A Missed Understanding

 

freestocks-org-147688-unsplash
We all need someone who “gets” us, but do we care enough to “get” God?

 

“No one understands me! What’s the point of talking to anyone anymore?!”

Teenagers are often ridiculed for this verbal stereotype, but sadly, this desperate claim of angst is true for people of all ages. This anguished question has resonated from the minds and mouths of every person who’s existed down through the ages. Human beings were created by God as social creatures, desiring more than anything else to connect with other, separate entities. This truth is described in the book of Genesis, when God created a helper for Adam in the person of his wife, Eve.

Unfortunately, after they opened the gateway to sin on this earth, Adam and Eve inhibited themselves in all areas, including the realm of communication. Once they bit into the forbidden fruit, which grew from the sin of selfishness and pride, their true natures were transformed from serving God and each other to serving their own egos. They were no longer concerned with listening to each other’s words; they cared only for the thoughts inside their own heads. Ever since then, mankind has constantly struggled to make his voice heard, crying out loud to the dark, far reaches of the universe.

“If only there was someone who’d listen!” he cries. “I would give anything just to have someone care enough about me to understand how I feel inside!”

Oh, what a sad, tragic mistake it is when man has chosen to remove himself so far away from God that he forgot how God has always been there for him in the first place! In human relationships, misunderstandings often stem from a lack of communication; the same principle applies to our relationship with God. We choose not to open up to Him because we assume that He’s just going to judge us for our thoughts and feelings, just like what many teenagers and young adults assume about their parents. So instead of pouring our hearts out to God in prayer, we shut Him out of our daily lives by not talking to Him, just like a typical moody teenager locks him or herself inside their bedroom.

The surprising truth is, God is FAR more understanding than we give Him credit for.

artem-kovalev-86365-unsplash

How do we little, puny humans get the nerve to think that God is incapable of knowing our thoughts and feelings when He’s the One Who orchestrates the circumstances of our lives to begin with? Within a parent/child relationship, the parents have years of experience dealing with the same issues that their children face every day, but a self-absorbed teenager or young adult either does not realize or refuses to acknowledge that fact. This is due once again to the common faults of stubbornness and pride, when they think or say out loud, “Mom and Dad don’t know what they’re talking about! They’re just trying to control my life; why should I listen to what they have to say?!” This ignorant claim echoes constantly in today’s world when people say horrible, blasphemous things like “God is dead!”, or “If there is a God, why would He care about me?!”

We are fortunate that God bestows His grace and mercy upon this world at all times, for there are innumerable lost souls who try His patience and kindle His wrath every day. The very fact that He delays the punishment of man’s wickedness until death is proof that He is mindful of our fallen, corrupt state. God is longsuffering, meaning that He’s patient beyond our human comprehension, and is merciful enough to let every man live long enough to have a chance at knowing Him. Unfortunately, there are many people who pass away from this world without ever knowing Him, therefore missing out on the very thing their souls craved the most – a loving Being Who infinitely understands them.

Sadly, there are also many Christians who miss out on God’s gift of understanding.

Now, please don’t misunderstand the above sentence – this is not in any way meant to question the salvation of those who claim to be born again Christians; that deeply personal matter is between their hearts and God alone. What I mean is that some Christians fail to take full advantage of all the privileges they gained access to once they formed a renewed relationship with their Creator and Savior. Of course, the one particular privilege I’m referring to is the aforementioned gift of being completely understood by Someone, regardless of circumstances. Why do they miss out on such a wonderful treasure? Because of mistaken, preconceived notions on their part, also known as faulty assumptions. This symptom occurs when Christians choose to listen more to the inner voice in their human minds, limited by human reasoning, rather than the voice of the Holy Spirit, Whose purpose is to draw them closer to God. Another reason that faulty assumptions are formed about God and His character is when Christians might also choose to listen to the voice of Satan, the Father of Lies, who desires nothing more than their physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual destruction. In fact, sometimes the lies that Satan tells Christians on a regular basis are the same exact lies that he tells to unsaved people to prevent them from knowing their Savior and gaining eternal security for their souls.

He whispers wicked things like, “God doesn’t care about your happiness.” “He doesn’t want you to have any fun in your life, because He’s selfish.” “Why should you trust Him with the things you care about the most when all He cares about is telling you what to do?”

Rather than entertaining these malicious lies from the pit of Hell, Christians should seek the assistance of the Holy Spirit Himself to gain the courage and strength they need to say, “Get behind me, Satan! Leave me alone, and get out of here!”

 

So, to help anyone who might be struggling in this area, here are three things to always remember about God to prevent missing out on His understanding.

 

1. God LOVES you.

julia-caesar-15078-unsplash

A few months ago, I wrote a post about how God is everyone’s true “First Love.” In it, I described the two main attributes of God’s love – it is eternal and unconditional. Knowing that God’s love for you will never end should bring hope and peace to your soul while knowing that He loves you unconditionally should bring comfort and reassurance to you. With these two truths combined, you should always know that God will NEVER stop loving you, no matter what you do or don’t do. Therefore, you shouldn’t be ashamed to share anything with Him, including all the hurts, hopes, fears, failures, pain, and passions that reside within you. Many people are afraid that God is always angry with them for sinning, and is only interested in judging them for it. While it is true that God cannot and will not tolerate sin in our lives, His attitude toward us as Christians is not spiteful or passive aggressive. God is so loving to us, that even though He knows about the sins in our lives, He is patiently waiting for us to confess them to Him so He can forgive us. God waits for us to do this in His mercy since He is fully aware of our every weakness. With that being said, here is the next thing we should always remember about God:

2. God knows and wants what’s best for you.

shttefan-284259-unsplash

Because God is so loving, it’s only natural that He would also be caring and concerned about every detail in your life. Now, God is sovereign, and it is important to remember that He has complete control over all circumstances; however, even though He possesses this authority and power, God does not try to directly control our lives. If we claim to know Him as our Savior, then we should want to give Him complete control over the decisions we make, because He deserves it after all He’s done for us. Saving our souls from an eternity in Hell while we were yet unworthy is MORE than enough reason to justify giving God the divine right to direct us in everything we do. From the very beginning, God has only had man’s best interest at the core of His heart. Consider how Earth is the only planet in our galaxy that is capable of sustaining human life, and that’s where God chose to make our home when He created everything. Also, don’t forget how even though man chose to rebel against God’s command in the Garden of Eden, resulting in sin, God provided a free way for Him to escape eternal punishment so he wouldn’t have to suffer in the same place that was made for the Devil and his fallen angels. So if you remember these facts, you should be more than comfortable with trusting God enough to share whatever is on your heart with Him, and know that your past, present, and future has always been, and will always be in His hands. With that knowledge, here is the third and final important thing to always remember about God:

3. God MADE YOU.

averie-woodard-205419-unsplash

Yes, that’s right – contrary to popular, secular belief in today’s world, God is STILL the Creator of the entire universe, including man himself. No matter how many false theories are proposed, celebrated, or taught in schools and museums as fact, the Word of God, the Bible, still stands true and firm. Man was created in God’s divine image, with three parts to his being that form a complete whole. The Bible says that God fashions every person in the womb with His own hands, and I believe that is true because of how different each individual looks from another. To me, the eye sockets on a person’s face appear to be molded by a Person’s thumb to make two, deep, circular impressions. The nose and jawline are always so unique on each person that it looks like they were sculpted by hand. The same principle applies to every other part of a person’s body, in my opinion. However, that is only the outer, physical evidence of Who made you – the internal part that is the real you is unrepeatable and irreplaceable. Your soul, the true, essential identity of your being, is God’s signature as the Master Artist Who crafted you. Your inner essence is the most intrinsic part of your existence as a person, the part that processes emotions, thoughts, and ideas. Since God designed you in a specific way to express all of these things, He certainly knows and understands all the reasons why you respond to various feelings you experience in different circumstances. Because of this fact, God isn’t going to judge you or condemn you for your feelings when you share your heart with Him, unlike how some people do. You can always feel completely free and comfortable to be yourself in God’s presence, no matter what.

 

Here are some verses to assure you that you can trust God with your innermost thoughts and feelings:

morgan-sessions-543-unsplash

Psalm 9:9 ~ “The LORD also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble.”

Psalm 31:1, 5, &7 ~ “In thee, O Lord, do I put my trust; let me never be ashamed: deliver me in thy righteousness. Into thine hand I commit my spirit: thou hast redeemed me, O Lord God of truth. I will be glad and rejoice in thy mercy: for thou hast considered my trouble; thou hast known my soul in adversities;”

Psalm 32:7 ~ “Thou art my hiding place; thou shalt preserve me from trouble; thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance. Selah.

Psalm 46:1 ~ “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”

Psalm 61:2 ~ “From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I.”

Psalm 91:1 ~ “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.”

Psalm 139:2, 23-24 ~ “Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off. Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

Isaiah 41:10 ~ “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.

Zephaniah 3:17 ~ “The LORD thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing.”

Matthew 28:20 ~ “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

1 Peter 5:7 ~ “Casting all your cares upon him; for he careth for you.”

Hebrews 4:15 ~ “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.”

 
God’s understanding is our true “safe space,” our purest secret place.

noah-silliman-107988-unsplash

Now that you know these three important truths to always remember about God, you should never again feel discouraged by the failed attempts of man to understand you. God will always be there for you with loving, open arms that are ready and willing to accept you no matter what. No secrets you have will ever surprise Him, because He is omniscient – meaning He already knows everything anyway. If you know God as your Creator and Savior, then He is your Best Friend and trusted Confidant. He alone has the power to free you from the negative influence of other people’s thoughts and judgments about you. He is reaching out His hand to you today, waiting for you to take it in full confidence and assurance that He will take care of your heart and all its needs. The disappointment of man’s failures to understand you won’t matter anymore once you’ve received a taste of His glorious compassion and mercy. God is inviting you to experience life with Him as a thrilling adventure, filled with intimate moments that you can share with only Him. Don’t miss out on God’s gift of understanding – take His hand, and let Him embrace you with the warmth of His unconditional love today.

– Gloria D. Hopkins

“Natural” Worship

 

andrew-ly-152164-unsplash
God is everywhere around us, but He is NOT everything around us.

 

Our natural world is filled with many beautiful wonders.

Since the beginning of time itself, man has always admired the great beauty and majesty of nature. The universe was created by an almighty, loving God who desired to give us a pleasant environment to live in, while at the same time leaving His divine fingerprints everywhere we look. Unfortunately, after the entrance of sin into our world, man began to replace his ideas of the Creator with His creation instead, choosing to serve anything and everything else but the Deity that formed him.

About a month ago, the relatively new holiday called “Earth Day” was observed. While it is allegedly celebrated for a noble cause, we should be careful to maintain a spiritually accurate perspective on it. Although it’s a good thing to want to be good stewards of the natural resources God gave us, it’s quite another thing to elevate the cause of protecting nature to the point of worshiping it. There are many people today who self-identify as “neo-pagans,” however, there is absolutely nothing new about paganism, which has been wrongly practiced for thousands of years. From Wiccan Druids to tribal shamans, practically every single culture in the world has been guilty of worshiping nature as god at some point.

While it’s certainly easy to point fingers and criticize pagans, whether they be ancient or modern practicers, it’s also easy to see why they would fall under Satan’s spell of confusion and error. As I already stated before, nature in all its various forms is undeniably beautiful. Every aspect of it points to God’s love for design and artistry. Not only is everything aesthetically pleasing, but it is also fully functional with a distinct purpose. Surely, whenever people look at mountains, oceans, or sunsets, they simply cannot miss the supernatural evidence contained in all the natural elements. For this reason, we can understand why people are susceptible to fall under the temptation to practice paganism. However, while nature is indeed glorious and of divine making, God never intended for us to worship it – God wants us to give Him His rightful glory by praising Him for the many things He made. Instead of worshiping nature, we can look at the wonderful gift of nature as the best way to worship God the way He deserves.

Here are three ways we can get closer to our Creator through His creation:

 

  1. Recognize that God is always superior to the things that He made.

    philipp-lublasser-217209-unsplash

When God created nature, He designed everything in a specific way that would lead man to the knowledge of Himself. Since we were created in God’s image, He made us with an inherent need to discover His identity and seek out His presence in our lives. For thousands of years, sinful man has been trying to do this very thing, yet with the wrong approach. Because man has a rebellious, wicked heart, he chose to fulfill his God-given needs and desires in a twisted and corrupt way, rather than the way God intended. Man’s sinful heart decided to pursue its goal by following Satan’s pattern of taking something perfectly good that God made and turning it into either a cheap imitation or outright mockery of God’s original plan. When ancient pagan cultures worshiped nature, they subconsciously realized that there was a God, and their first instinct was to recognize His presence in their surroundings. While the very first people groups should have known better and knew what they were doing when they turned away from God, their descendants had been exposed to error for so long that they sincerely believed in their hearts that the false religion they practiced was true.

will-van-wingerden-87463-unsplash.jpg

As you can see, the ancient pagan cultures were so close, yet so far from the truth when it came to fulfilling their quest to worship God properly. Rather than making the same mistakes that the ancient pagans did, as Christians, we have the benefit of taking a more spiritually enlightened approach. When we look at the beautiful world around us, we acknowledge that it came from the mind of the same all-powerful God Who made us and gave us life. If we ever find ourselves tempted to be deceived by Satan to turn away from the truth, we can resist his lies with very simple questions, such as: Did a tree give me the breath of life when I was first born? Can a mountain actively take care of me from its own conscious will? Does the ocean care about my feelings and have compassion on me? Can the wind hear me when I need to talk to someone about all my problems? Of course, the answer to all these ridiculous questions is NO. The point of these questions is to acknowledge man’s need of a personal Creator Who cares about him in a deeply intimate way. Only He can satisfy the inherent needs of our heart, and provide us with a fulfilling existence.

2. Point out God’s presence through the things He made to those who don’t know Him.

hamid-khaleghi-454131-unsplash

Once we have realized that God is greater than His creations, we can help others come to see the truth by showing them the beautiful wonders He made. There are countless people in the world who are constantly searching for answers to questions about their own existence and purpose on this planet. Sadly, many of these people turn to secular reasoning to explain these burning questions that were placed in their hearts by God Himself. While using good discretion, we can determine the proper context and timing to share the truth with people who sincerely desire to know it in their hearts. Once you gain a precious opportunity to witness to someone, you can use the different elements of nature as a direct comparison to help the other person understand how much God cares about them. For example, you can tell that person how there are trillions of stars in our universe, and yet God knows each and every one of them by name, just like He does with the people He made. You can also describe how every time a small bird falls to the ground, it never goes unnoticed by God’s eyes, just like how He always watches over us and protects us. You can express how the greatest depths of the ocean are no match for the depths of God’s love, mercy and compassion on us as humans.

lea-dubedout-40117-unsplash

These are all simple suggestions that you can use; however, as I stated before, it is imperative that you exercise wisdom when deciding to witness to someone. The condition of another person’s heart is between them and God alone, and they must be ready to listen to the truth from their own will rather than having it forced upon them. I recommend using your best judgment with the help of the Holy Spirit to determine the proper context and timing for witnessing to someone. Perhaps this other person you’re concerned about will bring up the subject themselves in the form of a simple question, or maybe you’ll get the chance to walk outside with them while engaging in pleasant conversation. If you happen to discuss your surroundings or the weather in that conversation, that would be an ideal way subtly bring up the subject. However, I cannot stress enough that this strategy all depends on the person in question and how well you know them. Nobody likes to feel attacked or blindsided with heavy subjects, even from someone they consider to be their friend. Once you have confirmed that the other person is ready and willing to listen to the truth, then you can find endless ways to explain it to them through the world of nature. Tell the other person that God put so much effort into creating our beautiful world because He wanted us to be happy, drawing attention to His inherent goodness. Explain to them that no matter where they are in the universe, God is always there with them, watching over them with loving care.

3. Intimately connect with God by worshiping Him outside in His Creation.

ben-white-138743-unsplash

Perhaps it’s because Man was first created in the Garden of Eden, but I truly believe that Man’s natural instinct to worship God is best performed outside in the physical realm of nature. Before sin entered our world, Adam used to walk with God in the Garden of Eden every single day, conversing with His loving Creator. You can call me a hippie if you want, but personally, I just feel closer to God when I’m outside. I even have an opinion that some might feel is too radical – I believe that all church services should be held outside. Of course, certain adverse weather conditions during particular seasons might prevent such an ideal concept from becoming a reality, but in the case of such exceptions, you could easily have a designated tent or building close by to your original natural worship spot. Here’s how I see it – when Jesus Himself taught His truths to His followers, the majority of the time He was outside in His Father’s Creation. For example, He had His famous sermon on the mount, and there were many other times that He preached by the seaside. Not only were these natural locations a beautiful setting, but they allowed a greater audience of people to be present for His teachings.

jennifer-regnier-624534-unsplash.jpg

When it comes to one on one personal worship with God, I also believe that doing it outside is the very best option. Depending on the location you choose, you can have all the privacy you need to commune with God in the midst of His Creation. Enjoy the tranquil sounds of birds chirping, breezes blowing, or water flowing, as you contemplate the many joys of what He made. Enthrall yourself with the divine euphoria of being completely alone with God in a naturally beautiful setting. Make it your preferred method of worship whenever you can, and you will come to find that it’s the highlight of your day, as it should be. Consider this as well – when you’re spending time with someone you’re romantically attracted to, don’t you like to pick a spot with a beautiful view? If we want to pick the very best for the people we care about, then God deserves so much more from us too. Although a personal relationship with God is different from an earthly relationship, the same principles are still in effect when it comes down to it. God loves us infinitely more than any other person can, and He will feel extra loved when we decide to pick a beautiful setting to spend time with Him.

 

Here are some verses to prove that Man is meant to worship God, rather than “the universe” around him:

 

ben-white-137387-unsplash.jpg

Genesis 1:1 ~ “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.”

Genesis 2:7 ~ “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.”

Genesis 3:8 ~ “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.”

Psalm 115:1-8 ~ “Not unto us, O LORD, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory, for thy mercy, and for thy truth’s sake. Wherefore should the heathen say, Where is now their God? But our God is in the heavens: he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased. Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men’s hands. They have mouths, but they speak not: eyes have they, but they see not: They have ears, but they hear not: noses have they, but they smell not: They have hands, but they handle not: feet have they, but they walk not: neither speak they through their throat. They that make them are like unto them; so is every one that trusteth in them.”

Psalm 139:7-10 ~ “Whither shall I go from thy spirit? Or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.

Matthew 5:1 ~ “And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him:

Matthew 6:26, 28-30 ~ “Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?

And why take ye thought or raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?”

Mark 4:1 ~ “And he began again to teach by the sea side: and there was gathered unto him a great multitude, so that he entered into a ship, and sat in the sea; and the whole multitude was by the sea on the land.”

Luke 5:1 ~ “And it came to pass, that, as the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, he stood by the lake of Gennesaret,”

Romans 1:20-23 ~ “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.”

Colossians 1:16 ~ “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:”

Hebrews 11:3 ~ “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.”

1 Peter 3:15 ~ “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.”

 

 

By practicing these three things, we can easily distinguish the difference between nature worship and natural worship.

ben-white-147270-unsplash.jpg

Rather than confusing the Creator with His Creation, like the ancient pagans did, we know better enough to give God the rightful glory He deserves. By doing the three things listed above, we can still appreciate and enjoy the wonderful elements of nature without falling into the trap of worshiping it. God will smile upon us when we make an effort to respond to His Creation the way He intended us to. By recognizing that He is over all the things He made, we acknowledge God’s power and dominion. By showing other people who don’t know Him the truth about where the universe came from, we are giving God His due credit and praise while also obeying His command to witness to the lost. By spending time with Him in worship outside, we come full circle by completing the connection of our Creator to all the things He made. Man was designed with an inherent, undeniable need to worship something, and once he realizes the truth, he opens up his life to an entire world of beautiful spiritual fulfillment. It is only natural for Man to worship God, and the most natural way to do it is for him to commune with God in the natural surroundings that were specially designed for him to enjoy.

– Gloria D. Hopkins

Mirror Madness

 

Alice portal
Don’t look so hard into the glass that you shatter your self-image!

 

“Who am I? What am I supposed to be? Where do I fit in the world?”

These three questions are commonly asked by every single person in the world at some point in their lives, often becoming recurring questions. Our society has a severe case of missing identity, which is ironic considering how prevalent selfishness and narcissism are in our culture today. In the process of elevating himself to the level of worship that God deserves, man has sadly lost sight of his true identity that can only be seen through the Creator he tries so desperately to ignore.

Man has stared at his reflection in the mirror so intently, that he has shattered the glass from the impact of his efforts. Staring at the looking glass for too long is not a good thing whatsoever, and vanity concerning our outward appearance can blind us to the inward reflection that really matters. After finding nothing but emptiness behind the shards of glass, man is constantly grasping for anything he can use as a substitute for God’s presence and purpose in his life.

The issue of having a personal identity crisis is more pressing now than ever before, and Christians are no exception. If we do not solidify our identity in Christ in our minds early on, then Satan will surely try to snatch it away from us. In order to prevent that from happening, we must assess some fundamental truths that are grounded in God’s Word, thereby finding the answers to these perpetually vexing questions. Once we are assured of God’s truth concerning who we are, we can permanently protect ourselves from Satan’s attempt at identity theft.

 

Let’s take a look at these three questions one by one, and see if we can make sense of them in this nonsensical world of ours, shall we?

 

1. “Who are you?”

 

Alice and the Caterpillar.jpg
“Alice Meets the Caterpillar” from ALICE’S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND, by Lewis Carroll, with illustrations by John Tenniel. Macmillan and Co, London, 1898.

 

In Lewis Carroll’s book Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland, the titular character Alice is a little girl who tumbles down a rabbit hole, only to find herself in a strange world full of talking animals and various other forms of nonsense. After going through several frustrations at the beginning of her adventure, Alice meets a caterpillar who acts rather sophisticated and stuffy, much like a grown-up. He asks her to recite a few poems from memory, just like her schoolteachers always expected of her back home. The caterpillar also asks Alice a simple question, about her identity. Due to the strange experiences she had up to that point, Alice replies to him that she’s not at all sure who she is anymore. In fact, she explains that she had changed several times already since that morning, referring to how she mysteriously grew and shrank in size earlier in the story. This was an intentional metaphor that Lewis Carroll was using to illustrate the challenges of growing up. When we grow older, our physical appearance changes, as do our personal interests to some extent. Some of these changes are under our control, while many of them are not.

Perhaps the greatest change we undergo throughout life is the transformation of our minds – we all start out as happy, innocent children, but are soon exposed to the harsh realities of our sinful, fallen world. The negative circumstances we experience in life have the potential to either make us or break us, and the first outcome is only achievable with God’s help. Just like Alice in her dreamworld of Wonderland, we are often confused by our ever-changing surroundings, feeling lost and helpless in the upsetting events going on around us. However, when we seek God’s face in the midst of troubling circumstances, He can guide us onto the right path in spite of all the utter nonsense.

God has a special plan for each and every one of us; He makes that very clear in His Word. He created us to be unique individuals that are totally different from anyone else He made. You are a work of art from God’s own hands, and if you know Him as your personal Savior, you are also His adopted child. It’s so easy for us to look at other people and compare ourselves to them, whether its’ our personalities, advantages, or abilities, that we often forget that God made us special all on our own. We don’t need validation from any other person on the planet to confirm our worth; we just need to remind ourselves of what we already know to be true. Before we were saved, our former identity was that of a hopeless sinner lost in darkness, but after salvation, we took on a new identity of a redeemed child of God who has been returned to the light. It’s not for us to look at others and wish that we were just like them; God wants us to be content with exactly who He made us.

2.  “What are you supposed to be?”

 

Cards Attacking Alice
“Alice defends herself against the Queen of Hearts’ army of cards” from ALICE’S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND, by Lewis Carroll, with illustrations by John Tenniel. Macmillan and Co, London, 1898.

 

Throughout Alice’s entire journey, she is constantly judged, criticized, and questioned by the curious and madcap residents of Wonderland. The White Rabbit, having poor eyesight, confuses Alice with his housemaid, Mary Ann, and begins to obnoxiously order her around with his list of demands. Alice is also wrongly called a “stupid girl” by other middle-aged, female characters such as the Duchess. The Mad Hatter and March Hare accuse her of being rude for accidentally barging in on their private tea party, even though she had no way of knowing what was going on. The Cheshire Cat suggests that Alice is just as crazy as he is, for the mere fact that she found her way into Wonderland. Last but not least, the Queen of Hearts claims that Alice is a criminal for painting her white roses red, and repeatedly orders the removal of Alice’s head every time she is slightly offended by her. Sadly, even though this book is about a fantasy world, Lewis Carroll accurately portrayed the cold reality of how many adults think it’s okay to emotionally abuse and ridicule children, often for no valid reason. Thankfully, by the end of the story, Alice finds the courage to stand up for herself and silence her insufferable attackers. If there is any character that perfectly fits this modern phrase, “I came out here to have a good time, and I’m honestly feeling so attacked right now,” it’s Alice.

In our real-world lives, we often encounter many different people who think they can tell us who we are or what they think we should be. The most common scenario for this to occur is with our relatives, who sometimes make the mistake of thinking they know exactly what’s best for us just because they share our same blood. We can all think of at least one person, whether it’s a relative or not, who constantly oversteps their authority in our lives by assuming they know all the details about our future. There are also plenty of other times when we have been misunderstood by other people for pointless reasons, causing unnecessary conflict due to their closed mindset. Well, other people need to take a step down from the judge’s seat, because that position is reserved for God alone. While helpful guidance and wisdom are beneficial when they come from a loving heart, unwanted orders and prejudice are destructive when other people are just being nosy or critical. Just like Alice was on a literal trial in the book, she also had her patience tried past the point of no return. We need to ask God for the grace and patience we need to deal with other people who think they can take His place in our lives.

What you are supposed to be is a matter that is strictly between you and God Himself. As I stated before, He designed you for a very special purpose in His mind. He has promised that He is going to fulfill that purpose for your life until the second coming of His Son, Jesus. God always finishes the projects He starts, which is far more than I can say for myself as both a writer and artist. He’s not going to leave you hanging as an incomplete draft or a half-empty canvas! He’s going to sculpt you and mold you persistently throughout your entire life until He decides that you’re done. When other people fail to understand what He is doing with your life at the present moment, that’s not God’s fault, nor is it yours. In fact, it’s not meant to be for other people to understand, because God’s ways are much higher than our ways! God is supposed to get the glory for everything He creates, and your life story is no exception. Along the way though, it’s our job to stay close to Him always so He can guide us on this journey of divine transformation.

3. Where do you fit in the world?

 

Alice being left alone
“Alice watches the White Rabbit walk past her in the low, dark hallway” from ALICE’S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND, by Lewis Carroll, with illustrations by John Tenniel. Macmillan and Co, London, 1898.

 

Several times during Alice’s adventure, she falls into some distressing situations that cause her to (understandably) ask for help from the citizens of Wonderland. In this picture, Alice has just experienced the strange phenomenon of growing to be nine feet high inside a closed, narrow corridor, unable to escape or return to her normal size. Feeling rather frightened like any regular child would in this situation, Alice begins to cry until she floods the entire room with her enormous tears. Eventually, she notices the White Rabbit casually passing by, who appears to take absolutely zero notice of her in this awful predicament. He just strolls by quietly as if he were the only one in the room, going on about his day as if Alice doesn’t even exist. Poor Alice had just grown into the size of a giant, and yet it was as if she were invisible! Later on in the story, she stumbles across the tea party hosted by the Mad Hatter and March Hare, where there were plenty of chairs to sit in, but they adamantly claimed there was no room for her. Lewis Carroll was portraying how adults often tend to ignore children and treat them as nobodies, or otherwise make them feel like an afterthought. Everyone in Wonderland was going about their business and doing their own thing, but nobody cared enough to help Alice find her way home. She was just a lost little girl who felt like she didn’t belong in their world, but that actually turned out to be a good thing. In the end, it was Alice’s sanity prevailing over all the nonsense that saved her life and provided her escape!

In our lives, all too often we feel like absolutely no one cares about us, or at least cares enough to truly help us with our problems. Even if they do care, they might be too preoccupied with their own problems to take time out of their busy schedules for us. We could be going through an extremely difficult time, but nobody seems to notice us struggling. Everybody has their own issues, so why would they want to help us, right? Many times it feels like we might as well be invisible as far as other people noticing us is concerned. Aside from people not noticing our struggles, it also can feel like we just don’t belong in society, at least not in the same way everyone else seems to. From childhood on through adulthood, our lives will be filled with other people who shun us or reject us altogether, simply because their preconceived notions about us preclude them from getting to know us and accept us. Here’s some good news, however – it’s okay if we don’t fit in with everyone else or the world around us in general, because we’re not supposed to. Individuals we come across in our lives and society as a whole will always expect us to conform to their perfect, artificial mold, built from their own shallow standards and limited perspective. Don’t despair of being stuck in this impossible situation, though, because Jesus Christ Himself was not immune to the shallow judgments of people in this world. Jesus, being the Son of God, was completely PERFECT, and yet He STILL wasn’t good enough for some people! Just like Alice in her story, Jesus was the only truly sane Person when it was really everyone else who had the problem!

If there is any comfort to be found in the rejection or dismissal of man, it’s knowing that our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, suffered the very same things. When other people ignore us and make us feel like we’re invisible, Jesus is there to put His arm around us, providing unconditional love and support. When we’re struggling with difficult situations, and no one seems to notice or care about our predicament, Jesus is there to help and comfort us in our distress and sorrow. In addition, God is the One Who guides us along our life’s journey, showing us exactly where we need to be to fulfill His purpose for us. Even if other people don’t give us the time of day, we’re still important to God, and our lives will always matter to Him. We are wonderfully accepted in the love of Christ, and He is our sympathetic High Priest Who cares deeply about each and every one of our troubles. While other individuals may underestimate us, our abilities, and our potential, God is fully aware of what we are capable of accomplishing through Him with His help. We don’t need to belong in the world of other people’s approval, because we already belong to the One Whose approval matters most!

 

Here are some verses to help us confirm our identity in Christ, as daily affirmations when we look in the mirror each day:

 

Reflection

2 Corinthians 5:17 ~ “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”

Ephesians 1:5-7 ~ “Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;”

Proverbs 3:5 ~ “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.”

Isaiah 54:5 ~ “For thy Maker is thine husband; the Lord of hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; The God of the whole earth shall he be called.”

Romans 8:38-39 ~ “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Romans 9:20 ~ “Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?”

Romans 14:8 ~ “For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s.”

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 ~ “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.

2 Corinthians 11:2 ~ “For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.”

John 10:28 ~ “And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.”

John 14:1-3 ~ “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.

John 15:15-17 ~ “Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you. Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you. These things I command you, that ye love one another.

Philippians 1:6 ~ “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:”

Jeremiah 20:11-13 ~ “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.

Galatians 3:26-29 ~ “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”

 

There is only one way to cure mirror madness – by acknowledging Whose reflection we should be cultivating.

Forest mirror

I think we can all strongly identify with little Alice wanting to escape the perplexing world of Wonderland, full of “whos,” “whats,” “wheres,” “whens,” “whys,” and “hows.” With so many tricky questions flying around our heads at such a rapid speed, we’re bound to question our sanity at some point or other. However, this happens when we try to find our own way in the flesh, rather than consulting God and His ways. If we try to contemplate the above three questions by ourselves apart from God, we will most surely be driven to madness by our inability to find the answers. It is first of all our responsibility to remember that we are the creations of God, the Creator, and after that acknowledgment, everything else should fall into place. Discovering our true identity is a life-long journey, and at times it can be very difficult, but that should never discourage us from giving up on it. God Himself has placed these three questions in our hearts so that we will be compelled to rely upon Him, having no choice but to seek Him for the right answers. When we turn to the world’s tactics of defining our identity, we will find nothing but confusion sent by the Devil himself. Fortunately, we know that God is not the Author of confusion, and He wants us to be informed of the divine plan that He has laid out for us. For every single person who has ever lived, God has designed a grand Master plan for their lives that they can potentially follow if they choose to seek His will. Each unique individual will have a unique life story all his own, but regardless of the many different designs, God desires all of us to conform to the image of His Son, Jesus. “What would Jesus do?” has been a popular catchphrase among Christians for years, and it applies to all areas of our lives. When it comes to determining the purpose and direction of our lives, we can do no better than do exactly what Jesus did while He was on Earth, and will always do – trust God, and seek His Father’s will. Rather than saying “All ways are MY ways!” like the Queen of Hearts, we should say “All ways are THY ways!”

– Gloria D. Hopkins

Remember Your First Love?

 

Lonely Heart
Before your heart was ever broken, there was always Someone Who loved you long before you were even born.

 

Do you remember what it was like the first time you fell in love?

Falling Petals

Before I begin, allow me to express that I do not wish to bring up any unpleasant memories unnecessarily; I ask this question first of all so I can lead up to the point I will make later on. There is a first time for everything, and as humans, when we experience something for the very first time, it tends to be all or nothing – that is to say, we choose to invest our energy into that particular thing either one hundred percent or not at all. For many of us, the first time we fell in love was during adolescence, perhaps even much sooner than that. When you become enthralled in the throes of infatuation at such a young age, it is quite easy to put the other person up on a pedestal by seeing them as absolutely perfect. If you were like most teenagers at this stage, you probably thought that you were going to marry that person without a doubt, swearing your loyalty to him or her by promising them that you would be willing to die for them. Yes, that is indeed exactly how intense the emotions of young people in love can get, which is what makes it such a beautiful thing, and yet also a deadly one.

Sadly, this initial stage of romantic attraction is usually short-lived, and for one reason or another, adverse circumstances inevitably led to the relationship falling apart. Because you were most likely entirely invested in the relationship, chances are that you might have lost your identity in the other person, whether intentionally or not. Since it is a perfectly natural, God-given desire to become completely united with another person you love, it’s no great mystery as to why you felt like a piece of your heart went missing as soon as the other person disappeared. You probably spent a long time swearing that you would never fall in love again during your entire life, either because you felt incapable or unwilling to do so. However, no matter how much pain you felt because of that person who broke your heart, deep down, if you’re truly honest with yourself, there will always be a part of you that loves them, or at least the person you thought they were.

Heart in a clock

For you see, no matter how much time passes by after a person breaks our heart, we will always remember the feelings we had when we first fell in love with that person, and hold onto the memories of how we became involved with them in the first place.

 

“Why do we do this?” you may ask. Does the human brain delight in torturing itself?

While the quick, simple answer would be “yes,” that is not the complete, correct answer. My most reasonable explanation for the brain’s illogical behavior in this matter is this – the human heart is impossibly stubborn, and refuses to let go of its own understanding of events. In an effort to hold onto what little happiness we may have known in the past, we harm ourselves emotionally by also holding onto the inevitable pain that followed. This torturous process can go on for many months, even long years before we are willing to finally accept the truth and move on. However, it is highly important to understand that sometimes this is actually part of the healing process, and should never be rushed under any circumstances, lest you risk undoing all your progress as a result of your hurry. True healing can NEVER be hurried; pain must always be processed by the brain in all of its natural grieving stages.

<3

Don’t stop reading just yet, because I have something to share that might help you.

After the loss of your first love, and possibly many other loves after that, you might feel like your heart is long gone with them, with no chance of it ever being returned to you. You might feel utterly empty inside, like a shadow of your former self, unable to recall what it was like before your heart was broken. I know exactly what all this feels like, for I have endured this same pain myself for great lengths of time in my past. However, I eventually discovered a powerful secret that held the key to my emotional freedom –

Did you know that no matter how many times you gave your heart away to someone, or had it taken away by someone, that it is still held in the hands of Someone Who loves you?

That’s right – before you ever fell in love with someone, you had a First Love long before you even met the person who broke your heart.

Heart on the Ground

This mysterious First Love is none other than Jesus Christ, the Son of God Himself. Keep in mind that when I say “God” or the “Son of God,” I am referring to the same divine Entity, one Person in three parts. Before you were even born, your entire existence was planned out in God’s mind as an important part of His universe. God created your unique personality and fashioned your form in your mother’s womb with His own hands. The minute of your conception, God breathed the breath of life into your body from His very own nostrils. Even though you had no control over being born into the sinful human race of Adam, that didn’t stop God from loving His wonderful creation that is you. Because your eternal soul means so much to Him, God was willing to sacrifice the life of His own perfect Son Jesus, just so you could have the chance to live with Him in Heaven forever.

There are two essential truths that are inherent to God’s love for you –

 

1. God’s love is unconditional.

Mightier than waves

2. God’s love is everlasting.

Everlasting love

 

It’s important to remember these two truths at all times, for there will be many instances where Satan, the Father of Lies, will go out of his way to convince you that God does NOT love you, usually as a result of your sins. Once you arm yourself with these two essential truths, you will always be protected by the knowledge of God’s undeniable love for you. If you can always remember how much God loves you, then all the pain from the so-called love of people will fade into the background. Let’s explore the reasons why these two truths are so important for us to remember.

God’s love is unconditional, which means that no matter what we do (or don’t do) in this life, His love will always remain constant and unchanging.

Divine Image

From the very beginning of Creation, God has unconditionally loved ALL the souls that He has ever made. Although we are all born with a sinful nature, God still chooses to love us because we were created in His Divine Image. That perfect Image was tainted by the very first sin that Adam and Eve committed in the Garden of Eden, but it didn’t change the fact that they were still made to be a reflection of God’s nature. Since God imbued man with three parts, body, soul, and spirit, he became a direct replica of the Holy Trinity, which consists of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Because of this significant resemblance, God couldn’t find it in His heart to hate the man that He created, although He did hate the sin he committed.

The same thing is true for us to this very day. There is absolutely NOTHING we can do that will ever make God love us any less than He already does, or make Him stop loving us altogether. No matter how far we run away from Him, or try to keep Him out of our lives, His love for us will always remain the same. This truth applies to all people, both Christians, and non-Christians.

Seek and Save

Those of us who are Christians are merely sinners saved by grace, and we, unfortunately, are still prone to giving in to our sinful tendencies. God will try to get our attention back to Him in many ways and knows which ways will work best for us individually – through gentle reminders, or stern chastisement. Even though we have the privilege of knowing God’s unconditional love, we should be extremely careful that we don’t fall into the trap of taking it for granted. God’s grace and mercy do NOT give us a license to sin at will; they are there for the purpose of freeing us from it. Those who choose to ignore or reject God’s love in this life are putting their souls in eternal danger, a future where they will be forever separated from God in darkness and torment. While they live on this earth, they have every opportunity to put their faith and trust in the salvation of Jesus Christ, thus becoming a believer in Him. The time they have to live is God’s grace and mercy manifested, by giving them a chance to accept Him before it’s too late. No matter what decision they make about their eternal fate, God will still love them regardless of their choice, since they were made in His Divine Image.

 

God’s love is everlasting, which means that He will NEVER stop loving us. It also means that He loved us before we existed and will continue to love us through all eternity.

Infinity symbol

As I already stated earlier, God loved us before we were even born. Since God is infinite, having no beginning and no end, He alone is capable of such a love. It’s impossible for our finite minds to fathom the meaning of this, since we can only understand from a limited perspective while on earth. However, this is the beautiful thing about it – we don’t HAVE to understand God’s love for us; we only have to accept it. God loves us from everlasting to everlasting, because He is the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End. God calls Himself this in His Word, because He literally was there before the beginning of the world, and will also be the One Who ends the world when He decides it is time. This is a statement which shows us but a glimpse of just how powerful He is – He is Almighty God, and NOTHING is impossible for Him. With that knowledge, we should be perfectly capable of believing that God loved us before Creation, and will continue to love us long into eternity.

God keeps proises

We never have to worry about God’s love ending, because He is never-ending, neither do we have to worry about God’s love changing, because He never changes. We may have experienced tremendous amounts of heartbreak on this earth at the hands of people who couldn’t care less, but God will never break our hearts by going back on His Word or leaving us. He promises these things to us many times in His Word, to give us assurance and comfort. While people are untrustworthy, God is MORE than worthy of our trust, because He is without sin. God is SO perfect, that He literally CANNOT sin. He is simply incapable of it. This, in turn, means that He CANNOT lie, so we can be sure of His promises to us with absolute certainty.

All of this might sound too good to be true, but our souls can rejoice in the fact that it IS true. God is the only Absolute that we can ever depend on, and the same thing goes for His love for us. When man disappoints us, God is there to exceed our expectations. When man lies to us, God embodies absolute truth. When man forsakes us, God is always there by our side no matter what. NOTHING can separate us from this glorious love of His, not people, not demons, not even the Devil himself. For you see, God’s love is just as powerful as He is, being that it comes from Him. God IS love.

His love gives life

 

Now that we know the truths about God’s love, we can understand why He is our REAL First Love.

God alone is the One Who is truly deserving of our hearts, and their full capacity for love. This is His divine right because He made them. As if that reason were not enough, God has divine rights to our hearts because He PAID for them with the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ. We are forever indebted to our Creator to give Him the maximum depths of our heart’s devotion, loyalty, and love. We would be remiss if we ever forgot Him. We should love God because He first loved us, and He knew that we had a choice to love Him back. God sent His Son Jesus to die for our sins to prove His love for us, knowing full well that our free will gave us the potential option to reject Him. That is just how powerful God’s love is, because He was brave enough to allow it to be rejected, and even scorned. God’s true love is fearless for that very reason, and we should fearlessly return His love.

Trapped heart

I will readily admit that I still remember my first earthly love, and I will always remember him, no matter how much time has passed since he’s been out of my life. I was so devastated by his repeated betrayals of me, and could never forget every word he said to me, both good and bad. I completely lost my identity in how much I loved him, and felt unspeakable anguish once I finally realized that he never really loved me. I was a hopeless prisoner of all the pain he caused me, and remained trapped emotionally for years, until the day God revealed to me that I was totally missing a crucial point. It was one day that I was riding in a van while working at a summer camp, exactly one year after my first love betrayed me for the last time. I was sitting in the back seat while gazing out the window, watching the trees and fields fly by rapidly, and my thoughts were utterly consumed with all the good and bad memories of the previous year. Then I turned my gaze up towards the sky and the sun, which always reminded me of God’s presence. It was at that moment that God silently got my attention through the whispers of His Holy Spirit – He asked me, “Why are you focusing so much on how much he didn’t love you, when instead you could be focusing on how much I DO love you?”

Chained hearts

I felt totally shocked at this revelation, feeling like I was completely oblivious to that point. When God whispered that question to me, the voice of His Holy Spirit sounded slightly offended that I didn’t recognize it sooner, as if to imply that I was being foolish and ignorant in my stubborn heart. However, that question was a turning point for me emotionally, and it was only then after I realized its logic that I truly started to heal. All of my former attempts to ignore my pain by distracting myself with my busy schedule at summer camp were in vain, but not after God asked me that question. I even shared this moment with a good friend of mine who also worked there that summer, and she told me that it also helped her in healing from her own heartbreak. That was the year that God set me free from the chains that were holding my heart hostage, and I’ll never forget what He taught me that summer. I found the key to my emotional freedom when I listened to God’s voice in His quiet question to my heart. So now that I have shared this story with you, I hope that it will potentially help you in the same way if you too have been hurt in the past by your first love.

 

Here are some heartfelt messages from your real First Love to remind you of His passion for you:

 

1 Chronicles 16:34 ~ “O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever.”

Psalm 86:15 ~ “But thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, long suffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth.

Psalm 103:17 ~ “But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children’s children;”

Psalm 107:8-9 ~ “Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men! For he satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness.

Psalm 139:13-18 ~ “For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them. How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand: when I awake, I am still with thee.”

Jeremiah 31:3 ~ “The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.”

Zephaniah 3:17 ~ “The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing.

Matthew 22:37-39 ~ “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.

John 3:16 ~ “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him, should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

John 13:34-35 ~ “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”

John 15:13 ~ “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

Romans 5:8 ~ “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

Romans 8:38-39 ~ “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Galatians 5:13-14 ~ “For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

Ephesians 5:2 ~ “And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour.

1 Peter 4:8 ~ “And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.

1 John 3:1 ~ “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 3:16-18 ~ “Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.

1 John 4:7-8 ~ “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.”

1 John 4:9-11 ~ “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.

1 John 4:18-19 ~ “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. We love him, because he first loved us.

Hebrews 13:5 ~ “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.”

Revelation 1:8 ~ “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.”

Revelation 2:4 ~ “Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.
The pain of your past is powerless to control you when you remember your real First Love.
My Healer
Everyone says that time heals all wounds, but I disagree with that saying. The passing of time only distances your memory from whatever happened that hurt you. Deep in the recesses of your mind, you’ll always remember what happened, and your heart never forgets the feelings it once had. However, GOD heals all wounds. Once you discover that His love is greater than all others, you will achieve a powerful victory. For me personally, it actually hurts to think of how long it’s been since I was hurt by my first love, since it makes me feel like there was no justice, as he was never truly sorry. It’s been almost ten years since my heart was first broken, and yet I still remember everything as if it happened yesterday. That is how I realize that time is simply a human construct to help us measure the days and years. I know that my earthly first love has long since forgotten me, but I have never forgotten him. It feels like it’s been a thousand years since I first fell in love with him. I’m sure that if you’ve been reading this, you most likely know what I’m talking about from your own experiences. God exists outside of time – one day to Him is as a thousand years, and a thousand years is as one day. Don’t worry, for God has promised to avenge our past sorrows on this earth; revenge only belongs to Him. He still remembers our pain just as well as we do, and yet He also helps us to overcome it. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been forgotten by your first love, because God has never forgotten you. When we ask Him to help us remember every day just how much He loves us, then Satan is powerless to use our past pain to defeat us. We must always remember our real First Love, because He is the only One Whose love is actually worth remembering.
– Gloria D. Hopkins

Speak Up, Don’t Give Up!

 

Alone At Sea
Please don’t choose to end it all, when you don’t know the end of it all.

 

I realize that September is nearly over already, but I feel compelled to write about this subject before it passes: National Suicide Awareness Month. While I am happy that there is a specific month dedicated to making people more mindful of this issue, I wish that our society would realize just how serious it is throughout the entire year, as this problem will never completely go away while this dark, fallen world exists.

There are countless people in this world who suffer from depression, which as a condition itself comes in many different forms. It is far more than just a negative emotional state; it is medically proven to be a mental illness that strongly affects one’s emotions and sense of rationality. However, I’m not writing this post to elaborate on the complex definition of depression – I’m writing this to help those who might be struggling with it, and also people who have loved ones in their lives that are also struggling with it.

Before I continue, let me clarify that the entire reason I started this blog was for the purpose of encouraging people to keep their joy in spite of dark circumstances. Satan’s primary goal when attacking Christians is to steal their joy. He achieves this by causing them to focus far too much on all the many negative things in their lives instead of God and His goodness. You see, because Satan hates God so much, he goes out of his way to convince people, including Christians, that God is not the good, loving Creator that He says He is. Satan even tells himself this lie to justify his rebellion against God when he still lived in Heaven. Satan reasons that if he can’t win against God, then he wants to pull as many people into the darkness with him as he possibly can.

Now, Christians have already been saved from the darkness of Hell, but they are still not immune to emotional and spiritual darkness.

God has already won the victory over Satan, death, and Hell, and Christians who have accepted Him are granted eternal security. Satan knows this, and he HATES that there is absolutely NOTHING he can do about it. God’s power will ALWAYS be superior to his, and Satan can never change that fact. However, Satan is certainly not above being petty against God, because he is the biggest sore loser in the entire universe. Even though Satan cannot counteract what Christ did for us at Calvary, he resorts to an alternative strategy to try to destroy Christians’ lives – he wants to render them completely useless for God’s service in this world.

“Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:” ~ Colossians 1:12-14

 

Painful Reflection
Artist credit: Geoffrey Jones

 

Satan knows that a Christian who is filled with God’s power will be victorious over him, so he makes it his primary goal to convince Christians that they are powerless over their lives. He relentlessly attacks people by taunting them with the difficult life circumstances they face and drives them into despair and agony by reminding them that they are helpless to do anything to change their miserable condition. Satan wants to emphasize how Christians don’t possess God’s power over their circumstances themselves and wants to keep them ignorant of the fact that they are capable of spiritually and emotionally rising above the circumstances that he (Satan) is using to harm them.

“There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” ~ 1 Corinthians 10:13

Once a Christian makes the heartbreaking decision to end his or her own life, Satan rejoices at winning a trophy against God.

Now, please don’t misinterpret the above statement. After receiving salvation, a person belongs to God for all eternity, and Satan can never possess custody of his or her soul again. However, if a Christian chooses to kill himself, Satan sees his death as one less warrior in God’s army to be used in the ongoing spiritual battle against him. The more Christians that Satan can take out of the fight, the less opposition he’ll have to face in this world, meaning that the billions of other lost souls that exist will have a much stronger chance of remaining lost forever, doomed to Hell.

“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” ~ Ephesians 6:12

Therefore, committing suicide as a Christian is not only a sin, but it is also STEALING a valuable servant and potential warrior from God Himself.

When Jesus died on the cross for your sins, He gave everything He had just so you could be freed from Satan’s evil clutches and join Him in Heaven forever someday. Jesus gave you this opportunity through His glorious act of unconditional love on the cross, even though you had the option of never loving Him back. Jesus gave up His own life because He loved you enough to rescue you from the punishment of sin; He didn’t make His ultimate sacrifice just so you could throw your life away and all of your limitless potential you had to serve Him. Through the blood of Jesus Christ, God literally bought you back from Satan himself, since he is the god of this present world. After you accept salvation, Satan and the love of self are no longer your true masters – God alone is. Without trying to sound harsh or judgmental, my friend who is reading this, what right do you have to rob God of the service of your life that He rightfully purchased with the blood of His precious Son?

“What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” ~ 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

Now that I have explained the tragic loss of suicide from God’s perspective, allow me to just talk to you as a friend.

First of all, let me just say that I know exactly what it feels like to struggle with suicidal thoughts. In my life, I have been through several dark experiences that Satan has tried to use to destroy me to the very best of his ability. These include being bullied severely during my entire childhood at school – in elementary, middle, and high school; being involved in an extremely emotionally abusive romantic relationship; being betrayed by people whom I thought were my real friends, and the list goes on and on. I fully realize that I am not the only one who has suffered these things, but that in no way detracts from the great deal of pain I have been through because of them all. In fact, to this very day I still have to ask God to help me deal with the emotional scars that I’ve gained from my difficult past. There are certain negative things that will trigger my memory, which just so happens to be photographic, and my brain doesn’t need help remembering what it already holds onto so vividly whether I like it or not.

Mood Ring Finger
I’ve worn this mood ring on my right middle finger since the summer of 2013, the last time I was really struggling. Half of it changes color, and the other half glows in the dark. My mom bought it for me at the beach when she was trying to help distract me from my pain. I have worn it every day ever since to remind me of my mom’s love for me, and also to remind me to keep glowing in the dark.

The way that people have treated me throughout the course of my relatively brief lifetime has taken an immense toll on my personal self esteem. Because of this, I am not ashamed to admit that I still struggle with issues such as my self worth, since many people made me feel like I was never good enough for them, and that nothing I did could ever please them. Satan loves it when I feel this way, because he wants me to forget about how God sees me in His eyes – which is a valuable soul that He created, and sent His Son to rescue from Hell by dying on the cross for me. Whenever I’m tempted with suicidal thoughts, I remind myself of how I belong to God in both body and soul, and I have no right to steal from Him what He has already rightfully bought.

 

So I say all that to say this –

 

I know what it’s like to feel overwhelmed with the rainstorm of your own emotions.

 

Alone In the Rain

I have endured many sleepless nights where I was drowning in my own tears, helplessly engulfed in the sea of personal sorrow. My mind has the potential to be my own greatest enemy, if I allow it to be. When I don’t give God full control over my thoughts, I can very easily be dragged down into the depths of despair if I’m not careful. My negative emotions, if left unchecked, can numb me to the outside world around me to the point where I don’t even notice all the other many people who are suffering from their own pain. That’s the thing about Satan’s strategy of self-pity – he wants us to be so wrapped up in our own problems that we won’t have any time left to care about those around us. Who knows how different things would be if we took the time to ask other people how they’re doing, and discovered that they’re struggling with the same problems that we are? Not only would we be helping other people to see that they’re not alone, but we’d also be helping ourselves to find out that WE’RE not alone after all like we thought!

If you feel like you just can’t take it anymore, please, by all means, TELL SOMEBODY. Speak up, just don’t give up! Don’t feel ashamed to be honest about how you’re feeling with someone you trust. Believe me, that person would much rather have you tell them NOW about your problems than feel guilty for the rest of their life after you’re gone because they didn’t know you were struggling. You are NOT a bother by telling someone whom you trust about the issues you deal with, even if you might feel like it sometimes. You might have had other people treat you like a bother in the past, which is what probably led to these negative feelings you’re having now. However, if you can find someone that you believe is willing to listen to you, they will assure you that your feelings are perfectly valid and worthy of consideration. Be aware that Satan will whisper lies in your mind that everyone else doesn’t have time for you or your problems, because he wants to keep you from the help you need.

Furthermore, Satan seeks to isolate you physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

 

Alone In The Mist

When you’re feeling depressed to the point of having suicidal thoughts, your natural instinct is to shut yourself off from other people, simply because you assume that nobody else understands what you’re going through. However, this is the worst possible thing you can do, since Satan loves to attack us when we’re most vulnerable, just like the roaring lion the Bible describes him as. He attacks when you’re locked away in your bedroom, silently crying in anguish as you play the same sad songs you relate to on repeat. He attacks when you’re out in public and you see other people around you who appear to be perfectly happy, enjoying all the different things you wish you had. He attacks when you go through your daily routine at work or school, through the comments or actions of other people that may or may not be intended to hurt you. I know exactly how Satan approaches his prey, because I myself have been his targeted victim in all of these scenarios.

Instead of hiding out in your room or anywhere else you go to avoid other people, try seeking out those who you feel you can trust, even if you don’t think they’ll ever understand how you feel. Chances are, you’ll wind up surprised at just how understanding other people can be in spite of your pre-existing judgments. Even if there is no one in your everyday life that you truly feel you can trust, you can seek out the help of professional counselors, as their whole career is about providing the listening ear you need and desire. If you cannot afford professional counseling, another option is seeking out someone involved in a ministry who has a godly testimony that has been proven over a long period of time. Whatever you decide to do, make sure that you spend sufficient time in prayer about it first. Don’t neglect the resources that are available and designed to help you. Remember, your physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being as a whole is the most important thing you can invest in for your life.

 

You life HAS MEANING, and the unique touch that you give to this world would forever be sincerely missed.

 

Handprint

Whether you realize it or not, your life is important and special, because God created it ON PURPOSE. You do not exist for no reason! Every single person who has ever lived was made by the hands of an Almighty Creator because He wanted them to be a part of His living Masterpiece. There are countless other lives that you touch every day which you are unaware of, and will most likely remain unaware of until you get to Heaven. Once there, God will reveal to you all the many other people who were affected by your life in a positive way, regardless of how significant you felt your words or actions were. That is the true definition of eternal riches – affecting and influencing other people’s lives so their souls can have hope and happiness forever.

Refuse to believe Satan’s lie that “everyone else would be better off without you.” The only thing he can do is tempt you with his evil influence; YOU are the one who has the free will to make a decision. If you need help resisting Satan’s attacks, pray to God to give you the strength, courage, and determination you need to fend him off. Satan is persistent, so don’t expect to see the last of him if you succeed in pushing him away the first time. Become resolute in your heart that you will turn to God for help every single time you need Him when it comes to this deadly temptation. If you feel that you lack the ability to achieve victory in this area on your own, ask God to send you someone who can be your human guardian angel. Just remember, the amount of emotional pain that you’re feeling right now will NEVER outweigh the pain of everyone around you once you’re gone.

 

If you know someone who is severely depressed and struggling with suicidal thoughts, please try to be sensitive to their feelings and HELP them.

 

Depression

Whether it’s a friend, family member, or just a casual acquaintance, anyone you know could be secretly struggling with suicidal thoughts on the inside. Because these feelings are symptoms of severe depression, they also make the person feel too ashamed to talk about it voluntarily. Society has placed a negative stigma on this issue for years, but recently it seems to be getting progressively better about being sensitive to it. We should always be concerned and care about the well-being of others, but if we ever have good, solid reason to suspect that someone is sincerely struggling emotionally, we ought to go out of our way to reach out to them. Suicidal feelings are a result of the notion that nobody cares about the person, and that no one would care enough to ask how they’re doing. You never know how much of a difference you could make in someone’s life if you decide to step up and show that you care about them. In fact, the difference just might be that you helped save their life.

The correct way to approach the issue is by just being a friend to that person. DON’T treat them like a freak who has something wrong with them. DON’T come across as patronizing or condescending. Just talk to them, ask open-ended, non-threatening questions, and BE THERE to listen. You don’t have to be a licensed therapist to listen to someone else’s problems – being a friend to someone includes being their personal confidant, with whom they can share their deepest thoughts, feelings, and secrets. Do little things for them to help them out, such as chores or errands that they might lack the emotional or physical energy to do. Surprise them with little things you know they like. Write them an encouraging note or letter to express just how important they are to you. Or, if writing by hand isn’t your thing, just a simple text message or email to let them know you’re thinking and praying about them would suffice. No matter what you choose to do, make sure that person knows that you have love for them in your heart, as God’s unconditional love is what makes ALL the difference.

Here is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, if you or someone else you know is struggling and needs help RIGHT AWAY:

Call 1-800-273-8255

You are NOT alone.

– Gloria D. Hopkins

 

Save

Shear Joy: Living Life As God’s Sheep

Sheep
The Lord cares dearly for His not-so-innocent lambs.

Are you sheepish?

Whether you realize it or not, you are a part of a universal flock that wanders through the many vast fields of this world. There is only one Shepherd that we all truly belong to, yet so many of us are gone astray, roaming far from the safety of God’s pastures. Jesus is the Good Shepherd Who sacrificed everything just to rescue His lost flock of sheep. His little lambs are very precious to Him, even though they are guilty of running away from home. The Bible says that “all we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:6) This means that every person in the world is a stubborn sheep who only wants his or her own way. Jesus gave up His life by dying on the cross for our sins, just so that we could all have the chance to be redeemed, reunited, and reconciled with Him.

Irish shepherd

If you have already made the decision to accept Jesus into your heart as your personal Savior, then you know Him as your loving Shepherd Who protects, cares for, and watches over you. If you have not made that decision yet, then you are still wandering far from home, lost in the wilderness of sin. Jesus is searching for you far and wide, calling out your name so He can find you and bring you to safety. You might be thinking, “Why would I want to listen to Him, when right now I can do whatever I want and go wherever I please? What’s the use of being stuck behind a boring fence? It’s so much more wild and exciting out here!” My friend, while I fully understand this type of reasoning, I must lovingly inform you that it is faulty and foolish. You may have the freedom to do whatever and go wherever you want in the wilderness of sin, but it will only be a matter of time before you find yourself in grave danger. A lost sheep might enjoy exploring a rocky mountainside alone for a while, but who will help save him once he falls off the edge of a cliff?

There is only one place of prosperity, and that is within the peace of God’s pasture.

Sheep thirsty

The sheep who have been returned home to God’s pastures are far better off than the ones who are still choosing to wander in the wilderness of sin. Although they are guided and corrected by their Good Shepherd, the rescued sheep are the real ones who know what true freedom is like. Jesus leads His redeemed lambs through lush meadows, and shows them where all the cool, refreshing springs are to quench their thirst. These places of comfort are readily available to the sheep that follow the Good Shepherd, since He knows exactly where they are, and therefore they can enjoy them with little to no effort of their own. The lost, wandering sheep are not so lucky – they have to search through treacherous landscapes just to find a minimal amount of shelter. The lost sheep do not know anything about the blessings the rescued sheep enjoy, because they do not have the Good Shepherd leading them under His protection. They are forced instead to survive from their own natural instincts, facing the perils of this world without any comfort or hope.

Let’s explore four reasons why life is so much better as one of God’s rescued sheep:

 

1. You never have to worry about getting lost with the Good Shepherd.

Sheep on a path.jpeg

While traversing the fields and plains of this life, you can rest assured that Jesus always knows exactly where He is taking you. As the Good Shepherd, He is wise and experienced about the many paths He travels, so He knows which ones are just right for leading His beloved sheep. Among the many twists and turns of the paths of life, Jesus already knows the safest route to take. Even though there are times when He takes you through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, you have nothing to fear, as long as you carefully follow His every step. The lost sheep might feel like they are free wandering out in the wilderness of sin, but in reality they have no idea where they’re going or what they’re doing, hence the reason they are called “lost.” They do not know the security of having a loving Shepherd guiding them through rough, unstable terrain. The lost sheep just keep wandering aimlessly, hoping to find the elusive happiness they’re searching for; but their efforts are all in vain as long as they keep running from the Good Shepherd.

2. The Good Shepherd takes great care of His sheep.

feeding sheep

A flock of sheep doesn’t need to worry about where or when they’ll obtain their next meal, as long as they have a responsible shepherd looking after them. Likewise, the Good Shepherd never neglects to nurture His beloved flock, always giving them the freshest grass to eat and the cleanest water to drink. The rescued sheep have a calm assurance that all of their needs will be provided for them every day by the Good Shepherd, and this gives them a sincere desire to submit to Him. The lost, wandering sheep, however, depend on themselves to find nourishment. Sure, they might find a few patches of grass and puddles of water here and there, but only after a long time searching for it. Even after finding it, the taste simply cannot compare to the food and drink the Good Shepherd provides for His rescued flock. What’s more, the lost, wandering sheep do not know the blessed privilege of having someone love them enough to give them the things they need. In their attempts to be independent and self-sufficient, they’re missing out on the greatest things life has to offer –  grace and compassion.

3. The Good Shepherd shears His sheep whenever necessary.

Sheep shearing

Sometimes, even the sheep living among the rescued flock can tend to get their wool dirty, or just so overgrown that they simply can’t see anymore. Metaphorically, this means that Christians too can still be stained by sin, or so focused on themselves and their personal circumstances that they can’t see their Savior anymore, which is where their focus should be. In a state of temporary blindness, they might even stray off the pathway that their loving Shepherd is guiding them on. As a result, they may return with some prickly thorns, sticks, or burrs stuck in their wool. However, they need not become discouraged by this, as the Good Shepherd is more than happy and willing to remove whatever objects they got stuck to them. Occasionally, their wool might become so entangled with foreign objects that the only available option is to shear them completely. When this happens, the Savior lovingly holds them with His firm but gentle hands until their transformation is finished. Afterwards, they look so clean with their freshly shorn skin! Unfortunately, the lost sheep do not have this luxury. When they fall into briars and other natural snares, they have no one to clean up their soiled wool. They have no choice but to carry it around with them until it becomes too heavy to bear anymore. The lost sheep do not know what it feels like to be relieved of the burden of wool pulled over their eyes.

4. The Good Shepherd knows every one of His sheep by name, including the “black” ones.

Mixed crowd

In God’s rescued flock, it doesn’t matter what kind of life you led before you were saved; God loves you equally just as much as He loves all the other lost sheep He saved. You are special and important to Him, so much so that He knows you by name, even though the numbers He’s rescued are countless. There is no such thing as a “black sheep” in God’s flock, where one is set apart as lesser than all the rest. No matter who you are, what you look like, or what you’ve done in the past, God loves you unconditionally. You can rejoice in knowing that nothing in this world or the next will ever change that fact. Sadly, the lost, wandering sheep are unaware of just how much they are loved. Some of them even believe that they are not worth rescuing, because the distance they’ve strayed from the Good Shepherd is so great. If only they knew that they are just as priceless and valuable to the Good Shepherd as the flock He’s already rescued! They only need to hear His kind, gentle voice calling out their name, beckoning them to return to the safety of His fold.

 

Here are some verses to help you remember why the grass is always greener within God’s pasture:

 

Psalm 23:1-6 ~ “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.”

John 10:1-18 ~ “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers. This parable spake Jesus unto them: but they understood not what things they were which he spake unto them. Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep. All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.

I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep. And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd. Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.”

Isaiah 40:11 ~ “He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.”

Hebrews 13:20 ~ “Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant,”

Psalm 79:13 ~ “So we thy people and sheep of thy pasture will give thee thanks for ever: we will shew forth thy praise to all generations.”

Psalm 95:7 ~ “For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. To day if ye will hear his voice,

Psalm 100:3 ~ “Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.”

Psalm 119:176 ~ “I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek thy servant; for I do not forget thy commandments.”

Ezekiel 34:31 ~ “And ye my flock, the flock of my pasture, are men, and I am your God, saith the Lord GOD.

Luke 12:32 ~ “Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.

No matter how far we might wander away, the Good Shepherd loves us though we often stray.

Irish sheep

We never have to worry about Jesus rejecting us just because we have a natural tendency to sin frequently. Those of us who are rescued sheep still like to occasionally run off and do our own thing, whether we admit to it or not. Fortunately for us, we are blessed to have a Good Shepherd Who loves us enough to come looking for us every time we go off the path. Since we are inherently stubborn, He may have to grab us with His hook around our neck, but this is only because He wants to keep us from danger. As ignorant sheep, we do not always know better; we like to have our way at all times. We don’t always know what’s good or best for us, but praise God that Jesus, the Good Shepherd, does! He is fully aware of all our strengths and weaknesses, and is determined to help us grow in those important areas. Thankfully, God never gives up on us, even though we are notoriously strong-willed! As partakers of the blessings of God’s peaceful pasture, we should be joyful and thankful every single day that we get to live under His watchful care. We should go out of our way to share the good news with other fellow sheep who are lost, so they too can know what it’s like to follow the Good Shepherd and experience true freedom and sheer joy.

– Gloria D. Hopkins

 

The Gift That Is Always New

christmasgifts
We have one Present that we’ll never finish unwrapping, even as time is passing.

Have you ever had a favorite Christmas gift?

For those of us who celebrate Christmas every year, we look forward to the annual exchanging of gifts between our friends and families. Most people look back on a specific year when they thought their Christmas experience was particularly special. Their good memories of a specific Christmas might stand out for a variety of reasons, including time spent with loved ones, participating in family traditions, or even a vacation trip to a special place for the holidays. There is one thing, however, that many people associate with their favorite memories of a specific Christmas –

Receiving a gift they wanted with all their hearts.

Perhaps they received this gift when they were a small child, and it became a memory milestone that defined the way they view Christmas for their entire lives. Lots of people fondly remember a childhood Christmas when they got their first bike. Or maybe, for some families who could afford it, they might remember an adolescent Christmas when they got their first car. Whatever the item might have been, it probably satisfied their hearts’ desire in a way that nothing else possibly could.

However, we’ve all received some presents that we were less than thrilled about.

I’m sure that if we asked a crowd of people if they’ve ever gotten a pair of socks for Christmas, almost every hand in the room would be raised. There are some presents we’ve all gotten that we’d either just rather forget about completely, or wish we had never gotten them at all. Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean that we don’t appreciate the thought the other person put into the gift they gave us; it’s just a disappointment that they didn’t fully understand our desires, or were unable or unwilling to meet them.

This disappointment can be lessened, however, once we remember that celebrating Christmas, and just life in general, is not really about the things we have. Why waste time being upset just because you didn’t get everything you wanted? Think about it: before you wrote down a Christmas list this year, or picked out things you liked during all the months before it, were you happily content? Be honest with yourself, now. The whole entire advertising industry is centered around creating a desire or need in the mind of the customer. Before their ads and commercials reached you, you had no idea that you wanted something. That’s exactly how their business works, to produce a constant feeling of discontent in the heart and mind of the consumer. You have the power to outsmart them by thinking independently, though.

You can choose instead to be thankful for the gifts you already have.

This year, I wasn’t quite sure about or fully interested in what I wanted for Christmas. So in the earlier days of this month leading up to Christmas, I made it a point to enjoy the things I’ve gotten from the years of past Christmases, and remembered just how much those gifts meant to me at the time. It wasn’t long before I realized that these former Christmas presents were still useful to this very day, and that I could continue to appreciate and enjoy them no matter how many years had gone by. Some of these things made me feel very nostalgic, as if I were a teenager all over again. Revisiting these items helped me to experience the joy they gave me the first time as if they were all brand new.

Instead of getting caught up in our culture’s overly commercialized version of Christmas, I chose to view it as my own, personal, second Thanksgiving. My family wasn’t planning on spending extravagant amounts of money on Christmas gifts, and in truth, I wasn’t really expecting that much either. This was fine with me, though, since I honestly felt like I have more than enough stuff as it is, and that Thanksgiving is always overlooked each year. I wanted to focus on the many blessings that I already had in my life, especially the ones that weren’t material. I learned the value of appreciating the people I know and love, and realized how special it is to make the most of all the time I get to spend with them. I can sincerely say with all my heart that I was more satisfied this Christmas with the souls of people I care about than any tangible thing that they gave to me.

If you are a Christian, you already have a Gift that never grows old, and isn’t material.

Just as I learned to derive additional joy from my gifts of Christmas past, we as Christians have access to a wonderful gift that is continuously new every day. It is an eternal gift that keeps on giving in more ways than we can imagine. It is our personal relationship with Jesus Christ, the greatest gift ever given to mankind by God Himself. Our personal relationship with Jesus Christ is not only the greatest gift that we can ever have, but it is also a gift that never loses its lustrous shine as the years pass by. The gifts we receive on earth will all eventually lose their exciting attractiveness long after we’ve torn the wrapping paper off of them. Our relationship with Jesus will always have new things to discover, as God’s mysterious ways can never be fully understood by our finite minds. Metaphorically, we’ll never finish unwrapping the gift of Jesus Christ. The joy of learning new things about Him is ours to delight in every day if we choose to spend time with Him.

Earthly things we receive will bring us temporary happiness, but our relationship with Jesus gives us lasting fulfillment. After accepting salvation, He is a Gift from Christmas past that can never fade away or be forgotten. Jesus is the reason why we celebrate Christmas, and His birth is a direct gift from God. His existence on earth as a human inspired the very first Christmas ever. Jesus wants us to keep unwrapping Him every day, so we can see all the endless blessings He has to offer. We can enjoy Him for all eternity, just as we enjoy the tangible gifts we already have from years ago. The main difference is, Jesus will still be here for us long after our material possessions are gone with the earth we live in. It is up to us to make an effort to appreciate the wonderful Gift we’ve been given. We can only enjoy our relationship with Jesus as much as we choose to. The more we spend time with Him and invest our hearts in getting to know Him better, the more fulfilled we will be in our lives. You wouldn’t leave a present for you sitting unwrapped under the tree, would you? Don’t make the same mistake by overlooking your relationship with Jesus.

 

Here are some verses to help you appreciate and enjoy this eternal, wonderful Gift:

 

Psalm 19:9-10 ~ “The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.”

Psalm 27:4 ~ “One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in his temple.”

Psalm 27:8 ~ “When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, Lord, will I seek.

Psalm 40:16 ~ “Let all those that seek thee rejoice and be glad in thee: let such as love thy salvation say continually, The Lord be magnified.

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

Proverbs 8:17 ~ “I love them that love me; and those that seek me early shall find me.

1 Chronicles 16:11 ~ “Seek the Lord and his strength, seek his face continually.

2 Chronicles 22:19a ~ “Now set your heart and your soul to seek the Lord your God;

Romans 8:31-32 ~ “What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?”

Deuteronomy 31:8 ~ “And the LORD, he it is that doth go before thee; he will be with thee, he will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed.

Isaiah 41:10 ~ “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.”

Isaiah 55:6-7 ~ “Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.”

Hosea 10:12 ~ “Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the Lord, till he come and rain righteousness upon you.

Jeremiah 29:11-13 ~ “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.”

Matthew 7:7-8 ~ “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.

Ephesians 3:20 ~ “Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,”

Hebrews 13:5 ~ “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.

 

The gift of Jesus’ love is something you can take with you into the New Year, and all throughout the rest of your life.

The Christmas season might be behind us, but that doesn’t mean you have to stop enjoying your gifts, especially the most important One I’ve described above. You can rejoice in knowing that your relationship with Jesus stands the test of time, and lasts throughout all eternity. Even if other gifts you received disappointed you, this is one Gift that never disappoints. Jesus will never, ever fail you. If a terrible day comes in the future when all your friends and family forsake you, He will still be there. You can count on it. Jesus is ALWAYS reliable. He NEVER changes, unlike people. Whatever people have come into or gone out of your life this year doesn’t matter as much as you think; Someone will always be there for you. Jesus will fulfill your every need, and what’s more, He’s capable of fulfilling you in a unique way that people never can. Jesus can satisfy the deepest, genuine desires of your heart. Best of all, He understands you completely and perfectly because He is GOD. No matter what you might face in the future, if you truly share a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, I guarantee you that He will be right by your side, supporting you through it all. But don’t take MY word for it; GOD promises many times in His Word that He will NEVER leave you or forsake you. And that is the best reason for you to have a Happy New Year. Not only that, but a happy life also.

– Gloria D. Hopkins

Remembering Our Royalty

rose-and-crown
Our holy heritage should be evident by our regal righteousness.

Once upon a time, there was a majestic King, Whose reign was eternal and glorious.

This King had only one Son, a Prince of light, Who was pure and perfect in every way. The King looked upon His vast realm, and felt greatly troubled for His people, who were suffering from a hopeless, endless curse. As the King felt great compassion for His subjects, He sent His only, heroic Son into the cursed realm far away from His palace to rescue the people from their despair and suffering. With good fortune, there were many people who were rescued from the dark curse; yet sadly, there were also many others who chose to remain bound within its horrible shadow. The people that were rescued followed the Prince back to His royal palace, to await the instruction of the great King. The King welcomed His rescued subjects with open arms, and decided to adopt them into His royal family, where they would be loved and accepted forever and ever. However, the King gave His new relatives but one simple command:

“Now that you are officially part of My royal family, you must remember to act like it.”

The people listened to the King’s command, and promised to do their best to heed His wishes. They soon discovered, however, that keeping His command was easier said than done; for they were already accustomed to doing things their way like they used to in their villages before they were rescued from their curse. They tried to improve, yet always seemed to fall short every time. Luckily for them, the King was still compassionate as before, and gave them many other chances to succeed. Though the King was merciful and compassionate, there were some people who seemed to forget that they were ever adopted, and continued to live as they pleased in spite of the King’s command. This angered the King, Who was known for His kindness and patience. The Prince intervened on the people’s behalf by going before His Father, and asked for His grace and mercy. The King took one look at His Son, and remembered all the heroic deeds He did to rescue the people. After beholding the goodness of His Son, the King quickly forgave the people once again, and allowed them continue living in His palace out of His great love for them.

Though told like a traditional fairy tale, this is a true story indeed.

crowning

Perhaps you’ve already heard this story before, when you attended a church service or Sunday school class. Or maybe someone told it to you when they first reached you with the gospel. Either way, The King in the story is God, the Prince is Jesus, and we are the people He rescued. After being adopted into God’s family, we become real royalty, yet in a spiritual sense. As our Heavenly Father, God expects us to behave in a way that clearly shows we are His children. Do we always manage to live up to that extremely high expectation? Certainly not. However, we still have hope, because Jesus makes divine intercession for us before His Father’s throne since He loves us so much. God is always looking to advance His kingdom, so He wants us to be a good example to the world of His love and righteousness. Let’s take a look at a few ways that we can carry ourselves like God’s royal children.

1. We must clothe ourselves with dignity and respect for our bodies.

little-princess

When God first created Adam and Eve, they had no clothes to wear. The Bible tells us that they “were naked and not ashamed.” Unfortunately, after they sinned, their original state of innocence was lost, and their nakedness became associated with shame. God had already planned to give them clothes in the future to protect them from their natural environment conditions, but He didn’t want them to discover they were naked until He chose the proper timing. God covered their bodies with a sheep skin out of His love and compassion. Ever since then, man has had to wear clothes to cover himself. After accepting salvation, what we put on the outside of our bodies should be a reflection of the Holy Spirit Who lives on the inside. Therefore our clothes should be appropriate for every situation, and not draw too much attention to our bodies. If we are to be effective witnesses for the cause of Christ, we should present ourselves in a way that people will take us seriously. Showing respect for our bodies in the clothes we wear not only pleases God, but shows others around us that we seek to honor Him in our dress choices. The outer robes of clothes we wear should match our royal robes of righteousness.

2. We must speak words from a vocabulary of holiness.

crown-on-books

Every word that goes forth from our mouths should be measured by the wisdom of the Holy Spirit. God wants our words to be kind, true, pure, and edifying to those around us. Are the things we say positive and uplifting to others? Do we make an effort to display honesty when people ask us questions? Are the things we say full of virtue and praise, free from any sort of vile or unclean associations? Do we encourage others to pursue their spiritual walk with our words? The Queen of England always refers to herself as “we” to represent her entire royal family. In Genesis chapter 1, God refers to Himself as “us” to represent the Holy Trinity. Since we are a part of God’s family, the words we say represent Him, and everything He is. Therefore it is our responsibility to ensure that what we say is an accurate reflection of God and His character. The words we speak should be chosen with the utmost care and consideration for holiness.

3. We must embrace our royal identity, and never be ashamed of it.

graceful-princess

As God’s adopted children, we are very special, and nothing can ever take away our royal title. It is also important for us to remember, though, that being heirs and heiresses of the Kingdom of Heaven is a privilege, not a right. It is by God’s grace and mercy that we are saved and included in His holy inheritance. With that being said, we should take great joy in being called God’s children, and not shrink away from sharing our testimony with the world. Our royal Father has called us to spread the good news of us being found and rescued so we can give it to those who are lost and need rescuing. There might be others who despise, reject, or even outright oppress us, yet we should remember how Jesus, the King of Kings, suffered those very same things at the hands of men long before us. The crown of Christianity must be worn in full view for all the world to see.

 

Here are the divine words of our royal, Heavenly Father Himself to remind us of our regal heritage:

 

John 3:16 ~ “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

John 14: 15 ~ “If ye love Me, keep My commandments.”

Romans 8:34 ~ “Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.”

Hebrews 7:25 ~ “Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.”

Ephesians 5:8 ~ “For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light:”

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 ~ “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.”

1 Corinthians 10:31 ~ “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.”

1 Peter 3:3-4 ~ “Whose adorning let it not be that outward [adorning] of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; But [let it be] the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, [even the ornament] of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.”

Revelation 19:8 ~ “It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.”

Isaiah 61:10 ~ “I will rejoice greatly in the LORD, My soul will exult in my God; For He has clothed me with garments of salvation, He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness, As a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.”

Philippians 4:8 ~ “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

Ephesians 4:29 ~ “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.”

Galatians 3:26 ~ “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.”

John 1:12-13 ~ “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”

1 Peter 4:16 ~ “Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.

1 Peter 1:14-16 ~ “As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.”

1 John 2:28 ~ “And now, little children, abide in Him; that, when He shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before Him at his coming.

2 Timothy 1:8 ~ “Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God;”

Matthew 10:32 ~ “Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven.”

Romans 8:17 ~ “And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with [him], that we may be also glorified together.”

 

Our royal heritage is eternal, and nothing can ever change that fact.

It doesn’t matter how many times we fail God in our human weakness; we will always be His children once we have accepted His gift of salvation. Because of Jesus’ sacrifice, we are no longer peasants covered with the tattered rags of sin – when God looks at us, He sees nobility draped with the luxurious satin robes of righteousness! Satan may try to accuse us before God, but his wicked efforts are in vain as long as Jesus Christ sits at the right hand of God the Father. Once we are officially adopted into God’s family, we receive a golden certificate of eternal life that we can never lose. If you ever doubt that you are God’s child, it is for one of two reasons: you have not yet been adopted in the first place, or you have been behaving in a way that is the direct opposite of God’s righteousness for so long that you can’t remember if you are His child or not.

There is nothing to worry about though, for both of these problems can be solved through the simple solution of prayer. If you wish to become God’s child by getting adopted into His family, all you need to do is confess that you are a sinner, ask Him to forgive you, and believe that Jesus died for your sin; then the Holy Spirit will come to live inside your heart for all eternity. If you have been far away from God for a long time, and have been living apart from His ways, all you need to do is ask Him to forgive you, and He will remind you that you are still His child. God cares greatly about you, and He wants you to understand that nothing you confess will make Him love you any less. It takes lots of practice to train ourselves to behave like the royal children of God, but He is always there to help us when we need it. Our royal, righteous, holy heritage is secured at salvation, and it is ours to enjoy for all eternity.

– Gloria D. Hopkins

 

Five Reasons To Eat Your Words

Sugar Lips
Taste the flavor of your words before you spit them out.

As we all know, words can be either helpful or harmful.

It is extremely important for everyone to examine the content of their speech before they let their thoughts escape their lips. While this is a lesson that most people should have learned at an early age, unfortunately there are many individuals who are quite careless about the things they say. Sometimes those of us who try to be careful in this area can be capable of accidentally offending someone, or simply saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. Within the confines of human nature, it is a difficult challenge to tame the tongue.

Let’s take a look at five reasons why it is necessary for us to eat our words on a daily basis:

  1. Words are verbal symbols of objects or actions.

What most people seem to forget is the simple fact that words are tools to represent things. As an avid lover of the English language, I thoroughly understand the truth that all words have a very distinct, specific meaning. Therefore, it confuses me to no end when I hear people around me using profanity, since those words are usually unpleasant. This is especially true when I hear people using curse words that refer to bodily functions or other vulgar things that should never be mentioned. Instead of preaching at those who commonly use profanity, I would just ask them one question: Would you still use those disgusting words if the objects they represent literally came out of your mouth?

Think about it – would you really want something nasty to emerge from your mouth just because you weren’t being careful about what you were saying? I know it’s a bit of an extreme metaphor, but it’s an accurate depiction of what occurs when people choose to use vulgar profanity. Once a particular bad word is spoken, an image of the object it represents is planted in the mind of the person who hears it, just because of its common association. The result is a distasteful mental picture, all because one person did not make any effort to use decent, polite vocabulary. Instead of resorting to using profanity to express yourself, try to challenge yourself to use accurate, precise vocabulary words for the sake of being courteous to those around you.

2. Words can stay in people’s minds for the rest of their lives.

I believe that everyone who has ever lived has been guilty of saying something they shouldn’t have in a heated moment of anger, or at the very least speaking without thinking how it will affect someone else first. While you can always apologize for something you said to another person, your apology may not necessarily guarantee their forgiving you. Even if they do the honorable thing by forgiving you, it is unlikely that they will forget what you said to them anytime soon. No matter how much time might pass, or what you might try to do to compensate that person, the damage has already been done, and there is nothing you can do to reverse any emotional scars your words might have caused. It makes no difference whether you said something in haste or not; once spoken, your words can never be taken back.

While every person has the ability to make their own choices in life, hurtful words can still affect the outcome of a person’s decisions. Since most people are born with a natural desire to please others and be accepted, anything and everything they are told can be taken to their heart, whether they like it or not. Man’s opinions are fickle things; but how a person’s heart and mind responds to those opinions is not easily changed. The truth is, all people are sensitive deep down, even if they make an effort not to show it. Therefore, it is highly important that we show the utmost respect to everyone around us by being very careful with the things we say to them, since we never know how strongly our words might affect them.

3. Words and the way we use them define who we are as people.

Whenever you hear someone speaking with an accent, you can usually tell where they are from, especially if it is a very strong accent. The same thing applies to the words we use – our speech allows others to determine our level of education, our cultural background, and our character. Of course, for every occasion there is an appropriate style of formality in which we should use our speech. For example, the type of casual conversation you would carry with your friends at a party is quite different from the professional way of speaking that would be expected of you at a job interview. Instead of laughing it up and joking around with a potential employer, you would want to portray yourself in the most polished, refined way possible. Doing so will cause them to perceive you as mature and respectful. You should want your words to benefit you in all of life’s many different situations.

Also, the words you use every day will give your community a reflection of your testimony. If your words are positive, uplifting, helpful, and kind, then people will be more likely to say good things about you. If your words are negative, discouraging, contrary, and unkind, however, then people will be more inclined to say bad things about you. However, it is important to use good words for the sake of your own testimony, since people will always tend to criticize you no matter what you do or say. Your testimony in your local community is quite valuable, especially if you claim to be a Christian. The things you say are ultimately a reflection of the contents of your heart, as the Bible says. As a Christian, you are an ambassador for Christ to the world around you. Keeping your speech pure and your words honorable is one of the best ways to make God’s light shine brightly from your heart.

4. Words used in the appropriate time and context can be very powerful.

You’ve probably heard the saying “silence is golden” before. The main reason that phrase is so humorous and popular is because most of the time, the world around us is incredibly noisy! There are people who love to talk, and then there are those who just love to hear themselves talk. It doesn’t take very long to discern the difference between someone who is sociable and someone who is domineering. Sadly, many people think that for their friendships to last, they must be with someone who loves to talk just as much as they do, labeling any others who have a more quiet nature as “boring.” This unfortunate misunderstanding comes from these people choosing quantity over quality. It is far better to use fewer words in a meaningful way than to talk excessively and make white noise.

For example, if you have friends who are going through a very stressful situation in their lives, they would find you to be much more helpful to them by just listening to their problem instead of volunteering your input. Remaining silent as they tell you about the difficult time they’re experiencing is better than trying to fix their problem without knowing all the facts. However, your friends would be extremely grateful to you if you said something encouraging, genuine, and heartfelt to them once they are through explaining their rough circumstances to you. You never know just how much your appropriately timed words might mean to them while they are fervently seeking for hope in their life.
5. Words are a gift from God, and should be used to honor Him, not disrespect Him.

All language and forms of communication are direct gifts from God, and serve as evidence that we are all created in His divine image. However, because man chose to rebel against God back in the garden of Eden, he tainted the divine image in which he was created with sin, losing his former respect for God and taking the gift of language for granted. Because of this lack of respect for God, man began to take God’s holy Name in vain, exchanging its powerful association for a common curse word. Of course, God was not pleased by this whatsoever; and as a result of man’s wickedness, He made one of the Ten Commandments say, “Thou shalt not take the Name of the Lord thy God in vain.” Apparently it was such a prevalent issue back in Bible times that God literally had to set it in stone. Sadly, it is still a huge problem today, even with many Christians. God’s Name should only be used in a respectful way when people are talking to Him in prayer or praising Him.

When people take God’s Name in vain, they are forgetting that He is a real Person with feelings and emotions just like we have. Taking God’s Name in vain is essentially the same thing as hearing someone call out your name, only to hear them say “Never mind,” when you reply. Imagine if someone kept repeating your name many times, and each time you say “What?” the person just says “Nothing,” for the sole purpose of annoying you. You would most likely be tempted to lose your temper with them for wasting your time. Well, that’s how God feels every time someone decides to take His Name in vain as profanity. Most importantly, it offends God because people are using His powerful, holy Name as a cheap way of sinning, by turning it into a form of corrupt communication known as cursing. The blameless Name of God Almighty should never in any way be associated with the very thing He detests the most – sin. God specifically warns people in His Word that He will not hold people guiltless who take His Name in vain. A much better alternative to say is the word “goodness” in place of the perfect, pure Name of God.

 

Here are God’s own Words to help us to make better choices in selecting our words:

 

Ephesians 4:29 ~ “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.”

Ephesians 5:4 ~ “Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks.”

Proverbs 25:11 ~ “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.”

Proverbs 16:24 ~ “Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones.”

Exodus 20:7 ~ “Thou shalt not take the Name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh His Name in vain.”

Psalm 12:6 ~ “The words of the LORD are pure words; As silver tried in a furnace on the earth, refined seven times.

1 Corinthians 10:31 ~ “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.”

2 Corinthians 10:5 ~ “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;”

Matthew 12:36-37 ~ “But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.

James 3:6 ~ “And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell.

Proverbs 21:23 ~ “Whoso keepeth his mouth and his tongue keepeth his soul from troubles.”

2 Timothy 2:14 ~ “Of these things put them in remembrance, charging them before the Lord that they strive not about words to no profit, but to the subverting of the hearers.”

Luke 6:45 ~ “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.

Colossians 4:6 ~ “Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.”

 

What’s the flavor of the words you’re using?

Now that we’ve discussed five reasons we should eat our words, we should be more conscious about the flavor of the words we speak. Just like people prefer sweet and salty flavors with real food, Christians have the best tasting speech when their words match those same flavors also. Just like a chocolate-covered pretzel, we should be sweet to others around us by showing God’s love in our words, but also salty by preserving our Christian testimony when people ask us about our faith. Don’t be like some Christians whose words taste like vinegar due to their bitterness; but rather a perfect balance of good flavors to edify and build up the people in your life. So before you serve other people a meal made of your thoughts, make sure you taste and swallow them in your mind first! The Master Chef of course should be the Holy Spirit inside you, Who will let you know whether or not he approves of the way your words taste. Don’t feel discouraged, as this subject is something ALL of us must work on daily, myself included. If I can refine my speech with God’s help, then I know that you can too; you just have to trust Him and believe in His amazing power.

– Gloria D. Hopkins

 

 

“Forget Me Not.”

Memories
Sometimes we make God feel like He’s fading away.

Do you know what it feels like to be forgotten?

One of the most painful things a person can experience is being treated like they don’t even exist. While this can happen in many different situations, it hurts the most when the actions and behavior are coming from the one person whom we thought truly loved us. Almost every person with a beating heart has had it broken at some point or another by someone else’s words or actions. As hard as it is to go through such an experience, it becomes even more difficult to overcome when the other person adds insult to injury by just walking away, removing you completely from their life by going on with theirs as if they never knew you.

What you thought were good memories with that person before are soon transformed into sad memories, because of your mind’s association with the loss of that person in your life. The fun, happy times that were once filled with color inevitably fade into black and white. Even though you know that the person is gone, you might try to keep them with you in your heart by replaying those good memories in your mind over and over again. However, deep down you realize that it’s useless to do so, because that person from your past is never coming back. Your heart might try to convince you otherwise by imagining a false sense of hope, but your mind has already accepted the harsh reality of the situation.

Because the pain of being forgotten is unbearable, you might try to reach out again.

Maybe the person you loved had a good reason for leaving you, but it was all due to a misunderstanding. Perhaps there were factors in the whole situation that were out of your control, and the rejection and abandonment were never really your fault, or so your mind tries to reason. In an attempt to restore what was lost, you try communicating with that person again to resolve any issues that might remain, hoping to regain your former relationship. You might even pour your heart out to that person in a letter, taking on full responsibility and blame for what went wrong, even if it wasn’t your fault, as long as it leads to potential reconciliation with them. You wait in anxious anticipation for a response, any response, from that person, just so you can stop feeling ignored.

And then…Ghostly memory

– Nothing.

No matter how kind your words were, no matter how understanding you tried to be of that other person’s perspective, trying to reach out to them was all in vain; because they refuse to acknowledge your existence. As far as they are concerned, they have cut you off from their lives, in spite of all the love you tried your best to show them. You feel so empty, worthless, and used; and with every passing day that you don’t hear from that person, you can literally feel yourself fading from their memory. The truth is painfully obvious – the person you cared about with all your heart could no longer care any less about you.

As terrible as all of this sounds, we can be guilty of treating God the same exact way.

Something we must always be mindful of is the fact that God went out of His way to demonstrate His unconditional love for us by sending His Son Jesus to die for us on the cross. He did this for the sole purpose of restoring the lost relationship He once had with man, before he decided to sin and turn against Him. God never needed us, as He is all-powerful; but the truth is He WANTED us, in spite of all our wicked ways. He wanted to not only show His love for us, but also to receive love from us in return. We were all created for God’s pleasure, to make Him happy. Even though we are so incredibly undeserving of His love, He offers it to us freely anyway. Those of us who have already accepted His amazing love into our hearts are familiar with all of the supernatural, Heavenly benefits that can only come from knowing God.

However, even Christians are capable of hurting God tremendously in the same way that I’ve described above. God did not invest His most precious gift of eternal life in us just so He could be ignored by us. Sadly, many Christians do ignore God every single day, by living their lives the way they please, as if they never had anything to do with God in the first place. Whenever we choose to do what we feel like doing in our flesh over spending time with God in prayer and reading His Word, we break God’s heart. God’s Word is how He speaks to us, and His Words are very much alive. Any passage of Scripture can be used of the Holy Spirit to convict us, encourage us, or teach us valuable wisdom. More importantly, it is within God’s living Words that He so clearly and abundantly expresses His love for us. When we neglect to read the Bible or pray, we are telling God, “I don’t need You. Everything You have to say means nothing to me. I can do just fine living my life on my own.” Many people believe that lie, choosing to tell it to themselves every day.

No matter how long we may ignore and forget about God, He is still Almighty God.

Man’s indifference and disrespect towards God does nothing to change His identity or eternal authority over us. Christians can go on doing as they please for however long they will, but in the end they will still have to answer to God for their actions. Even though it breaks God’s heart when we ignore Him, He still has power over the entire universe that He made; therefore He is not dependent on us for validation. God has multitudes of angels that bow to His command, and all of nature obeys His will; so man’s selfish, uncaring attitude is ultimately ineffective. Since the very first sin, man has made a habit of exalting himself in his heart above God and forgetting how insignificant he really is compared to God’s glory. However, God still created man for His pleasure, and He deserves to be acknowledged, feared, and praised for being the Creator that He is.

We should never take God for granted; rather, we should take Him very seriously.

When man first turned his back on God, God could have chosen to just wipe out the entire human race, and make it so that he never existed. Such a course of action would have been poetic justice, and would make perfect sense, since man tried to live like God didn’t exist. Instead, God chose to give man a second chance by offering him the free gift of salvation, so he could once again be restored into a divine relationship with Him. Christians who claim to already have this relationship should be careful not to take God for granted, as God can cause certain things to happen in their lives that will make them remember Him. Whether this comes in the form of chastening or testing, God is determined to make His voice heard as He cries out to the deaf ears of Christians who ignore and forget Him. It is out of God’s unconditional love and mercy that He chooses to do this, since He alone understands the intrinsic needs of the human hearts that He made. We will always need God in our lives, no matter how much our words or actions may deny it.

Just as we become angry and hurt when someone we love forgets us, so does God.

God is the ultimate standard for love, loyalty, and faithfulness; so forgetting God is a sad, foolish mistake to make. Unfortunately, sometimes God’s people have to learn their lesson the hard way before they finally grow to appreciate Him. In the same way that we desire to be acknowledged and appreciated, God desires us to thank Him and praise Him for all that He’s done for us. God does so many things for us daily that we are not even consciously aware of, and many of those things are vital needs that we take for granted. When God doesn’t feel appreciated, He is inclined to give people what they think they want – by leaving them alone. Not completely alone, of course, as He has promised to never leave us or forsake us; but sometimes God will communicate to us by withholding His blessings that we normally might presume upon.

For example, in the Bible, when the Israelites were in a vicious cycle of sinning by falling into idolatry, God would take away His divine protection from them, causing them to become vulnerable to their enemies. It was only after God’s protection left them and they were attacked by their foes that the Israelites fully realized how much they needed God and missed His divine presence. People are often unaware of just how blessed they really are until their blessings are taken away from them, and God’s blessings are no exception. This is the reason why when the Israelites called out to God, begging Him to forgive them and return His protection, God responded through His prophets by saying that He was simply giving them what they wanted, leaving them alone to practice their sin. God told His people exactly what happened, that they pushed Him away so much until He grew tired of fighting against them. As a result, when the Israelites missed God in their hearts, God was grieved, and mournfully responded that they let Him go.

Sad

 

Here are God’s living Words as proof that God hurts whenever we forget Him:

Jeremiah 2:32 ~ “Can a maid forget her ornaments, or a bride her attire? Yet my people have forgotten me days without number.

Jeremiah 3:21 ~ “A voice was heard upon the high places, weeping and supplications of the children of Israel: for they have perverted their way, and they have forgotten the Lord their God.

Jeremiah 18:15 ~ “Because my people hath forgotten me, they have burned incense to vanity, and they have caused them to stumble in their ways from the ancient paths, to walk in paths, in a way not cast up;

Deuteronomy 4:23 ~ “Take heed unto yourselves, lest ye forget the covenant of the LORD your God, which he made with you, and make you a graven image, or the likeness of any thing, which the LORD thy God hath forbidden thee.

Deuteronomy 8:11 ~ “Beware that thou forget not the Lord thy God, in not keeping his commandments, and his judgments, and his statutes, which I command thee this day:

Judges 8:34 ~ “And the children of Israel remembered not the Lord their God, who had delivered them out of the hands of all their enemies on every side:

Psalm 50:22 ~ “Now consider this, ye that forget God, lest I tear you in pieces, and there be none to deliver.

Psalm 78:11 ~ “They forgot His deeds And His miracles that He had shown them.”

Isaiah 17:10 ~ “For you have forgotten the God of your salvation and have not remembered the rock of your refuge. Therefore you plant delightful plants and set them with vine slips of a strange god.”

Isaiah 57:11 ~ “And of whom hast thou been afraid or feared, that thou hast lied, and hast not remembered me, nor laid it to thy heart? have not I held my peace even of old, and thou fearest me not?

Isaiah 65:11-12 ~ “But ye are they that forsake the Lord, that forget my holy mountain, that prepare a table for that troop, and that furnish the drink offering unto that number. Therefore will I number you to the sword, and ye shall all bow down to the slaughter: because when I called, ye did not answer; when I spake, ye did not hear; but did evil before mine eyes, and did choose that wherein I delighted not.”

Hosea 13:6 ~ “According to their pasture, so were they filled; they were filled, and their heart was exalted; therefore have they forgotten me.

Revelation 2:4 ~ “Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.”

 

God is calling out to us to remember Him every single day, and we should respond to His voice.

Instead of treating God like an option, we should treat Him like the King of our lives as he rightfully deserves. Each day we are presented with the choice of remembering God or forgetting Him, and the outcome of either decision is very significant. Remembering Him will cause your relationship with Him to flourish, creating a spiritual intimacy that most Christians should enjoy. Forgetting God will distance you apart from Him, producing anxiety, fear, doubt, worry, and a variety of other spiritual problems. God is a personal Being, and He has feelings too, which means He needs to be appreciated and loved just like anyone else. A relationship with God is the best relationship that you can have, as He is faithful, true, and always good. The worst thing that any Christian could do is take this divine, special relationship for granted, by ignoring God and acting like He doesn’t even exist. The same things that hurt us from other people can hurt God too, even though we don’t always realize it.

I will openly admit that I deeply know what it feels like to be forgotten, and I am extremely acquainted with how much it hurts. After being ignored and forgotten by someone I once loved, I experienced pain in my heart unlike any that I had ever known. One day however, God got a hold of my heart and made me realize that the way I was feeling because of that person was the exact same way I made Him feel every time I neglected to fellowship with Him. I was struck to my core at this realization, heartbroken at the idea that the very pain I was feeling from someone else was the same pain I was inflicting on God Himself. I quickly confessed my sin to God and begged Him to forgive me for hurting Him in the same way that I was hurt. Ever since that day, I have tried to be much more sensitive to God’s feelings in my relationship with Him, as I identified with Him on that deeply personal level. I now realize that spending time with God is a special privilege, and the last thing I would want to do is grieve the Holy Spirit. Each new day, I try to remember God as I hear His voice softly whispering, “Forget me not.”

– Gloria D. Hopkins