Joy Overflowing

Where does joy come from?

Something that gets whole groups of Christians spinning in circles is the question of happiness.  I have friends who get weird looks and comments from strangers in public because they’re just “too happy.”  It often comes up in many churches that Christians should be the happiest people around because of Jesus.  At the same time other Christians are finally starting to admit that they struggle with depression and anxiety in spite of living with a pasted on smile because they’ve always been told they should be happy.  It often happens that both sides get angry with each other.  Outside of the church, some believe that happy Christians really are just a facade, trying to sell their “perfect” lifestyle, while others even think that happiness can never be as real as other emotions, because real life is never that kind.

But what about joy?  Joy and happiness are often synonymous, but Noah Webster also says that joy is excitement and pleasure that comes from a confidence in something, while happiness is more a pleasure by chance.  In short, joy is often seen as being more long-lasting than happiness.

So if we often find happiness to be unattainable, how can we possibly get joy?  Joy isn’t just for happy people, or for times when things seem to be going right.  Joy isn’t just something you can force across your face, straight into your heart because you want it there.  Joy is for the depressed, the mourning, the troubled, and the broken.  If you have a concordance (or access to the internet), try reading the verses that have to do with joy.  Many of them are promises.  Here are just a few.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
~Galatians 5:22, 23

Joy is a result of the presence of the Holy Spirit, and confidence in God.  If the Holy Spirit is in us, we will grow in joy, and in the rest of these.

You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;
Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You
With the oil of joy above Your fellows.
~Psalm 45:7

The closer we grow to the Lord, the more we will see things as He sees them.  The more wickedness will break our hearts, and the more we will delight in the beauty and virtue He has created.  Joy will become like a mark of royalty, showing everyone whose child you are!

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.  And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
~James 1:2-4

We could never force it, but the presence of the Holy Spirit gives us such confidence in the love and power of God, that we can view every hardship and setback as a joy the more we abide in Him.

Perhaps you haven’t known this joy, or perhaps it all seems to be in the past.  It’s easy to write about all of these things, but how do you actually get joy?  Maybe you’ve tried doing everything everyone has told you, but the darkness always calls louder.  Jesus knows.  This is what the Lord said of the Israelites in a similar situation:

For My people have committed two evils:
They have forsaken Me,
The fountain of living waters,
To hew for themselves cisterns,
Broken cisterns
That can hold no water.
~Jeremiah 2:13

He speaks harshly because it absolutely breaks His heart to see us hurting ourselves by leaving Him.  “Living water” refers to water that flows naturally, down from the mountains or out of the ground like a spring.  The Lord is that mountain spring to our hearts.  Everything we need to be filled is always flowing from His presence.  Every thirst we have is quenched, the needs of all of the desert animals are met, trees spring up, fruit comes forth; in the midst of exhaustion, we can cool off, and it’s hard to resist splashing that refreshing joy on every tired heart we meet!

A cistern is a kind of dry well that can be dug in dry climates.  No water comes into it naturally, but buckets can be used to fill it so you might have water for later.  In this case, the cistern has a leak in it.  We can be so desperate for a drop of happiness.  We take our buckets out and try to fill our dry well with friends, adventures, food, music, clothes, television, toys, relationships, and novels.  But the water all leaks away, and we’re left again with nothing.  Sometimes we go so far as to try to fill it with drugs, bullying, violence, sex, or self-harm.  It may seem impossible to come to the fountain of joy from there, but Jesus is always listening.  Maybe you did know His joy in the past, and you think He won’t come back for you again, but nothing could be further from the truth!  The fountain has not run dry, and His mercies are new every morning!

When King David finally repented after living for months in sin, this is what he wrote:

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from Your presence
And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of Your salvation
And sustain me with a willing spirit.
~Psalm 51:10-12

The first joys of salvation can be restored.  You heart can be cleansed of every sin, and healed of every wound.  In spite of every single pain and abuse you have faced, your mourning can be turned to dancing!  It may not be something your heart knows how to want, but Jesus will come to you.  Just be willing to ask, trust Him when He tells you what to do, and flee to Him when you feel the darkness pressing in.  If you ask and believe, your confidence and joy in the Lord will be your strength!

But whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.
~John 4:14

by Stephanie H.

Trendy Grace

 

Grace.

Yes. That word.

It is trendy, it’s hip, it’s just the right blend of a pinch of reformed and dash of hipster, and when you drop it into conversations, everyone thinks you’re totally relevant and totally accepting of all those things that more “prudish” Christians look at as sinful and ungodly.

Thank goodness you know “grace”.

Or…do you?

I was sitting out in one of my favorite prayer spots not long ago, reading through Titus, when the scripture below jumped out at me. I’ve read it MANY times, and actually know it by heart just from reading it so many times. But…this time was different. This time, it was like I actually understood it…and I realize that what I was reading was such a clear contrast to the way we so commonly perceive “GRACE”. Read it yourself:

“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…” Titus 2:11-12

Um. What? Wait, wait, wait. Paul obviously missed the memo. Like…doesn’t he realize that grace means that God saved us so He overlooks our sinfulness now? Like…we’re covered by the blood of Jesus, dude. Grace.

Let’s take a step back here, and look at some important details. Why did Jesus come? “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21

Jesus came to save His people from their sins [read: He didn’t come to help us to feel better about ourselves, or to make us comfortable in our sinful passions, or to pat us on the head when we live selfishly]. In light of that, what IS the “Grace of God”?? The grace of God is that Jesus has rescued us from the power of sin and death (Romans 8:2), meaning that we no longer HAVE to sin! We have been set free from the shackles of sin so that we CAN walk in godliness, and say “NO” to sin. God has given us the power to overcome our sinful passions, and given us the freedom to live righteously!!

The first few verses of Romans 6 also reiterate these things in a very straight-forward way:  We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. ….So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. ….For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.”

Wait. “Sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace”? But…but…grace means we don’t even have to worry about sin, right? 

Ok, back to the Titus 2 verses. Go ahead, read them again all the way up there. Ok, now lets unpack the verses:

“bringing salvation for all people”

This means that God desires to see people saved. There is a common misconception that if we speak to people plainly about God’s commands, and His plan of salvation, that we are being judgmental and not having grace. So, many people feel like they have to tiptoe around those who are living in sin, fearing to speak up on the Lord’s behalf, because they don’t want to be “judgmental”, and they hope that just by “loving on” these people, they somehow will turn to the Lord on their own. Maybe they will. Maybe some have. BUT, if we are unwilling to stand up for righteousness, and live set-apart lives, and boldly proclaim the gospel ourselves…..why should they become Christians? Because, in their eyes, how are we any different from themselves, or from any other “non-Christian”. We must be willing to boldly show those who don’t know Jesus the reason our lives are different, and to give an answer for the hope that is within us! God wants people to be saved, and what kind of friends are we if we let them go on living in their sins, which we KNOW are going to lead them to destruction and ultimately eternal death and separation from God?? [1 Corinthians 15:56a, “The sting of death is sin….”]

Jude 2:23a says, “Save others by snatching them out of the fire…” — not by waving and smiling at them as they careen over the edge of the cliff.

“training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions”

“For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. ….We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning…” 1 John 5:4a,18a

Renounce. That’s a kind of intense word. We might keep the definition fuzzy in our minds as we read over it because, as long as it stays fuzzy, we don’t REALLY have to worry about doing it. If you don’t want to act on this verse, don’t read any further…because I’m about to give you the definition…and it’s not fuzzy or a vague concept.

Still reading?

Well…I warned you:

re·nounce

rəˈnouns/

verb

  • formally declare one’s abandonment of
  • refuse to recognize or abide by any longer
  • declare that one will no longer engage in or support

Now you wished you had stopped reading when I warned you, don’t you? But, unfortunately (or fortunately) for you, now you have the responsibility that comes with knowledge. God’s grace trains us how to abandon, no longer engage in, and refuse to abide by ungodliness and worldly passions.

Hebrews 10:26-27 says, “For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgement, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.”

Which brings us to:

and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age

Living according to God’s commands takes work. You don’t just stumble into a righteous life. You must fight for it daily — hourly! You must learn to recognize ungodliness and unrighteousness in your own heart and life, and come up with a plan to combat those desires and tendencies with godliness, and self-control. We will get to the place of a deeper understanding of God’s heart, and a greater discernment of those things that are commonly embraced by the world, but which are unhelpful for a Christian to engage in, or worse — those things which break God’s heart and cause Him much sorrow — when we SPEND TIME WITH JESUS each day. Just like any friendship, this is really the way we get to know God’s heart, and the way we are able to receive His power to live an overcoming life. And, even though it takes much work, it WILL bear fruit in your life, because we aren’t trying to do it on our own, and we aren’t going after the devil’s strongholds in our own strength……..and THIS, friends, is the grace of God. We CAN have victory, we CAN live new lives, we CAN receive new hearts, we CAN overcome our sinful tendencies — BECAUSE OF THE GRACE OF GOD. Because He has given us the very authority of Jesus, His Son, over the devil, and over the devil’s schemes, and all sinful temptations.

Let us take hold of this gift of grace TODAY, in the fullness of it’s power. Let us take hold of this amazing power and authority that God Himself has gifted us with as His children, and heirs with Jesus! Let us not treat so lightly this gift of grace. May we overcome by the blood of the Lamb TODAY!!!

 

How Much Do You Love Me?

I was praying in the morning a few weeks ago when the Lord interrupted me to tell me something.

“I love you.”

What shocked me was that my first thought in reply was “You do?”

I know that Jesus loves me.  Not just because I have heard it, but because I have experienced it to be true over and over and over again.  And yet, after a hard and anxious week, here I was hearing it and feeling it as a broken girl again, almost as though it were the first time I had heard it from anyone.

It can be the easiest thing in the world for me to make my faith and my service to God a job.  It is still a job I love, but I can throw myself so hard into the work that I forget that Jesus wants to spend that time with me more than anything.  I get to thinking that He’ll be closer to me if I’m working for Him, and the more I get lost in the work, the more I get to thinking that God is just doing His job too.

“Of course You love me.  You’re God; it’s your job.”
And yet partly believing that He wouldn’t want to love me if He didn’t have to do it.

It is such a relief to know that our relationship is on His terms and not mine.  During the same week, I was reading through the book of John, and went through Jesus’ wonderful prayer in chapter seventeen.  It is such a beautiful look into the depth of the heart of God.  In this read through, verse twenty-four stood out to me in particular.

Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.
~John 17:24

The Father loved the Son from the foundation of the world.  This was not just the idea of love.  It wasn’t even in the way that He loved us from the foundation of the world, because none of us were born then.  This was love between the Father and the Son that they both experienced actively from before the world was even created.  God was not forced to start loving us when we were finally created.  He is Love, and He has been loving since before time began.  What Jesus is asking in this passage is that we would be with Him so that we would be able to see how glorious it is to be loved by our Father.

We were created because God overflows with love.  He created us just so He could love even more.  My sin makes it so easy for me to believe the lie that God would leave me if He had the option.  That could not be further from the truth.  His love is never satisfied to be small.  It is infinite.

For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His.
~2 Chronicles 16:9

He is on the active lookout for another child to hold, to cherish, and to call His own.  All we have to do is receive it.  All we have to do is spend time with Jesus and give Him our hearts so that we can see what it is to be loved by the Father.  Broken hearts heal in layers.  There are times when I seem to be learning the same basic lesson that I did from the beginning, but God is patient, and His mercy is new every morning.  Every time I receive this lesson, it sinks a little deeper into my heart and heals another corner I didn’t know was broken.  No matter how deep He goes, He will never been scared away by a broken heart.

He just loves to love.

by Stephanie H.

Why Clothing?


 

Guest post by M. L. Detwiler

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nakedness only does that within the context of marriage.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Obviously. (Please understand my sarcasm…)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s simple. It really is.

“Please Weep.”

weepblog

 

As I was half asleep today, my mind began racing, filling with heart-wrenching scenes of utter depravity and hopelessness which I have observed as we have traversed the continent.

Hollow eyes, desperate faces, bodies marred by sin.

Many kids see the idols of music and film living lives of sin, and yet, with their perfect bodies, glistening hair, designer clothes…and everything their hearts could ever desire handed to them on a silver platter. And they think, “I wouldn’t mind being like that. I’d like to have that level of comfort and the ability to live in those appealing sins, without people criticizing me. And of course, being adored by everyone would be an awesome bonus too!”

But…that is not reality. Those stars are the “pets” of the corrupt men and women who are really at the top, making money off of the kids who have become America’s idols. Of course they will be pampered, and groomed, and doted upon…and the devil is all too glad to give them every earthly pleasure, as long as they lead the Nation’s children down the path to destruction with them. They are tools of the devil. Tools to get impressionable souls to turn from what is pure and good, and to set their feet instead upon the ways of sin. This is the way of the devil: he makes sin to seem attractive. He puts up a sparkling front to lure in the naive. But when the lure is swallowed, the pit of darkness opens below to engulf its victim.

The reality is, the sunken eyes and matted hair of the homeless girl we met, sleeping under a sun-frayed tarp on the sidewalk.

Reality is the man – skin and bones, and face aged by sin, who made his way to the “recreational marijuana shop” because he had nothing more to live for. The scruffy beard, and bag strapped to his bike bespoke of a man, most likely homeless, who was now in bondage to his vice, giving every last bit of money he could beg, borrow, or steal, to keep the unquenchable fire fed.

Reality is the natives, some so very young, who know little more than that liquor numbs the pain. Many of whom wander their dirty, destitute streets, with no hope for the future – in bondage to sin, and to the native spirits that are welcome there…which have no mercy upon their victims.

Sin does not beautify. It does not satisfy. It does not fulfill. It numbs, hardens, causes fear, and strips away all that was sweet, lovely, or innocent. It destroys. It cripples. It enslaves.

And as I thought of these things, there came a voice, “It is right to weep for these desolate ones. Please weep. It is fitting.”

If we are not weeping for these souls, we do not have our eyes open. We need to wake up, look around at the desolation, and cry out to God to rescue these who have been ensnared by sin’s deceitful call, and seek for ways to give them hope, and to hold them back from death.

If you think there’s nothing you can do, just look around you. Even the smallest town is filled with desolate, hopeless ones.

Ask God what He would have you do.

 

(P.S. It is not me trying to get you to cry that is the point of these thoughts. The point is, when we care enough about those around us, and when God fills us with His love and concern for them, crying over their desolation simply shows that we can see clearly, and our hearts are not hardened to the reality of what sin does to us. It shows that we have not gotten “used to” the pain around us. It shows that we are ready to be used by God to reach out to them.)

 

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Kneeling to Pray

 

 

by Stephanie H.

 

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

Attitude Is Everything

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By: Sarah Louise

So you’re absentmindedly walking down the sidewalk with your dog Maggy in tow (who doesn’t really want to be there any more than you do) and the sky starts to cloud over. You were too lazy to pull on a jacket on your way out the door, so the chilly air is too cold and the sprinkling rain is gradually starting to soak through your clothes. You kick at a rock and grumble something about why doesn’t Mom ever make your little brother take Maggy for a walk, and as the cars go by and the raindrops get bigger, you’re thinking that this is not exactly what you had in mind for your Saturday afternoon. You would rather be almost anywhere else but here. Grumble grumble grumble. Life stinks.

 

But what if you were to stop right there, turn your thoughts on Jesus, and allow Him to turn your sour mood into cheerfulness? What if you stopped dragging your feet through the puddles, picked up the pace a little bit, and looked up to Jesus through the rain with a song in your heart and a smile on your face and start to tell Him how much you appreciate the opportunity to get out of the house and get alone with Him? This would please Him so much, and it would turn a drab walk into a sweet, beautiful opportunity to be with Jesus. He may even bring someone across your path whom you could bless with a smile on a rainy day or a little bit of sunshine in a kind word or deed. But not if you let that bitter attitude get the best of you!

 

Think about this: The attitude that we have in any given moment will give others around us a glimpse either into our own selfish flesh or into the heart of Jesus.

 

“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” 

Philippians 2:3-4

 

Being female, with all of our unruly and seemingly uncontainable emotions, and added to that, all of our insecurities and selfishness, can make having a Christ-like attitude very difficult. Let’s face it. We can try all day long to be loving, selfless, and sweet, but in the end, we are still weak, broken, and full of ourselves, only looking out for our own needs or desires. There are so many different types of bad attitudes that we can fall into!

 

Our natural impulses and responses are always bent toward self-preservation. It is so much easier to just let a sassy or sarcastic remark tumble out, or to roll our eyes as a show of disdain, or manipulate people with a pouty face or a look to get what we want. We have a natural bent toward laziness, wanting everyone else to do what we are unwilling to do ourselves because it inconveniences us.

 

If you feel that none of these things apply to you, just examine your attitudes throughout the day today and pray that God will help you see sin clearly. You’ll probably be sickened to realize how often your attitude is actually very wrong, even in subtle ways!

 

On top of our own natural flesh (our sin nature) working against us, as we go about each day, we are constantly immersed in a culture that exalts self, encourages girls to be flirty and sassy, and throws away femininity as if it were a thing of the past. I’m sure many would agree, that the words “sweet,” “gentle,” “caring,” and “lovely” could never be used (in general) to describe the females of this generation, and most women have no desire to be seen as sweet, gentle, caring, or lovely because these things have gone out of style today.

 

Though it can be a fierce struggle, like taking a bull by the horns, we who belong to Jesus must allow the Lord to search our hearts and change our very natures in order that our attitudes may be conformed to His image. We must pray that God would help us to respond the way He would instead of the way we always do.

 

“A tranquil heart is life to the body,” Proverbs 14:30

 

“Pleasant words are a honeycomb,

                        Sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” Proverbs 16:24

 

“Keeping away from strife is an honor for a man,

                        But any fool will quarrel.” Proverbs 20:3

 

“Do all things without grumbling or disputing [arguing];” Philippians 2:14

 

Practically speaking, what can we do differently? Do we have to stop being female? No, of course not! We need to learn how to behave the way that God intends females to behave, allowing His Spirit to take over our words, thoughts, and actions, and stamping down our flesh so that it doesn’t have a say in how we react or respond.

 

“But let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God.” 1 Peter 3:4

 

Just think about it! We have amazing opportunities every day to shine for Jesus. You can make someone else’s day brighter and add a little sweetness to their world.

 

Try starting simple!

–       Smile! Consciously make an effort to smile throughout the day! Smile at the people you are around at the store, at school, at home, at work. Smile when you are asked to help with something.

–       Add some sunshine to someone’s day! Be cheerful! You will need a lot of help from the Lord to be cheerful for even a few minutes, but if you pray, He will help you! There are so many people who go about depressed and full of fear and worry. Don’t be like that! Jesus was not depressed or somber. He was the most cheerful person there ever was and many people were filled with hope and felt His love because He was so joyful and glad all the time! Greet people kindly as you walk down the street or through the store, and looking up instead of at the ground will make your day bright and sunny!

–       Make eye contact! When you look people in the eye it makes them feel like you really care and are interested in what they are saying. It shows them that you acknowledge them and that you want to be there talking with them.

–       Don’t join in the bad attitudes of others. When you hear or see others feeling depressed or speaking rudely about or to others, don’t join in. Don’t be rude or sassy just because you want to fit in with someone who is.

 

Another important thing to watch out for is your attitudes when you go to pray. Is your attitude toward Him complaining or whiny? Do you pray actually expecting Him to answer or do you dryly and indifferently run through your prayer list feeling as though you have accomplished your obligation to Him? Cheerfulness in prayer is part of having faith that God hears and will answer. It shows Him that you really love and trust Him! You can brighten God’s day!

 

This goes for when you are joining with other believers in prayer as well! Do you participate in prayer at Bible study or youth group or church? Do you join in with real intent and focus? Or do you quietly sit back bored and yawning wondering when it will ever be done? Or are you concentrating so hard on making your prayers sound good to the people around you that you don’t even connect with God? Remember, God is the one you are praying to for real answers. It’s not about trying to impress God by having your body present, and it’s not about impressing people with how you worded your prayer. Both of these attitudes are pride and you might as well not even be there!

 

Attitude is everything! Whether we are just going about our day or whether we’re in prayer or whatever we’re doing, whoever we’re with. Allow the Lord to show you the areas in your life where your attitude has been wrong and let Him help you to change! With His help, and a little bit of effort, your day can be full of sunshine, even on those chilly, rainy days!

A Prodigal Constraint

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by Stephanie H

My dearest, most beloved son whom I have forgiven,

Please do me the kindness of reading this letter through to its end.  Do not be afraid of the words I have written in it.  Do not be afraid of what I will think of you for having read them.  I love you, my son.  It is a fact that will never change.  You are as dear to me as a son now as you were when you were born, when you left home, and when you returned.  I welcomed you with all that I have.  Do you still not believe it?

The first days after your return, there was joy and peace over your entire face like sunshine.  What crept into you after that?  You grew quiet when I would enter the room.  I would hear you as you told your brother of the time we had spent together, but you held your tongue whenever I joined you, and refused to meet my eyes.  When I ask, you tell me everything is fine.  You made excuses then, now you only mumble.  I am not blaming you.  My dear son, you have not failed me.  I see your fear at what I might say, but how can I comfort you if you will not let me in?

You know that I found your ring back in the chest where I used to keep it.  I wish that you would keep it.  I gave it to you as a reminder of my love.  Have you forgotten?  I love you, my son.  Yes, you are my son.  That will never change.  You could not hide it when you stopped wearing the robes that I gave you.  Do you mean to prove that I have not loved you after all?  You cannot convince me that you are too much a failure that I cannot love you.  I will always love you.  If scrubbing the floor instead of eating at my table, mucking the stall instead of riding your donkey, and sleeping on the floor instead of your bed are not enough to prove your humility, will you run away from home again?  I cannot help you if you force me away.

How could I not see your earring?  Would you declare your loyalty to me as a slave when I have offered to you my heart and everything that I own?  Oh, how it grieves me!  You know as well as your brother the number of servants in my pay.  Shall I lose a son that I would gain a stable boy?  The work I taught you when you were young was so that we could be father and son together.  Every task I desire is done at the snap of my fingers, if that were what I desired.  I desire your love infinitely more than your gestures of humiliation.  My son, I love you.  Why will you not spend time with me?

What will it cost to prove to yourself that you have repaid me?  Do you count the hours you have worked as wages with which you could replace what you lost in your days of sin?  Do the tears that you hide come when you weigh yourself against a vanished fortune and find yourself wanting?  It is true, the loss was great.  Beloved son, I forgave you that debt.  Even if it were small enough to be repaid, would I choose to gain back a few tarnished coins rather than receive the son of my own blood?  I have made the way for you to return to me.  Do not weep to think that your hard labors are your only hope for salvation.  You would see it if only you would come into the light.

There are so many things that I have wanted to share with you these past years.  The joyful hours we were meant to spend together while you were lost, now again waiting for you while you work yourself to exhaustion.  If you will come with me, they are still waiting for us.  It is not too late.  I have asked your brother and sisters to tell you the same.  You still speak to them, but they have yet to convince you.  Have you not seen how I have forgiven them their faults?  Why should you be any less precious to me, my beloved son?  I received you with open arms when you returned to my house.  Will you forever shy away from my heart?  Please, come home to me.

I love you eternally,

~Abba

The Day I Gave Up.

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by Anna Faith

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

Jeepers. That devil sure is mean.

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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….