Sunday, July 27, 2008

Finding True Joy

So I thought I'd share a testimony with you guys... it's not my testimony of how I came to Christ, but it is a testimony of how God has worked in my life, and so I thought I'd share it.So, when I was little, I was legalistic. I'd do things just because my parents, especially my dad, who I really looked up to [and still do], did it. I'd believe things because my dad believed them. I was pretty strict, too... just with little things, I'd judge people because they did something that I thought was wrong. Or they believed something that I didn't; or they didn't believe something that I did. Anyone who didn't believe like I did I judged. I realize now how so wrong and hypocritical I was, but at the time, I was so blind to it.

As I got older, I wanted so badly to make a difference for Christ. I wanted to obey God in everything. Everyone around me saw Christ in me, because I was just so on fire for Him. I was strong-willed and very set in my ways. There was no turning back for me. If I did something, I did it full force... with everything I had.

And so I began reading devotions everyday and having my own quiet time with God. I got so many devotions through email that I read every day. I read and wrote a chapter of the Bible every day. I started a Bible Study with my friends' help. I tried starting a Bible Study online. I went to church every week. I went to youth group every week as well. I'd talk to my friends about Christ a lot. I'd only listen to Christian music, and I listened to it a lot. God was pulling me out of my comfort zone in different areas, and I followed Him.

Eventually, I just got burned out. Everything I was doing became stale to me. I didn't get any joy out of reading the Bible anymore. I didn't get any joy out of talking to God anymore. I didn't get any joy out of talking about God anymore. I didn't get any joy out of Bible Study, out of church, or out of youth group anymore. I didn't get any joy out of devotions, and to put it bluntly, I didn't want to do them, I didn't want to pray, I didn't want to read the Bible. I was burned out and dehydrated. I also became depressed. Yet I put on a fake "mask" and became someone that I really wasn't. Everyone around me thought that I was strong, that I had it altogether. Some even thought I was perfect! If they only knew the hypocrite I was being... the fake person I had become.

I didn't know who I was anymore. I felt like joy had just left me. My heart ached. I was depressed. I was so distant - I didn't feel like doing anything, because I didn't get joy out of anything. And the entire time I felt guilty - so guilty - because I wasn't doing anything for God. I knew that I was wrong, but I felt so stuck. I would get defensive over little things. I would get angry over stupid things. There was so much built up inside of me that I needed to get out, but I didn't know how. I didn't know who to talk to. I didn't even understand my own situation, so why would anyone else? Friends came and talked to me about their problems, yet I couldn't go to them about mine because I had put out this front that I was 'perfect, a good Christian girl, put together' and I really wasn't. I felt like such a total failure.

I couldn't take it anymore. I talked to my mom and just told her everything that I could, but I didn't quite understand myself or my situation, so I didn't know how to tell her. I felt like I had nothing at all figured out in life. I couldn't make any decisions, and at the time, I had to make a lot. I was so frustrated, depressed, and just down on life... and yet no one knew. I didn't know who I was. I didn't know who I was supposed to be. I didn't know who I was meant to be. I didn't know who God wanted me to be... I didn't even know how to live because even though I knew the difference between right and wrong, it was like I had become blind to it. I didn't understand what was going on in my heart, but it was definitely something and I didn't know how to deal with it. I had no joy at all.

Just the other day I was faced with another hard decision. I didn't know what to do and so I decided to go to my parents with it. They didn't offer much help at first, just told me to do what I felt I should. Well that didn't help! I finally just spilled everything... I cried and told them how I've been feeling. Some of it didn't come out right because I was confused, but I got it out. And my heart felt so light afterwards. They helped me to realize that I had been doing too much spiritually and that I had become burned out. I needed a change. And so I decided to take their advice and took a few steps to get my life back together...

This next couple of days I'm going to try to get creative and do different things with God. Take walks with Him, maybe. Instead of having a routine with Him, I want a relationship again. Instead of feeling like I have to read a certain passage of Scripture because that's what my devotion is about, I'll read what I feel led to read.

Good works will not get me to Heaven. I used to "preach" that to people, and now look at me. I am a hypocrite. Good works follow Salvation. And even though I got saved at 4 and had a very close relationship with God, I began to put good works before my relationship with God. And eventually I became burned out and depressed.

I realize now that true joy comes from having a relationship with God. The rest will follow. I'll also get joy from doing things for God. When I am dead center in the middle of God's will for my life, I will find personal fulfillment.I think I've finally found joy. And it's not a feeling. It's a way of the heart. And it is so totally different from temporary happiness.

I praise God that He revealed all this to me before I went through the rest of my life only existing and not truly living.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

God's Dreams

Decisions, decisions, decisions! I don't like them and I have a hard time making them. Yet life is full of them. Every single day is full of decisions. Sometimes I think I make the right one but it all turns around on me. Other times I deliberately make the wrong one and pay for the consequences. And then there is that still, small voice inside of my heart that rises above all of the conflicts within me that says, "Stop. Listen to Me. Just obey me and everything will work out."

You'd think I'd just listen to that voice. But I am a stubborn person and usually just decide to do what I want to do. And where does that get me? Usually farther back then when I started.

My pastor's message today really spoke to my heart. It made me realize that I am not living for myself. My decisions affect those in my sphere of influence - my family, my friends, even acquaintances. So I need to make tough, hard, good decisions.

Sometimes I wonder if I make my life harder than what it really is. Am I too uptight? Too "good"? Too "Christian"? Or do people just make me feel that way? Where do I draw the line? And what is too close to the line? What is crossing the line? How do I know what is right in situations?

How can I be on fire for God without becoming legalistic like I used to be? Why can't I just live like everyone else? Yes, I have a high calling and I realize that. God has called me to be so much more than this world in which I live, just like He's called you to be so much more.

But how do I know what that is?! I know for certain that I am living for God. I know for certain that I want to live His dreams for my life. I've committed my life to God, and I am not backing out of that commitment. Never, not for anything. He is my life.

"When God created you, He created a person the world has never seen - and a person the world will never see again."

That quote that my pastor shared really got me thinking. I want to make an impact. I want to make a difference. That is a passion and a desire of mine! But sometimes I think that I am such an over-achiever that I try to do too much, I try, try, try... and fail, fail, fail. Why? Because I'm not living God's dreams! I'm trying to live my own! And it's all in vain.

It contradicts itself completely. I want to live a life that is worth something, that will make a difference and have an impact on the world. But my dreams won't do that - my dreams, no matter how big I think they are, are too small. I need to dream God's dreams. His dreams are huge, they are impacting, they make a difference.

I am here to bring glory to God. Have I been doing that? Has my life been radiating with the light of Christ?

Am I dreaming God's dreams?

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

On Fire

Hey guys! I haven't posted in a while. I guess the reason for that is because I haven't been spending much time with God lately or putting much effort into our relationship. And as a result, I haven't been motivated to update my blog. Tonight at Bible Study we were talking about laziness... how we can be so lazy spiritually and in our relationship with God.

I haven't been putting any effort into reading my Bible.
I haven't been putting any effort into talking with God.
I haven't been putting any effort into going out of my way to encourage others or share Christ's love with them.
I haven't been putting much effort at all into my relationship with Christ.

I've become lazy in my walk and journey with Him. It's a sad realization, but it's true. I think of that verse in Revelation 3:16, "So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth."

God doesn't want me to be lukewarm. He wants me to be on fire for Him... and lately, I've been lukewarm. I hate it, I want to change... I want to be on fire for God again. I want to live my life on the edge for God. I want to live my life radically for Him. I don't want to compromise in my faith.

"You are My Hope" - Skillet

Times are hard
Times have changed
Don't you say
But I keep holdin on to You
It's hard to keep the faith alive day to day

Leanin on the strength I've found in You

You're the hope of all the earth

You are my hope
You are my strength
You're everything, everything I need

You are my hope

You are my life
You are my hope
You are my hope

Far beyond what I can see and comprehend
Etching Your eternity in me
Nations scream and angels sing
Jesus rains
Every knee bows down

You're the hope of all the earth
You are my hope
You are my strength
You're everything, everything I need
You are my hope

You are my life
You are my hope
You are my hope

Carry on and I sing of how
You love and I love You now
All the times that I start to sink
You come and You rescue me

You are my hope

That explains so well how I've been feeling lately. Times are hard and times have definitely changed. I think that in a way my faith is more real to me now than ever. I have to rely on my faith in God more now than ever. Now is the time in my life where I'm really starting to think about my faith, about who God really is, and about my relationship with Him. It's a good thing, yet it's also hard. And for someone like me who contemplates and really thinks into everything, well, it can be a bit stressful. Satan has been trying to attack my mind a lot lately. He's been putting barriers up in my relationship with Christ.

I've come to find that faith in God can't be lukewarm. It can't be fake, or it's not really faith at all. To have faith in God is so much more than just believing that He's real. Having faith in God is a way of life, a journey, sometimes an adventure... and it's a challenge.

But I've also come to find that it is very, very worth it.

Life with Him is definitely a journey. But I've come to find out that it is a journey of a lifetime - and not just a lifetime, but an eternity!

You are my hope! You are my life!