Lessons from the Law: God and Social Justice

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I hit 100 blog followers this week…what?? Thank you so much to all of you wonderful followers! It means so much to me that you take the time to read what I have to say, and I hope it continues to be an encouragement to you!

So far in this series, I’ve covered the sacrificial laws and the building instructions. There’s another major category I have yet to talk about: the social laws, the laws for justice and equality. To get a sense of what I’m talking about, read Exodus 23:1-9.

These are the laws that provided for order in the community, for justice and fairness. They seem mundane, addressing issues like being a court witness, lost animals, dealing with bribes. After talking about the glorious symbolism of the sacrificial system, what’s the point of these? After all, the civil law of the Bible is kinda obsolete. It’s not the civil law of the modern world. Why do we need to know it?

Because of what it teaches us about God’s character. There’s one big thing we can learn from all of these social laws: God cares about justice. 

In fact, the only hope for true social justice lies in God. All the people in our world today who are trying to cure world hunger and get rid of poverty and everything else? Those are noble goals. But they can never be accomplished by fallen humans.

Christianity is the key to true social justice: because being a Christian means loving others, treating them better than ourselves, and believing in the dignity and worth of every human being.

What better foundation for social reform could there be than that? 

Christianity’s social reform is perfectly consistent. Christianity’s social reform is based on eternal things. Christianity’s social reform will succeed when all else fails because it has God behind it. And when it doesn’t succeed in this world, there is always the hope of heaven to look forward to.

In these social justice laws of the Old Testament, we see the foundation of Christianity’s belief in loving others and caring for others. God is justice, and nowhere do we see that better than in the law books. That’s what laws are all about, after all; protecting the innocent and prosecuting the guilty. And that structure ultimately came from God, not men.

That’s why we read the civil law of the Old Testament: because it came straight from God, and it shows us what God values and cares about. And our goal as Christians should always, always be to learn more about the character of God.

love, grace

What do you think? What else have you learned about God’s character from the law books? Share in the comments!

 

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February 2017 Month in Review

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Love. It’s what makes the world go ’round, or so they say, and in the month of February it seems like love is all everyone talks about. Candy, flowers, romantic comedies, and those adorable “relationship goals”. It’s all light, fluffy, happy, and wonderful.

This is the world’s brand of love. Have you bought into it? Is it really all that it seems to be from the outside? Or is the inside of the world’s love rather shallow and empty?

There is another kind of love: a love that truly makes the world continue to spin. Without this love, we would all have no hope. This love never ends, never fails, no matter what we do. It is infinite.

This is God’s brand of love. And when you believe in it, it changes you, and when you strive to emulate it, it changes the lives of others. When the love we talk about is a deep, everlasting love, there is nothing empty about it. It is the most full thing in the world.

Bloggings of the Month

the-relationship-series4 developing  your convictions on dating; hope for those who have already done things they regret

the-relationship-series5 an action plan for contentment in singleness

Image result for sherlocka review of my new favorite TV show

Truths of the Month

I’ve been reading in Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers this month, as well as some in the New Testament. Inspired by this post, I’m dropping the daily plan and simply reading a few chapters every morning, with the goal of getting through the Bible at least once this year, if not more than once.

A few truths from my reading:

*Just as the sacrifices of the Israelites were to be “without blemish”, so Christ was the only one who could possibly die for us, the only one who could meet God’s standard of perfection.

*Even though the Old Testament law is no longer fully in effect, we are still called to remain clean and holy, just in different ways, staying away from sin and darkness.

*Jesus didn’t spend the night before His death doing anything world-changing, but something very common, having dinner with his disciples. Yet God worked in that just as much as something bigger.

*Cleansing after touching something impure was a lengthy, involved process, symbolizing how hard it is for us to purify ourselves outside of Christ.

(A few of these are a bit of a preview for a series I’m going to do soon about what we can learn from the Old Testament Law. I’ve been learning so much as I’ve read it alongside the gospels, seeing so much parallelism and cool things like that. More to come!)

Favorites of the Month

Image result for the reason for god Reread The Reason for God by Timothy Keller and was just blown away by it all over again. If you are having doubts, you don’t know how to defend Christianity, or you just want to strengthen your faith even more, you must read this book! 

Image result for newsies live So, um, this happened…and I got to see it in the theater!! Oh my goodness, it was amazing. If this version ever comes out on DVD or Netflix or anything, I highly recommend!

 It’s a Wonderful Time to Be Christian: Five Reasons for Optimism in America is the last article you would expect someone to write right now, but despite what you might assume it’s not sarcasm. From Desiring God, this article is so encouraging and brings a unique perspective to the political and cultural atmosphere right now.

 Kill Sin or Sin Will Kill You, also from Desiring God, is a jarring reminder of the seriousness of sin and what it will take to kill it in our lives.

 On Faith and Fashion was a wonderful article about what fashion can mean for the Christian girl. As someone who loves clothes and makeup and is just generally very girly, I loved this way of looking at it!

Coming in March

  • Struggles with perfectionism; excellence vs. perfection; finding balance
  • Lessons from the rain
  • A book review of something to be determined

 

How was your March? What did God teach you? Did you read or watch anything amazing this month? Also, do you like this new format for these posts or do you prefer the old one? I’m experimenting a bit. Tell me in the comments below! 

love, grace

 

 

 

4 Ways to Stay Content in Singleness (The Relationship Series, part 5)

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Read the other posts here: God’s Purpose for RomanceGod’s Purpose for SinglenessAvoiding Drama and TemptationDeveloping Your Convictions

 

For the final post of this series, I want to address singleness one more time. Because it’s one thing to decide you aren’t going to date in high school, and it’s something else altogether to actually rest in that decision with contentment in the everyday.

So how do we make the most of our singleness, not spending this whole season just waiting for the next, but truly living in it?

Develop a full, dedicated relationship with God.

Our primary focus while we are single is learning and growing in our relationship with God, pouring all that love out to him that will someday be given to another person. He is our first love, our focus, and where we get all of our joy and contentment. When you’re single, you’re not “alone”. You’re with God.

So spend lots of time getting to know Him and getting close to Him. Read your Bible consistently. Spend daily time in prayer and praise. Center your entire life around this most important relationship you will ever have.

Take advantage of your freedom.

When you are single, you have much more freedom, time and energy available. God put you in a season of singleness so that you could avoid distractions and focus completely on His work (1 Corinthians 7).

Take advantage of the time, resources, and emotional energy that you aren’t investing a relationship and invest them into the work of God’s kingdom. Pursue your calling with diligence and faith. Seek opportunities to further God’s glory in the world, maybe through traveling or mission work.

For more on this, I HIGHLY recommend this incredible talk from Breakaway Ministries. (The whole series is great if you’re looking for more Christian opinions on dating and marriage.)

Be ready if someone expresses interest.

So…you’re committed to singleness. You’re living a life dedicated to God. And then someone starts acting interested in you, or even directly asks you out. How do you handle this situation?

First of all, never lead anyone on. If someone starts flirting with you or acting interested, do not lead them on if you have no intention of actually dating them. It’s fun in the moment, but will only lead to hurt feelings. Treat others the way you want to be treated.

Know what to say ahead of time. If someone asks you to date directly, you will probably be too flustered to be able to graciously refuse in the moment. Depending on your emotions to carry you through could lead to disaster, so plan a response ahead of time. It doesn’t have to be completely scripted, but you should have a general plan. Refuse graciously, but firmly, and don’t be afraid to explain your convictions if necessary.

And when you refuse someone, don’t leave loopholes that could lead to a just-friends-but-not-actually unofficial dating situation. That is not a good situation to be in.

Be ready when jealousy sets in.

Even if you are single and living a full, wonderful life devoted to God, there will be moments. You will see a couple in the hallway at school. You will read a story with a really sweet romance. One of your friends will start dating, get engaged, get married…and you will start thinking about how much you desperately want that to be you.

When this happens, first of all, remember that romance is never as smooth as it looks from the outside. Books and movies make it look perfect and wonderful, and it is that idealized image that is likely making you jealous.

Then remember your reasons for singleness. Instead of letting the seeds of jealousy grow in your mind, turn Satan’s intentions against him and use the moment to renew and refresh your commitment to singleness and to God.

Finally, remember that God is in control. His plan for your love story is infinitely better than anything you could come up with on your own. Trust in that.

 

What do you think? Have you enjoyed this series? Are there other relationship-related topics that you would like to see me address in the future? Tell me in the comments! 

love, grace

 

Developing Your Convictions on Dating (The Relationship Series, part 4)

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If you missed the first three parts to this series, find them here: God’s Purpose for RomanceGod’s Purpose for Singleness, and Avoiding Drama and Temptation.

I’ve spent several weeks sharing the reasons for my choice not to date in high school. To recap:

  • The purpose of dating is to see if someone is potential husband or wife material. Dating for fun has no value.
  • High school is a season of life where it’s important to be developing a close relationship with God as we figure out where we’re going in adulthood. Anything that distracts from that with no purpose is not a good idea.
  • Dating adds a lot of potential for drama into life, as well as temptations to compromise purity. Those things are better avoided as long as possible.

But now, I want to clarify something: Not everyone is going to have the same convictions on this. 

There is no verse in the Bible that says “Thou shalt not date in high school.” So this is an area in which everyone has to weigh the pros and cons and come to their own decision.

For me, the cons greatly outweighed the pros, and I felt that God was calling me to avoid dating in this season of life. But that may not be the same for everyone. For one person, they may decide to date as soon as their parents will let them. Someone else may feel called to remain single until their twenties. And there will be many in between those two extremes.

So how do you determine what your convictions are? Spend time in the Word, as well as reading articles and/or books by Christian people you trust (I would recommend I Kissed Dating Goodbye)Once you have a good idea of the arguments on both sides, and where those arguments are coming from in the Bible, spend time in prayer that God would show you what He wants you to do.

I would encourage you to seriously challenge any arguments, whether for or against something, that have to do with personal benefits, having fun, or looking good to other people. Don’t be afraid to confront any wrong motivations you discover and make the hard choice to let those reasons go.

It’s important to note, as well, that convictions may change or be adapted as time goes by and you mature in your faith. Be open to God’s prompting and willing to learn and grow when the time comes.

What If I’ve Already Messed Up?

Maybe you’re reading this as someone who has already been in their share of bad relationships, who started dating young, who has compromised their purity, or done other things relationship-wise that you regret. There are two things I want you to know:

1. God does not condemn you. There is grace to cover all things. 

The whole message of Christianity centers around grace, forgiveness of sins. No one is perfect, or even close to it, and that is why Jesus came! God will forgive you no matter what, absolutely, with no conditions, over and over. Trust in that.

2. It’s never too late to start living to honor God. 

It doesn’t matter how old you are or what your past looks like; if you feel convicted now, start now! Ask that the Holy Spirit would give you grace to change your habits and seek to honor God in your romantic life. There is no reason to dwell on the past, and by God’s grace it is not too late to change.

Relationships and romance are tricky to navigate, but as Christians we have somewhere to run when we have no idea what to do, when we need comfort, when we need counsel. We have to be in tune with God and His Word every step of the way in order to navigate dating wisely and in a way that glorifies Him.

Next week, I’ll wrap up the series with one more post addressing singleness. Stay tuned!

What do you think? What are your convictions on this subject, and why? Share in the comments below! 

love, grace

 

Why I’m Not Dating in High School, part 3: Avoiding Drama and Temptation

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If you missed it: part 1 (God’s purpose for romance) and part 2 (God’s purpose for singleness)

When you think of teenage relationships, what comes to mind?

For me, it’s two-week long couples, messy breakups, ongoing drama, physical commitment without long-term stability…

Maybe you’ve had better experiences with young relationships; I’m sure there are some out there that survive or even thrive. But in my mind that’s the exception and not the rule.

I covered the biggest reasons I don’t date in those two previous posts; those are the overarching beliefs that guided my choice the most. But now that we’ve talked about the big things, there is one more reason I want to mention: the potential for drama and temptation in young romantic relationships.

Avoiding Drama and Heartbreak

Love will always come with intense and possibly very difficult emotion, and trying to struggle through that sort of thing in high school can wreak havoc on you. In this season of our lives, we are trying to make important decisions and balance a million demands on our time. Emotions are real, and they can be incapacitating.

Yes, I know that even if you wait until adulthood for a relationship, there is still no guarantee that everything will be sunshine and roses. In fact, it almost certainly won’t be. But having to work through emotional drama in the midst of teenage stress and hormones will do nothing to help you. 

It goes back to being stable in God before you pursue another person; you should be stable emotionally (really regardless of age) to get into a relationship. And the teen years are probably the worst place to look for emotional stability.

Plus personally, I would rather not introduce the potential for heartbreak earlier than necessary. Call me selfish, but I think the lack of drama in my life is a rather nice side effect of my decision not to date.

The point is: relationships are hard. Relationships aren’t always happy. And us teens aren’t in a good place to be able to deal well with that. We shouldn’t feel compelled to invest a lot of emotion into a relationship that may not last. 

Avoiding Temptation to Compromise

We are, without a doubt, called to purity as Christians, and will be much better off avoiding anything that could tempt us away from it. Dating is definitely one of those things.

Again, yes, dating at any stage of life will bring temptation with it. But again, as teens we are likely not yet fully stable in our emotions or our relationship with God, and out convictions may not be as developed, making us especially vulnerable.

And here’s the thing: if you are dating for no other reason than fun, you will be tempted to go too far. If your relationship has no long-term purpose, then you may feel that it has no point beyond the physical aspects and be even more likely to compromise.

This is the biggest argument I have against teenage dating, even when intentional. Unless you plan to get married within a few years, a relationship that stretches on and on will only become harder and harder to maintain in purity. For serious relationships that start in high school, marriage may not happen for five or ten years, and in that time you can become so comfortable with each other that purity doesn’t even seem like a big deal anymore. That is a bad place to be.

Even if you are both very committed to purity, humans are imperfect and can be very weak in moments of temptation. By avoiding dating in high school, you are avoiding any chance of doing something in a moment of emotional weakness that you will regret later on.

 

 

What do you think? Do you agree? Disagree? Share your thoughts on this subject in the comments! (especially if you’ve actually been in a relationship, since I, ah, never have, hence the title)

love, grace

Coming soon: We’ll continue the series and address what to do if you’ve already done things you regret, how to respond if someone asks you out, and more.

Why I’m Not Dating in High School, part 2: God’s Purpose for Singleness

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As we talked about last week, Christians are called to pursue God’s model for romance and marriage, not that of the world.

But it goes beyond that. We are called to pursue God’s model for everything in our lives.

One of our main purposes in the teen years is to learn about how God wants us to live our lives, to develop a relationship with him and learn to lean on Him in everything. In this way we can grow into adults who are stable, grounded on a firm foundation that cannot be shaken.

We have to be careful not to be distracted from this calling. And that is the second reason why I have chosen not to date in high school.

What is the Purpose of Singleness?

If God wanted to, he could give all of us a romantic attachment right now. It’s not neglect on His part. You’re not waiting for someone to drop into your life and then everything will be complete. When we are single, God has a reason for it. 

Here’s what Paul says about that reason:

 “I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided. And the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband.”

-1 Corinthians 7:32-34

Singleness is meant to be a time of growing as close to God as we can. It is a unique season of life when the only person we have an intimate commitment to is God, and so our focus should be on deepening that relationship, not waiting impatiently for someone else to come along. And in that growing intimacy, we are, in fact, preparing ourselves for an intimate relationship with another human.

The only way to be in a relationship that truly honors God is to be in a relationship with God first. If we rush into romance too soon, we will find that we are not as grounded as we thought we were and end up floundering, unable to find balance or fully show love to someone.

God gave us singleness so that we can learn what it feels like to serve Him with all our heart and soul and mind and strength, what it feels like to live completely committed to God’s glory. Because if we are trying to learn those things at the same time as we are trying to learn how to love another person, one will have to take precedence over the other.

Additionally, we cannot search for happiness in human love. Before we become invested in a romance, we must be fully secure in God’s love for us that will never leave, enough so that we can hold onto that in the midst of a human relationship and still have it to hold on to if the relationship ends.

We cannot seek a relationship to fulfill us; it is only when we stop desiring a relationship above all else that it is really good for us to be in one. If we have not found true fulfillment in God, we will end up unsatisfied, searching for happiness in one romantic attachment after another.

Find happiness first, outside of romance, and only then will a romance actually make you happy.

What do you think? Do you agree with my second reason for not dating in high school? What other issues would you like to see addressed in this series? Tell me in the comments! 

love, grace

 

Advent Reflections, part 4: Love

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Tonight, candles flicker in the dim light. Christmas trees are lit. Carols fill the air, voices raised by the thousands in songs of joy.

Tonight we wait for the birthday of Christ.

Christmas: a miracle of love. A celebration of a God who loved us so much that He came down to us in the humblest of circumstances so that we would not have to remain separate from Him.

Christmas is a celebration of love. That is what it’s all about: the decorations, the music, the food, the gifts; everything is a celebration of God’s incredible, abundant love. And what incredible love it was!

The note in my study Bible said that there is a possibility Jesus was born in the open air. The God of the universe, born to a poor couple in a small village in an alley somewhere. He lowered Himself this much because of His love for us.

Here, tonight, the story of salvation begins: a baby born who would grow up to be the Messiah, to die on a cross so that sinners across the ages could be saved. The story begins that will continue through the months and culminate in Easter, in His joyous conquering of death.

So let tonight and tomorrow be a joyous celebration of wondrous love! Christ is born! Hallelujah!

 

Merry Christmas to all of my lovely readers! I hope you have a wonderful day full of love, joy, and peace. 

love, grace

P.S.: 4 Ways to Avoid Holiday Letdown