Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Our First True Love - Part 4

I cannot stress too much the importance of having Christ as our first true love. Our lives today as well as our lives in the future will reflect how much we tried to keep this concept through our everyday lives. In the last article I talked about the importance of simply reading God's Word. How can we expect to live a life full of love for our Savior if we don't take the time to read what He, with His heart full of love and understanding for us and our needs, had written to tell us?

The second vital key I want to talk about in having Christ as our first true love is taking time to memorize God's Word. Proverbs talks a lot about memorizing scripture and why it's important for us to take time every day memorizing parts of the Letter of Love from our Lord.

"My son, attend to my words; incline thine ear unto my sayings.Let them not depart from thine eyes; keep them in the midst of thine heart. For they are life unto those that find them, and health to all their flesh." (Proverbs 4:20-22)

"Keep them in the midst of thine heart." Isn't that beautiful? How can we keep God's Word in our hearts if we don't work to place it there? These verses make it clear that hiding God's Word in our hearts give us life and health that not many people can say they have. What I find interesting is that in the very next verse, it says, "Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life." (Proverbs 4:23) What is in our hearts will flow out into our daily lives, and if we have God's Word in our hearts, our lives will speak of Christ's ability to mold and grow people who open their lives to Him. The more scripture we memorize, the less room we'll have for things that aren't important and that can draw us away from our walk with the Lord.

As I was reading through and meditating on God's Word, the Lord showed me six practical points in memorizing scripture that I would like to share with you.

1.Who? Who can memorize Scripture?

Anyone and everyone! No matter how hard it is for us to memorize, we CAN do it. Prayer and focus is the key. I found that stopping before I attempted to memorize any Scripture, no matter how short or long, and asking the Lord to help me memorize and retain what I learned, really helped to get both my mind and heart open and focused on learning God's Word.

2.What? What to memorize?

I know for me, the biggest problem in memorizing Scripture is deciding what to memorize. Just open the Bible and pick a chapter! James is great because of its many references to practical living, Proverbs is full of wonderfully short, easy to grasp verses that are useful in everyday situations, Psalms is full of amazing prayers and praises that your heart can easily pick up and quote at opportune moments, what more can I say? There is a bundle of wealth between the covers of your Bible, just start memorizing!

3.When? When is the best time to memorize?

This might not seem like a practical question, but for many people it is. I find the best time for me to memorize is early in the morning, when my mind is rested and refreshed. Some people do better in the evening, or in the middle of the day. Choose a time when you can think and focus most clearly.

4.Where? Does it matter where I memorize?

Some of you may be asking, "And why did you put that point in? You can memorize anywhere!" That's right, you can, I just want to stress the point further. Printing or writing out your passage to memorize and sticking it in places where you will frequently be throughout the day, in front of the kitchen sink, over your desk, in the shower (yes, I really did this, and it works well!), and index cards in your pocket when you go for a walk, the possibilities are endless! Make it a point to go over your verses every time you see it posted somewhere.

5.Why? Why is it so important to memorize Scripture?

I spoke about this a little bit earlier, but here I wanted to point out two good reasons to memorize scripture.

1)Most importantly, it will enhance your walk with Christ.

"My lips shall utter praise, when thou hast taught me thy statutes." (Ps 119:171) Praise, adoration, prayer, testimony, witness, whatever it is, God's Word can fill and overflow anything you do in your Christian walk. You would be surprised at how much the many words you memorize come back to you at different times and in different situations, and how those verses make those moments so much more special and meaningful!

2)It will warn you of danger.

"Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee." (Ps 119:11) If you are consistent in memorizing God's Word, it will warn you and keep you out of all sorts of trouble. Take my word for it, those verses WILL pop up when temptations of any sort arises, whether it be when you are about to do wrong, make bad decisions, or put yourself in a situation that may become uncomfortable or dangerous, God will warn you through His Word.

6.How? Okay, I realize I need to memorize scripture, but how?

As I mentioned before, starting with prayer is probably the most important aspect of attempting to memorize God's word.

After you have chosen your passage, whether it be a few verses or a chapter, read it through a few times to grasp the concept of the whole section.

Starting at the first verse, read through a verse or phrase aloud at least five times, then look up from the page and repeat it five times without looking. If you need to go back and read it over again, go right ahead. The point is not to memorize quickly, but to memorize effectively.

After you can say that section three to five times through without any mistakes, move on to the next verse or phrase, and do the same thing. When you can get that three to five times without mistakes, put the two parts together, saying them out loud. Repeat them together until you get them perfect, and then move on.

As you memorize larger portions of scripture, you don't have to keep going over the whole thing each time you memorize a new phrase, just the two or three verses prior to it. At the beginning and end of your memorization time, go over all of what you learned once or twice.

As you memorize more scripture, it will get easier, and you will begin to find all sorts of hidden treasures you never knew of tucked away in God's Word. May God bless you richly as you hide His precious Word in your heart!

Posts from the Past
Every Wednesday I post something that I have written in the past. It may have been written a long time ago, or a very, very long tim ago! :-D So please forgive any mistakes!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Our First True Love - Part 3

True love is the foundation upon which we, as Christian women (young and old), live and base the whole of our being. This unconditional love brings us to a place far higher and brighter than anything we could have thought or dreamed.

Of course, we realize the basis and beginning of True Love was when our precious Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, came down to this earth and lived a perfect, sinless life, only to sacrifice it on a cross to pay the penalty for our sins. (John 3:16) Our admittance of our own unworthy sinfulness, our belief in Christ's sacrifice, and our confession of accepting Christ as our own personal Savior, opens the door to a new, rich and beautiful life of abiding in Christ, our first True Love.

But this is only the first step - the "marriage". We now have a whole life before us to live. Each day will be spent either in pulling away (doubt) or in drawing near (faithful trust) to our True Love. Doubtless, we all want to live in constant harmony and unity with our spiritual Husband ("For thy Maker is thine husband; the Lord of hosts is his name;" Isaiah 54:5), but how do we go about doing so? Unlike an earthly husband, the Lord does not talk to us face to face. Neither can we live with and relate to Him as we would an earthly husband. Some of us may even hesitate to think such an intimate relationship with Christ is possible.

Recently, the Lord has shown me three important steps to gaining and maintaining an intimate relationship with Christ. In fact, He has shown me that without these three things, it is impossible to grow in my relationship with Him. They are reading God's Word, memorizing the Scriptures, and meditating or studying the Bible. Today, we will look at the first step: reading God's Word.

For most of us, reading our Bible is a no-brainer, but I have a question: How often do we read our Bibles through? Some of us can happily answer that we read it through once or twice a year. Others of us blush to think of the one or two times we have actually read it through. Another question: How many books or 

movies have we read/watched in that time period? A pastor once challenged the people of his church not to read any books or watch any movies until they had spent time that day in God's Word. Another pastor asked, "If we read God's Word as much as we read men's, what would our lives be like?" It is not necessary to throw all books and movies away, but we do need to realize the amount of time spent in partaking of them in comparison to time spent in God's Word. We need to regularly evaluate how much we read God's Word compared with the amount of we spend doing other things. Is God pleased?

Neglecting God's Word is one of the biggest hindrances in our quest for having Christ as our first True Love. How can we better love and serve God if we are not continually in His Word? Reading God's Word is God talking to us. If we're not listening (reading), how can He make His will and His amazing love known to us?

I can read through a Nancy Drew book in an hour and many of them in the course of a day. Once, I read thirty-two Nancy Drew books and seven others in a week. What kind of a blessing did I miss out on by neglecting God's Word in favor of such profitless reading?

On average, a "slow reader" reads about 200 words per minute. In this case, one hour per day in reading God's Word would result in finishing the Bible in about sixty days. Thus six times per year. If you're really slow like me, let's say 150 words per minute, it would take eighty days, enabling the reader to cover the entire Bible four and one half times per year. That's in just one hour per day! If we spent thirty minutes in Bible reading each morning and thirty in the evening, we'd be reading through in no time. The more we read God's Word, the more we will know about Him, the more He can show us, and the more His Word is instilled into our hearts and minds, ready to pop up when we need them. Whether it is in times of witnessing, times when we need to make a decision, or in times of desperation, His Word, which we have read, will make themselves known in our need.

Let me encourage each of us to take time to read through Psalm 119. Each time we come across anything that talks about God's Word (statutes, judgments, commandments, law, precepts, etc.), write it down. It will really open our eyes to the importance of His Word. May God bless each of us as we learn to live in harmony and intimacy with our first True Love.

Posts from the Past
Every Wednesday I post something that I have written in the past. It may have been written a long time ago, or a very, very long tim ago! :-D So please forgive any mistakes!

Monday, February 17, 2014

"Winter's Past"

This was a very different venture for me. As you can see, it is a very different subject than the rest of my paintings, but I admit, I'm enjoying spreading out to new areas.

"For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone;" - Song of Solomon 2:11

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Our First True Love - Part 2

Many girls make the mistake of thinking that love is an emotion, something you feel in your heart. In a sense it is, but more Biblically, love is a choice, a decision to act upon a covenant, whether or not "the feeling" is there.

There is a broad difference between these two loves. The first is an unsteady leading. I know you have heard the phrase, "his head follows his heart". Worldly love leads us into unstable relationships where we are not looking with our heads, our conscience, our (excuse the phrase) gut feeling. We allow many, if not all cautions to be thrown out the window because we just want to be "in love." This even applies to those of us who go beyond the bounds to stay at home, and choose not to date or develop any type of relationship with guys. Yes, we may seem like we don't yield to love from the outside, but the Lord knows our hearts so well. He knows when we look at a young man with lustful admiration, and He knows when we "plan our wedding" and dream up tales about ourselves and that handsome, kind young man. This kind of love is dangerous. Little do we realize that, each time we yield to this secular sense of love, we pull ourselves further from the richest love on earth.

This kind of love is lasting and reaps much richer rewards than worldly love. Inner happiness, joy and contentment will always follow when we seek after this richest of all loves. Often worldly love is crushed when that "special person" marries someone else or rebels against the Lord. When will we learn that there is no fulfillment in any other love, save the love of Christ?

Our journey into that true love begins when we accept the Lord into our hearts. We enter into a relationship with Christ that knows no bounds. We can never be too intimate with Jesus!

In order to fully enter into that true love relationship, we must first of all decide if we really want it. "Of course I want it! Why wouldn't I?" we ask. Well, like all love, there is more than just joy and peace in the relationship, there are also times of pain and suffering involved (see Luke 14:25-33). Times when we have to give up hopes and dreams that are a great part of our lives in order to follow Christ's leading, times of being rejected while trying to walk in Jesus' steps, and times when God allows things to happen to us or loved ones in order to draw us closer to Him. All of these are painful, but through it all, the Lord brings us to a level faith, love, joy, and peace we have never known.

Once we begin to fully enter into that relationship, we will never look back. We will quickly realize that, though there are times of great pain and agony in this love, it is more than worth it. There is nothing that will be able separate us from the love of Christ. (See Romans 8:35-39)

Once we have made the decision to make Christ our true love, despite all costs, we must at once fully, completely surrender ourselves to Him. To surrender means to yield, to give up one's self into the power of another. This means to give up all our hopes, all our dreams, all our goals, all our desires to Him, and to surrender ourselves to what He wants for us. Jesus Christ must be foremost in our lives. We must also surrender to Christ our way of doing things. We must surrender to working in Christ's strength and not our own.

I always have liked being capable and doing things on my own - the way I wanted them done. The Lord has had to show me many times that His ways are different than mine. If He deals with me on being kind to my siblings, I don't need to just try to be kind to my siblings, I need to pray about it, surrender myself to Him and allow His strength to work through me, showing kindness in the way HE would have me to do so.

The Lord wants our all, and throughout our quest of making Christ our first True Love, we will find that the Lord is constantly bringing things before us that we need to surrender to Him. He requires nothing less than first place in our hearts. Making (and keeping) Christ as our First True Love is a long, difficult process that will take a life time. The sooner we learn to give ourselves wholly to Him and surrender to His plans and desires for our lives, the sooner we will enjoy the fulness and peace of living in His will.

In preparation for the next part of Our First True Love, please pray these next couple months for the Lord to:

1)Give us a desire to have Christ as our First True Love.

2)Show us what we need to surrender to Him. (and do it!)

3)Show us what three things are necessary in order to live in the fulness of Christ's love.

God bless each and every one of you as we strive together to have Jesus Christ as our First True Love!

Posts from the Past
Every Wednesday I post something that I have written in the past. It may have been written a long time ago, or a very, very long tim ago! :-D So please forgive any mistakes!

Monday, February 10, 2014

"Heavenly Sunlight"

I admit, this is probably my favorite picture that I have done so far. I had many troubles with it, but I guess because it is the most difficult composition I’ve done, and it probably took me longer than any other picture, it has greater value to me.

“The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handiwork.” – Psalm 19:1

As I was working on portraying just a portion of God’s amazing creation, I would sometimes get frustrated, and not sure what to do next. This one little scene took me hours to recreate, yet God spoke the entire world into existence in one short week!

Any time I get the opportunity to look out over great portions of God’s creation, I feel overwhelmed by the awesomeness He has portrayed, and then realizing that it is not even to be compared with Him in all his glory. Wow! What more can I say!

 “O Lord our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! who hast set thy glory above the heavens. When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet:” -Psalm 8:1,3-6

Friday, February 7, 2014

Turn Ye from Your gods!

“And yet they would not hearken unto their judges, but they went a-whoring after other gods, and bowed themselves unto them: they turned quickly out of the way which their fathers walked in, obeying the commandments of the Lord; but they did not so.” – Judges 2:17

I admit, it’s not often that I feel the Old Testament can teach me something just as powerful as the New Testament, but this morning God proved otherwise!

Having recently started reading the Old Testament from the beginning to this point, I’m getting kind of tired of seeing the Children of Israel turn aside from following the Lord again and again. I mean, can’t these people ever get the idea that God is the ONLY REAL GOD!!! He proves Himself to them again and again! He shows them His power, His mercy, and His awesomeness! Yet they continually turn their backs on Him and rebel against Him.

Another thing that amazed me was that they turned to gods that they made. How can they expect to get fulfillment out of something they created with their own hands?

When I was reading this passage this morning, something in it caused me to stop. Then I realized, I do the same thing!

It is true that we don’t serve other gods like the Children of Israel did, but we being sinful in nature have found that we can create gods for ourselves in a different way. Even we as children of God have continually turned aside to other “gods”. After God showed me, I realized I did, and I doubt that there is anyone out there who can say that they have not, at some point in time, “bowed themselves” to their gods. Let me explain.

This list of questions is kind of like a definition. God showed me that if the answer to any of these is something other than God, His Word, His people, or His Work, look out! I probably have something that I am beginning to raise up as a god or idol.

1.       What do I want the most?
2.       What do I think about the most?
3.       How do I use my money?
4.       What do I do with my leisure time?
5.       What company do I enjoy?
6.       Who and what do I admire?
7.       What do I laugh at?

The first time I seriously sat down and asked myself these questions, it was very sobering. Four of the things had the same answer! I really began to think and pray about it, and God showed me that yes. I was holding something in front of Him.

Now, I tried to excuse myself by saying that it wasn’t a god, but really, when God says: “Though shalt have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3), that means have NOTHING before Him! Anything that I’m putting before Him is a god!

How can I do that when God is obviously the ONLY true God?! The only One Who can fill me with His fullness? He has shown Himself strong, merciful, loving, gracious, and so much more in my life, yet it is so easy for me to move my focus from Him to other things!

It was a very strong and sobering lesson, but praise God for the hard lessons! How else can He sanctify me and lead me into being the woman of God He wants me to be?

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Our First True Love - Part 1

Every girl dreams about the day when she will be swept off her feet by her knight in shining armor. About loving and being loved by the most wonderful man in the world. It's a beautiful picture, though most don't know that it is not reality.

It is in our nature as women (or young women, should I say) to desire a life of love and harmony with a future spouse, and to desire that security of belonging to a husband some day. God placed that desire in us, and it is a beautiful desire, but we find now-a-days, that this desire is misused, misdirected, and misunderstood.

Romance and love are blazed across the nation in both the secular and Christian realm. Just about every classic and fairy tale depicted in movies and books are pictures of pretty love stories. Parents encourage the cultivation of it at an early age in their children, and it seems that the whole of life before marriage is directed to that special day.

While it's every girl's dream to have a true love of their own, many miss the most beautiful love-life of all. Romance novels, (yes, even Christian Romance Novels) fictional courtship stories, and "love"relationships encouraged in dating and other relationships smother reality and distract from the most important relationship of love ever bestowed on man-kind. (2 Corinthians 10:5)

Imagine with me a moment, about a man whose love for us is so great that He wrote a love letter thousands of pages long, just to show His love for us. Imagine a man whose love for us is so great, He wants to be with us every moment of every day, He doesn't want to part with us. Imagine a man whose love for us is so great, that He rescued us from a tragic death, and died Himself in the process! Imagine a man whose love for us is so great, that He rose from the dead so he could live with us and help us to conquer all our many struggles and hurts. Imagine so great a love, who wouldn't want a lover like that? "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins." (1 John 4:10) Oh, how He loves us!

I'm sure by now you've guessed who I'm talking about, and that is the Lord Jesus Christ. I know that such a relationship may seem dry and uninteresting a majority of the time, just wait until you let Jesus really get a hold of your heart!

I say "let" because He will not force Himself on us. He is just waiting at the door to your heart, loving you so, so much. Understand, He can't just come in because of sin. He loves us in spite of our sin, and actually made it so there would be no breach in the relationship, no sin to mar the beauty of the love-life He wants with us. "But God commendeth (established) His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8) But we have to take the first step in asking forgiveness for those sins, and ask Him to come in.

Even after Jesus has entered into the door of our hearts, He still does not force Himself on us. Oh, He loves us still, just as much as He did before, but I do believe He is saddened by the fact that very few enter into the fullness of the Love Relationship with Him.

What makes the life of love in Christ so beautiful is that we can never fully measure His love for us. The more we learn about His love, the more there is to know. When we strive to have Christ as our first True Love, we will receive more fulfillment than any man on earth, no matter how wonderful, could give us.

Let me challenge you these next couple months to, when you wake up, first thing ask the Lord:

1)Please show me more about your love today.

2)Please show me how to love you.

3)Please show me how to share your love with others.

Really open yourself to the Lord. He knows everything about us, but just as we dream about how we will share everything with our future husbands, we need to tell the Lord everything. There is no perfect way to pray, and the more we are ourselves in prayer, the more we can feel we are being completely honest with the Lord.

Let us pray for each other, dear girls, that we can establish a new generation of young women who are on fire with the life of love in Christ Jesus. Imagine what a handful of women fully dedicated to Christ and His love could do in this dark world of ours!

Posts from the Past
Every Wednesday I post something that I have written in the past. It may have been written a long time ago, or a very, very long time ago! :-D So please forgive any mistakes!

Monday, February 3, 2014

"Quaint Kitten"

I’m pretty excited about this one. After my rough lesson with my last kitty, I was actually surprised I wanted to try again! But with my last one, I got a lot of constructive critique, so I thought since I was already in the “mood”, I’d go ahead and try another.

I had recently read from a fellow artist that he spent more time looking at the reference picture than actually drawing it, so all afternoon I had the picture up on my computer. As I walked by, I would draw some lines to show proportions, outline shading areas, or highlight the lighting.

When I actually sat down to paint, I first sketched a measured, detailed sketch. Wow, it’s amazing how much easier something is when you take the time to prep correctly! The finished product you’ll see in a second. First, I want to share the lesson that God taught me through it.

As I was admiring the most recent painting of the kitten that I did, God showed me a very neat lesson. I had done two previous “real life” paintings, and both were of cats, so the lesson He showed me applied to all three.

This painting (I had actually forgotten about) was done two-and-a-half years ago, and as you can see, it needs quite a bit of work. I conjured this off the top of my head.

The Lord showed me how much this is like the people who know what a Christian should look like, but aren’t interested in pursuing a relationship with Christ. To others around them, they may have a semblance of Christianity, but are far from looking like the real thing.

This second painting (you may recognize) was done in December. I had a sketch that I was basing this painting off of, so aside from slightly off colorings and proportions, this looks much more like a cat. You can certainly tell it’s a snow leopard cub, and it’s eyes actually draw you in.

In this painting the Lord showed me how it was like people who go to church regularly, walk the walk, and talk the talk. Anyone looking at them can definitely tell they’re “Christian”, but there still are some things that are “off” in their lives.

This painting was done from an actual photograph, the “real thing” as far as references go. I studied the real picture for a long time before I even picked up my pastels to paint. After it was finished, I sat back and looked at it, and said “Wow, Praise the Lord!!!”

God showed me how this was like His children who focus on Him and study His Word. They reflect His image MUCH more, and people can always, always see a difference when they walk in the room.

With each painting, God allows me to get one step closer to reality, but He also is showing me that it isn’t enough to do what “I know is right”, or even to act “like they tell me at Church”, but to dig down and study hard the Real Thing, God Himself and His precious Word, and cultivate that amazingly rich relationship with Him!

Praise God for creating us in His likeness and for making it possible for us to reflect His righteousness and holiness!

"But seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." - Matthew 6:33