Faithfulness

Baby girl in blue dress and hat staying at beach alone and looking into sunset

 

We are always looking for something big and important to do. Something that will change the world. Or at least something that will show people that what we are doing is important; something that shouts, “Take note!” So many young people go to Bible school and learn new things about the Lord, and in their zeal, and the emotions of exciting new discoveries and victories in their walk with the Lord which they’ve never had before, are full of big new ideas of how they can get out and “serve the Lord for real”. Often including dashing off to a foreign country, starting their own ministry which they intend to use to reach hundreds of people – or even thousands, or at the very least, intending to have hundreds of people lining up at their doors asking how they can be saved. Now, these are all very noble desires. But there’s one thing that makes us squirm — and it’s the one thing that matters MORE than doing something “big” for God. It’s faithfulness. 2 weeks of Bible school or of successfully making time for God in your daily schedule isn’t enough. 2 months of growing closer to the Lord isn’t enough. 2 years of being faithful to pray every day and read the Bible…aren’t enough. Indeed, in my own heart, I frequently see the tendency to want to congratulate myself when I have had great prayer times for a week straight, and have been learning amazing things from God’s Word. When this happens, I will suddenly feel the urge to just “relax” a little after such a successful week, because obviously I’m at a good place in my relationship with God. Or…am I?

In a Christian’s life, there is neither a place of “having made it” spiritually, or a day you can finally relax your efforts just a little. The moment you relax your efforts, you will start going backwards. There is no “carry-over” time in your walk with the Lord. Each day His mercies are new…but so your pursuit of Him must also be. He will not hold over your head your failures, but He does make it clear that when we know the right thing to do, and don’t do it…it is sin (James 4:17). God desires that we would earnestly seek Him, day by day. It takes real discipline, because it goes against all of the distractions that seem SO important, and it goes against the antsy nature we seem to all have — that urge that we’ve GOT to be doing something else – anything else! We pray a minute or two, and then, we feel like we should check our Facebook, or plan our day, or text a friend. But the faithfulness we need is not a dry, rushed, 2 minutes of prayer every day, but a hunger and thirst for more of God, every hour – every second that we can possibly use for drawing closer to Him.

We must realize that our earnest pursuit of God is never “safe”. We all have the potential within us to turn our backs on God at any moment…or to let sin or carelessness slip in. We must always be on guard, and “keep alert, with all perseverance” (Eph.6:18)…because as soon as we let our guard down, the devil will try whatever He can to sneak into our thoughts and lives again, and to lead us astray. The devil knows that life is a battle, and he takes his job of sidetracking and destroying lives seriously. It’s not a game. It’s life-or-death…but the devil is right beside us – maybe even right beside you right now – to tell us, “Oh, it’s not really that serious.” and to “kindly” help us to push aside all thoughts of conviction or desires to change…and to re-direct our attention to other more “pressing” things — such as the latest episode of our favorite TV show, or the ever present need to feed the dog, or check our email. But we must not listen to his fluff, and his schemes to distract us, and all of the things he tells us to make it seem like we don’t really have to be so careful or alert. No! We must take the battle as seriously as he does! We must daily arm ourselves with the weapons that can only be obtained by earnest prayer and real time spent in the presence of the Lord. As Peter admonishes us in 1 Peter 5:8, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”

As Matthew 24:12-13 says, “….because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.”

The understanding of this concept is one that both sobers us and helps to keep us humble, pressing on toward the Lord with all of our hearts, knowing that each day is a new battle, and facing it with our faces upturned to the “Sun of Righteousness”. For we know that lawlessness has indeed increased – everywhere we look, sin is sought after, praised, and encouraged. Sin and distractions grab at us from every shop window, every webpage, every street, every advertisement and TV show. Everything works to crowd our minds and thoughts and make us hesitant, at best, to spend a lot of time with the Lord each day. Everything else is telling us that there are more “important” or “fun” things to do…and you can practically FEEL your love for the Lord (and others!) growing cold. You can see the hardness of heart starting to creep in — the feelings of annoyance at the idea of praying, the urge to rush through it all and do ANYTHING else besides sit there and spend time with the Lord. How heart-warming do you think that is to God? He is just longing to hold us, and to lavish His love upon us, like any good parent longs to do for their children…but we are squirmy, fussy, and selfish! So often we care nothing about blessing the heart of God…we just want to do the things that look fun and exciting! We care nothing about the reality that we literally have NO strength to do anything without God…we just want to rush off and DO something – we don’t care if we waste our time and fall flat on our face.

But this is not what God wants for us. Faithfulness. Faithfulness springs forth from a real, true love for the Lord. A longing just to be near Him – to hear His heart, and to walk in His ways…and to never let go – not even for one second.

Faithfulness can’t save us – it’s only the grace and power of the gospel that can save us, and transform our broken hearts into hearts that CAN love Christ. But it is faithfulness that gives us the daily strength we need to stay close to God. Because, no matter which way you look at it, this world IS full of sin, and if we aren’t staying close to God, we WILL be swept away by the deceitfulness of sin, and striving to live in our own strength. God IS stronger than the devil, but the devil is stronger than we are without God working and living through us…and that is why we need to faithfully seek the Lord day by day. Faithfulness is the ultimate surrender. It is the daily recognition of our utter inability to live rightly, and the understanding that we WILL go astray without following closely after our Shepherd…and it is the crying out to the Source of Life, Christ Jesus, and asking Him to live through us…because us trying to live in our own strength and knowledge is the ultimate foolishness. It is only the power of our precious Lord’s blood, and triumphant resurrection that can overcome the wiles of the deceiver of souls – the devil. And THAT power, is greater than all. And can be found in the sanctuary of God. May our hearts long for that time in the presence of the Lord as David speaks of in Psalm 63:1-8:

“O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;

my soul thirsts for you;

my flesh faints for you,

as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,

beholding your power and glory.

Because your steadfast love is better than life,

my lips will praise you.

So I will bless you as long as I live;

in your name I will lift up my hands.

My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food,

and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,

when I remember you upon my bed,

and meditate on you in the watches of the night;

for you have been my help,

and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.

My soul clings to you;

your right hand upholds me.”

Stay-At-Home Daughters?

Beautiful blonde girl outside in a field with sunlight on her hair.

 

There has been a widespread movement in the last 10 years or so, mainly stemming from the “Patriarchy Movement”, which, summarized, is all about fathers stepping up to lead their families. That is a very noble goal, and I heartily endorse fathers taking the leading of their families in seeking the Lord more seriously. However, there were a number of things attached to this movement that were full of errors…and there is one in particular that I would like to touch on right now: The “Stay-at-Home Daughter”. 

I have an interesting angle of viewing this issue, because I am personally very glad for what the movement did for me, while, at the same time, being very aware of its faults…which can be very seriously destructive to those who might otherwise be fruitful for the Kingdom of Heaven.

A number of years ago, when I was about 16 or 17, I read a book by the Botkin sisters, called, “So Much More”. It opened up a whole new world to me, which I had previously not even considered could be possible. Through the book, the sisters were encouraging girls, instead of leaving home as soon as possible, to stay at home and learn how to be a home-maker, help their fathers with his work, be active in helping their siblings and serving at their churches, and to grow their intellect by personal study and pursuit of the arts at home. There was a lot to the book (it was about 3 inches thick), but the basis was, you stay at home until you marry, and serve your father.

Now, for my own life, this was an important book for me to read at the time, because I was being told I needed to go to college because I had so many “talents and gifts”, and was looking at getting into debt about $100,000. But I count this book to have been a mercy of God for me at the time, because I was able to present it to my parents and talk about the very real possibility of NOT going to college — something I’m not sure they really seriously considered before. And having a precedent of someone else having done it was a real help and encouragement to them that maybe I wasn’t totally crazy. And now I look back and am only thankful that I never went to college, never got into loads of debt, never wasted 4 years of my life, and never got sidetracked from seeking the Lord as so many Christian kids do when they head off to college.

However, after this is where it begins to fall apart. While, in many cases, it can be a good, and right thing for girls to stay at home, and help their family…it is NOT something that the Bible says MUST happen in order for us to be walking rightly before the Lord. Many people mistakenly hold onto these “stay-at-home-daughter” teachings as being akin to the 10 commandments. But they’re not. Not even close. In fact, there are many times that NOT staying at home until you’re married, and learning to be a home-maker can be BETTER! Here are some reasons that I personally feel this movement falls short of what Jesus’ heart is for us.

 

1.) When you have no siblings and your dad works in an office…um…what do you do??

I had one brother. My dad had a 9-5 office job. So for me to be at home “helping” my mom, and learning to be a home-maker meant…well…I was at home, spending a lot of time in my room doing whatever I wanted, and reading good books about good things that I hoped someday I would be like, but doing nothing actually really worthwhile with my time. I folded some laundry and washed our few measly little dishes. I had my checklist of meals I wanted to learn how to make. (Don’t even remember what they were now.) I vacuumed. I did most of these things only half-heartedly. I tried to think about how glad the person who married me someday would be. But you know what? I just wasted a lot of time focusing on myself. Can I just say something straight out?? Ok, here it is: You do NOT need to learn how to be a “home-maker”!! All you need for that job is a willingness to do what needs to be done, and the ability to read directions…and maybe a few basics on how not to burn water, and what to do with a hunk of raw chicken. It comes naturally after you are married. I’ve learned the most important things I know since BEING married, and having my own home. Not that I didn’t learn good habits and such from my mom…but I wasted a lot of time thinking I couldn’t do anything until I got married, when I could have been out serving the Lord…or even simply being a LOT more serious about my relationship with HIM.

 

2.) All these things keep your heart always dwelling on marriage and relationships instead of seeking the Lord and being able to selflessly seek His will and direction for your life. I know…because I was there. Everything I did was in order to make myself more “marriageable”. Every time I did something to help out it was only because I wanted to get married someday, and I wanted my parents to think I was “prepared” enough (and of course, to impress the guy too, whoever he was). It also gives you a rosy picture of what your “perfect dream” family life will be like — that thing that becomes what you seek after and look to later in life for your happiness. But…what if God calls you to be a missionary? What if you never have a place to call home? What if you never even have a proper oven? Will your heart be crushed to pieces…or will you embrace these things as being just normal acts of denying oneself in the course of duty and service to our King Jesus?

The purpose of our lives should not be to “get married”. What happens when you get there?? Does everything cease? Do you magically become a different person? No, the purpose of our lives should be to be wrapped up in seeking Christ, and proclaiming the gospel. The things you spend your time on now are what you will be 20 years from now.  You can so easily waste a lot of time “perfecting” yourself in many useless pursuits just to simply be able to say you are accomplishing just as much as someone who has gone to college, without having gone yourself. You wind up filling your time with things that really have no bearing on your spiritual state, and are of no real use to anyone else, time-fillers that are just empty fluff. But that is not the point of life! Do you really want to spend your life playing the harp or being able to read latin? We need to be careful that we do not waste our single years sitting around waiting to be married, or filling the years with the pursuit of things that seem “fun” or “praiseworthy”, but don’t last – and we need to be equally careful that we are not putting marriage and/or a relationship in such a high place in our hearts that we would jump out of the course of serving Christ in a heartbeat, simply to be “in love”. Our priority must be first and foremost to use our time wisely, saving the lost while we have opportunity! Singles — serve God TODAY. Don’t spend another day without throwing yourself at the feet of Jesus, and asking Him to use you however HE wants. Pray until God gives you the strength to say, “I want to do whatever you want, Lord. I want to go wherever you want. I want to pour out my life for others. I want to rescue the perishing. EVEN if it means that I am never married. Giving my life to YOU is more important to me.”

You do NOT have to wait until you are married before you can serve God. You do not have to wish your parents were serving God so you could too. You do not have to resign yourself to simply washing dishes and folding laundry for the rest of your life.

Now note that I am not saying that these things are bad, or aren’t necessary. They are important for keeping any household running — even if you are single forever. But there is also more to life…and God has MUCH work to be done, and is so glad for any who will lay aside seeking their own gain in order to serve Him and reach the lost. There are stories of many ladies who laid down their own pursuits in order to follow the call of the Lord…and God was able to do AMAZING things with these ladies – most of whom were single! Read about Mary Slessor, Gladys Aylward, Jackie Pullinger, Amy Carmichael, and Katie Davis, for starters! You will be SO encouraged and inspired! All it really takes for God to use you is a mustard seed of faith, and the determination to not look back or hesitate when He calls.

 

3.) Perhaps the most fatal twist of this movement is its strong but subtle undertow which drags our hearts into seeking after all the same things of this world that every non-Christian is striving for: money, praise, power, dominion, acclaim, storing up an earthly “heritage” for future generations, and building yourself an earthly legacy. When we spend our time dreaming about marriage, preparing ourselves to be marriageable, and and trying to prove to the world that we are just as successful as the person who went to college and got $200,000 in debt, we will inevitably have our hearts drawn after the fleeting benefits of this present world. But friends, Jesus IS going to return soon! All of our 100-year plans, and storing up wealth for future generations is going to look very trivial. “Set your mind on things that are above and not on things that are on earth…”; this is where God wants our hearts to be dwelling. What are we doing to invest ourselves in ETERNITY?? What are we doing to make sure as many people as possible are going to be there with us?

“Whoever loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:37-39)

The most important thing we can do with our life is to “lose” it (meaning: it will have none of the acclaim and praise of the world for what we invest ourselves in — it will look ridiculous to those who are chasing after their “best life now”.) for the sake of the gospel, and for the sake of the call that Jesus Christ Himself has put on you. Yes, being a wife and mom are noble things indeed…but what is more noble? Laying your life at Jesus’ feet. Throwing away earthly success and praise for the sake of following the call of the Lord to reach the lost. Acknowledging and embracing the shame that will inevitably come from family and friends who had other plans for you. And yet…your obedience to the call of God, may in fact BE what God uses to alert them of His soon coming as well, and to get them to think further than just the fleeting success of this world.
Katie Davis obeyed the call of God on her life to leave everything she knew and loved in America to go to Uganda and share living water with the poor and destitute there. Her family resisted, were angry, and would not support her or give her their blessing. But God. God used her obedience to soften their hearts…and now they are partners together in this amazing work, reaching the orphans, and the destitute. Because of Katie’s obedience, now her whole family will receive an eternal reward for the work that is being done.

The thing I most desire in all the world is to hear Jesus say to me, “Well done,” when I see Him face to face. That is worth more to me than all the riches of every treasure in this world.

So daughters, please honor and respect and love your parents. Please serve them all you can, pray for them without ceasing, and keep your hearts always soft toward them. But please…please pray; earnestly seek the Lord for HIS guidance and will for your life. Parents are humans too, and even our best intentions fall short. Your parents’/family’s/friends’ plan and dreams for your life very well may not be what God has been calling you to do. God always wants the best for us…but He wants the best for everyone…and He cares about each individual who is slipping off into hell because no one reached them with the gospel. Could you be that person who will reach them? Ask God, and really take the time to seek Him until He makes it clear to you. And then, take the first step, whatever that is. Don’t hesitate, because the longer you hesitate, the harder it may be for you…and you may find yourself years down the road, with nothing changed, and no fruit in your life…and by then, the door that was once opened may be closed. Or Christ may have come back by then. So please take these things very seriously…and ask God to give you the power of His Holy Spirit to do what He sets before you to do.

You will never regret “losing” your life for Christ. Those that lose their lives for His sake WILL find them. They will find that every loss, and every surrender is their gain, both in this life, and in eternity.

Mourning Turned to DANCING!!

Teenage model girl in white dress running on the spring field

Article By: A Fellow Broken Girl

 

“Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, and come along.” Song of Solomon 2:10

Ouch. That hurts. But do I tell anyone? No. I stuff it. I hide it away from the world because no one needs to know that I am weak or fragile. Ugh! They went to the mall without me again? Didn’t it ever cross their minds that I might want to go too? Not that I’ve given them any reason to think that I might want to go with them. They don’t like me anyway…cuz I’m weird. And they don’t understand me. They don’t even try to understand me cuz I don’t fit into their perfect idea of what a girl should be like. I’m not like those girls. I’m not pretty. I’m not bubbly. I’m not into make-up, shoes, shopping, boys, or chick flicks. And I don’t want to be. That stuff is dumb. Why would anyone want to do that stuff anyway? Fine, they can go and have fun. I don’t really want to hang out with them. They’re just girls.

 

I was seventeen years old, and I was as much of a tomboy as a girl could get, chasing after adventure and rough-and-tumble playground sports, not boys, and longing for a friend, not a romantic relationship. To be honest, I never really put much thought into why I was the way I was, I just was. I hated being a girl and did everything in my power to be as un-girly as possible. And that was my life. Pink is gross. Jeans should have straight legs, not flared bottoms and tops should be t-shirts or hoodies. Hair should be as short as possible without actually buzzing it all off. If it happens to be a while between haircuts and your hair gets in the way, pull it up into a messy bun to get rid of it. Or dye it blue. Don’t bother with “nice” looking clothes; they’re uncomfortable and never fit right anyway. You have to be polite because the Bible says so, but whatever you do, don’t let on that you are compassionate or caring. That would show weakness or allude to the fact that you actually do have basic female emotions. And whatever happens: do not cry in public.

I am a broken girl. Or at least I was. I have been through one of the hardest forms of pain that a girl could ever go through. Only I didn’t know it. I would just go about life being me. Or at least being the me that I had created me to be. But God was going to bring me through a roller coaster ride of a healing process that would cause me to become the me that He had created me to be: a beautiful representation of Himself to show the world that He knows. He knows. And that it is by His wounds we are healed (1 Peter 2:24).

One day when I was six years old a girl in my first grade class told me she didn’t recognize me that morning when I first walked into our classroom. I was sporting my new haircut, so proud that I had been brave at the hair salon. The night before was my first time going for a haircut. My mom let me have it done however I wanted. And I had wanted it as short as possible. The girl in my class told me that at first when she saw me, she thought I was a new boy that was starting at the school.

Every girl , no matter their age, wants to be called pretty and cute. It’s natural for us girls, so her innocent, childish remark cut into my heart just like the hair dresser’s sharpened scissors had cut off my hair, only in a strange way it almost felt good. It was a pain that subconsciously expressed what was buried inside my heart, deep down somewhere, in the places of my heart I was not allowed to talk about. The place that was forgotten and calloused over. The place that was only confusion and shame. The place that one time, a while back, had made Mommy cry and Daddy speechless. The place that I never wanted anyone to know about, not even myself. This incident with the girl at my school was only one of many that would cause me much embarrassment, pain, callousness of heart, and bitterness over my lifetime. But it felt good because with every biting word or rejecting comment, I had accomplished my secret, subconscious goal: to not be a girl anymore.

This was the first of many times where people would question my gender or comment about it. Many times people would mistake me for a boy and I liked it that way. Yes, it was somewhat embarrassing but I learned to let the embarrassment roll off each time and smile inwardly, enjoying the feeling of being in control of what people thought of me and letting it cut into my heart a little bit deeper.

This wasn’t the only form of pain I experienced over the years. When you live in a way that is different, people do not usually make an effort to be close to you. People just didn’t understand me, and I had developed a hard attitude toward other people from constantly feeling the little snips at my heart.This made my life pretty lonely. Most days I couldn’t understand why people didn’t want to hang out with me or be my friend, but I think after a while I started to get the hint, and I took it for granted that I would never have any friends and that the world just hated me. So what did I do when the pain of people’s rejection or misunderstanding hurt in a way that didn’t feel good? I tried other ways to hurt myself. Not cutting or anything obvious like that, but by finding ways to bruise places that no one else could see, or scratch myself with sharp objects in places that no one but me would know about. I knew it was wrong, but somehow I always found myself thinking clearly about it only after the damage was done. Then I lived with the guilt and fear of other people finding out.

 

Powerful Low Key Shot of a Young Child Looking Sad

 

After I turned eighteen I started having nightmares and daydreams that were so scary and weird I couldn’t figure out where they were coming from. I had started really pressing into the Lord and seriously committing my life to Him as His servant. I was willing to go where He wanted me to go and give up whatever He put His finger on. I was spending time with Him faithfully every day and learning to make Him my first and only love. He was my best friend and my life was finally starting to have meaning. I felt His real love for me like no one else could love me.

That’s why it was so random to have these visions or dreams or whatever they were. I knew that the devil always attacks God’s children when they start getting close to Him because he wants to try and get them to slacken their pace in seeking the Lord, but this didn’t really seem like that. It wasn’t like the normal way that the devil presses in… it was so… so real. For some reason, the unsettling pictures that would come into my mind, flashing through so fast I couldn’t keep track of them or rolling through my mind like a fuzzy old movie, were very personal. They affected me somehow. It was as if the things that would pop into my head were part of another world, another life. It was as if I had lived those things I saw through some other person’s body. And it scared me. What was wrong with me?

When I had these dreams I would startle awake in the night or shake in my sleep and wake up crying. I started having these every day and every night and I needed help. I seriously needed help.

I set aside some time alone and I cried out to Jesus. If anyone could show me what to do, it was Him. It wasn’t long before He made it clear that the things I was seeing were flashbacks. Memories of a traumatic time in my life that I had subconsciously blotted out so that I would not have to feel the pain or the shame. Memories I had hidden as a secret deep in my heart and never talked about it. It was like a splinter wound that had healed over on the outside but was still embedded under the skin.

I was having flashbacks from a time in my childhood when I had been sexually abused on several occasions by the same person. I had actually lived through the horrible things I saw in my dreams. Tears streamed down my face as years of numbness began to wear off. The callous on my heart had started to soften the moment I started to diligently make time with Jesus in my daily schedule, and day by day He had been bringing me slowly and gently to this point in my life because He always does a thorough work in the heart of the one who has fully given herself to Him. He doesn’t leave anything undone. His work is always complete. And now it was time for Him to bring up and dust off that painful subject which I had chosen to bury in the past.

For the first time in years I allowed myself to remember. And I was broken. So very wounded. I sought the Lord with all my strength and refused to allow myself to not feel it. I knew that it was time to allow the Lord to dig up the splinter from the past and begin to clean out the wound, even if it was painful. I knew that I could trust Him to hold my hand while I let Him do the painful work.

I took time to pray at intervals throughout a period of forty-eight hours. All I wanted was comfort and relief for my raw and throbbing heart wound. During this time, Jesus showed me that the lifestyle I had been living, wanting to be as unfeminine as possible, was not just a personality bent. It was a self-protective armor I had put on in order to keep what happened from happening again. It was my way of becoming as unattractive as possible in hopes that that would keep the world of men from wanting to harm me for their own pleasure. Instead, in choosing to live in this supposedly “safe” lifestyle, I had brought more pain into my life.

The first thing I needed to do was talk about it all with someone. I needed to get it all out and let someone into the fortress of my heart. I grabbed my two best friends, both older than me and exceptionally godly people who had been encouraging me in my walk with the Lord for several years. I knew I could trust them to help me through this intense struggle.

We sat down together in a private place and I shared with them about all the awful memories that had been resurfacing. It was the first time in my life that I had told anyone what had happened to me. In all honesty it was the first time in my life that I had allowed myself to think about what had happened to me. We talked, cried, and prayed for a long time for the Lord to remove all of the pain and bitterness that had developed in my heart. I tried to be as open with them, with God, and with myself as possible. I just knew that it was time to be done with the pain of all those years. It was time to move on.

After I was able to share and pour out my heart before my friends and before Jesus, I felt a sparkle of sweet joy flickering to life inside of my heart. I felt a lightness and purity that I had never felt before. I felt like I was going to float up to the ceiling and I burst into laughter! My friends were laughing, too, and we were all in tears. I can’t even explain adequately the feelings that were overwhelming me, but that day my heart felt the salve of Jesus’ love being applied and the removal of the chains of bondage that had been holding me a prisoner to myself. The world became beautiful that night, not because it hadn’t been beautiful before, but because Jesus had made me beautiful in His sight.

While we were praying God showed me that I needed to forgive the person who had hurt me. I asked that Jesus would help me to do this immensely difficult thing. Forgiving is something that usually takes broken girls a long time to get around to, but God wanted to do a thorough work in my heart that very night, so He and my two dear friends, coached me through a prayer of forgiveness and victory over the power of the devil in my life. I indeed had been in a bondage to the devil for all of those years without even knowing it, and it was time to be free. Free. Free from bondage. Free from the cage in which I had enclosed myself for protection. Free from all of the terrible memories. Free from the horrible guilt, shame, and loneliness. Free to be who God created me to be. A girl. A woman. A beautiful representation of His love, compassion, humility, and gentleness.

 

Woman holding white flowers

God would then bring me day by day through a dramatic time of life changing healing where He would peel off more and more layers of the old me and replace them with the brand new, clean, whole, and pure me. And now several years later, girls who meet me can’t even see a trace of what I used to be like. I’ve even had girls who didn’t know my story comment on how I’m “such a girl”. God has done such an amazing, healing work in me. I am now a joy-filled, ticklish, pink-loving, scarf-wearing, sparkly-eye-shadow-applying, beautiful-in-Jesus’-eyes wife of an amazing godly husband.

One of the sweetest parts of my story is how God was working out His plan for me to marry one of those two friends who had been helping me through the healing process. My tender husband knows my deepest secret and has been there by my side through all of the changes, the praying, the sobbing, the remaining flashbacks, and the forgiving. He is my best friend and he is constantly encouraging me in my new life.

I praise You, Lord, for You have truly done an impossible thing in my life. You have turned my mourning into dancing and girded me with gladness. How could I ever repay what You have done for me except by giving myself to You thoroughly and wholeheartedly. I desire to show this broken world that Jesus is bigger than the painful things we have gone through and He knows.

What Size is Your HEART?

Art bouquet of red roses and the paper hearts on Valentine's Day

Article by Rachel, an Unshakable Girl staff writer.

The look. The double-take. With looks like that, I can only imagine what is going on in their minds. “Is she really that big? What is wrong with her? Doesn’t she know that she needs to lose weight?”

I have been “bigger” than all of my friends since I was young. People, even strangers, have made comments–giving me tips on weight loss and exercise. Sometimes it seems like everyone *thinks* I am the only one in the world who doesn’t know that I am bigger than “average”. There are times when people feel so badly for me that they try to find something, anything, that they can compliment me on (while also managing to throw in there something about my size anyways) so that maybe I won’t feel so badly about myself. Kind ladies asking if I am expecting, don’t know that I’m still single and totally taken aback by their forward questions. “No, I’m not.” I try to politely respond with a smile, all the while wanting to run away crying.

All of us are insecure. Hollywood and just about every other form of media tell us that we HAVE to be a certain way in order to be beautiful, accepted, and (of course, the end all) to get love. We’re told that guys only want blonde, skinny girls with perfect skin, perfectly placed hair that blows in the wind just so, and sparkling white teeth that will blind them when you smile. Sounds unrealistic, doesn’t it? That’s because it is.

In a world that tells us the skinnier the better, being larger than average is not easy. Even being average sized isn’t easy. No matter what, you will never ever meet the standards that have been set by the modern world. Every girl is plagued by a desire to have an eating disorder just to “fit in” and be crowned the title of “beautiful” in a harsh world. However, true beauty is not found on your body, but in your heart.

The Bible says “Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.” (Proverbs 31:30)

Fearing the Lord…That doesn’t mean being terrified of Him. It means that Jesus is your Lord and Savior. He is the one whose opinion matters the most to you.

So how do we keep focused on God, not on our looks, when everyone around us is focused on making us a “better” us? How can I, a larger than average sized, brown-eyed, brown-haired girl, filled with blemishes and imperfect teeth exist in a world that tells me that I’m not beautiful and need to just try harder?

I am not oblivious to social norms and how my outward appearances do not fit the mold whatsoever. Believe me, I have tried losing weight in all different ways. If it weren’t for the Lord, I am sure I would be a total mess, completely caught up in the latest diet trends, exercising non stop, and more. I spent one year in that mindset after someone informed me that “guys like skinny girls.” I started exercising no matter the weather every day and obsessively counting my calories. This person had also prayed with me about my future husband, followed by a list of all kinds of exercising and weight loss tips. That year was completely spent on pursuing worldly beauty and approval, all the while sticking the phrase of “taking care of my temple” on it. Surely this was godly, right? I am trying to be beautiful so that I can get married. There is nothing wrong with that…right? But God was not in it because I was spending all of my time working on my outward appearance, instead of spending any time in His Presence, and letting Him change my heart.

Over the past few years, God has indeed been chiseling away at my inner beauty–my heart. Slowly I have been letting go of my own ideas about beauty and letting Him transform my heart and show me what true beauty means to Him. It isn’t a weight loss plan on how to have a thigh gap, or a new facial regime to prevent early facial lines. It is actually being close to the Lord. When you grow close to the Lord, He begins to cultivate your heart–weeding out the bad, and caring for the new and joyful things He plants in there. He will change your heart into a beautiful garden, filled with fragrant flowers and flowing with Living Water.

Sure, eat healthy, exercise. There’s nothing wrong with either of those things. But, DON’T let it consume your life. Do not heed the condemning voice of the devil blaming you for being hungry or even for eating. It is not worth losing your relationship with God. No amount of striving for outward beauty is going to make up for lost time with the one who made you. No calorie counter or 5k running app is going to be such a good friend as Jesus. He alone will comfort your hurting heart. He is the One who holds your heart, Who knows what is best for you and wants the absolute best for YOU. Will people still say things? Yes. People will always say things, no matter if you are a size 16 or a size 6. When they do, run to Jesus and remember:

“God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7b)

Highways to Zion

Old stone castle with towers and bridge at dawn

“Blessed are those whose strength is in You,

in whose heart are the highways to Zion.

As they go through the Valley of Baca [lit. “Weeping”]

they make it a place of springs;

the early rain also covers it with pools.

They go from strength to strength;

each one appears before God in Zion.”

(Psalm 84:5-7 ESV)

God pointed this passage out to me not too long ago, and showed me some neat things about it, that I wanted to share with you. These are very encouraging promises, showing us what blessings and assurance we can find as we diligently frequent His throne room.

“Blessed are those whose strength is in You, in whose heart are the highways to Zion.”

As I meditated on this verse, I had to push aside my unappealing mental pictures of noisy cars and Mac trucks zooming down a 6-lane highway, and ask God to help me to take a step back, to be able to see what He was really getting at by using the word “highway” as an illustration of what our hearts should be like. I knew it was intentional, and I knew it was important enough for God to have put it in there for us to read, so I didn’t want to just read through it and say, “Oh, that sounds like a nice verse,” one more time…maybe highlighting it, but not having the true meaning birthed in my heart. So, I fought against the urge to just move on to the next verses, and as I waited on the Lord…this is what he showed me:

Back in Biblical times, before cars and trucks and pavement, a highway would have simply been a path that was well-placed, and well-used. It wouldn’t have been a noisy, obnoxious slab of pavement, but a road that was well-worn, and frequented by many on their way to the city — in this case, the city of Zion, which is often used as a Biblical representation of the city of the Lord – the Great King! So, this verse could be paraphrased to say, “Blessed are those in whose heart are the well-traveled roads to meet with their King.” This is how our hearts should be. There are many “roads” that our hearts can have…and many “ruts” we can easily get into on those roads — the road to waste time on the computer, the road to get angry, the road to go to work, the road to watch a movie when we’re bored, the road to go shopping…there are just SO many “roads”!! I’m sure you can think of a few roads that your own heart travels on daily. And, while there are plenty of downright worthless and sinful roads, there are also roads that are important and which have to be traveled each day. But what this verse is encouraging us to examine is whether the most frequented, well-traveled roads in our lives are those leading to fellowship with the King — because we just have to be with Him all the time, and we can’t think of being apart from Him for very long; because…well…because we LOVE Him!

This verse is the building block for the rest of this passage, so it is important to really understand what it means, and to let it sink in; the rest of the promises in the passage are dependent on us finding our strength in Christ – continually going to spend time with Him, so that He can actually live through us, and fill us with His power, so that we can live in a way that pleases Him, and find our joy, our strength, our hope, our purpose — our ALL, IN Him, and WITH Him. When this is our reality, we don’t go down every other road looking for something to fill our needs, but we instead go  straight to visit the King because we know that it is only with Him that we receive the help we seek. People will look at our lives and easily see that we don’t have any strength of our own, but that when we go to spend time with Jesus, we receive the power we need to overcome in every situation that presents itself…and that is one reason we frequent the courts of the Lord so very often — ‘cuz there are an awful lot of circumstances that arise each and every day that we simply don’t have the wisdom, or courage, or energy, or desire to face. It’s just not in us. But we now know that all we must do when these things arise is set off to visit the King. One more trip down the highway. One more trip to make the way smoother, more clear, and more emblazoned on our hearts.

“As they go through the Valley of Baca [lit. ‘Weeping’] they make it a place of springs; the early rain also covers it with pools.”

The “they” in this verse is referring to those who frequently visit the King (see – I told you it was important! 😉 ). As you can see, I added in the translation of “Baca”, so that what I share further on would make more sense. “Baca” literally means “weeping”. What God showed me about the meaning of these verses is that, as those who love the Lord (finding their strength in abiding in Him) go through difficulties and trials (the “Valley of Weeping”), the difficulties WILL be turned into a blessing before them, AND a blessing also for those who follow after them, as they see the victories obtained by those who went before; as they see that rejoicing, victory, and blessing IS possible to take hold of in spite of trials. God will never leave us just wandering in the desert or in our trials, but will rain down refreshment upon us, if we seek His face as we go through these difficult places. I know of many who have gone through unthinkably heartbreaking things – things that would cause those who doubt God to turn their backs on Him…even on the world itself, and to become very hard and bitter – and yet, have clung to the Lord as they walked through the Valley of Weeping, and found that “joy comes with the morning”! Whenever I go through something heartbreakingly difficult myself, I have to remember that there are many who have gone before me who have had to deal with even MORE heartbreaking things, AND who have come through them with faith in Jesus and rejoicing and joy, instead of depression, bitterness, and despair. They are always an example to me, and an encouragement to not despair when hard things come, but to press into the presence of God and receive the help and strength that He so willingly offers to any who would come. And God will use US as that encouragement and refreshment for others who see us go through difficult and even terrifying things, and come forth with joy in the Lord, and unshaken faith in His promises! The difficult way that we must all pass through will be made a little easier for those who follow after us, as we hold fast to the Lord and continually dwell in the sanctuary of His presence; there will be springs of refreshment and hope bubbling up around them as they, too, pass that way. Be encouraged – it is not just for your own refuge that you hold onto Christ as the harsh winds blow, but also for those around you – that the power and redemption of Christ Jesus would be glorified, and seen to be a safe refuge for any that would take hold of Him.

“They go from strength to strength; each one appears before God in Zion.”

Again, the “they” in this verse refers to those who love spending time with Jesus. Yes, I had to bring it up again. Because it is an important factor, but if you take hold of it, these promises will be yours to hold onto, knowing that God always keeps His promises. And this promise is, indeed, a comforting one. Instead of our difficulties overcoming us, and causing us to become weak and timid, as we cling fast the the Lord in the midst of difficulties, God will cause us to become stronger with each testing, and more purified and effective in service to Him. He will not only simply get us through trials ‘by the skin of our teeth’, so to speak, but will cause us to come forth full of strength and rejoicing in Him, as we trust in our God. And God will not stop after just one trial, but as we steadfastly hold onto Him, HE will steadfastly be holding onto us…and He will see us through to the end, and “keep you from stumbling and….present you blameless before the presence of His glory with great joy” (Jude 1:24)!

Hallelujah!

Dear Wandering, Weary Pilgrim — Come In!

Railroad

 

I’ve seen you — I see you often. You smile, but there’s more hurt and confusion behind that smile than anyone could ever know. More tears cried when you were alone than you’d ever admit to. More aches in the recesses of your heart than anyone could understand — probably why you’ve chosen to push them aside…to numb the pain.

It seems I am often sitting in my room, weeping for you these days. It’s because I love you. And, more than that…it’s because I know how much *I* love you, and yet…I know that God loves you infinitely more than I ever could. He has a boundless ocean of love that He longs to pour out upon you! He longs to take you in His arms. To hold you, and hold you, and never let go. To cry out for joy, through His own tears, that His prodigal, His beloved one, has come home! Oh, how I wish I could convey to you the deepness of the ache that is in my heart — HIS heart — for you! The ache of a parent, longing for their child to come home! Longing that their child would even just let them love.

I know you are hurt. And confused. You’ve had your heart broken too many times. You’ve been confused — jaded by what people say is right, and the difference of what you’ve seen. So many lies. So much hypocrisy. So much confusion. So many different opinions. And you’ve decided that it’s too complicated. It’s fake. It was always fake. It doesn’t matter, because you’re just too tired and hurting to try to fight against the opposition any more.
It might not all be true…but it’s reality to your heart…and the pain is real. So very real.

Oh, but Dear Wandering, Weary Pilgrim, please do not close your heart off, and barricade it up. Love is real. It is true. HE is true. No matter what people think or do or say, Love does not change. He stays the same…and His arms are always outstretched.

JUST VISITING

I’ve seen you standing at the door; balancing on the threshold. You gazed long through the open door of faith…and yet…you knew what lay within…and it had already hurt you. The silky-sweet strains of Vanity Fair beckoned you down, out of the doorway. They promised fulfillment, and pleasure, and fun filled indulgence — as much as you could ever want! They promised sunshine upon your face, and constant companionship and acclaim and everything your heart desires. Except…you must close the door to Love. In fact, you must build a high wall, and never let anything — or anyone — near who even resembles True Love. And yet…as you’ve followed after the alluring strains of Vanity…you’ve found that everywhere you look, you are still secretly hoping Love will be there. Perhaps hiding behind the racks of glitter and silk. But no, Dear One…He will not be found there. You will spend your life searching for Love. But you already know where He is found.

He is found back at the Door. That place where you made the last choice, and determined that you would barricade your heart. The place you decided that you couldn’t handle being confused and hurt again, by those sinful mankind who are falteringly trying to follow Love…oh so falteringly. The place when you let the glitter of the world drown out the whirling thoughts and emotions…numbing your heart to the ache. He is there. He is waiting. He is daily on His knees, pleading with His Father to keep you safe and to bring you back home. I know because He has me daily by His side, doing the same for you, with Him. Weeping because I miss you. Because I see your hurt and pain. Because I KNOW Love. And I know HE is not like you think; He is so unlike us sinful humans — even those of us who want to be like Him. Don’t turn from Him because of us. Don’t harden your heart to Love! Don’t let Vanity steal the life you could have with Him. And don’t…PLEASE don’t let the devil tell you it’s too late!

It is NEVER too late. It is never too late to go back to the Door. It is never too late to let yourself be broken again. It is never too late to apologize for the things you did…and to take hold of a brand new heart – again! You can, for Love has no limits. Nowhere is it said, “You may only have one new heart, and if you turn away from the Lord, you can’t ever be new again.” NO! Jesus freely gives NEW hearts to all who ask. To all who humbly repent. To all who turn back. It is never too late to say, “Father! I am sick of the vanities of this world, and the garbage they give me in return for my life! Please — take me back! Even to be a servant in Your house is better than partaking in the best things this world can offer!”

And though the devil whispers, “You will surely be rejected.” Jesus — Love Himself — will kneel beside you…and embrace you. He will weep, and weep, and rejoice through His tears…O, His dear one…His beloved child has come home! There is no joy in this world that can compare. There is nothing as beautiful as the prodigal child, having tasted of the world, returning home because nothing can compare to the Love that was there.

Dear Wandering, Weary Pilgrim…even if there is no one in this whole world that you can trust……trust Jesus. His Words are true…and He will never forsake you.

Dear Wandering, Weary Pilgrim…come in!

Hug sunset

“I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.” (Luke 15:18-24 ESV)

50 Tints of BRILLIANCE!

brilliant_sunrise_over_western_north_carolina

 

In Christianity we find no grey areas. There are no times when we have to sit there wondering, “Now, is this right or wrong?” Our God is a God of clarity and brilliance. He hides nothing, and leaves nothing fuzzy or grey. He is not a God who tries to trick His followers into loving Him – He puts everything right out in the open, so if you love Him, you love Him BECAUSE of who He is. “In Him there is no darkness at all.” And He wants us to know what His will is, so that we can obey — He’s not trying to hide something from us!

If you have been struggling lately with “grey areas” – things you aren’t sure about being right or wrong in your own heart, or things that your flesh loves, but you aren’t so sure whether they are totally pleasing to God, and you are tempted to err on the side of God’s grace instead of His holiness and just judgment…. then here are some scriptures to help you get your head on straight again, and to show you the clear path of holiness that God wants us each to walk. And who doesn’t need a refresher on these things now and then?? I know I do!

And yes, this post is meant to be a breath of fresh air in the midst of all the “50 Shades of Grey” posts floating around the internet. Share it to your own circle of friends to add the sweet fragrance of summer and the brilliance of a bright summer sun into the mix of debates and ruffled feathers. From what I’ve seen about it floating around, 50 Shades of Grey is a horrible, terrible, no-good movie/book etc. BUT, we can so easily get up in arms about something so blatantly sinful and perverse — even non-Christians are horrified. It is so easy for us to get upset about sins that we aren’t struggling with, but overlook the things that are in our own hearts — often the very same roots of sin that are at the core of the “bigger”, more obvious ones. So…while we’re up-in-arms against sin…what if we took some time to examine our own hearts too, and measure them with the standards of God’s holiness, and the ways He has set forth for us to live.

So here you have it — 50 undiluted, pure, brilliant truths to revive your heart this Valentine’s Day weekend!

 

  1. “You shall have no other gods before me.” Ex.20:3
  2. “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain…” Ex.20:7
  3. “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” Ex.20:8
  4. “Honor your father and your mother…” Ex.20:12
  5. “You shall not murder.” Ex.20:13
  6. “You shall not commit adultery.” Ex.20:14
  7. “You shall not steal.” Ex.20:15
  8. “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”(aka: “lie”) Ex.20:16
  9. “You shall not covet…” Ex.20:17
  10. “I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman [or man] with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Matt.5:28
  11. “I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgement…” Matt.5:22
  12. “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Matt.5:44
  13. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matt.5:3
  14. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Matt.5:4
  15. “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” Matt.5:5
  16. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” Matt.5:6
  17. “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” Matt.5:7
  18. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Matt.5:8
  19. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” Matt.5:9
  20. “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matt.5:10
  21. “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you, and speak all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.” Matt.5:11
  22. “If you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Matt.6:15
  23. “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth.” Matt.6:19
  24. “Do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on.” Matt.6:25
  25. “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness…” Matt.6:33
  26. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.” Prov.3:5-7
  27. “I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless. I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not cling to me. A perverse heart shall be far from me; I will know nothing of evil.” Ps.101:3-4
  28. “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Jn.8:31-32
  29. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” Pr.9:10
  30. “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.” Eph.4:31
  31. “Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” Heb.12:14
  32. “In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood.” Heb.12:4
  33. “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.” Col.3:1
  34. “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” Col.3:2
  35. “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming.” Col.3:5-6
  36. “Do not lie to one another.” Col.3:9
  37. “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience…” Col.3:12
  38. “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts…and be thankful.” Col.3:15
  39. “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men…” Col.3:23
  40. “So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober.” 1Thess.5:6
  41. “Abstain from every form of evil.” 1 Thess.5:22
  42. “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.” 2Tim.2:19
  43. “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort with complete patience and teaching.” 2Tim.4:2
  44. “I want you to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil.” Rom.16:19
  45. “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.” Rom.12:9
  46. “To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.” Rom.8:6
  47. “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone lives the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” 1Jn.2:15
  48. “But He answered them, ‘My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.” Lk.8:21
  49. “By this we know love, that He laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.” 1Jn.3:16
  50. “Finally, brothers, whatever is pure whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Philippians 4:8

 

“Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips! Do not let my heart incline to any evil, to busy myself with wicked deeds in company with men who work iniquity, and let me not eat of their delicacies!” Psalm 141:3-4

 

I Won’t Change.

arrogant little girl

“Like me or hate me, it’s your choice. I won’t pretend to be someone I’m not. I am who I am, and I won’t change.”

I see things like this everywhere online, and I hear so many girls talking this way. It’s not always the same phrase, but it’s the same attitude. Many times, it’s something that is mingled with a mantra for girls to not worry about how they look – which is something that I do think is way over-glorified in our culture…but does that make it ok?

I’ve seen this attitude take friends of mine down very dangerous roads, and I’ve watched people I’ve known destroy their own lives because of this very attitude. It’s not just an innocent way of thinking to help girls not to think badly of themselves. It’s a deadly snare. (Just understand, however, that this is not the same thing as having Godly standards, and refusing to compromise on them.)

Why?

At the root of it is pride. Pride is so deadly because it cuts us off from being able to receive any correction or help. We stubbornly plow through anyone who stands in our way, whether or not they were standing there to try to keep us from blindly leaping off of a 500 foot drop. Pride numbs us to the importance of there being an absolute right and wrong, and it blinds us to sin. So often, with this kind of pride filling our hearts, we have decided that the problem is with everyone else – not us. Everyone else is being judgmental and un-loving. We don’t want to believe that there could be anything wrong with how we are living…and honestly, we really just don’t want to have to give up the things that we enjoy doing.

This attitude says that there’s both good and bad in us, if someone doesn’t like what we’re doing, we shouldn’t have to change; if they don’t love all of the bad along with the good, then they don’t really love us. It says that, unless we are living how we want to with freedom, we are living a lie. Of course we don’t want to live a lie! But at the very heart of the gospel is the need for change, humility, boundaries, and yes – even submission…in fact, even cheerful submission! Our sin nature loves to do what is wrong…and set free without bounds to do what it wants, it would be like a wild tiger- savage and dangerous. Without limits, we will always lean toward doing things that will destroy us. This is why God gave us commandments! Not because He is mean or doesn’t love us – but because He does love us, and He wants to keep us from getting hurt! It is so important that we don’t live un-checked lives, doing whatever we want without anyone saying a word to us. Though to many people that sounds like an ideal society, in reality it would be a terrible, broken society full of hurt and destruction….much like our society currently is. In fact, it is because of this attitude – this pride, and not wanting to change our way of living or listen to instruction – that our society is the way it is!

But the gospel is about changing our whole lives! God gives us new hearts, and along with those new hearts, He gives us new desires and goals. He also gives us commands that we need to follow to keep us in the right way. Are we living a lie if we learn what God’s commands are and obey them – even if that means changing the way we act and think? Are we living a lie because we aren’t doing all the same things we used to love doing? Are we living a lie because we don’t want to swear any more or watch horror movies or live in the depths of depression? No! Of course not! Jesus gives us new hearts and desires – that means that the old things must change, and DO change…and it is good! Every change that Jesus brings to our lives is SO good! The truth of the matter is that our old, sinful way of living is the lie! We wallow in the muck of our sinful lives for so long because the devil lies to us and tells us that it’s fun and it will be fulfilling if we just stick around…and he will even tell us that there’s no way out – all of which is a lie! But Jesus came so that we could truly live in freedom and joy – freedom from our slavery to sin and the lies of the devil! And His laws show us that there is, in fact, a right and a wrong…which I am so glad for! If I didn’t have guideposts, I would be making a mess of my life and the lives of everyone around me – of this I am very certain. Even if God hadn’t told us specifically what things were wrong, we would still have to deal with the consequences of them. But He has told us! And we should take that as a great mercy toward us! The fact that we can know what things are wrong and going to cause pain and trouble if we persist in them is amazing, because when we know, we can do something about it! Because Jesus came to rescue us from our sins, we don’t have to stay stuck in them – the very things that are destroying us!

Now, you might wonder, “But do I have to change every little thing that people think is wrong with me? Do I have to try to measure up to what people think I should be?”

The answer to these questions is sticky and can be different depending on the particulars of circumstances…so try to hear the heart of what I’m saying in this limited amount of space that I have. The short answer is: no. Ok, now here’s the longer answer:

First of all, you don’t really have much power to change yourself anyway. You’ve probably noticed that. Without the Spirit of God to fill you and change your heart, you really won’t be able to live as God requires. Now, we do have to choose to obey God’s commands, and not to do the things that are wrong. But it is God’s Spirit that gives us the power to resist temptation and to do what is right. And God wants to change the things that are sinful in us, and make us more and more into children of light. Though you probably won’t be able to be perfect any time soon, Jesus actually calls us to strive for it; instead of being apathetic and not caring how you live or how much sin is in your heart, Jesus tells us to set our sights on being perfect, so that we are always pressing forward to be more and more like Him, and so that we don’t get stuck in a place of complacency and thinking we’re simply ‘good enough’. (Matthew 5:48)

Now, God has given you your parents to help you to grow up right, and you are called to honor them, and what they ask you to do….and when they point out an area of sin or weakness in your life, you need to accept it humbly and bring it to God in prayer and ask Him to change you and help you to live in a way that is a blessing to others – especially them. If you heed their warnings, chances are that you will save yourself a lot of trouble and heartache. What about those who aren’t your parents? If someone (particularly a fellow Christian) comes to you with a concern, listen, and ask God for humility and His help to not get offended. It is so easy to get offended by someone bringing a concern to you that means that you did something that wasn’t quite right. But listen to them, and bring what they say to God in prayer. They might just be right – often times it can be easier for someone standing on the outside of situations to see more clearly what is wrong and what needs to be done. And if you do find that they are right, even if it stings at first, you may save yourself much pain by listening to them and heeding their advice.

At the same time, your job is, first and foremost, to be seeking God daily, and to be striving to live according to HIS standards…and finding your identity and confidence in Him (not in trying to measure up to everyone’s ideas of what you should be like), and then getting out and telling people everywhere about Him and what He is doing in your life, and what He can also do in their lives. When you are doing those things, everything else will fall into place, and there is no pride in that way of striving after God, because we know that, without God doing miracles in our hearts, we would be lost…and without His power strengthening us, and picking us up, and sometimes almost having to force us to do what is right, nothing good would come out of our lives. We know who we really are, and where God is calling us to be…and we are humbled that He has such patience with us. We will begin to see that who we were was not something to be proud of…but instead, change in our hearts and lives is to be sought after and embraced with gladness! We get to see this more and more clearly as we let Him change us, and make us new. And this ‘making us new’ is not a one-time-and-it’s-over thing, it’s an ongoing, daily work that will continue for the rest of our lives. Start here: Take some time today to ask the Lord to show you any areas in your life that aren’t pleasing to Him – things that He wants to change in you, if you’ll let Him – and then begin to pray about those things, and ask God to take them out of you and to change you so that you can bring more glory to Him. This life is not about us doing what we want or feeling good about ourselves; it’s about bringing glory to Jesus, and showing the world that He is beautiful!

Better Plans

One way sign

 

As soon as God directs you to have faith for something that seems impossible, or when He tells you to do something that doesn’t seem logical, or to wait for Him to act, instead of plowing ahead in your own plans, the devil is always right there, ready to slander God to you. The devil will whisper, “He won’t hold up His end of the deal.” Or, “You’re just a sinner, so why should God bless you like that, or hear your prayers?” And then, our first response? Fear. Fear and then our minds begin racing to think up a “better” plan. A plan that’s less risky, more likely to succeed, and – best of all -a plan that we can make happen ourselves, instead of waiting on God to bring His plan to pass in timing that is different than our own.

How do I know this? Oh…just many times of failing to hold onto faith. Many times of circumstances seeming too big and scary…and feeling like God wasn’t acting fast enough. Then my mind would start to whirl, coming up with a plan B, C, and D that all seemed more appealing than ‘A’: waiting for God. It seemed like, if I waited, the situation would crush me to pieces – and then, of course, it would be too late for God to do anything. At least, that is what my mind would tell me.

I am also a fairly resourceful person, so I was be able to think of dozens of ways to “get through” a circumstance in my own strength, without even having to pray or wait. And then, even when I did get up the courage to pray, the devil would have me convinced that I was just being selfish, and that I had too many needs, and that I was being a bother to God by bringing them all to Him…and so, in the midst of my praying, there my mind would start whirling again, coming up with options that were less “bothersome” to God; things I could do to “help Him out” a little. Does God need help? What happens when we try to bring things about with our own ideas?

There is an excellent (and sobering) example of this very thing in the Bible. It is an example that God showed to me, and helped me to realize that I was doing the very same thing, and it has caused me to be much less inclined to “make things happen” myself instead of waiting for God.

First, God promises Abraham (also called Abram) a son, in Genesis 15:1-6, “After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: ‘Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.’ But Abram said, ‘O Lord GOD, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?’ And Abram said, ‘Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.’ And behold, the word of the LORD came to him: ‘This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.’ And He brought him outside and said, ‘Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.’ Then He said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be.’ And he believed the LORD, and He counted it to him as righteousness.”

Then, his wife, Sarai (also called Sarah), comes to him, and reminds him that he doesn’t have any children yet…and that she is not getting any younger. She then gives her servant girl as a wife to him (back then, this was a common pagan practice…however, it wasn’t God’s way), so that he could at least have a child somehow, even if it wasn’t through her.

Sarai’s servant girl does end up having a son, whom they name Ishmael. However, this is what God had to say about it, in Genesis 17:15-21: “And God said to Abraham, ‘As for Sarai your wife….I will bless her, and moreover, I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall become nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.’ Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed and said to himself, ‘Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?’ And Abraham said to God, ‘Oh that Ishmael might live before you!’ God said, ‘No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him. As for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold, I have blessed him and will make him fruitful and multiply him greatly. He shall father twelve princes, and I will make him into a great nation. But I will establish my covenant with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this time next year.’”

And, just as God said, Sarah DID have a son! And he is the one who God used as one of the direct fathers of the nation of Israel. Now, it is very interesting to know what ended up happening to Ishmael…and who he ended up fathering. Most of Ishmael’s descendants ended up becoming the Arab nations…which have been a thorn in the side of Israel (as well as other nations) ever since. This is exactly the kind of thing that happens when we try to come up with our own, “better” plans, when we don’t feel like waiting on God’ s plans. Sure, He may allow them to take place, and even to “prosper”…but just think at what peace Israel would have had without the descendants of Ishmael surrounding them and continually making war against them! And, in the end, God still brings His own plans to pass. He still kept His promise to give Abraham a son through Sarah…even though it was years after Ishmael was born. He didn’t use Ishmael to bring forth the nation of Israel at all…even though it seemed like a “good idea” at the time. Waiting on God’s plans will always bring the greatest blessing, and without all of the “aftermath” mess that almost always comes attached to our own plans.

God knows what is best. He can see a much bigger picture than we can…and He is not only concerned about getting us where we need to be; He is also even more concerned about our hearts, and the lessons we need to learn along the way. His plans bring forth not only the best short-term blessing, but they bear lasting fruit in our hearts and lives! (“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” James 1:2-5)

When we cling to Him in faith, and press forward persistently in prayer, it is not only NOT a “bother” to God, but it shows Him that we really believe what He says, and we trust Him! In fact, when we let fear into our minds, it not only is telling God that we don’t trust Him and that He isn’t powerful enough or big enough to rescue us and to meet our needs, but fear is a playground for the devil. When we let go of our trust in God, is is like giving the devil a free pass at filling our minds with all of the lies he wants to. Trust in God requires holding onto the promises of God and His goodness. When we don’t trust God, it’s telling the devil that we really aren’t holding onto anything, and we aren’t sure what we should think, which makes us an easy target. When we don’t know what to think, the devil is all too glad to give us “suggestions”. The devil will use that open door to speak all kinds of hurtful things into our hearts about God and even about others! He will use it to destroy our peace, and to cause our hearts to be in turmoil and dread. He uses it to try to push us to the point of suspicion of God, and even thinking that God is purposefully being mean to us! If we could simply see what God sees, we would see that there is no need to fear at all – not even a little bit, and we could see that God’s plans are at work even before we can see the answers! (Isaiah 65:24, “Before they call I will answer; while they are yet speaking I will hear.”) These are the sort of things that we must hold onto in the midst of the testing of our faith!  And, as Genesis 15:6 said, our faith and trust in the Lord is even counted to us as righteousness – meaning, that even though we have to daily cry out to God for His strength to fill us so that we can even keep holding on to him in faith in the trying circumstances that surround us, He still looks at that tiny mustard-seed of faith as something we did right (even though it’s only because of His strength that we could ever do it!), and it is a delight to His heart! It’s a mystery and a blessing. Our God is so gentle and gracious to us weak, frail humans! Any little effort we make toward Him and toward trusting Him, He rewards, and is blessed by it! It’s so amazing! He is so humble.

Purity

Lavender Field

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Matthew 5:8

 

Such a precious promise; one of my favorite in the Bible. “…for they shall SEE God”! This is my heart’s desire, and it makes me want to study the conditions of receiving this promise all the more, so that I may make it my own.

Now, there can be much confusion about the meaning of “purity” and the method of obtaining the promise. People are all over the place in what they believe about this one, and yet, it is so simple, and the answer is set so near to our grasp, that we often reach past it. And it can be so hard for us to be satisfied with the simple truth of the gospel, because we humans are proud, and we want to have some part in rescuing ourselves, or at least being able to say, “I did such-and-such, which gave me a better standing before the Lord.” That is why the gospel is so difficult for so very many people to take hold of; because it is too simple for them. They feel like there should be more to it…more things they have to do, rituals that need to be kept, self-punishment to be administered, and a quota of good works that needs to be filled. “Free gift?” they think, “Well, if it’s free, then it can’t be very good.” And they move on to some other religion that requires them to wear certain clothes, and say prayers at certain times, because they are unwilling to just humble themselves and accept that Jesus already paid the full price for our sins to be removed from us!

There are many people who may believe that they have done too many wrong things to take hold of this promise for themselves. They read, “Blessed are the pure in heart…” and stop there, because they know their hearts are far from pure, and there doesn’t seem to even be any hope for them to come close to the promise that follows…so they don’t even try. They are held back by their guilt and discouragement, and they decide that there’s no point in even trying to reach that beautiful promise, so they go off in the opposite direction, because…that is all they know…and they already know they are successful at their sin. They are afraid of failing to obtain that which their hearts so long for…they are afraid of disappointment.

 

There are also those who think that “pure in heart” must mean that they must live without touching the world…because it is so filthy and dangerous. They think they must live in their own happy worlds of innocence in order to have any hope of seeing God. Many parents believe this of their children, and do their best to try to keep their children innocent, and unaware of all of the sin that goes on in the world. Any mention of sin, and they cover the little ears, hoping that these young ones might escape the pull of sin by lack of knowledge. And truly, what good parent wouldn’t desire for their children to escape the sins that they themselves have fallen into? But in every case that I have seen, these children who have been so diligently sheltered, always end up finding sin…and in many cases, their fall is harder, because along with the lack of knowledge about sin, they have not learned how to wage war against it effectively either! On top of this, sin, in many ways, is a gift. Now, obviously, we should not seek it – we should be running from it – but without sin, there is no real understanding of how much we need a savior!

There are also those who read, “‘Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.’” (Matthew 18:3) They think that you have to act like a child in order to enter heaven…and so, run off into childishness and silliness, thinking that it is the same as being pure. But they have missed the next verse, which goes on to say, “‘Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.’” (Matthew 18:4) It is the humility of a child that we must desire to emulate (the willingness to come right up to the Lord’s feet without hesitation, and to take hold of His gift of salvation eagerly, without trying to come up with some way that we can become our own saviors)…not the silly naivety, not the reckless goofiness from lack of self-control…and not even the innocence of a baby, which is what makes them so very sweet. A baby’s innocence comes from a lack of knowledge…but God wants us to know the wickedness of sin, and to not want it any more. True purity is a sober, earnest pursuit of God, and a fleeing from childish folly and sinful things. You also won’t be able to hold onto any desire for ‘coolness’, because God’s purity brings a joy and sweetness that isn’t ‘cool’ and doesn’t let us hold onto whatever ideas of being ‘cool’ we may have. That is another reason purity requires humility; God’s purity will look foolish to those who are striving after ‘cool’, and we need to be able to humble ourselves to the point that we no longer care, and are glad to be made so totally new that the ‘cool crowd’ thinks we’re weird!

Purity vs. Innocence:

Oswald Chambers has written, “Innocence in a child’s life is a beautiful thing, but men and women ought not to be innocent; they ought to be tested and tried and pure. No man is born pure: purity is the outcome of conflict. The pure man is not the man who has never been tried, but the man who knows what evil is and has overcome it.”

The reason newborn babies are so sweet is because they are innocent, and it IS a beautiful thing. But innocence is not what we should be building our lives around striving for. It will never work. Sin is everywhere, and it finds its way into our hearts no matter where we live or how careful we are. That willfulness that rises up in a toddler when told not to do something is not something that comes from anything in the world. It is a seed that is in the heart of every person as soon as they are born, and it will grow, and become evident in our lives. It was even in the hearts of the most ‘innocent’ humans to ever live: Adam and Eve. They were the most ‘sheltered’ humans to ever exist, living in a secluded garden made by God Himself especially for them, and not having any other people around to influence them wrongly. And yet…the devil found them there. And their own sin – the seed of sin that was already in their hearts – was played with…’watered’ – and their pride both sprouted and brought forth a harvest of consequences that day; the day that they disobeyed God. This is why Romans 3:23 says, “For ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. There has never been a person who has escaped sinning. There is no one who has retained the innocence of a little baby. Innocence is sweet…and as long as it can last, it is cherished. Sadly, any who strive after it will be sorely disappointed. However, when our sinful nature grows in our hearts, and we come to the place of realizing just how much we have hurt God by disobeying His law, we are so much more grateful to find the way out, through the salvation of Jesus! Romans 4:7-8 says, “‘Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.’”

So what is it that we should be striving for, if it isn’t innocence?

Purity.

 

Purity can only come when we have had to fight against sin, and have had the victory! Purity can only come when we have humbled ourselves before the Lord, like little children, and let Him remove all of the evil desires from our hearts, giving us new desires…and new hearts.

 

To those who feel like they have sinned so much that they can never be “pure in heart” – fear not! “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.” (Titus 2:11-14 ESV) All that you must do is take hold of the salvation of God through Jesus Christ! He will teach you how to overcome your sinful desires. The more you surrender your life to Jesus, the more He is able to purge the impurities out of it. Purity doesn’t mean you have to clean yourself up in order to stand before God. When we get a glimpse of His holiness, we can often feel like this is the case. However, purity simply means that we must admit our great sin to God and allow Him to remove it from us. We must simply be willing to let it go, and let Him wash us clean.

Purity means that when our sinful desire comes knocking at our door, we won’t open to it, because we already know the outcome of those sins, and we don’t want to have anything to do with them any more.

 

And as we daily battle our flesh, and daily overcome, we shall be refined, like gold is refined (melted) in a fire so that the impurities can be removed. And as we are made pure, we SHALL see God. As the old sins and desires are removed from our hearts, we will be able to see God’s beauty in a new way! We will be able to see the delicate flowers, and smell the spicy breeze, and dance for joy in the tall grass. We can more clearly see His workmanship in every leaf, in every cloud, in the stars. And…we will get to see Him as we let Him draw close to us, as we let Him in to our hearts to renovate them and make them new. He will no longer be to us a “far off” God…but closer than the air we breathe. We will see Him as He leads us, as He lifts us up every time we stumble, and as He fills us with new life. We will see God because there will no longer be veils between us and Him; no sins darkening our vision, no pulls of worldly ‘delights’ lowering our gaze…and when we go to spend time with Him, we will be able to behold His beauty with nothing between us but love and great joy!

And we, who have tasted of the bitterness of sin and all of its deceitfulness, and have been made pure, are grateful beyond words…for we know what it is that we have been saved from…and we are so overjoyed to have found rest for our souls in the purity and holiness of Jesus, and the new hearts He gives us.