Hearing the Truth Through the Whispers

What has ever happened in your life that was actually good?

There are days when I can think back over my life and see so clearly what Jesus has done at my best and worst moments to give me every good thing that I have.  A light shines on every moment to show me the blessings of His care, and the joy that even the trials have brought to me.  Those are the days when it is hard to keep a smile from becoming a laugh, just to think of how the King of all things delights in brightening my day.

Then there are times that the light seems to turn off like a switch.  The days when the above question seems painfully real as I grope in the darkness for the things that I know have been blessings to me, but that I just cannot seem to find.  Whispers creep into my head and argue with me at every point, telling me that all of the things that I know on the warm days, full of light, are just my imagination.  Was it ever really so nice?

Boy, the devil has a lot of gall.

Thank God that we are given strength in Jesus to be unshakable more than just some of the time!  Here are a few things you can do to keep your footing on the days when the light seems dim and the whispers seem overwhelming.

Don’t Panic!

The first thing we often feel at these moments is that all is lost.  It must be that something didn’t quite click when we first trusted Jesus, and that this is what life is going to be like from now on.  It was so happy, following Jesus.  If we don’t feel that way, it must be something we did, right?  Our actions do affect our relationship with Jesus.  If we are sinning, or have not surrendered something to Him, we will struggle.  However, that is not always the cause of our distress.  Read the Psalms.  The are full of distress, and the reminder that the Lord is faithful in the midst of our adversities, even if He seems completely absent through them.  Reading Psalms twenty-two through twenty-four is an especially good reminder.  The first verse is what Jesus spoke on the cross: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”  If the Son of God can feel that way, then all is not lost for us when we struggle under the burden of a fallen world.  Those three psalms are actually believed to be all one before the chapter divisions came along.  I find reading them all at once deeply comforting.  Try not to dwell on feeling in the dark, but do remember that it’s okay to feel that way.  Overcoming that tendency to panic is usually half of the battle.

Know the Shepherd’s Voice

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter by the door into the fold of the sheep, but climbs up some other way, he is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is a shepherd of the sheep. To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.  When he puts forth all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice.  A stranger they simply will not follow, but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers.”
~John 10:1-5

The devil works overtime to deceive us.  In our moments of distress, he will do everything he can to convince us that it is God who is accusing us.  Our Father does discipline us, and so the devil finds ways to imitate the Shepherd’s voice while telling us a lie.  The best way to keep from being hoodwinked is to spend so much time with Jesus that we see the counterfeit instantly.  The devil will still whisper in countless and seemingly new ways, but if we are walking hand in hand with our beloved Christ, learning the depth and newness of all of His ways, it will be rare that we are taken in and led to greater distress.

Cite Your Sources

The best way to conquer distress is to take the offensive.  Don’t wait for the confusion to set in to decide to hide God’s Word in your heart.  Sometimes the distress is too much to take, and I can’t find any words of my own for how I am feeling and what I need in order to see the light again.  At those times, there is such a deep comfort in being able to quote Scripture.  I have a few of the Psalms committed to memory, and sometimes just the fact that I can speak them and have a solid piece of God’s Word available is enough to block out most of the pressure from the enemy.  Keep the references in your heart too.  Sometimes the exact words or the context can get lost, so don’t be afraid to pull out your Bible or your concordance, or do a quick web search when you can only remember a few snatches.  It’s a great reminder that the promises of God, and the concrete truth of His presence are defined by more than our own ability to hold onto Him.  It is such an encouragement to me that Paul, in 2 Timothy 1:12, wrote,

“for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day.”

Sometimes, that is all I need to hear.  This is a very productive habit to start in the New Year.  If you are at a time when it seems like more should be happening, use the time you have to hide God’s Word in your heart so that you will be ready when things get more active.

Bring a Friend

Isolation is a great way to overcome someone.  When we are alone, it is so much easier to believe that all of the feelings in our own heads are what is really true.  I tend to be the kind of person who doesn’t want to allow others to know my problems, since I know that they have their own lives to handle, so it isn’t uncommon for me to hold things inside for longer than I should.  When I do share something with one of my brothers or sisters, it is so deeply encouraging.  When I am distressed about the pressures of the enemy, or about a difficult thing the Lord wants me to do, just the honest “Yep, that sounds like what the devil would do,” or “Wow! He is calling you to something great!” is enough to remind me that I am trusting my life to the One with all of our best interests at heart.  It does often happen that I cannot reach anyone at the time of my distress, but Jesus is still there with me.  There have been numerous times that I have been so exhausted in my spirit that all I can do is ask the Lord to have someone else be praying for me at that time.  I can usually feel the burden eased almost instantly.

Remember too that distress will not always lift instantly.  It can be something that the Lord uses to remind us to be in prayer for someone, or as part of the process of really, truly understanding something about His character that we may have known on paper, but not experienced with Him before.  However, this does not mean that we have to be pulled back and forth by the whispers of doubt that come up, prompting “did God really say…?”

If you are struggling, and would like prayer or a chance to work through something with us, please leave a comment or an e-mail.  Also, if you would like to share a Scripture verse that has been a faithful friend to you in the midst of your distresses, please let us know in the comments below.  We love being able to connect with you.

by Stephanie H.

Jesus Has Little Sisters

I don’t think I’ll ever get used to having as dear and sweet a friend as Jesus.  I don’t even know where to find the words for the love He has shown me.  The joy, the thrill, the sense of humor, all make me want to laugh and cry at the same time.  Hearing from Him and spending time with Him just makes my heart sing in a way I never knew was possible.  Even though I grew up in a Christian home, I never expected to have Jesus for an actual real best friend.

All of those thoughts made Matthew 13:55 and 56 stand out to me recently.

“Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary, and His brothers, James and Joseph and Simon and Judas?  And His sisters, are they not all with us? Where then did this man get all these things?”

When the Son of God came to earth; the one who carved out the mountains, painted nebulae, and fed sea monsters; He came into a family where He would have little brothers and sisters.

It is still so easy for me to turn prayer into business meetings and memos, and time in the Word into browsing for what my next assignment is.  Like the Nazarenes in Matthew thirteen, I forget that the One who organized the functioning of the entire world and wrote all of the rules is also the Father who made petunias smell sweet, designed the family, and gave us the ability to know love.

I just imagine little girls coming to their big brother Jesus with their skinned knees, their fears, and their clumps of fresh-picked flowers.  I wonder how often they shared hugs and laughs, and how many of them He watched get married.  The One who said “let the little children come to Me” knows exactly what to do with them when they need Him.

I don’t have many memories of being a little girl.  I remember being very young, but the thoughts I remember having then were as analytical as I always seem to have been.  I don’t know if I was born an old soul, or if I just forgot those innocent joys, but Jesus doesn’t just have the little sisters He grew up with, He adopts all of the broken girls too.

“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.”
~John 14:18

I think one of the reasons I cannot find the words to explain what it is like to be loved by Jesus, is that I finally don’t have to.  I don’t have to think through a full ten minute oration on why I’m stressed or confused or why I need His comfort.  When I do try to explain, He often doesn’t let me.  He just sets aside the problems that I’ve handed Him, and holds me close instead.  He is gentle when I am most vulnerable, and He shows me how He loves me when I least believe it.  It’s love I’ve never known from anyone on earth, but it is never too late to be Jesus’ little girl.

And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said,“Behold My mother and My brothers!  For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother.”
~Matthew 12:49, 50

When He adopts us, Jesus not only cares for the broken girls, but He heals us and teaches us how to become unshakable.  Arguments and situations that used to give me anxiety become places where I can feel His strength, and where He has taught me to love when I never could have on my own.  There are some struggles that return again in different ways as we work through them together, but they give me a chance to see a deeper part of His love I never knew before as He grows me into a sister and daughter He can be proud of.  It is a walk that so fills my heart, that I want to show everyone what it is like to have a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

Jesus has little sisters, and you are one of them, precious girl.

by Stephanie H.

I’m SUPPOSED to Be Afraid? Part 2


Does it feel kind of like we’re back at square one?  Fear involves punishment, so we should not be afraid if we love God, but Jesus Himself said that we should fear God because of… punishment?

 

Sometimes it is so easy for us to take things apart and look at them piece by piece, and forget the big picture in the process.  Remember that fear does not exist in a vacuum.  The same God who is the God of love is also the God who judges every man according to his deeds.  He is just because He is merciful, and merciful because He is just.  So what other attributes of God do we need to remember as we consider how fearsome He is?

Omnipotence
God is all-powerful.  He created the world, and there is nothing He cannot do with it.  All throughout the Old Testament, we have pictures of the immeasurable power of God, from the creation, to the flood, to the plagues of Egypt.  The history of Israel, the Psalms, and the speeches in the book of Job all show that God is worthy to be feared.  When we think of someone wanting to be feared, it is usually a human being who wants to be in control of others, and wants everyone to know that they are in control.  They want fear to do all of the work for them so that staying in charge is easy.  God really is in control.  He doesn’t need to show off His power and use fear just to keep us in line.  Often, His shows of strength were to remind His people of how weak the enemies of God are (Exodus), and to remind those with a great deal of power that they were not to play God (Daniel).

Holiness
God is separated from all things that are evil (Psalm 5:4).  He is light, and in Him, there is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5).  Darkness and light cannot live in the same place.  If there is light in the room, there is no darkness.  If the light leaves the room, darkness can return.

And this is the judgment, that the light is come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their deeds were evil.
~John 3:19

This is why we are so often afraid to enter the presence of God.  When we love evil, we can feel the darkness in us being burned away in the presence of the true light.  The devil is very good at convincing us that this means we can never be at peace with God.  We identify with darkness, but know that God is light.  We then fall into the trap of believing we are condemned to Hell whenever we discover a sin we had overlooked before.  Here is where there is hope:

For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
~Hebrews 4:12

Darkness cannot stand in God’s presence, but we can ask God to have our love of darkness surgically removed, and He is more than willing to do so!  He can take away anything in us that is at war with Him, so that we will be able to have joy in His presence rather than wanting to run and hide.  That is why there are two different responses to fearing God for the enemy of God and for the child of God.  An enemy refuses to leave his sin, and hates the thought of it being taken away.  A child fears the pain of the surgery and the unknown of the life afterward, but trusts his Father to do what is best for him.

Love
We often think of love and fear as opposites because we are used to fear and hate being so close together in our experiences.  There are so many things in this world that can cause destruction that it becomes easy to find numerous examples of evil and fallen things that we fear.  It is hard to think of things that we love as being fearsome at the same time.  Waterfalls, fire, dogs, and driving can all lose their loveliness if we personally experience the side of them that can be destructive.  Some of us like roller-coasters of skydiving because of the thrill of controlled fear, but it is very hard to find an earthly example that can do justice to fearing and loving the Lord.  The only example I can think of are the people of the Lord themselves.  There is not one godly person in the Bible who did not face great hardship.  Even Jesus’ own mother and step-father faced the most humiliating and difficult circumstances in bringing a child into the world.  Following Jesus is a terrifying thing because it mortifies our flesh.

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.
~Matthew 16:24

Those who follow Jesus do not face an easy life.  At times it seems that much of our lives are destroyed when we come to follow Him.  That is not only because God has enemies, but also because God allows the things He loves to be broken so that they can be glorified beyond what they ever could have been before they were broken.  Thing of how much more Job had after the Lord restored him.  Think of Jesus Himself after He became flesh and was broken before His enemies.  That refining process still scares me.  Just thinking about what the Lord might have me face next as I write this has made my stomach a little uncomfortable because I know that He always considers me ready for more than what I can handle on my own.  He’s always making me nervous!  But then He is always showing me more of Himself that I never would have seen if we were going at my pace, and He is making me more like Him the more He takes out of me.  As much as it scares me, I so much more desperately want to be with Him where He is working.

And His voice shook the earth then, but now He has promised, saying, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth, but also the heaven.”
And this expression, “Yet once more,” denotes the removing of those things which can be shaken, as of created things, in order that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.
Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer God an acceptable service with reverence and awe;
for our God is a consuming
fire.
~Hebrews 12:26-29

 

Faithfulness
God is trustworthy to keep His promises, and He has not been shy in making them.  He is the God of all power, we have nothing to offer Him for a bribe, and He allows His people to meet with some of the most terrible trials imaginable.  Yet, in the midst of all of this, He has promised us joy, comfort, and peace.  That is not to say that God will give us pleasure and laughter in the midst of every circumstance.  We often expect this to be true, and that is why we so often hate fear.  Fear can be terribly unpleasant, but the Lord uses it to teach us trust.  There have been many times for me already when it seems as though everything is going the absolute opposite of the plan God has told me He will accomplish.  Those are times when I have to choose to believe what He says in His Word more than what the world around me is trying to convince me is true.  It is like a plant having all of it’s green chopped off until it is just the roots.  That pruning can ache for so long, but those roots will dig deeper while they are not focused on feeding the leaves, and deep roots are terribly difficult to pull up.  David speaks constantly in the Psalms of the painful circumstanced the Lord had him face, and yet he always fell back on the promise that God would not abandon him.  Job is a man famous for having faced more than most of us could imagine, yet he said,

Though He slay me, I will hope in Him.
~Job 13:15a

That is not to say that Job was more faithful to God than God was to him.  Quite the contrary.  But he knew God well enough to know that there must be a bigger picture that he could not yet understand.  The more time we spend with God, and the more we read of Him in His Word, the more we come to trust who He is, and believe that what He does really is best for us, and for countless others He will influence through us.

Humility
God is unbelievably humble.  I felt weak and inferior when I stood in front of that tiger in the museum, knowing that there would be no way for me to beat it at its own game if it had been living.  I cannot even imagine now insignificant I should feel in the unfiltered presence of El Elyon (God Most High).  And yet, He likes to make me laugh.  He feels my pain when I grieve, and He wants to teach me to do work that He could accomplish without so much as the snap of fingers.  When we keep in mind that God is fearsome and omnipotent, we often lose sight of just now much He wants to be involved in the lives of such insignificant people.  What scares me about tigers, landslides, and snapping turtles is that they don’t know me from anyone.  It isn’t personal, it’s just what those things do.  But the fearsome, omnipotent God is my Dad.  If I felt His presence wash over me while standing in front of a real tiger, it would be very hard for me not to grin or even laugh.  Why?  Because the powerful cat is just one of His playthings.  It may still be able to hurt me or even kill me, but only if He says so.  Moses was able to encourage the fleeing Israelites with these words:

But Moses said to the people, “Do not fear! Take your stand and see the salvation of the LORD which He will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you have seen today, you will never see them again forever.
The LORD will fight for you while you keep silent.”
~Exodus 14:13,14

 

I cannot say that Moses was unafraid of the Egyptians when he spoke these words, but He feared the Lord, and there was no room for any other sort of fear to make decisions for him.  It is the same promise given in Joshua 1:9 and all throughout the Old Testament, in the Great Commission, and straight through to Revelation.

We have no reason to be afraid of fear itself.  Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, the fountain of life, and keeps us untouched by evil.  In the darkest circumstances, it is like hearing the trumpet blast and the thundering hooves of a faithful king’s army.  Remember whom you have believed, and feel the thrill of His power and love.

I will give thanks to Thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Thy works,
And my soul know it very well.
~Psalm 139:14

 

by Stephanie H.

Following Jesus Like Crazy

 

I was speaking to my mother recently about some of the reactions I received from friends and peers when I first stopped watching television, and her observations led me to do a lot of thinking.

When I stopped watching movies and TV shows, and stopped reading books and listening to music that I knew were not honoring Jesus, my social circles didn’t take it very well.  Some of my friends really listened.  A few were even excited to see where the Lord would lead me.  I lost some friends who were very dear to me.  Most, however, turned it into a debate on theological and cultural relevance.  The arguments were generally the same; they talked about how important it is to have common ground with the rest of the world, how Jesus has called us to be very “in the world” people, and how cowardly or deceived they themselves had been when thinking the same way as I now did.  When they could see that I meant to follow Jesus without popular media and wouldn’t change my mind, the discussion would end with the promise that they would pray for me—in the way that indicated they would ask Jesus to make me normal again.

As I was recounting this to my mother, she tacked on an interesting thought.

“If you had told them that you had been reading way too much of the Bible lately, and that you were going to take a break–”

I was baffled at the truth of the thought before she even finished saying it.

They probably would have been fine with it.

Some probably would even have been curious and interested in it.  I don’t say that simply because any of them disagreed with my either.  I know there would have been some who would have at least cautioned me not to take it too far.  Others would probably give me the conversational equivalent of a tackle, or hold an intervention.  Still, most of those to whom I spoke about giving up television—knowing me to be a theology nerd—would have been at least curious, if not in full support of me cutting back on my time with Jesus.

I had to think on it for a while after that conversation.  I thought of the fact that most Christians probably wouldn’t notice the difference in a fellow believer’s life if they stopped reading their Bible.  As long as they are still involved in church, and do their best to be nice, would you or I know the difference?  Would they even seem more normal and pleasant?  Do we even know how much the Christians around us spend time with Jesus?

I don’t know when it happened, but somewhere along the path of recent Christian history, it became embarrassing for Christians (the people who name themselves after Jesus) to know Him, talk about Him, spend time with Him, obey Him, and love Him more than life, limb, family, and the world around us.  It is hardly even spoken of if a Christian is acting in a way that pulls them away from Jesus, because “we shouldn’t judge them” and “we don’t know what is in their hearts.”  So we all label ourselves as “Christians”, but we identify with sports, or characters in movies, or celebrities, our our favorite hobbies, or what school we attend.  That is why so many became offended when I stopped watching television.  In many ways, Christianity is a label, but popular culture is a lifestyle.

Does that make your heart weep?

It all reminds me of what C.S. Lewis wrote in The Last Battle.  All of the talking animals were afraid to speak up when there was a fake lion pretending to be the real Aslan.  They had always been told that Aslan was “not a tame lion,” so how could they argue if He was not the way they thought He would be?  They didn’t know Him.

The real devil has done this in the real world so long, that we are afraid to imagine that there is a true Jesus who can be seen, and heard, and touched, and known.  What if we offend Him be presuming to know Him when we do not?  Best to leave Him as a symbol, and Christianity a label, and focus on things in the “real” world, like celebrities and long novels.

So then, the very reason that Christians are offended when I give up popular culture, and when I talk too much about Jesus and read my Bible more than is natural in someone my age, is exactly why I must talk about Jesus even more and read my Bible more than anyone ever has, if I can.

Because Jesus is real.  I know Him.  True, I don’t know Him much when compared with how infinitely more I can know Him, but how can that mean that I should never try?  It would offend Him to presume that He lies when He says that He wants us to know Him more than anything else in the world.

My dear Sister, never compromise your relationship with Jesus in order to be trendy or culturally relevant.  Trust Him.  Trust Him, and when your friends, family, and peers push you to be normal again, push harder into His presence.  Push like crazy, because crazy is all that the world will see.  Pray.  Seek Him, know Him, obey Him, and watch all that He will show you along the way.  The adventure of knowing Him is without compare.  After all, He isn’t safe, but He is good.
He’s not a tame lion.  We cannot be docile Christians.
by Stephanie H.

Facing Discouragement as a True Friend of God

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I don’t have a normal life.  In fact…my life is incredibly crazy.  I don’t usually like to write much about myself, but here’s just a little peek into our lives, as just a little bit of background for what I’ve been thinking about today.

We travel a lot, because of my husband’s family being a musical group.  We go anywhere and everywhere we’re invited.  And that leads to some pretty…interesting…experiences.  You probably wouldn’t believe the crazies we see.  People think that traveling and sharing the gospel and playing music must be so glamorous and exciting.  WELL…it’s exciting because we’re doing it for the Lord, and we get to see real and lasting fruit from our labors.  But…it’s not glamorous.  We chuckled today as we recounted some of the places we’ve stayed — from squishing nine people into one dilapidated motel room, to camping in tents next to alligator-infested waters, to…well…basically, if you can dream it up, it’s probably happened to us…and then some. 😉  We also find ourselves presenting our shows in many different places, to many different crowds.  Sometimes we’ve had a jam-packed full theater with four hundred people all riveted throughout the show.  Other times, we’ve had churches, partially filled, but with people who had tears streaming down their faces by the end of the night because the Lord had so touched their hearts.  And other times…well…other times, it can be downright discouraging.  Like last night.  We had a miscommunication with a newspaper that was supposed to run our concert ad for two weeks in a row, and it only got run one week……the day of the show.  We had eight people come.  In a large auditorium.  Eight people is not a lot.  In fact, it’s downright awkward in many ways.  But we thanked God for those eight people, and did a show for them anyway.  But afterwards, several of our family were feeling pretty discouraged.  It’s times like these when you’ve given all your own money and time and lots of effort and sacrifice for what you think the Lord wanted you to do…and held on in faith till the last moment…and then, things don’t go the way you thought they should, that the devil slinks in and begins to fill your mind with doubts.  Suddenly, you wonder…did you really hear from God??  Do you do the wrong thing?  Did you not have enough faith?  Should you even be serving the Lord at all?  Maybe there’s someone else who is better qualified…someone who could actually have the success you had hoped for…maybe…maybe…

 

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But as I pondered the night, the only thing that came to my mind, again and again was a quiet whisper of, “But…the Kingdom of Heaven is made of such as these.”

I paused…and pondered.  Yes.  It’s true.  The Kingdom of Heaven is made of men and women who have given everything they had for Jesus…and many of them never saw any fruit for it.  The Kingdom of Heaven is made of those who have laid down their very lives for Jesus, and never lived to see the salvation of many hundreds which has come from their sacrifice.  The Kingdom of Heaven is made of those who have had many disappointments and those who have looked like complete failures to those looking on, for the sake of Christ…..and yet…..He looks down with the greatest love, tears pooling in His eyes, His heart overflowing with gratitude that He has found true friends; those who are willing to suffer with Him for the sake of some that might be rescued.  It is not an unusual thing for the children of God to encounter trials…but we must press forward, and not lose heart.  Trust…and obey.

So, may you be encouraged.  Whether you are in ministry, or whether you think God may be leading you in that direction, or whether you are simply trying to be faithful in reaching out to those God puts in your path — yes, there will be difficulties, hardships, disappointments, and much testing of our faith…but the Kingdom of Heaven is made of such as these.  God’s heart is so gladdened to have true friends, who love Him more than the comforts and success and acclaim of the world.  Friends who are willing to suffer with Him.  And God doesn’t say that if we have difficulties or what seems like failures we HAVE failed.  He just asks us to be obedient, to not lose heart, and to press forward in what He has called us to do.  We can trust Him, and entrust the fruit to Him.  He will bring forth a harvest for all that we entrust to His care…for any fruit that springs up can only come by Him and through Him anyway.  If you’ve ever tried making something happen in your own strength, you can attest to what I’m saying. 😉

 

Feel free to share what God has been teaching you lately in the comments, and what He has encouraged you with in the midst of your own difficulties and disappointments. 

 

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Turning Away From The Mirror (and to God’s Word)

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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

Single? 3 Ways to Have the BEST Valentines Day EVER!

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Valentine’s Day.  That blissful time of year when all of your “non-single” friends get chocolate, and flowers, and romantic candlelight dates.  That dreaded time of year when you hide out under your covers, eat lots of chocolate (that you bought yourself), and avoid everything pink, red, or even remotely romantic.  That, or you’re one of those people who actively torture yourself by scrolling through Facebook, looking at all the sweet things that people did with their “significant other”, and you cry yourself to sleep listening to gushy love songs.  [Some people do it to themselves…just saying. 😉 ]

It’s a wonderful holiday that seems to have been instituted just to remind you of your definite singleness…again.  Not dissimilar to pouring lemon juice on a paper cut [Note: DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME — Just take my word for it.]…or having text messages sent to you continually about the HUGE sale that your favorite store is having…right when you’re completely, totally broke.

So, what’s a single gal to do??

Well, you CAN hole yourself up in your room all day, and have a great big pity party…by yourself. But, I mean…again??  Really??  OR…what if you tried something different this year?

Here are 3 ideas to help you have a Valentines Day worth remembering this year!

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1.  Pray for your single girl-friends.

Start now – don’t wait!  Begin praying for each of your single girl-friends…and ask God to direct your prayers for them.  Pray that God would encourage their hearts, and surround them in His love this year.  Even ask Him to give you specific scriptures that relate to how you can pray to them, or that would be an encouragement to them.  Praying for others is one of the very best ways to get your eyes off of yourself, and get out of your own pity-party.  Making a list may help you to remember to pray for them, and to not forget anyone.

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2. Ask God to show you how to be a blessing to them.

As you’re praying for your friends, ask God to show you how you can be a blessing to them.  Ask Him for ideas of things you can do that would encourage their hearts, and show God’s love to them.  Ask God to make you His hands and feet to show them His love this year.
And then…do it. Whatever God shows you — put it into action!  It may take some real time and effort…and even money, but God will bless you for all you give.  Write out the scriptures God gives you into sweet cards.  Share whatever word of encouragement God puts on your heart for them.  Buy them some flowers…or chocolate…or both!  What do you wish someone would do for you?  Now go and do that for them!  If you really want to go all-out, you can even plan a special evening to invite them over, decorate, and make them a special meal!  Or what about a special girls’ spa night, and devotion time, where you can pray together (spending time with Jesus together is always the sweetest thing)!  The possibilities are endless when you ask God for great ideas — He knows what will most bless each of your friends! And it might be something different for each one.

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3. Spend time with Jesus.

This is last, but definitely most important of all, for truly having the best Valentine’s Day!  Don’t forget to spend time with Jesus, and just enjoy His presence.  Remember: He truly cares about you more than anyone else…and even after you have a loving relationship, and a blessed marriage, no guy can fill that spot in your heart that was meant for only Jesus to fill.  You’re not just spending time with Jesus because you don’t have a boyfriend!  You’re spending time with Jesus because HE is your Love, and your Life!!

Spend time thanking Jesus for all the ways He has shown His love for you this year — even write some of them down to be a reminder of His goodness for you when you’re discouraged.  Don’t rush — how would you like it if you were out for a special time with someone and all they did was look at their watch the whole time??  Take your time to really enjoy God’s presence, and be a real friend for Him.

And why don’t you take some time to actually write God a love-letter this year?  Tell Him all the things you love about Him, and that you can’t imagine your life without Him.  Even pray about what you can give Him as a gift this year — it can be something as simple as giving Him your worries about the future, and committing to trust Him more, and not fear about the future.

 

WHAT ABOUT YOU?? Do you have any other ideas for having a blessed Valentine’s Day?  Have you ever tried reaching out to those who are lonely on Valentine’s Day?  If someone was going to do something kind for you on Valentine’s Day, what do you think you would bless you the most?  Now…how can you take that and use it to bless others?  Share your thoughts in the comments!  We’d love to hear from you, and even feature some of your ideas here!

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Are You a Competitor or a Co-Laborer?

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By: Anna Faith, an Unshakable Girl Staff Writer

 

I have a love-hate relationship with Pinterest. Nowhere else can you inspire your culinary skills, realize what goes into sewing a dress, discover what the color “sea foam” really looks like on a wall, and realize how little you exercise. All at the same time. You can go from “I want to do that!” to completely overwhelmed by your inadequacy in .37 seconds. [Side note: Check out the Unshakable Girl Pinterest page, for inspiration and encouragement.]

 
Sound familiar?
 
In a world swarmed with a suffocating amount of pressure to perform–to succeed–to do well in all things, sometimes it feels like a hopeless case just being a girl! As I scroll through my media sites yesterday, I felt completely done. Who am I compared to these Diploma holding, fit, super stylish women? They’re hip enough to be trendy, yet personable enough to be relate-able. But it is not simply a comparison of lifestyle to which we fall victim. Even amongst other Christians (!), we play the comparison game. We compare even our relationships with God based off of what we perceive in other’s lives. The glossy, edited versions of their lives that we see flood our screens. The “put together” smiles they seem to show when we pass them at Church. How many scriptures do they post on Social Media? How unique are those verses (bonus points if they’re an Old Testament verse!) ? How many people do they mentor? How many girls are in their Bible Studies? What kind of reviews do they get on their blog? How many places do they volunteer at?
 
We measure ourselves by our perception of others. We test the worthiness of our lives by a “Pass or Fail” label. Little do we realize, in “testing” ourselves, we are also quietly opening deadly doors within our hearts. If we grade ourselves as “Pass”, we are saying (even in our hearts) that we have become better than another person. We are more fit, Spiritual, a better friend, more fashionable, funnier and quietly pat ourselves on the back. Woosh! The door swings open as the suave figure of Pride saunters into our heart. In just a few seconds, we have held ourselves in esteem over another person. On the flip side, when we find ourselves lacking, we stamp a “Fail” onto our outlook.  We aren’t as beautiful, fit, healthy, Spiritual, talented, happy homemaker as they are–and we feel DONE. We crawl into a dark hole of depression and self-pity. 
Creeeeeeaaaaak. The dark, woeful silhouette of Despair crosses the threshold of our hearts. 
 
As uncomfortable as it is to admit it, I am guilty of this exact thing. I have frequently found myself measuring my own life in a “Pass or Fail” standard that I have set. More often than not, I find myself wrestling with Despair as the label “Failure” is sealed on my mind.

 

Sisters in Christ, do you see how painful a cycle we set for ourselves? And how typical of the Deceiver to creep in and turn us into rivals? For we are not rivals, but instead instead co-laborers! YOU are my co-worker, in Christ. For those who are seeking earnestly to expand the Kingdom of Heaven, we are working in the same line of work! We are planting seeds, cultivating, and (by God’s grace) watching the Holy Spirit grow eternal fruit! What an incredible blessing to realize! We are  not working against one another–but WITH one another!
 
So what do we do with all of these thoughts bombarding our minds and infiltrating our hearts? What do we do when we fall into depression?
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1) Repentance. No matter how “good” we may seem to others, we have to get our hearts right with God. Hearts that are full of sin and deceitfulness (Jeremiah 17:9). Simply by looking at others, we puff ourselves up with pride OR we begin to doubt God and His character (through despair, which is the “absence of Hope”). We must realize that our attitudes–our secret striving to be better–is not streaming from a godly heart. We must ask the Lord to forgive us–to fill us with the sweet humility AND Joy which is found in His own dear character! 
 
2) Take Every Thought Captive “to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).  Now, I’ve never really heard of someone “accidentally” binding up a prisoner, nor have I heard of a situation where a man was simply walking through the woods and happened upon the VERY person he was hoping to capture. This being the case, we actually have to be looking for those sneaky little thoughts. Carefully on the watch. Although avoiding people forever may seem appealing at times, we technically can’t live in a cave. We have to learn how to bind up those prideful or despairing thoughts–and refuse to let them stay in our minds. When you’re faced with a thought of “wow, I’m so glad I love the Lord more than they seem to” OR “wow, I’ll never be as beautiful or Spiritual as they are”, take that thought and force it out of your mind. Say “NO, I refuse to indulge the devil in his schemes! I belong to Christ and I refuse to dwell on these things!”
 
3) Put On A Garment of Praise. One way the Enemy gets us distracted from our mission of pursuing CHRIST and seeking to bring people TO Christ is getting our focus OFF Jesus. He gets us wound up in our problems. Our feelings. Instead of listening to these emotions knock on the door of your mind, what if we filled our hearts with songs of Worship? What if we poured out actual thanksgiving to a God who cannot lie–a God of Truth, Mercy, Justice and Purity in Heart? Pop in a worship Cd–one that focuses on CHRIST and not on how YOU feel–and let the adoration of Christ fill your room! 
 
4) Practice Honoring and Encouraging. We, as humans, tend to look at numbers. In the Body of Christ, one of the Church’s biggest stumbling block is often “attendance”. How many numbers they can get (and maintain) in their buildings. When we stumble across other blogs or sites, we often look at how many “followers” they have. What if–instead of scanning to see what they have–we viewed it as their “field”?  Those girls that they are surrounded by–what if we view them as the “seeds they are nurturing”?  PRAY for those women you see which hold a high degree of influence. Pray hard for them. Whether they realize it or not, they hold a position of authority within their sphere of influence. Pray that the Love of Christ would be their true desire. Pray for humility. Take time to encourage them with a kind word (or comment on their website)! 
 
It can also be so very easy to look at someone who the Lord is blessing in certain areas and, instead of rejoicing with them and being glad for God’s blessing on their lives/ministry/etc., we are jealous, grumbling, criticizing — perhaps without even realizing it — because, deep inside, we want what they have. We think, “I’m serving God just as much as they are…so why did God bless THEM in that way, and not ME?” “I have been working longer and harder than they have…but I haven’t seen nearly as much fruit as they have in just a few short weeks/months/years.” “We both love the Lord, but why did God bless HER with an uber-godly husband, and leave me still laboring on my own? She shouldn’t have more blessing than I have!”
 
Again…this self-righteousness and pride can so easily slip in – especially when you begin serving the Lord, and find out what a long road of self-denial and labor pains it really is…and how firmly you must hold fast to the Lord’s promises in faith, when everything around you looks bleak and difficulties arise and surround you.
 
But we MUST fight against these attitudes, because we are not trying to promote ourselves! We are called to simply be faithful in whatever God has called us to, proclaim the Gospel, and leave the rest up to Him. Fruitfulness is not the ultimate test of our calling and purpose. The ultimate test is our FAITHFULNESS. And the only way we can truly remain faithful is to fix our gaze on Jesus, and rest in His good character, and hold firmly onto His promises, which will never fail us. We cannot measure our success, or the greatness of God’s love based on outward signs of fruit and favor and everything always going perfectly for us (or the lack thereof)! But we look to His promises, which are unchanging, and trust in His love, which does not fade. And remember, that we are all working together, in the unique ways that He has called each of us…and we are called to “rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep”. Not gazing at ourselves and our own struggles continually, but forcing ourselves to look outward — into Heaven, and into the needs and blessings of others…and loving them with HIS love.
 
Above all, pursue Christ. Truly pursue Him. Not just in a “I’ll get around to having a close relationship with Him one day. I’m just too busy right now”. No. TODAY is that day! Sisters, if we are to be Salt and Light in a world that is (very quickly) perishing before our eyes, we must set our priorities straight. We must thwart the schemes of the Devil by building one another up in a true sacrificial Love. A love where we think LESS about ourselves–our feelings–and more on serving others with JOY. The world is to know us as Christians by our love for each other (John 13:35). Let us seek to Love Christ with all our hearts, souls and mind–and to truly love our neighbor (or Sister in Christ) as ourselves.
 
Side note:
I do want to mention the fact that if you are struggling with a particular issue, PLEASE email us. We are here to pray, encourage and love on YOU. Yes, YOU. We want to be a friend, true sisters, and a blessing to you. If you are going through a difficult season of life, if you are struggling with self-hate or depression–please contact us. We would love to connect with you and pray for you personally. 
Also, please share this post, so that we can spread the truth and encouragement of God’s Word far and wide! There are “Share” buttons below to make it quick and easy to share this post with your circles of friends.

Update for Our e-Mag Readers

 

We are doing lots of thinking and lots of praying in regards to the future of the Unshakable Girl e-Magazines, and would appreciate you joining with us in seeking God’s direction.

Life often presents challenges, but we want to walk in God’s will –not our own — no matter what situations arise.

Thank you for praying…and for being here.

Highways to Zion

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“Blessed are those whose strength is in You,

in whose heart are the highways to Zion.

As they go through the Valley of Baca [lit. “Weeping”]

they make it a place of springs;

the early rain also covers it with pools.

They go from strength to strength;

each one appears before God in Zion.”

(Psalm 84:5-7 ESV)

God pointed this passage out to me not too long ago, and showed me some neat things about it, that I wanted to share with you. These are very encouraging promises, showing us what blessings and assurance we can find as we diligently frequent His throne room.

“Blessed are those whose strength is in You, in whose heart are the highways to Zion.”

As I meditated on this verse, I had to push aside my unappealing mental pictures of noisy cars and Mac trucks zooming down a 6-lane highway, and ask God to help me to take a step back, to be able to see what He was really getting at by using the word “highway” as an illustration of what our hearts should be like. I knew it was intentional, and I knew it was important enough for God to have put it in there for us to read, so I didn’t want to just read through it and say, “Oh, that sounds like a nice verse,” one more time…maybe highlighting it, but not having the true meaning birthed in my heart. So, I fought against the urge to just move on to the next verses, and as I waited on the Lord…this is what he showed me:

Back in Biblical times, before cars and trucks and pavement, a highway would have simply been a path that was well-placed, and well-used. It wouldn’t have been a noisy, obnoxious slab of pavement, but a road that was well-worn, and frequented by many on their way to the city — in this case, the city of Zion, which is often used as a Biblical representation of the city of the Lord – the Great King! So, this verse could be paraphrased to say, “Blessed are those in whose heart are the well-traveled roads to meet with their King.” This is how our hearts should be. There are many “roads” that our hearts can have…and many “ruts” we can easily get into on those roads — the road to waste time on the computer, the road to get angry, the road to go to work, the road to watch a movie when we’re bored, the road to go shopping…there are just SO many “roads”!! I’m sure you can think of a few roads that your own heart travels on daily. And, while there are plenty of downright worthless and sinful roads, there are also roads that are important and which have to be traveled each day. But what this verse is encouraging us to examine is whether the most frequented, well-traveled roads in our lives are those leading to fellowship with the King — because we just have to be with Him all the time, and we can’t think of being apart from Him for very long; because…well…because we LOVE Him!

This verse is the building block for the rest of this passage, so it is important to really understand what it means, and to let it sink in; the rest of the promises in the passage are dependent on us finding our strength in Christ – continually going to spend time with Him, so that He can actually live through us, and fill us with His power, so that we can live in a way that pleases Him, and find our joy, our strength, our hope, our purpose — our ALL, IN Him, and WITH Him. When this is our reality, we don’t go down every other road looking for something to fill our needs, but we instead go  straight to visit the King because we know that it is only with Him that we receive the help we seek. People will look at our lives and easily see that we don’t have any strength of our own, but that when we go to spend time with Jesus, we receive the power we need to overcome in every situation that presents itself…and that is one reason we frequent the courts of the Lord so very often — ‘cuz there are an awful lot of circumstances that arise each and every day that we simply don’t have the wisdom, or courage, or energy, or desire to face. It’s just not in us. But we now know that all we must do when these things arise is set off to visit the King. One more trip down the highway. One more trip to make the way smoother, more clear, and more emblazoned on our hearts.

“As they go through the Valley of Baca [lit. ‘Weeping’] they make it a place of springs; the early rain also covers it with pools.”

The “they” in this verse is referring to those who frequently visit the King (see – I told you it was important! 😉 ). As you can see, I added in the translation of “Baca”, so that what I share further on would make more sense. “Baca” literally means “weeping”. What God showed me about the meaning of these verses is that, as those who love the Lord (finding their strength in abiding in Him) go through difficulties and trials (the “Valley of Weeping”), the difficulties WILL be turned into a blessing before them, AND a blessing also for those who follow after them, as they see the victories obtained by those who went before; as they see that rejoicing, victory, and blessing IS possible to take hold of in spite of trials. God will never leave us just wandering in the desert or in our trials, but will rain down refreshment upon us, if we seek His face as we go through these difficult places. I know of many who have gone through unthinkably heartbreaking things – things that would cause those who doubt God to turn their backs on Him…even on the world itself, and to become very hard and bitter – and yet, have clung to the Lord as they walked through the Valley of Weeping, and found that “joy comes with the morning”! Whenever I go through something heartbreakingly difficult myself, I have to remember that there are many who have gone before me who have had to deal with even MORE heartbreaking things, AND who have come through them with faith in Jesus and rejoicing and joy, instead of depression, bitterness, and despair. They are always an example to me, and an encouragement to not despair when hard things come, but to press into the presence of God and receive the help and strength that He so willingly offers to any who would come. And God will use US as that encouragement and refreshment for others who see us go through difficult and even terrifying things, and come forth with joy in the Lord, and unshaken faith in His promises! The difficult way that we must all pass through will be made a little easier for those who follow after us, as we hold fast to the Lord and continually dwell in the sanctuary of His presence; there will be springs of refreshment and hope bubbling up around them as they, too, pass that way. Be encouraged – it is not just for your own refuge that you hold onto Christ as the harsh winds blow, but also for those around you – that the power and redemption of Christ Jesus would be glorified, and seen to be a safe refuge for any that would take hold of Him.

“They go from strength to strength; each one appears before God in Zion.”

Again, the “they” in this verse refers to those who love spending time with Jesus. Yes, I had to bring it up again. Because it is an important factor, but if you take hold of it, these promises will be yours to hold onto, knowing that God always keeps His promises. And this promise is, indeed, a comforting one. Instead of our difficulties overcoming us, and causing us to become weak and timid, as we cling fast the the Lord in the midst of difficulties, God will cause us to become stronger with each testing, and more purified and effective in service to Him. He will not only simply get us through trials ‘by the skin of our teeth’, so to speak, but will cause us to come forth full of strength and rejoicing in Him, as we trust in our God. And God will not stop after just one trial, but as we steadfastly hold onto Him, HE will steadfastly be holding onto us…and He will see us through to the end, and “keep you from stumbling and….present you blameless before the presence of His glory with great joy” (Jude 1:24)!

Hallelujah!