It's All About Sacrifice

     God has revealed so much to me recently as I incorporate time into His Word on a daily basis. His clarity and unconditional love even through the busyness of life is enough to assist me in growing in my relationship with Him. And it's His love and His light in these moments that have enabled me to gain the wisdom and understanding that can only be provided through His Spirit, the Spirit of the One who perfects in weakness, whose grace abounds no matter what action I take or what words I say.
    Being out from high school for the year, I knew as soon as summer vacation began what I needed to do. Through the constant busyness of schoolwork, studying for finals, and trying to fit in all I needed to fulfill before the year was over, it started to become almost rare of being able to have a true, heart-filled time with God in His Word.  And as any other follower of Jesus knows, when we stray from the Word, we tend to stray from Him. How thankful I am that Jesus is the Rock, the One who firmly stands, and who will never leave me no matter how much I stray from Him! That first summer vacation weekend, I knew I should start getting back into reading the Scriptures, but because I was out of town and didn't do the proper planning necessary to attain this time with Him, I brought my Bible, read a couple of verses before bed, and was done for the day. I've learned that reading the Bible just to check it off on my daily "to do" list normally doesn't get me anywhere. As you would expect, returning from vacation didn't allow me to get much farther in this daily time with God that I desperately needed to acquire on a day-by-day basis.
    Eventually, I started to find time through the summer days of spending some of my evenings in God's Word for at least a short period of time, although it was often pushed as my 'last resort', often resulting from knowing the necessity of doing it, but not doing so until boredom overcame and there was nothing left to do. Every morning was consumed by checking Facebook and Twitter, and it was social media such as these that consumed my day. God's mercy reaches in moments like this though, and He would eventually use one of these rushed times in His Word to speak abundantly to me.
    It was last Sunday when His calling reached me in the midst of time in His Word and in an amazing teen devotional I've been reading, "Made To Crave: Satisfying Your Deepest Desires with God" by Lysa TerKeurst and Shaunti Feldhahn. I've been reading a chapter a day in the New Testament, and as I stumbled upon the day's reading of Luke 14, I encountered one of the most convicting passages of Scripture:

"Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: 'If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. 
  Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’
  Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.' "  (Luke 14:25-33)

   Reading this passage that Sunday evening, the question lingered in my mind of "what do I need to sacrifice?" Jesus makes it clear that we have to give up everything for Him. Giving my life to Him was never guaranteed to make life easy, but He has promised it will be worth it, and He requires us to give up everything if we want to truly live out the rewards of a God-filled life. His parables of building a tower and a king in war exemplifies the proper planning of living this life we were desired to live, and that life can never be possible if we don't plan to abstain from anything of the world, the things that pull us away from Him, and the materialistic and emotional thoughts and feelings we obtain when we chase after anything but Him. 
    With the question of sacrifice in the back of my mind, I continued on, turning my thoughts over to the Made to Crave devotional. God couldn't make my calling to sacrifice any more clear. Opening the book to the chapter I last left off on, titled "Growing Closer to God", the authors discussed the true way of getting closer to God; it's not just about going to church, abstaining from cussing, reading the Bible, and the usual "Christian checklist", but its about turning our hearts towards Him and sacrificing everything so that our lives can maintain a focus on Him. It's about turning to the Holy Spirit within us to grow in the fruit of self control when it comes to overcoming addictions and idols that keep us from growing in our relationship. And finally, I gained understanding into a portion of Scripture that I had never had before through the wisdom of these authors, and that is of the story of the rich man asking how to inherit eternal life in Matthew 19. Jesus told the rich man to sell his possessions and give to the poor, and then to follow Him. This act of giving all of our wealth to the poor isn't necessarily a command given by God to everyone, as I discovered, but it was Jesus saying that to truly abide in Him and live the life we were called to live, we must first sacrifice what is most dear to us, and then follow Him. If God wasn't being clear enough, I came across this line from the book as well: "The girl who is struggling with checking her Twitter feed before checking the Bible first thing in the morning might need to fast from social media for a while." God couldn't be any more clear about what He was asking me to do.
      After consideration and prayer, I decided to give up Facebook and Twitter for five days. At the end of the time period, I might go bigger, but starting with this simple sacrifice has been enough to get me back into His Word and has allowed me to grow incredibly closer to Him. He has provided the strength to say no to the internet first thing in the morning. I've been able to read the Scriptures every morning, along with my devotional, as well as allowed me to spend a short amount of time in a different devotional every night. This past Tuesday, the first day of my fast, I also attended my first day of a Bible study with some close friends, and these provisions placed in my life are certainly not there for any other reason besides to purely serve and get closer to God. 
    I ask the question for each and every one of you: is anything holding you back from getting closer to God? What sacrifices is God calling you to make in order that you should thrive in your relationship with Him? From my own personal experience, I can surely tell you that when you listen to His voice, and make sacrifices from the worldly materials, thoughts, feelings, or anything else in your life, you will be changed for the better!

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