No Valentine Left Behind Part 2

Last week’s post introduced ways Jesus’ love can overflow our hearts and be used to bless others.  The focus was on loving single moms.  This week, I wanted to highlight another demographic that would love any extra smiles you have to offer.

Valentine’s Day can feel like a day gone by to shut-ins and the elderly.  At the same time that a young single girl might be sitting at home and wondering why her day isn’t pink and roses, other hearts are sitting indoors, maybe recalling the days of dances and holding hands that are now only memories.  Jesus wants to hold these hearts too.  He wants them to know that they are dearly loved, and never forgotten.

It can be easy to try to bring warmth into someone’s life through an upbeat smile and a chipper attitude, but it is not always easy to start a meaningful conversation with someone when you might not even know their story.

Perhaps you already know of older people to visit who would love the company, or you may be venturing into new territory.  Every person will be different, so be sensitive in interacting with those to whom God leads you.  Valentine’s Day often feels like a time to make a big show of affection through gifts and attention, but it may also be a point of sorrow for someone who is grieving a loved one.  If you aren’t sure what the best approach would be, just bring yourself and be a friend.  Remember that sometimes the best thing you can do is just listen.

Some people don’t need much encouragement to start a conversation, with others, it may be helpful to ask questions.  What sorts of music do they like?  Maybe you could even listen together of your phone.  Do they have a favorite season, flower, or sport?  If they have been in church for a large part of their lives, they may have favorite Bible verses or hymns.  You may even find common ground that you didn’t expect.  I once had a very amusing conversation with my grandmother about how we didn’t understand the trends and fads of “our generation” (hers and mine respectively), and how they all had to be up on the latest things like Elvis or rap music.

Be sensitive, but don’t be afraid to reach out.  It can be common in nursing homes for a person to have physical touch from those who care for them, but not very often from friends who have time to sit and hold their hand or give a reassuring touch.  Jesus also reached out into places and to people that needed the warmth of His reassuring hand.  Spend time with Him and learn His same compassion for people who are in situations we might not understand.  Even if they seem not to understand everything that is going on around them, ask Jesus to give you His eyes to look past it, and His hear to speak to them as a friend would.  In the midst of a life that rushes by, stop and have a chat with someone who needs a friend.  He may share a blessing with you that you did not expect as you reach out to share His love.

Ask if you can pray with them before you leave.  Even if a person’s mind is not what it used to be, their spirits often remember the touch of their Savior.  It is such a sweet thing to hear a heart that has long belonged to Jesus when it prays.  If you think that you may not be able to visit again for a while, make sure to tell them what the time meant to you.  Don’t be afraid to speak from the heart and let them know what has touched you.  For someone who cannot get out much anymore, it can mean the world to know that they can still reach others too.

by Stephanie H.

If you have any stories you would like to share or ideas for reaching out to others, please let us know in the comments.  We would love to get to know you or answer any questions you might have.  Thank you so much for spending time here with us.

Hearing the Truth Through the Whispers

What has ever happened in your life that was actually good?

There are days when I can think back over my life and see so clearly what Jesus has done at my best and worst moments to give me every good thing that I have.  A light shines on every moment to show me the blessings of His care, and the joy that even the trials have brought to me.  Those are the days when it is hard to keep a smile from becoming a laugh, just to think of how the King of all things delights in brightening my day.

Then there are times that the light seems to turn off like a switch.  The days when the above question seems painfully real as I grope in the darkness for the things that I know have been blessings to me, but that I just cannot seem to find.  Whispers creep into my head and argue with me at every point, telling me that all of the things that I know on the warm days, full of light, are just my imagination.  Was it ever really so nice?

Boy, the devil has a lot of gall.

Thank God that we are given strength in Jesus to be unshakable more than just some of the time!  Here are a few things you can do to keep your footing on the days when the light seems dim and the whispers seem overwhelming.

Don’t Panic!

The first thing we often feel at these moments is that all is lost.  It must be that something didn’t quite click when we first trusted Jesus, and that this is what life is going to be like from now on.  It was so happy, following Jesus.  If we don’t feel that way, it must be something we did, right?  Our actions do affect our relationship with Jesus.  If we are sinning, or have not surrendered something to Him, we will struggle.  However, that is not always the cause of our distress.  Read the Psalms.  The are full of distress, and the reminder that the Lord is faithful in the midst of our adversities, even if He seems completely absent through them.  Reading Psalms twenty-two through twenty-four is an especially good reminder.  The first verse is what Jesus spoke on the cross: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”  If the Son of God can feel that way, then all is not lost for us when we struggle under the burden of a fallen world.  Those three psalms are actually believed to be all one before the chapter divisions came along.  I find reading them all at once deeply comforting.  Try not to dwell on feeling in the dark, but do remember that it’s okay to feel that way.  Overcoming that tendency to panic is usually half of the battle.

Know the Shepherd’s Voice

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter by the door into the fold of the sheep, but climbs up some other way, he is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is a shepherd of the sheep. To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.  When he puts forth all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice.  A stranger they simply will not follow, but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers.”
~John 10:1-5

The devil works overtime to deceive us.  In our moments of distress, he will do everything he can to convince us that it is God who is accusing us.  Our Father does discipline us, and so the devil finds ways to imitate the Shepherd’s voice while telling us a lie.  The best way to keep from being hoodwinked is to spend so much time with Jesus that we see the counterfeit instantly.  The devil will still whisper in countless and seemingly new ways, but if we are walking hand in hand with our beloved Christ, learning the depth and newness of all of His ways, it will be rare that we are taken in and led to greater distress.

Cite Your Sources

The best way to conquer distress is to take the offensive.  Don’t wait for the confusion to set in to decide to hide God’s Word in your heart.  Sometimes the distress is too much to take, and I can’t find any words of my own for how I am feeling and what I need in order to see the light again.  At those times, there is such a deep comfort in being able to quote Scripture.  I have a few of the Psalms committed to memory, and sometimes just the fact that I can speak them and have a solid piece of God’s Word available is enough to block out most of the pressure from the enemy.  Keep the references in your heart too.  Sometimes the exact words or the context can get lost, so don’t be afraid to pull out your Bible or your concordance, or do a quick web search when you can only remember a few snatches.  It’s a great reminder that the promises of God, and the concrete truth of His presence are defined by more than our own ability to hold onto Him.  It is such an encouragement to me that Paul, in 2 Timothy 1:12, wrote,

“for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day.”

Sometimes, that is all I need to hear.  This is a very productive habit to start in the New Year.  If you are at a time when it seems like more should be happening, use the time you have to hide God’s Word in your heart so that you will be ready when things get more active.

Bring a Friend

Isolation is a great way to overcome someone.  When we are alone, it is so much easier to believe that all of the feelings in our own heads are what is really true.  I tend to be the kind of person who doesn’t want to allow others to know my problems, since I know that they have their own lives to handle, so it isn’t uncommon for me to hold things inside for longer than I should.  When I do share something with one of my brothers or sisters, it is so deeply encouraging.  When I am distressed about the pressures of the enemy, or about a difficult thing the Lord wants me to do, just the honest “Yep, that sounds like what the devil would do,” or “Wow! He is calling you to something great!” is enough to remind me that I am trusting my life to the One with all of our best interests at heart.  It does often happen that I cannot reach anyone at the time of my distress, but Jesus is still there with me.  There have been numerous times that I have been so exhausted in my spirit that all I can do is ask the Lord to have someone else be praying for me at that time.  I can usually feel the burden eased almost instantly.

Remember too that distress will not always lift instantly.  It can be something that the Lord uses to remind us to be in prayer for someone, or as part of the process of really, truly understanding something about His character that we may have known on paper, but not experienced with Him before.  However, this does not mean that we have to be pulled back and forth by the whispers of doubt that come up, prompting “did God really say…?”

If you are struggling, and would like prayer or a chance to work through something with us, please leave a comment or an e-mail.  Also, if you would like to share a Scripture verse that has been a faithful friend to you in the midst of your distresses, please let us know in the comments below.  We love being able to connect with you.

by Stephanie H.

I’m SUPPOSED to Be Afraid? Part 2


Does it feel kind of like we’re back at square one?  Fear involves punishment, so we should not be afraid if we love God, but Jesus Himself said that we should fear God because of… punishment?

 

Sometimes it is so easy for us to take things apart and look at them piece by piece, and forget the big picture in the process.  Remember that fear does not exist in a vacuum.  The same God who is the God of love is also the God who judges every man according to his deeds.  He is just because He is merciful, and merciful because He is just.  So what other attributes of God do we need to remember as we consider how fearsome He is?

Omnipotence
God is all-powerful.  He created the world, and there is nothing He cannot do with it.  All throughout the Old Testament, we have pictures of the immeasurable power of God, from the creation, to the flood, to the plagues of Egypt.  The history of Israel, the Psalms, and the speeches in the book of Job all show that God is worthy to be feared.  When we think of someone wanting to be feared, it is usually a human being who wants to be in control of others, and wants everyone to know that they are in control.  They want fear to do all of the work for them so that staying in charge is easy.  God really is in control.  He doesn’t need to show off His power and use fear just to keep us in line.  Often, His shows of strength were to remind His people of how weak the enemies of God are (Exodus), and to remind those with a great deal of power that they were not to play God (Daniel).

Holiness
God is separated from all things that are evil (Psalm 5:4).  He is light, and in Him, there is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5).  Darkness and light cannot live in the same place.  If there is light in the room, there is no darkness.  If the light leaves the room, darkness can return.

And this is the judgment, that the light is come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their deeds were evil.
~John 3:19

This is why we are so often afraid to enter the presence of God.  When we love evil, we can feel the darkness in us being burned away in the presence of the true light.  The devil is very good at convincing us that this means we can never be at peace with God.  We identify with darkness, but know that God is light.  We then fall into the trap of believing we are condemned to Hell whenever we discover a sin we had overlooked before.  Here is where there is hope:

For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
~Hebrews 4:12

Darkness cannot stand in God’s presence, but we can ask God to have our love of darkness surgically removed, and He is more than willing to do so!  He can take away anything in us that is at war with Him, so that we will be able to have joy in His presence rather than wanting to run and hide.  That is why there are two different responses to fearing God for the enemy of God and for the child of God.  An enemy refuses to leave his sin, and hates the thought of it being taken away.  A child fears the pain of the surgery and the unknown of the life afterward, but trusts his Father to do what is best for him.

Love
We often think of love and fear as opposites because we are used to fear and hate being so close together in our experiences.  There are so many things in this world that can cause destruction that it becomes easy to find numerous examples of evil and fallen things that we fear.  It is hard to think of things that we love as being fearsome at the same time.  Waterfalls, fire, dogs, and driving can all lose their loveliness if we personally experience the side of them that can be destructive.  Some of us like roller-coasters of skydiving because of the thrill of controlled fear, but it is very hard to find an earthly example that can do justice to fearing and loving the Lord.  The only example I can think of are the people of the Lord themselves.  There is not one godly person in the Bible who did not face great hardship.  Even Jesus’ own mother and step-father faced the most humiliating and difficult circumstances in bringing a child into the world.  Following Jesus is a terrifying thing because it mortifies our flesh.

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.
~Matthew 16:24

Those who follow Jesus do not face an easy life.  At times it seems that much of our lives are destroyed when we come to follow Him.  That is not only because God has enemies, but also because God allows the things He loves to be broken so that they can be glorified beyond what they ever could have been before they were broken.  Thing of how much more Job had after the Lord restored him.  Think of Jesus Himself after He became flesh and was broken before His enemies.  That refining process still scares me.  Just thinking about what the Lord might have me face next as I write this has made my stomach a little uncomfortable because I know that He always considers me ready for more than what I can handle on my own.  He’s always making me nervous!  But then He is always showing me more of Himself that I never would have seen if we were going at my pace, and He is making me more like Him the more He takes out of me.  As much as it scares me, I so much more desperately want to be with Him where He is working.

And His voice shook the earth then, but now He has promised, saying, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth, but also the heaven.”
And this expression, “Yet once more,” denotes the removing of those things which can be shaken, as of created things, in order that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.
Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer God an acceptable service with reverence and awe;
for our God is a consuming
fire.
~Hebrews 12:26-29

 

Faithfulness
God is trustworthy to keep His promises, and He has not been shy in making them.  He is the God of all power, we have nothing to offer Him for a bribe, and He allows His people to meet with some of the most terrible trials imaginable.  Yet, in the midst of all of this, He has promised us joy, comfort, and peace.  That is not to say that God will give us pleasure and laughter in the midst of every circumstance.  We often expect this to be true, and that is why we so often hate fear.  Fear can be terribly unpleasant, but the Lord uses it to teach us trust.  There have been many times for me already when it seems as though everything is going the absolute opposite of the plan God has told me He will accomplish.  Those are times when I have to choose to believe what He says in His Word more than what the world around me is trying to convince me is true.  It is like a plant having all of it’s green chopped off until it is just the roots.  That pruning can ache for so long, but those roots will dig deeper while they are not focused on feeding the leaves, and deep roots are terribly difficult to pull up.  David speaks constantly in the Psalms of the painful circumstanced the Lord had him face, and yet he always fell back on the promise that God would not abandon him.  Job is a man famous for having faced more than most of us could imagine, yet he said,

Though He slay me, I will hope in Him.
~Job 13:15a

That is not to say that Job was more faithful to God than God was to him.  Quite the contrary.  But he knew God well enough to know that there must be a bigger picture that he could not yet understand.  The more time we spend with God, and the more we read of Him in His Word, the more we come to trust who He is, and believe that what He does really is best for us, and for countless others He will influence through us.

Humility
God is unbelievably humble.  I felt weak and inferior when I stood in front of that tiger in the museum, knowing that there would be no way for me to beat it at its own game if it had been living.  I cannot even imagine now insignificant I should feel in the unfiltered presence of El Elyon (God Most High).  And yet, He likes to make me laugh.  He feels my pain when I grieve, and He wants to teach me to do work that He could accomplish without so much as the snap of fingers.  When we keep in mind that God is fearsome and omnipotent, we often lose sight of just now much He wants to be involved in the lives of such insignificant people.  What scares me about tigers, landslides, and snapping turtles is that they don’t know me from anyone.  It isn’t personal, it’s just what those things do.  But the fearsome, omnipotent God is my Dad.  If I felt His presence wash over me while standing in front of a real tiger, it would be very hard for me not to grin or even laugh.  Why?  Because the powerful cat is just one of His playthings.  It may still be able to hurt me or even kill me, but only if He says so.  Moses was able to encourage the fleeing Israelites with these words:

But Moses said to the people, “Do not fear! Take your stand and see the salvation of the LORD which He will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you have seen today, you will never see them again forever.
The LORD will fight for you while you keep silent.”
~Exodus 14:13,14

 

I cannot say that Moses was unafraid of the Egyptians when he spoke these words, but He feared the Lord, and there was no room for any other sort of fear to make decisions for him.  It is the same promise given in Joshua 1:9 and all throughout the Old Testament, in the Great Commission, and straight through to Revelation.

We have no reason to be afraid of fear itself.  Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, the fountain of life, and keeps us untouched by evil.  In the darkest circumstances, it is like hearing the trumpet blast and the thundering hooves of a faithful king’s army.  Remember whom you have believed, and feel the thrill of His power and love.

I will give thanks to Thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Thy works,
And my soul know it very well.
~Psalm 139:14

 

by Stephanie H.

I’m SUPPOSED to Be Afraid? Part 1

 

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
~Proverbs 9:10

 

If you have grown up in the church, perhaps you have heard this verse often enough to be thinking already, “It’s not really fear though.  We’re supposed to have a healthy respect for God, but we’re not supposed to run away screaming at the thought of Him.”

Well, there is a bit more to it than that.

True, we aren’t meant to dash out of the room when we start praying because we felt the presence of God (though I have been in the place of feeling that way, as well I should have at the time), but we cannot simply treat God the same way we would a tame fire in the fireplace.  We know not to touch the fire because of its power, but having that casual respect is not the relationship God wants with us either.

Here is an example that may help to shed some light on the topic.  I love animals, and am often very good with them.  I have never been afraid of dogs because, since I was a kid, even the big hyper ones listened to me when I told them what to do.  None of the local wildlife scares me, because I know enough about them to know how to react to them to make the most of the situation.  Deer won’t hurt you unless they’re cornered, coyotes get timid if you make loud noises and wave a stick, black bear will charge you if they’re really scared, but if you hold your ground, they lose their nerve.  All of these creatures have their own comfort zones, and I respect that and don’t go out of my way to bother them, but none of them have ever really scared me.

However, I was at a museum recently, and met a creature that made me feel rather differently from my relationship with the locals.  It was a tiger with paws the size of my head and a head four times bigger.  The fact that it was stuffed did not keep my stomach from dropping.  As I stood in front of a hunter that was all muscle in life, and as long as a small car, I knew I had no tricks that could save me.  I just stood there a moment and thought that if I had met this tiger in life, there would be nothing I could do to be in charge of the situation.  I like knowing that I have a way to be in control of things, but I wouldn’t have in that case.  If I were to survive, it would have to be his choice, not mine.

The fear of the Lord is the instruction for wisdom,
And before honor comes humility.
~Proverbs 15:33

That tiger gave me a very small hint of what it is like to fear the Lord.  Still, admitting that we are not in control is only scratching the surface.

I was curious to see if there were different words used in the Greek and Hebrew for fearing God than there were for fearing other things.  Often the original languages add so many helpful visuals because of how specific words can be in their original context.  There are dozens of words for fear in the Bible.  Here are a few that I found most interesting: (If you’re a nerd like me, I hope you enjoy these, but if things like this overwhelm you, just meet me at the bottom of the list.)

‘arats: fear, oppression, to break (Joshua 1:9)

Charadah: take care of, dread, extreme anxiety, trembling (Proverbs 29:25)

Chuwl: dance, writhe, wait anxiously, suffer torture, pain of childbirth

Dechal (Aramaic): fear, make afraid, awesome, dreadful (used only in the book of Daniel [which was Aramaic in part] to refer to the greatness of the king, the statue, terrible dreams, and fear of God)

Giyl: rejoice, be glad, tremble with fear (Psalm 2:11; Psalm 51:8)

Guwr: be a stranger, sojourn, dwell, stir up trouble, dread, stand in awe

Zachal: to shrink, crawl away (sometimes used as a word for reptiles [called crawling things])

Did any of those give you a picture of different kinds of fear?  It was hard for me to keep the list short…  Now, I’m not a Hebrew scholar (yet), but every word I found but one was used to refer to fearing God as well as to fearing other things. ‘arats is used in a positive way when fearing the Lord, even though it is a horrible thing when fearing man.  The words that mean “reverence” are also used to mean being utterly terrified, even in the Greek, where we get words like Phobeo.  Yare’ is a form of the most common word for fearing the Lord.  It literally translates as a feeling in the pit of your stomach.  It is the word used in Proverbs 31:30.

Charm is deceitful, and beauty if vain,
But a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised.

 

The only word that I found which did not refer to fearing the Lord was chath.  It is only used twice in Scripture.  Once in Genesis 9:2, speaking of how all creatures will be afraid of mankind, and in Job 41:33, to refer to fear that God does not have.  Every other word seems to be used to refer to being afraid of God Himself.  Now, sometimes that is the difference between enemies being afraid of God, and God’s people being afraid of Him.  The creeping away describe in zachal is not used in the same way as the fearful joy of giyl.  Neither is deilia, the Greek word used in 2 Timothy 1:7 used in a positive light.  We are not meant to flee the presence of God, but if we are pursuing sin, we will want to hide when He is in the room.  Even that fear is a gift to remind us that we must become right with Him again.

One last thought before we leave the linguistic discussion.

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.
~1 John 4:18

This is a verse where we love to take comfort, but it can also be tricky.  To help understand how it fits in with fearing the Lord, remember that it uses the same words as this next passage, phobos and phobeo.

Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
~Matthew 10:28

 

Does it feel kind of like we’re back at square one?  Fear involves punishment, so we should not be afraid if we love God, but Jesus Himself said that we should fear God because of… punishment?

by Stephanie H.

Following Jesus Like Crazy

 

I was speaking to my mother recently about some of the reactions I received from friends and peers when I first stopped watching television, and her observations led me to do a lot of thinking.

When I stopped watching movies and TV shows, and stopped reading books and listening to music that I knew were not honoring Jesus, my social circles didn’t take it very well.  Some of my friends really listened.  A few were even excited to see where the Lord would lead me.  I lost some friends who were very dear to me.  Most, however, turned it into a debate on theological and cultural relevance.  The arguments were generally the same; they talked about how important it is to have common ground with the rest of the world, how Jesus has called us to be very “in the world” people, and how cowardly or deceived they themselves had been when thinking the same way as I now did.  When they could see that I meant to follow Jesus without popular media and wouldn’t change my mind, the discussion would end with the promise that they would pray for me—in the way that indicated they would ask Jesus to make me normal again.

As I was recounting this to my mother, she tacked on an interesting thought.

“If you had told them that you had been reading way too much of the Bible lately, and that you were going to take a break–”

I was baffled at the truth of the thought before she even finished saying it.

They probably would have been fine with it.

Some probably would even have been curious and interested in it.  I don’t say that simply because any of them disagreed with my either.  I know there would have been some who would have at least cautioned me not to take it too far.  Others would probably give me the conversational equivalent of a tackle, or hold an intervention.  Still, most of those to whom I spoke about giving up television—knowing me to be a theology nerd—would have been at least curious, if not in full support of me cutting back on my time with Jesus.

I had to think on it for a while after that conversation.  I thought of the fact that most Christians probably wouldn’t notice the difference in a fellow believer’s life if they stopped reading their Bible.  As long as they are still involved in church, and do their best to be nice, would you or I know the difference?  Would they even seem more normal and pleasant?  Do we even know how much the Christians around us spend time with Jesus?

I don’t know when it happened, but somewhere along the path of recent Christian history, it became embarrassing for Christians (the people who name themselves after Jesus) to know Him, talk about Him, spend time with Him, obey Him, and love Him more than life, limb, family, and the world around us.  It is hardly even spoken of if a Christian is acting in a way that pulls them away from Jesus, because “we shouldn’t judge them” and “we don’t know what is in their hearts.”  So we all label ourselves as “Christians”, but we identify with sports, or characters in movies, or celebrities, our our favorite hobbies, or what school we attend.  That is why so many became offended when I stopped watching television.  In many ways, Christianity is a label, but popular culture is a lifestyle.

Does that make your heart weep?

It all reminds me of what C.S. Lewis wrote in The Last Battle.  All of the talking animals were afraid to speak up when there was a fake lion pretending to be the real Aslan.  They had always been told that Aslan was “not a tame lion,” so how could they argue if He was not the way they thought He would be?  They didn’t know Him.

The real devil has done this in the real world so long, that we are afraid to imagine that there is a true Jesus who can be seen, and heard, and touched, and known.  What if we offend Him be presuming to know Him when we do not?  Best to leave Him as a symbol, and Christianity a label, and focus on things in the “real” world, like celebrities and long novels.

So then, the very reason that Christians are offended when I give up popular culture, and when I talk too much about Jesus and read my Bible more than is natural in someone my age, is exactly why I must talk about Jesus even more and read my Bible more than anyone ever has, if I can.

Because Jesus is real.  I know Him.  True, I don’t know Him much when compared with how infinitely more I can know Him, but how can that mean that I should never try?  It would offend Him to presume that He lies when He says that He wants us to know Him more than anything else in the world.

My dear Sister, never compromise your relationship with Jesus in order to be trendy or culturally relevant.  Trust Him.  Trust Him, and when your friends, family, and peers push you to be normal again, push harder into His presence.  Push like crazy, because crazy is all that the world will see.  Pray.  Seek Him, know Him, obey Him, and watch all that He will show you along the way.  The adventure of knowing Him is without compare.  After all, He isn’t safe, but He is good.
He’s not a tame lion.  We cannot be docile Christians.
by Stephanie H.

Part 2: How Can YOU Be God’s Sanctuary?

PART2
by Stephanie H.

Spare no Expense.

Exodus chapter twenty-six describes the construction of the tabernacle.  The first instruction is to make ten curtains of fine linen, in blue, purple, and red (the most expensive colors to make in those days), with designs of cherubim on them, all made by skilled craftsman.  These curtains were to be about forty-two feet long, by six feet wide each.  That means each curtain was nearly three times longer than a two story house!  Each beam that supported the tabernacle was covered in gold.  Only some of the sockets and clasps for holding the curtains and beams together were made of more humble things, like silver and bronze.  There was nothing synthetic here!  Keep in mind that all of this was built while the nation of Israel was wandering in the desert.  All of that material could have been used on their own tents, the gold could have been used to trade for food, and the craftsman could have used their time working for themselves rather than building a sanctuary.  This luxurious building was all created at a time when over a million people were out in the desert where there wasn’t even reliable food and water!  Your relationship with Jesus is meant to be luxurious.  Did you know that the one who created all the billions of atoms in a single pine needle wants to be your best friend?  Make Him your priority.  Make time to spend with Him on a regular basis.  If He wants to spend time with you when you already have plans, be willing to change them.  Give Him your talents, your money, and your possessions, and be willing to use them as He tells you.  Don’t be afraid to put all of your eggs in one basket, and give it to Jesus.  To others, it may seem like you are choosing to live in a desert, but your relationship with Jesus will be luxurious when you give Him everything.  Don’t be afraid either.  While the Israelites wandered, the Lord brought water out of a rock, and sent bread down from Heaven to feed every one of the people.

 

Maintain the Sanctuary.

“And the king and Jehoiada gave it to those who did the work of the service of the house of the LORD; and they hired masons and carpenters to restore the house of the LORD, and also workers in iron and bronze to repair the house of the LORD.” ~2 Chronicles 24:12

When the Lord gave the instructions to build the ark of the covenant, He commanded the people to build it with poles, so that it could be carried as they moved about through the desert.  When Israel was settled in the Promised Land, they did finally built a temple on a permanent foundation, but the tabernacle was designed to be taken apart, and to go with them wherever they went.  We don’t interact with gold much nowadays, but it is a very soft metal (that’s why people would bite gold coins.  If their teeth left a mark, it proved that the coin was really gold, and not a fake), and fabric wears easily.  Imagine having to pack up this enormous, luxurious tent, and having to carry all of the curtains and beams through the desert.  The sanctuary was designed to be luxurious, but it was also meant for constant use.  That means repairs will have to be made to keep it in tip top shape.  Even the temple needed to be maintained.  The people of Israel did not always take the time to maintain and nurture their relationship with the Lord.  In the days of King Manasseh, the temple fell into great disrepair, and little use.  When his son Josiah became king, he ordered the temple to be repaired.  A priest found a book of the Law in the rubble, and the king was surprised to hear what was written in it, because so few of the people (even the priests) knew anything about who the Lord really is, and that He wanted to dwell with them!  Your relationship with Jesus needs to be maintained.  It is meant for constant use, and that means wear and tear.  When you first believe the promises of God, you are laying the foundation for your temple, but more needs to be built up.  Even when you have a close relationship with the Lord, you can still grow distant, and the temple can fall into disrepair.  Even after I have had some of the sweetest time in prayer with the Lord, I can have the greatest struggle to find any kind of time to spend with Him the next day.  Even though you love Jesus, that doesn’t mean it will always be easy to find time with Him, or to face the parts of yourself that don’t want to submit.  In fact, there are times when it absolutely won’t be easy.  That is when you have to press in and make a deliberate effort to seek Him anyway.  Sometimes we grow distant with Jesus, and don’t even notice until we wonder how it happened that we don’t read our Bibles anymore.  That is when our temples have fallen into disrepair.  The only way back to Jesus from there, is to start maintaining the relationship again.  It will mean more renovation than just daily upkeep to get the gold really shining again, so don’t be discouraged if one hour of prayer and worship doesn’t see you in the places of deepest joy and peace that you used to know.  Repent, and believe His promises again, then follow the plan from the mountain, and keep seeking Him with all your heart.  Even when you feel that everything is right between you and the Lord, don’t be afraid to ask Him what you need to maintain.  Seek out the cobwebs and the single frayed thread, and you’ll never have to wonder where your relationship with the Lord lost its luster, because it will glisten in front of you every day.

 

Protect the Sanctuary

“And you shall make a covering for the tent of rams’ skins dyed red, and a covering of porpoise skins above.” ~Exodus 26:14

Some translations don’t read “porpoise skins”.  Some say badger skin, some say tanned goat skins, and some say tanned leather.  The main thing is, it’s waterproof!  The tabernacle was subject to daily wear and tear, but it was still designed to be protected from the elements.  Imagine how quickly the linen curtains would fade if they were not protected from the desert sun!  What about rain, or sandstorms?  Then the tabernacle would need such constant attention for repair, that it would hardly be usable!  Your relationship with Jesus needs to be protected.  We live in a very fallen and corrupt world, and we need to share the light of Jesus with those who are in darkness, but we can do the work of Christ and still keep a protective layer of porpoise skin between our precious temple, and the rough elements of the world.  Our hearts are the place where we are vulnerable.  What we allow into our hearts is what we allow into our temple.  In the days of Nehemiah, one of the priests allowed an enemy of the remnant of Israel to live right inside the temple.  A room set aside for the storage of holy items, incense, and tithes, was cleared out so that Tobiah could keep all of his personal stuff right inside the house of God!  Our hearts are meant to be set apart entirely for the Lord, but sometimes, we let the enemy live there.  We will always live in a world full of enemies of God, but where do we intentionally spend our time, especially our time alone?  If you listen to music, or read novels, or watch movies and shows that point away from Jesus, or even just distract you from remembering Him, it is like pulling off the protective coverings of the sanctuary, and throwing open the doors and letting all elements, and moths, and enemies come into your temple to do whatever they like.  Sometimes we tell ourselves that these don’t matter so much, because we know it’s not real, or we’re just doing it to relax, but that is when we are most vulnerable.  Music and stories speak right to our souls.  If we learn to love the darkness that so much of the media gives us, it is like worshiping idols right in the place where God dwells with us.

“Then He brought me into the inner court of the LORD’s house.  And behold, at the entrance to the temple of the LORD, between the porch and the altar, were about twenty-five men with their backs to the temple of the LORD and their faces toward the east; and they were prostrating themselves [worshiping on their faces] eastward toward the sun.” ~Ezekiel 8:16

God has done everything He can throughout history to dwell with His people who are too lowly to reach up to Him, but very often, this is how He is treated.  Dear sister, when you construct your sanctuary, protect it from the darkness of the world.  Put to death the things of the flesh, and give your whole devotion to Jesus.  The people with whom you choose to spend time can also draw your focus away from the Lord.  Sometimes, we don’t have the choice of what people are around us.  Coworkers, and even family members may be people who are not seeking the Lord, but the covering of porpoise skin can protect from that.  The covering did not mean that it never rained, the sun was never too bright, or that there were never sandstorms or linen-eating locusts about, but it was a wall between the sanctuary, and those things that would harm it.  When we seek out and enjoy the company of friends who pursue the things of the world, we are letting them inside our sanctuary, where they can hinder our closeness with Jesus.  If we even spend time being bitter with someone, or complaining, and are not willing to surrender it to the Lord, we are bringing that bitterness and complaint into the sanctuary, where it can harm our relationship with Jesus.

The beauty of the protection of the sanctuary is that if we are faithful in having a heart devoted to Jesus, the porpoise skin covering is very thick and durable.  It is what allows God’s people to walk right into the darkest places in the world, and speak right to the hearts of prostitutes, Satanists, and drug addicts.  Because they have not allowed their hearts to pursue and love evil, or to be distracted from the promises of the Lord, they are the members of His royal priesthood who are able to walk straight into the Valley of the Shadow of Death, and be used to steal back broken souls, straight from the jaws of the enemy.  It is not always easy, but it is certainly always worth the trouble to be devoted to the Lord.

Dear sister, never forget that God desires to dwell with you.  I hope my words have been helpful to you as you prepare for an eternity of discovering the deep mysteries of the Lord.  If you are studying in the books of the Law, and have discovered any other parallels between the old covenant, and your walk with the Lord, please, don’t hesitate to share them!

Welcome to Our Newest Contributor!

 

 

 

I want to publicly welcome our newest contributor, Stephanie H.! I approached her to ask about writing for the blog, because I have watched from afar, seeing God doing beautiful things in her heart and life. And, what’s more, she has a wonderful way with words, and a fondness for delving into the depths of God’s Word. I know you will be blessed by her posts.

 

Stephanie is, in her own words, “a bookworm, tea drinker, nature enthusiast, and barefoot whenever able.  She had a lot of plans for her life, but Jesus turned them all upside-down, and now she follows wherever the Shepherd’s voice calls.  She is also overly-analytical, and color codes her Bible study notes.”

Keep an eye out for her posts!

signatureMED

Holding Back Our Feet From Evil

 

wood-feet-summer-dress

Well, here I am again, after a long silence! I apologize for my lack of posting lately. Life has been incredibly crazy (and I only foresee it getting crazier as baby #2 joins our lives sometime in the next few weeks), and I have been longing to post, but haven’t had the time or energy…and it has been making me so very sad. But today, I seized a little spot of time I had, let the clothes sit in the dryer for a little longer, asked my daughter to quietly read a book in her room…and I just want to share with you one little verse that I’ve been pondering the past couple days. I’ve been reading through Psalm 119 again this week, and this is one verse that stuck out to me (and perhaps I’ll share more at some point too, because Psalm 119 is chock-full of good stuff!):

“I hold back my feet from every evil way, in order to keep Your Word.” Psalm 119:101

This verse implies a purposeful holding back of oneself from evil…on purpose (did I mention on PURPOSE??)…just because we love God, and love His Word, and His commands! Now, I point this out because it is easy to fall into the mindset – especially for a new Christian – that once you pray for Jesus to be your Savior and Lord, things will change, and you will become free from all sinfulness and sinful desires. And, while it is true that Jesus sets us free from the power sin once held over our lives, and gives us hearts that can desire what is right and good…it is also true that we still have to purposefully keep ourselves from what is evil. Because the devil is not passive in his attempts to deceive us, and turn us back from doing what is right, and following Jesus….and on top of that, our sin nature is still very much intact, and it takes a lot of discipline to get it to come under submission to its new Ruler. It’s also a misconception to think that keeping God’s Word will just come naturally to us, without any real effort. Doing what is right, and resisting the temptation to sin and do what is wrong will always be difficult…because temptations to sin are always something that appeals to and/or gratifies our flesh…and doing what it right doesn’t usually have immediate gratification for those sinful desires — “only” the peace and joy that God will fill us with, which can never be found apart from doing His will.

So, first, we must read God’s Word so that we will know His standards and what He wants us to do and not do. It never works to call ourselves Christians and to try to live like one without really getting to know our King, and reading His Word. We must understand what He asks us to do, so that we can understand what we must do in order to live in a way that honors and blesses Him.

And second, we must purposefully obey His Word…even when it is hard, and even when it is something that doesn’t come naturally to us. For instance, if someone does something hurtful to you, it is only natural to be angry, to hate them, gossip about them, snub them, and hold onto bitterness in your heart. That is the easy way. BUT, God’s way is to love them, pray for them, forgive them, let go of bitterness and anger, and even seek reconciliation and friendship with them again. But this is the difficult way, and it takes work to do this — HARD work. It takes work to keep ourselves from thinking angry or bitter thoughts. It takes work to cultivate love after your heart has been wounded. It takes work to stop yourself from gossiping about the ones who hurt you to all your friends, in an effort to make yourself feel better and more justified in your distain. BUT, it is what we must do, if we wish to honor the Lord’s commands and live as a true Christian. As Jesus said, “A tree is known by its fruit.” We cannot do all of those things that go against real love and still call ourselves a Christian, because a Christian is a lover and follower of Christ…and to love and follow Him, we must love and follow His commands, and His good character.

We must hold back our feet from every evil way…asking God for His strength and the power of His Spirit to resist the temptation to sin…and asking Him to show us how to keep His Word.

And those, friends, are my ponderings of the day. 🙂

signatureMED

The Delight Challenge

This is less of a blog post today, and more of a musing…and a challenge…

girllaughpexels

“Delight yourself in the Lord….”

Delight.  It’s one of those words we can so easily skip over, mentally substituting it with “love” or a vague feeling of affection.  But we miss so much when we skip over it.  I was just recently pondering the phrase above, found in Psalm 37, and the word “delight” jumped out at me.  And as I sat, pondering it, I realized that I so often have not really paid attention when reading this scripture.

What does “delight” actually mean?

One definition says, “a high degree of pleasure or enjoyment; joy; rapture”.

I would take it even further than that though.  If I “delighted” in my husband, I would be noticing all the little details about Him that I love and appreciate.  I would be fascinated with his character and everything he does and thinks.  I would be rejoicing for such a wonderful husband and friend, and having specific moments and parts of who he is running through my mind, as I sang for joy!

And I believe it should be the same thing between us and God. So…I challenge you to DELIGHT yourself in the Lord today.  Purposefully.  Fully.  Immerse yourself in His goodness.

Here are 3 challenges for you as you learn to delight in the Lord:

  1. TAKE NOTE.  Sit down and make a list of all the little details that you so love about God.  It can be a physical list in your journal, or you can make a mental list; though if you don’t write it down, I suggest going somewhere that you can say each thing as it comes to mind out loud to the Lord.  Take note of the things that make Him so wonderful and endearing.  Take note of His careful planning and creativity in creation.  Take note of His love on display in your own life, and through the words of the Bible.  Take note of His faithfulness, and mercy.  Take note of specific moments when His good character has been on display in your own life.  Take time to really think about every detail that you can, just like you would for a guy you were madly in love with.
  2. BE FASCINATED.  Take time to go on walks outside, and let yourself be fascinated at the complexity of the things God has created.  Set aside time each day to delve into the treasure chest of God’s Word, and let yourself be fascinated with the intricacy of His plan throughout the annals of history, and the depths of His love on display throughout the pages of Scripture.  Let yourself be like a little child — don’t overlook the familiar — soak in every detail, every moment…and saturate yourself in the wonder of the height and breadth of His love.
  3. REJOICE!  As you ponder God’s goodness, and greatness, and all of the wonderful details of His character…turn it to praise and rejoicing in Him!  Sing to Him, shout to Him, let your heart dance within you as you let yourself overflow with the gladness and joy of your delight in the Lord!

Turning Away From The Mirror (and to God’s Word)

mirror

Post by: Anna Faith

 

Ever have one of those days where you just want to avoid the mirror? I don’t care WHAT size you are, we can always find things to dislike about ourselves. “I am too overweight,” “I am too skinny,” “I have a huge nose,” “my eyes are too far apart,” “my hands are huge,” “I’m so stupid,” “I walk weird,” “I hate my laugh,” “my hair is so frustrating,”…and on and on the list scrolls. You probably thought of a few to add just now, didn’t you?

The teen years were a difficult self-image period for me. I was always “curvier” than my other friends, and my closest friend happened to be a “00”. I would squirm when we would go shopping. My friend had the hardest time understanding why I would always have a difficult time finding clothes that “looked right”, when she would quickly fill up an entire cart. I would pile on about three layers of black t-shirts and black sweatshirts, kind of hoping I wouldn’t be noticed that much. I would avoid mirrors because it just reminded me of an area where I felt “lacking”.

As I have gotten older, I have had some health issues which caused me to actually lose a lot of weight (at one point I was the same size as my 15 year old sister is now). But even though my size had changed, my perception of myself didn’t change. Even years later, my mindset–all those thoughts I crammed down and believed in my heart–is often that of “you’re still not as beautiful as they are. You’ll never be like them”. At my smallest, I felt the same as when I was at my heaviest. But even on top of the whole “curvy vs slim ‘n trim” issue, (in my opinion) I’ve got a big nose, tiny fingers that are continually cold, one of my bones in my foot sticks out, and I could continue. I’ve memorized every part I don’t like about this body.

“Anna, I don’t like my nose…It’s just a weird shape and I wish I had a different nose!” my little sister’s voice chimed in from the backseat. What? What is she talking about?As we continued to chat, she kept coming up with things she didn’t like. ” Well, Spudnut (my nickname for her), did you realize you are critiquing something that God made? He made you with your cute little nose, and He made you the height you are. Did you know that?” I said gently in reply. “But, YOU don’t like certain things about yourself…..”

WHAM.

Talking about hitting close to home. She hit it out of the ballpark. I had no idea what to say in reply.

But the truth is, when we critique ourselves, we ARE criticizing what God has made. Something He has invested time into designing. Something that He loves.

Today, as you are faced with yourself in the Mirror, here are three things to remember.

1) YOU are a treasure. You have been bought with an unbelievably high ransom–the Blood of Jesus Christ. His Righteousness and Mercy now cover your shoulders, and you can walk in Purity, Joy and TRUTH. God loves you with an UNCONDITIONAL love–one is not based on what we are able to do for Him, but because of what HE has done for US. Your walk with Jesus is not based upon how trendy you are, how skinny you are, or how even your eyes sit within your face. You have the Creator of the Milky Way for a Heavenly Father…and sweet friend, you cannot imagine how dearly He loves you. How dearly He wants YOU to truly know His heart.

2) YOU are usually your biggest critic. Often the main reason we batter ourselves with all the reasons we should be different is because we are holding ourselves up to someone else. Who are you comparing yourself to? Your cute little sister? Your attractive co-worker? The super-trim-blogging-homeschool mom who always seems to have it together while you’re trying to figure out how to get your kids to stop screaming? We see the outward, but we don’t realize the internal struggles. Maybe that sister struggles with intense depression, or maybe that co-worker just found out some horrible news? Maybe that mom has a marriage falling apart. Don’t judge what you merely perceive with your eyes to be the Truth.

3) YOUR outward body will not last forever. I’m sure we can all recite the scripture “charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting….” verse (Prov. 31:30). But do we really take it to heart? We don’t know the time frame that God will allow us to be on earth. As Christians, our very core should be burning to seek and save the lost. Those whose are truly without HOPE. We can be healthy and exercise (which does make you feel better, by the way!), but there has to be a point where we turn our eyes from fretting about ourselves and turn to JESUS. One day (soon) we will be in the presence of the Lord and all these things–the worrying, the self-loathing, the comparison–will be as a mist. It will disappear. We will receive NEW, Healthy, beautiful bodies and be filled with JOY unspeakable for all of Eternity!!!!

So, sweet friend, today, have mercy upon your outward appearance. Instead of skimming over familiar places with disgust, remember that God invested time into your creation. No matter what you look like–no matter if you have bumps, freckles, frizzy hair, curvy or skinny–YOU belong to the King of Kings. You are His. Seek to love Jesus above all. Put scriptures around your room and ON YOUR MIRROR to remember Who it is that you should reflect: Jesus. Let the desire to hold man’s approval slip from between your fingers as you focus on Christ. Seek FIRST His Kingdom. His Will. HIM.

We would love to hear from you! What are some ways that you re-focus your attention on Christ when you have “bad days”? What are some encouraging scriptures that you have found to be helpful? Share them below in the comments! 🙂

Let your beauty be not just the outward adorning of braiding the hair, and of wearing jewels of gold, or of putting on fine clothing;but in the hidden person of the heart, in the incorruptible adornment of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God very precious. 1 Peter 3:3-4

I praise you, for I am fearfully (awe or reverence) and wonderfully (marvelous, astonishingly) made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. Psalm 139:14

 

Photo credit: {✿D-Munkhuulei✿} via Foter.comCC BY-NC-SA