Screwtape Devotional

The Screwtape Letter I read tonight got me thinking a couple of things. One, There is nothing new under the sun. This book, written many years ago, applies in every aspect of life today. In one way or another at least. While maybe certain things exist today that did not or visa versa, I have yet to be able to afford to write off anything God has been speaking to me through this book. And that, my friends, is a lovely feeling.

Two, friendship, whether in the making or ongoing for many years, is more important than most realize. The people I grow close with are completely my choice. And sometimes I know that we feel we do not get to chose our friends. That somehow they are just placed in our lap and we have to deal with them or learn to love them. I dont believe that is necessarily the case. It cant be. Friendship, not acquaintanceship, is too important and affective to our lives to be that simple. I say this because I realize more and more after this reading that I need to be more cautious about the people I spend the majority of my time with. I like to think of it this way: I spend the majority of my time with a group of people who reek of rotten old cheese, there is a much greater chance that I will come away from the smelling lie rotten cheese than smelling like a basket of freshly picked roses. Am I right? In the same way, surrounding myself with people who curse, drink, and dont believe in God will likely not draw me closer to God and make me a more closely mirrored image of him. Now, all in moderation, of course. Because I adore the opportunities I have received to be a witness to people who are lost and need a Savior just as much as me. But as for those I confide in, I must be sure to chose wisely. And to pray without ceasing. Always.

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What A Friend We Have In Rock The Universe

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X35JDIdQF5A

I spent the past weekend at Rock The Universe at Universal Studios in Orlando. For those of you that don’t know, it is a weekend long concert full of popular Christian artists that takes place within the Universal theme park. A few of my friends have been going every year for at least 7 years now and in the past 3 or 4 years more and more people have been added to the attendance list This was my second year going. When I first paid for my ticket I was in a better place with everyone else who goes. As the weekend was nearing I began to dread it more and more. I was not at all looking forward to spending a weekend surrounded by the very people I’d been spending the last few months avoiding. But I also have a habit of blowing everything out of proportion so when it does happen it’s never as bad as I made it out to be. 

Anyway, apart from my “best friends” there were many other “new kids” who have entered the group during my time of absence and I have never met. There are even a couple people who I have spoken to occasionally but never even been introduced to. There was so much drama and tension. I even felt a hint of possible backstabbing. With all the issues that I kept hearing complaints about from one person or another, you’d think we were in the middle of a 21st century blood bath. It made me wonder if this is how I was when I was in the center of the posse. And I pray it was different then, or at least that I had a tad more common sense. Thankfully the weekend itself was quite enjoyable. The majority of my time was spent alone with Nico and/or Dani (the friend I’m the most chill with). I was more or less with everyone during the concerts and there were times when that was overwhelmingly dramatic but it doesn’t even matter anymore and didn’t alter my life in anyway. 

The point I’m trying to make is this, I realized what a friend I have in Jesus. Although I didn’t read or even pray about everything that was happening, it finally started to hit me what a fantastic buddy Jesus is. The mood of the weekend made me want to screw all of life and I probably didn’t have the very best attitude but I learned a lesson from it and that’s what matters, right? Throughout the course of the weekend I got to spend wonderful quality time with my boyfriend which, with him living 2 hours away, is rare. And I finally got the courage to completely cut all ties with those “friends”. I don’t know why it is so hard for me to always remember that Jesus is the only one who is forever there for us, understands us best, etc. But He is and He does. Those who I used to spend all my time with, they have good hearts. They are well-intending people. But they are all stuck in a comfortable, upper middle class, suburban box complete with a wealthy church, Starbucks, and a Chik-fil-a. They don’t know anything or anyone outside of that.

Another thing I realized this weekend is that my heart now aches for them. I believe they’ve hurt and/or are hurting many more lives than they know. They are very aware that a responsibility comes with being the popular crowd at a youth group but I dare say they are failing. But I refuse to put the blame on them. I fully admit to and take responsibility for my own actions while I was considered part of the group. While I did say I had plenty friends outside of the initial circle I cannot honestly say that I did everything I could to make sure everyone always felt included and so on. So this is my accomplishment, my lesson, and my enlightenment for the weekend. 

9/4/13

I am a jumper. I can’t read just one book of the Bible at a time. I have been continuously going through Psalms and Proverbs since 6th or 7th grade. I’m making my way through the Bible from beginning to end and I currently find myself near the beginning of Joshua. I have been painstakingly reading through Isaiah for about 2 years now. I read Daniel on the odd occasion. And I jump around through Galatians to 2 Peter when I’m feeling desperate for something juicy (because we all know it’s impossible to not get something from those books). 

Anyway, I was “making my rounds” tonight and I had finished reading Proverbs 2 so the next bookmark was Isaiah (I don’t read all of them every single day) and I was skipping over it when a highlighted verse caught my eye.

Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing, now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?

Isaiah 43:18 & 19

I feel like I have made a post about this before. But anyway, I have the whole thing underlined and highlighted. I also have the words “former things” and “new thing” circled. Next to the highlighted bit on the left side I wrote “Total God Moment” and on the right side “04-16-12”. That date happens to be the day after we became a couple. Above the date I wrote “Look at the date.” I remember writing that earlier in the year when I cam across this verse again and it was again relevant to my life. Here I am, finding it relevant yet again. 

I remember the first time it touched me because you had just asked me to be your girlfriend. You were the new thing God was doing in my life and the “former things” I was being called to forget was Forrest. Now I find myself in another moment in life where the former is passing away and new things are being brought forth. The former being your old life, our old life and the happiness we thought we were living. The new that is springing forth is your promises and desires to change and do better. The reason this applies to me so well is this: I’ve been hard on you since you told me everything last night, and rightly so. However, I’ve been wanting to dwell in my anger because it’s something I strive off of, even though it is terribly wrong. This verse touched me in a sense of forgiveness. I told you I forgive you and I do mean that, but forgiveness means letting go. It means trying to forget (I say “trying” because we are human and it is very difficult to truly forget the wrongs people do toward us.) 

The verses I quoted were the Lord’s own words. He himself is calling me to “Remember not the former” and perceive the new work He is doing. I pray that I can do that. 

Podcast Response

I’m going to write this as if you’re not reading it, even though I’m about 99% sure I’m going to ask you to go look at this after I finish writing. But I want to say all of my feelings in a completely objective manner and be able to reference you as my girlfriend and not write at as if it is addressed to you.

I listened to a podcast tonight that my girlfriend asked me to look up. It was called “Should My Boyfriend’s Porn Be a Marriage Deal-Breaker?” She asked me to listen for two reasons. One, I have struggled with pornography for years. Two, I confessed to her last night that I have been indulging in it regularly for quite some time. I’ve sinned against her, against God, and against myself. So I listened to this podcast and it spoke some straightforward and honest wisdom into my ear from a straightforward and honest man named John Piper. I’m not going to explain what it was about, mostly because she listened to it before I did, obviously, and therefore would probably prefer to hear how I felt about it rather than what I remember of it. 

So, in the same manner of the day, I feel pretty much at rock bottom. You know those moments when no matter what you wish you could tell yourself, you know how guilty you are, how sinful you are, and that you need to make a change. Why is that? Well it’s because it requires work. Disruption of my routines. It interrupts what I’ve trained my body and my soul to take in and what I’ve allowed my eyes to see. In the book “Wired for Intimacy” by William Struthers, the author talks about how when a person indulges in pornography, he is training his body to not only desire more of what he sees, but to regularly require it on a daily basis. It becomes wired in his mind that what he looks at and what he sees are good, because they are linked with the pleasure that he feels. Now, I didn’t read that book but it was quoted in one of the first sermons I listened to by my current pastor Tim Grandstaff. That sermon happened to be the message I saw online that made me decide to attend the church I now do Worship for, volunteer at, and attend regularly. Now, in reference to the things John Piper said, I would like state the things I am either already aware of or realized through the course of both this situation and listening to this podcast:

1. I feel more like a sinner now than I ever have in my life.

2. I cannot be married, plan for marriage, ask for my girlfriend’s hand in marriage, or allow her to marry me until I have truly felt God’s precious freedom from this foothold.

3. I have subjected my eyes, my thoughts, and pleasures on other women besides my girlfriend/future wife and have therefore committed adultery in my heart and in practice.

4. My honest love for Jesus can no longer be words on my lips, but actions that take place in the world and in my bedroom.

5. Those girls I have lusted after are someone’s daughter. Their fathers are most likely torn apart by their daughters’ actions as mine would be if it were my future daughter.

6. My girlfriend is an angel and I have more love and appreciation for her now and in this moment than I ever have in my life. 

7. I have allowed my girlfriend to be the leader and supporter in this relationship. I position that I have been called upon to uphold. I have fell by the wayside.

8. I can have victory if I desire it more than worldly pleasures. 

9. I can have victory if my love for my girlfriend exceeds my love for pornography.

10. I can have victory if my love for God exceeds my desires for physical relief.

11. There is no 12 step program.

12. I have a gracious and merciful God that has poured his love upon me by allowing me feel convicted enough to tell my girlfriend the truth in its entirety. 

13. I need to feel the desire to lead Bri in our relationship, but I must overcome this through God in order to be in the proper place to do so.

14. I love my God and my Savior, Jesus Christ. 

 

So, it’s safe to say that the truth I was given in this podcast was the start of a much more humble lifestyle than I have been leading. One thing I did not mention was that. The humility you feel when God stares at you in the face and says, “You are dead wrong and have been all along. ” So I have chosen to live a life worthy of what God has called me to be. But the words on this blog sure as shoot aren’t the important thing. And for once in my life, I feel it is time to keep my word and grow the heck up.

Stand firm.

I knew I wasn’t meant o read Psalms tonight. Not that reading anything in the Bible is bad in any way, but what I’m saying is that I knew due to instances at work today, talking about how I haven’t posted in far too long, having not read in far too long, etc.; that it was a night for something deep, uplifting and encouraging. And while what I read was the most wonderful surprise to my expectations, it was uplifting in a way I had never seen previously.

2 Corinthians 4:16-Chapter 5. Strange to start in the middle of chapter 4, I know. But I had a highlight at this verse and sometimes I jump right to it because I know whatever I highlighted was for a darn good reason.

16-18 “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

Like…wow. You know why wow? Because I freaking needed that, that’s why. Feeling so… not discouraged, but just saddened by my conversation with an extremely cynical, inquisitive, and somewhat stuck-up atheist today, I darn straight needed this verse to build me up. But it doesn’t end there, because pretty much this entire passage was full of beauty. It wasn’t like a bag of trail mix where you have to fish through to find the M&M’s. It was just a bag of M&M’s. Pretzel M&M’s. The best kind because each one is better and more satisfying than the last.

“For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a BUILDING from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.”

“Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body, we are away from the Lord. For we live by faith, and not by sight. WE are confident and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. SO WE MAKE IT OUR GOAL TO PLEASE HIM…”

“If we “are out of our minds” as some say, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. FOR CHRIST’S LOVE COMPELS US BECAUSE WE ARE CONVINCED THAT ONE DIED FOR ALL, AND THEREFORE ALL DIED. AND HE DIED FOR ALL, THAT THOSE WHO LIVE SHOULD NO LONGER LIVE FOR THEMSELVES, BUT FOR HIM WHO DIED FOR THEM AND WAS RAISED AGAIN.”

And of course, it goes on to say that we are Christ’s ambassadors.

Thank you God. Thank you for giving me a Spirit that longs to do your will, even when I fall, even when I stumble. I can know that I am truly yours, that I am saved, and that I desire your will when I can feel your love burning through me into the lives and the conversations of others. Thank you for being a God that has built something far better for me and for all believers than this wretched world that has turned away from you. I love you Lord. And I will never be silent.

9/3/13

Proverbs 1:20-33

I could never ever tire of the Psalms and Proverbs and I am absolutely in love with the last verse. But I’m getting a little ahead of myself. Starting in verse 29 it talks about people who hate knowledge and what becomes of them, what shame and troubles they bring upon themselves. The chapter ends with verse 33 saying:

…but whoever listens to me will dwell secure

and will be at ease, without dread of disaster.

…without dread of disaster. 

It doesn’t say that those who listen to God won’t ever encounter disaster, it doesn’t say they will live a life full of flowers and butterflies or whatever it is that makes you happy. It just says that those who obey God won’t dread disaster. 

What does that mean? Well, to me it means that when something bad happens I won’t be entirely upset. It means that when disaster strikes my life or something that affects my life I will know that God is with me and will help me stand strong. For example, think of death. Think of funerals. Think of the desperation of funerals for those who do not, or did not, know Christ. Then consider the “celebration of life” services for those who were Christians. Personally I think of the services for two young people from my church. In October of 2011 my friend’s brother died suddenly due to an unknown cause. I won’t go into those details but the few days that followed his death were some of the darkest times me and my then friends had ever faced, and I’m sure ten times more for the family. They were blessed with a large house where we hold all the parties so everyone was in and out the whole weekend. The house was filled with quiet talking and the occasional tear throughout the days and loud voices mixed with the strums of guitars and drum beats on a Igloo cooler made Cajone at night. It was one of the darkest times I’ve ever known, yet we all knew where he had gone when he died and all of us gathered there to support the family and each other knew where we would end up as well. We all had a united hope. We did not dread the disaster. 

I also think of my friend Hannah who died last February when a gun misfired and shot through a wall and into her head. It was tragic, perhaps even more tragic than the other one. It was different because she stayed alive for about a week after the accident. Although every single one of us believed in our hearts that she would be healed we still had time to prepare if she didn’t. She was one of the sweetest spirits and most devoted Christians I knew. We all knew where she was going so, while we were all heartbroken over the tragedy our hearts were not in total dread. 

http://www.hannahgracefoundation.com/

I guess not having that dread does just come from loving, trusting, and obeying God. 

New Beginnings.

I did something very stupid this week. I did quite a few stupid things this week, the stupidest of them being that I let my emotions get to me and I didn’t post nor read more than perhaps the daily verse on my Bible app. This past week has been one of the most trying I’ve had in awhile and I am ashamed at myself to think I went this whole time without reading. I had been doing so good, too, and enjoying myself so much. I am going to read tonight. I’m going to read 1 John 1. I don’t know why, it just came to my mind and I’m going with it. I may or may not post about it. I just wanted to use this time to admit to the world (the little world that reads this little blog, at least) that I failed this week. I failed myself, my boyfriend, my friends, and God. Sure, He still loves me but we all know that we can’t go around taking advantage of God’s grace, especially in times like where I find myself right now. 

Thankfully this week hasn’t been a total blow. I reconnected with an old friend who is trying to straighten his life up. He even admitted to me last night that he was praying during church. He’s struggling a lot with giving up everything and finding his “happy place” but I believe he is really genuine about wanting to change and I am so excited that he is coming to me and opening up to me about it all. He trusts me with these feelings and decisions he’s making in his life and I really hope and pray that I can be smart enough to keep myself above water and on my own track with the Lord to be able to guide him along. 

I guess now I would like to make a sort of public apology/confession to God now. 

Lord, I let my anger, frustration, confusion, burst of rebellion and self-reliance, hurt, misuse of adulthood, and so many other things get in the way of Your love for me this week. I took advantage of how much you’ve helped me grow this past year, and especially this past summer, and I blew it all on a few lousy days. I am so sorry, God. I don’t have a clue what got in to me. I guess I lost sight of You and wanted to go off on my own for awhile. That is always a bad idea. I don’t deserve Your mercy and love, but I do hope that this weekend and this coming week will be better and I will continue to grow even more through You, and with Your help. You’re there for me even when I have no one or feel like I have no one. I forget that. Everyone forgets that. But yet You’re still always there. Thank You.