A Belittling Attitude

Two young girls bullying other young girl outdoors

“Whoever belittles his neighbor lacks sense, but a man of understanding remains silent.” Proverbs 11:12

It’s such an easy thing to do: someone does something that you don’t think is right, and immediately your first response is to talk about them badly behind their back. It isn’t even always something that’s outright sinful…sometimes it’s just something that we think is dumb…or annoying. It feels good for us to air our opinion…to know that someone else has heard that we don’t agree with what so-and-so did; that we have better standards, or that if we had the chance, we would certainly do things better than they did. It can especially be easy to fall into this trap as we actually begin to desire the Lord, and start seeking Him more earnestly. As He begins to change our sinful hearts, we can quickly forget or overlook our own weaknesses, and think we have a right to talk badly about someone else because we’re growing in the Lord; being changed and made “more holy”. Or we think that focusing on someone else’s sin or weaknesses in our conversation is a good “object lesson” for others…when, really, it is simply making us feel better about ourselves, or even us trying to make ourselves look better to those listening…at the expense of others’ reputations. Would we want others to do the same to us; smearing our reputations to others? I’m guessing not.

“So-and-so is soooo annoying,” or, “I can’t believe so-and-so would do that…” or “So-and-so is weird…who would DO that,” or “I wouldn’t do what THEY just did!”…Any of these things sound familiar? These are all examples of what “belittling” means. And you know what? It is just as wrong to THINK things like this as it is to say them out loud. “Belittling” isn’t simply restricted to something that someone says out loud, but it also refers to what goes on in our hearts, and how we think about them, whether or not we say anything. The dictionary definition of “belittle” is: “to regard as less impressive or important than appearances indicate”. Basically, ‘looking down on someone’. But the Bible tells us to “regard others as more important than yourself”, and to put yourself in the lowest place (which would necessarily mean that you’d be looking up at them) instead of thinking of yourself as more worthy of honor than others.

I appreciate the straight-forward nature of Proverbs, and this proverb in particular gets right to the point when it says, “Whoever belittles his neighbor lacks sense”. Not only are we lowering their character in the sight of others, when we should be doing everything in our power to make sure that others think well of them (Romans 12:10), but we are also doing ourselves harm, for, when we allow ourselves to get caught up in thinking haughty thoughts about ourselves in relation to others, we are indulging in a subtle snare of the devil to suck us into pride. You might think that’s not so, but honestly if we were completely humble, we would never have a reason to belittle anyone. Think about it. The only time we belittle anyone is when we think that they are below us in some way – whether spiritually, or in general manners, or even just common sense. And the reason I know this is not godly is because…well…can you picture God doing it?? Can you? Can you picture Him sitting around saying, “I can’t stand so-and-so,” or “I wish so-and-so would just stop being so stupid”! And He of all people would have the right to say such things – I mean, He is perfectly wise! BUT…He is also perfectly humble. And this is why He does not look down on us, or speak ill of us, but is always SO patient.  So, the next time we are tempted to belittle someone, or the next time someone else starts talking badly about a person…let’s heed this wisdom of Proverbs, and demonstrate our understanding of these things by “remaining silent”.

P.S. It is also very easy when we hear or read something like this to immediately think, “Oh yeah, I know someone who does that!” It happened to me even while God was showing me these verses. But that is not the point. In fact…that is the very thing I’m talking about! But what we must do is put aside every thought about every other person, and ask God to show us where we have fallen into these things ourselves…and ask Him to remove these bad tendencies from us, and to instead fill our hearts with a humble, genuine love for others.

Un-offend-able

Two Teddy Bears

 

I have been praying a lot lately for God’s transforming power in my heart to make me “un-offendable”.  This article is written from the place of not having overcome these things in my own life yet, but just sharing some of my thoughts and the things that God has been putting on my heart about it all, because I have a feeling that many others probably deal with the same areas of weakness. And I know that it is only God’s power that can change our lives and hearts…so I don’t feel like I have to “have it all together” in every area I write about before I share the things God has been teaching me in the midst of my struggles…because any little grain of truth that I’ve gleaned from God along the way could be a help and a guidepost for you, too.

I have found, and perhaps you have too, that it is far too easy to become offended by any little thing that goes against my selfish desires. I can be perfectly happy, and then, along comes some well-meaning person with other plans than what I had in mind, and *POOF* instantly my mind is filled with, “But I wanted to do such-and-such,” and, “They don’t care about what I think,” and “Don’t they realize that they aren’t the only people on the planet,” etc.  Or perhaps someone says something that doesn’t make you feel 150% loved and accepted. *POOF* “They hate me,” or, “I don’t want to ever see them again,” or “Why don’t they think about what they say before they say it,” or “They’re mean,” etc., all flood your mind. And sometimes my mind will take the “poor me” approach in its thoughts, making the selfishness harder to detect…things like, “All I want is for people to actually just love me,” or, “All I want is just a little time to have fun,” or, “I was just trying to help…”…etc. Your flesh takes on the persona of a “victim”; you feel like your rights have been trampled upon, and the simplest little desires that you “deserve” have been snatched mercilessly right out of your hands. Out pops those hurt feelings, and the anger and bitterness bubble up inside before you can even think. But even in these sneakiest of situations, if you take the time to really think about what the root of your offense is, it will almost always come back to selfishness (and when it’s not selfishness, it’s usually pride).

Now, I’m just going to insert a few Bible verses here that throw a bit of a wrench in all of our self-centered thinking:

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Ephesians 5:1-2 ESV)

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit [pride], but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3 ESV)

As Christians, all of our lives should point to Jesus, who didn’t hold onto any of His own rights, but gave Himself up for us.  I read an excellent devotional by a man named Oswald Chambers, who has a lot of wisdom in this area. This is some of what he said:

“When you are insulted, you must not only not resent it, but you must make it an opportunity to exhibit the Son of God in your life. And you cannot imitate the nature of Jesus— it is either in you or it is not. A personal insult becomes an opportunity for a saint to reveal the incredible sweetness of the Lord Jesus.

Every time I insist on having my own rights, I hurt the Son of God, while in fact I can prevent Jesus from being hurt if I will take the blow myself. That is the real meaning of Colossians 1:24. A disciple realizes that it is his Lord’s honor that is at stake in his life, not his own honor.

Never look for righteousness in the other person, but never cease to be righteous yourself.”

These things are SO true, and they help you to see in a whole new light! We can look at insults and situations where you would seem, from an onlooker’s perspective, to have every right to be hurt and offended as, instead, an opportunity to display the love of Jesus, and the gentleness which is His greatness. The love that is not overcome with evil, but overcomes evil with good (Romans 12:21). When I choose to be offended by something, it’s a lose-lose situation, because I am responding to “evil” (or what my human nature wants to view as evil – whether it really is or not) with more evil (aka: sin). No good can come from responding in sin, because evil can only bring forth more evil – it is incapable of causing good to come from it. When you breed 2 lions, you get baby lions. It will happen every time. No matter how much you want them to, they will never create a baby horse; they are simply incapable (no matter what evolutionists say). In the same way, sin is incapable of bringing forth good, though God can step in and redeem situations…just like someone could step in and just buy you a horse, after you got tired of breeding lions. So when we hold onto offense because our sinful nature is enjoying the pity party, and because we are hoping that something “good” will come from us being/acting hurt and angry (in other words, we are hoping that we’ll end up getting our own way, or at least getting pity from others), in reality, we are not only causing all kinds of hurt to ourselves and others and our relationships with them, but we are causing God to have to discipline us, because we are actually sinning. No matter how real the hurt is from the other person – that is between them and God – but when you allow yourself to be angry, you are no longer innocent yourself, and you will have to deal with the consequences of your own sin. God has to make consequences for it so that you aren’t so quick to do it again. Furthermore, when we hold onto offense, we are also seeking to draw attention to ourselves instead of seeking to point to the sweetness and gentleness of Jesus. Instead of taking the blow for Jesus, and responding in meekness and love, we are causing Him to have to suffer twice over! It is such a good thing to remember, as Oswald Chambers said above, that we should be more concerned about the Lord’s honor being at stake in our lives than our own honor! When we are grumpy, and talking badly about the person who hurt us, and acting less kindly toward them, we are essentially saying to any and all watching that Jesus hasn’t really changed our lives, or given us love like we say He has. And we are also saying to God that we think He is too far away or unconcerned with us to help us to overcome these things. We are refusing to take hold of the power to overcome our sin nature which is not far off, but right within our grasp…but we prefer to feel sorry for ourselves. However, Jesus says many times in the gospels that, in order to be forgiven ourselves, we must forgive those who have sinned against us! And Ephesians 4:31-32 says,

“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”

It can be particularly difficult in situations when the person who has hurt you is a Christian. Your good, stout, “righteous indignation” (or at least we can often justify ourselves by calling it such) rises up within you saying, “They should know better!” “They should be different if they really love the Lord!” “I shouldn’t have to put up with that from them – they’re the ones that are supposed to be loving me like Jesus would,” etc. And, while it is true that someone who is calling themselves a Christian should be striving for change in their hearts and striving to live more and more like Jesus, at the same time, I can quote from Jesus Himself and say,

“Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone…” (John 8:7) 

Who are we to demand perfection from another human when we ourselves are full of sin? Who are we to say that people should know better than to hurt us when we go through our own lives bulldozing people down with our hurtful words and thoughtless actions left and right? It is not our duty to be the judge of what someone else should or shouldn’t be doing – we can’t see what is in their hearts, but God can! It is our duty to keep watch over our own hearts, and to keep our own feet from sinning, whether or not those around us do. I’m going to bring up what Oswald Chambers said one more time, because I think it’s a really excellent goal for us to have in our thoughts and our daily lives: “Never look for righteousness in the other person, but never cease to be righteous yourself.” If we aren’t holding up a standard that we think other people should be living up to, we will be much less easily offended. Instead, I think we need to begin to focus on simply living righteously ourselves, and pleading with God daily to fill us with His nature – his sweetness and gentleness and love – and asking Him for His strength and help to live in a way that brings honor and glory to Him…and then, not waiting until we feel like it…but just beginning to do it!

The TRUTH About Flirting

teenage couple kissing

 

“What’s wrong with flirting?” Some might ask, “It’s all in good fun!” Perhaps you are one of those who is confused about whether flirting is ok or not. Many of us have grown up being told that flirting is the only way to let a guy know you’re interested…or to find out if he is interested. But…interested in what?

First, let’s define “flirting”: “To behave amorously (‘strongly moved by love’) without serious intent; to show superficial or casual interest or liking.”

 

Flirting Without Knowledge

“But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Matthew 5:28 (This applies to women too!)

Flirting is basically just a way to “market” yourself to guys. It’s a way to say, “I’m available!” Though, more often than not, the message it really sends is, “I’m desperate!” When you flirt, you are giving yourself away without any commitment, and usually without any real serious desire for commitment. Flirting is generally done just for the “thrill” of being noticed and feeling appreciated. However, what kind of “appreciation” is it when a guy you barely even know (if at all) returns the attention? Does he actually appreciate you…or is he simply lusting after your body? I think the answer is pretty clear. How can you really know what someone is like and what kind of things go on in their hearts if you’re just casually flirting with them? You can’t. And I believe that this is one reason for the extraordinary amount of broken hearts and failed marriages these days; people flirt with everyone for a thrill, find someone who makes their heart beat faster, marries them…and then ditches them when they get bored, because they’re used to relationships being no-big-deal, and no-commitment required. “I do” means nothing any more. And even for those who do want it to mean something, so many get stuck in a marriage with someone who isn’t what they seemed to be before they got married, because their whole “romance” was wrapped up in the physical side of things, and they were able to hide their true selves just long enough. Flirting glorifies the physical and emotional side of “being in love”, and neglects what is really important: integrity, love for God, and selflessness. Flirting says that you should chase after those lustful feelings in your heart and just “have fun” with them. But since when can you play with hot coals and not get burned? (Proverbs 6:27-28) To be blunt, flirting is the very thing that any prostitute on the street would do…but a woman who desires serious commitment and real love, and won’t settle for a childish, flirtatious “fling” is a rare jewel. All of the things you indulge in when you flirt – the way you dress and act – is all designed to stir up lust in a guy’s heart…and it will probably work…but is that what you really want? A guy who just lusts after you, but doesn’t care about your heart, your character, or any of the things that actually make you who you are? He may say the words “I love you”…but they are empty words when not accompanied by true, selfless love. And yet, it’s not simply the guy’s fault for desiring your body, when you peddle your wares like any street vendor in Mexico, and give yourself away dirt cheap to anyone who will take a second glance. Sure, you might “catch” a guy. But any guy you catch that way isn’t going to be worth keeping…which, of course, is why flirting is done simply for the short-term pleasure and emotions it stirs up. Anyone who wants a real, lasting love knows that flirting with any guy who gives you the time of day is not the right foundation to build on. Real love is built on selflessness. Real love is accompanied by commitment. Real love doesn’t depend on circumstances or looks or emotions being just right. Also, it’s not just the guy who is grieving God’s heart by lusting. If you examine your own motives for flirting, you will see that it is rooted in lust as well (thinking a guy is “cute”, “hot”, etc). Flirting can’t come from any kind of real love at all, because real love “is not self-seeking” (1 Cor. 13:5 NIV), and everything about flirting is self-seeking; seeking your own gain, pleasure, fulfillment, etc, and not about what is best for the other person, or best in the long term.

Also, if you aren’t old enough to be married, and/or you aren’t in a position to be seriously considering marriage, you should not even be playing with a guy’s heart or attention. What if the roles were reversed? What if a guy started flirting with you and playing with your emotions, who was just planning to ditch you for another girl in a month’s time? What if a guy who wasn’t planning to get married for years and years started telling you he loved you, but wasn’t willing to commit to you, or take care of you, and was continually looking at other girls, desiring them, and was only looking for what he could get from you, and would just as soon chase after another girl who caught his fancy? That’s a pretty shallow version of “love” if you ask me…and causes a lot of hurt. And it’s just as wrong and hurtful coming from a girl.

And most likely, any guy who will flirt back, isn’t one who is seeking God above all else – those guys know that they can’t marry just anyone, and aren’t willing to settle for a quick emotional fling, which would simply be a distraction to them from seeking the Lord. If you call yourself a Christian, what business do you have pursuing guys who aren’t Christians? The Bible says, “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14) And if you decide that having the attention of a guy is more important to you than God’s Word, you will find yourself flirting with danger.

 

Flirting With Danger

Flirting can quickly draw you into not only having your mind full of lustful, wrong thoughts, and causing your focus to be set on attracting guys instead of what is truly important (which things are explained more in other articles), it can also draw you into sin very easily, when you cross the lines of simply being extra chatty with a guy and giving him “the look”, to kissing, holding hands, etc. Outside of marriage, these things are very dangerous. God has given these things to husbands and wives as a way to show their love for each-other, but they are not meant for simply getting good feelings with anyone you want to. The Bible doesn’t say a lot about flirting specifically…but the things it does say are very serious. “The Lord said: Because the daughters of Zion are haughty [prideful] and walk with outstretched necks [showing off their bodies], glancing wantonly [lustfully] with their eyes, mincing along as they go [walking in a way as to gain attention], tinkling with [the anklets on] their feet [to make guys look at them], therefore the Lord will strike with a scab [disease] the heads of the daughters of Zion, and the Lord will lay bare their secret parts [causing them to be ashamed, and their sin to be exposed].” Isaiah 3:16-17 (The explanations/clarifications in brackets are mine.)

When you flirt, you are walking outside of the safety of God’s commands and blessing…and that is a dangerous place to be, because there has to be consequences for disobedience and sin. Also, any guy who is not sold out for Jesus is going to only lead you away from Him, and many “good Christian girls” have been led astray and even had their hearts and lives destroyed by “successfully” getting the attention of ungodly men.

Also, notice that, in the verses above, it talks specifically about what the girls are doing, and not the response of any guys…and it also doesn’t mention any particular physical contact. This is because it doesn’t matter if you have guys following you like puppies or not – God sees what is in our hearts, and acting flirtatiously without being successful is the same as getting a guy to kiss you, because we have the same sinful, lustful thoughts and desires going on in our hearts in both cases. This is why the verse from Matthew 5:28 is so important; it shows us that it’s not just crossing a line or doing something physical that makes something wrong…it’s actually the sinful thoughts, and the secret fantasies that we let roam freely through our minds, which is where all sin starts. These are the things that God sees, and wants us to deal with. And this is why you can’t just say, “Oh, it’s ok because I flirt, but I never actually kiss anybody or let them touch me.” First, we all know that’s baloney, and will never last, because our sin nature is never satisfied, and is always wanting more, and more. But also, that doesn’t make flirting ok, even if you were able to hold to that “standard”, because God isn’t only just concerned about what we do…but what is going on in our hearts. And even if we never actually DO anything wrong, if we have sinful thoughts, it is still a sin.

 

Flirting Comes From The Heart

“For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” Matthew 12:34b.

Whatever we put into our hearts will come out. Whatever we think about is going to eventually be displayed in our words and actions. If we read romance books, and watch chick-flicks, and listen to music that’s all about sinful relationships…then that is exactly what is going to grow in our hearts. No matter how good your intentions are, if you are feeding your heart with those things, that’s what is going to come out. I was one of the most careful girls I knew about what I watched, read, and listened to…..but not careful enough. I spent hours wondering if a certain song related to my love life at that time….or if my relationship with a guy would turn out like I’d seen in a movie. I would try to act like a certain movie character who got the guy of her dreams…hoping it would help me. I would take the “advice” of a song about a romance above what the Bible said. Those things shaped my world instead of the Word of God shaping my world and my thought life. Instead of seeking to be a virtuous woman, and striving to hear His voice, I was trying to figure out how I could make a relationship take the right track in order to end up like some fairytale story I’d heard of. If you listen/read/watch things that make it seem like flirting and flings and relationships with guys are the most important things in the world…then those are the things that will be most important to you. But if you trust God’s word which says that spending time with Him, and obeying His commands, and telling other people about Him are the most important things in the world…then those are the things that will become most important to you…and you will realize that all the other things are so fleeting and shallow. When we flirt, we are trying to take our lives into our own hands, and make something happen that God doesn’t think is a good idea (or He would have already done it!). When we flirt, we tell God that we don’t trust Him. We tell Him that we don’t think He has enough power to bring us the right guy at the right time. We think we have to “shop around”, and take matters into our own hands if something is ever going to happen. But I have seen God do things that seemed impossible to bring two people together that He had prepared for each other…including what He did to bring my husband and I together from two different countries! And I am so glad that I waited on God’s timing, and that I didn’t have tons of baggage from previous relationships that I had to deal with, but that I could just give myself completely to the one man God had been preparing for me! And yes, there were a few times when I did try to make things happen myself…and none of those times were blessed by God…and I only wish I hadn’t been impatient.

Flirting also comes from a sin that seems to be native to us girls: manipulation. From the beginning of the world, we ladies have been trying to coax, finagle, and manipulate our way into whatever we want or think is best. However…what we set our sights on as the “best thing” usually isn’t. And yes…the desire to manipulate is a sin, not dis-similar to lying…because we often will do or say things in a certain way that we know is going to bring about the response that we want…instead of just being up-front and honest about our thoughts and desires. I still have to fight against this sin, which I have struggled with from childhood. It started with trying to figure out how to get my mom to let me do what I wanted to do…which often ended in me convincing my brother that it was something that he really wanted to do, and getting him to ask mom so I didn’t have to. And now it still shows up, like in times when I am upset, and I just want to act dramatic about it, to get more pity. In the same way, flirting is trying to manipulate a guy into liking you, or noticing you…and using sin to get what you want is never going to bring forth God’s best for your life. In fact, it is likely to do more harm than good.

 

Flirting is Disregarding God

“For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain [keep away] from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress [sin] and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger [bringing forth justice on behalf of the one who was wronged] in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.” (1 Thessalonians 4:3-8)

I just want to make this clear: if you choose to ignore these things, and continue flirting and throwing yourself at guys in lustful and lust-causing ways, you aren’t just ignoring my personal opinion. You are ignoring God Himself, who has called us to have self-control over our passions and emotions, and to not just let them run wild. If nothing else convinces you that it is wrong, I hope that God’s desires for you to be pure and to not wrong those around you with your self-seeking lust for attention will be enough to convince you.

The fruit of having the Holy Spirit in our lives is self-control…and He gives us the ability to keep watch over our bodies as well as our hearts, to keep ourselves from sin, even when we feel too weak on our own. God has freely offered us the power of His Holy Spirit to overcome these things if we would just ask…so we are without excuse. We can’t get away with the excuse of, “I’m just too weak to fight the temptation,” or “God’s rules are just too hard.” That is just saying that really, we don’t actually want to give up our sin, and let God actually change us. Because God has given His Holy Spirit to us, we can keep His commands, and live in a way that is pleasing to Him – running from sin!

 

So…how do you get boyfriends without flirting??

You don’t. If you don’t flirt, you will never be the girl with a new boyfriend every month. It’s just the truth. If you don’t flirt, most of your friends will probably think you are silly…or that something is wrong with you. But…if you don’t flirt, you won’t be giving yourself away for free to guys who would lead you down the road to sin and wreck your life. If you don’t flirt, you don’t have to worry about the drama of who likes who, or wonder how to outdo the girls around you who are flaunting everything they have in order to attract new guys. And, if you don’t flirt, your heart will be free to serve the Lord however and whenever He asks you to…and it will be free to love the guy that God is preparing for you, and preparing you for…and you won’t have to deal with the baggage of past relationships, or spend years of your life “searching”. Because, when it’s God’s perfect timing, He will make it happen. Without flirting. Without even looking for a boyfriend. God is very powerful…and very, very good. You can absolutely rest in trusting Him, and letting Him do all of the matchmaking work. You can pour yourself completely into studying His Word, and serving Him, and serving others, and not even spend a moment worrying about who you will marry, because when it’s the right time, He will bring it to pass. And I know you may struggle with waiting, with being “single”, with the uncertainty. But I would rather cast myself on the “uncertainty” of letting God be my matchmaker, than the uncertainty of trying to be my own matchmaker. And you don’t have to worry that you’re going to “miss” him, or be in the wrong place at the wrong time, or that you have to be doing things in such a way as to meet as many godly guys as possible. You could be working at an all-girls school and God would even still not be stopped when He wanted to bring you a spouse. And honestly, I knew a few guys who loved the Lord from various activities I’d been involved in…but God chose to bypass all of the guys I had met or ever “considered”, and in His perfect timing, He brought a guy into my life that I’d never met before…and within a year, we were married, because it was all so completely directed by God. And I am SO grateful that God wrote my love story and not me. He has given me the dearest friend for a husband, who leads me in following Jesus.

And what will you say when people ask you the inevitable question of, “So…when are you going to get a boyfriend?” (Trust me…it will happen…a lot – especially as soon as you decide that you are going to wait on God’s timing.)

What if you just replied, “Well…I don’t actually care. And I don’t want any boyfriend who’s not the guy that God wants for me.”
And then smile…and let your heart rest in God’s goodness.

You Want…ME?!?

surprised woman shows itself questioningly

“Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever.” Ephesians 3:20-21

It can be a scary thing when God asks you to serve Him. Now, there are many reasons that this statement may be true, but the one I’m currently getting at is the moment when we realize that we are sinful humans and so, so weak – continually messing up and making wrong choices…and yet, God is asking us to get out and preach the gospel, and to be His hands and feet, showing love to the desperate and dying souls we see each day! We realize that all that we do and say may be the only glimpse of the heart of Jesus that people will ever see! We wonder, “How can this be?? God should be using someone who’s far more righteous and holy than me! I can scarcely even stand firm in my own relationship with the Lord, let alone leading others to Him, or being an example of His love in a right way that will draw people to Him instead of causing them to turn away!” And we can see our own weaknesses in speaking with people, because so often either we miss the opportunity because we’re too shy or we don’t know what to say, or we do try talking to them, only to realize that we have no great wisdom or understanding that can change their lives; when we don’t see people falling to their knees in tears wanting to repent after we talk to them, and instead, we get eyes rolling and mocking laughter, and we begin to wonder…will we ever be able to change someone’s life?

The answer is: no. We can’t. And the more we try in our own strength, the more we will see our glaring inability to help anyone – truly help them – in the ways they most need. However, there is hope! And it is such a sweet truth that can relieve such a great weight of inadequacy off of our shoulders. The truth is this: Only God can change lives. But He offers His power freely to all who ask (Luke 11:13), so that, when we are willing, His power can actually flow through us, and work through us in ways that we would be unable to accomplish any other way. We were made with a “driver’s seat” in our souls, so to speak. And we can have one of 3 “chauffeurs”: Either our flesh, the devil, or the Holy Spirit. For most of us, our flesh prefers that spot, and much of what we do and say comes from our sin nature, and our weak fleshly thoughts and desires. And when we come across someone who is weighed down by heavy burdens, our flesh is just a scrawny, weak little thing, and just doesn’t have the power to help. In fact, if we don’t carefully rein it in, our flesh can actually end up adding burdens to the poor, already weighed down person instead of helping them to be free! However, when we are “putting to death the deeds of the flesh”, and we call upon Jesus to fill us with His strength and power to change lives, and we ask Him to guide and control our words and thoughts and actions, we are kicking our flesh out of the drivers’ seat and letting the Holy Spirit take control…and we essentially must humble ourselves and become willing tools for His use, letting Him “drive” wherever He wants. When we ask God to fill us and take control and to fill us with the power of His might…He will. And it is amazing how He can bring forth great fruitfulness from situations that seemed questionable, and how He can fill us with strength when we have none, and how He can speak through us to someone’s heart in exactly the ways that they need…and it doesn’t matter if we know the person, and it doesn’t matter if we feel excited, and it doesn’t matter if we are tired, and it doesn’t matter if we don’t know all the right verses that apply to a situation, and it doesn’t matter if we don’t feel bold or don’t know what to say. It doesn’t matter because, we can cast ourselves entirely on Christ’s strength and power, and in the moment that we need it, the wisdom, the understanding, the strength, will all be there. “…do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.” Luke 12:11b-12

When God spoke these truths to my own heart, I felt such a new freedom to serve Him however and whenever He called me to…because it is no longer dependent on me feeling “prepared” or spiritual enough (though always being prepared, by spending as much time in His presence as possible is invaluable). All that we do comes straight from HIS power, and not our own striving. And when I feel totally inadequate and weak, “His power is made perfect in my weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9a), because He gets all of the glory for the miracle of bringing forth fruit in spite of my weaknesses, and for using me in the ways that I thought were impossible, and for overcoming my areas of weakness with His great power and the help and encouragement of His Holy Spirit. It is such a wonderful mercy! And it causes me much rejoicing, because it is so sweet for God to still use us in spite of all of our weaknesses and failings…and not just to use us, but if we are willing, He will actually be able to rescue many through the use of our lives.

What’s a Missionary?

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What does it mean to be a missionary? The general idea of a missionary – the one that is always the first thing that pops into our heads at the mention of the word – is often times something like a saintly, glowing person with a halo. Someone with superhuman abilities to do things that “normal” people would never do. Someone who always does and says the right thing, and somehow magically always knows exactly what to do when confronted with a challenge. Someone who goes into the jungles of Africa alone and fearlessly preaches to hundreds of people who all get saved. Someone with great charisma and boldness.

If some of these things are what come to your mind when you think about what a missionary is…you might be surprised to hear what I’m about to say. But I will preface it by saying that I am comforted by these verses:

“For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:26-29 ESV)

Serving the Lord isn’t just about going overseas to build houses, or doctor sick people, or preach to cannibal tribes. Sometimes God calls people to do these things…and that is always really amazing to see! But sometimes there’s no glorious title given, such as “So-and-So, a missionary to Such-and-Such exotic location”. Sometimes serving God and doing what He asks you to do means staying in your home country – or even your hometown! Sometimes it means just being faithful to go out to the streets of your city and tell people about Jesus. It can mean simply realizing that practically every person you see walking by you every day is lost and confused and hurting…and dying inside, because they have no hope; because they don’t know Jesus………and then committing yourself to follow the Lord’s direction to reach out to them, and to do whatever it takes to tell them about Jesus – to give them a chance at receiving new hearts and new lives. It’s not always glorious being a “missionary”. It’s not always fun. It doesn’t mean getting a great tan, or having lots of pictures in your scrapbook with little kids in rags, with dirty faces. These people need Jesus…but so does the kid walking down the street with his face glued to his gameboy. So does the girl you see sitting alone on the bench in the park just crying. So does the barista at the coffee shop, with the sad eyes and empty heart…who has tried buddhism, witchcraft, and mormonism…and who is still searching and empty…so empty, and so confused. You don’t have to raise thousands of dollars to go out for a week and do a building project in a third world country. You just have to wake up, and look around you each day – any day. You just have to see the needs of the people in your own town instead of pushing them aside, or assuming they’re “alright” (as I can often do myself, because my natural tendency is to generally just assume that everyone is doing fine). You might be their only chance to hear about Jesus, and how He can actually give them new hearts and take away their sins, and their guilt and shame and emptiness and fill them with joy. Pray for God to give you His eyes to see people…and pray for boldness…because you’ll need it.

Now, can I tell you that, despite the rosy picture people have of “missionaries”…we are not super-human. In fact…our weaknesses are perhaps MORE apparent in the heat of spiritual battle, lack of sleep, and general stress. We often have moments of intense fear and intimidation. There are many times that we know God has told us to do something, and we hesitate too long. There are many missed opportunities. Many times we know we just need to reach out and help someone…and yet, the words escape us. We get tired – very tired – and grumpy. Sometimes we say the wrong things; sometimes we say things out of our emotions (which are not always right) instead of from God’s Spirit’s guiding. We don’t always have victory over the devil’s attacks and discouragements the first time…or the second. We don’t always see fruit from our labors; there aren’t people continually repenting or lining the streets asking, “What must I do to be saved?” We don’t get lots of pats on the back or encouragement – in fact, anger and slander and lots of hurtful words are more common than I ever thought they would be. There are many times when we wish we just had a little bubble that we could pull out and hide in whenever we wanted to have some “alone” or “peace-and-quiet” time. There are lots of times when we’d like to just give up, or get a “real” job, or, at the very least, go on a month vacation. There are some people and places we come across that just downright creep us out. There are sleepless nights, hunger, thirst, discomforts galore…and lots of times – too many from me personally – that we grumble and complain instead of praising the Lord like we know we should.

Being a missionary means being “on call” for God to use you as His hands and feet whenever, wherever He wants to…and it generally goes waaaayyy outside of our comfort zones. Can I just say that again? It generally, almost always, goes waaaayyy outside of our comfort zones. God likes to use us in areas we aren’t comfortable in so that we cling to Him more tightly, and so His power is displayed in our weaknesses – not our skill and cleverness. Sometimes God will call us to do things in a way that we are particularly gifted and comfortable in. Sometimes. But more often than not, I have seen God’s call on my life and many others lead them outside of their realm of comfort and skill, leading them to lay aside their hobbies and many of the “gifts” they seem to have – the ones everyone is continually complimenting them on and marveling over – in order to just pursue reaching the lost with reckless abandon. There will be time for painting and knitting and playing instruments and doing trigonometry (if that’s something that floats your boat) in heaven. (Not that there is anything wrong with doing these things, but we can waste so much time pursing our own interests and dreams that we don’t even notice the hurting people around us. And all of these things take up so much time that they really leave very little for seeking the Lord ourselves, let alone trying to help others find Him. And I will also just add that I have had to lay aside many, many interests that I had in order to do the things God has set before me in this time – from art and playing instruments regularly, to dreams of being an archaeologist and a novel-writer.) But there is only a very short time we have on earth, and SO many hurting, lost people who are just blindly stumbling their way into hell! A missionary is simply someone who decides that time is too short to pursue things other than rescuing the lost, and who lays aside their other dreams and goals in order to seek those who are wandering, and to hold them back from the slaughterer of souls.

A missionary is not a perfect person, not always bold and outgoing (I’m really not!), not eloquent, doesn’t always have the whole Bible memorized, doesn’t always wake up like a chipmunk on coffee – wanting to go out and preach the gospel to anyone and everyone they see, and doesn’t always know the right things to say or do. A missionary is simply someone whose heart has been filled with love and concern for others, and has laid down their own lives in order to bring others into freedom through the gospel (John 15:13). And it is oh, so worth it. Every time I get to see that light in the eyes of someone who “gets it”, my heart overflows with gladness and thankfulness to the Lord for leading me in this way. It can be challenging at times – and made more so by my own weaknesses…but it is so worth it, and so sweet; there is nothing I would rather do. The fruit of living the life of a missionary is that which will last forever, instead of turning to dust like the treasure of this world; meaningless when your life is over. It is wonderful to see people raised up from their dead lives and given new hearts; filled with joy and light! It is beautiful to see those who were wandering aimlessly through life become like an unfolding flower; beautiful and fragrant. It is so special to be a part of a young child taking hold of the Good Shepherd’s hand for the first time. All this because Jesus chooses the foolish things of this world…..and that would be me. I am so grateful to be a part of His plan…and you can be too.

“Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter.” Proverbs 24:11

“…save others by snatching them out of the fire.” Jude 23a

Choosing Thanksgiving

Girl and wildflowers

“The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies Me;” Psalm 50:23

“I never have enough money for the things I want.” Angie slumped down into her chair with a huff. Her friends turned slightly in their seats, politely acknowledging that they had heard, but no one offered a response, because…well…what do you say? Angie continued, “I’m tired of being stuck at home, but my car needs to be fixed again, and I never have any money to get out and do something just for fun once in a while.” Someone slurped the remainder of their root-beer float loudly through their straw, with a sideways glance. “And I’m sick of my job, and I wish I could just do something that’s more…interesting.” Silence. Someone coughed, and one of Angie’s friends offered a low, “Mmmmhmm,” in half-hearted support.

We all know how it goes. And perhaps you have been the complaining “Angie” in your own circles of friends. It’s easy to do! It is so easy to slip into complaining – especially when you allow yourself to have a mindset where you feel like you deserve certain things – things like comfort, security, money, time, rest, love, etc. I have been this way many times. The more I feel “deserving” of something, the more grumpy and complaining I am when I don’t get it. But the truth is, if we want to serve the Lord and surrender our WHOLE lives to Him, that means that we must actually surrender our WHOLE lives to Him. What a crazy concept. When we say we want to do whatever He wants us to, that doesn’t just mean, “As long as it’s fun and exciting”. It also means staying up an hour or two longer than you had planned, in order to pray for someone. It means not always having the “normal” comforts of life that have become just a way of life for us North Americans; things people will think you are weird or under-privileged for not having, but in reality, most of such things weren’t even invented until recent years! It means not chasing after guys…and maybe being content for a long time without one, in order to serve God however He calls you. It may mean not having free time to do whatever you want; it may mean not even having just a few minutes to relax or have peace and quiet. It may mean not having money; not being able to get all the super awesome hair products that sparkle on the shelf, or the fab new fashions that are oh-so cute.

When we decide that we want to follow Jesus, we lay all of our “deserving” aside, and instead begin to live our lives, not for ourselves any more, but for the Lord and for others! We are to be like Jesus, and take on the form of a servant – doing all the dirty work, and not looking for comfort, or relaxation, or any kind of reward. (“…but [Jesus] emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant…” Philippians 2:7a)

When we complain, it is not only just plain annoying for everyone around us to listen to, but it is also drawing all attention to ourselves and is the same as saying, “I deserve better”. It is self-seeking, for, all we really want is people to pity us…but often we don’t even realize that, while we are looking for pity to boost our own egos, we are, at the same time, telling the watching world that God isn’t actually enough for us, and that He is stingy and hard-hearted. We are discrediting God while we seek our own fulfillment – what a tragedy! (And I am certainly preaching to myself here, because I have done this far, far too often.)

However, when we choose thankfulness instead of complaining, it flips the whole situation around, from the spotlight being on us, to it being where it rightfully belongs: on Jesus. It might be difficult to choose thankfulness when you are actually having a really rough day – but that’s why it is called a “sacrifice”. We must do it even when we’d rather complain or curl up in a ball and cry. You will find that the more you catch yourself as you are about to complain, and instead, thank the Lord for His goodness, the more natural it will become! Let your thankfulness flow as freely and as publicly as you have proclaimed your woes. It will direct all the glory and attention to the Lord, and you will find your own attitude beginning to change. Instead of a continual cloud of gloom hanging over your head, your clouds will roll back, and you will begin to see into the very joys of heaven itself!

Guilt

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Guilt. Chances are, you’ve felt it…and if you haven’t, chances are, you just might someday. It is a product of our sinfulness combined with that inner understanding that is built into all of us that says there is right and wrong…and when you do something that’s wrong, you know it. When we do something that goes against God’s laws, or even when something bad happens to us and we know it was wrong, we can tend to feel guilty. It might start out as conviction, which is actually a gift from God, to let us know that we need to repent so we can be restored to Him. However, if we simply hold on to the bad, yucky feelings, and let them sit, and ferment, and grow…the thing they turn into is guilt, which is not from the Lord.
The Lord convicts us of sin for our good, so we can say sorry, and turn away from it, and be made clean by His Spirit. And the moment we repent, God forgives us completely and doesn’t hold our sins against us any more. But guilt is when WE choose to hold onto our sinfulness, saying to ourselves that God’s forgiveness can’t possibly be enough to undo what we’ve done; can’t possibly be enough to make us clean again, and we replay our sinfulness over and over and over again, choosing to hold onto the weight of what happened instead of accepting God’s simple way out (repenting and being given new hearts). And often times, guilt is straight from the devil, who is always trying to keep us from a close friendship with God – which is exactly what guilt does.

Also, guilt comes from our own pride. Which is a funny thing, because at the same time that we are crushed by the weight of our incredible weaknesses, we can actually also still be holding onto pride; that part of us that thinks that what we’ve done is actually too big or too bad for God to fix. And there is that part of us that WANTS to feel bad for what we’ve done. We feel like we need to do some kind of self-punishment because just saying sorry doesn’t seem like enough…and honestly, we just want to have a pity-party. There’s something about feeling miserable that we actually really don’t want to give up. I know because I’ve been there. So often when I am feeling guilty or miserable, I can see the way out, but I am hesitant to take it because my flesh loves the pity of others, or just loves sitting and moping and recounting all the ways I’ve failed because it’s feeding my selfishness…and letting God remove it from me -and taking hold of the fact that He HAS removed it from me, in faith- means that I have to stop focusing on myself, and start getting out and praising God and serving others…and…smiling – even singing! Whew! What a chore! It’s so much easier just to sit and mope…or to wear a glum face around, hoping people ask you what’s wrong…so you have yet one more chance to accumulate pity for your always-hungry selfish nature.

Some of you may have been dealing with guilt for years, and you might even have convinced yourself that there’s nothing you can do about it…except maybe go through counseling or drown your sorrows in mind-numbing entertainment…or worse.

Guilt can be incredibly all-consuming, even to the point of making us ineffective in the Lord’s service, and causing us to retreat into our own little self-centered bubbles where we don’t have to see anyone else, or be asked to do anything.

Again…I know this because I’ve been there. I was raised in a Christian home, and I know that I had the Holy Spirit inside of me, showing me right and wrong. But those things didn’t keep me from sinning. I still had to make my own choices. And many, many times I chose wrong. One particular sin I kept committing over and over again. I would say sorry to the Lord…and then fall again…then say sorry…and fall again. It got to the point where I felt like I shouldn’t even bother saying sorry or asking for the Lord’s forgiveness any more because I was sure He was done with me, and my sins were just too much for Him. I walked around with an intense weight of guilt on my shoulders continually, because I knew that what I was doing was wrong…but I wanted to be free…kind-of…and I kept falling in the same ways over and over…and yet, I was seen as a “good Christian girl”. And the only thing I could think of was, “what would people think of me if they knew what I had done”! And now I know that my family and at least most, if not all of my friends, would actually have forgiven me and had so much grace toward me that I might have been shocked at how free I felt. But instead, the devil did a good job at keeping me locked up in my mind, and chained up by my own guilt, because I was always thinking about the fact that no one knew how much I had messed up…and in order to keep up my “good Christian girl” persona, I felt like they could never know. As years went by, the guilt kept me chained in lots of ways, because I felt like I couldn’t help anyone else until I had conquered this persistent sin in my own life…and so I shied away from many ministry opportunities or ideas I had, simply because I felt too guilty to be able to speak to anyone with authority about the Lord. Some weeks were better, and then I would have more confidence to do things…and then I would fall, and the waves of guilt would close in over my head again, and I would retreat into my own self-centered bubble. This just showed that my focus was on myself, and if I felt like I was doing enough good stuff to make up for the bad…and not on Christ’s finished and complete work on the cross, and That is such an easy place to end up; feeling like if we do enough good stuff, it kind of covers over the guilt, and maybe we can face God again…but as soon as we mess up, or if we aren’t able to do enough good to satisfy our own quota for what we feel is good enough, then the guilt washes right back in, and we can’t face God OR anyone else without shame.

There is only one thing that can stop this endless cycle of guilt. Curious? Well, King David is an excellent example. He sinned many times, one of the most notable times being when he murdered a man in order to take his wife for his own…and this was after already committing adultery with her. That’s pretty bad. Now, you’d think that after David had messed up so badly, God would give up on Him and find someone better to be king, right? Fortunately for us, God is not like us. God sent a prophet to confront David about his sin…and when David’s eyes were opened, and he saw how wicked he had been, he quickly humbled himself before the Lord and repented. Now, God had to judge David’s sin; there had to be consequences both to show David how very serious it was, and also because he was actually the King, and he was an example to all the people he ruled over of what was acceptable…and what he did was very much NOT something God wanted to be repeated by anyone else. David saw that his sin was very deep and needed to be scrubbed out of him by God, and Psalm 51 is David’s prayer of repentance to the Lord after the prophet came to him and revealed his sin. Verses 16-17 say, “For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”

This is the first step to being free from guilt:

1.) Humble yourself before the Lord, and acknowledge the full weight of your sins, and understand how much these things are not only destroying you (and even those around you), but also are hurtful to the Lord and go against the purity of who He is! Don’t try to sluff things off, or say, “It wasn’t so bad.” You must actually be broken before the Lord by the weight of your sin. God doesn’t want you to “sacrifice” to Him by doing more good things to try to make up for it. The sacrifice He desires from you is to actually just admit all that you have done wrong, and repent…and to actually BE sorry for it. So many times I said, “Please forgive me, Lord”, but I wasn’t actually sorry for what I had done…because, in all honesty, there was a part of it that I really liked. And it is like that with any sin – that is why we fall into sin: because the devil only tempts us with the things we like – that’s what makes them tempting! I liked my sin more than I wanted the holiness of God. The holiness of God takes work. My sin was easy.

 

2.) Verses 10-12 of Psalm 51 say, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.”

First, as these verses allude to, it can be true that, if we persist hard-heartedly in our sins, and refuse to repent, God will take away His Holy Spirit from us, and let us go our own way into the dark wilderness of sinfulness. It is a scary thing, and should cause us to not hesitate in humbling ourselves before the Lord. While you are still feeling conviction, there is still hope.

But the main point I wanted to make with these verses is that you must ask God for a new, clean heart and the desire and willingness to do what is right…and when you sincerely ask, He will do it!

 

3.) Verse 7 says, “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” David doesn’t say, “Hopefully someday I’ll be able to get over what I did, and not feel so yucky about it.” He takes hold of the complete cleansing work of the Lord in faith, and says, “I SHALL be clean” and, “I SHALL be WHITER than snow”. Not just a little clean, and a little less dirty, but so thoroughly cleaned and made new that there isn’t any of the old sin remaining! And it has nothing to do with David’s righteousness or good works, but it has everything to do with the Lord Himself reaching in and scrubbing (…and scrubbing…and scrubbing some more) out all of the dirt of wickedness and sin from David’s heart; making it new and completely pure! That is the amazing thing about God: He will actually make our impure, sinful, gunked up hearts totally pure again if we let Him remove all of the sin!

And this step is so important, in that, we actually have to cling to this purity and newness of heart with all the strength we have! We have to hold on in faith and not let go. The devil will try to bring that guilt back to us and say, “Look how horrible you are! Look at what you did!” And you can say with confidence, “Yes, I did that, but God has given me a new heart and that stuff isn’t in it! He has removed my sin from me as far as the east is from the west. He has given me new desires, and those old sinful ones aren’t welcome any more – so I’m not even going to dwell on them in retrospect [looking back at the past].” And then, don’t even give those things a second thought, but move on to praise the Lord and to rejoice in Him for the way He has set you free and forgiven you!

God doesn’t just forgive a little – He always forgives completely!

And you don’t have to be held back by guilt any more – you too can be set free to help others and tell them about the Lord and what He has done for you; bearing much eternal fruit for His kingdom….like David said in Psalm 51:13, “Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you.” Praise God for His redeeming power! He uses even our struggles to bring forth good! And now you can have a greater love and understanding toward those who are also dealing with sin and the incredible weight that guilt puts on us.

“And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.’” 

John 8:11b

“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” 

John 8:36

More Than Watchmen Wait for the Morning

Stronghold.

“I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,

    and in His word I hope;

my soul waits for the Lord

    more than watchmen for the morning,

    more than watchmen for the morning.”

Psalm 130:5-6

“Wait for the Lord”. This is a phrase that is repeated many times throughout the Bible – and especially in the Psalms. Attached to it are often promises of God’s strength and help; displays of His power on our behalf. But…what exactly does it mean to “wait for the Lord”? Our culture has become consumed with the need to have instant gratification – everything we want or need at our fingertips the very second that we need it. We don’t want to have to wait for anything – even 2-day shipping on something we’re excited about seems like an eternity. The concept of having to wait is something we’ve almost entirely lost, and not only have we lost all patience, but when we discover that we have to wait for something, our minds almost always see it as a punishment and/or an annoyance.

This particular passage of scripture is one that is especially helpful in teaching us what it means to wait for the Lord.

 

“I wait for the Lord”

Wait. When we go to pray, it can be our tendency to come with our “lists” and to plow through them as fast as possible so that we can get on to the rest of the things we want to do. But this is not a relationship with God! This is a religious exercise that’s no more effective than bowing towards Mecca five times a day. The way to actually have a real relationship with Jesus is to sit with Him. To pray and wait on Him until you know He is there with you. Not stopping until you know that He has heard…not giving up until you know you have actually spent time sitting with Jesus. It can be hard; you may get antsy, you may have plans for the day trying to fill your mind – things you need to get done – but don’t let those things win over your thoughts. The devil will try to throw all kinds of these things at you because he knows that it is only when we actually spend time in the Lord’s presence that our lives are changed, and that we can hear God speaking. When we do all the talking as fast as we can, and then move on to the rest of our “to-do list”, we aren’t giving God much of a chance to speak to our hearts…and we wonder why our lives are still the same, why our sins are still master over us, and why we don’t know if God ever speaks to us. It’s because we never give Him a chance. We want a drive-through meeting with God – quick and easy; something that won’t take up too much of our time, and yet, will still get us everything we want. But God wants an actual friendship with us…and He has made it to take real effort and time…just like any other friendship. When we do take the time to pray and to keep praying and waiting on Him until we KNOW we are with Him in His throne room, it is then that He fills us with the joy and peace that we are so longing for, and the victory over our sinful nature, and the answers to our prayers.

 

“and in His word I hope”

One powerful tool of prayer is actually God’s Word – the Bible!  Many times we can think of it as something separate from praying or “extra”…but God has made it to be used, among other things, as a tool to help us to enter into His presence and to hear His voice. It can be used to direct our prayers, and God will also often use it to speak to us and to give us the answers and direction we need for our daily lives. The Bible is full of verses that you can use to shape your own prayers, and promises that you can take hold of in your prayers. God’s Word is “sharper than any two-edged sword”, and it seems that prayers that stem from His Word are especially effective because, when you pray scripture, it is showing God that you actually believe that what He has said is true; “And without faith it is impossible to please Him [God], for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6) When you pray scripture, it is also comforting to know that it doesn’t have any of your own selfishness mixed into it (unless taken horribly out of context for personal gain), as we find that our prayers can sometimes run into this problem. (“The words of the Lord are pure words, like silver refined in a furnace on the ground, purified seven times.” Psalm 12:6) You can trust God’s Word, and that He will keep all of His promises. Hold fast to His Word – it will never let you down. Expect Him to fulfill it. Pray scriptures. And when God shows you scriptures that speak to your heart and the situations you are in…you can hold onto them with great hope and expectancy.

 

“my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning” Imagine living back in the days when there were castles and knights and fair maidens. Now, if the king of a city was smart, he would appoint watchmen to stand guard all day and all night all over the walls of the city (because back in those days, when there were continually wars over who would get to rule over cities and lands, they usually had very big walls all around the cities to make it harder for the enemy armies to come in). They had to always be watching for any sign of armies being gathered to fight against their cities. It is easier to sneak up on someone at night, so many times battles would begin at night, and that is why the cities had watchmen taking shifts watching for trouble day after day – and even at night. Usually if you were on the night shift you might keep watch until the sun rose, and then another watchman would come and take your place so you could get some sleep. Now just imagine you were that watchman whose job it was to keep watch all night. It would be very dark, and probably cold. You wouldn’t be able to see much of anything, but your eyes would be continually straining to try to see any kind of movement anywhere nearby. Hour after hour you would be staring into the darkness, hand on your bow, trying desperately to stay awake, because the safety of the city would be compromised if you fell asleep for even a minute. And just imagine your eager expectancy as the last hour of your watch was drawing to a close, eyes sore and drooping after such a long night, waiting for the first rays of sun to begin peeking over the hills, knowing that not long after, you would be relieved from your shift on the cold, hard wall, and be free to go home to rest. You would be counting down the minutes…waiting for the sun to shine and the shroud of darkness to be swept away. Rejoicing to have made it through another night safely, without incident. It is this kind of eagerness and expectancy that we are to have as we go to pray. When we pray, it should be a joyful thing to us to spend time with the Lord…and to wait for Him to come and sit with us. Knowing that He will lift the burdens off of our shoulders and fill us with the peace that we are longing for. Waiting for His presence like the earth as it eagerly thirsts for the spring rain – then bursting forth in all of its beauty and fragrance. “Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord; His going out is sure as the dawn; He will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth.” Hosea 6:3

The Gift of a Mommy Heart in a Selfish World.

mommypic
“God is a God of hope, and He will turn any heartache that is offered to Him into beauty.”

I don’t know if any of you will ever have to face the intense battle of getting pregnant and having to choose whether you want to keep your baby or not – I hope none of you who read this ever do. But just in case…and for the sake of saving even one little life, I have written this article. I have also written it so that you can help any of your friends who may end up in this situation, because abortion is so common today, and most of us will know at least one person who ends up facing this choice – probably more than one. This is just a little bit of my own story…because I want you to really understand that there is always hope, no matter how impossible things may seem. God is a God of hope, and He will turn any heartache that is offered to Him into beauty. This is also an encouragement for any girl who, deep inside, wants to be a mommy, even though the culture will say that it’s not important, or not a “real job”, or tells you that you’re so smart that you should “do something with your gifts”, or that you need to make something of yourself first, or enjoy your life, or that kids are just a burden…..etc. It’s a lie. All of it. You don’t even have to be a mommy to have a mommy heart; there are a few courageous young women throughout history who were never married, and yet have become true mothers for many orphans and neglected children. And for those who are on their way to being mommies soon, but who haven’t been experiencing the “fairytale” pregnancy….be encouraged – you’re not alone, and it’s all worth it. And for those who are moms already, young or older, and have been struggling because they’ve been flooded with the lies of the culture…there’s still hope for you too…and I pray that this article will be a blessing and reminder to you of the beautiful thing that God created when He made us to be Mommies. But regardless of where you are in life…whether you’re 10 or 20, or 45…cultivating a Mommy’s heart can only be a blessing to you.

I stared at the changing numbers on the computer screen with horror. One second it would add one to the end of the number…the next second it would add two. Never ending, the numbers continued to count up with sickening rapidity. Tears started to pool in my eyes, and I quickly closed the screen…but not before I took note of one number – “Abortions That Have Happened While You’ve Been on This Site” – over 90, in just such a short period of time. And since 1970 worldwide? Over 1,300,000,000. That number is almost bigger than anybody knows how to read these days. And yet…numbers can be so empty to us. Our minds can’t really even grasp what a billion IS…let alone, a billion babies being murdered. But that “90-and-counting” brought it closer to home. More than one baby every single second is being mercilessly killed in the most horrific ways. And why? Because the devil hates – HATES – babies…because each new baby is a promise of someone who COULD be drawn to Jesus and live with Him in Heaven forever. And because babies are filled with the sweetest, most pure innocence…and it’s no surprise that the devil HATES innocence…and that’s why he works night and day from the time a baby is conceived to either snuff out that pure light of innocence and hope, or to corrupt them as soon as possible with the flood of sinful passions he has so carefully prepared to tantalize their senses. And yet…it is also more than that; the devil works in the hearts of the mothers as well…because, unlike China, where mothers are forced to have abortions by the government, here in North America we choose. We, the ones who SHOULD be the most fiercely protective of the little lives growing within us, are the very ones who condemn them to death row. And that is the most heartbreaking realization of all. You could almost feel a little better about that growing number of abortions worldwide if it was all forced by a wicked government. But it is us. And yes, there are real struggles…and very, very deep hurt and pain that many go through…and the devil plays with our emotions, making everything seem SO big and impossible…making it seem like our lives are over if we choose to keep this baby. But it’s not a choice. A mommy is not something you can choose to be or choose not to be. You are a mommy as soon as you get pregnant. You are THE mommy of the baby inside of you. It’s a real baby, and you’re the real mommy. It’s not some choose-your-own-adventure book where you can change your mind half way through and go back a few pages to pick a new path. It’s real life. And as soon as there is a little life growing inside of you, you were meant to be it’s mommy. That’s how God made it to be. What gives us the right to say that one child is worthy of life and one child isn’t? The father? Our jobs? Our reputation? Money? What have we become?? What has happened to our love – our compassion – our morals? We have become a society of heartless, selfish people…who care more about ourselves than sacrificing any comfort we hold so dear or facing a little difficulty to raise a child. Ok. Now that I’ve said what I needed to say in that regard (the cold, hard truth)…I will tell you what I’ve experienced…and how I can understand those who feel hopeless in a way that I never could have before.

 

My ears perked up as I heard my little daughter babbling as she woke up from her nap. I rushed into her room…because all I wanted to do was hold her and hug her and kiss her soft cheeks and tell her, “I love you,” after all the heart-breaking things I had just seen and read. As I snuggled her, and gave her eskimo kisses, my mind drifted back to the days before she had been born…
My husband and I had been praying for God to direct the timing of when we had our first child for a while, because, with lives that are as busy as ours, and being on tour for a good half of the year, there were plenty of logistical details to think about and pray about. Then, at the beginning of our 3 month tour…God decided it was time. Potentially a little sooner than we would have preferred…but God doesn’t make mistakes. I spent the first 3 months of my pregnancy touring across Canada…and can I just say that morning sickness and the smell of burgers with fried onions filling a van don’t really go together too well? But God was very gracious, and strengthened me for those 3 months. However, things got much harder once we got home in December, believe it or not. The morning sickness was starting to wane…but then came the intense emotional and spiritual battles that lasted the entire remainder of my pregnancy. I was overwhelmed with the sense of not being able to be a good mom. I was terrified of having a baby. Actually terrified. I spent hours crying nearly every day, because I wanted to be able to go back and not be pregnant any more…but I was…and I knew that I was committed…and I was scared. I also struggled with intense loneliness – despite having a dear husband and family all around me continually, overwhelming fears of the future that often caused me to just curl up in bed unable to move, and a very difficult lack of any good feelings whatsoever. Women would come up to me continually and tell me how much they LOVED being pregnant. I could only give a weak smile and nod. People asked me, “Are you excited yet?” And I had to get creative at giving answers…because I didn’t want to lie…but there wasn’t even an ounce of excitement in me – not even up to the day I went into labor. I thought, “There must be something wrong with me, because everyone who talks to me was just SO excited to be a mommy. Do I not even have to capacity to love children??” This was me for 9 months. And I really loved the Lord. I was married to an excellent husband. God had chosen the timing for us, and we’d had a whole year of marriage before our baby was conceived. The circumstances really should have been ideal; you’d think my heart would have been rejoicing! But after a few months of being so overwhelmed by the oppression and the feeling that it was just an impossible situation and that I could never be a mom…God spoke to my heart, when I cried out and asked, “Why am I feeling all of these things, Lord? I just want to be able to enjoy this pregnancy and to be excited to be a mom. What is wrong with me?” He said, “This isn’t about you. I’ve been letting you feel these things so you can understand what girls in difficult situations are going through, and have mercy in a way you could not have had otherwise.” He led me to 2 Corinthians 1:3-7, which says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.”
From that day on, my heart was filled with rejoicing, because if I went through everything for even just one life to be saved…it was totally worth it. (It’s amazing how God can simply show us His perspective of things, and all of our distress just melts away.) And maybe it was just for you. And if it was, I just want you to know that I understand your fears and how very, very real they are. I want you to know that it’s ok to cry. I want you to know that, no matter what has happened to get you into this place, Jesus is waiting to hold you close, and to comfort you, and to wipe away every tear. He is so glad for you to be able to lay your weary head on His shoulder, and to let your tears soak through his robe. He wants to lift up your head, and look into your eyes, and tell you, “You are not alone. I love you. And I will never leave you or forsake you…even if everyone else does.” And I have seen Him do the impossible. I know that He will give you the strength to do what you cannot do on your own. He can and will redeem every situation that is given to Him. And if you’ve made mistakes and sinned…just come before Him in humility and confess your sins and repent of them…and He will wash you clean and give you a new life and a new heart. For, as He said to the woman who had been caught in adultery, “….Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” (John 8:11) And covering up one sin (whether yours or someone else’s) with another (abortion), is not a fix. And though your feelings are very real, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are TRUE. The devil is truly a master at manipulating our feelings; I have seen it over and over again in my own life…and then, in the midst of my distress, when I pray and ask God to show me the truth, and when I rebuke the devil with Jesus’ authority…God will remove the distress from a situation that I felt was impossible or so overwhelming that I couldn’t even move or think…and He will fill my heart with the truth…and with hope. Hope is one of those things that you can hold onto with all your strength, in the midst of the emotions and the trials…because, “…hope does not put us to shame.” (Romans 5:5) God sees all your struggles…and He cares about every bit. He will provide for you, and uphold you, and He will help you to be a mommy to your child, whether you are ready for it or not. And chances are, you’re scared. Really scared. And really NOT ready. But you don’t have to be. God gives all mommies who want it the gift of a mommy heart, whether or not it comes naturally to you. I felt like the least likely candidate of all; I only had one brother who was just 2 years younger than me, I never liked babysitting, I struggle with selfishness every day, I am an introverted personality…and I didn’t even know if I could change diapers, let alone pouring love out onto a little person 24/7. But I asked God to change my heart. I asked Him to fill me with HIS love for this little life. I asked Him to teach me how to be a good mommy. And you know what? Even though the struggles lasted up ‘till the very day I gave birth…the moment Hope was born, God filled my heart with such a sweet and deep love for her that hasn’t gone away – it has only grown. And as I held her close to me in those first minutes after her birth, I cried because of the greatness of the love God poured into me…and I said to my husband, “I don’t think it is going to be hard to love her at all!” Don’t give up or give in to the pressure you feel inside…the devil will try to discourage you in every way he can, but it is so worth it to be a mommy! And it is the kind of beauty and sweetness that you really can’t even expect or understand until you’ve experienced looking into your child’s eyes for the first time, or you’ve had their tiny hand close around your finger – so small that it can’t even fit all the way around it, or you’ve felt their little heart beating, or seen their perfect little lips, or heard their little gurgles…and you know what? Even their crying becomes like a sweet song to your heart, because it is full of innocence and complete dependency on you to take care of their needs…and that is exactly what God created us to do! Your little person NEEDS you…and that is such an amazing reality. God has perfectly created mommies and babies for each-other. And I discovered that God made being a mommy to be the most natural thing in the world – I found that I knew all that I needed to know, and having a daughter just seemed to be the most natural thing in the world. In fact, as soon as she was born, we wondered how we had ever lived without her! God caused our “transition” from being “just us” to “parents” almost not even noticeable. And changing diapers was never a problem like I had feared it would be.

Yes, being a mommy is giving up our lives daily…hourly…but I can’t imagine trading the “freedom” to live a selfish life doing whatever I may have dreamed about doing, for the joy of being a mommy; for the heart-melting giggles, for the soft lips calling my name for the first time (or the first thousand times – it really never gets old to know your child loves you), for kissing that squishy forehead, for wiping away the tears from flushed cheeks, for getting to tell them about Jesus and how much He loves them and wants to be their best friend. And I can tell you that there are many I know of who have kept their babies even in the midst of extremely difficult situations, and they are SO glad that they did. In fact, I am one of those children…and I am so thankful that I was given the chance to live and learn and serve the Lord with my life. And I can also tell you that there are many, MANY who have gotten abortions, and never recovered, and have only ever wished they could go back and choose to let their child live. Abortion clinics will tell you it’s not really a person inside of you – it’s just “tissue”, they say. But that’s a lie. There is a real life inside…full of promise, full of beauty, full of innocence…and a real, live beating heart. A life that NEEDS a mommy…a life that needs to be hugged and snuggled and kissed and taught about Jesus and how much He LOVES children. A life that needs someone to care.

 

The “benefits” of any job on earth are fleeting; money doesn’t last, status doesn’t last, location doesn’t last, comforts and gadgets don’t last, looks don’t last….but being a mommy is the most important job on earth, because you are given charge of a little, eternal soul, to cherish and to train up in the way it should go. A little soul that, with patience and lots of prayer, can be a little disciple of Jesus, and follow in His ways…and can lead many others to know Him, and to be part of the innocence and beauty of heaven forever.

How to Have a Summer That’s BURSTING With Life!

Summer holiday setting with tropical flowers

 

Have you ever noticed that vacations never seem long enough? Sure, you enjoy yourself in the moment, but as the week draws to a close, you begin to find yourself wishing that it could last longer…even if only just a few days more. But have you ever noticed that when you DO have those extra few days, you still find yourself dissatisfied, and longing for more time off? We are never satisfied with a week…or even a few months. Why is that? It is because we are chasing after the feeling of satisfaction and contentment and enjoyment in our vacation itself. But a vacation, like every other earthly “pleasure” can never satisfy, and will only leave us longing for more – no matter how long we have “off”. Ever notice that you’re never satisfied with one nice shirt for very long? As soon as the “new shirt” excitement wears off, you’re off shopping for more, hoping that something new – something different – will make you look as beautiful as you’ve always imagined you could look. It’s the same thing; everything in this world that you chase after, hoping it will fulfill you will only leave you looking for more joy, more excitement, more contentment somewhere else. A different house, job, clothes, friends, makeup, hairdo, car, etc., etc. You hope that somehow, at last, something new is going to be the perfect fit for that hole in your spirit; suddenly something will click and everything will magically be as perfect as you’ve dreamed.

Or…

We simply will never find contentment in seeking these things, because God has created all things to be dissatisfying apart from seeking Him. He has caused spending time with Him to be the sweetest, most satisfying thing that we could ever do, and it perfectly fills every longing within us.

So, instead of seeking happiness in your summer fun this year…why don’t you try something new (since you already know that doesn’t work)? Below are a few suggestions on how you can get the most out of your summer, and cause it to be fruitful and without regret – bursting with life!

 

Don’t sleep in.

I know this may not sound like the best tip you’ve ever heard to help you enjoy your summer…but just give it a chance. It’s the best way to make the most of your days. When you sleep in, it always seems like it just sucks the life right out of your day. Now…what time do you want to get up? Ok…now set your alarm an hour (or an hour and a half, if it takes you a long time to wake up) before you would normally get up. The most helpful hint I can give you on being able to actually get out of bed instead of hitting the snooze 20 times is: GET OUT OF BED THE FIRST TIME! Yep. No “snooze”. Just force yourself to get out of bed the minute your hear your alarm. You may be a little groggy at first and have trouble seeing straight…but it’ll wear off after the first 5 minutes or so, and you’ll feel perfectly fine – even without coffee. It can be done; I’ve done it myself.

 

Spend the first hour of your day with God.

This is why you’re getting up earlier. No more “trying to fit it in somewhere”. Nope. Spending time talking with Jesus is going to be the first thing on your agenda this summer – not sunbathing, not swimming, not hanging out with your friends. You are going to give God the “first-fruits” of your day. And the best thing is, that when you spend that time with Jesus, HE makes the rest of your day SO much more fruitful and full of joy than when you set out to try to do your own thing and fit God in later. And have you ever noticed that it never really seems to fit conveniently into your day to spend time with Jesus? That is why you’re going to put Him first.

 

Walk and pray.

Whether you do it first thing in the morning or later on in the day, try to get out to walk and pray. Most of my sweetest times with the Lord have been while I’m outside walking and talking with Jesus. Even if you live in a town, I’ve been all over the US and Canada, and almost every town I’ve been in has had neat little walking paths or peaceful neighborhoods that I’ve been able to pray in. An added bonus is that you probably won’t fall asleep while trying to pray. Also, you’ll get to see God’s handiwork, which He so often speaks through, all around you. Oh…and when you go walking (whether meaning to pray or not), ditch your earbuds. Listen to the birds singing, and the breeze blowing through the trees. You’ll find your heart just naturally begin to rejoice in the Lord, and instead of being stuck in the world your music creates for your mind, you’ll be able to praise the Lord in the real world. Try it!

 

Make a point of praying for your family and friends.

Pray for your parents. Pray for your brothers, your sisters, your friends, and even…your enemies. Ask God to show you specific things to pray for them so you can see specific answers. As you pray for them, God will fill your heart with a fresh love for them as well.

 

Make a goal of memorizing scripture.

Start with a verse. Once you’ve got it down, try memorizing a verse a week. Or even try memorizing a chapter of the Bible over the summer! It’s hard work for your brain, but persevere. Every bit of scripture you hide in your heart will be a help and blessing to you in the future, as well as right now, and will help you to live in a way that is pleasing to God. (It will also give you a very effective weapon to combat the devil’s lies.) “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” Psalm 119:11.

Memorizing scripture is a very constructive use of time…and something you can do whenever you have extra time on your hands – wherever you are! You may have heard the saying that, “An idle mind is the devil’s playground”. There’s a lot of truth to that. This is why it is so important to saturate your mind with God’s Word.

 

Read through the gospels.

The gospels are Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John – the first 4 books of the New Testament…and all of them contain the story of Jesus’ life on earth. They are filled with Jesus’ own words, and it is an amazing thing to be able to read the very words of the Creator of the Universe! Start with Matthew, and see how far you can get throughout the summer. Try reading a chapter a day. You might find that it is so interesting and filled with truth that you may want to read more than that in a day! Reading Jesus’ words for yourself will change your life. But remember to not only read them, but to pray for God’s strength so you can obey them too.

 

Try to tell at least one person about Jesus every week.

It doesn’t matter if it’s face-to-face, or online, or on the phone…but pray for, and be looking for at least one opportunity to share about Jesus, and what He has done in your life, to someone each week. It’s not only a good way to talk to someone about salvation, but it’s also is a very effective way to keep your own faith built up.

 

Go out and talk about Jesus with everyone you meet.

Yep, you heard right. Grab a friend or a parent or sibling and hit the streets of your own town (weekends are best) and talk to everyone you meet about Jesus. One easy and effective way to do this is to take along a stack of good tracts with you (we use the Four Spiritual Laws tracts, but there are a few other gospel-centered ones out there – just make sure they actually go through the gospel and how to be saved). I have done this many times. It is a real ice-breaker to be able to hand something to someone walking down the street and say, “Would you like one of these? It’s about Jesus!” Sometimes they’ll take it…sometimes they won’t. But it’s planting seeds that God can work with. And you may find that many people actually are up for standing there and talking about Jesus with you. Some might just want to argue with you…but if you just determine not to get in an argument, and just make sure to share the gospel in what you say, it’s at least something God can use. It may be a little scary at first, but as you do it, God will give you boldness, and will begin to speak through you…and you will find it to be one of the most exciting things you can actually do; sharing the gospel with lost souls!

 

Fast from the TV.

This is not going to be overly popular either…but for the few who take the challenge, you will be amazed at the difference in your life over the summer. I suggest turning it off completely, but you could also try limiting your time watching TV through the summer to a couple of hours a week. It’s so easy to wake up and just turn on the TV without even thinking, or to default to it when you don’t know what else to do. But TV is so full of sinfulness these days (yes, even the most “innocent” programs are full of hogwash), that it’s like filling our minds with sewage. When you turn it off, it will be like a breath of fresh air for your spirit; we just weren’t made to sit in front of such wickedness and violence day after day! I recommend you get an accountability partner if you can…because it won’t be easy – especially if you’re addicted. But it helps to have someone remind you of your commitment and to hold you accountable. I know when I stand before Jesus, I am never going to wish I had watched more TV, or finished such-and-such season, or been up to date with the most popular programs. You will find your days are full of so much more life and joy! You will actually be able to think and pray. And it is so much easier to hear God’s voice when you don’t have all of the subtle (or not so subtle) world-views of the media clouding your mind.

 

Fill your time with useful things!

It’s not really going to help your summer any if you fast from the TV, but then just sit around doing nothing all day, wishing you were watching TV. Fill what used to be your “TV time” with useful things. The things that will cause your summer to be most filled with life are the things that are also a blessing to others. Try things like these:

~Ask your parents how you can help them…and then, do what they suggest (with a joyful attitude, knowing that you are blessing the Lord)!

~Come up with creative ways to bless at least one person every day.

~Write encouraging letters to your friends, family, extended family, neighbors, pastor, etc. Share things God has been showing you, scriptures, things they have done that have really blessed you, etc.

~Read missionary biographies and/or the books they (the missionaries themselves) wrote. People like Mary Slessor, Jackie Pullinger, Amy Carmichael, Rosalind Goforth, etc., are all such amazing stories to read because you get to see what God can do with someone who is truly surrendered to Him. Also, a modern-day girl who is giving her life to serve others is Katie Davis, and you can find her book called “Kisses From Katie” online or in most Christian book-stores.

~Visit nursing homes to read the Bible to the people who live there…or even just bring them flowers or crafts or sing with them…there are so many possibilities to bring joy and the love of Jesus to them. (You’ll want to arrange things with the people in charge before-hand.)

~Have Bible studies with your friends. Get together to just read the Bible and talk about it. What a novel concept!

These are just a few things to get you started…and I’m sure God will give you even more amazing ideas if you ask Him to!