I Am Chosen

I don’t have a regular blog post for you today. I just want to get real with you all for a moment. God spoke to me earlier this week. Not in the “I have a divine revelation to share with you all” way, but in the sense that He used someone to tell me something I really needed to hear.

This other person and I were talking one night and they told me they felt God’s presence as a near-constant thing. And I felt sad, as well as a bit envious, that I didn’t have that. It’s not that I’ve never felt God is there. I feel that He hugged me once when I was singing in church. I often feel Him when I dance. He drew me into deeper relationship with Him and led me to baptism when, at age 18, He showed me that He wants me as well as loves me. But I also feel myself slipping into a pattern of having more head-faith than heart-faith even though I write all the time about connecting with God at a heart level.

On top of that, I’ve recently realized that for all the work I did years ago on learning to love myself and accept God’s perspective on me that I’ve lost hold of that as well (if I ever really had it). I know that God loves me and values me and I’m precious in his sight. But dating my boyfriend has brought to light there was still a voice in my mind saying I’m not actually all those things. Or more accurately it’s saying that even though God sees me like that no one else ever will or should. Which simply isn’t true. But it feels true and I’m so grateful I’m in a relationship with a guy who thinks it’s important that I come to believe I’m truly precious and thinks everyone else should see that, too.

So getting back to the night God spoke to me. I really can’t put it any other way. Someone else was speaking the words but they were coming from God. And He said, “I choose you. I love you. And I’ve loved you for so very long. Why won’t you accept my love? I chose you all the time. All of you — writer, blogger, cook, girl who chose to follow Me even when she can’t feel Me, lover of people. And I accept you.” And more than I’ll share here. It was incredible. Can you blame me for breaking down in tears, crumpled at Jesus’ feet?

I’m not sure how most of you see me. I’ve had some people mention that it seems like I have a strong faith, or that I’m “spiritual,” or that it’s obvious God is working in me. I suppose we could say those are true. But I felt broken and lonely and terrified I would be rejected. Parts of me still feel like that, but not nearly so much. In fact, the person I was talking with might be right when they said they felt like I really accepted God into my heart for the first time that evening. Not that I hadn’t committed to God before, but that this was the first time I really believed deep in my heart that His love and acceptance is, and should be, for me.

At the very least, I realized I had “left my first love,” to borrow a phrase from the letter to Ephesus. I honestly don’t remember feeling anything like what I do now since I was 14 years old and realized I wanted to be baptized and spent a summer singing to God every morning. I don’t do that any more. And I suspect reading things like Captivating moved me to tears not because I really believed God loved me like that but becasue I wanted to believe it. Similarly, I loved songs like “Someone Worth Dying For” not because I believed that’s something I am but because the longing found the chorus’ questions was in my own heart as well.

I feel rather dense, to be honest. If you look back at the blog posts I’ve been writing it’s obvious that God has been trying to tell me this for years. But I just wrote the posts, thanked Him for His goodness and love, then shared them with others without really, truly internalizing it. I’m grateful that He has used my hurt to help other people — that because I’ve felt these things I know how much other people who are going through the same doubts need encouragement. But it took God having another person put their hands on my shoulders and insist I really listen this time to realize how much those studies were meant for me as well. Posts like the reminder to love yourself because God loves you so much. Or the one from two years ago about taking down barriers you’ve built between you and God. Or the series I’ve been doing on really believing God’s promises, including the one that He’ll never let you down.

I want to share with you the verses I went to the morning after this conversation. I think the most consistent way God communicates with us is through Bible study (though He’ll use other methods as well especially, as I just learned, if we’re not getting it otherwise). Many of these passages were already among my favorite verses and I even quoted most of them in my ebook God’s Love Story. Now they hold even more meaning than before.

But now Yahweh who created you, Jacob, and he who formed you, Israel says: “Don’t be afraid, for I have redeemed you. I have called you by your name. You are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned, and flame will not scorch you. For I am Yahweh your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. I have given Egypt as your ransom, Ethiopia and Seba in your place. Since you have been precious and honored in my sight, and I have loved you; therefore I will give people in your place, and nations instead of your life. (Is. 43:1-4, WEB)

 

Now when I passed by you, and looked at you, behold, your time was the time of love; and I spread my skirt over you, and covered your nakedness: yes, I swore to you, and entered into a covenant with you, says the Lord Yahweh, and you became mine. (Ezk. 16:8, WEB)

 

Therefore behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. I will give her vineyards from there, and the valley of Achor for a door of hope; and she will respond there, as in the days of her youth, and as in the day when she came up out of the land of Egypt. It will be in that day,” says Yahweh, “that you will call me ‘my husband,’ and no longer call me ‘my master.’ For I will take away the names of the Baals out of her mouth, and they will no longer be mentioned by name.
In that day I will make a covenant for them with the animals of the field, and with the birds of the sky, and with the creeping things of the ground. I will break the bow, the sword, and the battle out of the land, and will make them lie down safely. I will betroth you to me forever. Yes, I will betroth you to me in righteousness, in justice, in loving kindness, and in compassion. I will even betroth you to me in faithfulness; and you shall know Yahweh.
It will happen in that day, I will respond,” says Yahweh, “I will respond to the heavens, and they will respond to the earth; and the earth will respond to the grain, and the new wine, and the oil; and they will respond to Jezreel. I will sow her to me in the earth; and I will have mercy on her who had not obtained mercy; and I will tell those who were not my people, ‘You are my people;’ and they will say, ‘My God!’” (Hos. 2:14-23, WEB)

 

My beloved spoke, and said to me, “Rise up, my love, my beautiful one, and come away. For, behold, the winter is past. The rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth. The time of the singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land. The fig tree ripens her green figs. The vines are in blossom. They give out their fragrance. Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come away.” (Song 2:10-13, WEB)

 

Only Yahweh had a delight in your fathers to love them, and he chose their offspring after them, even you above all peoples, as it is today. (Deut. 10:15, WEB)

 

For Zion’s sake will I not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until her righteousness shines out like the dawn, and her salvation like a burning lamp. The nations will see your righteousness, and all kings your glory, and you will be called by a new name, which Yahweh‘s mouth will name. You will also be a crown of beauty in Yahweh‘s hand, and a royal diadem in your God‘s hand. You will not be called Forsaken any more; nor will your land be called Desolate any more: but you will be called Hephzibah [“I delight in her”],  and your land Beulah [“married”]; for Yahweh delights in you, and your land will be married. For as a young man marries a virgin, so your sons will marry you. As a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so your God will rejoice over you. (Is. 62:1–5, WEB)

I Am Chosen | marissabaker.wordpress.com

But God wasn’t yet done with confirming His message for me. This past week I was at an evening service for Yom Teruah and we read some confessions/prayers together as a congregation that spoke directly to this subject as well. We had a printed out program for some congregational readings, but only used about 1/4 of them in our service. I’m assuming the chosen readings weren’t a coincidence and God knew I needed this confirmation. The very first one we read together included these lines:

Abba Father, we come before You today to receive Your love anew, a love that never fails, and to experience the wonderful truth that we are “accepted in the Beloved” (Eph. 1:6). We come in faith to You, desiring freedom in our lives from past hurts and disappointments. … I receive your unconditional love. I declare that the enemy’s power of rejection over me is broken. Bless me, enlarge my territory, and keep me from evil. Give me fresh vision, heal my heart, and fill it with your love, joy, and peace.

Wow. Could that get any more relevant to what He’s been telling me? The language is so similar to what God was saying a few days earlier through my friend that I was getting choked-up reading it. I’m getting choked up typing it now.

And you know what’s more? God’s saying the same things to you, dear readers. I know many of you have the same doubts, fears, and feeling I had that you lack value. But God chooses you. He wants you. He loves you and has loved you for so very long. You are accepted in the beloved. And because of Jesus’ triumph on the cross the enemy’s power of rejection over you is broken. The Lord will bless you indeed and always be there with you.

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Want To Date An INFJ? Here’s 15 Things We’d Like You To Know

So you want to date an INFJ. I’m not quite sure whether to congratulate you or pat you consolingly on the shoulder. Perhaps both.

Assuming you want this relationship to go well, one of the most important things you can do is try to understand your INFJ love-interest. We’re the rarest personality type and we often feel misunderstood and alone. Showing us that’s not going to happen with you will instantly endear you to an INFJ’s heart.

And so here you are learning about the 15 things INFJs really want you to know as you begin a relationship with us. They might not all be equally true of every INFJ, but this list is the result of feedback from and discussion with nearly 20 different INFJs so you’re getting a pretty good idea of what we’d like to say to you.

Even though I’m an INFJ myself and I’ve written a fairly successful book about the INFJ personality type, I still like to get feedback from other INFJs before writing a post like this. And so I want to say a big “Thank you” to everyone in the Facebook group INFJs Are Awesome who responded to my question about what they thought people should know before dating an INFJ. You guys helped make this post so much better than if it were just me typing away my thoughts in a vacuum.

1) We take relationships very seriouslyWant To Date An INFJ? Here's 15 Things We'd Like You To Know | marissabaker.wordpress.com

While there are some INFJs who will have one-night-stands or enter casual relationships, most of us are interested in something long-term. If you’re not willing to take the relationships seriously we need to know that up-front so we can make a decision about whether or not to bother with you. Most of us know how to be alone and we’d rather stay single than settle for a relationship that just adds stress and anxiety to our lives. We also have a vision for how we want our lives to go and we’ll be going into a relationship trying to figure out how you might fit in with that vision.

2) We need to feel safe and acceptedWant To Date An INFJ? Here's 15 Things We'd Like You To Know | marissabaker.wordpress.com

This one is huge for INFJs. If you’re not a safe person for us to be around then we either 1) won’t enter a relationship with you or 2) will be trying to get out of the relationship. We desperately need to know you won’t dismiss us. We don’t actually expect you to fully understand all our quirks, nuances, and oddities but we need to know you will accept and even love them. We need to know you’re interested in getting to know the “real” version of us and that you won’t run away when we start opening up. Similarly, we typically have strong values and we’re looking for someone who lines up with them. INFJs can be very accepting of other people’s differences, but the closer you get to us the more closely we want you to line-up with our core beliefs. Continue reading

In The Secret Place: The Promises of Psalm 91

Last week we talked about claiming promises from God. But we didn’t talk about the verses that got me started on that study. Psalm 91 is packed full of promises that are clearly meant to include the reader. There isn’t even a writer credited, so there’s no clear historical context, and the psalm is addressed to all who make the Lord their God. There’s nothing to distract from the fact that this psalm was written for everyone who’s in a relationship with God, including you as a Christian today.In The Secret Place: The Promises of Psalm 91 | marissabaker.wordpress.com

Claiming Relationship With God

He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of Yahweh, “He is my refuge and my fortress; my God, in whom I trust.” (Ps. 91:1-2, WEB)

The psalm begins with a promise to those who remain, inhabit, and abide (H3427, yashab) in the hiding place or shelter (H5643 sether) of the Most High God. They will “stay permanently” (Strong’s H3885 lun) in the shadowing protection (H6738 tsel) of El Shaddai.

Because of that promise, we get the only “I” statement from this psalm’s writer. They claim the Lord as “my God” and say they will have confidence in Him (H982 baach). And they demonstrate that trust by making Him their refuge, shelter (H4268 machaseh) and defensive stronghold (H4684 matsud). That’s something we can do as well.

Stripping Fear of Power

This psalm contains truly incredible promises of protection in the midst of trials. We’d probably prefer it if God’s protection meant we didn’t have to go through trials. But to be delivered “from the snare of the fowler, and from the deadly pestilence,” there must be someone trying to trap you or a pestilence threatening your life (Ps. 91:3, WEB). And if “A thousand may fall at your side, and ten thousand at your right hand,” then you must be in a location where people are perishing right and left (Ps. 91:7, KJV). Continue reading

Claiming God’s Promises

Not every single word in the Bible applies directly to each person reading it. It’s all inspired by God and we can learn from it, of course, but not everything applies to everyone directly. For example, some cleanliness laws in the Old Testament were gender specific and some prophecies were delivered to a specific person or group (like the dream warning Nebuchadnezzar he would become like an animal for 7 years).

But we can take this observation too far. We might make the mistake of thinking that because warnings to follow God alone were delivered to ancient Israel they don’t apply to us today. Yet the New Testament confirms we still need to make a choice between darkness and light (Deut. 30:15-20; 1 John 1:5-2:6). This type of thinking can also block us from accepting encouraging promises as well.

Have you ever read one of God’s promises and thought, “That sounds wonderful, but it can’t really apply to me?” I’m sure many of us have. For me personally, I struggle with believing God will answer my prayers the way He promises too (mostly I feel like my prayers for other people aren’t effective). But does that mean God’s promise to hear when we call doesn’t apply to me? Of course not. And I’ve even seen some examples of His direct responses to my prayers. My doubts and anxieties don’t cancel His promises. But they can block me from recognizing or accepting His work with, in, and for me.Claiming God's Promises | marissabaker.wordpress.com

God’s Presence In You

The Holy Spirit is one thing God promises to new believers. Jesus told His disciples the Father would give them the Holy Spirit after He left and we see that promise fulfilled quite spectacularly in Acts 2. As the narrative continues, a pattern emerges where believers receive the gift of the Holy Spirit when they covenant with God at baptism. And it’s made clear that this promise isn’t just for the people of that time. Continue reading

Always Love, Never Compromise: Relating To Those Outside Your Faith

Our society idolizes tolerance. We’re “supposed” to understand the other’s point of view, support them in living however they want, and admit they’re no less “right” than we are. From a Christian’s perspective, though, today’s ideas of tolerance look more like an attack on objective morality. People who disagree with you don’t just want you to tolerate them; they want you to agree with them. And in many cases they’re not willing to extend even tolerance back to you, much less agreement.

There are two extreme reactions Christians might have when faced with a society like ours: 1) go along with society or 2) start attacking people we don’t agree with. But neither of those options is the best one. Better to ask, “Does the Bible offer any guidelines for Christians navigating such as society?” People of God have always had to interact with people outside their faith, and scripture does provide guidelines for how we can approach such relationships.Always Love, Never Compromise: Relating To Those Outside Your Faith | marissabaker.wordpress.com

Don’t Judge People

This first guideline has nothing to do with accepting the wrong things we see ungodly people doing. We can make moral decisions about another person’s actions (e.g. discern between right and wrong) and in the appropriate context tell them they’re not lining up with God’s law (e.g. preach the gospel and call for repentance). But to pronounce a sentence on someone and condemn them is not our right.

For what is it to me to judge those outside? Should you not judge those inside? But those outside God will judge. Remove the evil person from among yourselves (1 Cor. 5:12-13, LEB)

In the verses leading up to these, Paul has been talking about the need for Christians to exercise sound judgement within the church. He’s giving them a directive to put out of the church people who say they follow God yet flagrantly and unrepentantly practice sin. In contrast to that, he tells us it’s not our responsibility to do the same to people outside the church. We can’t condemn non-Christians for not acting like Christians. God’s the one who gets final say on their lives.

Continue reading

Letting God Define You

How do you define yourself? We all finish our “I am __” statements in different ways. We can go with something fairly basic, such as “I am a writer/sister/Christian.” That’s often how we introduce ourselves to people. But there are also less flattering “I am” statements that we tell ourselves. “I am anxious; I am too fat/skinny/unhealthy; I am a sinner not good enough for God.” Or sometimes we go with more positive self-affirmations: “I am a good friend; I am confident in using my gifts; I am a redeemed and forgiven child of God.”

How does God define you? Scripture reminds us in several passages that our “I am” is not as reliable as God’s “you are” (see 1 Sam. 16:7, Is. 55:8-9 and Jer. 17:9-10). He knows us better than we know ourselves and He can give us insight into His perspective. If we ask, He’ll reveal things about ourselves to us directly as well as through His word.

Some of the “you are” statements God makes about people are critical, such as when He describes all humans as sinner under a death penalty or rebukes Israel for their rebellion (Rom. 3:23; 6:23; Is. 1:18-25). But while part of God’s perspective on us involves seeing our faults, that’s not all He sees. For those in relationship with Him, His “you are” statements are overwhelmingly positive. There’s certainly a place for acknowledging our sins, abhorring ourselves, and repenting as Job did (Job 42:5-6). But we’re not to stay downcast. God wants us to have a realistic view of ourselves, and He values us far too highly for this view to not involve some incredibly positive things.Letting God Define You | marissabaker.wordpress.com

You Are Of Value

Aren’t five sparrows sold for two assaria coins? Not one of them is forgotten by God. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Therefore don’t be afraid. You are of more value than many sparrows. (Luke 12:6-7, WEB)

Our God cares even when a sparrow dies. But we’re not just another animal crawling around the earth that gets a moment of attention from Him. We’re valued highly — so highly that the Father and Son think you’re worth the price of Jesus’ life. And They thought that even before you were saved (Rom. 5:6-8). Continue reading