No Valentine Left Behind Part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

by Stephanie H.

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

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.

How to Make Time to Pray

 

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It happened again this morning.

I got upset. My heart felt thin and cold…and I lost patience with my daughter, and those around me. It wasn’t a big explosion, or an argument…in fact, I didn’t really even say anything. It was just my heart hardening, and raging, and really, just feeling sorry for myself.

I moped away, crying. It was a totally un-related situation that caused the hardening to surface…and yet, as I stewed, I just kept telling myself, “All I wanted was to be able to pray. All I wanted was to have a quiet morning to pray, and to not have to deal with the ceaseless chatter of my daughter…and now? Now I have the weight of my sinful heart to deal with on top of it all! How wrong can it be to just want peace and quiet, and the ability to pray?”

I was hoping for a “magical” opening to pray this morning. Feeling the need of it even stronger than usual, after a restless night, and a headache on top of feeling so, so weary this morning. Not even coffee could make me feel like I could face this day.

I knew the feeling. I’ve gotten quite familiar with it now. It was my spirit longing to be close to it’s Maker. It was my spirit panting for living water. And…it was also my very human heart feeling a tinge of guilt for having not made more of an effort to get up earlier to pray before my daughter woke up…and feeling like I had lost my chance…and not really wanting to own up to my own laziness. I decided it was easier to blame those around me for the way I was feeling, than to admit that my utter emptiness was because I had made excuses, and put forth the effort I needed to, to be filled with the Strength that is not my own for this day.

The truth is…there’s never a “magical” opening to pray, where your environment and circumstances all end up aligning to create that perfect “prayer room” atmosphere. Least of all, when you’re a mommy, and/or have a demanding job, and/or school work that has taken over every free grey cell of your brain. Yeah…I know. I know it all too well. Why? Well, it’s the same for every single one of us. We all think that there’s something “special” or “unusual” about our current situations that gives us an excuse for not having a closer walk with Jesus. We think, “If I can just make it through this ______ (day, week, year), I am sure there is a time coming when I can *actually* just ENJOY spending time with Jesus, and actually have a chunk of time to use each day for seeking Him earnestly.”

BUT…the truth is…we will never find time to pray.

Never.

Ever.

Nope — not gonna happen.

We must make time to pray (yes, I am preaching to myself here, too…as usual). And often, this will include having to wrestle for it, as if it were a 300 pound octopus; with every.drop.of.strength we can muster.

We have to say, “My time with Jesus is the most important part of my day, and I’m going to treat it like that. I can’t live, or have any joy or peace in my day by trying to plow through it in my own strength. I already know that – as much as I may try to ignore it. I know that everything I try to do by myself ends up being unfulfilling, or exhausting, or taking way longer than it should, or just plain being a total flop. I NEED Jesus.”

And then, we must do whatever it takes to take that time captive.

For me, this morning, it meant saying to my 2-year-old daughter, “Can you please go play quietly in your room for a little bit? Mommy just really needs to pray for a while.” And, to my surprise, she went…and I sat on the couch and prayed through my tears…and shouted many, “Hallelujah’s” out loud. Even when she crept back into the living room, she whispered to herself, knowing that I was praying, and needed to not be interrupted. (There went all my distress over being *certain* I had missed my ONE chance, and wouldn’t be able to even think over her rather loud, bubbly chatter all day long.) I am so grateful that she has grown up in a house of prayer, and that she is beginning to understand, even just a little, the seriousness and need for earnest prayer.

For you, it may be different. Maybe you have many more children…or perhaps, you have children who don’t listen when you ask them to be quiet (as I’ve frequently experienced with mine as well — today was a mercy from God!). Don’t give up! Susanna Wesley had 19 children (yes…you read that right: NINETEEN children), and she would frequently feel that same nudge in her spirit that I felt today, and the one that perhaps you are feeling even now; that thirst and desperate heart cry for Living Water. And, right in the middle of the chaos, and commotion of everyday life with a house FULL of children, she would sit down in her chair, and fling her apron over her head to create just the smallest bit of personal space to be with Jesus…and she would pray for as long as she needed. Her children came to realize that when mommy had her apron over her head, that meant that they were not to disturb her. You CAN do this too, in whatever way you need. It is *not* neglecting your children, it is receiving the strength that you can’t manufacture on your own to be the mommy that they need.

Perhaps your situation is different entirely. Perhaps it is the busyness of school, or work that seems to crowd out your time with Jesus. The principal is the same: Do what you must, but don’t neglect that most needed time with the Lord. Sacrifice an hour of sleep to pray early in the morning. Use your lunch break. Don’t go to sleep without sweet communion with the Lord, and soaking up His Word. Surrender your time to surf the web, and pray instead. Don’t watch that TV show — pray! Do whatever you must…but pray. Oh, dear fellow child of God…we must not neglect time to really, earnestly pray — it is our life, and our breath! And even in the most extreme situations, don’t despise grabbing just 15 minutes here and there. A little time to pray is better than none at all! And it will add up! It is remarkable what battles can be won, and what peace can be obtained in just 15 minutes of concentrated, earnest prayer.

So be encouraged to seek the time with Jesus each day…and to take hold of it!

What are some ways you can “capture” that time to pray in your own day?

 

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Esther, from Wellness Mom Life says in the comments: “Such a beautiful post. I too used to think that I would magically be given time to pray – that somehow it would be dropped in my lap. I’ve now realized that does not happen, as you said. I do my best to get up earlier now, so that I have specific time alone with God before I start my day. And I also do my best to talk to God all day long. To acknowledge Him in every part of my day – not just when I have a crisis. But this is a great reminder that moms CAN make time for prayer – we just have to be intentional about it!”

 

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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.

Better Plans

One way sign

 

As soon as God directs you to have faith for something that seems impossible, or when He tells you to do something that doesn’t seem logical, or to wait for Him to act, instead of plowing ahead in your own plans, the devil is always right there, ready to slander God to you. The devil will whisper, “He won’t hold up His end of the deal.” Or, “You’re just a sinner, so why should God bless you like that, or hear your prayers?” And then, our first response? Fear. Fear and then our minds begin racing to think up a “better” plan. A plan that’s less risky, more likely to succeed, and – best of all -a plan that we can make happen ourselves, instead of waiting on God to bring His plan to pass in timing that is different than our own.

How do I know this? Oh…just many times of failing to hold onto faith. Many times of circumstances seeming too big and scary…and feeling like God wasn’t acting fast enough. Then my mind would start to whirl, coming up with a plan B, C, and D that all seemed more appealing than ‘A’: waiting for God. It seemed like, if I waited, the situation would crush me to pieces – and then, of course, it would be too late for God to do anything. At least, that is what my mind would tell me.

I am also a fairly resourceful person, so I was be able to think of dozens of ways to “get through” a circumstance in my own strength, without even having to pray or wait. And then, even when I did get up the courage to pray, the devil would have me convinced that I was just being selfish, and that I had too many needs, and that I was being a bother to God by bringing them all to Him…and so, in the midst of my praying, there my mind would start whirling again, coming up with options that were less “bothersome” to God; things I could do to “help Him out” a little. Does God need help? What happens when we try to bring things about with our own ideas?

There is an excellent (and sobering) example of this very thing in the Bible. It is an example that God showed to me, and helped me to realize that I was doing the very same thing, and it has caused me to be much less inclined to “make things happen” myself instead of waiting for God.

First, God promises Abraham (also called Abram) a son, in Genesis 15:1-6, “After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: ‘Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.’ But Abram said, ‘O Lord GOD, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?’ And Abram said, ‘Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.’ And behold, the word of the LORD came to him: ‘This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.’ And He brought him outside and said, ‘Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.’ Then He said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be.’ And he believed the LORD, and He counted it to him as righteousness.”

Then, his wife, Sarai (also called Sarah), comes to him, and reminds him that he doesn’t have any children yet…and that she is not getting any younger. She then gives her servant girl as a wife to him (back then, this was a common pagan practice…however, it wasn’t God’s way), so that he could at least have a child somehow, even if it wasn’t through her.

Sarai’s servant girl does end up having a son, whom they name Ishmael. However, this is what God had to say about it, in Genesis 17:15-21: “And God said to Abraham, ‘As for Sarai your wife….I will bless her, and moreover, I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall become nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.’ Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed and said to himself, ‘Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?’ And Abraham said to God, ‘Oh that Ishmael might live before you!’ God said, ‘No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him. As for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold, I have blessed him and will make him fruitful and multiply him greatly. He shall father twelve princes, and I will make him into a great nation. But I will establish my covenant with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this time next year.’”

And, just as God said, Sarah DID have a son! And he is the one who God used as one of the direct fathers of the nation of Israel. Now, it is very interesting to know what ended up happening to Ishmael…and who he ended up fathering. Most of Ishmael’s descendants ended up becoming the Arab nations…which have been a thorn in the side of Israel (as well as other nations) ever since. This is exactly the kind of thing that happens when we try to come up with our own, “better” plans, when we don’t feel like waiting on God’ s plans. Sure, He may allow them to take place, and even to “prosper”…but just think at what peace Israel would have had without the descendants of Ishmael surrounding them and continually making war against them! And, in the end, God still brings His own plans to pass. He still kept His promise to give Abraham a son through Sarah…even though it was years after Ishmael was born. He didn’t use Ishmael to bring forth the nation of Israel at all…even though it seemed like a “good idea” at the time. Waiting on God’s plans will always bring the greatest blessing, and without all of the “aftermath” mess that almost always comes attached to our own plans.

God knows what is best. He can see a much bigger picture than we can…and He is not only concerned about getting us where we need to be; He is also even more concerned about our hearts, and the lessons we need to learn along the way. His plans bring forth not only the best short-term blessing, but they bear lasting fruit in our hearts and lives! (“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” James 1:2-5)

When we cling to Him in faith, and press forward persistently in prayer, it is not only NOT a “bother” to God, but it shows Him that we really believe what He says, and we trust Him! In fact, when we let fear into our minds, it not only is telling God that we don’t trust Him and that He isn’t powerful enough or big enough to rescue us and to meet our needs, but fear is a playground for the devil. When we let go of our trust in God, is is like giving the devil a free pass at filling our minds with all of the lies he wants to. Trust in God requires holding onto the promises of God and His goodness. When we don’t trust God, it’s telling the devil that we really aren’t holding onto anything, and we aren’t sure what we should think, which makes us an easy target. When we don’t know what to think, the devil is all too glad to give us “suggestions”. The devil will use that open door to speak all kinds of hurtful things into our hearts about God and even about others! He will use it to destroy our peace, and to cause our hearts to be in turmoil and dread. He uses it to try to push us to the point of suspicion of God, and even thinking that God is purposefully being mean to us! If we could simply see what God sees, we would see that there is no need to fear at all – not even a little bit, and we could see that God’s plans are at work even before we can see the answers! (Isaiah 65:24, “Before they call I will answer; while they are yet speaking I will hear.”) These are the sort of things that we must hold onto in the midst of the testing of our faith!  And, as Genesis 15:6 said, our faith and trust in the Lord is even counted to us as righteousness – meaning, that even though we have to daily cry out to God for His strength to fill us so that we can even keep holding on to him in faith in the trying circumstances that surround us, He still looks at that tiny mustard-seed of faith as something we did right (even though it’s only because of His strength that we could ever do it!), and it is a delight to His heart! It’s a mystery and a blessing. Our God is so gentle and gracious to us weak, frail humans! Any little effort we make toward Him and toward trusting Him, He rewards, and is blessed by it! It’s so amazing! He is so humble.