5.31.2017

When You Don't Feel Like Loving God

I was talking to a pastor a while ago about feelings.

"When it comes to relationships," he said,  "I prefer to use the word 'passion'.  For when you are passionate about something, it's an undying love and sensation that will withstand time."

Now that's a thought, isn't it?

I had been talking to him about dating relationships, but I think the whole conversation could pertain to our love relationship with God.

Do you ever have those days when you don't feel like loving God?  You're not in the mood to read the Word or pray or go to church.  I think we've all encountered moments like this.  But does feeling this way make us bad Christians?  Or worse yet, does it mean we aren't truly saved?

I know a girl who claims to struggle with this on a fairly regular basis.  She's been baptized four times, is always asking for prayer for her spiritual life, because she doesn't feel saved.
Key word there: "feel".

What does it feel like to be saved?  Well, like many "feelings", you can't exactly describe it.  But passion, on the other hand, is something you can - not only believe - but see.

Passion is a fervor, an eagerness, a zeal, fire, energy, and enthusiasm.  You may not always feel this way about the LORD, but does your heart and mind long for His Words?  Does everything you do, say and think make you pause and wonder if it's a reflection of Him?  Are you living in a way that He would be pleased with?  Can people see this passion in your life of an undying thirst for more of Him?

It's great - to see someone who wants to be passionately in love with Jesus, to mimic Him in their every day lives and to always desire to talk about Him.  But we must also be prepared for the times when that's not at the top of our priority list.
Because it will happen.
Why?

"For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God..."
- Romans 3:23

This means that things happen, we commit sins, we take Him for granted, we forget who we are in His eyes, and when this occurs, we tend to lose sight on the whole love aspect of our relationship with Him.

Be prepared for these seasons, where you feel like you're barely hanging on to Him.  Be prepared for times when you don't feel like loving Him.  It's not the best.  It's scary, for sure.  Our sinful nature pulls us away from Him.  The enemy uses this to his advantage and whispers to us that we're better off without Him, we don't need Him, life is easier without all His "rules".  You'll start to feel yourself slipping away.  You won't want to read your Bible as much, you won't pray very often, you'll dread going to church or talking about God.
But this is where training and discipling our hearts and minds to want more of Him comes in to play.  Because it's not about feeling one way or the other.  It's about keeping that spark, that passion alive.

Be ready to fight.  Because love is always worth fighting for.  And honestly, loving God should be the easiest kind of love.  Why?  Because it doesn't cost us anything to love Him.  But it cost Him His very own Son's death.  A death that created a bridge over the chasm that separated our sinfulness from His glory.  Why do we take that for granted?  Why do we overlook His goodness and mercy?  His forgiveness covers a multitude of sins and yet we reach points in our spiritual lives where we don't feel like loving Him?

It's in these moments that we most need Him, though.  

And we have hope.

The passage in Romans continues... "being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith.  This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God, He passed over the sins previously committed."

5.26.2017

The Story of How I Met An Attractive Guy...and Was Not Attracted To Him

Disclaimer: Please do not read the following if you are under 18 years old.

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You clicked on this because the title was intriguing in either one of two ways -

"What happened after you met him?"

or

"How is this even possible?"

(Or maybe both.)

Well, let me tell you the story.  

He really was extremely attractive.  Tall, dark hair, blue eyes, chiseled features, deep voice.  (Think Colton Haynes type of look).  I mean, there was no way to not be attracted to him.

Until, he opened his mouth.

And it wasn't exactly the foul language that was a turn-off.  But the way he talked - about himself, about what he did the night before, about women - the way he objectified them and the way he bragged about all the things he's done with them.  
Now mind you, I was (at the time) a twenty-one year old woman standing in a group of five guys as this one super-attractive-slowly-losing-points-guy was ranting on and on, with a big smile on his face, about the strip club he'd recently gone to and how many dollar bills he'd tipped the girls and how he was unhappy with a certain lap dance he was given and how drunk he got so that $1,000 went missing from his bank account - which he only discovered the next day after recovering from his massive hangover.  
Needless to say, I could feel the heat rising in my face and my muscles started to tense.  But before I could say anything, one of the guys in the group pointed to me and said "She got a $100 tip at her work." (I'm a barista, in case any new readers are visiting)
Mr. Attractive-But-Not turned to look at me.  "For reals?"
"Yup," I nodded. 
"I've given that sort of tip before."
"Yeah, but I kept all my clothes on," I stated, firmly.
He snorted, while the other guys laughed.

The topic changed to marriage and he encouraged my friend to "Never get married because getting married is the worst thing you could ever do with your life.  I was married for 3 months and it was hell."
(Raquel's brain is thinking: Really?  I wonder why...)  

Yeah, that was pretty much the last straw for me.  I was livid.  I quickly turned and walked away.  Not because I didn't know what to say, but because I knew that if I opened my mouth, it wouldn't be a very good Christian witness.  I chose to not say anything because I knew that the moment I did, I would only say things out of anger.  It also just wasn't the right place to start a debate.  

Now what I'm trying to figure out is... Why?  Simply why.  Why does this guy have to be attractive but be a major jerk too?  Why does he feel the need to brag about all the crap he's been involved in?  Why does he cuss so much? - not just every other sentence but more like, his vocabulary consists of verbs, nouns and adjectives that are all cuss words.  His own brother even told me "Oh you two met?  Yeah, I'd hate to be a girl around him."

I drove away from that "conversation" in fumes.  I went to my family's and everything I touched seemed to either get thrown or slammed.  I was more angry than I'd been in an extremely long time.

A few Sundays prior to this encounter, my pastor had spoken on Psalm 19:14:


"Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in Your sight, O LORD my Rock & my Redeemer."

I sure as heck don't live up to that verse every day.  I'm sure a few of my friends can testify that the words that come out of my mouth aren't always good or pure ones.  So that whole sermon really hit me in a convicting and humbling sort of way.  I was like "Wow.  Every thing I say or think about really does matter."  We will give an account before a holy and just God for every single thought we have, and every word we ever utter.

Meeting this attractive guy and seeing how unattractive he slowly became the more and more he talked made me wonder how often I have been perceived as such to others.  How many people have I met who thought I was a fun, cool, pretty girl but once they hung out with me for a while, they slowly changed their minds about me?  That really sucks to think about, because I'm sure it's happened on more than one occasion.  I wish I knew who I could apologize to and who I could re-meet so that I could live up to a better example of the One I serve.  It just goes to show how imperfect we, as Christians, still are.  Just because we preach about "having clean mouths" and "being good witnesses" doesn't mean that we won't be prone to fall short of our convictions.  But we need to constantly be aware of how we are portraying our Savior through not only our words and actions, but even through our thoughts.

Soon after we met, Mr. Attractive-But-Not tipped me a $2 bill for a coffee I made him.  He said that he had gotten it at a strip club when he pulled cash to tip the dancers.  (Apparently some strip clubs only give out $2 instead of $1 bills.)

I think beneath all the cussing and fake confidence, he really is just a kind, sweet, handsome man who has been hurt by the world and had made wrong choices in previous years that turned around and burnt him.  He knew he was hot stuff, though, and a lot of times, people like that will hide behind their outward appearance, hoping that others would just see them as hot stuff too - and not the real them.  Not the real person who doesn't want to show their broken heart, the scars, the mangled mess of torment they're in.

A year and a half later, I still have that $2 bill.  I pinned it up on my board to serve as a reminder to pray for him.  I haven't seen him since but hey, you don't have to be in contact with someone to know that God is using your prayers.

Oh and trust me, it reminds me to pray for myself.  God alone can testify to how many times I've had to bite my tongue to not utter negative words.  And I know my family, coworkers, and church family can say that there have been occasions when I said things that shouldn't have been said.  There's a fine line between honesty and too much bluntness, Raquel.  It's all a part of life.  It's a learning process.  The tongue is untamable, yet the Spirit of the One who made it resides in us.  Kind of a crazy thought, huh?

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My pastor is currently teaching through a series called Voice Control.  Check out his messages here.

5.16.2017

Grace Defines Me

Today, I was thinking about my worth and how I view it, what I base my value on.  Do I define myself through the eyes of others, myself or God's?

I try to be as honest as possible, with everyone I know and through everything I do and say.  I want the way I live to be a reflection of who I am, a representation of my heart and soul.  Isn't that how it should be?  But so often, I find myself basing my actions on how I want others to see me - and it's not always honest.  For example, when I want someone to find me fun to be around, I have tried to do "cool stuff" that would make them think I'm trendy and hip.  It's stupid how shallow my immoral self can stoop for the approval of others.

And the world encourages this by saying we need to find value in what others think of us.  Or by the decisions we make.  "What you do defines who you are."  But by putting my view of what I think I am over who God says I am is simply wrong.  Why?  Because when I do that, I am basically telling God that what I say is more important that what He says.

And this is what He says:

God says to find my worth in how He sees me.
He reminds me that He loved me while I was unfaithful.
And He continues to love me through the many times I fall short of His glory.

Trusting in this truth defines me.  My mistakes don't define me.  Grace does.

Do you think that maybe God gets sad when He sees how we view ourselves and wonders, "What do you mean you don't love who you are?  I worked so hard on you and to Me, you're spotless and beautiful."

Don't let the shame of your mistakes cause you to walk away from God because you think you're somehow unacceptable, not good enough, or damaged beyond repair.  Look past your shortcomings and see the beauty of His love through His sacrifice on the cross.  Nothing you do will ever be too big, too great for the cross to cover.  He forgives you no matter what.  No matter when.

Grace defines me.  

And with confidence, I can say "It is well with my soul for I am deeply loved by the One who made it."


P.S.  Trust me.  I wrote this more for myself than for you.  My blog posts are pretty much just my thoughts that I choose to share because I feel that someone else out there can use the encouragement and reminders that I so often need myself.  You are not alone.  <3

5.11.2017

Chosen & Forgiven

We sometimes tend to focus more on our mistakes and regrets than on our victories.  But when we put things into perspective and realize that there is something bigger than our flaws, we can move forward with hope, knowing that Jesus is greater, Jesus is victorious and Jesus is on our side.

When God chooses you as His own, He did so already knowing every little detail about you.  Think about how He created you, yet He still purchased you - with the blood of His own Son.  He put Jesus on the cross for you, all the while seeing your sins and knowing your future ones.  He knew you would fall short of His glory, yet He did nothing less than to make a way of redemption and to bring you closer to Himself.  He knew, yet He still chose.

That's grace.
That's forgiveness.
That is love.

The Gospel of grace teaches that Jesus came in bodily form to this earth to take the penalty for our sins, to acquit the guilt, to be judged in our place.  The just accusations against us were more than we could ever try to defend and be freed from.  But He came to relieve us of it.  He came because our efforts would amount to nothing.  They would be in vain.  How can a mortal, sinful creature make itself right again the eyes of a holy God?

But grace declares that our guilt has been atoned by for the only One who is perfect and blameless.

We don't need to live under the burden of trying to gain back a right view in God's eyes.  "The ultimate demand has been met, the deepest judgement has been satisfied."

The good thing we can look back and learn from our mistakes because the LORD specializes in redemption.  He redeems us from our mess ups and allows us to warn others of how not to live.  What you do with the lesson you learn is up to you.  From this point forward, you can either live as confirmation of that redemption (a victory!) or your failure to learn from it and continue on in a lifestyle what will only continue to hurt you.

And no, you may not always "feel" forgiven, but the reality of it is, you probably never will.  Because grace is something so hard to grasp...  How can we receive such a free gift of something we do not deserve?

Simply because He chooses to forgive us.

Come what may, I can rest in the truth that I was hand-designed by the Creator, chosen to be His, bought with a price, and fully forgiven.  There is nothing greater than to know I belong to the only One who loves me and calls me His.

5.02.2017

"I am just a person but thank the Lord that I serve a God who's perfect"

Everyone talks about hitting rock bottom, but what they don’t specify is how differently it will happen to each of us
See, for me, it was hurting the person who I love most in this world and knowing that the pain I felt wasn’t just my own; it was theirs too.
Coming to such a point in life made me realize some big changes needed to happen.  It took hitting rock bottom to sort of wake me up, as it were.  I knew my life needed a new direction, but I guess I had just been too scared to admit it.
I had tried before.  I had tried to make things different.
To be different.
To start over.
To be a new person.
But I felt like the dragon Eustace who shed skin after skin only to realize that no matter how many times he did it himself, it wouldn’t come off completely
The sin, the dirt, the life he had been living could only be changed and could only be removed by the deep, cutting claws of the untamed Aslan
This is what I learned in my own life.
Hitting rock bottom for me involved seeing how much one little mistake, one little decision, could affect not only myself, but others.
It could hurt not only myself, but the one I love the most.
I was humbled beyond any point I have ever been.
I was disgusted with myself and who I had become.
I was disappointed that I had chosen such a path and had been pretending like everything was okay.
Or thinking it was going to be, anyway.
The only thing one can do when they reach that point is to make a decision -
And there’s really only one.
I could choose to change.
I'm the only person who can resolve to do so.
I'm in charge of my life and what I do, and how I live it.
And no, I'm not perfect.
I'm going to screw up.
Everybody does.
But choosing to learn from those mistakes and deciding to apply the lesson to my tomorrow is what makes me a stronger individual.
It hurts…
Hitting rock bottom.
I didn't realize how much until it happened to me.
I cried for a whole day afterwards, wondering how in the world I was going to pick up all the pieces and try to continue living life.
But what I didn’t realize is that I’m not the one in charge of making my life beautiful.
I’m not writing my story.
Yes, I have free will.
And yes, I can decide which path to take in life.
But regardless of that, He’s already been there - 
And sometimes, He needs to chip away at all the nastiness that has built up until nothing is left but crumbled pieces of myself.
Something I have seen and testified with my own eyes is that He specializes in making beauty from ashes.
Oh it’s one of His favorite things to do!
And isn’t it just like Him to go above and beyond anything we could ever ask or imagine?
Cuz that’s just what He does.
So in the momentary pain of reaping the consequences from a simple little stupid choice, I can still move forward, I can still live another day, knowing with absolute certainty that if I set my mind to becoming a different person, I won’t be fighting alone.  
He’s on my side.  He’s still got me.  
And He just loves me.  

It’s as overwhelming, yet uncomplicated as that.