Why I Love God so Much

img_0415I love the Lord Jesus Christ because He first loved me and He has delivered me from many situations. God is concerned about everything that concerns us, despite the size of the problem. I have fallen victim to many situations, but the Lord has delivered me out of them all. Every situation serves to make me stronger in my faith and more dependent on Jesus. I hope the following testimony will bless your heart. It may seem trivial, but it was no trivial matter for me. God never ceases to amaze me about His love.

Four years ago this month, I was very ill due to a serious but easily treatable disorder that often afflicts people much older than I was. The ongoing treatment, taken once a month for the rest of my life, caused my brain chemistry to change. I suddenly found myself behaving and thinking in a manner that was significantly different from my usual behavior. Some of the behaviors I initially welcomed. None of the behaviors were negative unless committed in excess; however, I began to engage in obsessive behaviors. Specifically, I began to shop excessively and attend performing arts programs excessively. The first year was especially difficult. I had to pray myself out of shopping obsessively (shoes & perfume). After the first year, I still however, continued to attend many cultural events. The problem persisted because I loved the theater, film, and dance. Like an addict, I attended a film or a performing arts show every week. Not only was I spending an excessive amount of money ( I rationalized it because I received significant discounts), but I had little time for other things that I also enjoyed (baking, reading, etc.). Because of my addiction, I was rarely available to go out with friends (I attended about 75% of my activities solo). I knew it was excessive, but I lacked the wherewithal to stop myself.  By the third year, I wanted to get off of this treadmill because the velocity was too great, and my behavior too negligent.  As the beginning of the fifth year was approaching, one of my friends prayed for me. My time suddenly became extremely limited and I had little time for my compulsive activities. I did not renew many subscriptions, and I suddenly became less than interested in all of these activities. When New Years Eve 2016 came, I felt as if I wanted to spend more time reading, cooking, baking, and going out with friends. For one month, I have done all of these activities and more. I’m busy doing more of what I love. I still love the performing arts, but now my interest is tempered. I no longer feel as if I am missing out on something, but that I am gaining an abundant life.

As a result of this experience, I understand how someone can become entangled with something that may be detrimental to one’s life, but with prayer God can work everything out. Some things are lawful, but not everything is beneficial (Romans 12:2). I know that God commands us to cast our cares upon Him because He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7). The Bible also says that this light affliction is working for us a far more eternal weight of glory (2 Corinthians 4:17). If we are called by God and according to His purpose, then we know that ALL things work together for our good (Romans 8:28).img_0416

Let’s pray: In the name of Jesus I pray. I thank you for your love and mercy and for your hand upon my life. I ask that you will help us to abide in you and in your word. Please fill us to overflowing capacity with your Spirit. Help us to put you first by praying and spending time in your word. Help us to turn toward you and away from anything that seeks to hinder our relationship with you. I ask all of these blessings in Jesus’ name I pray with thanksgiving always. Amen.

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Finding Intimacy in Christ

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Intimacy is defined as closeness or friendship with another; it is a state of familiarity. When we value another’s friendship, we desire intimacy with him or her as we share our lives, hopes, disappointments, and dreams. When we call someone a friend, we spend time getting to know him; we talk to our friends often. Moreover, we cry with our friends during both good and bad times. My closest friend is Jesus; we talk and listen to each other daily. He has seen me through some of the most challenging times in my life, while never condemning me for the mistakes that I have made (Romans 8:1). As I get to know Him, my Christianity matures and it causes me to love others the way He has loved me. My goal is to emulate him. Without intimacy with Him, I can never hope to become like Him. Although I have not arrived at perfection, I nevertheless press on to win the prize for which God has apprehended me (Philippians 3:14).

My friendship with Him did not develop overnight. It continues to develop as the years pass. When I began to understand that He wanted a relationship with me, I realized that I did not know how to get started. But, I soon realized that because He is a friend, I could talk to Him in as I would any of my other friends. My conversations first took the form of formal prayer. I then realized that my conversations could be informal. Currently I often talk to Him about my life and about His expectations for me. One of the greatest parts of our friendship is that He listens to me and is a friend who sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24). He says that He even knows my thoughts from afar (Psalm 139:2). And He says that He is acquainted with me in every way (Psalm 139:3). God even knew me before I was formed in my mother’s womb (Psalm 139:16; Jeremiah 1:5). How could I call Him my friend, if I never spent time with Him? I get to know Him through His word, the Bible, and through prayer (intimate conversations with Him). I also write in my journal as a form of communing with Him.

Jesus wants us to commune with Him, to dine at His table. If we just open our mouths to talk to Him, we will show Jesus how much we love Him, and He will show us His abundant mercy and grace. If we abide in Him and allow Him to abide in us, we will produce fruit that will remain (John 15:5). He is waiting patiently for us to become His friend, for this glorifies Him! He “Searches the entire earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him .”(2 Chronicles 16:9)

I daily ask Christ to “Search me and know my heart. Try me and know my anxieties, and if there is any wicked way in me, lead me in the way everlasting.” He is faithful to answer my request (Psalm 139:23-24).

For personal reflection read Psalm 139.

 

Hiding in the Light: A Review

Rifqa Bary’s memoir Hiding in the Light (a New York Times Bestseller) chronicles her teenage conversion to Christianity from Islam. It’s a poignant tribute to the power of God and to the power of Christian testimony. Bary, as a young child, emigrated from Sri Lanka to the United States with her family. Before leaving Sri Lanka, Bary suffered a permanent loss of vision in one eye. Furthermore, in her memoir she details the impact of sexual abuse from a relative. After losing her vision and her “honor” because of the sexual abuse, she felt little love from her family. When she and her family moved to New York City, she developed a curiosity about Christian prayer and the use of the word “Amen.” From a young age, she sensed the presence of God in her life, knowing that He was always there. After 9/11, practicing Islam was not easy in New York City. Her family then located to Ohio, near Columbus. While in middle school, she was introduced to Christianity. She began to have a relationship  with Jesus Christ, later accepting Him as her savior. She was baptized years later, unbeknownst to her family. After hiding her conversion for many years, her family was informed of her Christian activities. Bary states that her father threatened to kill her (“honor killing”) if she did not renounce Christianity. Renunciation was not an option. While running away during the night, Bary with the help of Christian acquaintances absconded to Florida. Weeks later, a media frenzy surrounded her escape as the alleged threat to kill her became known. Her dependency/ criminal case (it’s against the law for a minor to run away) as well as her illegal immigration status received international coverage that pitted Christians against Muslims. Bary, seventeen years of age, was placed in foster care and moved from home to home for security reasons. In the end,  when Bary turned eighteen, she was allowed to become free from her parents. She received her Green Card, allowing her to legally stay in the United States (she is currently on the path to citizenship by her twenty-third birthday next month). At no time did Bary’s family admit any of the allegations against them.

Bary’s courage in the face of both adversity and danger is deeply moving. Although she was afraid, fear did not immobilize her. Bary desired to know the love of God and His providence in spite of the danger of turning toward Christianity. Through every step of her relationship with Christ, God led her to safety. Meeting all the God ordained people helped Bary survive crisis after crisis. She never lost her faith in Jesus. Prayer  and Bible study became the most effective tools to get her through all of the difficulties that lay ahead. The hand of God was upon her from the beginning of her questioning of Islam and throughout her conversion and later ordeal. She realized that the Lord orders the steps of a righteous man or woman (Psalm 37:23). Moreover, God did not give her a spirit of fear, but of love, power, and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7).image

This memoir is respectful to Muslims and it appears to be authentic. Bary never maligns Muslims; she, however, boldly states her position about the potency of Christ. From my own personal relationship with the Lord, I know that God works everything out according to the counsel of His own will ( Ephesians 1:11). Some agnostics or atheists may question the authenticity of this memoir, but my visceral response says it’s true. God loves His children, and he sometimes takes us to the brink before deliverance comes. Why would someone risk her life for a lie? Why would someone give up her family and her culture for a lie?

This memoir brought tears to my eyes. Seeing a steadfast Christian woman who made a life changing decision knowing the longterm consequences of family alienation makes me have a stronger commitment to Christ. Many of us come from a country in which we have religious freedom. We suffer little if any Christian persecution, yet we are afraid to share our faith. Most of us never will endure trauma and adversity like that of Bary’s. This memoir makes me desire a greater prayer life, and to be used to a greater degree.

Currently, Bary is in hiding, and has no contact with her biological family. She has forgiven her family, and continues to allow God to use her. God has restored her in manifold ways. She truly knows no weapon formed against her shall prosper (Isaiah 54:17). I pray that you read her book, and that it will have an impact on your life. Amen!!

For Personal Study: Read Romans 10. God bless you.

Andraé Crouch’s Jesus is the Answer

Jesus is the Answer

by Andraé Crouch

Chorus

Jesus is the answer, for the world today,
Above Him there’s no other,
Jesus is the way.3x
Verse One:
If you have some questions
In the corners of your mind,
Traces of discouragement,
The peace you cannot find,
Reflections of your past,
Seem to face you everyday,
But this one thing I do know,
That Jesus is the way.

Verse Two:
I know you’ve got mountains,
That you think you cannot climb,
I know your skies are dark,
You think the sun won’t shine,
But in case you don’t know,
That the word of God is true,
Everything he’s promised,
He will do it for you.
Chorus:
Jesus is the Answer, for the world today,
Above Him there’s no other,
Jesus is the way.3x

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Once again, no words can express the horrific violence in our country. People are hurting deeply in so many ways. Families need our support. We as both educators and parents need to regularly take time out to have discussions with our children about race matters. If we do not teach our children to love, who will? Violence is never the answer. Jesus Christ is THE ANSWER. When I was a young child, “Jesus is the Answer” was one of my favorite songs. It still is today! I have it on my playlist and it ministers to my soul whenever I play it. Although Andraé Crouch is no longer with us, his music still lives in my heart. How can we let people know that JESUS is the answer? What are some scriptures that we can use to generate excitement about Christ? Many people get excited about sports, and about celebrities; why not encourage people to get excited about Christ! The Queen of Sheba can be our template for gauging excitement about Jesus, our King!

When the Queen of Sheba met Solomon, she questioned him thoroughly to see if everything she heard about him was true. Then, she exclaimed that everything that she heard about his wisdom and achievements was indeed true. She did not believe it until she saw his splendor and wisdom with her own eyes. Furthermore, she says that what she now sees is far above what she was told. Further opining, the Queen of Sheba says to Solomon that it is a privilege for his officials to listen to him daily. She then blessed him abundantly with gold, spices, and precious jewels. He in turn blessed her with gifts of greater value that what she had given him. Like the Queen of Sheba,  let’s talk about Jesus, the King of Kings, the way the Queen talked about King Solomon (2 Chronicles 9: 1-12). Let’s talk to others about the wisdom of God, His many blessings, and His acts of kindness. It is a privilege to sit at Jesus’ feet to learn from Him. Watch and see the blessings (in many forms) that will follow as a result of blessing Christ through sharing his word.  Moreover, let’s pray that we will have a fresh encounter with Jesus Christ, that He will open the eyes of our hearts ( Ephesians 1:18) so that we “Will know Him in the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of his suffering.”(Philippians 3:20).

Let’s Pray: Jesus we praise you for your boundless mercies, for we thank you that they are new every morning. We thank you for your faithfulness. You are the lily of our valleys, and we will praise you forevermore. Lord, please help us to develop an intimate relationship with you. Please help us to keep our minds stayed on you so that you will keep us in perfect peace. We need you now more than ever. We ask that you comfort the families that have lost loved ones. We ask that you heal their minds and their hearts, and that you bring us all together as one. There is nothing too hard for you. We know that you have a plan for all of our lives, a plan to give us a hope and a future. We cast ALL of our cares upon you because you care for us. We ask that we open our mouths to encourage people to believe in you. Open the eyes of our hearts so that we see the far exceeding riches of your glory. You are the answer for the world today. Above you there’s no other, for you are the way. We thank you and we praise you in advance for all the blessings to come. In Jesus’ name we pray with thanksgiving  always. Amen.

For reflection and encouragement, please read Matthew 6:19-34.

Do you have a favorite Christian song? Please share it. God bless you.

Here is a link to another favorite.

http://www.lyricsmode.com/lyrics/a/andrae_crouch/take_me_back.html