Part 1: How Can YOU Be God’s Sanctuary?

PART1

by Stephanie H.

“And let them construct a sanctuary for Me, that I may dwell among them.” ~Exodus 25:8

Oh, the dear Old Testament.  It can be so easy for me to learn only the “usual” lessons from the Old Testament, especially the books of the Law, and reserve my real growth for Psalms, the Prophets, and mainly the New Testament.  Usually, if I think about Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, I may remember a few stories that take place in there, an a lot of grief between God and the Israelites, but I most often approach these books as being full of things to learn that I no longer need to worry about, since I am under the blood of Jesus.  I am an avowed student of knowledge, so it fascinates me to know that the Israelites were not to seek to model heathen cultures who would wear cloth made from plant fibers, and from animal skin, while wearing pins of precious stone, in order to worship nature by representing animal, vegetable, and mineral in their garments.  Fascinating!  I devour that kind of knowledge on a regular basis, but I know the Lord does not require me to be picky about what blend of wool, cotton, or polyester my t-shirts are.  I love to study the books of the Law, but sometimes it’s hard to know what to do with the information once I have it.

Enter the book of Hebrews.  This letter is written to the Christians who have been worshiping God since their ancestors left Egypt, over fifteen hundred years before this letter was penned.  Jesus had only come, at most, a few decades ago.  Can you imagine?  Now all of these lifelong believers need to know: what do we do with our faith?  How are we to continue in our faith as Jews, but still give our full devotion to Jesus, without neglecting the commands given from God the Father to Abraham, Moses, and the fathers?

With pen in hand, and plenty of notebook paper, I was ready to document all of the contrasts between the old and new covenants.  Of course, I was also willing to compare the things that hadn’t passed away, but I honestly wasn’t expecting to be blown away by the straightforwardness of the religion found in the books of the Law.

“And let them construct a sanctuary for Me, that I may dwell among them.” ~Exodus 25:8

The Lord did not give His people a building project so that they would stay out of trouble.  He also wasn’t involved in intimate relationships with all of His people until He decided they should have to come into His house in order to see Him.  God is so pure and holy that if any sin is in the presence of His radiant, blinding, infinite purity, the sinner will die instantly.  God never wanted us to be separated from Him like that.  The tabernacle He commissioned, and the Law He gave His people were a lot of work, but it would mean they could be near to Him again.

“‘Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,’ which translated means, ‘God with us.'” ~Matthew 1:23

Jesus’ purpose for coming is the same purpose God had from the beginning.  Building the tabernacle and the temple were just previous steps to that plan.

“And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” ~John 1:14

I just love it when the Lord shows me something new in familiar places!

“Jesus therefore answered and said to them, ‘Destroy this temple [or sanctuary], and in three days I will raise it up.’ … But He was speaking of the temple of His body.” ~John 2:19, 21

But wait!  There’s more!  The writer of Hebrews tells us that the tabernacle is a shadow of what it will be like in Heaven.

“…who serve as a copy and shadow of the heavenly things, just as Moses was warned by God when he was about to erect the tabernacle; for ‘See,’ He says, ‘That you make all things according to the pattern which was shown you on the mountain.'” ~Hebrews 8:5

So everything that the Lord told Moses was so that His people would know what it will be like when we are all with Jesus for eternity.  So if Heaven is the true sanctuary, and Jesus is now our High Priest, what does that mean for us today?

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of God’s own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;” ~1 Peter 2:9
“Do you not know that you are a temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” ~1 Corinthians 3:16

Do you hear that?  If you are in Christ, you are a new creation, and that creation is the temple of God!  You don’t have to wait for a priest to burn incense before the Lord on your behalf.  You are a priestess!  Your prayers are set before Him like incense! (Psalm 141:2)  You can come into His presence whenever you pray, because the Holy Spirit dwells in you, and Jesus is your High Priest.  You are the temple of the Most High.

As I sit here and write, that is enough to baffle me.  The fact that God has gone to such great lengths and depths just to dwell with me is astounding.  Now what do I do?  How do I construct the sanctuary, that God may dwell with me?  If we no longer burn incense and offer sacrifices to be near to the Lord, what does a priestess do to prepare for life in Heaven?

I’m so glad we’re asking the same questions.

 

Prepare the Sanctuary.

“For there was a tabernacle prepared, the outer one, in which were the lampstand and the table and the sacred bread; this is called the holy place.” ~Hebrews 9:2

Sometimes individual words just stand out to me.  What did it mean that the tabernacle was prepared?  That means the Israelites had to be expecting something to happen.  They were making the sanctuary ready for the purpose it would fill.  That purpose was the one God gave them: “Construct a sanctuary, that I may dwell with you.”  The Israelites believed, and obeyed.  That is the first step in constructing your sanctuary.

Believe, and obey.

God dwelling among us is not a naturally occurring state.  Sometimes we expect that we will be stumbling through the desert of life, and that if God is real, we will just trip and fall into an oasis.  That is probably why mirages of worldly happiness so often deceive us.  True, the Lord does offer more peace and joy than anything in this world.  It is like finding a river surrounded by shade palms in the middle of a parched land.  But we are priestesses.  We play an active role in our relationship with the Lord.  Even when the Lord chose to meet Moses by surprise through the burning bush, it was not God’s dwelling place.  It was a command, and a promise.  Moses believed the Lord and acted accordingly.  The tabernacle was not discovered like the burning bush.  It was prepared for God to dwell in it among His people.  Our relationships with the Lord today are built on the same faith.  We come before the Lord, and He will tell us what to do to prepare for His blessing and His work in our lives.  We believe, and do as He tells us in His Word, and in prayer, and we grow in our faith when we see that His promises are true.  God is infinite, so we will be spending an eternity discovering Him!  So prepare yourself, sister.  Your walk with the Lord will be a series of preparations to meet with Jesus, and to receive His promises, all in preparation to be with Him forever, just as He promises!

 

Follow the Plan.

“Then you shall erect the tabernacle according to its plan which you have been shown in the mountain.” ~Exodus 26:30

There was no room for artistic license in building this sanctuary.  Not in the architecture, not in the lighting, not in the interior decorating.  God still employed the talents of incredible craftsmen and weavers for the building of the tabernacle, and later the temple, but their job was to follow the plan.  As God’s temple, it is the same for you and me.  We follow Jesus first.  He has given us a plan in the Bible, and it is our duty to follow it so that we will be made pure and holy temples that can dwell in His presence.  That always means there will be some things we have to give up, even some hobbies that aren’t sinful in themselves, but have become idols in our lives.  For me, a big part of my life that had to be removed was my writing.  I wanted to be a fantasy novelist.  For the most part, I even wanted to use it for the Lord.  I had plans to write stories that would show good triumphing over evil, and hoped they would teach good lessons.  But God had better plans for me than I had for myself.  The more closely I follow His plan for my life, the more He shows me things I had never even thought of before!  Not all hobbies will be things He asks us to remove.  He let me keep all of my field guides, and He has given me joy in discovering more rare birds than I usually see, but it is something I must still be willing to leave behind if it does not fit with the pattern on the mountain.    Many times, we decide who we want to be, and then want to look for ways to adapt our sanctuary to be more like the things we like, but the Lord desires obedience, not sacrifice.  A priestess cannot have her own agenda.  She is to serve the Lord with her whole heart.

 

….To Be CONTINUED….

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

Faithfulness

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

my soul thirsts for you;

my flesh faints for you,

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

So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,

beholding your power and glory.

Because your steadfast love is better than life,

my lips will praise you.

So I will bless you as long as I live;

in your name I will lift up my hands.

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

and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,

when I remember you upon my bed,

and meditate on you in the watches of the night;

for you have been my help,

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

My soul clings to you;

your right hand upholds me.”

Is Gay OK?

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BUT, there’s also another angle.

A couple, actually.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dear Wandering, Weary Pilgrim — Come In!

Railroad

 

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

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

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

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

JUST VISITING

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

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

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

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

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

Dear Wandering, Weary Pilgrim…come in!

Hug sunset

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

I Won’t Change.

arrogant little girl

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

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

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

Why?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Purity

Lavender Field

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

Purity vs. Innocence:

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

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

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

Purity.

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

The Secret of Being Unshakable

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

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

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

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

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

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