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Posts Tagged ‘Romans’

Your Love Never Fails

I felt entitlement and resentment yesterday and God ministered to me all day today with this song: while I was driving to work, driving to the Melee on the Bayou, and when I was finally driving home like Cinderella:

by Newsboys

nothing can separate
even if i run away
Your love never fails
i know i still make mistakes
You have new mercy for me everyday
’cause Your love never fails

You stay the same through the ages
Your love never changes
there may be pain in the night
but joy comes in the morning
and when the oceans rage
i don’t have to be afraid
because i know that You love me
Your love never fails

the wind is strong and the water’s deep
but i’m not alone here in these open seas
’cause Your love never fails
the chasm is far too wide
i never thought i’d reach the other side
but Your love never fails

You make all things work together for my good
You make all things work together for my good

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Share when you were most in love with Jesus

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.

19 Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.  [Ephesians 6:10-20]

Satan will not take my joy away!

26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. 27And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.

28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

31 What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36As it is written:

   “For your sake we face death all day long;    we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  [Romans 8:26-39]

Amen!

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I read a few “replies” online to some letters some other young people have written to a John Thomas (like Dear Abby–see below).  I’ve mentioned this before, about not really feeling bad about my whole 2006 spring fling.  People have tried to comfort me in ways I know is not fully in line with what God desires such as, oh your boyfriend might now be more open to God since you dated him or, what you did physically with him wasn’t wrong.  I keep reading 2 Corinthians 7:10 (Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death) and Psalm 51:4a (Against you [God], you only, have I sinned).  God has made my heart different in the way it feels and understands.  I used to think I had such a cold heart because other more emotional people would be bawling and I would be dry-eyed.  Also, while other girls seem to have their hearts ripped open by guys, I guess I haven’t opened my heart much to anybody (including myself and thus God) for it to be hurt terribly (story of my life: guys I like going after other girls).  Anyway, it’s very humbling to go the distance to “breaking the heart of my First Love” (Revelation 2:4)–I’m still not there yet.  Food for thought:

My girlfriend and I are both virgins, but in past relationships both of us have been physically intimate in ways which were seriously sinful. We have talked about it and have agreed to hold ourselves to a higher standard of physical purity than we had in the past. So far we have succeeded.  It would seem that things are on the right track. But, sometimes I still feel angry towards her for what she has done with other guys in the past. At the same time, I am unable to let go of the guilt of my own sins in past relationships.  I know that we have both repented and that God has forgiven us, and that we should be able to move past it, but sometimes I really feel unable to forgive her and forgive myself. I know it is wrong of me to feel that way — I should be able to take joy in God’s grace and forgiveness — but I can’t seem to help it.  Perhaps you could write an article about moving beyond sexual (or otherwise physically intimate) sins, for those of us who have repented but find it difficult to move on without thinking about the past. As Paul wrote, love “keeps no record of wrongs,” and I want very much to apply that toward my situation.

Since you say that you know that God has forgiven you both, what you’re really asking is, “When will, or how can, I emotionally feel like I’ve forgiven her and that God has forgiven me?” That’s a very honest and appropriate question about forgiveness. Let me give you a few thoughts to help you navigate these waters.

My hunch is that you’re still viewing the whole picture of your past behavior and your girlfriend’s past behavior from your side of the ledger, rather than from God’s. If I’m right, then your views of your past behavior could be better described as “sadness” or “disappointment,” but not “sinful” or “heartbreaking to God.” As a result, rather than truly repent, you’ve really just “felt bad” or “felt guilty” about it, as in, “I really wish I hadn’t done that,” rather than, “Oh, God, my choices must have broken Your heart! Please forgive me!”

Am I getting warm?

Here’s why I think you might have stopped short of true repentance. True repentance bears fruit, and looks like this: it offers nothing to God but spiritual poverty and a desperate heart desiring to change. It results in humility, gratitude, and a deep compassion for others who have or who are experiencing the same sin and blindness. Given that you conducted yourself in exactly the same way as your girlfriend did previous to meeting one another, your anger toward her isn’t anger, it’s really judgment of her, and is pride at its worst. “You, therefore, have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges,” Paul said in Romans 2:1, “For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things.”

Your anger would more appropriately be directed at Satan, who deceived both of you into believing that your behavior would have no negative repercussions. Rather than anger towards your girlfriend, your heart should be broken for her because — just like you — she was blind to the hurt she was exposing herself to. Be thankful that God has graciously opened her eyes (and yours) to the truth that you now are walking in.

Forgiveness is two things (probably more, but we’ll focus on two): It is a decision to act, and it is a miracle. It involves your will; and it asks God for a miracle in your heart. We need a miracle to be able to forgive, because we are not naturally inclined to do it. Our “flesh,” or our old nature (that which is self-led rather than Christ-led), is incapable of forgiving. To forgive requires surrendering yourself entirely to God and His economy. And since forgiveness is something God wants us to experience and walk in, we can confidently ask for His help in truly forgiving.

The prayer, “Lord, help me truly forgive X,” is the kind of prayer God longs to answer. So start praying that (or some variation). Part of His answer might be that God gives you a revelation of your own spiritual poverty, reminding you how miraculous it is that He has forgiven you, resulting in deep gratitude and humility in your heart, rather than judgment of someone else’s behavior.

I suggest you take some of these thoughts back to your prayer closet, and see what happens.

One more thing. The consequences of past sin can sometimes continue even after true repentance and forgiveness, but that doesn’t nullify the forgiveness. You can simultaneously regret your past sins, be thankful for what you learned by them, pray that the lesson would be used to make you more like Christ, and rejoice that God has forgiven you and that He works all things for good for those who love him.

I have an odd situation on my hands and would like some advice on how to proceed from here. My boyfriend and I have taken our physical relationship further than I would have preferred and not having set definite boundaries prior to our time together makes it difficult to draw the line once in the moment. We are both still virgins in a literal sense but have ventured into other areas of physical intimacy that I still believe crosses the line of what is appropriate outside of marriage.  I want to back up and create a new line now that we have gone too far but I don’t know where to start the conversation. I love this man with all of my heart and will be marrying him within the next two years but am afraid that this kind of conversation will create a chasm in our relationship that will be painful and difficult to cross. I want to do what I know will honor God but am still afraid that I will get some resistance from my boyfriend.  How do I start a conversation about limiting our physical actions together? And how do I stand firm on what I believe to be the right choices without making him feel like I am steering our relationship in a direction he might not agree with? I know that in order to make this work he has to be willing to abide by the new boundaries as well. I am just scared of what he will say and would appreciate some guidance on the best course of action from this point forward.

Thanks for writing and being so candid about your situation. Let me share a couple of thoughts that I think will help you.

First, let’s use the proper vocabulary for what’s going on. What I mean by that is, your statements like “further than I would have preferred” and “what is appropriate” soften the seriousness of your behavior. If God has convicted you about what you’re doing, then it’s much more than a personal preference or question of appropriateness. It’s sin. Call it what it is and then you’ll know better how to deal with it and move on. Preferences are merely personal choices that tend to have little moral or ethical weight to them. I prefer a cheeseburger more than I do Brussels sprouts, but I’ll live with whichever one is available when I’m hungry.

Do you see how vocabulary makes a difference? You place yourself, by your own choice, in a sexually revved-up situation, and at some point you prefer not to be there, but you’re there, so you live with it. Now, call it sin and you have a whole different paradigm to consider. If it is sin for me to eat Brussels sprouts (my wife would say I act like it is) then it’s no longer a matter of preference. The sprouts are now absolutely off limits. If someone offers me either a cheeseburger or some Brussels sprouts, the action is clear; the choice was made before the two were ever set before me. One is sin and the other is not.

So here is what I need to ask you: Is it merely your preference to change or have you been convicted by God’s Spirit, knowing that Scripture lays out clear guidelines about sexual intimacy outside marriage? Your answer to that question will make all the difference in your ability to “go back” and draw a new line of behavior. If it is merely personal preference, it will be very difficult to draw new boundaries, because they’re arbitrary. But if what you’re sensing is godly conviction, then there is hope for change, and your reaction should be repentance, not a change of preference.

So let’s call it sin. If that’s the case, then your reaction is clear cut: repentance. Repentance means confessing your sin to God, asking for and receiving His forgiveness, and, empowered by His Spirit, changing your mind and behavior to that which honors God and brings Him glory. Viewing your situation this way gives you the most hope for change that sticks. Calling it what it is also impacts how you address it with your boyfriend. He might try to talk you out of a “preference,” but if he’s a serious Christian he’ll be more likely to understand the weight of your decision if it is borne out of godly conviction.

As for how to address this with your boyfriend, you need to approach him with the same grace God approached you with it, but with a strong resolve about your conviction. More than likely, he’s had some of the same convictions, but just hasn’t acted on them. But remember, you are responsible for your sin, your actions, not his. And that’s just what you need to say — that God has convicted you about your behavior and that it has changed (not in the process of changing, but changed — that’s repentance). He needs to understand that this is not a judgment of how you feel about him, and that, in fact, the intimacy you’ve shared has been enjoyable — you’re human and God made it for enjoyment — but that you are going to wait for the biblical context — marriage.

Here’s the crucial part for you. Your concern and desire to respond to God’s heart on this issue must be your highest goal — higher than your concern about your boyfriend’s reaction and higher than your concern about the future of this relationship. If you’re waiting to see what his reaction is in order to decide whether you stick with this, you could be setting yourself up for failure. Yes, it might be painful and yes, it might be difficult, but that’s OK. It’s right, and that is what matters.

On a practical level, now that you know what your new standards are, don’t do anything that moves you in the direction of lowering those standards. If you don’t want to burn down the house, don’t build a campfire in the living room. If you don’t want to cross the line of physical intimacy, then don’t be alone with each other without any accountability from anyone. That’s just common sense. You can have a private conversation or pray together in view of others, so why do you need to be alone? You need to “go public” with your relationship, literally, so that you have accountability for your time together — no more hanging out in the shadows, OK?

No matter how your boyfriend responds, this is the best thing you can do for your relationship. If he doesn’t honor or respect your heartfelt conviction, that’s a red flag about how he would respond to you similarly in marriage. If he steps up and does the right thing, your relationship will be strengthened, you’ll love him all the more and God will get the glory.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual[a] act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.  [Romans 12:1-3]

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Dear Abby: Now that election time is nearing, I would like to address a question that invariably comes up this time of year — that is, people asking me who I voted for. I think this is a personal subject. I am registered with a party and support it at election time. Who I vote for is my business.  My answer is, “I voted for the person I want to win.” Sometimes this is not good enough for some people, and they insist I tell who I voted for. I just repeat my answer and go on. Any advice on this?  — Registered Voter in North Carolina

Dear Registered Voter: I agree that it’s nobody’s business for whom you voted. I find it interesting that if I answer the question and my candidate isn’t the one my questioner prefers, I then hear a recitation of their candidate’s campaign slogans. You are handling the situation correctly.

Dear Abby: I am writing in regard to the letter from “Registered Voter in North Carolina” (Sept. 23). I never tell anyone whom I voted for, not even my husband (even though I usually tell him everything). It’s not that I don’t want him to know, but we respect each other’s rights to voting privacy. We have lots of discussions about the candidates and issues, and both research them together. We have similar political views, and through our discussions we pretty much “know” whom the other voted for.  I hate when people ask me whom I am voting for, and I always decline to state. My husband went to war to protect our rights — including the right to privacy — and more people should respect them. — Gloversville, N.Y., voter

Dear Voter: Thank you for writing. I was pleased to hear from a large number of readers also stressing the importance of exercising our freedom to vote. I am sure I don’t have to remind everyone how important it is to vote in the Nov. 4 national election. This is a crucial time in our nation’s history. Your vote will affect generations to come. Read on:

Dear Abby: I say you should be proud of your candidate of choice and say it! If someone refuses to say whom they voted for, to me it seems like that person is ashamed to admit he or she supported this candidate instead of that one. If someone asks me whom I voted for, I gladly let them know. — Proud Supporter in Columbus

Dear Abby: When asked, I say, “I voted for the person I want to win.” If the questioner persists, I say, “I don’t discuss politics. My doctor says my blood pressure is too high as it is.” — Middle of the Road in S.C.

Dear Abby: I tell people I voted for “the president,” because whoever wins, I will support and pray that he/she makes the best decisions for me. I believe no matter who wins we must work together to overcome the problems we face. — Jane in Jacksons Gap, Ala.

Dear Abby: The quickest way to get people to drop the subject is to reply, “Isn’t it great that we live in a country with private ballots, so we cannot be persecuted or nagged for whom we vote for?” The nosy person generally changes the subject after that. — U.S. Citizen, Oxnard, Calif.

Dear Abby: I grew up in a household in which my parents sat on opposite sides of the political fence. My mother had a very tactful way of shutting down conversations about personal politics by responding calmly, “We have a secret ballot in this country for a reason.” — Erin in Independence, Mo.

Dear Abby: I have a simple answer when pollsters or friends ask whom I voted for (or will vote for). I say: “I don’t even tell my husband that. That’s why there are curtains on the voting booth.” That usually shuts ’em up. — Anna in Alton, N.H.

Dear Abby: When I’m asked the same personal question, I lean in close and ask in a whisper, “Can you keep a secret?” Of course, they always say “yes.” Then I back away and reply, “So can I!” — Voting In Hastings, Neb.

Dear Abby: I tell people I don’t care how anyone votes, as long as EVERYONE votes. Sadly, not everyone is fortunate enough to have that privilege. — Alexxia in Frankfort, Ill.

I voted in the last election, in El Paso, and I’ve already voted for this coming election, at Lost Creek Park, but I don’t usually reveal who I voted for.  I see nothing wrong with keeping it to yourself or talking extensively about it.  But I prefer to keep it to myself.  I’m hesitant in revealing my choice because I am extremely uninformed.  I don’t even know how McCain or Obama sound like, let alone their stances politically.  And I’m beginning to realize that, even if I feel I have a lot of facts going on, I still seem to make a choice that isn’t any better than someone who makes a choice pretty quickly (this is in general, not only specifically regarding elections).  But Hannah said something on Saturday that made me ponder: “Well, as long as you voted.”  I asked her if she indeed believed that it’s better to vote uninformed than to not vote at all.  She confirmed.  I’m beginning to agree with her (well, I guess my actions would show that confirmation since I’ve voted twice already, uninformed).  As the last Dear Abby reader implied, voting at least acknowledges our appreciation for the privilege to somewhat select who we elect.  If we make a poor choice, we need to admit that at a minimum and work through the consequences humbly.  Lastly, I agree with “Jane” that we need to support whoever ends up taking office.  It is an awesome responsibility. 

Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. [Romans 13:1-2; see also 1 Peter 2:13-14]

This is why I write these things when I am absent, that when I come I may not have to be harsh in my use of authority—the authority the Lord gave me for building you up, not for tearing you down.  [2 Corinthians 13:10; see also 10:8]

Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you. [Hebrews 13:17]

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