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.

Sunshine and Blue Skies Christianity – The MYTH.

Happy Young Woman Jumping over blue sky. Beauty Girl Having Fun

 

“Yeah, I’m a Christian,” Amy said with a shrug, as she snuggled in closer to her boyfriend, “but it doesn’t mean anything. I mean, it doesn’t mean anything for you. I don’t care what you believe. And I don’t even mind if you keep smoking and go out to party with your friends sometimes. And I don’t care how many video games you play, or anything like that. I love you…just the way you are,” she grinned, “Just like Jesus loves me.”

 

Sunshine & Blue Skies

The illustration above is just one example of an all-too common mindset today – one that I see everywhere. Everyone enjoys the idea of being a Christian. It brings with it connotations of happy people, sunshine, and nothing bad ever happening. Everyone likes the thought of their prayers being answered and going to paradise when they die. Everyone wants a better life. Who wouldn’t? But, unfortunately, many of these people who call themselves Christians aren’t ready for what being a follower of Christ actually means. Are you?

 

Facing the Definition

“So…what is a Christian then?” you might ask. Well, Jesus Himself defines what a follower of Christ should look like. In the gospel of John chapter 14:23-24a, it clearly says: “….If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words.”

A true Christian is someone who loves Jesus. And loving Jesus means keeping His words. How do we know what His words are? Good question. God has given us the Bible…and the entire book is filled with His words. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” 

Thus, if we claim to be followers of Christ, it means turning to the Bible to find out what God thinks on anything and everything in our lives. But even more, it means acting on what we find there. So few people – especially the young people I meet everywhere – actually read their Bibles. Sure, many will get the latest “cool” Bible – ones that are designed to look like a fashion magazine or are covered in flowers and hearts. They come into their youth groups or Sunday schools toting these snazzy Bibles, or anywhere that will earn them favor with the people around them. But…how often does this generation actually open the Word of God and read an entire chapter…or two…or three? It is incredibly rare. I recently met a woman in her 60‘s who acquired a Bible when she was first married…and never once read it. It sat on her table for 40 years, but she is only now just starting to desire to know what is actually inside the covers. Can you imagine how much wisdom she could have gleaned over the past 30 or 40 years if she had been diligently studying God’s Word and praying?! She would be a dear grandmother whom all the younger ladies and girls would look up to because of her wisdom and the radiance of the Lord in her (I know because I have personally met such ladies). But instead, she is just beginning her journey in the Lord herself.

In your own quiet times, it might seem sometimes like you aren’t getting anywhere quickly in your relationship with the Lord, and you may be tempted to give up or think, “What’s the point?” But being faithful to study the Bible each day, day after day after day, actually will produce lasting spiritual fruit. That is the only way you will become one of those dear grandmothers who absolutely glow with the love of Jesus, and whose wisdom you would just love to soak in for hours upon hours. That kind of maturity and grace doesn’t happen overnight. It takes persistence and determination and a real love for Jesus and His Words. The reason God created our relationship with Him to require faithfulness, determination and perseverance is because God wants to know how serious we are about loving Him and loving His commands. God takes our relationship with Him very seriously. He weighs the motives of our hearts, testing whether we are attempting to reap only benefits or if we truly desire Him to be our King because we love Him.

The most common thing I hear when I ask girls how their relationship with the Lord is going is a slow, “Wellllllllllll…it could be better, I guess. I’m having trouble finding the time to read my Bible and pray.” And this is my own constant struggle too!

Did you know that studying the Bible and praying are two of the most essential ingredients to having a victorious Christianity? I guess that’s why it is so hard. The things that are hardest to do are often the most important. And the easiest things to do, like “vegging out”, flipping through worthless youtube videos, reading that romance novel, or going shopping, are usually the most fruitless waste of time.

Each day there are only two choices: Either we are going forward in our relationship with Jesus, or we are going backwards. There is no “static” place of apathy where we can sit comfortably and relax.

 

Apathy Gets You Nowhere

And yet, as rare as it is for people to read the Bible, it is even more rare to find someone who will actually obey what they have just read. Countless “church kids” have grown up hearing all about Jesus, they go to every Wednesday night meeting, they play on the worship team, all while their parents make sure they are spending at least some time reading the Bible. However, these same kids rebel against their parents’ leadership, get involved in multiple ungodly relationships, live with countless secret sins (and, consequently, the guilt that follows), all the while, drown themselves in media so they don’t have to actually face the real world or face their sin. It is a hard, but honest truth. An apathetic, un-purposeful life is not going to work. You can’t go through life calling yourself a Christian, but never actually investing time with the One you say you’re following. You can not love Jesus if you don’t spend time with Him. It’s as simple as any other real friendship. If you never hang out with your friend…well…there is no true way to have a relationship with them. If you never talk to them, listening to them when they share what’s weighing on their hearts, you have no way of knowing them. A relationship takes commitment and work. Imagine you had a boyfriend and all you wanted was to spend time with him. What if all of a sudden, he started to call you less and less? What if you went to go see him after class, but he shrugged you off saying, “I’ve got too much work,” or, “I’m going to go shoot hoops with Travis,” or just told you he was too tired. What kind of relationship would that be? That’s just it — it is not a relationship. Yet, how many of us put God in that position every day? What if God asked you why you call yourself a Christian? What would you say? “Well, I prayed a prayer once, to receive Jesus into my heart.” Ok. That is the first step. It is essential to ask Jesus to be your Savior, and to set you free from your sins. But what then? What is the next step?

Did you know that when you prayed that prayer, when you asked God to come into your life as Lord, you were asking for a heart renovation? When you asked Him to save you from your sins, you were asking that He take away your old life? Do you know that it means that you will stop your pursuit of sinful desires, and instead will chase after Jesus with all of your strength? Do you know that it means asking God to purify your heart…and that if He or another Christian points out an area of sin in your life, it is your duty to take it to the Lord in prayer and to ask Him to remove it from you, and to actually pursue change? Do you know that it means taking Jesus’ words literally when He says, “forgive….from your heart” (Mt. 18:21-35), and “everyone who looks….with lustful intent has already committed adultery” (Mt. 5:28), and “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Mt. 5:44), and “do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth” (Mt. 6:19), and do not be anxious about your life” (Mt. 6:25), and “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness” (Mt. 6:33) etc., etc. Do you know that not obeying these things and not taking them seriously, is disobeying Jesus?

“He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.” (Romans 2:6-8)

 

Jesus Desires Our Joy

Now, Jesus is very gracious, and He does not want to punish anyone! Keep in mind that every single thing God commands us to do, or asks us not to do, is always – ALWAYS – for our good. It is not because He wants to keep us from having fun or because He is a mean God who is frowning on everything we do. Quite the opposite, actually! The purpose of obeying God is to protect us from the devil, from the consequences of sin, and from ourselves! He wants to protect us, so we can be filled with true joy and have lives of purpose and fruitfulness far surpassing anything our little brains could dream up on our own! God has created us to be His own children, and what Father would not desire the best for His kids? He knows better than anyone all of the destruction that sin brings upon our lives! We may not be able to change the sin and destruction that humans have created over the whole world by disobeying God, but we can change our own personal “world”. We can start by surrendering our hearts to Him afresh and letting Him know that we actually want to follow His way, and not our own. Even if you have already “prayed the prayer”, making a fresh commitment to God with a deeper understanding of what you are actually committing to is always helpful and refreshing. As we do this, we will have the smile of God shining down upon us. And let me tell you, it is a sweet thing to know that you are walking in the smile of Jesus.

“By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15:8-11)

Beyond Our Cookie-Cutter Comfort

Hiding

 

Introvert, extrovert, melancholy, type A, amiable, INTP, ESVJ, lion, beaver….we have probably all heard of these different personality “types”. Chances are, you know what your “personality” is, either from taking one of multiple different personality tests, or simply from having people comment about it your entire life. Comments like “You’re so shy!”, “Boy, you sure do talk a lot,” or “You’re such a people person,” begin to craft our puzzling personalities. As humans, we try to figure out ways to better understand ourselves and those around us, choosing to lock onto even simple things like comments or “personality profiles” in order to attain this.

For someone who just LOVES people, these “profiles” can be helpful in aiding them to make some sense of the person who would rather read a book in the quietness of their own home. When they understand that it is a matter of “Extrovert vs. Introvert”, it clicks. “Oh, I’m an extrovert, and Melanie must be an introvert – that’s why she doesn’t have people over much or go to many parties.” Suddenly, that which seemed out of the grasp of reason to the person who could not understand why anyone would ever want to be alone makes sense! There is a box, and they have discovered that Melanie fits in it. They have also discovered their own personal box and they know for sure that it is different than Melanie’s. It makes sense, not to mention it’s actually quite comfortable and snug.

We relish the comfort of being in our personal boxes. When someone questions the way we act or think, we can point them to the fact that we are an “INTP”, and that ALL INTP’s act and think that way…so what we’re doing is perfectly reasonable. It’s almost like a club, if you think about it: When we meet someone else, we whip our our “INTP” badge and compare it with their “INTJ” badge. We feel less self-conscious about our quirks or differences, and more like we are actually who we are supposed to be. We may even think we have a right to say “that thing” in that less-than-kind way because..well…it is who we are. We can almost feel ourselves becoming proud of our little title. We might say we are “comfortable” with who we are. Well, that is the truth. We feel secure in knowing who we are and who we are supposed to be. At least, according to our personality type. It gives us something to work with and, not to mention, something to aim for. It gives us humans the boundaries we long for – a desire that was originally created in us in order to point out our need for God and His good laws. However, we get so comfortable in our personality boxes that we are hesitant – unwilling, even – to step outside of them. It is a terrifying and difficult thing. If we do something that is totally outside of our personality box…doesn’t that mean we are trying to be someone else? Are we being fake? And then if we do something that is not what a “INTP” is supposed to do, like going to make small talk *scream of terror* or something that is uncomfortable for us…what if people ask us to do it again?! And what’s worse…what if God asks us to keep it up? What if it does not stop with that ONE area? What if God asks us to do MORE uncomfortable things? What if our lives become TOTALLY uncomfortable for us……..auuuuggghhh!?!

And this, my dear friends, is where this article comes into play. This is actually EXACTLY the place that God wants us to get to. Uncomfortable? Yes. Romans 12:1 says, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (ESV). Our lives, our bodies, our time–it belongs to God. If we call ourselves Christians, we are essentially handing over the “keys” and rights of our lives to God. Not that they were ever really ours to begin with, but when we make the statement to God that our lives our His, it shows Him that we are serious about wanting Him to be the King. Not our own desires. Not our guide-lining “Myers-Briggs 4 personality letters”. Friends, when we truly love Jesus, He will ask us to do things that are uncomfortable for us. “Living Sacrifice” is not just an eloquent verse–it means we sacrifice ourselves to Him. We give up ourselves to Him, living the life He asks.

The Lord is continually putting me in situations that I would never have chosen for myself. Situations that stretch my faith, situations that teach me important lessons (especially humility) or situations where He asks me to go completely outside my normal introverted personality. It is terrifying at times, yet we must be willing. Willing, as Paul says in Romans 12, to surrender ourselves completely to God, as a sacrifice for Him to do with whatever He thinks is best. To accomplish, this we must be willing to let God bust us out of our personality boxes.

There are times I find myself being stubborn. I can often put up a good fight in my heart against what I know God wants me to do. “But God,” I say, “I can’t do that! I’m not outgoing enough. You should probably ask someone who is better at talking to strangers.” or, “But God, I need quiet to recharge – it is part of my personality. I don’t think I can handle having those people come over today.” But do you know what happens when I just obey God, and do what He asks me to do? He blesses it. He gives me joy in the situations I might be tempted to be miserable in. He gives me words to speak when I have nothing to say. He fills my heart with His love for people, so that helping them seems more desirable to me than my own comfort.

Do you know what happens when I resist the Lord and convince myself that He would never ask me to wear my INTP-self out? I miss out. I miss out on growth that God wants to do in my heart. I miss out on spreading “the fragrance of the knowledge of Him everywhere” (2 Corinthians 2:14 ESV).

“For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh” (2 Corinthians 4:11 ESV). Our personalities ARE part of who we are, but if we are Christians, Christ is our “personality box”. WWJD should be our “four-letter” description. Even if we are tired introverts; what would Jesus do?

Just like the rest of our sinful nature, our personalities are fraught with tendencies that go against God’s love and holiness, needing to be re-shaped by The Potter’s hand. Our old selves, including our very personality types must be laid on the altar with the willingness for God to shape and change us as He sees fit. It is through these numerous (and sometimes painful) changes that we are being made more like Jesus! All of the sinful tendencies we have hold us back from being able to truly reach out to people with the pure love of Jesus. Yet, as these are carved out of our hearts and lives, we are slowly – bit by bit – able to live, act, talk and serve more like Jesus. By God’s grace, as we let Him tackle the stubborn parts of our personalities that we hold on to, it is like letting God remove the veils that are over our lives so that those around us can see Jesus more clearly through our lives!

As long as we hold on to what we feel are our “rights”, we will be missing out on what God could be doing in and through us if we actually let Him have full control over our lives. What if we stopped dictating what we think God would ask us to do based on our perception of “INTP”? What would happen if we surrendered our discomfort enough to actually hear and obey God’s voice? What would he be able to accomplish through us, His human vessels? It is hard, but not a thing that is too difficult for us to bear. The more we surrender to Him, the more we see His trustworthiness. The more we let Him use us as He wishes (and obey Him!), the more we are able to see His own power at work through us! It is then that we can begin to understand that Jesus does not ask us to do anything in our own strength – for, indeed, we have none – but He Himself supplies with His own strength for every single situation and task He sets before us.

We never have to fear that we aren’t qualified, nor good enough at coming up with things to talk about, nor “a lion”. For, that which our Lord sets before us, that is the task He cannot wait for us to lean on Him to accomplish. He will fill us with Himself, and make up for all we lack through the power of His Holy Spirit. “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” (Galatians 2:20 ESV).

The Secret of Being Unshakable

smallergirlwithbible

What IS an Unshakable Girl? What does she look like? How do you spot one in a crowd? Is there some kind of club you have to join, a certain type of clothing you have to wear, or a secret handshake or something? Well…Unshakable Girls ARE usually pretty easy to spot in a crowd…generally because they are the only ones NOT doing what everyone else is doing. They are the ones that refuse to comply with even their friends standards, choosing instead to pursue the standard which Jesus has set. And why? It is because an Unshakable Girl loves Jesus more than anything or anyone else in the world, and looks only to Him to define what is right or wrong. An Unshakable Girl cares only what He thinks about the way she is living.

An Unshakable Girl is not shaken or overcome by the flood of worldliness and sin that continually surrounds her. She stands out because of her purity, true joy and vibrancy in the midst of a culture where most of the kids are walking around like zombies – not even able to enjoy a beautiful day…and not caring. Her smile is full of the joy of the Lord, and her heart is continually abiding in His presence. Her closeness with Him is evident; the things that flow out of her heart into in her daily life through her words and actions sparkle with His love and sweetness. And THIS is her secret:

Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.’ But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.’” (Luke 10:38-42 ESV)

I know for myself, that I can often get caught in the same trap as Martha. If we are honest, most of us get sidetracked in the same way. We begin to believe that, in order to please God, we have to be continually busy, working on projects and goals that will make Him happy, planning mission trips, fundraisers, luncheons, youth group activities, being on the worship team, or going to every church meeting and activity held during the week. We are even trapped into the day-to-day routines of life–school, tests, studying, jobs, and all of the mundane things that need to be done in any given day. And, it is so easy for us to measure our “Christian-ness” by the outward things that we’re doing (or not doing)“for God”. (We must also guard against looking at others as “less Christian” because of what they are or aren’t doing, or feeling proud of ourselves because of what WE are doing that others around us aren’t.) But, even though things do need to be accomplished during the day, do you see what is wrong with this picture?

First, note that Martha is the one who welcomed Jesus into the house. And yet…she was unable to make the effort to just spend time with Him. How often do we do this? We talk about Jesus. We listen to “Christian music”. We have a Bible on our shelf. We may even have verses written on sticky notes on our mirrors. Sure, he is welcome. We love Him…or at least, we love the thought of having Him nearby…as we work on all of our other stuff. But do you know what ACTUALLY makes Jesus rejoice? It’s not all the stuff we are “doing” for Him. The thing that truly causes His heart sing is when we lay aside all of our other busyness and goals to simply sit with Him as He shares His heart with us.

There is only one truly necessary thing, and that is spending time with Jesus. Everything else pales in comparison. Why is this? It is because our source of life IS Jesus. Yes, we should desire to do things that are pleasing to Him (and it is very important to be “doers” of His Word, and not simply “hearers”), but these things can only come out of FIRST falling in love with Jesus. Gazing into His eyes. Knowing the depths of His heart and His good character. When Jesus came, he gave us the opportunity to actually spend time with Him – something that thousands of people LONGED for during the first centuries of the earth. When He came, He handed this gift freely to us! We can visit as many third-world countries as we want, dress in a certain way, and we can even throw out all of our awful books and movies and music in our desire to please The Lord. However, unless it stems OUT OF our love for Jesus and Who He is, it will not do a ding-dong thing for our lives. If you do all of these things, but still never will quiet yourself to sit with Jesus and talk to Him…it is all meaningless. There are hundreds of different religions and groups who do all the things I mentioned above, and yet, they have no light in their eyes, no joy in their hearts, and no freedom in their lives. They labor to earn favor with their “gods”, thinking that it will make them good enough to get into whatever version of “heaven” they believe. But even all of their “earned” righteousness will wash away with the tide of the sinfulness this world is flooded with. But it is not so with Jesus. Jesus died to take away our slavery to sin and death. When we spend time with Jesus, we truly will find ourselves falling in love with Him! As we fall in love with Him, He will show us day by day what loving Him truly means. He, Himself, will break off of us the power of sin, showing us what is displeasing to Him in our lives so that we can repent of it, and get rid of it. All because we love Him–because He’s been speaking to our hearts and because we have been spending time with Him. Not because we are trying to earn the free gift of salvation. Not because we are striving to look like a better person, but because Jesus is actually making our hearts brand new. (And yes, we must be aware of the fact that when we get close to Jesus, there are things in our hearts and lives that will have to change.) That is what He does for those who seek His face. He makes us Unshakable; not girls with muscles of iron standing on the tallest mountain peak with super-hero capes flapping behind us – but girls who run to the shelter of Jesus’ hand to hide them from the raging storm. Girls who love to sit at His feet, and who delight to obey His voice. Because it is not in our own strength that we can overcome the world – we already know too many who have fallen prey to it’s lusts to think that we could be any better or stronger. No. But the key is in what Jesus said in John 16:33: “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (ESV)