The God who romances.

Two years ago in South Africa, I lost all hope in luck and coincidence when my friend Jenna told me that God loves to romance His bride.

When a man loves a woman, he romances her — he buys her flowers, tells her she’s beautiful, writes her a love letter, prepares a candlelight dinner, tells her he loves her. His selfless acts of romancing remind his bride that he is there and he does love her.

Why would God be any different? We are the bride of Christ, the greatest love of God. God is the King of romance, and He created love. Why then would He not want to romance His greatest love?

The warmth of the sun on your face, a cool summer breeze, the fuchsia rhododendron outside my window, an inexpressibly beautiful sunrise or sunset, an encouraging note from a friend, an unexpected hug, a compliment or smile from a courteous stranger, a song that makes you feel alive, a shooting star, a walk through the park, on a beach, or up a mountain, and all those little “coincidences”: a stranger pays for your coffee, no traffic on your morning commute, you find the exact thing you need when you need it.

I don’t believe anything is a coincidence. The world is too intricately designed in such a delicate weave for anything to happen so randomly. Though we cannot see God face to face, I do believe He romances us in ways that are obvious and wonderful, but we usually dismiss them as good luck or a fabulous day of superb coincidental happenings. Our God is very purposeful and very in love with His creation. It would be a shame to miss the romancing of our Savior because we thought it all happened by chance.

God wants to romance you. He wants to declare His love for you in every big and small way. Remember next time you feel the sun warming your face, or the cool breeze in the shade on a hot day, that God loves His bride and wants good things for her.

He loves you more than you could ever ask or imagine.

Psalm 40.

These were the verses for this week’s Bible study with Mallory and at group worship service at SPU. I can’t help but keep reading them over and over. Whether or not I can say that God meant these for me when He inspired David to write them, I do not know, but I’m pretty sure He had me in mind this week when He sang these words to my heart. He knows exactly what my heart needs to hear, and He knows exactly how I need to be healed. What a truly awesome King we serve! What a wondrous Creator we love! Let your heart hear these words from our Redeemer.

Psalm 40
For the director of music. Of David. A psalm.

I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry.

He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.

He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear and put their trust in the LORD.

Blessed is the man who makes the LORD his trust,
who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods.

Many, O LORD my God, are the wonders you have done.
The things you planned for us no one can recount to you;
were I to speak and tell of them, they would be too many to declare.

Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but my ears you have pierced;
burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not require.

Then I said, “Here I am, I have come— it is written about me in the scroll.
I desire to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.”

I proclaim righteousness in the great assembly; I do not seal my lips, as you know, O LORD.

I do not hide your righteousness in my heart; I speak of your faithfulness and salvation.
I do not conceal your love and your truth from the great assembly.

Do not withhold your mercy from me, O LORD; may your love and your truth always protect me.

For troubles without number surround me; my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see.
They are more than the hairs of my head, and my heart fails within me.

Be pleased, O LORD, to save me; O LORD, come quickly to help me.

May all who seek to take my life be put to shame and confusion;
may all who desire my ruin be turned back in disgrace.

May those who say to me, “Aha! Aha!” be appalled at their own shame.

But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you;
may those who love your salvation always say, “The LORD be exalted!”

Yet I am poor and needy; may the Lord think of me.
You are my help and my deliverer; O my God, do not delay.

Thrive Africa.

Many of you know that Thrive Africa is very close to my heart. If you’ve never heard of Thrive, let me tell you, God is doing big things in South Africa through them. Alece, the founder, has a heart for Africa like no one I’ve ever known. And it definitely shows in her ministry. (Check out her story over on Grit and Glory.)

Thrive Africa works mainly in the township of Qwa Qwa, South Africa discipling believers, equipping leaders, and strengthening the church. One of their main ministries is a program called Leadership Summit which is a leadership class for high school students. The missionaries desire to teach the students how to be leaders, set goals, and give them a passion for their lives, something that is unheard of. These young people grow up in shanty towns, not believing that there is any other life for them. Thrive shows them that they can make a difference. They can be somebody. They can prevent AIDS. And they can live passionately for Jesus Christ. Thrive builds up South African leaders in these classes so that they are being lead by their own people, people whom they can relate to, and see that making a change isn’t impossible.

Another ministry of Thrive is a yearly pastors conference. Though there is a growing number of Christians, many pastors and Christian leaders do not know a lot about the Bible. They only know what they have been taught, and it is not much. The pastors conference, as well as the ongoing relationship with the churches, encourages the pastors and teaches them more about the Gospel that they preach.

I wholeheartedly support Thrive Africa. That is why I want you to know that it’s possible for you to support them too. Every small way is significant to God’s work in South Africa.

Now it’s even easier (and more fun) to support their ministry! You can support Thrive by getting the word out with one of their new T-shirts, or with your daily cup of coffee! Check out all the new ways that you can give to Thrive on the new online store: www.ThriveAfricaStore.com.

I encourage you to see how you can be involved in the work that God is doing in South Africa. It isn’t as far away as you think. You can impact people who seem to be a whole world away.

On angels and demons.

Today in church we talked about the angel Gabriel visiting Mary. It brought up a lot of thoughts on angels and demons.

Supernatural beings are not supernatural at all. They should very natural to those who believe. They are just as real as anything else, perhaps even more real because they are less temporary than this world and everything in it. But I do not think about them as a natural part of my life. Most days I struggle with believing in their existence at all.

Angels are beautiful creatures. Some sing in the heavenly chorus and some have special messages to give. There is one who guards the Garden of Eden with a flaming sword and shield. They seem like a dream. Angels are creatures of the fairy tales of my childhood. They shouldn’t be belittled to that role in my mind, but they are.

Demons are fallen angels. In Revelation, Jesus shows John the fall of the angels being like stars flung from the sky as the mighty dragon sweeps them out of the sky with his huge tail. A third of celestial beings chose to follow Satan and not God. Demons are the stars of ghost stories and weird supernatural happenings. When I hear a ghost story, my mind immediately thinks of demons. They seem much more apparent and real to me.

I think angels are talked about more in the Bible than demons (you may be able to prove me wrong), yet I believe in the existence of demons more than I believe in angels. I believe that a demon will attack my emotions, strength, passions, and faith. I pray against the dark forces of this world. I pray for God to protect me from them. Yet it’s hard to imagine an angel defending me.

Why is it so hard to believe something that is beautiful and good and true and from the presence of God? Yet, so easy to believe something evil, horrible, and under the influence of Satan?

Job description.

In my small group today we were talking about all the disaster and hurt in the world and how to respond to it. How does God feel about it? God has been teaching me a lot about this recently.

The other day I heard someone say that disaster doesn’t surprise God. Not in the least. Sometimes we think, God, why didn’t you do anything to stop this, as if He should have seen it coming, but didn’t, or failed to respond correctly. With Haiti on everyone’s mind right now, it’s easy to wonder if maybe God missed something. But God is never surprised by anything we do, nothing ever happens without His knowledge, and He never responds incorrectly. He can’t.

The world is sinful. It is imperfect. It is a disaster. God has a plan to change that (read Revelation), but it is not time yet. So, disaster continues. Christian, take heart! It will change! But today is not the day for that. (At least not yet. We’ll know when it happens.) Today we live in a sinful world, a hurting world, a world full of disaster. And God has chosen me for such a time as this. He’s hired me for a specific job. He’s called me to Himself and His service. He is the King and I am a kingdom worker.

There are so many organizations to invest my time and money in. Everywhere I look there is another opportunity to serve. And looking around at all the options can get so overwhelming! Recently I’ve come to realize that God doesn’t expect me to do it all. That’s His job. My job is to figure out what passions He has given me and invest my time and energy in those things. There are a million and one things to do, and He might want me to do one or two or maybe five, but not all million and one. I can’t do everything. If I try, I will get burnt out. My energy won’t be used efficiently. I’ll be weak and useless in the million things that I try to do. He says to me, “I know you want to serve, but just go where I tell you. Don’t worry about everything else. I have other kingdom workers there. They will take care of it. I will take care of them.”

What a beautiful picture of God’s kingdom workers! He has called each of us to a specific purpose. That is why I can’t ever imagine studying biology and becoming a doctor, but I find linguistics to be thrilling, while others think linguistics is the hardest thing ever. We are all called according to a purpose. He calls all of us to different purposes, and together we make up a grand kingdom of workers with different roles, all striving for the same purpose in Christ. We don’t have to do it all. God has a network of kingdom workers all over the globe, all living out the passions that He has given them. All I have to worry about is what God has called me to.

On a side note: I got a new job today. Filled out the paperwork, start training on Tuesday (with my roommate!). I’m a barista at the Starbucks coffee stand at my college. It’s a dream come true, and such a blessing! (Perhaps a blog about this later?)

Reading through the Bible.

Yesterday I finished reading the book of Genesis. It was a huge accomplishment. I’ve never made it that far in reading the Bible. I’ve dabbled all over the place, but I’ve never set out to read the Bible and read past Abraham. Tomorrow I start reading in Exodus. It feels like I have just made it past the first marker in striving to complete this goal.

Here are some of my favorite parts of Genesis:

— The Lord said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land that I will show you.” (12:1)

God didn’t tell Abram where He was taking him. He only told him to go. And so he went, and the Lord blessed him immensely, more than he could have ever asked or imagined.

— Now there was  famine in the land…The Lord appeared to Isaac and said, “Do not go down to Egypt; live in the land where I tell you to live. Stay in this land for a while, and I will be with you and will bless you.” (26:1-3)

It didn’t seem logical at all to stay in the land where there was a famine. But God is not logical, and He did bless Isaac.

— But while Joseph was there in prison, the Lord was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden… the Lord was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did. (39:20-23)

The situation seemed bad, but God blessed Joseph in the midst of all the hard stuff. He didn’t just make it by. Joseph succeeded in prison.

— Joseph was thirty years old when he entered the service of Pharaoh king of Egypt.  (41:46)

If you go back to 37:2 it says that Joseph was only 17 years old when his brothers sold him into slavery. It took 13 years for God’s plan to be revealed to him. He was faithful to God through it all and after 13 years God gave him more than he could have ever asked or imagined. But he had to wait for it. And waiting was sometimes painful, discouraging, embarrassing,  and uncomfortable. Then God showed him his blessing, and I’m sure it was worth every hard moment.

— “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (50:20)

God works everything together for the good of those who love him and are called according to His purpose. What may seem terrible at the time, God will use for His kingdom. Nothing goes unnoticed. Nothing happens without purpose. Everything is known to God. And He makes it all good.

Beloved | Tenth Avenue North

I got a free sneak preview of this song by Tenth Avenue North. I love that it is a love song from my Savior to me. The best way I can describe the relationship that God wants with me is as His lover. I see myself as His bride, His beloved.

“The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete.” — John 3:29

“Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting:
‘Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready.'” — Revelation 19:6-7

It is the most beautiful love story of all time.

Beloved | Tenth Avenue North

Love of my life, look deep in my eyes. There you will find what you need.
Give me your life, the lust and the lies, the past you’re afraid I might see.
You’ve been running away from me,

But you’re my beloved. Lover, I’m yours.
Death shall not part us. You I’d die for.
For better or worse, forever we’ll be.
My love, it unites us, and it binds you to me. It’s a mystery.

Love of my life, look deep in my eyes. There you will find what you need.
I’m the giver of life. I’ll clothe you in white. My immaculate bride you will be.
Oh, come running home to me.

You’re my beloved. Lover, I’m yours.
Death shall not part us. You I’d die for.
For better or worse, forever we’ll be.
My love, it unites us, and it binds you to me.

You’ve been a mistress, my wife, chasing lovers that won’t satisfy.
Won’t you let me make you my bride.
You will drink of my lips and you’ll taste new life.

Have you ever…

…found yourself some place and wondered, “How in the world did I end up here?!”

That’s how I felt when I found myself sitting in a chair next to my friend who is a wife and mother, in a crowded room without even one man, surrounded by teary-eyed, emotional Jesus-lovers, at my church’s women’s Bible study on Thursday.

I chuckled to myself. “How in the world did I end up here?!” Surrounded by a bunch of married women with children who could be my classmates. Making small talk with women who are my mother’s age, talking with them as though I am an equal, just another woman seeking God among other women. I was always the one to say, “That will never be me.”

Women’s ministries was the future. A very far away future. I was quite firm in my decision to not be a part of it. And yet, there I was last Thursday, in awe of where God has brought my heart. He brought me to a place where I can be mentored by women who have already gone through things that I still need to go through. A place where I can deal with struggles that women deal with. He gave me a place of support. A place to be a part of my church.

If someone were to ask me what I do with my time, it might sound boring. Nearly every day of the week there is some sort of Bible study, worship service, or time of fellowship — or maybe two. And now I am involved in this women’s Bible study as well. Some days it feels redundant, as though I should be doing more with my time. But I have been encouraged that I am where God wants me. And perhaps it is a lot of church throughout my week, but I relish it. It is also a lot of investing in lives. And that, I love. The women’s Bible study is another way for me to be encouraged, loved, and built up in my faith.

I always thought, “I’ll never go to women’s Bible study.” And there I was, sitting there sheepishly, feeling slightly out of place, but believing that God is growing my heart.