The Darkness is Real

The devil is real.

We all “kind-of” know that… but, truth be told, we often aren’t really sure what that actually means… or how to deal with it.  Some of us may not really want to think about it all that much, because we’re afraid… or confused… or maybe you’re one of those who knows the devil is real, and has experienced his presence, but you don’t know what to do about it or how to get out of his grip (or help those who are).

Today I’m going to share with you an interview with a girl who is very dear to me.  A girl who has been through an incredible amount of pain, grief, and darkness in her short life.  But God has brought her out of it all safely, and she is now full of the joy of His presence.  My hope is that her testimony is both a help and an encouragement to those of you who are stuck in fear and bondage to the devil—that there IS a way out!

AND, for those of you who are still skeptical about the devil’s existence and the reality of his presence in our world and his work amongst the young people of our society today… I hope this testimony is eye-opening to you, and moves you to earnest prayer on their behalf… and I hope it stirs you to action to rescue any you can from the devil’s grip.  This is reality.  This is why there are so many suicides and kids filled with darkness and despair.  We cannot sit passively by while the devil deceives and destroys lives with impunity.  We MUST fight back.

Can you fill us in a bit on how you grew up, and what “normal life” looked like for you as a child?

I grew up without the guidance of either parent.  My dad left right away, and my mom was an alcoholic.  I was tossed between family members and my mother’s friends.  My mom dated a lot, only, she dated women, as she is a lesbian.  I saw her blaze through so many relationships, including those which sometimes involved other kids.  I saw the damage done by these relationships, and I often got the blame when they ended.  Normal life for me was never staying in one place; it was living with whoever my mom dated, and often getting left behind so she could go out drinking.  Sometimes I wouldn’t see her for months, and didn’t know if she was coming back.  I became depressed, suicidal, and got into self-harm.  I was medicated and anorexic and I began to look for comfort in all the wrong places.  Those wrong places led me to a cult and to demons.

 

When did you really start to get into dark, demonic things yourself?  What was it that drew you in?

I really started to get into dark, demonic things in my sophomore year of high school.  I liked the feeling of having the protection I thought I was being promised.  I was drawn in by the promise of never being alone and having a “spirit” to look after me; a “spirit” I could call my own and which would defend me.  I wanted to be part of something bigger than myself, and I figured I could do that if I were something more than human.  There was a “pack” of demon-bound students in my school, which I joined up with.  Each pack member got a demon which stayed with them, and was always supposedly in the form of a wolf.  These students would enter the bodies of their demons and command them to go about and to kill other demons.  I wanted to be a part of something like that because it was bigger than myself, it was adventure, and because I craved the closeness of a pack.

 

Can you summarize what it was (as far as the demonic activity) that you were drawn into?

When I got into the pack, I didn’t know it was a cult because they seemed like regular high school kids, and like they didn’t want to hurt anyone.  When I joined, I was bound to a demon that controlled fire, and was taught how to use this demonic power… BUT, by getting that close to demons, I attracted other demons to me that tried to kill me and control me.  I had voices in my head all the time.

 

How prevalent was all this in your school?  How connected through the rest of the country—or was this an isolated group?

There were at least a dozen students bound to demons in my school that I knew about, but they knew another pack in Nebraska (a state not at all close to where I lived).  This particular cult is spread all across the U.S. and Canada.  I cannot even fathom how many people are stuck in this mess.  It was definitely not an isolated incident; there are SO many kids involved in it.  There are even little kids “in training” that are relatives of those who are already bound to their demons.

When did you start to want to be free?  How easy was it to get free?  What kind of process did God have to take you through to get you free?

I was sitting behind my door one day, at home alone, and I was crying out to no one in particular.  I had been hurt, and the demons wouldn’t leave me alone.  I was so tired of cutting myself and feeling worthless.  I had grabbed a kitchen knife and wanted to slit my throat.  I had thought about overdosing so many times, but never went through with it.  I raised the knife to my throat but I hesitated, and in that moment, God called out to me.  He asked me where I was going—where I would go when I died?  Of course I knew I wouldn’t be going to Heaven—only good people went there, and I was into all things demonic.  But God told me He had plans for me.  He had found me in the darkest place and still He came for me.  God loved me so much that even with all I had done, He wanted me.  He didn’t look down on me and say I was too far gone.  He didn’t want anything from me—He wanted ME!  Even though I had nothing, even though I was bound to demons, even though I was broken and dead inside, He wanted me—even when I was so, so filthy.  THAT is when I wanted to be free.  I wanted God because He wanted me… just because He loves me.  It was a while after that that God began healing my heart and washing me clean, and He had me surrender anything related to the cult that I had.  Then, I prayed for the bonds to be broken… and… I was free!  There was a lot of healing to come, but I was free of demons, and I felt the weight of them fall off of me.

 

What would you most want to say to someone else who is stuck in a similar situation?

I want to tell the people stuck in a situation like this that it isn’t a game.  It isn’t “safe” to play around with… and there is a greater Love for you!  God won’t treat you like the demons do.  He won’t put that much pressure and weight on you.  There is no love in those kinds of cults.  God will not leave you alone, He won’t let you suffer, and He will stay with you all the days of your life and protect you for REAL.  Demons may promise protection, but they cannot deliver what they have promised.  They are liars, and their way is death.  But God is real!  He is more powerful, and He is good.  When you surrender your life to Him, He will guard you from their grip for real.

 

What do you think parents, grandparents, and church-goers who don’t know what to think of the devil or the current amount of demonic activity in the world need to know and do?

I want to tell those who don’t know what to think about the devil that he is VERY real.  Demons are very real, and they aren’t trying to help you, and they don’t actually give you power like they promise.  There is so much demonic activity in the world that Christians need to be on high alert.  It is far more common and widespread than anyone thinks it is.  Please pray for the Lord’s guidance, and be active Christians.  Remember: this is a battle.  Tell your children and grandchildren about the devil; tell them the dangers of these things while they are still growing up, and train them in battle.

 

What is the best way to help kids who are stuck in these things find their way out?

The best thing to do for kids who are in this is to pray for them, take every opportunity you can to talk about Christ with them, and show them His love.  Most of the time kids don’t even know what it is they have gotten into, and they don’t know how serious the devil is (he isn’t playing around, even if they are).  Tell these kids that the devil is real.  Take Proverbs 22:6 seriously when it says, “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.”

 

Is there a way to tell what kids are stuck in these things?

It is so hard to differentiate who is stuck in these demonic things and who isn’t.  There is no specific behavior or mark to identify them.  That is what makes this so scary; it is like a plague with no symptoms.  The devil has created a seemingly perfect trap.  There is no specific age, no specific gender or race.  However, kids stuck in this trap usually stay away from Christians and withdraw from family… but then, most teenagers do those things today anyway.

 

Now, looking back, what are the biggest differences you see between serving demons and serving God?

Serving God has brought me more joy than I ever knew I could have!  God does not endanger me.  He keeps me truly save, and promises me real and lasting love for all of my days.  Serving demons was being on edge everyday, not knowing when the next attack would come… but knowing it WOULD come.  Everything about me became different when I began serving God instead of demons.  I became happier, healthier, at peace, and I started seeing my family more often.  I became a real person again, instead of being controlled by the whims of the devil.  God doesn’t think of you as a slave like demons do.  He is a Father that only has His children’s best interests and well-being in mind.  There are no words to describe how loved you feel when you serve God.

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.

What to Do…When You Don’t Know What to Do.

Girl before a white doors in fear of the unknown

Following God is simple. But most of the time, it’s not exactly what any of us would expect.

People press in around us from the time we enter middle school, with questions, suggestions, always wondering what we’re going to do with our lives – urging us to make decisions, and follow our dreams, watching us, waiting for us to do something big – amazing – something to change the world. They’re always so supportive of the kids who decide that, when they grow up, they’re going to be a doctor, a firefighter, or a hairdresser. But for any who might be tender enough to voice their desire to be a “missionary”, there is often polite laughter, a pat on the head, and unending, “But what are you REALLY going to do with your life?” questions. And for those who don’t even have a clue, there is so much pressure to jump into college and spend tens of thousands of dollars “figuring out” what you want to do…because…well…you’ve got to be doing SOMETHING.

But let’s take a step back for a moment. Let’s lay aside all the pressure, the opinions, the advice…and just quiet our souls for a minute. There are always more things to be done, things that COULD be done, things that people think you should be doing. But what is it that God wants you to do? There is one question that keeps me going, and helps me to stay focused when my brain is trying to go 120 different directions at once…and my body can’t even comprehend what it would mean to keep up. Then the Holy Spirit cuts through my anxious, overwhelmed thoughts and says, “What if Jesus was coming back today? What would you want to accomplish before His return? What do you want to be doing when He comes back? Now DO that.”

That one line of thinking can change everything. In that light, there are suddenly a lot of things that seemed important, but aren’t. A lot of pressure that doesn’t need to exist. A lot of hesitation and questioning that can be swept away. And so much freedom to throw yourself into the Lord’s service with abandon.

If Jesus was coming back today, I would want to rescue as many lives as I could. I would want to share the gospel with as many people as possible. I would want to take advantage of every meeting with someone, whether at the store or on the street as if it was their last chance to be saved from judgement.

If Christ’s return was imminent, I wouldn’t have to worry about having enough money saved up. I wouldn’t worry about what people thought about me. I wouldn’t worry about having a good enough education. I would take what I do have, and what I do know, and go out into the world and preach the gospel. I would lay aside all my own plans, desires, and dreams…and every vision of success in the world, or what the world says I need to do or have. I would set out with just Jesus, and courageously go forth to do whatever He set before me. I would let Him fully and truly live through me, to do the things that are on His heart to do; the things that He would want to do if He was in His own body on earth right beside me.

Following God’s will isn’t that complicated. We can make it complicated, by inserting all of our “what-if’s” and fears and plans for ourselves. But really, if we were all perfectly honest, we would know what God is asking of us. We would know what His will is — it is to go forth and share the gospel with every person. No degrees required. And, if we could truly trust Him to provide, there would be no need to worry about money, or organizations supporting us, or anything. We could actually just go wherever He lead us.

It’s not complicated. But it’s not easy. It means that our lives are not our own. It means all of the rosy plans we had for ourselves are no longer our goal or aim. It means that any acclaim of the world, any recognition, any hope of fun or doing what we like or what we feel is our “gifting” is gone…and replaced by the urgency to just get out in any way possible and share the gospel with whoever will listen. Laying down our own lives to share God’s amazing love with the hurting, broken world at our doorstep.

God’s will means simply saying, “yes”. And going.

katie-davis

Katie Davis is an excellent modern-day example of a life surrendered to God, and what He can do through one who lays down their own desires and plans and ideas of what would be “fun” in order to rescue lives, and share God’s love. Katie was just a normal teenager in pursuit of all the things that were on the normal teenager’s mind: popularity, boys, a good career….and then, God showed up and turned her world upside-down.

After she graduated from high-school, she had decided to take a year off before going to college. She signed up for a short-term mission trip to a Ugandan orphanage, and, as she said, “I moved over there thinking that I would be there for a year and then I would come back and go to college and be normal again.” But God had other plans.

While she was there, God captured her heart and opened her eyes to see the desperate need of the people there…for someone to love them and to show them a better way.

“I quit my life…I quit college; I quit cute designer clothes and my little yellow convertible; I quit my boyfriend. I no longer have all the things the world says are important.”

Then…God took her back to Uganda, with no plans to ever return to her home land, and began to make her a mom, at 19, to little Ugandan girls who had no one to love them. God brought them to her, one-by-one, until she had 13 little ones in her care, and gave her charge over them as their mother, to love them, snuggle them, teach them, clean them…and to tell them about Jesus. She also started a ministry in her home, to any who wanted to come. She started “Amazima Ministries”, so that the destitute children would have someone to sponsor them, and so they could eat and go to school.

You might think, “Wow. It takes a special person to do that! I could never do something like that.” No! Don’t even think that way, friends! That thought is where the call of God dies. You must understand that NO ONE is spectacularly gifted to love people like that. We are all weak, sinful, and sorely lacking the love it takes. BUT, Jesus has said, “Come, and drink freely!” He has promised to give us all we need to do the work He sets before us. It’s not about how capable we are…it’s about allowing God to fill us with HIS power and strength, and to work and live through us.

As Katie expressed so well, “I remember when I wasn’t ready to move to Uganda. I remember when I wasn’t ready to kiss the people I loved the most goodbye. I remember when I didn’t have enough money to sponsor just ten children, and I remember when I wasn’t old enough to be a mother, and I remember when I didn’t know how to parent. I remember when I couldn’t cook for fifteen people and when I didn’t want to share my house and my things and my life with sick people and addicts. I remember when I was afraid of the slum community that now holds hundreds of friends and when I was terrified that my daughter would never walk and when I was scared that we would never heal after tragic loss. And I remember that never, not once, was I really as ready as I wanted to be. And I remember that God kept all His promises, every last one, in His perfect time.

This new season looms and I don’t know what is next. But He doesn’t need me to be ready for this season because He is ready. He just needs me to be clinging to His feet.

Now. This is where He has called us.”

“People tell me I am brave. People tell me I am strong. People tell me good job. Well here is the truth of it. I am really not that brave, I am not really that strong, and I am not doing anything spectacular. I am just doing what God called me to do as a follower of Him. Feed His sheep, do unto the least of His people.”

“I want to give everything, no matter the cost, because I believe that nothing is a sacrifice in light of eternity with Christ.”

“The goal of the book [“Kisses From Katie”] was for other people to be encouraged that, in small steps of obedience to God, he can create something more extraordinary than you could have imagined. When people come into my story from this side of things, they might say, ‘Oh, this young girl has this organization and all these children—either she’s totally crazy or she’s gotta’ be incredible.’ I’m neither, but the story started with one open door of going to this third-world country. I said yes, and then God placed needs in front of me, and I tried to meet them in the best way I could.

I think prayer is key. I would encourage people to follow and obey, and try to serve others one step at a time, whoever is in front of them. If there is an open door to go to a foreign country and it is something you want to explore, walk through the open door. Once you get there, God will open other doors and bring needs to you. And as you meet the needs right in front of you, he can build something different than we ever would have thought or planned.”

“Maybe courage is not at all about the absence of fear but about obedience even when we are afraid. Courage is trusting when we don’t know what is next, leaning into the hard and knowing that it will be hard, but more, God will be near.  Maybe bravery is just looking fear in the face and telling it that it does not win because I have known The Lord here. I have known The Lord in the long, dark night.

We still tremble, but more than that we have faith. Even though we feel uncertain, we press into a God who is so certain, so sure, so steady. He carries us, He lifts our heads. And His unfailing love and comfort becomes our courage and our hope.”

So what is God’s will for you? Be faithful to do what He sets before you. Move forward through one door, and He will open another. Trust, and, as God has told me very seriously: make sure to do nothing out of fear.

Becoming a Shepherdess

pretty young woman holding a white lamb, close up portrait, outdoor

 

“…Do you love me?….Tend my sheep.”  John 21:16

“I am the Good Shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.”  John 10:11-13

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

 

God recently pointed out these scriptures to me and said to me, “This is what I want you to become. A shepherdess.” I  was a little puzzled at first, and began to ponder what that really meant. First, what does it mean to be a shepherd, and second, what are some important things to know about shepherding?

What does it mean to be a shepherd?

A shepherd must take very seriously the lives of the “sheep” that God has put into their care. This will look different for everyone, but God gives each of us our own “sheepfolds” – places where we meet people and become connected to them, such as school, work, church, etc. Depending on how outgoing you are, your “sheepfold” may be larger or smaller…but it’s still there, no matter who you are, or what your personality, we all know people who are hurting and need help. Each of these people you know will/have become your “sheep”; as God calls you to a serious relationship with Himself, it will never be simply for your own enjoyment – God calls us to always be pouring out our lives to help others, and the closer you get to God, the more He will ask you to give. And the closer you get to God, the bigger He will make your “sheepfold”…because you will begin to see, more and more, that you don’t have the right to choose who you feel comfortable talking to about Jesus or not…because every single person needs Him – even just the people you walk by in the grocery store or at the mall – and you may be their only chance to hear the gospel.

A shepherd’s duty is to invest their lives in the sheep. To give all they can give to see the sheep succeed. To teach them, to invite them over, to be available whenever they need help – or just a friend, and most importantly……

A shepherd is also the “priest” of their sheep-fold. This does not mean that you have to perform rituals with incense and wear weird hats. Let me share a few scriptures to clarify:

“Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is beset with weakness. Because of this he is obligated to offer sacrifice for his own sins just as he does for those of the people. And no one takes this honor for himself, but only when called by God, just as Aaron was.”

Hebrews 4:14-5:4 

“The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.”

Hebrews 7:23-25 

“But you are….a royal priesthood….” 1 Peter 2:9

These verses show us that God has called each of us to become like a high priest, just as Jesus did. This doesn’t mean that we are to think of ourselves as something special. No, it actually means quite the opposite. As shepherds and priests, it means we are to become the servants of all, and to deal compassionately with those God has placed in our care, knowing all that He has saved us from, and His great mercy toward us daily. But it also means that we are to live our lives to make intercession for these “sheep” of ours (intercession=earnest prayer). The job of the priests in Biblical times was to offer sacrifices and prayers before the Lord on behalf of their people. And in the same way, God has called us to pray earnestly for those He has given into our care. We are to uphold them in prayer as if their very lives depended on it. And indeed, so often they really do depend on it.

 

Sheep and lambs on pasture

What are some important things to know about shepherding?

1.) Shepherding is not a part-time job.

We humans are always looking for the easiest way around things. We don’t want to just throw our lives into things without careful thought and planning…and making sure we still have plenty of time to do the things we want. “I don’t know if I really want to commit to that job right now…maybe I can just work part-time.” Well, in Biblical times, being a shepherd meant giving up your life to take care of your sheep. It meant 24/7 care. It meant that you spent your life leading your sheep around to new pastures, and being aware of their every need and trouble. A good shepherd literally invested their whole life into these sheep, so they were very careful to watch over them and take great pains to make sure they were well cared for. When you invest your own time and energy into something, you take a greater responsibility for it, because it has suddenly become a part of you. A shepherd didn’t have the choice of waking up late, or watching TV, or hanging out with friends and doing whatever he wanted to. A shepherd woke as the sheep woke, and had to continually keep watch over them, to make sure they had what they needed and that they were safe from harm. A bad shepherd was one that would relax when he should have been alert, and wild animals would come and kill the sheep. A bad shepherd would also be one who was simply out with the sheep because he had no other choice, and who didn’t invest his time and energy into taking the best possible care of them…so that when the wolves come to attack the sheep, he cares only about saving his own life, and flees – leaving the sheep to be devoured.

When God makes you a shepherdess, you can’t say, “Today I am ‘off duty’, and I’m not available to help anyone.” Nope. Serving God means being on call all the time, and when someone calls you at 2am, it means talking with them, and helping them gladly. It means when someone interrupts your plans or ideas for a nice time with their need for help, it means not hesitating to rush to their aid.

2.) Shepherding means laying down your life.

Like I mentioned in the previous point, shepherding means dying to yourself. Jesus is our example in this as John 10 says, “The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”

We must be willing to set aside our own plans in order to pray for and help those around us. If they need prayer, we must be faithful to lift them up before the Lord. If they call us at 2am, we must be willing to talk. If they need a home, we must be willing to offer them ours…

We must always be willing to have God answer our prayers for people through us…otherwise, it is not real love and care for them. Of course we are always glad to pray for people who need help; praying that God sends them someone who can help them, someone to encourage them….someone to give them the money they need — the support they need. But…when you pray for God to provide for someone, are you willing to give your own last $50 to help them? When you pray for God to encourage them, are you willing to be the one to go out of your way to bake them cookies, invite them out to coffee, and just BE there for them? When you pray for them to be saved…are you willing to be the one to share the gospel with them?

I’m not saying these things to scare you out of praying, but to show you what real love for people looks like…and to show you the kind of heart attitude we need to have when we pray for people, if we truly want God to answer our prayers. Sometimes God will do things to answer our prayers that have nothing to do with us. Sometimes God will ask us to pray someone into salvation without ever talking to them even once. But sometimes…many times…God will test us to see what we are willing to do ourselves to help someone…and when we give all that we have to help those in need, God will both fill in anything else that is lacking and use our sacrifice to actually minister to their needy hearts.

As Oswald Chambers said so well, “It is one thing to follow God’s way of service if you are regarded as a hero, but quite another thing if the road marked out for you by God requires becoming a ‘doormat’ under other people’s feet. God’s purpose may be to teach you to say, ‘I know how to be abased…’ (Philippians 4:12). Are you ready to be sacrificed like that? Are you ready to be less than a mere drop in the bucket— to be so totally insignificant that no one remembers you even if they think of those you served? Are you willing to give and be poured out until you are used up and exhausted— not seeking to be ministered to, but to minister? Some saints cannot do menial work while maintaining a saintly attitude, because they feel such service is beneath their dignity.”

God wants us to serve and to give of ourselves without expecting any praise, any recognition, or any help from another person. And it is only a truly pleasing sacrifice when it is done with gladness and praise to God, and not begrudgingly.

3.) God will teach you obedience through your suffering. 

“In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered.”

(Hebrews 5:7-8 ESV) 

Even Jesus Himself had to go through suffering in order to be perfected, and to learn true obedience. When you live your life for others instead of yourself, it will require great suffering and difficulties. You will have your heart crushed when “sheep” you have invested much love and prayer in turn away from you. You will have to battle off the intense desires of your flesh for ease and pleasure continually. You will have your character shaped and pruned so that it becomes more pleasing to God – this can often be a painful process, and is never truly finished while we are here on earth. You will have to give up your own plans, your own comfort — even things that every other “normal” person feels entitled to may not be things that God allows you to have or do. But it is all worth it if some of your “sheep” are brought into freedom and life with Jesus! And, it is even worth it all if you learn the lessons that God needs to work in your heart, and you are drawn into a closer walk with Him.

So, I hope that you will join me in praying that we will cling more closely to God in all things, and that we will take our jobs more seriously, and pour out our lives more freely for the sake of others.

Only by His power working within us.

Lord, teach us how to be shepherdesses.

“Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the Great Shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.” 

Hebrews 13:20-21

Is Gay OK?

Waving rainbow flag. Illustration contains transparency and blending effects, eps 10

 

I recently had a conversation with a young lady who, though confused about God’s opinion of homosexuality and how it could work in the realities of our culture, wanted to know the truth. So, I thought I would give a snapshot into our conversation for anyone else who is confused by the general acceptance of this sin in our culture.

 

 

Q: “The Bible says homosexuality is wrong…so does that mean those people no longer believe in God’s Word and have turned from Him, or can they still believe in Him as Lord and share the gospel with others? I know one way to look at this is that if someone is a true believer they would ask for God to keep them from temptation and never even go down that path, but like you said, it’s a sin, and believers sin everyday. So…what makes this so different? Is it because the sin is out there for the world to see? 

I ask all this because I believe some people were born to be this way and I’m always torn on this subject because I know what the Bible says but most of my friends are not straight. Any clarity on this would be much appreciated.”

A: Well, I’d definitely love to try to help clarify it for you.

First, as you said, sin is sin. God says that all lust is sin, no matter if you are a girl lusting after a girl, or a guy lusting after a girl or whatever. He says anger, pride, selfishness, lying, etc., are all sins.

So when someone sins with homosexuality it has roughly the same consequences as someone who steals something or lies.

The thing that most people don’t understand, though is that, when we sin, whatever it is, we are disobeying God. And in order to be right with God, we must repent (say sorry, and turn from our sins). One big problem with all the LGBT stuff, is that it has come in with a tide of intense pride. Pride keeps us from being able to be right with God, because that requires humility, and admitting we are wrong. This does not make it impossible for someone of the LGBT community to be right with God…but it makes it very hard, because they don’t want to hear anything other than praise for their choices. Someone who steals might feel guilty, and therefore, be moved to repent when told that what they did was wrong. But for so many LGBT’s, they have stopped their ears, and because of the pride behind the movement, can’t hear anything that is said against homosexuality, because they are proud of their choices, and not feeling guilty in the least.

Now, you mentioned Christians sinning every day. This is true — how well I know. However, being a Christian means — literally — being a follower of Christ; meaning you love what He stands for and says in the Bible. It is undeniable that God is unwavering in His justice, and when we sin, we must also repent. The Christian who refuses to repent for a sin, or tries to justify it, becomes stagnant and distances themselves from God. I’ve seen it happen in my own life. The moment God asks you to surrender something and you refuse, that is the moment you stop moving forward. The moment you sin, there is a barrier between your relationship with God…and you can FEEL it. The sin that Christ’s atonement covers is CONFESSED sin. Sin that is hidden, or justified, and left unconfessed is sin that is not covered in the atonement of Christ. BUT, as SOON as we confess and forsake our sins, we WILL have mercy, and the barriers are removed, and we can experience the joys of God’s presence again!

So, if you love Christ, and you want to follow His commands, and do what is pleasing to Him…then you are a Christian. Even if you fail, you will be alright if you do what He asks and just humble yourself and say sorry.

However, if you say you are a Christian, but you don’t like some of what He says, that means you can’t really BE a Christian…because it means you are forming a new and different “god” for yourself according to your own passions and desires. God does not change, and we don’t get to pick and choose which commands we like and which we don’t…and which parts of God we prefer. God is God. He has been from the beginning. And He hasn’t changed His mind as the cultures have changed. If we don’t like what God stands for, then we don’t really like God.

Saying God is ok with homosexuality and would encourage you to pursue whatever makes you happy would be like a boyfriend being convinced that you think Hitler was a good guy, that you find running over cats in your car to be funny, and that you love when people drive off of cliffs. It’s simply not true about you, and if this person was only your boyfriend because they were convinced that you believed these things, they’d really be in love with someone else, because the person they have created you to be in their mind is not really you. And, in fact, you would probably be quite offended that they thought such things of you!

That’s kind of a weird example, but I just wanted to illustrate what it is that we do to God, when we say we love Him, but we don’t agree with this command, and this verse here…and that one there.

So, if someone is unwilling to see their sin as sin, and confess and forsake it, I really don’t think they can be “Christians”. I don’t think you can be a Christian and not love and try to obey God’s Word.

1 John 1:6-8 says, “God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with Him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.”

You might love God…but if you don’t want to be set free from your sins, there’s no point in even calling yourself a Christian…because Jesus came to set us free from sin — not just to save us from Hell…but to actually give us NEW hearts and lives!!

But if we don’t want the heart that HE considers to be new, and pure, and righteous, then we don’t really want the God of the Bible.

So it’s the same for all sins…even though, yes, homosexuality is often zeroed in on because 1) if you don’t struggle with it, then it’s easy to pick on it without your own conscience being pricked, and 2) because the whole movement IS so full of pride, and is very “in your face” about a lot of things, so that if you stand up for God’s standards at all, you *will* likely come head-to-head with them, because they won’t let you go un-challenged.

BUT, there’s also another angle.

A couple, actually.

First, a lot of them are hurt. Angry. Bitter. Many girls who decide to become lesbians/transgender have been hurt…many have been abused…many have been raped. They hate men. They don’t trust men. But they feel like their only safety and security is in becoming one themselves…and becoming unattractive to guys, then they won’t be hurt again. They think maybe, just maybe their hearts will be safer and their longings met in another girl instead of trusting their aching hearts to the gender who has broken them time and time again.

471513151_c262cc8ca9_b

I know someone who went through this. BUT…Jesus has set her free from the anger and bitterness and the intense hurts…and has made her able to love again, and to enjoy being a girl again! (She wrote an article in my last Unshakable Girl e-Mag, which you can read on Issuu.com.)

And I know Jesus sees these hurting little girls inside — no matter what the exterior looks like, and He wants to help them. He loves them…and calls out to them…because freedom is only found in Him.

BUT…then there is our culture. Our media is insanely bad. I haven’t watched a mainstream movie for the past 5 years, because they were getting so bad…and they have only gotten worse since then. Our music is just as bad — maybe worse. I’ve chosen not to listen to any secular music for a long time, but I’ve heard songs in stores blaspheming God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. I’ve heard songs glorifying the party lifestyle, glorifying sex, glorifying doing whatever makes you happy. I’ve heard songs saying, “I can’t help it, even if I tried,” about being gay. Everything we are watching and pumping through our earbuds 24/7 is telling us to live for whatever makes us happy, and is feeding us a way of life that is completely abominable to God and goes against His Word and His character in every way. How can someone stand against such a tide of ungodliness?? It’s practically impossible, unless you truly know God and hold onto Him and hold onto Truth with every ounce of strength you have.

On top of it all, all our media (including video games) actually have real, demonic spirits attached to them, and when we willfully listen to and watch those things, we open the door to let those things into our lives…and they are SO deceitful. I’ve felt their power before. The devil can flick on and off our emotions like a light switch. He can enflame us with passion for someone/something that makes no sense at all, and makes it SEEM like it’s our thoughts — our idea…and that we NEED to do it! Or He can make us feel SO depressed and overwhelmed over nothing at all.

But as Christians, we can simply rebuke the devil in Jesus’ name, and he WILL flee from us. However, if we are not following Christ, we don’t have His authority, and these demonic spirits are able to totally wreak havoc on our lives. Even so, Jesus can set us free…but…we have to want to be free. And that is the catch.

So, I personally don’t believe that people are born to be that way. God made us male and female, just how He meant us to be…and even goes so far in the Bible as to say that even a man wearing woman’s clothing and vise-versa is abominable to Him. He doesn’t make mistakes. And He really doesn’t give any wiggle room. Some people may be more inclined to fall into the sin of homosexuality, just like some people tend to struggle with lying more, or anger more. But just because you struggle with the desire to want to throw things and punch people, does that mean you should give in to that temptation? No! The same is true with homosexuality. God doesn’t give us homosexual desires — we choose them because of our sinful nature, as Romans 1:24-27 says; it’s not because of the way we were born, but because of our choices and desires to sin.

Any of us could go that way if we let our sinful thoughts take root…and act on them. But the point of His salvation and the gift of His Holy Spirit is to give us NEW hearts with NEW desires, and the power to resist temptation, and flee from it.

 

 

Q: “I have drifted away from church and believers just because I couldn’t stand how most of them were — and I find myself, now — in that place of picking and choosing what they wanted to believe of God’s Word. I didn’t fully realize it until you said that we can love God but not really love and obey Him. I’ve always thought that He made you to feel certain ways toward certain genders despite what you were on the outside. 

For the longest time I felt like something has been missing…and it seems like I’m growing more attracted to other women, but I’ve kept myself from pursuing those thoughts and feelings because, I knew if I did, I wouldn’t be able to work at places with kids for a very long time — if ever — and that’s selfish. But I feel like that shouldn’t be my reason at all. I should be saying “no” to those thoughts because of what God says and wants from me…but with my tug-of-war relationship with Him that’s hard to do. 

I’ve been through a lot and I’m tired of it. Every time I feel like I’m growing in my faith something happens and I take 10 steps back.”

A: I understand your struggle with the church. I travel to so many churches now with my family’s ministry, and see so many people in the same place of going to church, but not having a real love for the Lord. We fail to realize that just going to church can’t take away the emptiness and cleanse our hearts from their sinful tendencies. So many people in the church are still living in sin, and living with their worldly worldviews, because they don’t actually have a living relationship with the Lord and/or haven’t let the Lord search their hearts for things that are displeasing to Him — because they don’t want to let go of the things that make them feel comfortable or happy. But God didn’t come to make us comfortable or happy. He came to give us new hearts, and lives that are full of light and joy. He came to make us into His children.

However, it is good to keep in mind that, no matter what people around you do and say, God IS real, and following Him with total surrender IS worth it! No matter what someone else does or doesn’t do, what is important is to make sure your OWN heart and life are right with the Lord, and that you are walking in His ways –in obedience– yourself. Not every person who calls themselves a Christian is going to be a true reflection of Christ (we’re all sinners!), many will fall short, and make mistakes…but that doesn’t make God’s Word and the truth of the Bible any less true or real. If you want to have an unwavering relationship with Christ, go to the Bible, and walk according to what it says, not according to what the people around you do or don’t do. Then you will be firmly rooted when the winds of adversity and the struggles and trials of life come.

And, whatever reason you’ve had behind it, it IS good that you have been keeping yourself from pursuing those thoughts you’ve had. That is the starting point for doing what is right. “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it,” and, “Resist the devil, and he WILL flee from you,” are two very helpful scriptures in this case. With the first, it is comforting to know that you are not alone, and also, that every time you are tempted, there IS a way out. There is never a temptation that you are forced to give in to. BUT, we have to be willing to actually TAKE the way of escape that God makes for us. And most times it isn’t pleasant to our flesh…because, like I said before, every temptation the devil throws at us is something we LIKE or WANT…otherwise, it wouldn’t be tempting. It would be like if I held a can of rotten eggs in front of your face, hoping it would lure you wherever I wanted you to go; it’s not really that effective unless the bait is something you really want. Now if I said, “Do such-and-such for me, and I’ll give you a $1,000 gift card to your favorite store,” you’d probably jump at the offer! The devil is very clever…and does everything he can to destroy any hope we have of a relationship with the Lord. He seems to especially love anything that will wrap us in guilt, and make us think that we can never be good enough to walk with the Lord again. But the reality is, God makes it the most simple thing ever: we just have to humble ourselves and say sorry…and then he removes our sin from us as far as the east is from the west, and remembers it no more, and will never hold it against us. But the devil tells us, “You can’t say sorry now! You’re too bad. God can’t forgive you for that.” Thinking that any sin you commit is too big for God to forgive it is pride.

 

 

Q: “How can I grow closer to God when the devil really likes to screw up my life? Every time I get closer one of two things happens: 1.) I date a guy who says he’s a believer but turns out to be either lying and have his own religion, or he turns into an abuser or a pervert. 2.) Someone I care for dies. 

I know God does things to test us as well. Just look what he let happen to Job. Sadly, I’m not strong enough to keep pressing into God in the midst of my hardship. 

And…how can I wait on Him to find me the right man? If I’m meant to be with someone?”

A: The key to growing closer to the Lord, and staying close, instead of your relationship with Him being like a yo-yo, is…actually just 1.) Being faithful in the small things, and, 2.) Trusting in God’s good character, and holding fast to it, without doubting or acting out of fear.

So, first, be faithful to seek Him each day. We act like we deserve God’s benefits for nothing — we want God to bless us, and everything to be perfect, but we don’t actually want to exert any effort. But…what friendship is like that?? How can you ever be best friends with someone unless you hang out with them, talk with them all the time, get to know all the things they love, and exert the effort it takes to know all about them?

It is the most important thing in your whole life. More important than making money, more important than friends, more important than anything….so it should be scheduled that way. Even if you have to get up an hour earlier and lose a little sleep, it is well worth it. Our lives on earth are just a fleeting breath, but our spirits will last forever.

Any time you have free time, or you’re doing something that doesn’t take a lot of thought — pray! Sometimes we feel like it has to be a big chunk of time to “count”, but every 10 minutes we get to spend time with the Lord, is a 10 minutes well spent. Also, there have been times when I was feeling so overwhelmed and oppressed and just like I wanted to cry for no reason at all that I could put my finger on…and I just stepped away to pray for 10 minutes, and rebuked the devil and every oppressive spirit, and asked God to fill me with His Spirit and peace — and even joy…and I immediately felt lighter and more joyful!

Also, be willing to do whatever He asks, knowing that it is always for our good — because God knows what things will destroy our lives, and lead us down wrong paths, and sidetrack us from investing in eternity.

And one thought about waiting to find the right guy: It is far better to be single and totally in love with the Lord and walking in a way that is pleasing to Him, than to be in a relationship that is not godly, and which will destroy your life and your eternal life, and take away all your joy in the Lord. There have been many single women who have been sold out for Jesus, and were surrendered to whatever God wanted them to do…and He was able to use them in amazing ways! Women like Gladys Aylward, Amy Carmichael, Mary Slessor…and even Katie Davis, a modern day gal who felt God telling her to give up her life in America, and move to Uganda to be a mom to orphan girls…and she actually just got married this year, because God finally brought along a very godly guy who was glad to be a part of what God had called her to do.

The world makes us feel like our lives don’t really have meaning until/unless we have a relationship…and like we are worthless or useless till then. But that isn’t true at all! ANY person who is surrendered to God, and just wants to be used by Him CAN be! Relationships are really just extra — in fact, Paul says in the Bible that it is much easier to serve the Lord and be single, and HE found the joy in it! Being married is a blessing, but it is not essential, and in fact, can be just one long distraction unless both people actually love JESUS first and want to serve Him with their lives.

So, every story is different, but if you have it set in your heart that you want to follow Jesus, and will not compromise for the sake of a relationship, God will honor that. I personally had to come to the place where I was willing to surrender the concept of ever being married or being in a relationship, before God was able to actually give me my husband. Because God knows that unless we are able to surrender these things and put Him first in our lives, we will make an idol out of them, and love our relationships and our significant other MORE than we love Him. And He knows that would destroy us, because no human can live up to that standard; none of us can fill that hole of needing unconditional love in someone else’s life — only God can do that. So I had to come to the point in my own heart where I was able to say, “God, I love you, and whether I ever get married or not, I will serve you with my life. Even if it means I will never have a companion, never get to have my first kiss, never have the comfort of someone’s hand to hold. I surrender these things, and I say YES, Lord. Yes, I will serve you, even still.”

And it was only after that hurdle was overcome in my own heart, and I gave up my dreams of marriage, that God was able to bring my husband to me…because it was only then that He knew that it wouldn’t destroy me by becoming my first love.

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)

Update for Our e-Mag Readers

 

We are doing lots of thinking and lots of praying in regards to the future of the Unshakable Girl e-Magazines, and would appreciate you joining with us in seeking God’s direction.

Life often presents challenges, but we want to walk in God’s will –not our own — no matter what situations arise.

Thank you for praying…and for being here.

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!