Views of God’s Creation

I have had a summer in which I have been blessed to have many fantastic views.

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As humans, we want to see beauty in nature whether we realize it or not. Experiencing God’s creation can make us into totally different people. We can put down the cell phones and cameras and just admire. Every time I see a new part of God’s creation, I am more thoroughly amazed by Him. And think of all the beauty that is jam-packed in the small parts of the United States I have seen; I’ve never travelled out of the country. It makes me admire God’s hand in my life, and excited for all the views He has yet to show me.

The Parable of the Lost Son

The Parable of the Lost Son (Luke 15:11-32) portrays God’s forgiveness in a way that everyone should read. The parable follows a son who, after receiving a share of property from his father, wandered off spent everything, and soon found himself in a life of despair. After realizing what mistake he had made (vs. 17-19), he decided to return to his father to work as a slave for him, and not a son, since it would be better than his situation now.

If you were in the son’s situation, you would expect your father to maybe not even accept you as a son anymore. After all, you ran away from your father with what he gave you and lived a careless life. You didn’t return to your father. And now, seeing how messed up your life has become, you are returning to him with nothing. You would expect your father to be disappointed with you and maybe even disown you.

But that’s not what happens. The father accepts his son back with open arms, kissing him and hugging him (vs. 20). The son then says that he is sorry for all that he has done wrong against his father (vs 21). Again, you would expect your father to merely accept your apology and go on with life. But that’s not what this father does. He asks for the best robe, and a ring and sandals, and a fattened calf, all to give to his son. He wants to celebrate that his lost son has returned! He says, “For this son of mine was dead and is alive again, he was lost and is found.” And they celebrated (vs. 22-24).

Next, the other older son who had stayed with his father and worked hard for him all of his life complains. Why does this son get a fattened calf when he did nothing and I did everything (vs 28-30). But the father simply explains: “We had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”

This parable shows us the love of God. In this parable, the father is God and the lost son is us. We have sinned against God so many times. We have run away from Him, taken his gifts wrongly and made our lives a life of despair. We have refused to acknowledge the gifts He has given us.

But look what happens when we return to God. He accepts us back! He blesses us with many things, and his entire kingdom celebrates! God celebrates when you return to Him, ready to love Him. And most importantly, he forgives you, completely and wholly, and it is as if it had never happened.

And just why does He forgive you? Because He loves you, more than words can describe, and because He sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross for your sins and make you clean forever (Isaiah 1:18).

And just like the older son, there will be people who will try to come to God with their good works. They will say, look, I am a good person, I’ve done good things, won’t you accept me to? But that is not how we are saved. Ephesians 2:8 says: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” You did nothing to receive your salvation. It’s only through being saved through faith. And this is a gift from God! He didn’t have to do that at all. He could have sent us all to eternal death, but instead He accepts us in for eternal life. What great news we can all rejoice in.

 

Taking the Bullet

Imagine that you were wanted for a crime. You knew in your heart that you were guilty, but you didn’t want to admit it. You’re on the run for this crime, because you know that the verdict is death. As soon as you are caught and judged, you will be set to death.

Time goes on, and ultimately, you are caught. There’s nothing you can do. You’re cornered, and there’s no way out. Your captors pull out a gun, and as you prepare to die, someone steps in front of you, blocking you completely. They say they’ll take the bullet for you. They will gladly die in your place, they will take the bullet so that you don’t have to. You ask them, why are you doing this? Their only reason: because they love you.

This is what Jesus did for you. You were guilty, and there is nothing that you could say to prove otherwise. The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). And someone who you don’t even know, who has never done anything wrong in their life, took the bullet for you only because they love you.

Honestly, sometimes we can look at the cross and we can’t relate to it. But crucifixion was the worst form of execution you could face in Jesus’s time. It is like being hung, or lethally injected, or put in an electric chair. That’s what Jesus faced for us: a death sentence that wasn’t his.

This gives us an image also for what our marriages should be like. In the same way, a husband is to give up his life for his wife as Jesus gave up His life for His church. Ephesians 5:25 says: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.”

It’s something to think about for the future. Girls, are you willing to let someone give up his life for you? Will the person you will consider marrying in the future give up his life for you? And guys, are you willing to give up your life for your future wife? Will she let you give up your life for her?

Wives have to trust that the husband will stand in the way for the bullet, just as Christ stood in the way for our sins. It’s a pretty big thing to trust in. Which is why, when we consider our future husband, we should know: will they forgive me? Will they love Christ more than they love me? Will they give up their life for me?

This is why marriage is not to be taken halfheartedly. It is the person you are going to love and cherish for the rest of your life, til death do you part; marriage is a two-way street. Although marriage may seem long and far off in the future for you, it is something to consider for teenagers of today who often see fast decisions being made and quick and not serious relationships being the norm.

 

Big Decisions

Decisions are a part of life. Everyone knows that. But if you’re someone like me, someone who can’t make a big decision without mulling it over for days and days, it can be a terrible experience if you don’t include God in all your decisions, big or small.

I recently had to make a big decision that had very many aspects to it. No matter what I chose, there were positives and negatives. It was a matter of making certain people happy and hurting other people unintentionally…a type of decision where you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place. I immediately turned to God and asked Him to give me guidance because I know I have so little wisdom, I couldn’t possibly make this decision on my own.

Days went by, and I kept mulling over my choices, writing out the pros and cons, praying to God and asking Him to give me guidance. It didn’t help that I had a certain amount of time to make this decision (otherwise I would have slept on it for months). With God’s help, I thought over my decision and considered what God would want for my life. Though I felt a little uneasy, I finally came to a conclusion and made a decision.

I know I need God’s help in my life. But this experience made me realize how much more of this is going to be happening in my life: making a decision, just me and God, without the help of anyone else. It’s going to be up to my own judgement and, ultimately, God’s. And although I hate making big decisions, it’s going to be a part of my life really quickly.

The only way we can take on tough decisions is if we are holding God’s hand the entire time. He is more than willing to help you and see you through the rough patches in your life, no matter how big or small they may seem. He will give you guidance, and grant you wisdom and peace when you make a tough decision. You have free will, but God knows the path of your life. Everywhere He leads you is for the betterment of you, if you listen and obey where He leads you.

Decision-making is a part of life, whether we like it or not. I am so glad I do not have to face them alone, and you don’t either. Turn to God in all decisions and every aspect of your life, and you will find peace.

Meaningless: What to Learn from Ecclesiastes

I have always loved Ecclesiastes. Something about this book of the Bible has always just set with me. I recently had the opportunity to learn more about Ecclesiastes and what purpose it serves for our faith walk with Jesus.

Ecclesiastes was written by Solomon, who was wise and wealthy. For his entire life, Solomon searched for the meaning in life. It is a trap that many non-Christians of the world today often fall into. We search for meaning in life, and try to figure out why we are put on this earth.

Solomon soon finds out that everything apart from God is meaningless. Did you catch what I said? I said anything apart from God. Solomon was trying to fill the hole that all of us have in our hearts. Many people waste their lives trying to fill it, but as Christians we know that it can only be filled with God’s love and salvation.

A key theme in Ecclesiastes is “everything is meaningless”. It is said over and over again. It’s how this book begins (Ecclesiastes 1:2). Solomon, in all of his wisdom and wealthiness, found out after seeing much of the world and experiencing earthly pleasures, found this out when he looked back on his life.

Life apart from God has no meaning. Solomon was right. Can you even imagine a life apart from God? It’s something we don’t really want to think about it. But if you do think about it, you realize that life apart from God looks like Jesus on the cross. Jesus experienced total separation from God so that we wouldn’t have to (Mark 15:34).

So if life on this earth has this meaning, what is a person living life on this earth to do? The only answer is to trust in Jesus Christ. In Him, there is an answer to the meaningless of this world. Everything takes on a new meaning with Him. Everything that you do, and say, and experience, and seek out. It is all put into a new light with Jesus in your life.

And Ecclesiastes brings about an important message for young people in chapter 12: to remember your creator in the days of your youth (12:1). If we have Him in our hearts now at the beginning of our lives, our decision-making and peace on this earth will become much easier.

Ecclesiastes can seem like a depressing book, but it is eye-opening. It helps us to realize that there is nothing to search out except for God. He is the only thing that matters in our lives, and He makes our lives meaningful.

Time: Its Gifts and Troubles

I am eighteen years old and I am just realizing how precious and how weird time is.

Currently, in the summer before I leave the college and begin to live on my own for the first time, all I can think about is cherishing the time that I get with my family and friends. I notice how precious few days I can get with them before I leave and only see them on weekends or holidays or special occasions. It tugs on my heart, and I now realize that time is fleeting, and time is so precious.

But to God, time is nothing. Time is something created for this earth. God doesn’t care about time. In His eyes, our lives, which we worry so much about and care so much about enjoying, are like a blink. Eighty years? Nothing. It’s nothing to Him. Which is why eternity seems so unreal to us.

Have you ever sat down and thought about what eternity will be like with Christ? It makes your head spin. To think about endless time, days and months and years not mattering to you…that’s what it’s like for God. But for now, we can’t comprehend it, or try to visualize it, no matter how hard we try.

And eternity is true for hell as well. Those who deny Jesus and His name will experience eternity in hell as well. Days and months and years not mattering…just an eternity of suffering. It’s real, and it’s true, and it’s reality. Again, we can’t imagine it. (Relevation 20:10).

When a time with family comes to an end, I start to get all panicky. I start to think maybe I should just spend forever with a specific person that I love and appreciate, but then I realize I have other people to see and other responsibilities to fulfill. And I wish that time was eternal.

But why would I want to live forever on this earth? This earth is full of sin and hatred towards God, and it cannot give us the joy that eternity with God can give us. Eternity with God will be, of course, endless, and it will be joyful and perfect. There will be no end to the time we will have with Him. I can’t wait. Can you?

Time can be eternal with your loved ones. All who believe in Jesus Christ, and that He died on the cross for the sins of the world, will spend eternity with Him, starting NOW. What wonderful news that is for all who believe.

Overwhelmed…In A Good Way

Normally when someone says they’re overwhelmed, it’s a bad thing. In my life, anyways, that stands true.

But now I am completely overwhelmed in the most wonderful way.

I am overwhelmed by the love of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Not too long ago, I had the amazing opportunity to experience a divine service that was truly one of the most beautiful things I have ever experienced. We were in a beautiful, large chapel that seated over 1,000 people, and every pew was full of people praising their Lord. The crucifix was carried high over the people as everyone turned with it, and we sang “Lift High the Cross”, one of my favorite hymns, with the accompaniment of trumpets, timpani, and a beautiful organ. It was an amazing time. I felt as if I was being saved again, right then and there. I could feel my heart bursting with love and admiration for Jesus who was before me, hanging on the cross, dying for my sins and the world’s sins. Jesus, who experienced hell and total separation from God so we wouldn’t have to. Jesus, the love of my life.

I felt like crying, or shouting with joy, or jumping up and down, praising Jesus. I felt like the most loved person in the world. I knew that everything was going to be okay, and when I die, I have nothing to worry about, since Jesus is going to take me home, and what is more joyful than that? We can only experience joy through Jesus Christ alone.

I felt like I got a glimpse of heaven. Trumpets sounding, hundreds of voices praising Him, seeing Jesus up on that cross. Maybe I did, and maybe I didn’t; who knows. All I know is that heaven is going to exceed my expectations and be the most joyful place on earth where all of His believers will serve God (Revelation 22:3-5).

I have thought all week about being impressed by God. To the standards of this world, church isn’t impressive. I found out that that is not true at all. It was the most impressive thing I had ever seen or heard. The cross is the most impressive thing I can imagine. All that Jesus did, and suffered through, and said, was for me. Me! And also for you. And for all of the world. In that, we can surely rejoice.