Wedding Vows: Short and Sweet

Image

I know that it’s hard for a lot of men to write their own wedding vows.  I also know that most women want their husband to write his own wedding vows.  Lucky for all of God’s children, He already knew all of this and wrote some in the Bible for all the men to be able to go off of.  How stinkin’ sweet of our Heavenly Father!  

Where are these vows, you ask?  Well, these gems of scripture are found in Hosea 2:19-20

“I will take you to be My wife forever.
I will take you to be My wife in righteousness, justice, love, and compassion.
I will take you to be My wife in faithfulness, and you will know Yahweh.”

In this passage from the Bible God is talking about His people, Israel.  He is talking about renewing His covenant with them, despite their unfaithfulness to them.  Why?  Because God loves His people.  And He forgives.  And He loves faithfully.  

Now, if a husband loves his wife according to the Bible, he will love her as much as Jesus loves the Church (i.e. as much as God loves His people).  Thus, these vows should work quite nicely — and it should be what marriage should always embody:  a forever kind of love, a righteous love, a relationship rooted in justice, compassion, faithfulness, and God at the center.  

There you go, bachelors out there!  Here are some vows sure to make your Christian wife-to-be swoon.  

You’re welcome.  🙂

 

Go F*** Yourself.

DSC08670

I bet a lot of you clicked on this solely on the fact that “F***” is in the title.
Well, folks, it’s not what you think.

Free.

Go free yourself.

Almost always we are our own limitations.  We place ourselves within made-up parameters so that we never go very far.  So many times we, as humans, are so afraid of failure or rejection that we put on our own shackles, just to hold ourselves back to a level far below our potential.

Don’t be like that.  Unlock those shackles you clasped around your own feet.  Break down those invisible walls.  Reject those parameters.

Go. Now.

Go free yourself.

You were made for beautiful, wonderful things.  Big or small, you are filled with purpose.  You are full of life.  You have been given talents and passions, dreams and capabilities to make a difference, to be a help.

What are you waiting for?

Be free. 

“You are not limited by us, but you are limited by your own affections.”
(2 Corinthians 6:12)

“For you were called to be free, brothers; only don’t use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but serve one another through love.”  (Galatians 5:13)

“For we are His creation, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10)

One of My Favorite Promises of God: His Vengeance on Those Who Hurt Me

Righteousness:  According to Google, it can be defined as “the quality of being morally right or justifiable.”

Anger:  According to Google, it is defined as “a strong feeling of annoyance, displeasure, or hostility.”

Now, how about righteous anger?
One could logically deduce from the above definitions that righteous anger could be described as a morally right or justifiable feeling of hostility, annoyance, or displeasure.  Right?

Okay, now confession time:  I try really hard to not get angry with people.  I associate anger, most times, with rage or with a more lingering feeling of hostility.  I usually resign any displeasure, annoyance, or hostility to the term of “aggravating” rather than “angering.”  I say I’m annoyed with someone instead of angry with them.  But honestly, it’s pretty much all the same in my world.

I hate being angry at someone.  It steals away some of my joy, and I really don’t like a thief.  It takes a lot to make me truly angry.  I understand the warning against being “quick to anger” very well, trust me.  But sometimes, things just build and build until I can no longer deny that I am authentically angry.

One of those times is right now.  I am authentically angry at a certain person who fed me full of lies.  When someone tells you something different than what God does, you should NEVER believe them.  I can offer that advice from experience.  When you admire and trust someone because of their intelligence and the good face they put on, it’s easy to blindly follow their lead.  Don’t do that.  I am authentically angry at someone who ripped a little part of me away, and then pretended it was no big deal.  It is a big deal.

Image

But as angry as I am, I can only imagine how angry my Heavenly Father is at this same person for how they have treated His daughter.  Ever seen a father who is angry at a guy for hurting his daughter?  Okay, now same situation only the father is God, the ultimate Judge and Ruler.  His wrath has swallowed up nations.  God’s anger is righteous anger.

Image

On that note, it’s now hard for me to go around wanting to be hostile.  I’m a firm believer in being efficient, effective, and giving the job to the person best qualified for it.  Needless to say, the one who can give the best justice is the Judge.  The one who can execute the best revenge is my Heavenly Father.  The one who can bring truth through the lies is the One who IS Truth.  Obviously, my anger is no match for the wrath of God.  So, I give up the hostility to God so that He can be my revenge.  He’s better at it, anyway.

“Friends, do not avenge yourselves; instead, leave room for His wrath.  For it is written: Vengeance belongs to Me; I will repay, says the Lord.”  – Romans 12:19

Christians’ “Love” vs. God’s Love

I will preface this post with a simple statement:  I make no apologies for honesty, yet I have no aim to offend.  That being said let me just go ahead and lay out what is irking me today.

Love.  Christians and their “love” particularly, because I believe we (Christians) have been doing dangerous things to both the word, the value, and the context of love.  It’s time for change.  Or, maybe, it’s time someone just show me the error of my thoughts about this.  Either way:  something needs to give.

Love

I am 22 years old and have been a Christian half of my life (I accepted salvation at age 11).  I know God loves me to an extent that even after over a decade I still cannot fully know the depths to.  I know that for Jesus, blameless and holy, to die on a cross for all of us who through our sins deserve the punishment of death, He had to have loved us more than we can really comprehend.  Jesus and God both tell us over and over in scripture that we, as sinful people, are loved.  God loves us.  Jesus loves us.

Faithful Love

How can we be sure?  Well, God loves us so much that He created us just so we can experience His goodness and live forever with Him in glory.  He loves us so much that He sacrificed His blameless, holy, and only Son on a cross through a torturous death so that we can be forgiven of our sins – that we do not have to bear the punishment of death for the sins that we commit daily.  And Jesus, oh sweet Jesus!  He was perfect – fully man and fully God.  He never sinned.  His eternal home was all ready going to be Heaven.  He didn’t need to die on that cross for His own benefit.  He chose to go through an insane amount of torture, ridicule, and hurt to sacrifice Himself since we could never do that ourselves.  Jesus loves each of us enough that He gave Himself to pay for the wrongs that we commit because He wants to know us, He wants us to know Him, and He wants us to spend forever in the love and glory of His Father with Him in Heaven.  That’s a love of love for the pure sake of love.

Now, basically the lasting command that Jesus gave all of us before He went back to Heaven to chill with God was to love God and love one another.  Okay, so He wants us to love one another?  And He said that God is love so by Him we shall know what love is and how to love.  Sounds simple enough, right?  Apparently that just isn’t so.

Simply Love

We as humans complicate everything, I’ve found.  You know, dogs have it figured out.  They get excited when their human(s) comes home and they spend all day just trying to love those who they are around.  Animals are smart — and simple.  But humans, oh we are so complex.  We complicate.  We compare.  We rationalize.  We justify.  We modify.

Dog Love

It’s come to my attention that there are two major different camps of Christians these days when it comes to “love” or “loving on people”:  the Over-lookers and the Reprimanders.  You may find yourself right now immediately pulling towards one and justifying yourself.  Stop.  Be simple.  Admit, change, and find a balance.  You may be sitting there and thinking “I’m more of a half-and-half kind of person.”  Good!  You should be.  Balance is the simple essence of real love here.

First, let us take a gander at the Over-lookers.  This camp of Christians is what many would consider the hippies, the hipsters, the overall “anything goes” kind-of people.  They claim that to “love” others you have to overlook all the sin that bonds them, ignore it, and just accept them as is.  These are the ones who are infamous about proclaiming the “judge not lest ye be judged” verse in any and all context.  They also heavily rely on the “look at the speck in your own eye” scripture.  You’ll know these people.  The whole “oh, you abuse your children and you cheat on your spouse?  That’s okay, we all sin.  I love you!” bit is the same record over and over.  That is, unless you disagree with them.  If another Christian, perhaps, tries to talk to someone about the sin that person is struggling with, then the Over-lookers immediately deem said Christian as “judgmental” or “self-righteous.”  The Over-lookers love everyone – unless you don’t agree with them.  Then you’re bad and you need to change.  If you aren’t like them or aren’t blindly accepting of their ways or words, you better be ready to be told that you are not a “real Christian” and you are bad for the Kingdom.  Ahem.  These are the same ones who will get angry at me (a Christian) for calling out something I see wrong with other Christians.  Don’t get angry at me – I’m just calling it like I’ve seen it.

Over-Looking Love

Let’s look at the other end of the spectrum now:  the Reprimanders.  This camp of Christians is often considered to be the older generations, but in fact, have many young people.  These are often found hiding behind the justification of being a conservative.  They claim that to “love” others you have to call them out on their sin and keep telling them what they are doing wrong so that they can repent and change.  These are the ones who will be flaunting the “better an open reprimand than concealed love” verse as their lives’ mission statement.  They will also claim that since they are only reprimanding out of love “and righteous judgment” then it is an act of Biblical love.  The Reprimanders love to be “helpful” in showing others what needs improvement, yet often are upset if someone tries to do the same for them.  Their “love” goes only as far as what they personally believe, and they will be the first ones to let you know – they always know everything about how a Christian should live.  The Reprimanders are easily the ones to come off pushy.  While the Over-lookers are more likely to lead Non-Believers to avoid repentance, the Reprimanders are more likely to offend Non-Believers to a point that they are off-put from Christianity as a whole.  The Reprimanders will be the ones who argue that I must not know enough of the Bible to understand their ways, that I need to devote more time to studying the Bible.  Oh, and I’m sure they would be telling me that I should be writing a lecture to those who are alcoholics, murderers, rapists, or those other “bad” people who need Jesus (more than they do, of course.

Reprimanding Love

Maybe now you’re feeling a little convicted and instead of fuming in anger at me, you’ve decided to read on.  Good for you!  (Seriously, there is no sarcasm there.)  If you can see how you are easily an Over-looker or without a doubt a Reprimander, don’t worry.  I find myself in both camps in different situations, too.  We’re imperfect people.  We won’t ever be flawless at this whole love thing.  But, and that is a turning point ‘but,’ we can try to be more balanced in order to have real love instead of synthetic version of Christianese love.

The best way I know how to put into words the balance between the anything-goes Overlookers and the everything is black and white Reprimanders is to take the words straight out of the Bible.  Is that okay with you?  Good, I hoped it would be.  I had it feeling it might, but I thought I’d ask just in case.  (Note:  if you answered “no,” please stop reading in order to save your time.)

Bible Love

Okay, so we know that God is love.  That’s a given.  He is the source of love, the Creator, and the Teacher.  That being said, let’s take a gander at:

Acts 17:30-31a (HCSB):  “Therefore, having overlooked the times of ignorance, God now commands all people everywhere to repent because He has set a day when He is going to judge the world in righteousness by the Man He has appointed.”
Mark 12:30 (HCSB): “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.  The second is: Love your neighbor as yourself.  There is no other commandment greater than these.”
John 15:13 (HCSB): “No one has greater love than this, that someone would lay down his life for his friends.”
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (HCSB): “Love is patient, love is kind.  Love does not envy, is not boastful, is not conceited, does not act improperly, is not selfish, is not provoked, and does not keep a record of wrongs.  Love finds no joy in unrighteousness but rejoices in the truth.  It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

The verse from Acts shows us something VERY important:  the judge is God and no one else.  In Mark we see that we are to love God first and foremost with all of our being and through that we can love others as much as ourselves.  Would you sit and berate yourself for lying or would you repent to God and make every effort to not do so?  Would you tell yourself that killing one person is okay because it was in the past?  Would you convince yourself that despite no effort on your part to make amend or be sincerely repentant, your constant bitterness and jealousy towards so-and-so is okay?  Treat your neighbor (who is everyone) like you would treat yourself.  (Unless you treat yourself badly.  If you treat yourself badly, we need to talk about something completely different.)  In John Jesus not only calls us His friends (how cool!), but He tells us that sacrificing our lives for our friends is the greatest love.  Chances are your sacrifice isn’t going to be death on a cross for your friends and neighbors.  But if you are unwilling to sacrifice something as simple as your comfort zone for your friend, how can you say you love him/her?  Finally in 1 Corinthians we see a full on description of how love is, what it does not do, and what it does.  Replace “love” with your name.  That should be your approach to each sinner, saved or not.  You are to be patient.  You are to be kind.  You are not to be jealous, boastful, conceited, improper, or selfish.  You are not to be provoked or to provoke.  You are not to keep a list of wrong things that others do.  You are to be joyful in the truth and not in unrighteousness.  You are to bear all things.  You are to believe all things.  You are to hope all things.  You are to endure all things.

Love Rock

So find that balance.  Tell others the commands of Jesus, what God says the fruits of the Spirit should look like, and what the Bible says.  Stating knowledge is not the same as trying to produce judgment based upon that knowledge.  Make sure you know where the line should be drawn.  You should always spread the knowledge of God and His commands, but you should never try to take His position as the Judge.  Accept one each other as the sinners that we all are, knowing that we are each going to mess up, make mistakes, and ultimately disappoint at some point.  At the same time, accept one another as the son or daughter that God made.  Be patient with one another and gentle.  Be careful to not fall into the snares of hypocrisy.  It’s taken enough testimonies and degraded them – don’t be a victim (i.e. a hypocrite).

And finally, love.  Just love.  Seek God and ask Him to show you how to love His people.  He will.

All of you – Over-lookers, Reprimanders, and everything in between – I love you, merely because Jesus loves you.  And let me tell you, oh how Jesus loves YOU!

My Love

We Talked, But I Didn’t See His Face

Jesus Chats
Tonight as we were sitting together in the family room watching the news, my Granny turns to me and asks, “Have you raised any money yet for your trip?”  It always makes me shudder a little that she refers to the calling to be a missionary I have surrendered to as merely a “trip.”  Brushing the mental note of her using that term away, I responded with a “No.”  I’m not sure what annoyed me more, the fact that she asked or the fact that I have no funds in my support account.

Worry tried to sneak it’s vicious head into my thoughts and into my heart.

I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God called me to The World Race.  I know that I can do great things through Him while I’m on it.  I know that it is where I am suppose to be.  And I know that as of right now, I have only $150 of the $16,285 that I must have to go.  I am also acutely aware that there is no way that I, myself, can come up with that money in the 250(ish) days until I am set to leave the country.

See why I was so vulnerable to worry?

My Granny asked me another question right after my response to the first.  She asked, “Well, do you still plan to go?”  Defensively I said, “Yes, Granny.  I am still going.  Why would I not go?”   She retreated from her questions with an “I don’t know”, but we both knew what she was thinking.  She was thinking, how could I go if I didn’t have the funds?

I know that’s what she was thinking because that’s exactly what I keep thinking.  I haven’t any donors yet.  My family is in no position to say, “Here Mary Elizabeth, we’d like to give you $16,135 to complete your funding needs for the World Race.”   I have no doubt my sisters alone would gladly do that if they could.  But they can’t.  And I know that.

I keep thinking:  If I had known at graduation that this would be my life trajectory instead of law school, I could’ve gotten a job back in May, not signed a lease and had to be paying it long after I moved back out of that apartment, saved on the expense of moving (twice), and the list keeps going on.  That worry snakes it’s way deeper and deeper into my thoughts.

And then there’s Jesus.
When everyone and every situation seems to keep telling me “this is virtually impossible” or “you haven’t enough time” or “your needs are too great,” Jesus offers up the truth.

He says, “Mary Elizabeth Bailey, do I not love you?  Does My Father not love you?  Didn’t He send me to die so that you can live with Us and rest in Our love for eternity?”  Of course, I’m over here with teary eyes saying, “Yes, Jesus.”  And Jesus continues on saying to me, “Do the birds of the sky worry about being taken care of?  Does My Father leave them without food?  And the flowers that adorn the Earth and remind you of natural beauty created straight from the hand of the Father, do they worry that there is no one to clothe them day after day?”  And I answer with tears still in my eyes, “No, Jesus.  I know our Father takes care of them.  But —”   And Jesus cuts me off saying, “But what?  But you do not think He has the power to take care of you?  You do not think that when you died to sin through my blood that the Spirit within can work to take care of you?  You worry, but about what?!  The birds are fed, the flowers are clothed, and Father doesn’t even love them near as much as He loves YOU.”   Ugh, sometimes I want to cross my arms like a toddler and pout when Jesus calls me out.  He’s right.  He’s always right.   But instead, I just sit with a half-smile on my face.  So Jesus goes ahead and says, “I’ll remind you again:  I love you.  Father loves you.  You have no reason to worry.  When you worry, it’s like you are doubting Him.  We can both agree that doubting Abba Father’s love and provision is crazy, right?  Look at what I have been through.  Look at what you have been through.  Has He not provided every step of the way?  So child, stop worrying.”  I can’t help but smile now.  There’s just something about being told that I am loved and being shown the truth.  Truth sets me free, and this time I’m being freed from the chains of worry.  How dare I doubt my Father!  I tell Jesus, “I’m sorry, Jesus.  I don’t doubt Father God.  I know He’s taking care of me and that He always will.  I need Your constant reminders, so thanks!”  Jesus wipes the drying tears from my eyes and tells me, “Just seek God and His righteousness.  When you do that, not only do you have no time to worry, but also you’ll be awed with the perfect provision He gives.  Don’t worry about tomorrow — or the next day or the next day or months down the road.  Father has you taken care of.  You can’t see it, but I can.  Trust me.  I love you.”   He never ends a conversation without making sure I know that He loves me.  Ah, what a sweet Jesus!

After this chat all I can do is continue to trust in Him.  Trust in the One who made me, called me, and loves me.  Trust the One who provides for me always.  All I can (and want to) do is what Jesus told me — stop worry and seek God.

If you are knee-deep in worry and your heart is feeling overwhelmed, I encourage you to have a chat with Jesus.  I promise you, He loves you just as much as He loves me or anyone else.  He wants you to bring your worries to Him.  My chat with Jesus came from Matthew 6:25-34 tonight.  Yours can, too — if you want.

Love you, my sweet blog readers!
And so does God.
He actually loves you much, much, MUCH more than I could possibly imagine loving you.  🙂

P.S. I actually am leaving in July 2014 to go across the world (11 countries in 11 months) to bring the message, the hope, the love, and the light of Jesus to people I have yet to meet, but already have places in my heart.  I DO need $16,000+ in my support account to be fully funded.  I am confident that God will use His people (many of you reading this) to make this happen.  So, if you feel led to make a donation (which is actually tax deductible — yay!), you can go to my World Race page (http://maryelizabethbailey.theworldrace.org/) and click “Support Me” on the left side.   Even if you can’t donate, I welcome and ask you to check out my page and the World Race site in general to get to know what I have been called to.  🙂

A Letter To Preachers (Warning: Blatant Honesty May Offend You)

Writing

Dear preachers,

I’ve heard more of you preach than I can count in my lifetime, so I would say I’m a rather experienced listener.  I’ve come to the realization that, perhaps, you need some raw, honest feedback.  I suppose I ought to give you such instead of waiting for someone else to.  Please note, though, that this does not apply to all or many of you, but to the ones it does — oh, we all know who you are.
First of all, can you do your congregations a favor and STOP WITH THE THEATRICS?  Seriously, we all have televisions or YouTube.  We don’t come to you for a show.  We come to be taught the holy Word of God.  I don’t really need to see you jump around stage or walk up and down the aisle slapping hands or strutting about.  You don’t have to stand still or anything, but remember you aren’t an actor up there.  You are a teacher appointed by God Almighty to tell people about His Word so that they may draw nearer to Him — act appropriately.
Next, I have a little news for you: we can hear just fine.  If you want to scream then please for the sake of our ears turn the microphone off!  My grandfather is in his 70s and you are even too loud for his ears.  Unnecessary, sir!  I don’t think a single person comes to church with the mindset of “I sure hope the preacher verbally assaults my ears again this week!”  So just calm down on all that yelling.  (Your bulging neck veins and tomato red face will probably appreciate it, too.)
Thirdly, we can keep up.  I’m sure you do those dramatic ten second pauses in the middle of your words and sentences (especially at the end of the sermon) to make sure we can keep up with you.  How considerate!  I must tell you though, it’s more annoying than helpful.  We can keep up with you at a steady pace.  All those pauses just make me think I’m listening to Obama give a speech.
Also, you don’t have to wear that suit jacket.  Listen, I am a gal who loves a man in suit and tie.  Truly, I do.  However, if you are going to be sweating through the whole service – ditch the jacket.  I appreciate your style and effort to look nice, but the streams of sweat down your face make it hard to concentrate on then content what you are yelling.  You’d look a lot better and feel a lot cooler if you simply dressed for function rather than style.  Your congregation will not mind, or at least it shouldn’t.
Lastly, what is with the whole drawn out altar call?  I understand wanting people to come forward if the Lord is leading them to.  I get it.  I want that too!  But, after three invitation songs and a few more yelling fits of yours about hell and damnation, it sounds more like a threat than an invitation.  Last time I checked, God didn’t ask us to manipulate others by inciting fear to make them come to Him.  Nor did He say, “harp on and on until you make your congregation bored or annoyed so much that they will kneel just to make you shut up.”  Let’s be a little more on point, please?
Just one more tip for good measure: you should never make your congregation leave feeling like crap.  Don’t confuse this with me being against stepping on toes.  Step on toes.  Dance on them.  Lay the Word of God on our hearts so that we feel the Holy Spirit stirring.  Welcome conviction on your congregation.  But NEVER let us leave without giving us the hope, the redemption, the message of love.  God didn’t end with condemnation, but rather grace.  Mirror that.
I’m not trying to tell you how to do your job.  These are merely suggestions.  A little constructive feedback, if you will.
I would just like to end this in saying that I am thankful that God has called so many passionate, fired up Christians to teach His Word.  It is an honor to be called to be a preacher.  I respect you all a great deal, so please do not take this as a rude or disrespectful article.  It is neither.  Any good preacher will always want to improve.  I am merely trying to help you do so.

Sincerely,
Preached At

Altar of Praise or Battleground?

Stand Still.  Praise.  Watch.

Stand Still. Praise. Watch.

I don’t know about y’all, but for my daily readings I tend to gravitate more to the New Testament, or if in the Old Testament regularly stick to Isaiah (my absolute favorite book of the Bible), Psalms, and Proverbs.

However, lately I’ve been drawn to the other books in the Old Testament.  Today I was namely drawn to 2 Chronicles.

A favorite story of mine from 2 Chronicles stars King Jehoshaphat and the people of Judah in the face of three armies outnumbering them.  The people of Judah did all they knew to do (under the direction and guidance of Jehoshaphat) in the face of overwhelming circumstances — they prayed to God and asked for His help.  They petitioned their Rescuer to come and save them.  They knew that their power was too weak, but that God’s was strong enough.  They believed in the might and power of God to save them.

In 2 Chronicles 20:13-24 God tells the people from Judah that they do not need to fight the three armies coming after them.  In fact, God tells them to “position yourselves, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord” in verse 17.  Above that in verse 15, God tells the people of Judah who are depending on Him that “the battle is not yours, but God’s.”

Oh how precious that when we are seemingly cornered and outnumbered – whether that be by people, burdens, circumstances, or whatever – God is mighty enough and loves us enough to take the battle for us!  So many times I want be the one in control and on the front lines trying to determine the outcome, but God is saying, “Child, just stand there, praise me, and I’ll do the fighting.”

Here’s to giving up control to God and being joyful in simply being still, praising Him, and living in the victory of my salvation in Him.
(I think I was made more for praising than fighting, anyway.)