Let’s Catch Up | Blog Updates

Hello readers!

2017 is right around the corner, and it’s been a couple months since my last post. I decided to write a quick update about what I’ve been up to this past fall and what’s up ahead:

I’m halfway done with senior year!

This is probably one of the main reasons why I’ve been absent from my blog. College takes up so much time, but by God’s grace, I’m almost done. It was a challenging semester with classes, working, and making future plans, but God has been faithful. I’m excited to share what He’s taught me over the past few months in later posts.

I was featured on College Girls for Christ! CGAC November 2016.PNG

College Girls for Christ is a wonderful ministry that supports young women who are serving the Lord on their college campuses. I was featured on their Instagram as a College Girl After Christ for the month of November 2016, which you can see here:

Check out their website here: http://www.collegegirlsafterchrist.com/

I’ve been contributing to NO COMPROMISE Magazine!

NOCO Magazine is a new Christian magazine for millennial believers. Every month’s issue  includes articles on a variety of faith-based topics that are relevant, thought-provoking, and encouraging. I’ve been writing articles throughout the fall for the past few issues, and if you’re interested in reading them, check out the magazine’s website here.

Last but not least, there’s more LizMargaret content to come!

Stay connected by following by blog, which you can do by signing up with a WordPress account or by email–just look for this ↴email-signup

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Thanks for reading, and stay tuned x

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Baby Clothes & Growing Pains

Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.

(Ephesians 4:14-15 NIV)


Growing in faith is like growing out of your baby clothes. baby-clothes-white-short-sleeve-background-42489266

There are things you think you need forever, or things God even provides when you need them, that will no longer fit you as you grow. When you mature in Christ, God leads you on a different path than you were on before.

Conviction kicks in. When you abandon the things that hinder your relationship with Christ or cause you to sin, your desire for them lessens. The music you once listened to no longer appeals to you. Or maybe, the movies you once watched no longer seem OK. You stop enjoying the things that never brought glory to God in the first place. Then, suddenly, the friends you have don’t fit. It’s like you don’t have anything in common anymore. You don’t do the same things they do anymore. It feels strange. You’re not able to get past “hello” with those you could once talk to for hours.

And you wonder why.

These were your baby clothes–and you’ve grown! Your baby clothes were comfortable, one-size-fits-all, but God is putting you on a unique path. Not everything will fit you anymore. It will be a lonely path, because it’s a path that is made for you alone. Believe it or not, there are others who are following God, too, on their own unique paths. Nevertheless, you will be placed in situations where you are the only one following the Lord, looking for Him. But remember, the God you’ve trusted all along has not abandoned you on this path.

As you keep walking with Him, you’ll find how limited your baby clothes were. They begin to be restricting, because they are too small. You’ll find new clothes. You’ll find that God has more variety for you. Clothes come in different shapes, sizes, cuts, and fabrics. He knows your style. He knows who will fit in your life, and He will guide you to those relationships. He knows your future spouse, and He will supply that in His time. He knows the career you need, and He will arrange that for you. He knows which city, state, or country you need to be in, and He will get you there.

Your job is to walk behind Him on this path, because you don’t know what’s up ahead. If you walk in front of God, you’ll most likely veer off, trying on clothes that don’t belong to you.  It might be scary to leave them behind, but these things which are no longer for you will only toss you too and fro and bring confusion.

Your job is to not turn back to your baby clothes. They’re not for you anymore. In fact, if you look at them, they’re too tiny for you now. If you even tried to put them on, you’d rip them.

However, you’ve changed, and it’s beautiful. You’ve followed God, and you’ve transformed. If you ask God for direction, He will give it to you. And it will hurt at times. Many times. These are growing pains. You’ll have to turn away from the things you love. But if they’re not God-approved, they were never for you in the first place. If you try to keep fitting into old, ill-fitting clothes without God, you’ll have to keep mending the rips on your own.

This is the good news: Even if you veer off onto your own path, His path for you still remains. It’s waiting for you, so come back.

If you say God is Lord of your life, let Him be Lord.

Ask Him to lead you. Ask Him for the eyes to see what He wants in your life. Ask Him for the strength to respond to His calling.

If God leads you to abandon something, trust Him. He has variety for you. He has plans for you that are way bigger than your baby clothes.


You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

(Ephesians 4:22-24 NIV)

The One Thing I Learned as a 20 Year Old

“Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?

(Matthew 6:25-26 NKJV)


Every year on my birthday, I have a tradition where I take time to reflect on the past birthday-balloons_editand write about how I’ve changed. This year in particular is special, as I come to the end of being 20 years old! To celebrate the last two decades of my life, I wanted to do something quirky–perhaps a 20 Things I Learned at 20 kind-of-thing–but as I brainstormed ideas, I couldn’t help but notice that there was actually one important lesson I learned this past year.

One lesson that was underneath all the other ones I have learned. One that I realize God has been trying to teach me for years:

Stop trying to figure things out prematurely.

I know that I want to control things. I want to know what will happen next and choose the ending if I can. However, as I’ve grown in my faith, I’ve learned that God’s plan is always better than mine.

So, when I had this revelation, I didn’t initially understand it. I thought, Well, God, You know I just want to know Your will. No harm in that. That’s true. Wouldn’t we all want to know God’s will for our lives?

However, what He showed me through various scenarios was that my desire to know His will had turned into an inability to trust Him. Take for example, a few months ago in the spring. I had applied to three different internships, which I hoped would lead to full-time positions by next year. However, waiting to hear back from them was agonizing. I worried about which path God wanted me to take, as it would possibly affect my soon-to-be career. My attitude would constantly fluctuate, from calm to impatient to discouraged. I bounced back and forth, wondering, God, what do You want me to do? Please, give me clarity.

This discouragement brought intense doubt. I couldn’t understand why God wasn’t giving me the clarity I was asking for. I worried that I wouldn’t have any internship that summer, and consequently, my career goals would be hindered. Perhaps I wasn’t good enough for the opportunities I wanted.

Funny enough, in this particular instance, all I had to do was wait. Little did I know, in just a week or two, I would hear back from all three internships I applied to and could now make a decision. God closed and opened doors that led to the opportunity that was best for me.

Before then, I was trying to make decisions based on nothing. Nothing happened (yet), but I believed I needed to know the future immediately!

Not all situations I’ve been through have been as simple as this one. I’ve been through circumstances that have required longer turnaround times or didn’t necessarily end up with happy endings. However, what I’ve learned this year is key: walking ahead of God steals joy.

With a limited perspective, it’s easy to find ourselves trying to skip ahead of Him. Think back to Eve in the Garden of Eden. Satan tempted her to eat the forbidden fruit, using the idea that she could obtain the kind of knowledge only God had:

And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat (Genesis 3:5-6 KJV).

Eve stepped into a place where she didn’t belong, and the enemy was clearly behind it. This action not only affected her but Adam and the rest of humanity.

When we try to walk ahead of God, we make hasty decisions that lead to guilt, shame, and regret from the consequences that follow. Before the fall, Adam and Eve had no shame–as God intended: “And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed” (Genesis 2:25 KJV). However, when they walked outside God’s will–His intentions–they experienced shame, one of the consequences of sin. Immediately after Adam and Eve ate the fruit, they tried to hide from God: “And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden” (v. 8).

This past year, because of my impatience, I was careless with my thoughts and emotions, and consequently, attempted to take matters into my own hands. Yet, by God’s grace, I didn’t act on impulse and was instead reminded that He is a God of order and timing.

The season in which we are in now has a purpose, as will the next season and the ones to follow. However, if we try to skip ahead, there are consequences. When I tried to figure out my future and rush ahead of God, the enemy capitalized on that to make me feel hopeless and discontented  in areas that I wasn’t even previously concerned about.

Do we really gain anything from trying to figure out how our lives will play out in the future? The only thing we might gain is confusion, anger, and resentment from the frustration of our circumstances. It’s essential that we must stop making problems out of nothing and wait upon the Lord.

Fortunately, God knows our shortcomings, and He graciously waits for us to come back to Him. However, if we decide we don’t want to listen, He’ll let us get our way, and our way probably won’t turn out well.

It comes down to whether we choose to trust the Lord and be stable in our circumstances, without knowing the future.

Moving forward, I know which choice I’m going to make.

Here’s to making 21 and the years to come about continuing to walk with God–with Him in the lead.


Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

(Genesis 6:34 NKJV)

 

3 Ways My Faith Has Changed Since College

Seek the Lord, and his strength: seek his face evermore. Remember his marvellous works that he hath done; his wonders, and the judgments of his mouth;

(Psalm 105:4-5 KJV)


Recently, I started my final year in college.

As the day I returned to campus approached, I found myself reflecting on my past three years as a student. I’m definitely a changed person. I’ve stepped into my skin, gotten acquainted with myself, and I’ve stepped out and explored areas outside my comfort zone.

Picture_20160825_005913446The changes I’ve been through have been essential, even though many were the result of difficult times–yet I’m grateful, because I’ve come out stronger as a follower of Christ.

Whether you’re starting college, finishing college, somewhere in between, or nowhere there at all, you should strive to grow in your faith. Here are three areas of my faith that have changed since I’ve become a college student:

1. My alone time became my quiet time.

Blessed are they that keep his testimonies, and that seek him with the whole heart (Psalm 119:2).   

One thing about college that quickly became clear is that people are everywhere. This might sound obvious, but I really mean everywhere. My first lecture had 700 students (of course, class size depends on the size of your school). When I started college, I loved interacting with many people on a daily basis, but when I finally had time to myself, I just wanted to kick back and relax. When I became busier, down time became shorter, and I felt I had no time for God. I attended church, Bible studies, and prayer groups, but my personal time with God was virtually nonexistent. I’d go weeks without even talking to Him, until I realized how much I needed Him. When things became stressful and I needed direction, I turned to God, and He happily welcomed me back. Reopening dialogue with the Lord made me realize how much I had missed out all along.

An intimate relationship with God sets your life on the right path. Your perspective is directed, your attitude corrected. Spending time with God better equips you for the day ahead. Through prayer and Bible study, you hear God’s voice, His secrets, and He’s able to reveal His plan for your life. I missed out on several days of this, wishing I had direction in various scenarios–yet the One who had all the answers was right there!

Since then, I’ve learned to make God a priority throughout my day. If I’m walking to class, have a morning alone to myself, or have time between classes, I communicate with God and meditate on His Word, instead of being idle. It’s fine to relax and enjoy your favorite hobbies in your free time, but if these things take precedent over your relationship with God, you’re missing out on crucial moments with Him.

2. I learned to value community more.

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! (Psalm 133:1)

Though I love my alone time, I love being around others as well. However, when I first started college, I didn’t realize how valuable and essential a Christian community was for my walk with the Lord. I grew up in church and accepted Christ at a young age, but I never had many Christian friends, because there weren’t many believers my age around me. I entered college ready to find them.

It took time, but when I built relationship with other believers who shared my values, I noticed how impactful these friendships were in my life. I have had the most challenging and encouraging conversations with other Christians. When I felt discouraged, it was amazing to know there were others who could pray for me–and I could do the same for them. I’ve grown as a leader in my Christian fellowship because of these relationships. God has given me a heart to know others and care for them.

I value all solid friendships–with believers and non-believers–but as a Christian in college (or anywhere, really), it’s vital to have people around you who share the same beliefs and can push you forward. Iron sharpens iron (Proverbs 27:17). Those you spend time with will rub off on you, so if you want to grow in Christ, stay connected to those who want to do the same–whether it’s on campus, at church, or another Christian community.

If you’re having trouble finding these people, bring it up to the Lord, and be patient. When opportunities to build relationships emerge, be a friend, and be consistent. God will provide the company you need in your life.

3. God’s power became more evident to me.

I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust (Psalm 91:2).

In high school, I often noticed that after I prayed, I wouldn’t always have peace. I’d ask God to help me not to worry, yet I still found myself worrying. I didn’t realize at the time, but I had little faith when it came to prayer. I doubted whether whatever I prayed about would come to pass. Ultimately, I was doubting God. Even when He was answering prayers, I wasn’t able to see His blessings, because my perspective was wrong.

I also failed to realize that answered prayers didn’t have to manifest the way I wanted them to. Nevertheless, I only wanted my way–not God’s way.

However, in college, my mindset changed. I learned to surrender large and small requests to God. When I was a freshman, I had lunch with a dear friend who was a junior and a fellow believer. I told her about all the assignments I had coming up–particularly a paper due soon that I hadn’t started. She had a simple response to my workload: “Don’t worry. Trust God. Everything will get done.” It was a simple answer, yet it inspired me to change my entire mindset.

I started seeing my assignments in this way–that as long as I put in the necessary effort, the work will get done. Not only that, but God was with me wherever I went–in and out of class, even if I had forgotten.

Over time, I saw God in every detail of my life as I continually pushed to have this mindset. All my successes and failures could and would be used for His plan for my life as I walked with Him. As I grew in my relationship with God, spent time with Him, and spoke about Him with others, I realized He was everywhere. I prayed and left things up to Him. Even if I didn’t know how to surrender, I asked Him to help me do so.

Through faith, I now pray and leave things up to God–and praise Him through it. When my prayers aren’t answered as I think they should be, they are answered nonetheless–only His solution is better–whether I realize it now or a year from now.

 

I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth. (Psalm 121:1-2)

Transitional periods in our lives can be fruitful experiences. I cannot express the gratitude I have for not just the good times but the hard ones that God has allowed over these past three years in college. We can use trials and triumphs to grow in our relationship with Christ–or let this relationship crumble. I’ve realized for myself that it’s up to us to make this choice. God will not force us to choose Him, but if we do choose Him, He will help us through it all. Please, make it easier and follow Him. There’s no better way to transition into a new season than with the God who brought you there. And if you didn’t get a great start, walking with Him will get you a strong finish.

For my final year of college, I’m excited to take the lessons I’ve learned with me, and I’m ready to learn new ones. I’m ready for the challenges, the blessings, knowing that I get to experience them with my heavenly Father by my side.


“…Look for Christ, and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.”

– C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Love Series | Final Thoughts

Why did I start the Love Series?

Love has always been on the human mind, and I believe there are reasons for that. We’re designed to serve something, to live for something, and if we don’t have a love oriented towards God, this can get out of control.

It’s easy to panic about who God has for us in friendships, marriage, and other relationships. Who does God want in my life? Is this person supposed to be there? Will I even get married? So many young and/or single people go through these thoughts. I’ve seen people, men and women, young and old, go through depressions and anxieties over this.

The problem is that we’ve been consumed by romantic love for so long. It’s a beautiful thing, but it’s one thing out of several other beautiful things life has to offer. We’re a multidimensional people. Life has many other components–yet we get stuck on love.

What is it about love?

Through this series, I wanted to show that God’s love “works,” and it’s real. It’s an active love from an active God. It’s a love that surpasses all earthly things and restores us beyond comprehension. It has worked for those in the past, it is working now, and it will work in the future.

God has so many plans for us on earth, and our lives don’t start when we fall in love or get married. For those who are in relationships or married, a relationship with God is vital to uphold. A person who is dedicated to the Lord will be able to love and serve in that relationship from a Christ-like perspective.

Relationships will not cure loneliness, insecurities, fear, or lust. I believe we limit ourselves, others and God by viewing romantic love as the turning point of our lives, the quick fix solution to any issues. As I’ve emphasized in the series, this thinking leads to making unwise choices, having unrealistic and unfair expectations of our loved ones and can bring severe conflict. However, a God-centered mindset about love can foster godly relationships that can live up to their potential.

Overall, it’s important that we stop waiting and finally live the life God has for us. We have a purpose bigger than marriage. We cannot foresee the future, but we keep trying to control it. Although I have written the Love Series from the perspective of a young, single woman, everyone should let go. Let go of idealizing people. Let’s let go of fears and worries about the future. Instead, let’s continue to understand who God is, who we are in Him, obey His commandments, and live life as it ought to be lived.

If you missed it, check out the Love Series, in the links below!

Introduction

Part 1: Ruth

Part 2: The Samaritan Woman at the Well

Part 3: Anna

Part 4: Elizabeth

Love Series | Anna (Part Three)

And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem.

(Luke 2:38 KJV)


Would you still love God if you lost everything?

Anna, a widow in the New Testament, reminds us of Who our first love is. If we have more concern for human relationships than our relationship with God, we can experience major consequences.

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple (Luke 14:26-27).

Whoa. Whoa. Is Jesus calling us to hate others?

Absolutely not. Based on the commandment He deems the second most important–to love others as ourselves (Matthew 22:39)–He definitely isn’t calling us to hate others. Based on the Word, we know that God loves and cherishes community, unity, and relationships.

Now why does Jesus use the word “hate” here? He’s giving us a comparison. That is, we are commanded to love God in a way that is immeasurable in comparison to our love for others. This makes sense that He would tells us this, looking back at our first commandment:

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment (Matthew 22:37-38).

It’s okay to cherish relationships. They are blessings in our lives, and God is gracious to provide them. They are additions. But if we are to truly cherish and care for the things God has given to us, we need to have a strong foundation in Him. Following God shapes our minds and hearts in a way that allows us to love others as we ought to.

Anna is a remarkable woman in the Bible who, honestly, lost everything. Yet, based on her life, it’s evident that she understood this concept of loving God. Despite the tragedies she faced, Anna’s love for Him brought fulfillment not only to her but to others, and the Lord didn’t let this go without a special blessing.

INTRODUCING ANNA

(Reference: Luke 2:36-38)

And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity; And she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem (Luke 2:36-38 KJV).

Anna only appears in these three verses in Luke, but we can learn so much from her and about her in this moment.

First and foremost, we learn that Anna is a woman of God based on her descriptions.

Prophetess (Luke 2:36)

This doesn’t mean that she dabbled in a form of fortune-telling or foreseeing the future. A prophet was a person who spoke the Word of God (meaning prophetess was a woman who spoke the Word of God). From this, we know right away that she was known for proclaiming God’s Word to others. Perhaps she was considered a teacher or encourager in the temple to other women.

Of the Tribe of Asher (Luke 2:36)

This tribe was an example of God’s grace. In the Old Testament, when Israel had split into “Israel,” the apostate northern kingdom, and “Judah,” the southern kingdom, both nations were consumed by idolatry and corruption. Later, the Assyrians conquered Israel and took many as captives. The tribe of Asher (descended from Asher, son of Jacob) was the remnant who escaped this, having either migrated before the conquest or were part of the few exiles who returned from captivity. So, Anna had a great heritage stemming from the tribe of Asher, who served a reminder of God’s faithfulness in the midst of chaos.

Now, I’m going to skip forward slightly. In addition to being a prophetess and of the tribe of Asher, Anna could be found serving God.

And she . . . which departed not from the temple, served God with fastings and prayers night and day (Luke 2:37).

Anna took her relationship with the Lord seriously. She stayed in the temple. We’re not given further information about this, but perhaps she was given accommodations to live there–especially since she was pursuing a purpose, as she was serving God and proclaiming His Word.

An important detail is that she had made a routine of fasting and praying 24/7. Can you imagine the beauty of such a close relationship with God? She knew that loving the Lord was a choice and had to be followed with actions. Anna made it a habit to seek Him diligently.

Now, let’s look earlier in the passage:

she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity; And she was a widow of about fourscore and four years (Luke 2:37).

Anna lived a life of tragedy and devastation–and still, she had dedicated her life to pleasing God. She was now of old age, but she had been married young–only for seven years–then her husband passed away. She’s not noted to have children, and now she had been widowed for 84 years!

Also, being a widow in this society was not easy whatsoever. Marriage was necessary for survival and security for a woman during these times. Without a husband or sons, a widow would more than likely live a life of poverty. There were very limited opportunities for such a woman. So, we know that Anna had to live a simple life, without excess. To emphasize the hardship and poverty a widow–especially older ones–faced, Paul even acknowledged the burden by encouraging widows to remarry while they were young:

So I counsel younger widows to marry, to have children, to manage their homes and to give the enemy no opportunity for slander. Some have in fact already turned away to follow Satan. If any woman who is a believer has widows in her care, she should continue to help them and not let the church be burdened with them, so that the church can help those widows who are really in need (1 Timothy 5:14-16).

Understanding this context, Anna’s circumstances seemed to guarantee a life of suffering and loneliness. Nevertheless, as we’ve read previously, her life was anything but that.

Anna was honoring the Lord. She had no distractions, no longer any relationships or material possessions to sacrifice, but she was literally sacrificing all of her time and even her nourishment through prayer and fasting to the Lord. And she was being taken care of. The Lord provided her a place in the temple, she had contact with others who she probably discipled, and she had a deep relationship with God. She was being nourished by God Himself–and then, she had an encounter with Jesus that few others experienced.

A Love that Bears Fruit

This closeness to the Lord bore amazing blessings.

And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem (Luke 2:38).

This type of intimacy with Christ is so special because we are able to know God, to know His voice, His mind. Anna herself had this intimacy with Him, as she recognized her Lord–because she knew His characteristics so well. Through her time spent with Him, she had a heart that was prepared to meet her Messiah. She was probably praying about uniting with Him, and her prayers had been answered. In fact, she was one of the first people to see Jesus when He was born.

The very instant when Anna is introduced in Luke 2 is when Christ was born and Simeon had spoken a prophecy about the infant Jesus:

Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” (Luke 2:34-35)

When Simeon spoke of Christ, Anna knew it was Him–the Messiah she had been waiting for–and she instantly went to meet Him and became a witness of His birth.

It’s interesting that there are accounts of people in the Bible who did not recognize Jesus. For instance, remember the Samaritan woman from Part 2? At first, she had no idea she was talking to Jesus, even though He knew everything about her and made that known, showcasing a knowledge–and compassion–only the Savior had. Though there were rumors of His coming, people perhaps expected Him to come in some sort of spectacle, if He was truly the Son of God. However, instead Jesus lived humbly and was even born into the world in a lowly way–in a stable.

I believe that Anna’s opportunity to come in and see her Savior was one example of how God honored her faithfulness and love for Him. Though she lived a simple life and had experienced great loss, she had unspeakable joy and security because she knew her Lord–a type of joy she had to share with others.

Just seeing Jesus once–and as an infant–was enough for Anna to speak about Him to those who were also seeking Him (Luke 2:38). Again, she displays a gift of discernment that was born through her time with the Lord. Just as she recognized Christ, she recognized others who desired redemption through Him and spoke directly to these people. One woman’s faith and diligence impacted many lives. Yet, we often we feel need to see God manifest Himself several times before we obey Him.

Lastly, I love that Anna met Jesus in the midst of her daily routine of serving Him. She had no time to make herself look “good” or suddenly become right before Him. Her love for God was evident and her heart was already in the right place. She was eternity-minded, with her Savior as her main preoccupation. This is a sincere passion for the Lord that one cannot fake–especially not before Him.

What would Jesus find you doing if He was ready to “meet” you? Would you be ready?

“WHAT ABOUT ME?”

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs (1 Corinthians 13:4-5).

Imagine that kind of love!

Focusing on romantic love, let’s think back on Anna’s life. A life that honored God, despite tragedies, particularly her loss of a husband at a young age, then being single for pretty much the rest of her life–not even having any kids of her own to keep her company. This would be a nightmare for most people. Many do desire marriage, and that’s perfectly fine. Marriage is created by God, so it’s a God-given desire and blessing. However, the issue is when a desire becomes an idol, a seeking-after-fulfillment kind of thing.

Anna’s story is a reminder of the realities of life. Anything can happen. Even the worst things. Not everything goes according to plan. In fact, things often don’t. If we hold onto people and things so tightly, our world would shatter in a way that seems irreparable if we lose them. Why would this happen? Because we were putting these things or people in a position that only God can fill. He’s the One who is eternal and without fault. So, while people naturally come with their own ups-and-downs, misunderstandings, and hurts, God is stable.

When we realize that others in our lives aren’t God, we are in the best position to love them. We will not expect things that people cannot give, and when there are slip-ups, we have a Christ-centered perspective on how to handle them. That’s why we are called to love God more than anything else. God knows how much we need Him, as He can truly fill our longings. When we love Him above all else, we are able to pour out a selfless love to others that has pure intentions–as opposed to a  fragile “love” that only seeks for its own and is easily shaken up or disappears in conflict.

I urge you to put God first. He will give you the eyes and ability to love others in many different scenarios as He has loved us.

He will take care of you.


But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

(Matthew 6:33 KJV)

Love Series | Ruth (Part One)

But Boaz answered her, “All that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband has been fully told to me, and how you left your father and mother and your native land and came to a people that you did not know before. The Lord repay you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge!”

(Ruth 2:11-12 NIV)


 

We can fall into the trap of seeking reward over seeking God. That is, instead of desiring God with love as our motivation, we only desire what He can do for us. If I pray today, I’ll pass this exam. If I go to church every Sunday this month, maybe God will reveal my husband. If I read my Bible this week, I’ll find a new job. These thoughts might seem silly written down, but it’s funny how easily and often we slip into this thinking.

Instead of loving the Creator, we love things or people He created much more.

To kickoff the Love Series, we’ll be looking at the book of Ruth. When Ruth comes to mind, you might recall the “love story” of God bringing her and Boaz together in marriage. However, when we look deeper into her character, we see the life of an extraordinary woman whose love for God surpassed any other desire. Remaining loyal to the Lord in desolate circumstances, Ruth is led by Him to amazing redemption.

INTRODUCING RUTH

(Reference: Book of Ruth, Chapters 1-4)

The book of Ruth begins during a time of hopelessness. According to the end of Judges, we know that Israel is in a corrupted state:

In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes. (Judges 21:25)

When the judges ruled, there was a sense of lawlessness as people disobeyed God and worshipped false idols. This lawlessness brought about much suffering to the nation.  Then, a famine in the land brought even more suffering.

In the first chapter of Ruth, a man named Elimelech fled with his wife, Naomi, and his two sons to Moab, in desperation. Moab was known for being a dry, infertile land, but the famine was so severe that it was better to live there than in Israel (more specifically, in Bethlehem, Judah).

Tragedy continued when Elimelech died, but his sons (Mahlon and Chilion) married Moabite women. Here we are introduced to Ruth, a Moabite woman who married one of the sons. The other son’s wife is Orpah. However, even after the family sought refuge in Moab, more ruin came years later:

After they had lived there about ten years, both Mahlon and Kilion also died, and Naomi was left without her two sons and her husband. (Ruth 1:4-5)

There’s a lot to say about Ruth’s story, but keeping consistent with the theme of love, I will be focusing on two aspects of her character: her love for God and her love for others, both of which align with God’s commandments for us (see Matthew 22:27-29).

A Love for Others

Ruth’s character reflects willingness, diligence, friendship, and love. A love for others as God instructs us to have. God’s love restores, and through Ruth’s own love and loyalty, restoration comes as a blessing.

One of the ways we see her love is through her deep bond and friendship with Naomi.

After the devastation of loss, Naomi acknowledged that their situation seems quite unredeemable. She and her two daughter-in-laws were now widows in poverty. Naomi even expressed that they should leave her, since she was now old and had no sons (to offer them if they were to remarry) and thus nothing to improve their situation (Ruth 1:12-13). What’s interesting is that her daughter-in-laws were dear to her–especially now that she was widowed. For instance, Naomi often referred to Ruth as her own daughter. Yet, because she loved them, she was willing to sacrifice and let them go so that they could have a better life.

Despite this, Ruth refused to leave Naomi, cleaving unto her:

And they lifted up their voice, and wept again: and Orpah kissed her mother in law; but Ruth clave unto her. (Ruth 1:14)

And later, Ruth added:

And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: (Ruth 1:16)

Ruth accompanied Naomi to Bethlehem where there was a harvest (Ruth 1:22). The law allowed the poor to gather food left over during harvest times as a sort of provision. Ruth showed pure intentions and loyalty to her mother-and-law, having a willingness to care for her, taking an opportunity God provided for her needs to be met. In Ruth 2:2-3, she went to work in the field. She was a woman of action, not afraid of difficulty, willing to put in the work to access God’s provision.

A Christ-like Love

Ruth’s character didn’t go unnoticed by others–and most importantly, it didn’t go unnoticed by God.

In the second chapter of Ruth, we are introduced to Boaz.

And Naomi had a kinsman of her husband’s, a mighty man of wealth, of the family of Elimelech; and his name was Boaz. And Ruth the Moabitess said unto Naomi, Let me now go to the field, and glean ears of corn after him in whose sight I shall find grace. And she said unto her, Go, my daughter. (Ruth 2:1-2)

We read that Boaz was a wealthy man who had some relation to Elimelech. Boaz played a crucial role in this story, as he served as a figure of Christ. Through him, God provided redemption for Ruth.

Although Boaz was wealthy, what truly made him remarkable was the fact that he was a man of God, which was evident through his treatment of others and his acknowledgement of the Lord. For instance, in verse 4, he showed a concern for the well-being of his servants (as opposed to their work) through his greeting to them. Christ similarly has a deep care and desires such a relationship with us.

And, behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem, and said unto the reapers, The Lord be with you. And they answered him, The Lord bless thee. (Ruth 2:4)

Boaz took notice of Ruth when he found her on the field. It’s incredible that this meeting happened while Ruth was in the midst of her service, gathering food for her mother-in-law out of love, displaying her love for Christ with no other intentions behind it. In Ruth 2:3, Ruth “happened to come to the part of the field belonging to Boaz”–she didn’t try to arrange it herself. She didn’t even know Boaz existed!

This same humility Ruth had being on that field was what gave her a reputation that Boaz recognized later on:

And Boaz answered and said unto her, It hath fully been shewed me, all that thou hast done unto thy mother in law since the death of thine husband: and how thou hast left thy father and thy mother, and the land of thy nativity, and art come unto a people which thou knewest not heretofore. The Lord recompense thy work, and a full reward be given thee of the Lord God of Israel, under whose wings thou art come to trust. (Ruth 2:11-12)

As Boaz saw Ruth’s heart, the Lord recognizes our own hearts. He knows whether our service to Him and others is sincere or not. God honors a genuine heart–because it’s a heart that is actually willing to work with Him. This is exactly the case with Ruth. Her heart was willing, and it was used by God for His glory and to bless others.

A Love that Yields Obedience

Naomi and Ruth clearly saw the possibility of redemption through Boaz. Although Ruth (and Naomi) did not have any possessions or resources of her own, Boaz was able to provide for Ruth out of a pure love. So Christ is able to redeem us where we lack.

Ruth consulted Naomi about what her response to Boaz should be:

One day Ruth’s mother-in-law Naomi said to her, “My daughter, I must find a home for you, where you will be well provided for. 2 Now Boaz, with whose women you have worked, is a relative of ours. Tonight he will be winnowing barley on the threshing floor. 3 Wash, put on perfume, and get dressed in your best clothes. Then go down to the threshing floor, but don’t let him know you are there until he has finished eating and drinking. 4 When he lies down, note the place where he is lying. Then go and uncover his feet and lie down. He will tell you what to do.”

5 “I will do whatever you say,” Ruth answered. 6 So she went down to the threshing floor and did everything her mother-in-law told her to do. (Ruth 3:1-6)

The instructions Naomi gave Ruth was for her to show a willingness to Boaz for marriage. From our perspective, this gesture might seem strange, but it represented a larger symbol of willingness. As we continue reading and see Ruth lay at Boaz’s feet, we should lay at the feet of Jesus, showing our own willingness and submission to Him. And Christ will not let us return empty-handed.

In Ruth 3:10-15, Boaz responded with great kindness, and he made sure that Ruth didn’t go without blessing, giving her barley to take back to Naomi:

When Ruth came to her mother-in-law, Naomi asked, “How did it go, my daughter?”

Then she told her everything Boaz had done for her and added, “He gave me these six measures of barley, saying, ‘Don’t go back to your mother-in-law empty-handed.’ (Ruth 3:16-17).

Already through Ruth’s obedience, Naomi had been blessed. Our own obedience can be a great blessing to others–and similarly, our disobedience can be a great consequence to others.

This theme of blessings through obedience is seen in the marriage of Boaz and Ruth in chapter 4:

So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. When he made love to her, the Lord enabled her to conceive, and she gave birth to a son. 14 The women said to Naomi: “Praise be to the Lord, who this day has not left you without a guardian-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel! 15 He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. For your daughter-in-law, who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons, has given him birth.” (Ruth 4:13-15)

Other people were able to acknowledge and praise the Lord through the marriage (in verse 11) and the birth of Ruth’s son (in verse 14). Also, this newborn child was Jesse, the father of David, “a man after God’s own heart.” What a beautiful testimony God created through Ruth’s life and trials. He brought her through famine and loss to abundance that impacted future generations.

Again, while Boaz was a type of Christ, in terms of his Christ-like love and character, Boaz was not God. He was not Ruth’s god, her central desire and purpose, but he was used as part of the plan that God had for her. Plus, just as Ruth desired the Lord, Boaz did as well. So, bringing them together brought God glory and also gave hope to others around them.

“WHAT ABOUT ME?”

You have needs. I have needs. We have all have needs. Notice that Ruth’s needs were provided for. Our Father wants to bless us, but it’s essential that our source of happiness doesn’t come from things, which are passing away and temporary.

Think about this: when something doesn’t work out that you were banking on, what will be your response? Are you going to turn away from God and blame Him? Again, nothing is assured in this life on earth.  Putting your hope in anything other than God will cause pain and emptiness. This is especially important to understand in our relationships. Nobody is perfect. People can make great company, but they are terrible gods.

So, examine yourself. First and foremost, do you have a relationship with God? It’s impossible to live for Him if you  haven’t first accepted Him as Savior. Redemption for us comes in the form of salvation, a guarantee of eternal life in heaven and a reconciled relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life (Romans 5:10).

Second, is God your first love? Is He preeminent in your life? That is, does He come first before anything or anyone else? When we accept Christ as our Savior, God is present in our lives, but if we live in disobedience, against His Word, He is not preeminent–or reigns–in our hearts. So many of us who consider ourselves Christians de-throne the very God we claim to serve!

And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence (Colossians 1:17-18).

Naomi understood that God was sovereign over all else. After the loss of her family, she stated:

…Call me not Naomi, call me Mara: for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me. I went out full and the Lord hath brought me home again empty: why then call ye me Naomi, seeing the Lord hath testified against me, and the Almighty hath afflicted me? (Ruth 1:20-21)

When I initially read these verses, I thought these were complaints or accounts of bitterness from Naomi. However, after studying the book of Ruth, it’s clear that Naomi had reverence towards God, and here she acknowledged the fact that He was in charge and that her life belonged to Him. God reigns, and He is in control of everything. She feared God, meaning she had reverence, or respect, for Him. This included understanding His character and that He is loving. Though we may not know how God is working through situations (e.g. Naomi’s tragedy), He works things together for good (His redemption in the end).

Ruth was provided for, and most importantly, she was used by God mightily.

This is where love starts. With our relationship with Christ. This is a relationship that only exists between you and the Lord. Nobody else can fix it or grow it for you.

If you’re at a point where you are struggling with putting God first in your life, I encourage you to refocus and reorient your love towards Him. It’s not too late for you. He’s patiently waiting and wants to redeem you.

 


Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.

(2 Corinthians 5:20 KJV)

 

Love Series | Launching 8.1.16

Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.  

(Matthew 22:37-39 KJV)


Introducing… the Love Series on LizMargaret!

We have a desire to connect with others. And it’s perfectly normal. God created us to have this desire–and to have fruitful relationships with those around us.

In every type of relationship you can imagine, Christ is an example of how we ought to love. It’s quite amazing. Think about it:

In marriage:

Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; (Ephesians 5:25)

We are called into the family of God, as His children:

And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty. (2 Corinthians 6:18)

Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. (1 John 3:1)

In friendships:

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. (John 15:13-14)

In every example, Christ is the center. Everything points back to gospel. God Himself has modeled love for us through His Son, Jesus Christ. Just as Christ laid down His life for us, we are called to do the same for Him. We are called to die to ourselves in our service to Him and to others as He commands.

Yet as we navigate different relationships (friendship, romance, family, etc), we often face pain, disappointment, confusion, betrayal, and heartbreak. Due to our imperfect nature, these feelings may be inevitable, but God’s Word provides endless wisdom on how we should conduct ourselves in relationships and what we should avoid.

When we remain rooted in Christ, we allow His will for our current and future relationships to manifest, as we are led by the Spirit to have discernment in who we allow into our lives and what it looks like to love them.

The Love Series will look at four women in the Bible who show that following God is the only way to live life and treat others as He intended.

Love Series | Overview:

Part 1: Ruth

Part 2: The Samaritan Woman at the Well

Part 3: Anna

Part 4: Elizabeth

These are real women, with very different stories. They exemplify faith as well as human faults. They are forgiven women, friends, disciples, and leaders. Each of them teach us that when the gospel is evident in the way we live, we are set apart from the world, bringing glory to God in our lives and relationships.

Look out for new posts in this four-part series every Monday, starting August 1, 2016!

Worship Wednesdays #10 | Voice of Truth

The profile // about the artist

Casting Crowns - Casting Crowns.jpg
Casting Crowns (2003)

Casting Crowns

  • Contemporary Christian rock band
  • From Daytona Beach, Florida

Check out previous Casting Crowns #WorshipWednesdays posts:

1 (Dream for You)

The pull // why i like it

This song reminds me that following God is absolutely countercultural–in the best possible way. When you decide to accept Christ and trust in Him, you learn not to fear what the world fears. Instead you can be eternally-minded, in peace because of His promises, at rest because He gives you rest, and stable because of His love.

The message // what it means

Ever feel like life gets a bit “noisy”? It often seems hard to know which direction to take because there are so many opinions in our daily lives and online. However, when we have a solid relationship with Christ, we have access to the “voice of truth.” While the world will try to tell you who you are, where you should go, and what you should fear, God’s voice is the one that speaks the truth about your identity and that there is no reason to fear. It’s up to us to reject the voices that take life away from us and listen to the One who speaks life into us.

“Out of all the voices calling out to me

I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth”

The call // best to listen if

You’re struggling with fear and confusion. Both are easy ways that the enemy can deceive us and steer us away from the course God has set out for us. But when we worship God and study His Word–when we listen to His voice–we will have victory over the enemy’s lies.

Worship Wednesdays #9 | All I Can Say

The profile // about the artist

David Crowder Band - All I Can Say.jpg
All I Can Say (1998)

David Crowder Band

  • Christian rock and worship band
  • From Waco, Texas

The pull // why i like it

“All I Can Say” is a powerful portrait of the moments when we are left speechless and weak in difficult times. This song’s gentle sound reminds me of the quietness in intimacy with the Lord and how beauty and strength are born in these moments. Even when things are not changing as we would like them to, we can hold onto Him.

The message // what it means

Sometimes it’s in the stillness of life’s chaos and confusion that we are reminded that God is with us. In these times, it’s important to fight back and understand that God has never left us and that He not only carries our burdens with us but desires to take them away. It’s often at our lowest points that we understand what true surrender to the Lord looks like.

“I didn’t notice You were standing here

I didn’t know that

That was You holding me

I didn’t notice You were crying too

I didn’t know that

That was You washing my feet”

The call // best to listen when

Definitely anytime. Specifically in times of weakness, when we feel consumed by what’s going on around us, this song is an encouragement that God is right there and hears us.