controls everything, then why is He letting bad things happen?” I know, trust me I do, how difficult of a question that is to answer, and how caught up on it people get.
The simple answer is, it’s not His fault. It’s because of evil. If you want to blame someone, blame Satan!
You might think, “Why can’t God just abolish evil?” Well, eventually He will. It says so in Romans 16:20-“The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.”
Until then, it goes back to the matter of free will, which I posted a quote about not long ago. Though free will makes evil possible, it also makes possible any joy or goodness worth having.
Maybe you’ve seen the movie Bruce Almighty, where a man played by Jim Carrey is given the powers of God, and told he can do anything but mess with free will.
He tries to use his powers to get his ex-girlfriend to love him, but it doesn’t work. But isn’t that a good thing? Because would love even be love if it were forced? Doesn’t it feel good when someone loves you not because they have to, but because they want to?
Sure, there is a lot of evil in the world, but there is also a lot of good. I’m not suggesting we ignore the evil. I’m suggesting we overcome it with the good. Romans 12:21 puts it beautifully: “Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.”
Conquer. That’s such a powerful word. Conquer evil! Be so good that evil just can’t stand it!
I would like to close with a quote that was on my mind while I was praying for the world.
People deny the existence of God, and then blame Him for the chaos that ensues.
Two years ago, I remember sitting in the Oklahoma Memorial Union at the University of Oklahoma as people crowded around the TVs to watch and celebrate the legalization of gay marriage. I figured there would be a celebration this year on the anniversary of that day. Instead, a whole month was dedicated to LGBTQIA+ pride. You can see it everywhere: social media, pride parades, TV, movies, magazines. As a Christian, I obviously do not condone homosexuality or any of the other lifestyles included in LGBTQIA+. I believe the Bible when it calls them sinful. Of the many issues I have with pride month, one of the biggest is their adaptation of the rainbow from a Biblical symbol to a symbol of gay pride.
Earlier this month, a Google doodle celebrated a gay man named Gilbert Baker, who came up with the concept for the modern day pride flag. It started with 8 stripes, but has since been cut down to six. The remaining colors are red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet. Baker assigned a meaning to each color. Red is life, orange is healing, yellow is sunlight, green is nature, blue is serenity, and violet is spirit. None of those color meanings are bad. What I believe is bad is that the rainbow flag represents something unbiblical, even though the rainbow was originally a Biblical symbol.
Let’s go back in time for a moment to after the flood that destroyed God’s original creation, except for Noah and his family. In Genesis 9, God makes a covenant with Noah that is represented by the rainbow.
Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him: “I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you and with…every living creature on earth…Never again will all life be destroyed by the waters of a flood…”And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life.” (Genesis 9:8-15)
Whenever I see a rainbow, I thank God for not flooding the earth and destroying all creation, even though I am a sinner not worthy of saving. But it’s more than that. Rainbows remind me not only of God’s covenant with Noah, but also of all the other promises he made in the Bible. They remind me of God’s everlasting love and faithfulness and forgiveness.
That is why it’s insulting to see such a sacred symbol waved around in celebration of sin. I feel like I can’t use the colors of the rainbow without people thinking I’m supporting gay rights. I’m not. I just like the rainbow because of what it represents to me (and also because it’s pretty).
I know this is a controversial topic and that I probably have an unpopular opinion. But I felt the need to share this because I wanted to stand up for God. I’m sure that it’s upsetting to him, too, to see the sign of his covenant misused in such a way.
I’m not expecting anything to change. I know that the rainbow will continue to be the symbol of gay pride. I only hope that it will also continue to be remembered as a sign of God’s covenent, and of his love.
From February 14 through the 28, a 24.7 prayer movement was held in a building on my campus. In 2013, two University of Oklahoma sophomores started the movement after discovering the importance of prayer, especially for their school. In its first year, the movement lasted three weeks. Its founders rented office space off campus where students could go and pray all day and all night. Since I’m only a freshman, I didn’t hear about the movement until January through a campus ministry that I’m involved in. I was intrigued by the idea and wanted to give it a try. I signed up for a one-hour timeslot after class one day and used Maps walking directions to get to the building where the prayer room was. When I opened the door, I was wonderfully surprised by what I saw. Brown paper lined the walls and people had written lyrics, verses, and encouragement all over them. There were some bean bags, chairs, and rugs around the room for people to sit on. There was even a speaker in the corner where you could plug in your phone and listen to music. The atmosphere was very calming, homey, and conducive to prayer. Near the door, there was a large chalkboard that said what day it was of the two weeks and what the theme of the day was. That day’s theme was unity. I spent the hour praying, and I learned a lot about prayer. I learned that I often pray selfishly, as evidenced by the difficulty I had praying for others and for unity on our campus. I also learned that the right environment can really impact how I pray. I was reminded of the movie War Room and the closet the lady used as a prayer room. It’s like the prayer room I was in, but on a smaller, more individual scale. As much as I would like to have my own little prayer room, my dorm doesn’t have that kind of space. I have this problem where I want my relationship with God to be super formal. I set aside a certain time for prayer, I pray in a certain way and place, and my quiet times don’t go as well unless I’m sitting at my desk with a cup of coffee. I’m working on it. My point in writing this is to give you some context for the pictures. All these things were written on the paper on the walls. They stood out to me. I’ll explain why for some of them. “Come near to God & He will come near to you.” Maybe it’s the way it’s written or the Bible verse it brings to mind, but it’s just such a beautiful phrase. It’s especially fitting in this room dedicated to drawing near to God in prayer. “Praise Him who relentlessly pursues our hearts!” I love the way it is written, but I also love what it says. God relentlessly pursues our hearts. He doesn’t stop or give up or take a break; He is relentless. “I can see the ivy growing through the wall, ‘cuz you would stop at nothing to heal my broken soul.” This, combined with the ivy vine next to it, sends a strong message: God heals even when it seems impossible. “In my deepest wound, I saw your glory and it astounded me.” It took me a moment to figure out what this said, but once I did I loved it. Astounding is a strong word that is perfect for describing God’s glory. My favorite one, the one that my eye was constantly drawn to amongst everything else, is “Lord, take me to Ninevah.” I’ve never heard anything quite like that before. I’ve heard of people being willing to go wherever God leads them but referring to Ninevah, the place where Jonah was terrified to go, reveals a strong desire in that person to follow God’s will no matter where it leads them. They didn’t just say, “I’ll go to Ninevah.” They took it a step further. They said, “Take me there. I want to go. I want to bring your glory to this unreached place. I don’t care about all the bad things I’ve heard about it, that’s where I want to be. I don’t care that it’s unlikely that anybody will listen to me because I have faith in your power and your influence.” It made me think of how I’m going to Israel this fall (more on that later) and how it is my Ninevah. I’m scared but I’m also excited. I know it might feel like I’m talking to a wall (no pun intended), but I trust in God’s power to use me for His glory while I’m there. I say all this to remind you of the importance of prayer, and to inspire you to take a look at your prayer life and think about how you can improve it. Feel free to comment on what these pictures mean to you and how prayer is important in your life. To learn more about the 24.7 Prayer Movement, you can read the article I wrote for my school newspaper here.
Every year on the day after Thanksgiving, I start thinking of ways that I can get into the Christmas spirit. I love Christmas. Family, gifts, lights, music, it’s all so wonderful. Last year Christmas came so suddenly. I was so caught up in the stress of senior year that Christmas snuck up on me and, well, didn’t feel much like Christmas. This year, I told myself I wouldn’t let that happen again. So, despite the stress of freshman year, I started getting into the Christmas spirit when I returned to school after Thanksgiving break. I made a Christmas playlist on Spotify and participated in a Secret Santa and ornament decorating event on my dorm floor. I went to a Christmas party and watched Elf for the first time. There were Christmas decorations around campus that served as reminders that Christmas was on its way. I even paid $1.99 for She Reads Truth’s 2016 Advent devotions. If that’s not dedication, I don’t know what is.
At first, I thought I’d post on my blog whatever stood out to me in each day’s devotion. Then I decided to just write it down and keep it to myself. I wish I hadn’t because I came across some great stuff. Today, for example, I was reading about the foretelling of Jesus’ birth. Typically I’ll copy and paste a few phrases that strike me into the notes on my iPad and write them in my journal. But today, I found myself writing down half the devotion. Allow me to share some of it with you. An angel comes to Mary and tells her she is going to give birth to the Savior of the world. She says she doesn’t see how that’s possible since she’s a virgin.
“The angel’s response to Mary’s doubt points her to the answer: It’s not up to her. It’s not up to us. ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.’ - Luke 1:35 Friends, all may not be calm or bright in our broken world, but all is His. May Christ overshadow our expectations and understanding with His presence. May we hear and receive the same good news delivered to Mary: Hope is born within us through Christ. Hallelujah.”
Good stuff, right? Nothing in there explicitly says “Don’t forget that Jesus is the true reason for Christmas,” yet that’s what I took from it. It’s easy to get caught up in the pretty lights and familiar songs and think that Christmas is about a cozy feeling that you get when you’re with your family opening presents. But that’s not what it’s about. In order to get into the Christmas spirit, you have to focus on the Spirit of Christmas: Jesus. The best gift any of us has ever received was given to us on Christmas Day thousands of years ago, and is a gift that keeps on giving. That is Jesus Christ, who wrapped His divinity in flesh and came to seek and to save the lost. He loved us while we were still sinners and was obedient even to death on a cross.
It’s not a bad thing to want that cozy feeling, but there’s a feeling that’s so much better: knowing that Jesus left Heaven because He didn’t want to be there if you weren’t. Christmas is a mere 5 days away, but I implore you to not forget its true meaning. You don’t have to buy a birthday cake for Jesus or set up a Nativity to show that you’ve received God’s gift to us. I simply ask you to keep Jesus at the front of your mind when you’re opening your gifts on Christmas morning. If you can, go to church and celebrate Jesus’ birth with fellow believers. Mix O Holy Night and Away in a Manger in with your playlist of Jingle Bells and White Christmas. Just don’t let yourself forget to keep the Christ in Christmas.
Disclaimer: This post may be offensive to some people. Viewer discretion is advised.
There’s this problem that I’ve had for a while that I didn’t recognize as a problem until recently. The problem is that when a person says or does something that reveals that they aren’t a Christian, I think to myself, “Well, they’re going to Hell.” The problem is not that it’s not true. The problem is that it’s not nice. I shouldn’t think like that. I should feel bad for those people and want to help them change the fate of their eternity. Instead, I feel a twisted sense of pride, as if I’m better than them because I’m going to Heaven, and their stupidity and ignorance are being rightfully punished by them going to Hell. It’s basically like, “What they believe is wrong, so they’re going to Hell. Good, it’s what they deserve.” See? Not nice. That’s definitely not how God thinks, and it’s certainly not how He wants me to think. Because the truth is, I deserve to go to Hell, too. I’m not any better than those people who have it wrong just because I got it right. I’m no more righteous or deserving of Heaven than they are. God sees me as righteous not because I am, but because Jesus in me is. It’s true that I’m going to Heaven because I believe in God and have accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior. It’s not true that that gives me the right to consider myself better than anyone else, because I’m not. My sin killed Jesus just as much as theirs did. Their sin didn’t make him any more dead than mine did. God sees all sin the same. And he loves all sinners the same.
“Give me your eyes for just one second. Give me your eyes so I can see everything that I keep missing. Give me your love for humanity. Give me your arms for the broken-hearted. The ones that are far beyond my reach. Give me your heart for the ones forgotten. Give me your eyes so I can see.” ~Give Me Your Eyes, Brandon Heath
In my Introduction to Mass Communication class we have an assignment where we are supposed to create an outline for an argument. We can choose whatever topic we want for the argument. I was thinking about what topic to structure my argument around and, when I passed a poster about consent, the idea popped into my head to do it over why people shouldn’t have sex before marriage. I quickly realized that I couldn’t actually use that topic because there isn’t really any solid evidence that waiting until marriage to have sex is scientifically better than not waiting. Which got me thinking about why I believe in saving myself for marriage when there are plenty of people who don’t and still do just fine. For me, it all goes back to the Bible, God’s Word. Hebrews 13:4 says, “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.” God designed sex to be between a man and a woman in the confines of marriage. Our bodies are His temple (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) and we are not to defile them by being sexually immoral. Having sex outside of marriage, including with a prostitute (verses 15-17), is known as sexual immorality. Sex was not designed to be solely a physical experience. It was not designed as a “next level” to keep boyfriends and girlfriends from breaking up (and it doesn’t). It was designed to be a physical and emotional experience between a man and his wife to fulfill the desires that God created us with (1 Corinthians 7:2-3). Song of Songs (or Song of Solomon) is a book of songs/poems written by Solomon about the intimacy between a husband and wife. If you read through it, you’ll notice that, unlike most writings about sex today, it isn’t focused solely on the physical aspect of sex. It talks about romance and love and intimacy: things that aren’t always present during pre-marital sex. Another function of sex is, of course, to reproduce. In Genesis 1:28, God tells Adam and Eve to “be fruitful and multiply.” Unmarried couples can get pregnant but, as I’m sure you know, that raises a lot of complications that neither party really wants. This is also why homosexuality is unnatural. Two men together and two women together cannot reproduce. That, alone, should be an obvious indicator that homosexuality is not right. It’s like trying to put together a puzzle with pieces that don’t fit. You’re never going to get it right (Romans 1:26-27). Anyway, back to why sex is best in marriage. Although having sex outside of marriage may not produce any obvious consequences, waiting until marriage allows for a deeper connection between husband and wife. Why? Simply put, because neither of them have any point of reference, so they are completely content with how it feels, both physically and emotionally, to have sex with their spouse. Besides, delayed gratification can be a good thing. If you have to wait for a long time to get something, it feels even better when you finally get it. Another reason sex is best saved for marriage is because marriage was designed to last a lifetime (1 Corinthians 7:10-11). If a boyfriend and girlfriend have sex, they are still just as likely to break up because there’s nothing tying them to each other. Not a ring or a document or a vow. They can have sex and then break up. In fact, people do it all the time. In the Taylor Swift song Fifteen, one line goes, “Abigail gave everything she had to a boy who changed his mind.” That happens. People change their minds. The thing is, though, when two people are married, rather than just dating, they are less likely to change their mind and file for a divorce because it’s more difficult and complicated than simply breaking up. Plus, when two people decide to get married, it is usually a decision that is made after thoughtful consideration. Meaning that they both can’t imagine spending their lives without the other. There are plenty of people who have sex with multiple partners outside of marriage, therefore devaluing sex. If you have sex a lot before you get married, then once you get married sex between you and your spouse isn’t go to be as special because 1) it will be nothing new for you and 2) you’ll probably be tempted to compare them to your previous sexual partners (and if they don’t measure up you may be disappointed, which isn’t fair for your spouse). Sex isn’t meant to be recreational. It wasn’t designed to be an activity or a pastime. No, it is an intimate experience designed to deepen spouse’s love for and connection with one another. I’ve talked a lot about God’s design for sex. How do you think He feels when people have sex outside of marriage, therefore going against His design? Think of it like this: right now I am typing this on a laptop. Laptops are designed to allow people to have portable access to the their pictures, music, videos, games, documents, the Internet, and etc. How do you think the manufacturer of the laptop, in my case, Apple, would feel if they found out that I used my laptop as a pillow or a fly-swatter or a seat cushion or a door stop? They would probably be mad and sad that their product was being used as something other than what it was designed for. That’s how God feels when we have sex outside of marriage or with someone of the same gender (but that’s for a different post). All this being said, if you’ve had sex before marriage, you aren’t a horrible person that can’t be loved by God. This post is not meant to call you out and make you feel bad. I am simply stating my Biblically based opinion. God still loves you just the same and will forgive you if only you ask (1 John 1:9). I just feel like my opinion is an unpopular one that isn’t heard very often. So I wanted to make it heard. All these posters around my campus talking about what does and does not count as consent just sadden me. The only acceptable form of consent should be a wedding ring.