January 24, 2014

My Epiphany (or Aha Moment)

I have spent most of the past few hours just thinking and praying and reflecting on my life, and I think I have come to the realization that my relationship with God didn't really feel real until a few years ago.  I grew up in a Christian home, as most of you probably know, but.. I wasn't “born again” until I was almost 13.  Even then, I didn't really understand what it meant to be a Christian, and I didn't really feel God close to me.  I thought I was a good, strong Christian because I went to church, read my Bible and didn't do bad things, but I was wrong.  Aside from occasionally “experiencing God”, my Christian life was pretty hollow and lackluster.  My motivation for doing the right thing was simply because doing it was the right thing.  I didn't do it because I wanted to please God.  I did those things simply because they were right, and that was what I was taught to do.  I never realized just how lonely my life was.  I dealt with depression for most of my life and couldn't figure out why.  My marriage was miserable. I was depressed and lonely and completely unhappy with everything.  The only times I felt happy were when I felt close to God which became more frequent, but.. was still lacking in my day to day life.

I'm not really sure exactly when all this changed, but it was some time after I left Jon Paul in the summer of 2011.  It was after I hit my rock bottom and had nowhere else to turn and no one else to turn to.  Sure, I had people I could talk to, but.. they couldn't fulfill my deepest longings and desires.  I guess it was then that I figured out that true peace and joy only comes from having an intimate relationship with God.  It was only after I found myself crying out so desperately for Him that I began to be filled, and not just a temporary filling, but one that lasts.  Most of my life has been filled with depression and loneliness, but I don't feel that way anymore.  I find myself with peace and hope and even joy in the midst of the most difficult circumstances because I know without a doubt that God is right there holding me up.  He will never leave me, nor will he ever forsake me. He will never turn His back on me, no matter what I do.  Thank God that He is so merciful and loving. Oh to be so in love with God that nothing else matters!  That would be so amazing.  To be able to love others simply because you are overflowing with love for your Heavenly Father!

I will tell you that I still have problems with loving others, especially ones that I feel don't deserve that love.  It is hard for me to forgive somebody who just does not want to change, but God tells us to forgive.  In fact, He commands us to forgive.  I think at the heart of my unforgiveness lies disrespect.  I found something out about myself earlier while answering some questions in a workbook I'm going through:  I do not respect people, and really, I do not respect God.  That is painful for me to say.  Don't get me wrong, I love God, but I just don't find myself giving Him the reverence that He deserves, and that really bothers me.  I have had a hard time respecting people all my life, and I think that is why I have such a hard time revering God.

I will let you in on a little “secret”.  Throughout most of my life, the main, if not only, reason I did the right thing was because I was afraid of the consequences of doing wrong.  I rarely went out with my friends in high school because I was afraid I would get in trouble.  I didn't obey the rules because I respected them or because I wanted to do the right thing.  I did them because I was afraid of getting in trouble.  Fear has been my biggest motivator for most of my life.  Not love, not respect.  FEAR!  I hate that realization, but it is true.  I'm not really afraid anymore.  Well, not as much as I used to be.  But I'm pretty sure my motivation is still not where it needs to be.  I want to follow God's commands because I love and respect Him and simply want to do them out of that love of respect. I need a lot of help in this category though. But at least there is hope for me, right?  If you think about it, please pray that my love and respect/reverence for God will continue to grow daily.  It bothers me that I can love God but not revere Him.  If you go through the same thing, remember that you are not alone.  If you need somebody to talk to, let me know.  I am far from being where I need to be, but.. maybe we can figure this thing out together.

January 23, 2014

I Surrender!

I ran across this song just a little bit ago, and while listening to it, I was reminded of last summer... and, well, the past couple years.  In the last three years, God has demanded that I give up to Him the two most important relationships in my life:  First, my marriage, then my son.  I'm not saying that God ended my marriage, I'm just saying that He told me I needed to give it to Him and trust Him with the outcome.  Last summer, I felt God demanding I give up my son to Him.  I fought that so hard since I had worked the previous year trying SO hard to keep him to myself and hold him as tightly as possible.  After struggling with God for weeks, I finally gave my son over to Him.  I just kept being reminded of how God told Abraham he needed to sacrifice Isaac to Him.  If God demands that of Abraham, why wouldn't He expect it from me?  The best thing about surrendering everything up to God is that it is so freeing.  It is extremely painful in the process, but God gives you so much peace in return.  So.. if you're struggling with giving something up, just do it!  The results will be so much better. :-)  Getting to the point where you are willing to do anything for God, is so amazing.  Your heart just becomes so full of love for Him that it just overflows.  It almost makes me giddy sometimes, and I absolutely love that feeling.

This song talks about surrendering everything to God.

January 21, 2014

I Commit To Pray

Today, I was reminded of something.  Over the past couple years, I have felt a tugging in my heart for missions.  Last summer, our church had a former Middle Eastern pastor speak at our church.  This pastor works closely with the Voice of the Martyrs program.  I signed up to receive the VOM monthly newsletter and also received a free book entitled “Tortured for Christ” written by Pastor Richard Wurmbrandt.  While reading through that book, I felt God putting a passion in my heart for the persecuted church.  I prayed daily for them. Then, all of a sudden, I stopped.  My life got busy, and I forgot.  I forgot about the Christians being persecuted around the world and the suffering they endure daily for the sake of Christ.  Many of them are rejoicing in their suffering while I, on the other hand, forget.  I take my relationship with Christ for granted and begin to basically ignore Him.  Imagine ignoring the person that means the most to you!  Why?  Satan has ways of distracting us.

Well, today, God gave me a reminder.  I've been getting the monthly VOM newsletters but haven't read one in months.  Today, I decided to open one of them.  It happened to be the one from this month, but there was something else in the envelope with the newsletter.... A map!  The map that is attached below.  A few months ago, I remember hearing about the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church.  Along with it came a request to visit the website www.icommittopray.com.  I went to this website months ago, but it was still under construction so there was nothing I could do.  Our church had a card in our bulletin one Sunday with information on it for iCommitToPray.  They even got a map like the one in the picture below.  I prayed and felt God telling me to pray for two specific countries.  I circled them on the map in this picture.  I am committing to pray for these countries and also the countries on my VOM Prayer Calender.  Please commit to pray with me!  These people desperately need our prayers.  I am also going to post the video for last year's IDOP for the Persecuted Church.  I request that you visit the above website and look at the prayer requests and then Commit to Pray.