A Baby is the Door

 

 

 Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.
~Isaiah 7:14

 

I keep coming back to Tai’s post about the Highways to Zion.  Something about a real city, a physical image of the kingdom community, goes so far to help me understand what it is like to know and to come close to Jesus as a real person, a real God, a real King.  That is what I thought when I saw this Christmas card.  The baby King was born away from the people He loved, out in a little stable, or a lonely shepherd cave, but this manger cradle is tucked into a doorway.  It made me think of the city of Zion, and Jesus’ own words, that He is the door.  He didn’t just grow up to be the door.  He wasn’t even born to be the door.  He has always been “God with us,” the example we have of what our Father and His Father is really like.  And this is how He first comes to us; later, it will still be meek and riding on a donkey, washing feet, and with death for a coronation, but at the moment this new and glorious morn breaks over a weary world; a world that lies in sin and error pining, mourning in lonely exile; at that first moment, the reigning King comes as a person probably not even ten pounds, and not even able to lift His own head.

How can Jesus love us so much that He wanted to be so helpless in such a broken world?

I think of how often I can get caught up in everything that needs to be done, and everything I can try to do to make myself better; how I often worry about waking up at the right time, whether or not I know my Bible as well as I should, and always trying to know the right things to say at the right time.  We so often weigh our closeness to God with how much we can carry.  Then, we come to this little door: the way, the only way, to come to the Father.

It is such a sweet thing to hold a baby, to memorize the features of a sleeping face, or watch brand new fingers take hold of your own.  One precious blessing is that you cannot be overburdened with luggage and hold a baby at the same time.  As we come to this perfect door, we must put down everything else.  Sometimes, it is as though everything else just melts away in His presence.  Other times, it is a fight against our nature, and the belief that we now have to find a way to balance all of the cares of our lives and our Christian obligations, and still find a way to carry a baby too without hurting Him.

It is quite impossible, and it is meant to be.  The first and hardest habit to break is trying to protect ourselves.  Can you trust that the Lord will hold back the anxiety and the fear, and protect you from every enemy thought while you spend time with Him?  We shouldn’t have to be looking over one shoulder when we are in His presence; we aren’t meant to.  It is the place of absolute trust.  Trust He showed us by example when made Himself vulnerable to every mother’s worst fears, even before He was born.  He showed us how to become little children in trusting His safety to His Father, even during the time of such violent kings on earth.

Christmas does not need to come with any expectations.  The anticipation of beauty breaks our hearts when we have rested that success on ourselves.  Those expectations are meant to be trust given to Him; fears He will erase when we come face to face with His innocence: a purity that has outlasted the darkness of one thousand generations.  I pray that He will again be the light of your holiday this year.

Merry Christmas.

by Stephanie H.

If you are struggling to find the joy and peace of Christmas this year, please message us on Facebook, or leave a comment below.  We would love to talk and pray with you.

Aesthetic the Idol

 

Emptiness abounds.  A click of a button can become a painful reminder of the parched souls and aching hearts that may be hiding behind the faces of our closest family, neighbors, and friends.  Sometimes, we see the pain; other times, we don’t find out until it is too late.

The church sees and often feels that same yearning for hope.  Christians know that their faith should hold the key to broken hearts feeling love again, to trials turning to gold.  They have a longing to see their brothers and sisters in Christ and those who are lost find a home where they can be loved, cared for, and feel the sunshine and warmth of peace again.  Those who know brokenness want to see the pain in others healed.  The Lord gave us hearts that long to see every tear wiped away.

And so the church set out to build homes: places for people to be reminded what it is like to feel, to see art and hear music that wakens a piece of their broken hearts, and to know that they are not alone.  We know that the Lord loves a sincere heart.  Giving Him our best to help others must surely be a blessing to Him, even if we’re not quite sure how to do it.

This is true.  The world will see Christ in the church because of something we have that is different from the world.  Unfortunately, with so much brokenness still in the hearts of many believers, much of the church has gotten swept up in the appearance of fulfillment in order to reach out to others.  It is widely circulated today that the way to reach people and show them that the church is different is to have stylish places to meet, sell quality coffee, and create music and media content that shows real talent and skill.  Some follow this idea because they believe the world will need something familiar to draw them to church.  Others think that the world is so busy pushing their way of thinking that they can’t make anything of quality anymore, so that if people see Christians making good quality things, they will have to admit that God exists, because quality must be something eternal, something meaningful.

This adoration of quality is something that has distracted many Christians from following Jesus.  We begin to try chasing away the darkness by embracing comedy and humor of all kinds.  We want to show the world we understand “real” problems by making art and music that captures the spirit of anger, terror, and hopelessness.  We want to us these things to show them that there is still hope, but because we have been focusing on refining skills and talents as a way to do the most for God, we have lost the key to salvation in all of the busyness.  The beauty, the art, the music, all have a note of hollowness to them.  We like to keep busy because we can often feel an ache in our hearts that tells us if we pause too long to listen to that hollow sound, we will see that all of our churches, our youth centers, our coffee shops, our hopeful homes, have become pieces of a ghost town.

Friend…

Sister.

You do not have the strength to heal anyone.  We cannot even heal ourselves.  Our words, actions, and creations can bless others, but the only way that they can be healed, can find a home, can know love and joy and laughter again, is not to have shadows of Jesus in your actions, it is to have the actual, real, full person of Jesus with them.  That can be very hard to hear, because we try so hard, but living fully in our hearts and in our actions is exactly where Jesus wants to be.

The weeds and whispers of the world can be very distracting, so it is very easy for us to become separated from our Father in a culture that is basically a shiny, colorful department store to our child-like minds.  Christians know in their hearts that Jesus is somewhere, but it can often feel like God is the watch-winder, and our job is just to keep ticking along until the right time comes.

As creatures made in God’s image, we have an innate desire to create.  We also have a strong connection to what we create, and what things awaken that creative nature.  These tendencies are wired into us so that spending time with our Father will bring us closer to Him.  However, when we start thinking that our talents are their for us to use—even to use for God—we often end up creating and interacting things that draw our affections away from the heart of our Father.

Remember that it is Jesus’ goal to bring all people to Himself (John 12:32).  Things that we create in and of ourselves will reflect our beliefs, but if we submit ourselves to Christ, and to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the things He builds through us will actually introduce others of our precious Savior Himself!  In essence, we view our talents as our tools to serve Him, but in our surrender to His will, His complete will, we become the brush, and He becomes the painter.  We become the strings, and He becomes the sweet hands that give us music.  He has complete freedom to love others through us, to come alongside them personally, and to wipe their tear-stained faces with His nail-scarred hands, holding them close until they are made utterly whole again.

Kneel before Him and give Him all of your heart.  Trust Him with everything like Mary did in pouring out what she had for Him.  Whatever others may say, they will see Him at His work on the pages of your life.  Will you sing a more hopeful song without Him?

 

by Stephanie H.

Men of God We Have Known

We here at Unshakable Girl are wholly committed to pursuing Jesus even if, often, it may mean that we stand alone. However, by the grace of God, He has not made us to be loners, or to live out our lives in a secluded cabin in the woods.  This Father’s Day, we wanted to take the time to recognize a few of the godly men in our lives who have stood in the gap and been an encouragement to us as fathers, brothers, and friends. ALSO, we want to encourage you in two ways: 1) that there ARE godly men out there (really! truly!), and 2) when you see a godly, wise, or chivalrous man — or even just a man who is TRYING to do what is right — recognize it. Encourage him! Don’t let his efforts go un-noticed. There are so few godly gentlemen today, that every effort towards godliness and gentlemanliness is well worth applauding and encouraging.

 

Stephanie H.

I have been blessed over the past two years to work with one of the most humble and patient men I have ever met.  He manages to balance being a teacher, minister, student, and father, yet still makes the time for prayer and a Scriptural pep-talk when anyone needs it.  His patience and wisdom are what most inspire me.  I have a strong-willed streak, and can be very critical, so being able to see him approach conflict with respect, humility, and a level head has taught me that Christlike meekness is possible in the midst of very real problems.  As a leader, he takes full responsibility for those around him.  I have already learned so much from this colleague who has become a brother and a friend, but I pray that I will grow to be as wise and humble a leader as he has proven to be.

I am also very grateful for the big brother God has given me, who is now raising a family of his own to love and follow Jesus.  He has always been someone I could admire and trust to look out for me.  Now that we’re grown up, I know that I can go to him with any problem to get some perspective and sound godly advice.   It has also been a blessing as I grow closer to the Lord, to watch where God is leading him as he puts his trust in the Lord too.  My brother has always been iron to sharpen my iron in so many different ways, and I love being able to share life with him.

Tai Sophia

It is hard to express just how much my dad has meant to me over the years…and yet, it is hard to speak only of my dad, and exclude my husband, who is my dearest friend, and one of the best dads I’ve ever known. Therefore, I will pick two qualities from each of them to share with you:

My dad was SUCH an encouragement to me growing up. Yes, he was human and of course he made mistakes. But actually, one of the things I appreciated most about him, was that I can remember many times when he would gather us together as a family, and would repent for the ways he had failed in leading us, or in seeking the Lord, or whatever it was that God had spoken to him about. And he did so much to *try* to lead our family in doing what was right — and I greatly regret making his efforts so difficult for him sometimes, and not appreciating it when he tried leading us in family devotions, or family worship. But I so appreciated his humility, and his willingness to always look at his own faults square in the face, and learn and grow. He always took criticism (constructive or otherwise) with no pride, no denial, just always quietly listening…and then, he would go pray about it, and ask the Lord to show him how he could be a better man.

He also always had such clear wisdom. Whenever I came to him with something I was really struggling with, and didn’t know HOW in the world to handle it (most often guy or work related), he would cut through all the fuzziness I had on the issue, and reply with such clear, logical wisdom, that I always left knowing that God had just spoken through him to me. And I grew up always knowing that this was one quality that I needed my future husband to have as well – so it always made it to my “future husband qualifications lists”. And you know what? God did it! So this quality crosses over between both of them, because, aside from my dad, my husband is the wisest man I’ve ever met. Any time I’m stressed or confused, and regurgitate my overwhelmed feelings to him, he quietly listens, and then…his responses will be SO clear and SO wise that immediately I will just feel the whole overwhelming burden of my stress just lift right off my shoulders. “Is it really that simple??” I’ve found myself thinking quite often.

Another thing that has been SUCH a help and encouragement to me is my husband’s patience — with me, with our children…with everyone! He never gets upset or says things in a harsh way. He is always thinking the best — even when it’s with me, and I am having a melt-down (this never actually happens though, right???), and I KNOW I’m wrong, and he really COULD be rightfully mad at me. He’s not. He never takes the harsh things I am all too prone to spewing when I’m upset, to heart. I always know he will give me a hug, and say, “I love you”, afterward…and mean it. I often think, “When I grow up, I want to be like my husband”. But I know this is largely because he just spends a lot of time with Jesus. And that is the most important thing for any of us to do. Without being filled with Living Water every day, day after day, we WILL respond the wrong way. But when we immerse ourselves in Christ and His Word, THESE are the things that will come forth in our words and actions.

 

Do you have a man of God in your life you would like to recognize?  What about a time Jesus was that man?  Let us know in the comments!  You can also message us on Facebook to share your thoughts, or just have a chat.  We would love the hear from you!

Meek, and Riding on a Donkey

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your king is coming to you;
He is vindicated and victorious,
Humble, and mounted on a donkey,
Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
~Zechariah 9:9

Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem was anything but what the world expected from a king.  By that time, the land of Israel had been occupied by Roman rulers for generations.  Many must have been familiar with illustrious Roman generals parading through the streets of conquered cities, perhaps even Jerusalem, on a high-stepping war horse, arrayed in all his glory, and followed by prisoners of war and the spoils of fallen nations.  Now here is a man who may be their hope to be on top again.  They wave patriotic palm branches, the symbol of Israel as a free nation, and cry out, “Hosanna! Free us from the Romans!”  They grew so used to trusting in the things of the world, that they forgot what the Lord had promised about His coming Son.  Even as they cried out, “Hosanna to the son of David!” they did not remember what had made David a man after God’s own heart.

Interestingly, the people of Israel may have recognized that Jesus was following the example of David when He rode into Jerusalem on a donkey.  When the Lord was instructing the Israelites in one day having a king, He told them that the king was not to have many horses (Deuteronomy 17:16).  Not only did God want His people to keep from being led astray by the influence of Egypt again, but He also knew that a king who sought to make the office of earthly kingship too lofty and glorious by means of the beauty and strength of horses would soon forget his duty as a servant to God’s people.  They would also come to trust in their own strength more than in the presence of the Lord to guide them.  During his reign, David and his sons rode donkeys and mules, and David himself, though he kept a few chariots as spoils of war, knew that the battle belonged to the Lord.

Some boast in chariots and some in horses, But we will boast in the name of the Lord, our God.
~Psalm 20:7

God meant for all of the kings of Israel to follow the example that would be set by His Son, the humble Chief Shepherd and the Lamb of God.  The fact that the religious leaders abused their position of authority to take advantage of the poor and leave the sinners without restoration grieved and angered Him.

It might not have surprised the people of Israel to see a king of the Jews riding on a donkey, but the particular donkey may have surprised them.  While the other gospels mention only a colt, Matthew 21 speaks as though the colt and the mother were both brought along.  Some scholars suggest that Jesus may then have ridden a nursing mother donkey with her foal trailing along with her.  Others suggest that the colt, having never been ridden, would not have been especially well-groomed or yet well-tempered enough to make a very good mount.  I don’t know which it was, but both would mean two things: the ride would be slow, and tongues would surely wag.  Both are also things we have seen Jesus do, and things we can learn to do ourselves.  Imagine following a King who gently nudges a mother donkey down the street, never going so quickly that her foal gets left behind.  We start to see what kind of approach we must take when we exercise pure religion.

Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.
~James 1:27

Or imagine following a King who is not ashamed to be seen mounted on a scruffy colt, one which is nervous of crowds, and still uncertain about having a rider.  Yet He is patient when it shies away from the shouting and from His touch.  Can we keep ourselves unstained from the world to the point that we can exercise such patience before everyone we know?

It can be so easy for me to get caught up in a mission, or a program schedule, or even my alone time with the Lord.  Yet the march of the army of the kingdom of Heaven is set at the pace of the most lowly; the most novice.  Jesus stopped for the woman with the issue of blood, stopped for the children to be blessed, stopped for the paralytic lowered through the roof, went miles out of His way to free the man possessed of a legion of demons, and stopped for the broken girl with the perfect church life and nothing to live for.

That is where He finds us all: off the beaten path.  Even so, He takes us with Him and offers us a place of honor as He enters Jerusalem.  Look at the rest of the triumphal parade.  Prisoners of war free at last from the enemy!  Look what rich spoils.  A blind beggar who received his sight, a woman from whom were cast seven demons, lepers, fishermen, tax-collectors, Gentiles!  Children as His heralds, singing in the streets!  It is the way of our Lord to be gentle and patient as He leads His children to know His ways.  His most glorious earthly moment was in the company of the most humble and lowly.  As He leads you, remember to stop and take the hands of overlooked and the unkempt, the bruised reeds and the smoldering wicks.  See what precious hearts Jesus has yet to add to His joyful family parade.

 

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.

Why Clothing?


 

Guest post by M. L. Detwiler

 

Have you ever stopped to wonder why humans even wear clothes at all? I mean, there is literally no other living creature on the planet that takes so much time and expense just to cover their bodies. Of course, there’s no other creature that can compare to humankind at all. The differences between us and animals are really too huge to grasp fully.

But what is the reason behind clothing? We are relatively hairless and unprotected compared to most other land-bound mammals. So is the primary purpose of clothing to serve as a protective layer from the elements?

Or what about the fact that we are sexual beings? Is the primary purpose of clothing to serve as a protection against lust and sexual immorality?

The answer to both of those questions is, I believe, a firm negative. Although protection against the elements and against sexual immorality are two significant reasons for clothing that cannot be ignored, both of them tie back into the primary reason for clothing. If you think about it, the only reason that there is any weather or thorns or destructive sun-rays to protect against in the first place is because of the fall. In addition, the only reason that lust and sexual immorality are problems is also because of the fall. In a perfect world, there would have been no need for protection from anything at all, and indeed, the Scripture states at the end of Genesis 2 that, “the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.”

In a perfect world, there is no need for clothing. But when the fall comes, and with it the shame and separation that sin brings between us and God and between one another, the first and most obvious ramification is… you guessed it: clothing. Or, more properly speaking, a faulty, hurried attempt at covering nakedness. Genesis 3:7: “Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.”

The very first reaction that Adam and Eve had after sinning against God was putting up a barrier. This was a barrier between them as individuals and also between them and God. Before sin, there were no barriers, and no need for any symbols of separation. But with guilt, fear, and blame comes shame and a desire for separation. Sin builds walls. No longer did Adam and Eve feel unashamed around one another. No longer could they feel unashamed before God. The safe atmosphere of complete openness had been shattered by sin, and for the first time, their shared experience and joy was splintered into egotistical shame – an immediate change of focus from outward to inward. They both became more concerned with the shame that they had to hide from one another than with the joy and love that they could bring and show to one another, and the worship that they were to bring to their Creator. For the first time, they set out on individual paths of fear and sin and doubt, instead of continuing to share a common path of holiness and happiness. As those who walk in darkness do not want their deeds to be brought to the light, so they did not want their most intimate body parts to remain any longer in the open. The parts of themselves that most revealed their vulnerability, trust, and openness with one another were the very first to be covered up.

The significance of this is huge. It tells us that the primary reason and purpose of man’s desire and instinct for clothing is to provide a tangible symbol of the separation that sin brings. Clothing exists to cut ourselves off from one another in a visible way, a physical outworking of the massive separation that sin causes between each and every one of us.

However, I believe it is key to our understanding of God’s design for clothing that we don’t stop here. The second time that clothing is mentioned in the Scriptures comes several verses later in Genesis 3:21: “And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.”

In the single act of God providing Adam and Eve clothing, we can glean three very important truths. First of all, God reaffirms that clothing is right and needed now that the fall has come. He ordains and requires it by giving clothing to our first parents. Instead of rebuking Adam and Eve for attempting to cover their shame, God provides them with even better clothing. He affirms the truth that sin does indeed bring separation and shame between us – even between those in a marriage relationship, like Adam and Eve – and that that separation properly shows itself in clothing. Covering ourselves is not simply the natural response to the shame and division that sin brings, it is also the right response.

Secondly, more than simply affirming clothing, God improves it. Adam and Eve did the best they knew how and in their fallen state covered only their sexual organs. They made themselves loincloths. Out of fig leaves. God, however, made “garments of skins and clothed them.” Doing a word study of “garments of skin” reveals that the Hebrew word in the text here refers to a tunic – a long shirt-like piece of clothing that extended from the shoulders to the knees or toes. In any event, regardless of the exact length, these garments of skin were far more extensive than the fig leaves that Adam and Even made for themselves. God presents quite clearly that the need for clothing is more extensive than a few fig leaves thrown together. The garments He presented Adam and Eve with extended from the shoulders down to the knee or longer. Although Adam and Eve had the right idea in covering themselves, they did not understand just how much they needed to cover. God, however, quite clearly revealed how we are to cover our bodies.

There is a clear distinction here being made between the inadequacy of man’s efforts, and the full sufficiency of God’s gracious provision. This extends all the way from the area of good works to the area of proper clothing. Man’s works will always fall short, but God’s provision (in Christ!) is more than enough. Man’s clothing only covers the genitals, but God’s clothing covers the whole body.

In which clothing, therefore, ought we to walk? The kind of clothing that Adam and Eve mistakenly created for themselves out of fear and shame? Or the kind of clothing that God provided for us out of love and grace?

In the third and last place, we see an affirmation of the assertion I made at the beginning, that the prevention of lust/sexual immorality is not the primary purpose of clothing. God gave clothing to Adam and Eve, who lived in the context of marriage. There were no other individuals present who could lust after either of them, so it becomes clear from this that the primary purpose of clothing is to serve as a reminder of the fall.

In light of the truths that we learn from God’s gift of clothing to Adam and Eve, we have a firm basis on which to understand the theological significance of nakedness in a post-fall world. To begin formulating this understanding, we need to recap that the primary purpose of clothing is to serve as an effect of the fall – a necessary and God-ordained result that is a practical and symbolic representation of the separation and shame that sin creates.

What then is the significance of nakedness – the opposite of being clothed? Nakedness represents the curse being lifted, the separation removed, the walls torn down, and complete unity and harmony being restored once again. In short, the theological significance of nakedness is that it is an expression of the reversal of the fall. Now where things really get amazing is when you ask the question: In what context is nakedness (and the accompanying activity) blessed? Marriage. The only context in which nakedness is considered a good thing is in the context of marriage. Why?

Because marriage is a picture of the reversal of the fall: the union between Christ and the church! See Ephesians 5 for proof of this. Marriage is a full-color painting of the complete and total lifting of the curse. The interconnectedness of all of these truths blows me away every time I think about it.

Clothing reflects the fall and nakedness reflects restoration, so nakedness is only proper when it points directly towards that final restoration.

Nakedness only does that within the context of marriage.

Outside of marriage, full or even partial nakedness represents a blasphemous rebellion against the God-ordained effects of the fall. It is, in essence, saying that sin and the fall have no effect on us and we can regain the communion and intimacy that we had before sin separated us apart from the redemption that Christ brings. In essence, nakedness outside of the context of marriage is a rejection of Christ as the one who lifts the curse brought upon us because of sin. It is a rejection of Christ and His sacrifice, saying that we don’t need Him, that we can bridge the gap on our own.

To the degree that we are naked/less-than-fully-clothed, then, is the degree to which we have symbolically rejected Christ’s salvation! My point in saying that is not to hold guilt over anyone, but to show just how important and necessary it is that we get this right.

I have approached this topic of clothing in the way I have because I believe that the truths in the above paragraphs form the necessary foundation which absolutely must be firmly in place before we even dare to have a conversation about modesty in clothing. It is these truths – primarily theological in nature rather than practical, pulled directly (I trust) from the Scriptures, which give the proper shape and character to our beliefs and standards.

Beginning this discussion with an understanding of the Scriptural and theological context keeps us from creating our own individual standards and attempting to impose them upon one another as less or more holy depending on how far the hems of skirts and shorts are from God’s good earth. We will steer clear of trying to find the exact letter of the law, obsessing over inches and appearances and personal ideas of ‘legality’ and propriety. And on the other hand, we will not be left with the mushy, Scripture-less, tasteless conclusion to let every man do as his conscience bids.

The bottom line that I’m trying to make here is that we have not been left without a standard. We don’t have to create our own personal standard because God already gave us one.

God clothed Adam and Eve with tunic-like garments made of animal skins. Therefore, underwear are sinful, wearing anything other than leather is sinful, and we must never wear anything that isn’t a tunic.

Obviously. (Please understand my sarcasm…)

On the contrary, the simple and unadorned truth is that God clothed his people – fallen but still beloved – with an article of clothing that (according to the meaning of the original word as it is understood by Hebrew scholars) extended from the shoulders to the knees or lower. As the second mention of clothing in the entire Scriptures, and in direct contrast to the loincloths that Adam and Eve crafted for themselves, I believe that it is safe to say that we can take that as our standard – as we do with much of what is found in the first chapters of Genesis. Marriage, procreation, gender roles, earthly dominion, work… we trace our beliefs in all of these areas back to the first chapters and verses in Genesis.

I believe we ought to do the same with regard to our standards of clothing.

To my mind, it really makes everything simpler – as following God’s Word almost always does.

I know countless girls who have expressed frustration because they simply don’t know what is appropriate to wear in what context, because everyone seems to have different standards, every guy has a different level of maturity, and on and on…

I have been confused by those who seem to have very different modesty standards depending on who they are with, seemingly cow-towing their clothing standards to the most conservative of those around them to avoid giving offense or causing a stumbling block, and then demonstrating very different standards in other situations.

I have seen the damaging effects of creating an artificial standard of inches and lines and applying that standard to others in a judgmental fashion.

I have seen the discussion of modesty be completely taken over by whether or not it’s the guy or the girl who bears the greater responsibility: …whose fault is it if a guy lusts? …how short is too short? …how low is too low? …and many other largely irrelevant questions like that.

I have almost universally seen the discussion dominated by the belief that clothing is really only there to prevent lust and sexual immorality – instead of primarily an effect and reminder of the fall.

I have heard the complaint that guys have it easy and can basically wear what they want, while girls are held back by social stigmas wherever they turn.

I have seen, heard, and experienced all these things. But really, when you look at the issue from the perspective I outlined above, it’s not a complicated issue at all. God gave both Adam and Eve the same type of clothing: shoulder to knee (or lower). That is the divinely sanctioned standard. We have no reason to deviate from that. We have no reason to change that standard depending on who we are with, or where we are – because we can be confident that God is pleased. We have no reason to ask if we’re going to be a problem to some people, because we are doing all that God expects of us. We have no reason to judge others by any standard other than clear Scripture. We have no reason to ask complicated questions of responsibility in the case of lust – quite obviously, it is a sign of immaturity on the part of the guy. We have no reason to complain that guys have it easier. God didn’t give Eve a burka and Adam a pair of jean shorts.

He gave them both tunics because His standard is the same for everyone, regardless of gender, age, race, time period, activity, or location.

It’s simple. It really is.

Kneeling to Pray

 

 

by Stephanie H.

 

We can read about it in classic literature, we see it in paintings and other art in the church, even modern comics and movies that feature little children show little pajama-ed knees bent in prayer, sometimes with teddy bears sharing the same posture.
So why do we kneel to pray?
Sure, we don’t always have to kneel to talk to the Lord.  If we’re to pray without ceasing, we’re going to have to stand up and walk around at the same time!  So why is it so traditional to kneel while praying?
Consider this parable from Luke 18:10-14
“Two men went up into the temple to pray, on a Pharisee, and the other a tax-gatherer.  The Pharisee stood and was praying thus to himself, ‘God, I thank Thee that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax-gatherer.  I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all I get.’  But the tax-gatherer, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’  I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled, but he who humbles himself shall be exalted.”
 
Now, don’t think that the only way to approach the Lord in prayer is to crawl up in agony because of all of your sins.  Look at the contrasted postures of these two men.  The one was praying “thus to himself” (an interesting choice of words), thanking God for how great he himself was, but talking of himself more than anything.  If this were a conversation with the Lord, what would the Pharisee expect Him to say?  Meanwhile, the tax-gatherer begs God to act on His promise to be merciful to the repentant.  He is humble, and knows that the Lord is the one with the power to be merciful, rather than believing, like the Pharisee, that he is the one who can make himself good enough to talk to God.  We don’t earn the privilege to talk to God by being important enough for His attention.  No one could ever be important enough to get the attention of an eternal God.  We can best approach Him in prayer when we realize that He is willing to come down to listen to people that will never really be worth anything all by themselves.
Have you ever tried to make a business deal with God?
“Dear Lord, I would really like to have this, and here is what I would do for You if You let me…” or “Dear Lord, my friend needs help, and here are all the reasons they deserve the best…”
They are sincere prayers, but when I pray this way, it always leaves me anxious, wondering if I have said the right things in the right way to convince God that it really would be in His best interest to listen.  Sounds rather like the Pharisee again, doesn’t it?  It is so easy to imagine that prayer gives me the power to tap into God’s attention and favor if I can just say the right things.
I teach at a small Christian school, and one of my favorite portions of our morning prayers reminded me recently of the true posture of prayer.  Every person that is able kneels on one knee as the Great Commission is read:
“And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.  Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”  ~Matthew 28:18-20
 
What are those first words?  “All power is given unto me…” 
 
Jesus is the one who has all power in heaven and in earth.  Because of that, He’s given us a job to do.  It isn’t a project we are left to figure out on our own, execute on our own, and then hope that it is good enough for His liking.  “I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.”
 
If your reading this, I’m guessing the world hasn’t ended.  That means that the Spirit that raised Christ from the dead is present with you, and eager to show you the work that He has prepared for you to do.
Imagine a good and honorable king, at war with a vicious enemy.  At the moment, his wise eyes are surveying little figures on a mapped table that represent the movements of his troops and the enemy’s.  A knight rushes in and kneels before hastily making his petition:
“Sire, several of your men have been captured, and are being held in the enemy’s fortress.”
Or perhaps…
“Sire, the battalion on the northern front is desperate for supplies.”
“Sire, the enemy is spreading lies that are crippling morale, and causing many of your troops to lose hope.”
What is this knight expecting to hear?  An order.  Of course, he will eagerly watch to see how his king will respond to this news.  If he is a young knight, he may worry when his king acknowledges the need and dismisses him, or when his king gives him an order that does not make sense, but the king is wise and careful.  His plans have far-reaching results beyond any short term solutions his young knights may offer.
Our prayer is when we come into the presence of the King, remember that the battle is His, and spend time in His presence, to learn the depth of integrity of His character, and be involved in His will in whatever way He chooses.
Now, the effectiveness of our prayers do not rely on us literally kneeling, or imagining kings and knights and battles when we pray, but it has been something that has really helped me in my prayers lately.  The more time that I spend in prayer and in the Word, the more I come to trust the Lord with some things.  Even so, it is very easy for me to work myself up into distraction as I try to pray in such a way to earn immediate results.  When that happens, one of the quickest ways out of that state of worry…
Surrender my plans.
Kneel before the throne.

The Day I Gave Up.

pexels-photo-27141-copy
by Anna Faith

When you are a single twenty something, you do a lot of thinking. And watching. You watch your friends settle happily into their “marital bliss”. You think. You watch their children be born and make those mile-marker memories. You think. You watch friends graduate. You think and rethink your purpose in life. Too often, I have found, there is that temptation to doubt the Lord’s GOOD plans for our life. Sure, He’s got a plan. But GOOD? Hm. That sneaky Enemy (whose main goal is to steal, kill and destroy, mind you) often waves the whole “I drew the short straw” notion under my nose like a sock with that never recovered partner. Kind of unfortunate, a little awkward and always alone. “You’re always going to be alone, and one step behind”. 

Jeepers. That devil sure is mean.

As I waded through some deep, stormy waters in my “newly twenty” years, I was faced with wave after wave doubting God’s good plan. I had my network of people that I knew loved me, but I felt alone as I faced “trials of various kinds” (James 1:2). Most of my friends were over eight hours away, which was an additional blow. I was brought to my knees with intense relationship conflicts, illness, deaths, and emotions I’ve never had to deal with before (Hey, I’m an INTJ. We don’t feel emotions quite the same way *wink*). There were times where I would lay curled up in my bed, so emotionally weary and tired. Thoughts of “if only I had a shoulder to cry on. If only I had that privileged of a strong arm around my shoulders…if only” popped up at unsuspecting times. I saw people around me, going through similar things, but they seemed to have that support I craved. My friends could go home to their husbands. I went home to my quiet little room.

“Lord, what are you up to? Why does it seem like you have placed me in a quiet place–alone? What is your purpose in this?”

I will never, ever forget His response. It was forever branded onto my heart about a year ago.

He told me it was because He was giving me a gift. A gift of friendship. He wanted to not just be called my best friend–He wanted to BE my best friend. He told me HE wanted to be the One to hold my hand, the one to gently lead me. He wanted to be my heart-holder. He wanted to be my strength. He wanted to be my “husband”. [FYI, I burst into tears every time I stop to think about it (which is a big deal for us INTJ’s)]

I have walked with the Lord since I was 13, but grew up “knowing” about the Lord since I was born. My dad was a minister for almost 20 years. I knew about the Lord’s character. Yet, we can know ABOUT the Lord’s character….but fail to KNOW HIM. I have known Him as my dearest friend, but that day He took our friendship to such a deeper level of my heart. A level I didn’t even know I could have.

 

So, I gave up. I gave up that comparison game. I gave up dreading quietness. I gave up that “score keeping”. Sure, I do want to get married. That is a deep, strong desire within my heart. There are days where I question if I’m just…not worth loving. Days where I feel ugly and awkward. But when you give your heart–your entire heart–to Someone who you can trust, He fills that “space”. He fills your days with joy, He fills your HEART with laughter. It’s the devil which feeds us lies of insecurity, DOUBT, and fear. That’s not God. It is not God’s desire for us to be afraid that “we are missing out”. In fact, my BEST adventures are the ones which God has planned…and He’s always gone with me.

Singleness is NOT “that awkward time in between stages of life”. Singleness doesn’t mean you “have it wrong”, or that you failed. Singleness means God is giving you the sweetest, most beautiful opportunity to know HIM–and I mean really know Him–in a way you could never imagine. It means you get the Creator of a heartbeat as a confidant. You get the one who hung up the stars as your best friend. He sings over you. He gave the only Son He ever had to humbly bear your sins, just so you could be saved FROM your sins.

I am my Beloved’s, and He IS mine. Trust Him. Remember Him. KNOW Him. He is that hand to hold, that under-girding strength, that Joy, and that calming peaceful presence to quiet anxiety.

He wants to be your Best friend. Will you let Him?

Spring Cleaning the Heart

 

Spring Cleaning

It’s that time of year again: SPRING! Unless you’re in Canada (where there is still snow floating around), hopefully you are seeing blossoms peek through the ground and cheerful little birds popping around on the treetops. I live in an area that’s nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains and I LOVE Spring here. Dogwood Trees, Redbuds, Weeping Cherry Trees and every other kind of budding tree make such an incredible display every single time I set foot outside my door. It is glorious.
 
But, along with these happy thoughts, most people also think: SPRING CLEANING. *Insert the moans and groans of housekeepers everywhere* You know – that week where you spend time cleaning areas you didn’t even KNOW existed? Those places where you don’t even think to look? I mean, who cleans their baseboards anyways? Like REALLY cleans them?
 
Just as the faithful housekeeper tends to the nooks and crannies of her home, there is a spiritual cleaning we need to remember to do. Even more than once a year, WE – the up-keepers of this earthly vessel – need to tackle frequently the nooks and crannies within our own hearts. The places we didn’t even know were in existence. The DEEP parts of our heart.
 
When we become a Follower of Jesus Christ, it SHOULD go without saying that things are going to look different in our lives. I mean…Jesus and the World (aka: the way our lives looked normally before we allowed Jesus to take the lead in our life) don’t mix. There’s no way they can mix. One is Light and the other is Darkness (2 Cor. 6:14). Our “old man” (Romans 6:6) has to begin to die, and we have to pack up and move out our old desires. Our old ways. Our old sins. Things must leave in order for the aroma and Light of Christ to fill our hearts.  It is an ongoing process, which never actually stops–no matter how “spiritual” you think you are.
 
However, as we mature in our faith, often we forget to do basic maintenance. We forget to “check the fence-line”. When farmers have a large herd of animals, they have to make it a routine to check ever square foot of the fence line. Not only are they looking for holes, but looking for weak areas in the fence. This enables the farmer to keep his herd safe, MEANWHILE keeping danger OUT. As we pursue Christ, we need to check our own “fence lines” within our lives and hearts. By doing this, we are required to humble ourselves (seeing ourselves for who we truly are) AND keep the devil OUT.  We have to clean out these hearts so he has no place to hide among the dust and clutter!
 
Three steps to start your Spiritual House Cleaning:
 
1.) Ask. YOU may not see any areas of “blatant” sin, but you would be surprised at the things that sneak in. ASK the Lord to reveal any areas of your life that you have (a) withheld from His Lordship OR (b) any areas where you are unknowingly sinning. It may not be adultery that you have committed, but lust (even lusting via Romance Novels) is a sin (Matthew 5:28). You may not have killed anyone, but hatred IS a sin (Matthew 5:21). Harboring un-forgiveness (intentionally choosing NOT to forgive someone). FEAR–which is not trusting the Lord. Greed. PRIDE. GOSSIP. Vanity. These are just a few of the things that sneak in – often before we even realize it. ASK the Lord to show you areas where you need to repent.
 
2.) Examine. Spend a few moments thinking about your relationships. Think about what you are investing your time into – with work OR leisure time. Who are the people you chose to spend time with? What do you and your friends do when you are together? Is your conversation pure, or do you “push the limits” with inappropriate remarks (Phil. 4:8)? Do you actually make an effort to speak well of others (which can be really hard), or do you join right in “bashing” the character of someone else (James 4:11)? What do you do when no one else is around? Do you feel like you have to hide your activities from others – especially your parents? What are you watching on TV? If you had a godly woman sitting beside you, would you be ashamed to tell her what you’re watching? Are you seeing good things – good fruit –come from your words, your actions, and your decisions? Or do you see rotten fruit (Matthew 7:16-20)?
 
3.) Respond. A house doesn’t get tidy by the housekeeper sitting down and pointing out all the areas that need to be cleaned. It’s when she stands up, puts on her “shnazzy” yellow gloves and TACKLES that grime -THAT is when the real change happens. In the same way, there is almost no point in doing anything if we are not willing to ACT. When (and I say when, because there is always something to apologize for – we aren’t in heaven yet!) the Lord shows us these things, we can’t just say “woe is me” and then pull the rug over our pile of dirt. We are offered forgiveness when we repent. If we leave these things standing in the way of our relationship with Christ, it truly hinders our walk with Him. It hinders our growth, our discernment, our relationships, our Souls. Everything. It prohibits our ability to produce eternal fruit. In the Gospel of Matthew, it says to “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matthew 3:8). Repentance is crucial. When we repent, it is going against our human nature by (1) humbling ourselves, (2) admitting we were wrong, (3) asking for forgiveness, (4) and choosing to acknowledge that God’s way is better. By HIS strength, we choose to follow HIS better way. His perfect, incredible way.
 
We have to let go of anything that ties us down, dear friend. We live in perilous times–there is not time to “mess around” and waste our lives. People are dying. Spiritually and physically. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us (Hebrews 12:1). We must lay aside the things that continue to “trip” us up, in order that the Kingdom of God may expand!
 
 
“Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord,” (Acts 3:19)
Article By: Anna Faith