Saturday, August 24, 2013

Quick Encouragement for College Kids: Especially Freshies

So by this point, most college freshmen are moved into their dorms. I just moved in yesterday and…it was quite a day. In the first couple of weeks of college, there is a lot going on. I know I can only say so much because I’m only on day 2 of that journey, but just from what I’ve heard and already experienced, I know the transition is hectic, exciting, a little overwhelming, and a ton of fun.

Right before our hall meeting last night, I was ready to crash. My eyes felt extremely tired and heavy and all I wanted to do was sleep. But then the “little voice” in my heart said, “Have you forgotten Me?” It was God, and I had barely talked to Him all day. In the chaos of the move-in process, I had not been praying to Him. I hadn’t thanked or praised Him for the incredible day He had given me. I opened my Bible, not really knowing where to turn. In His awesomeness and faithfulness, He showed me exactly what He wanted me to see…something that I will continue to be reminded of in my first semester of college:

“Surely I will not enter my house, nor lie on my bed; I will not give sleep to my eyes or slumber to my eyelids, until I find a place for the Lord, a dwelling place for the Mighty One of Jacob.” –Psalm 132:3-5

Of course there will be late-night hall dance parties, all-nighters for studying, sport practices, or even just midnight chats with some buddies. But remember to take care of yourself with rest. Don’t forget the sweetness and importance of just resting in the Lord. Don’t go to sleep before you spend time with Him. Let Him be integral in every aspect of your life. Don't keep putting Him off. Go to Him NOW.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Be Bold: New Theme!

So with the whole starting-a-new-chapter-in-my-life thing happening, I figured it was time for some changes on the blog. I love the “waiting in the desert” theme, and I pray that the Lord would daily teach me more on how exactly to do that. But for now, there is another concept that God is wanting me to focus on: boldness.

For the past four years of high school, God has shown me passages in Scripture that sort of become my “theme verses” – ones that He wants me to dive into and meditate on throughout the year. As move-in day for college has drawn nearer and nearer, I have been wondering and praying, “Lord…what do you want to teach me this year? Besides, of course, the overload of knowledge and experience I will gain in my first taste of college life, what do You want to teach me?”

Well, you’ve already read about my new love for Song of Solomon. I’ve mentioned my recent dive into the Timothy books. And then there’s just good ole James. Out of these three books, my theme verses for the year arose.
  • ·         Song of Solomon 5:6-7 “I opened to my beloved, but my beloved had turned away and had gone! My heart went out to him as he spoke. I searched for him but I did not find him; I called him but he did not answer me. The watchmen who make the rounds in the city found me, they struck me and wounded me; the guardsmen of the walls took away my shawl from me.” If you didn’t read my last post, then you’re probably very confused as to why this verse would have any positive significance. I believe that this verse represents boldness in that Solomon’s bride (who is a representation of the bride of Christ – the church) sought after her husband so desperately and diligently even at the risk and ultimately result of persecution. Nothing else mattered – not her reputation, not her safety, not the clothes on her back – nothing mattered except finding her beloved. That’s how I want to be with Jesus. I want to believe with every fiber of my being that Jesus is enough.
  • ·         2 Timothy 1:7 “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.” Short and sweet. I have heard this verse many times over the years, but now as I head off into this totally new chapter of life, it has a whole new meaning to it. For the next several months, I pray that God would help me break down this verse and understand what it means to have a spirit of power and love and discipline. God reminded me of His sovereignty when He showed me this verse, specifically referring to the word “discipline.” For Christmas, my parents gave me a book by Elizabeth Elliot called…can you guess it?... “Discipline”. I’ve only read the first few chapters, but I plan on taking it with me to college so that the Lord would give me a greater appreciation for discipline so He can show me how to apply it to my life. It’s funny how God works, sometimes. J (Side note: if you have never read anything by Elizabeth Elliot, you are missing out! I read her Passion and Purity last year and it rocked my world. She is one incredible woman.)
  • ·         James 1:22 “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.” God used this verse to bring conviction…it gets me every time I read it. Growing up in a Christian home and going to a Christian school my whole life, there is a lot of “hearing” the Word of God that goes on…which is fantastic! But if there is no action to back it up, then all that “hearing” I’ve been doing means nothing. Just like James says later in his book, “Faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself” (2:17). I think God wants me not just to dig deeper into His word, but to really focus on the application aspect of it. When I’m studying His Word, whether it’s during my own personal study or in Bible class at college, I step back and say, “Alright Lord, show me how I can bring this truth You’ve shown me in my daily life?”

So those are my theme verses…I have a good feeling that God is going to use these verses in a powerful way. Along with those verses is a phrase that is quite old, but I was reminded of when listening to Audrey Assad’s “No Turning Back”: “Though none go with me, still I will follow. Those are nine words that bring so much conviction and encouragement in that if everyone around me stopped following Christ and I was all alone in my faith, I am still responsible to pick up my cross and follow Christ. To go along with the theme of boldness is a song that I was introduced to at church camp this summer. I’ve mentioned it in a post before, but I’m going to write out the lyrics to the bridge again, just cuz it’s that gorgeous J

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever you would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
That my faith may be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior

I love this bridge because it’s so full of faith and obedience… I want to have that, especially in the crucial time of my college years when so many huge decisions are ahead.

So in a nutshell, this is my motto for my freshmen year of college:

Being Bold…
To pursue Jesus with everything I have.
To live out my daily life with a spirit of discipline.
To be a “doer” of the Word in every action, every thought, and every word.

I tried to think of something shorter and catchier than that, but that’s all I’ve got. If you have any suggestions for something short and sweet, please feel free to comment. J *raise imaginary champagne glass that’s filled with…something not alcoholic* So here’s to living a life of boldness for the glory of God…maybe the Lord wants you to learn what that means, too!

P.S. Since I'll be starting college (I move in tomorrow actually...gah!), that means I probably won't be posting as much. Hopefully I can keep it up, though...I love doing it! God's taught me so much this year and it makes it even more fulfilling when I can share it. Anyways, if you don't hear from me as often, you'll know why. ;)

Monday, August 12, 2013

Song of Solomon

It’s funny how an “accidental” stumble upon something unexpected can give you a totally new appreciation for the Lord. I’m trying to get a routine going with my quiet times so that when I get to college, I won’t be totally shaken by the new schedule…but it’s been tough. I had it all planned out – I was going to go through a Weirsbe commentary on the Timothy books and also one on Exodus (I try to spend time in an OT and NT book at the same time)…but I don’t think Exodus is where God wants me right now. I stumbled upon Song of Solomon and thought, “Well…it’s kind of an awkward book, but it’s in the Bible, so I should go through it.” I skimmed through Song of Solomon a couple of years ago, but have never read it this way before. God really opened my eyes to this incredible piece.

So I’m just going to kind of go through the book and pick out verses that stood out for me. Right from the beginning, God seemed to want me to read this book not just as a romance between a couple, but as God’s love story to His people (which makes sense of why He wanted me to read it that way, cuz I ain’t married yet J). When I started reading it from that perspective, it became one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever laid eyes upon. I encourage you all to read this book…let yourself become overwhelmed by the unconditional love Jesus has for you and know that just as Solomon pursued his bride, Jesus is pursuing you.

  • ·         1:4 “Draw me after you and let us run together!” This is a plea from the bride asking for the groom to pursue her…we don’t have to worry, we know Jesus is pursuing us. J I love this image of them running together because it gives the implication of abandonment from everything else going on around them.
  • ·         2:3-5 “In his shade I took great delight and sat down, and his fruit was sweet to my taste. He has brought me to his banquet hall, and his banner over me is love. Sustain me with raisin cakes, refresh me with apples, because I am lovesick.” I love this because it shows a picture of how we as Christians are to behave when in the presence of Jesus – we are to be in longing, in search, in seeking. When we are yearning for satisfaction, we should immediately come to Jesus’ “banquet table”, which is His Word and ultimately Himself. When the bride says “in his shade I took great delight and sat down”, I can’t help but think of Mary in Luke 10:39 when Jesus came to visit her and her sister Martha, “Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word.” Just like the bride in SOS (Song of Solomon) and Mary, we should come humbly before Jesus and bask in His presence, desperate to be filled – not just as a duty but as a delight.
  • ·         2:10-11 “My beloved responded and said to me, ‘Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, and come along. For behold, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone.’” This verse is such a beautiful picture of hope to me. It’s a picture of Jesus drawing His bride to Himself, reminding her of her beauty and value, and wanting her to soak in that hope. When I was taking literature in high school, we talked about how the weather and seasons have a deeper connotation. For example, we would say that the “winter” and “rain” in this verse represents trials, maybe even sadness. But the groom wants to show his bride the hope that remains after the rain and struggles have past. I am reminded of the promise we have in Revelation 21:5 when Jesus says, “Behold, I am making all things new.”
  • ·         2:14 “Let me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet.” What if that was our attitude in regards to listening to God’s voice? What if we actually made the effort to stop and listen, and discover just how sweet it really is? A couple of weeks ago, one of the leaders of our college ministry at church reminded us that as we entered this exciting new period of our lives, we should try and get in the habit of knowing what God’s voice sounds like. That’s my prayer, not just for college kids, but anyone out there reading this blog – that you would learn what God’s voice sounds like and come to know Him on a more personal level than you ever have before.
  • ·         2:16 “My beloved is mine, and I am his.” Simple enough.
  • ·         3:2 “I must arise now and go about the city; in the streets and in the squares I must seek him whom my soul loves.” The bride seeking the groom isn’t just from emotional motivation, but logical motivation…it just makes sense that she would seek him. It’s almost like she was created to seek him...isn’t that the same for us in seeking Jesus? I’m gonna go with yes.
  • ·         3:11 “…on the day of [Solomon’s] wedding, and on the day of his gladness of heart.” When the church is reunited with Jesus just as a bride is reunited with her groom, I have a feeling that there is going to be plenty of “gladness of heart” J
  • ·         4:1 “Your hair is like a flock of goats…” Ok so there’s no deep theological thoughts on this one – out of all the sort-of strange compliments in SOS, this is by far my favorite!
  • ·         4:7 “You are altogether beautiful, my darling, and there is no blemish in you.” This verse is quoted a lot, especially by girls…it just sort of melts our hearts. But what’s really so awesome about this verse is that, thanks to the cleansing love of Jesus Christ and the fact that He took our sin and gave us His righteousness, this verse is true. So beautifully true.
  • ·         5:3 “I have taken off my dress, how can I put it on again? I have washed my feet, how can I dirty them again?” Now, you might be thinking, “um…ok now we’re getting awkward.” Yeah, yeah I know what they’re referring to! But hear me out. So the bride is getting ready for sex – one of the greatest gifts God gave to man, and one of the ways we can glorify God the most. She has prepared for this great intimacy, so the bride is saying “I’m ready to be with my man! Why would I leave now? Why would I “dirty” myself again?” That’s how we should respond to spending time with Jesus! When God is drawing us to Himself and wanting to have intimate fellowship with us, why on earth would we turn away to “dirty” ourselves with the distractions of the world? Something God has been teaching me lately is to lay off the social media…I have a very strong love-hate relationship with social media. It’s awesome to use to get in touch with people and yada yada yada, but it’s also a huge distraction! Not just from spending time with God and my family, but from living life! And whenever I’m away from my phone or a computer for a long period of time, I find myself not missing it! So if I’m trying to have my quiet time with Jesus, and my phone “dings” saying I have a notification on Twitter, why on earth would I put down my Bible and pick up my stupid phone??? Now obviously this is a very modernized application I’m using, but I think it’s something my generation needs to know. Why would I want to leave the beautiful, intimate presence of God and exchange it for the unsatisfying and temporary distractions pulling for my attention? ***If you are a smart-phone-social-media-addicted teenager and reading this, GET YOUR NOSE OUT OF YOUR PHONE AND START LIVING LIFE. Ok rant over. ***
  • ·         5:6-7 “I opened to my beloved, but my beloved had turned away and had gone! My heart went out to him as he spoke. I searched for him but I did not find him; I called him but he did not answer me. The watchmen who make the rounds in the city found me, they struck me and wounded me; the guardsmen of the walls took away my shawl from me.” This is one of my favorite passages in this book! You’re probably thinking, “Um…why? The girl’s man left her on their wedding night (I’m not actually sure if it is their wedding night, but from looking at 3:11 I think it might be…) and she went to go search for him but got beat up by a bunch of guards. This sounds depressing!” I love these verses because the bride is an example of how Christians should seek Jesus so desperately and diligently, even at the risk of facing persecution. She went out into the dark, unknown streets searching for “him whom her soul loves”, not focusing on her safety, but focusing on her groom. That’s how we should be pursuing Jesus. He didn’t call us to a safe life. “Pick up your cross and follow me.” That is a commandment – we are to pursue and follow Christ, no matter the costs. One of my favorite quotes from Alan Paton’s Cry, the Beloved Country that relates to this is, “I am moved by something that is not my own, that moves me to do what is right, at whatever cost it may be” What is the “right” for us? To seek after Christ with everything we’ve got.
  • ·         5:16 “…he is wholly desirable. This is my beloved and this is my friend.” And that is what Jesus is to us. He is desirable. He is our beloved. He is our friend. John 15:15.
  • ·         6:2-3 “My beloved has gone down to his garden, to the beds of balsam, to pasture his flock in the gardens and gather lilies. I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine, he who pastures his flock among the lilies.” So the groom is passionate about growth and his sheep…sounds like Someone else I knowJ. (*cough cough* as in Jesus)
  • ·         7:1 “How beautiful are your feet in sandals, O prince’s daughter! The curves of your hips are like jewels, the work of the hands of an artist.” Who’s the “artist”? GOD! How awesome is that??? We are His masterpiece. You are His masterpiece.
  • ·         7:10 “I am my beloved’s, and his desire is for me.” Jesus desires you. What else can I say?
  • ·         8:6-7 “Put me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm. For love is as strong as death, jealousy is as severe as Sheol; its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the Lord. Many waters cannot quench love, nor will rivers overflow it; if a man were to give all the riches of his house for love, it would be utterly despised.” I just always thought that was a beautiful verse.

Alright, so that’s all I got. I hope you found the beauty in this incredible book…it’s just a gorgeous representation of Jesus’ love for the church. Maybe when I’m married, other things about this book will make more sense. But for now, I’m content with knowing that Song of Solomon is also for us young’ns in that Jesus pursues you and me…and that is a beautiful truth.