A Baby is the Door

 

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Merry Christmas.

by Stephanie H.

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

Why So EXTREME??

 

You may be a regular visitor here, or, this may be your first time. Perhaps you stumbled across our website by accident…and you’ve never even read the book that started everything (if not…I highly recommend grabbing a copy HERE, because it will explain a LOT), and maybe you’ve been just scrolling through our posts thinking, “Wow. Some of this stuff seems kind of extreme! Why would they do all this? I know lots of people who aren’t this extreme, and they are still Christians!”

Yes, it’s true. You can call yourself a Christian, and still live a mediocre life…if that’s what you want. You can just get by with doing good stuff, and helping people, and going to church on Sundays — not doing anything TOO extreme, or unusual. No one will think anything of it. And you won’t encounter much resistance from friends or family (everyone loves “nice” people, who don’t make them feel…“uncomfortable”), or the devil (he certainly is glad when you don’t do anything too extreme, and are content to live in mediocrity).

But what about when you stand before the throne of the Lord, and there are hundreds of men and women who have given up *everything* for the Lord — houses, families, countries, health, alone time, security, finances….??

What about when you stand next to those who have lived with reckless faith — plowing forward in service to the Lord, even when all looked bleak and crazy to all who looked on. Those who have been tortured, beaten, and hated for the sake of Christ. Hebrews 11 is an excellent chapter to read, to cause us to think soberly about the cost of following Christ. As are the biographies of many men and women of God (you can find our recommendations HERE).

Hebrews 12:1-2 says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”

I go more into depth about these things in my book, “Unshakable”, especially the chapter called, “Why I Have Given up the World”, so I’m not going to get TOO detailed here…because I give quite a lot to chew on in my book, if you’re interested in digging more into the “whys”. But to sum it all up, I would have to say that the verse above from Hebrews is the BIG “why”.

It is because the “cloud of witnesses” (aka: the great men and women of faith) has gone before us, and their blood has paved the way for our salvation — can we take their blood sacrifices so lightly?? Can we honestly look at the lives they lived – in starvation, torture, imprisonment, and death – and say, “I’m a Christian too!” as we grumble about getting out of bed for church in the morning, or can’t be bothered to make the time to spend with Jesus each day just for one measly little hour?

It is because Jesus left everything for us, and has set us a high standard of purity and holiness.

And it is for the JOY that is set before us! The JOY of an unbreakable friendship with Jesus, when everything else in this world so easily (and frequently) crumbles away. The JOY of true FREEDOM from sin and the weight of death. The JOY of eternity with Jesus, where there will no longer be striving, or fear, or heartbreak, or death, or sin, or the devil!

AND…even more — we can rejoice as we lay down our earthly lives for Jesus, because we know that we are bringing our Bridegroom the JOY that HE endured the Cross for, on our behalf: the joy of having a bride who truly loves Him more than anything this world can offer.

 

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….

Spring Cleaning the Heart

 

Spring Cleaning

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

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

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.

Mourning Turned to DANCING!!

Teenage model girl in white dress running on the spring field

Article By: A Fellow Broken Girl

 

“Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, and come along.” Song of Solomon 2:10

Ouch. That hurts. But do I tell anyone? No. I stuff it. I hide it away from the world because no one needs to know that I am weak or fragile. Ugh! They went to the mall without me again? Didn’t it ever cross their minds that I might want to go too? Not that I’ve given them any reason to think that I might want to go with them. They don’t like me anyway…cuz I’m weird. And they don’t understand me. They don’t even try to understand me cuz I don’t fit into their perfect idea of what a girl should be like. I’m not like those girls. I’m not pretty. I’m not bubbly. I’m not into make-up, shoes, shopping, boys, or chick flicks. And I don’t want to be. That stuff is dumb. Why would anyone want to do that stuff anyway? Fine, they can go and have fun. I don’t really want to hang out with them. They’re just girls.

 

I was seventeen years old, and I was as much of a tomboy as a girl could get, chasing after adventure and rough-and-tumble playground sports, not boys, and longing for a friend, not a romantic relationship. To be honest, I never really put much thought into why I was the way I was, I just was. I hated being a girl and did everything in my power to be as un-girly as possible. And that was my life. Pink is gross. Jeans should have straight legs, not flared bottoms and tops should be t-shirts or hoodies. Hair should be as short as possible without actually buzzing it all off. If it happens to be a while between haircuts and your hair gets in the way, pull it up into a messy bun to get rid of it. Or dye it blue. Don’t bother with “nice” looking clothes; they’re uncomfortable and never fit right anyway. You have to be polite because the Bible says so, but whatever you do, don’t let on that you are compassionate or caring. That would show weakness or allude to the fact that you actually do have basic female emotions. And whatever happens: do not cry in public.

I am a broken girl. Or at least I was. I have been through one of the hardest forms of pain that a girl could ever go through. Only I didn’t know it. I would just go about life being me. Or at least being the me that I had created me to be. But God was going to bring me through a roller coaster ride of a healing process that would cause me to become the me that He had created me to be: a beautiful representation of Himself to show the world that He knows. He knows. And that it is by His wounds we are healed (1 Peter 2:24).

One day when I was six years old a girl in my first grade class told me she didn’t recognize me that morning when I first walked into our classroom. I was sporting my new haircut, so proud that I had been brave at the hair salon. The night before was my first time going for a haircut. My mom let me have it done however I wanted. And I had wanted it as short as possible. The girl in my class told me that at first when she saw me, she thought I was a new boy that was starting at the school.

Every girl , no matter their age, wants to be called pretty and cute. It’s natural for us girls, so her innocent, childish remark cut into my heart just like the hair dresser’s sharpened scissors had cut off my hair, only in a strange way it almost felt good. It was a pain that subconsciously expressed what was buried inside my heart, deep down somewhere, in the places of my heart I was not allowed to talk about. The place that was forgotten and calloused over. The place that was only confusion and shame. The place that one time, a while back, had made Mommy cry and Daddy speechless. The place that I never wanted anyone to know about, not even myself. This incident with the girl at my school was only one of many that would cause me much embarrassment, pain, callousness of heart, and bitterness over my lifetime. But it felt good because with every biting word or rejecting comment, I had accomplished my secret, subconscious goal: to not be a girl anymore.

This was the first of many times where people would question my gender or comment about it. Many times people would mistake me for a boy and I liked it that way. Yes, it was somewhat embarrassing but I learned to let the embarrassment roll off each time and smile inwardly, enjoying the feeling of being in control of what people thought of me and letting it cut into my heart a little bit deeper.

This wasn’t the only form of pain I experienced over the years. When you live in a way that is different, people do not usually make an effort to be close to you. People just didn’t understand me, and I had developed a hard attitude toward other people from constantly feeling the little snips at my heart.This made my life pretty lonely. Most days I couldn’t understand why people didn’t want to hang out with me or be my friend, but I think after a while I started to get the hint, and I took it for granted that I would never have any friends and that the world just hated me. So what did I do when the pain of people’s rejection or misunderstanding hurt in a way that didn’t feel good? I tried other ways to hurt myself. Not cutting or anything obvious like that, but by finding ways to bruise places that no one else could see, or scratch myself with sharp objects in places that no one but me would know about. I knew it was wrong, but somehow I always found myself thinking clearly about it only after the damage was done. Then I lived with the guilt and fear of other people finding out.

 

Powerful Low Key Shot of a Young Child Looking Sad

 

After I turned eighteen I started having nightmares and daydreams that were so scary and weird I couldn’t figure out where they were coming from. I had started really pressing into the Lord and seriously committing my life to Him as His servant. I was willing to go where He wanted me to go and give up whatever He put His finger on. I was spending time with Him faithfully every day and learning to make Him my first and only love. He was my best friend and my life was finally starting to have meaning. I felt His real love for me like no one else could love me.

That’s why it was so random to have these visions or dreams or whatever they were. I knew that the devil always attacks God’s children when they start getting close to Him because he wants to try and get them to slacken their pace in seeking the Lord, but this didn’t really seem like that. It wasn’t like the normal way that the devil presses in… it was so… so real. For some reason, the unsettling pictures that would come into my mind, flashing through so fast I couldn’t keep track of them or rolling through my mind like a fuzzy old movie, were very personal. They affected me somehow. It was as if the things that would pop into my head were part of another world, another life. It was as if I had lived those things I saw through some other person’s body. And it scared me. What was wrong with me?

When I had these dreams I would startle awake in the night or shake in my sleep and wake up crying. I started having these every day and every night and I needed help. I seriously needed help.

I set aside some time alone and I cried out to Jesus. If anyone could show me what to do, it was Him. It wasn’t long before He made it clear that the things I was seeing were flashbacks. Memories of a traumatic time in my life that I had subconsciously blotted out so that I would not have to feel the pain or the shame. Memories I had hidden as a secret deep in my heart and never talked about it. It was like a splinter wound that had healed over on the outside but was still embedded under the skin.

I was having flashbacks from a time in my childhood when I had been sexually abused on several occasions by the same person. I had actually lived through the horrible things I saw in my dreams. Tears streamed down my face as years of numbness began to wear off. The callous on my heart had started to soften the moment I started to diligently make time with Jesus in my daily schedule, and day by day He had been bringing me slowly and gently to this point in my life because He always does a thorough work in the heart of the one who has fully given herself to Him. He doesn’t leave anything undone. His work is always complete. And now it was time for Him to bring up and dust off that painful subject which I had chosen to bury in the past.

For the first time in years I allowed myself to remember. And I was broken. So very wounded. I sought the Lord with all my strength and refused to allow myself to not feel it. I knew that it was time to allow the Lord to dig up the splinter from the past and begin to clean out the wound, even if it was painful. I knew that I could trust Him to hold my hand while I let Him do the painful work.

I took time to pray at intervals throughout a period of forty-eight hours. All I wanted was comfort and relief for my raw and throbbing heart wound. During this time, Jesus showed me that the lifestyle I had been living, wanting to be as unfeminine as possible, was not just a personality bent. It was a self-protective armor I had put on in order to keep what happened from happening again. It was my way of becoming as unattractive as possible in hopes that that would keep the world of men from wanting to harm me for their own pleasure. Instead, in choosing to live in this supposedly “safe” lifestyle, I had brought more pain into my life.

The first thing I needed to do was talk about it all with someone. I needed to get it all out and let someone into the fortress of my heart. I grabbed my two best friends, both older than me and exceptionally godly people who had been encouraging me in my walk with the Lord for several years. I knew I could trust them to help me through this intense struggle.

We sat down together in a private place and I shared with them about all the awful memories that had been resurfacing. It was the first time in my life that I had told anyone what had happened to me. In all honesty it was the first time in my life that I had allowed myself to think about what had happened to me. We talked, cried, and prayed for a long time for the Lord to remove all of the pain and bitterness that had developed in my heart. I tried to be as open with them, with God, and with myself as possible. I just knew that it was time to be done with the pain of all those years. It was time to move on.

After I was able to share and pour out my heart before my friends and before Jesus, I felt a sparkle of sweet joy flickering to life inside of my heart. I felt a lightness and purity that I had never felt before. I felt like I was going to float up to the ceiling and I burst into laughter! My friends were laughing, too, and we were all in tears. I can’t even explain adequately the feelings that were overwhelming me, but that day my heart felt the salve of Jesus’ love being applied and the removal of the chains of bondage that had been holding me a prisoner to myself. The world became beautiful that night, not because it hadn’t been beautiful before, but because Jesus had made me beautiful in His sight.

While we were praying God showed me that I needed to forgive the person who had hurt me. I asked that Jesus would help me to do this immensely difficult thing. Forgiving is something that usually takes broken girls a long time to get around to, but God wanted to do a thorough work in my heart that very night, so He and my two dear friends, coached me through a prayer of forgiveness and victory over the power of the devil in my life. I indeed had been in a bondage to the devil for all of those years without even knowing it, and it was time to be free. Free. Free from bondage. Free from the cage in which I had enclosed myself for protection. Free from all of the terrible memories. Free from the horrible guilt, shame, and loneliness. Free to be who God created me to be. A girl. A woman. A beautiful representation of His love, compassion, humility, and gentleness.

 

Woman holding white flowers

God would then bring me day by day through a dramatic time of life changing healing where He would peel off more and more layers of the old me and replace them with the brand new, clean, whole, and pure me. And now several years later, girls who meet me can’t even see a trace of what I used to be like. I’ve even had girls who didn’t know my story comment on how I’m “such a girl”. God has done such an amazing, healing work in me. I am now a joy-filled, ticklish, pink-loving, scarf-wearing, sparkly-eye-shadow-applying, beautiful-in-Jesus’-eyes wife of an amazing godly husband.

One of the sweetest parts of my story is how God was working out His plan for me to marry one of those two friends who had been helping me through the healing process. My tender husband knows my deepest secret and has been there by my side through all of the changes, the praying, the sobbing, the remaining flashbacks, and the forgiving. He is my best friend and he is constantly encouraging me in my new life.

I praise You, Lord, for You have truly done an impossible thing in my life. You have turned my mourning into dancing and girded me with gladness. How could I ever repay what You have done for me except by giving myself to You thoroughly and wholeheartedly. I desire to show this broken world that Jesus is bigger than the painful things we have gone through and He knows.

ART That Captures the Heart of God!

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There are some who seem to be particularly gifted with the ability to mull over numbers and facts for hours on end.  There are those who are gifted to be teachers, nurses, and secretaries — those who keep the world going ‘round.  And then…there are some, like myself, who are captured by beauty and remain simply unable to look away.  Beauty tugs at our heart strings and causes us to forget the realities of this world and the things that are needed to make it run, as we find ourselves lost in the pursuit of capturing it.  Some of us use paintbrushes, and some – pencil, charcoal, ink.  Some delight in using the modern technology within our cameras to capture beauty…and some are content to sit with only their imagination as the limit of what they can capture.

I’ve always liked to think of this pursuit as being especially close to the heart of God, the Artist Who paints every sunset in the sky, and captures every sparkle on the water just so.  God has put into us a little of His own Being…and that, I believe, is where we get our love of creating beauty!

However, the devil never rests at his job of corrupting every good gift from God…and in this current society I see it more starkly displayed than perhaps has ever been seen on earth before.  Skulls are entwined with flowers and bows on every hoodie in the mall.  Sculptures in every park look like chunks of metal that fell off a spaceship and got embedded into the ground.  Paintings consist of random splatters and drips…or people who are garishly disproportionate…or inappropriate.  And so many dark, depressing works of “art” that just make your skin crawl – many of which include hellish faces leering at you as you walk by.  That’s what happens when God isn’t welcome.  All true creativity, sweetness, and beauty is lost.  Without instruction from the Master Designer, we can only create empty forms of beautiful things…and they will be lacking all of the vibrancy and life that made them worthy of capturing in the first place!  And every “art gathering” is simply an expo of New Age, magic, death, pride, lust, and all KINDS of terrible things.  NOT exactly what our hearts are longing for.

So, how can we make the best use of our art?  How can our art most glorify the Creator of art — the King of the Universe?  How can our art stand out like a beacon of light in the midst of the dark, dank “art cave” of this world?  How can we truly capture God’s heart in our art?

1.) Capture innocence.

The sparkle in a child’s eyes.  The frisking of a puppy.  The gentleness of the world cloaked in snowy wonder.  The delicate curve of a flower’s soft petals.  These things are all full of an innocence that the world overlooks, and has forgotten how to appreciate.  The world needs bold colors, elements that grate against each-other in an irritating way, and disturbing images to capture our media-deadened minds, so that we’ll take notice.  But God’s ways take us back to child-like innocence and purity…and the ability to take delight in the gentle and sweet things that He has created; these are the sort of things that come from His heart!  Everything He does blends perfectly, and He always highlights just the right parts to cause our eyes to marvel at the beauty.  He does not create anything ugly, or perverse, or even irritating to our eyes and our sense of proportion and beauty.  If you are going to make art, imitate our good God in this: capture innocence.

2.) Capture light, virtue, and beauty.

God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all [1 John 1:5].  The moody, depressing paintings of the world ooze with darkness and despair.  They exalt perverseness and immorality, and the twisting of beauty into something that echoes the chaos of their hearts.  This is not art to be praised!  This is simply a window into the hearts of men without God, no matter how fine the brush-strokes, or how perfect the hues.  These “artists” are to be pitied, and prayed for…but not emulated!  No!  Do not desire to be like these, however popular or praised they may be.  To capture God’s heart, and draw hearts to Him through our art, it must be bursting with light, celebrating virtue, and full of the delight of true beauty – which can be found in all the things that God has created.  In order to truly capture God’s heart in these things, though, we must actually have a close friendship with Him ourselves, first and foremost.  In order to see what He sees, and capture things in just the right way that brings glory to Him and causes people’s hearts to rejoice, we must truly KNOW Him, and be close to His heart.  Anyone who does not know God, cannot capture things through His eyes, and cannot see the beauty that only His children can see.

And, one tip I have been coming to understand about what sets a good painting or drawing or photo apart from the rest is always significantly about the lighting in the picture.  So, I recommend, if you want to be able to capture the beauty you see, or the sweet things in your imagination — study light.  Study the way it dances through the trees, and sparkles on the ripples in the river, and gives depth to scenes that would otherwise be flat and boring.  Note how it causes a face to glow, and how it gives petals an inner radiance.

3.) Capture truth.

While drawing fantasy worlds may be fun, or relaxing, it is most likely never going to save a soul.  Focus, instead, on what is true.  And…what is truth?  God is truth.  Salvation is truth.  Repentance and forgiveness are truth.  Fighting to hold onto salvation is truth.  Our heavenly reward is truth.  Though this kind of art may not be for everyone, I have found some of the most compelling art I have ever seen to be that which captures the spiritual truths that give us a heavenly window into spiritual realities that we can’t always see, but know to be true.  I think an excellent example of this is Ron DiCianni.  His paintings are all beautiful depictions of a Christian’s life, and glimpses into heaven.  I think perhaps my favorite is one he calls, “Safely Home”, which depicts a Christian martyr just arriving in the presence of the Lord, finally free of his chains, and held in His Savior’s comforting embrace, as an angel waits to give him his new and shining white robes.  So much emotion is captured in this one scene, and it is one that causes your own heart to long to be faithful unto death — to “Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown”. [Revelation 3:11].

Sun rays passing through an open door

4.) Capture Heaven.

Jesus dwells in Heaven.  It is a very real world, full of light and beauty and free from the effects of sin and death.  If you can give people a glimpse into heaven with your art, not only will their hearts be compelled to rejoice, but there will be an inner longing that is awakened in their hearts that may very well lead them to the Savior Himself.  I can’t necessarily dictate to you all that this means for your art, and it very much ties in with my previous points…but if you prayerfully make this your goal in all that you do, you will find your art take on a new depth and life.

5.) Selfless art.

Perhaps the highest call for art is, in fact, using it to bless others.  You may think that it’s not worth it to spend days or weeks on a painting just to give it away to one person.  But the act of giving something so full of care and effort away for the eyes of the receiver alone is an act of the greatest humility and selflessness.  Not expecting any praise or acclaim or gain, but just giving to make someone smile.  I have personally found that I prefer this kind of art over every other; just seeking the Lord for His ideas for a picture for someone, often with a verse to go with it, that will really minister to their hearts in exactly the ways that HE knows they need.  When I seek God for His thoughts and ideas, and His help to draw/paint/take pictures that are sweet and full of His love, I am never disappointed at the way He uses it to speak to the hearts of the receivers in a special way — and that is the greatest reward!

6.) Surrendered art.

Here I come to a most difficult point, but in it is found the greatest reward!  If you think there is any chance for God to use your life to reach other with the gospel; if you want to serve God, and see lives changed…don’t look to your art, and don’t hold too fast to your own notions of what you want to do with your “gift”.  There are so many thousands and millions of desperately hurting, lost, and dying people in this world who need Jesus, that if there is any potential that God could use you in the harvest, there really can’t be any time wasted on seeking after art for art’s sake.  One painting, one drawing can take days and weeks to complete.  And there just isn’t any way to justify the loss of that much time. Jesus is returning soon, and every moment we spend in seeking our own interests is a moment that we aren’t reaching out and rescuing another soul for eternity.  We can try to justify our art as a “tool” for the gospel, and as long as it truly is, I think God will bless it.  But how much of it is simply seeking our own idea of what we want to do, and what we find delightful and “fun”?  Honestly, there is just no time to waste on art that doesn’t directly call people to seek the Lord.  God has really made this clear to my heart.  I had thought that I might like to go to art school as I was considering after-highschool options…and even after I decided against college, I still held onto art as something that I desired to excel in and be known for.  But then, God did something special.  He called me to serve Him full-time instead, both in directly sharing Him with people all across North America, and in simply making the best use of my time, and making sure that everything I use my time for is with the goal of expanding the Kingdom of God.  He has asked me to lay aside my desires to build my life on art, and instead, to desire to seek and save the lost.  It is interesting, because sometimes He will give me something to do that involves art…whether illustrating a book, or doing photography for someone, or making a drawing or painting to bless someone with…and instead of it being me seeking my own pleasure or acclaim, it is just a part of my obedience to Him and His call on my life, and is filled with almost the same joy as leading a soul to Him directly.  Sacrificing our art for the sake of seeing lost souls come to salvation is a sacrifice that is well-pleasing to God, and He will cause it to be like fertilizer for the seeds that are planted in people’s lives to spring up and flourish!

Woman holding white flowers

One encouraging example of this area of surrender, one that encouraged me to release my grip on “my art”, is Rosalind Goforth, who, with her husband Jonathan, was a missionary to China starting in the late 1800’s.  God granted them the answer of their prayer of reaching 10,000 souls with the gospel.  Rosalind was a talented young artist from a well-to-do, prominent family in England.  Her days from youngest childhood were largely spent beside her artist father’s easel, who strongly desired that she would be an artist, and saw in her a natural talent.  At age 12, after hearing a preacher speak at a revival meeting, Rosalind gave her heart to the Lord.  She said, “From that time, and increasingly as the years passed, there seemed to be two elements contesting within me, one for art, the other — an intense longing to serve the Master to whom I had given myself.”  Rosalind did, in fact, end up graduating from the Toronto School of Art, and was preparing to leave for London to complete her studies in art abroad when God changed her course. In Rosalind’s own words,

“The autumn of 1882 found us again settled in Toronto, when I at once entered the Art School.  The period of three years that followed was a period of great unrest in my life.  While I loved my art, for it was born in me, yet there was always the inner, secret longing for definite Christian service.  I came to pray daily that a door might be opened for such.

Mother and my eldest brother, Fred, had given Father their solemn promise that I would be sent to England for training in the Kensington School of Art.  In view of this promise, Mother’s later action may be better and more sympathetically understood.

Little did I dream as we entered the year 1885 how completely the course of my life, as then planned, was to change before the year ran out.  Graduation from the art school was to come in May, when a coveted gold medal was to be presented by the Governor General of Canada.  One pupil, Miss X, and myself were so far ahead of the others in the class, it was a foregone conclusion that one of us would get the medal.  There is little doubt had I won it I would have been so elated the artist career would certainly have followed.  But GOD planned otherwise.

Early in February, I was taken ill with inflammatory rheumatism.  This was the third serious attack.  For days my life hung in the balance.  I was only half conscious and unable to move or be moved.  Every joint in my body seemed on fire.  Some weeks before, I had memorized the hymn, the first verse of which is:

How sweet the name of JESUS sounds

In a believer’s ear;

It soothes his sorrows, heals his wounds,

And drives away his fears.

Words fail me to describe what that hymn meant to me through those days of agony.  The words, fresh in mind, came without effort.  While at times the whole six verses would come as soothing balm, it was the message of the first two lines of the last verse that brought to me the irresistible call to service. The words,

I would thy boundless love proclaim

With every fleeting breath

seemed burned into my soul.  I came out of that valley of suffering determined to pry myself loose from the things that were forcing me to follow other than the path of Christian service.

It was then I began to pray that if the Lord wanted me to live the married life, he would lead to me one wholly given up to Him and to His service.  I wanted no other.

Graduation time came, and while I was able to attend, I, of course, failed to win the gold medal, which was awarded to Miss X.

Preparations had begun for my going to England, for I had told no one, not even my mother, of my spiritual struggles and secret hopes, believing it was better to leave the Lord to work out all in His own way.  Then, in a truly marvelous way, He brought into my life just what I had asked for, a man wholly yielded to GOD and His service.”

That, of course, being Mr. Jonathan Goforth.  And Rosalind tells the remarkable story in his biography and a few other of her written works.

“On looking back upon that time, the greatest wonder seems to be the rapidity with which events took place: the meeting with Mr. O’Brien at St. Peter’s; a few days later his invitation to the workers’ meeting of the Toronto Mission Union; the introduction of ‘Jonathan Goforth, our city missionary’; and a few days later the never-to-be-forgotten incident of examining the worn Bible.  At that meeting, though the first I had attended, my name was included in the committee appointed to find a place and open a branch mission in the east end slums.  Mr. Henry O’Brien was chairman, while Jonathan Goforth was also included on the committee.  Thus we were coworkers from the beginning.

The two years given to work in the East End slums, was of the greatest possible value in gaining experience which gave me a realization of my own personal responsibility towards my unsaved sisters.   Of course, by this time, art had practically dropped out of my life, and in its place had come a deep desire to be a worthy life-partner of one so wholly yielded to his Divine Master, as I knew Jonathan Goforth to be.

FMBpainting3
A painting by Rosalind’s brother, Fred, showing the level of talent she gave up to serve the Lord.

To my great surprise, Mother’s reaction to this slum work was most sympathetic.  For weeks all went well. Then one day, as if uneasy, she expressed a wish for Mr. Goforth to come for supper Sunday evening.  He came and Mother liked him; but that evening when I returned from the mission, Mother looked straight at me in a strange way and said, ‘Rosie, was the moon out tonight?’  Everyone in the room had his eyes on me, and my embarrassment was more than I could bear, for I had to acknowledge, as I fled, that I did not know! (Jonathan Goforth had accompanied me home.)

The next morning, Mother came to me and said sternly, ‘This slum work is to cease at once.  You are to get ready and leave for England without delay!’  I replied quietly, but firmly, ‘Mother, it is too late; I promised Jonathan Goforth last night to be his wife and to go to China!’

Poor Mother! She almost fainted! It is not necessary to give the details of the week that followed.  Suffice it to say, Mother gave me the choice of obeying Father’s dying wish or leaving home. For six weeks, I stayed with a brother in a distant city.

Then came a letter from my sister pleading with me to return, as Mother was sobbing day and night and seemed failing fast.

On reaching home, I was shocked at the change in Mother.  She would not speak to me and seemed broken-hearted.  My distress was now very great.  Could it be GOD’s will for me to break my Mother’s heart?  At last, one day, as I listened to her pacing her bedroom floor, weeping,  I could stand the strain no longer and determined to find out GOD’s will so plainly I could make no mistake.  Going down to the parlor, where the large family Bible rested on a small davenport or desk, I stood for a moment crying to the Lord for some word of light. Then I opened the Bible at random, and the first words my eyes lit on were:

“Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and

bring forth fruit” (John 15:16).

I knew at once GOD was speaking His will to me through these words, and in an instant the crushing burden was gone.  Running to Mother’s room, I begged her to hear what I had to say.

Unwillingly, she unlocked the door and stood while I told her of my prayer and answer.  For a moment only she hesitated, then with a cry I could never forget, she threw her arms about me, saying, ‘O my child, I can fight against you, but I dare not fight against GOD.’   From that moment till her death eighteen months later, Mother’s heart was entirely with me in the life I had chosen.”

So, as you can see from this example, it may be a difficult thing to surrender your art to the Lord – and there may even be those who can’t understand why you would set aside such “talent”.  But I know that Jesus has said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.  For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?  For what can a man give in return for his soul?”  (Mark 8:34-37 ESV)  And I hold fast to this hope and assurance — that anything I give up in this life will be my greatest gain in the life to come.

So whether in taking up your art as a tool to spread the love of Christ, or laying it down as a sweet offering before the throne of God, do it all for the glory of God.

And may I also give a fair warning to those of you who are considering going to college for art?  Be very careful and prayer-full.  You might actually do better to pray and study under God’s guidance – with Him as your teacher, than to shell out  tens of thousands of dollars to go to a school where they can’t actually help you.  Many of the art programs are so yucky, and with many teachers so full of the darkness of the world, that you couldn’t actually learn to make beautiful art there.  They cannot teach what they do not know.  Additionally, most art programs today are full of immense wickedness, and sin is celebrated and encouraged!  It is a sad reality, but you don’t have to be discouraged, because God is the best teacher in these things that you could ever have!  Seek Him, and you will not be disappointed!

Bridal Preparation (for the King of Kings)

young beautiful bride with wedding bouquet on the grass
“Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.” It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.” [Rev. 19:7, 8]
All over Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, magazines –even helpful little old ladies– rings out the advice of what every bride (or anyone who wants to be married) should do before the awaited day. Eat well. Exercise to drop those pounds you have recently noticed. Do-It-Yourself to save money. Don’t choose to Do-It-Yourself–let everyone else do it. Make sure you have monogrammed napkins. What side will your boutonniere go on? Will you wear shoes? Who doesn’t wear shoes?! Have you thought about your children’s college fund? Does he have any brothers for your “spinster” sister? And on they roll. For every bride, the details never end — while for the single girls, those are the magical details which are endlessly day-dreamed about.
But even now, (yes for you who are single too) another Groom eagerly awaits His Father’s word to come and receive you–His Bride. Jesus Christ Himself is your Beloved Groom. Just as a man anticipates the day when he can finally receive you as his wife, Jesus is waiting for the day when He may finally take you into His Kingdom. The day you committed your life to the Lord, you entered into an engagement. You do belong to Christ. Did you know that although He has given His desire on certain things for your outward appearance–He has also allowed us to know what the character, heart and mind of His Love –His beloved Bride–should be.
So what does this Bride actually look like? Let’s take care of the “outside” first in one simple point:

 

1) She is Modest
Don’t skip this one, even if you have heard this “a million times”! It is the truth.  “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body,” and in what you wear (1 Corinthians 6:19-20 ). I am going to shoot straight with you –modesty is important. It is not merely a length of skirt or a certain way to do your hair, but a heart attitude. It is an overflow of what is going on inside your heart. To be “modest” merely means that you do not draw unnecessary attention to yourself. In other words, shirts, skirts, tank tops, shorts, skinny jeans, bohemian pants, leggings, jeggings, (the list scrolls) are to not distract people by mere physical appearances. When we are not walking close with the Lord, the more prone we are to wanting people to see us (and approve of us) not HIM. However, the closer we walk with the Lord, the more we do not want anything we do or wear to distract people from Him! I don’t know about you, but I want people to be redirected to God by what I do, not distracted by what I wear and applaud my physical form.

What It Looks Like: First off, ask the Lord to grant you the humility to dress in a way that honors Him. Imagine Jesus looking at you and saying “Oh! Look at my daughter! Isn’t she lovely? Not only does she value my thoughts on her outward apparel, but even more her heart is for me!” Pretty sweet, huh? 🙂 Secondly, take a moment to think about what your wardrobe looks like. Is there anything right off the top of your head that would be distracting to the person behind you in church (really short “skater” dresses, shirts that show a little bit of your stomach)? When you bend over, do your pants ride low or shirt neckline show unnecessary skin? Camisoles easily fix neckline issues, plus a splash of color looks great underneath that cute shirt. There are also some really neat Skirt Extenders (a slip with shabby chic lace) that are AWESOME and actually make wearing those cute little dresses possible, but also are not distracting. Remember, if you are dressing with a certain person in mind, make sure the person you have in mind is the person you have committed to–to Jesus.

[If you need more advice or even some suggestions about how to piece together a great, but also God-honoring wardrobe, join the forums on our new website to ask the Unshakable Girl staff and other girls just like you!]

 

2 ) She is Willfully Pure
What on earth does THAT mean? The word “pure” you’ve heard–possibly quite frequently– but…willfully? It is simple. Despite what has happened to you in your past, physically or emotionally, you want to be different. You want to be pure. Purity is not overrated, nor is it unattractive! What would you think if you saw a girl walking beside her fiance, but double taking at every shirtless ad, every attractive guy, snickering over innapropriate inuendos, sighing wistfully over steamy fiction novels? You would think that maybe her heart was not actually won or that she actually did not give her whole heart to her groom. “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5:25-27). Purity is not only a physical form, but also a willing decision to not have a mind consumed with lust (girls, this is an issue for us, too), dirty jokes or even really intimate scenes in books.

What It Looks Like: Jesus knows our past. He knows what we have done, or what has happened to us. Did you know that despite the fact that you may not be “physically” pure in the world’s eyes, the Lord can make you pure again? When we ask Him, He begins to craft into us a thirst for the innocent things–the simple, sweet things. But we have to be ready to let go of the things we secretly (or not so secretly) like. We can only let go by the strength of the Holy Spirit, and by spending time with the One who is completely without spot or blemish–Jesus Christ. It is crucial. We have to make time for the Lord, girls. It’s not a pretty option or a good “staged picture” for Instagram. If we want to see God, we have to be pure in heart (Matthew 5).

 

3) She is Lacking in Arrogance
Also known as humble. I have been to a lot of weddings. By “been to” I mean in, throwing showers for, baking cakes for, cleaning up after, directing, pointing, assisting, decorating, bride prepping–you name it. In doing so, I have seen a variety of attitudes as brides get dressed  in their waiting room. I have seen “I’m attractive, so of course he wants to marry me” brides, as well as the sweetest brides which glow from exquisite joy because they cannot believe the man God is allowing them to marry. They truly are still astonished at the great blessing  that God has bestowed upon them–a man that loves the Lord with his entire heart. May I just state that it is the brides which do not think much (“I’m attractive, obviously” attitude) of themselves which cause me to be continually praising the name of the Lord?

The Bride of Christ is engaged to the most humble man to ever walk the earth. Remember, “although (Jesus) existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped” and allowed Himself to live a life of great servanthood, laboring, but also demonstrating what LOVE is. If Jesus set the example of humility, would it not also be logical to assume that it is a desired trait within His beloved Bride? “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive” (Col 3:12).

What it Looks Like: By spending time with the One who is actually worthy of honor and “bragging on”, we begin to understand the truth of who we are. We are created beings–we are under the mercy, grace, protection and hand of an incredible God. When we spend time with the Lord, our lenses get cleaned on our outlook of life. We do not deserve the precious gift of a relationship with the Lord, nor the mindblowing blessing of promised hope and life after we finish our time on earth. Humility comes when we spend time with Jesus.

 

4) She is a Servant
There are a lot of beliefs and attitudes floating around in this generation. One, I am noting, is the “no woman should ever be a ‘servant’ to anyone–especially a man” attitude. “I don’t owe anything to anyone,” is right there behind it. I have been considering these points of views. May I gently venture to say that these are not godly attitudes, my dear friends? I am also aware that the root of these opinions can grow from having been truly hurt by the men in one’s life. For that, may I actually apologize for the hurt you have received? I pray that you will allow the balm of Gilead to soothe and comfort the scars you have, as well as fully restore the Joy of serving HIM. Let me continue by first telling you what servant-hood (in the context of what I am referring to) is NOT. It is NOT a ball and chain, being at the beck and call of everyone. Servant-hood, in the context of a Christian’s life, is a JOY.

Again, going into a relationship (even a friendship) with the attitude of deserving is wrong. Hear me out. Jesus HIMSELF “did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). Jesus served men AND women–day and night. He healed a woman who had been bleeding for 12 years (Luke 8), women who were sick (Matthew 8, Luke 8), and the list scrolls. He is the only person who could actually say “Why isn’t everyone doing things for me?” Serving is NOT what the world would call slavery. It is merely letting go of pride and actually wanting to do things for others in order to show the love of Christ.

What It Looks Like: It is as simple as scrubbing down bathtubs for an overwhelmed mom, making time to pray on the spot for a person in need, or even just putting off things you want to do in order to be a blessing to someone else. If we try to do things to make people happy or just because we are free, eventually we will run out of joy and eagerness to serve. To have a heart that matches your Groom–a true servant’s heart–it has to be done for the Lord. “Lord, I may not always enjoy this task, but today I am doing this to honor You, and so that others might know Your love.” Then, dear sisters, that is when serving becomes a JOY.

 

4) She is His True Friend
One of the sweetest privileges about being in a relationship is that you are able to form a friendship–not just a romantic relationship. Someone to talk with, laugh with, and just enjoy being together. Did you actually know that you can sit in the Lord’s presence without speaking and just enjoy being with Him? Jesus wants to be our friend. Did you know He loves to laugh? Did you know that He can tell you, Himself, all about the things He has made? Did you know that He knows the depths of your soul? He made you. But, like any good relationship, it takes effort and care. When He comes back to receive you, don’t you want to know Him so well that you are both laughing with elation at just finally seeing each other?!

What It Looks Like: What does a relationship look like here on earth? Spend TIME with Jesus. I cannot emphasize or italicize that enough. Learn to hear His voice. Learn about the things He has made. Stand up for Him when others put Him down. Talk to others about Him–Your Groom. Read His Book, inspired by the Holy Spirit, which is still living and active. It is your weapon against the enemy who would love nothing better than to separate you from the One who loves you so much, friend. Cherish, protect, and honor Jesus. Put the Lord’s desires above your own. “It may not be easy, but it is simple”.
That is what Jesus is looking for in His Bride. She may not be perfect, but she is spotless because of what the Lord has done for her and what she let Him do for her. She is humble, radiant with joy, eager to serve others, intentionally ignorant about dirty jokes, and she clothes herself with dignity and grace–all because she loves the One who has chosen her above all others.
Today, whether you are making plans to prepare for marriage or you are still waiting on the Lord, remember that there is a Groom who is eagerly waiting to receive you. Spend time with Him, get to know Him. Delight in Him. He is the One who calms your anxious heart, who hears every thought and desire, who fights your battles for you, and who wants to use you for His glorious name.

“In many-colored robes she is led to the king, with her virgin companions following behind her. With joy and gladness they are led along as they enter the palace of the king. “ [Psalm 45:14-15]

Written by: Anna Faith

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.