Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Loyalty and Honor

 The Lord has been doing so much in my life lately!  Not only has He taught me more in the last couple of months than I thought I could have learned in a couple of years, but He has placed a lot of opportunities before me as well.  

One thing in particular that He has ironed into my heart, is the issue of loyalty.  

We get so caught up in our works.  We think that if we as young adults, can just do everything right, life will just fall into place for us.  In essence, we live our lives driven by works.  We idolize marriage and family to the point that we neglect the Gospel to a disgusting fault.  We develop a horrid attitude of superiority and arrogance when we think that our being stay at home daughters, or wearing only skirts, or attending a family integrated church, or being home educated, or not going to college, etc., etc., makes us *better* or *holier* Christians.  The bad thing that happens to us when we fall into a works based lifestyle, is that we end up in idolatry and worshiping our local church and family above our Lord and Savior.  

Jesus tells us that our loyalty is to *Him* first...  

"Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth.  I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.  For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.  And a person's enemies will be those of his own household.  Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.  And whoever does not take his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me.  Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it."  -Matthew 10:3439

"If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.  Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.  For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?  Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, 'This man began to build and was not able to finish.'  Or what king going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand?  And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace.  So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be My disciple." -Luke 14:26-33 

Jesus is trying to tell us that if we choose anything above Him, we have no business being His disciples.  He is saying that if we are not willing to sacrifice *everything* for Him, being a selfless follower of Him would be practically impossible.  But what is so unique is that He gives us the example of loving our families more than Him, because He knows our families are (usually) the most important things to us.  In a nutshell, He was saying that if we weren't willing to give up our most prized thing in life, then we would have no idea of what it meant to belong to Him.  

So why have we idolized our families more than we take up our crosses and serve Him?  Why do we put honoring our parents above serving our precious Savior?  Because we ought to be honoring our parents *by* serving our Savior!!  If we love Christ first and truly most, then we ought to be able to honor our parents and still hold Christ first in our lives!  The highest honor we can give to our parents is living a life that is consumed with proclaiming the Gospel and serving Jesus Christ!!  It is a sad day we are in, because we have chosen a lifestyle over the Lord.  We have brushed the Gospel under the rug and told God that we love our families more than we love Him.  God has witnessed us erect the golden calf we have dubbed our "lifestyle" and has watched us bow our faces down before it, rather than bow our faces down before Him in service.  We have shook our fists in His face and said that we don't care what He has said, we are going to love our families and our local churches, and our lifestyle's more than we could fathom loving Him.  We have built our tower of Babel, and called it God's way for us.

What have we come to?  

Look at Jesus' attitude towards His own family:

"While He was still speaking to the people, behold, His mother and His brothers stood outside, asking to speak with Him.  But He replied to the man who told Him, 'Who is My mother, and who are My brothers?'  And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, 'Here are My mother and My brothers!  For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.'"  -Matthew 12:46-50

When we become addicted to a way of life that makes us feel like we somehow have the market cornered on holiness, then we have established a high-place in our lives that needs tearing down.  We start living based off our works and we start forgetting what it means to live a life in the face of God.  It is a heartbreaking occurrence that we desperately need to repent for.  All you have to do is ask yourself if you think you are better than the girl who might not have the same definition of modesty as you do, or if you think you are purer before the Lord because you didn't attend public school or you haven't ever dated.  You see, we have trained our minds and our hearts to function off a a fuel that is called legalism.  We get high when we discover something new that feels radical and zealous... but the motive of our heart is the tell-tale sign of whether this new find is healthy for our spirit or not.  Is it something that is going to make us feel like we are more worthy of the redemption we claim to possess?  Or is it something that presents glorious new opportunities for the proclamation of the Gospel?  

We cannot add one single thing to our salvation!  

So why do we try to?  Why do we think that God saved us because we had "potential" or we weren't as dirty as some other sinners that we are acquainted with?  Why can't we grasp the concept that the blood of Jesus Christ is all we need to make us clean?  If He has saved us, then we belong to Him and nothing can pluck us from His Hand... even our failure to dress as modest as a group or sect of people would tell us to.  

When we fall into allowing other people to tell us how to live our lives instead of just living by God's Word, then we have fallen prey to not only potential cults, but a dangerous game that can lead to a world of hurt and a massive amount of pride.  

I want to end this post with a strong caution to you unmarried young women out there...

Please do not think you are superior because you didn't go to college, get a job, wear pants, or any other thing you can add to this list.  None of those things are things that are prohibited by God!  I don't want you to be robbed of God's blessing and the peace that can dwell in your heart, because you think that your lack of doing the above things makes you more of a godly woman than the godly girl who does do them.  

Please do not sit at home, taking on the role of wife (which the scripture says not to do until you are actually married) just *waiting* to be married!  That is not living... let alone living to the glory of God.  USE YOUR LIFE!!  Use your life for Him!!  He has given you such beautiful and precious years and they only last a little while.  Don't waste them making every decision with a potential marriage in mind... make your decisions with your Savior in mind!  Do what you can to tell the whole world that He is Lord and that He reigns from His throne in Heaven!  Do what you can to minister to the lost that His blood was shed to save sinners!  Do what you can to help those who have never heard the Good News, or to help the orphans, widows, poor and suffering!  It is so beautiful and glorious!  The Word of God says that an unmarried woman lives a different life than that of a married woman and we need to start acting on that!!  

God has done so much in my life in the last few months.  He has taught me more than I could ever fathom!  But the biggest thing He has done is made my heart be at total peace!  I trust God more right now at this phase of life, than I have in a verrrrrrry long time!  I feel so at ease and so happy!  And I know this can largely be attributed to the fact that He has cast off my bonds of oppression and showed me the legalism that had imbedded itself in my heart... the legalism that I cultivated and let in.  He showed me the dangers in my loyalty being to a movement or even my own family, above being to Him.  He broke me, and took another area of my heart that was stoney and turned it to flesh.  I cannot tell you how real my freedom in Christ is to me right now!  Joy has made a wonderful home in my heart and it gets bigger!  

We are free!  

So let's go do something with that freedom and tell the world that life in Jesus is worth dying for!  

Monday, October 8, 2012


If there is one thing I genuinely hate about myself, it's that I tend to be rather tender hearted.  I feel things very deeply.  Now that is great when it comes to being empathetic and feeling someone else's pain with them!  I am greatly affected by those who are lost, suffering, brokenhearted and alone.  Partly because I am well acquainted with suffering, but also because I am tender of heart.  I cry when others around me cry and am not shy in comforting those wounded in spirit.

But everything has its downside as well.

Having someone act like they are on your side, when in fact, they are really bad for your soul, is a heart-wrenching thing to discover.  (I know my last post was on betrayal and being hurt; but it is obviously still on the brain, so you all are just stuck. ;)  One of the things that stinks the absolute worst, is having someone know the pain and the anguish you have suffered and are continuing to experience, and then to witness them use it to obliterate you further.  It is a grief that is practically inexpressible.

I get into one of those places where I pour my soul out to those who are under the guise of "helping"... a guise that is perfect for people who are just wanting information.  I get to this place where I am totally ready to share it all and just dispense every ounce I can in an effort to benefit things, but it all turns out to be a mistake.

But the other side of the coin, is that when you are suffering silently, having people mistreat you, who know nothing of what you are going through, is just as heartbreaking.  You know every agony you have experienced and having salt dumped into the huge gaping hole you have in your heart, is just unbearable.

I get so disappointed with myself when I fall into these painful moments.  I have a hard time focusing on the basic things that I need to accomplish in life and all of my energy seems to be expelled into figuring out the mess and how it happened.  I am a very honest and open person, but I go through times where I just want to curl up in a ball and cry my eyes out by myself for a week.  I am the kind of person who LOVES people and fellowship, but I get in a dark mood and just want the world to leave me alone.

And I despise that trials affect me like that!

But I learned something...

You can't be betrayed if you didn't trust.  So when you are experiencing betrayal and backstabbing, it is a sign that you are a trusting person.  It is evidence of a heart of flesh!  You see, sometimes the thing that I despise about myself, is the thing that God has instilled in me for His glory.  I look at it as a curse, but God has given it to me as a blessing!  I see it as a burden, and God sees it as a tool for His plan.  Part of why I get unhappy with something like a tender heart, is because I am looking solely at how it affects *me*... and God looks at it from the perspective of how it can affect *His Kingdom*.

When I go selfish on everyone, it is because the object of my vision is altered and I am looking at me instead of the cross.  Jesus doesn't want me to look at the hardships in my life as something that I alone have to bear.  When He saved us, He told us to "come unto" Him and cast our burdens onto His shoulders.

If I can understand and just grasp that by my suffering and being stabbed in the back, I have the opportunity to share in a suffering that others might be experiencing as well, I will be able to feel a connection with the Bride of Christ that I may not be able to feel otherwise.  God is holding His children in the palm of His hand, and there is not one thing or person who can change that.  He has an inheritance in store for us that cannot ever be topped and is protecting us in our salvation!!  {1 Peter 1:3-5}

Oh my word, how selfish can I possibly be?!  I have been given something that was purchased with the blood of my sinless Savior and His power is made perfect in my weakness!  How fantastic is that?!  I can be weak and even embrace the fact that I am weak, and it is the very thing that makes the strength of my Friend and Brother stand out as something irreplaceable and beyond glorious!  So bring it on peoples, because for the next 12 hours, I'll probably feel like I can tackle anything.  ;)

"Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ." -1 Peter 1:13

Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Flames of Idealism

I can be a pretty optimistic person.  I'm of the mind that things will always work out in the end (even though I don't always act like it) and I enter into a lot of situations with my hopes high and my expectations positive.  I am an idealistic person... a visionary, if you will.  I have been told that comes with being young, and I somehow do not have a hard time believing that to be true.

But I have learned something over the course of my growing up-

things often do not turn out like we hope they do.

I have given my heart to a situation many times, often with the idea that all my efforts to pour myself into something that seemed to be Gospel oriented, would have sanctifying and fruitful results.  I get so darned excited at the prospect of entering into something that holds immense potential for the Kingdom of Jesus Christ!  In short, I'm like the weather man who always labels the forecast "sunny", when in fact it ends up being torrential rains with deadly lightning and gale force winds.  

Disappointment is natural.  In fact, disappointment is a gift because it is the very thing that shows us we will not ever be satisfied with anything on this earth.  It is the key player in pricking our hearts and shoving us towards the foot of the cross for true fulfillment.  **BUT** in the moment, you feel like someone has ripped your beating heart out and is crushing it with their bare hands.  I mean, maybe I'm just crazy, but when my optimistic outlook is dashed asunder because false motives manifested themselves or scoundrels were exposed, I usually don't smile and say "this feels grrrrrreat!!" 

No, I usually cry (which I'm told is perfectly normal, so don't judge) and then get in a passion driven fury that causes my heart to ache from a want of justice.  I hate seeing people destroy other people's lives and somehow think that because it was done in efforts to preserve their reputation or to safeguard their lies, it is okay.  My spirit writhes in grief when I see the weak taken advantage of by the powerful and then tossed aside like an old shoe.  I feel the tears of my soul when I see those hurting at the hands of others and told it is their fault, rather than being scooped up and shown what grace looks like.  (and I am not talking about those hurting because they are suffering the consequences of a specific sin)  You see, when the sheep of Jesus Christ are being attacked by spiritual wolves, God doesn't want us to just sit back and watch them struggle, He wants us to be Jesus to them, and too often we embrace the philosophy of the pharisees, as opposed to the theology of our Savior.

"I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'" Acts 20:35

So often I see the Body of Christ live solely for themselves.  Paul tells us that the Body of Christ is to function like a real body does (1 Corinthians 12:15), so why do we not embrace that?  It's like having your dominant hand be injured, but not using the opposite hand to assist in the functions which the dominant hand cannot perform.  Can you imagine not using your eyes to see things that your hands need to accomplish?  Like trying to get all the different members of your body to function in an autonomous sort of way... totally independent from each other.  You know what that would make?  A royal mess.  You wouldn't ever accomplish anything and you would only make yourself perfectly miserable all the time.  The thing that flabbergasts me, is that we have been told how we should function as the Body of Christ, and yet we only look out for number one.  We have this insatiable desire for:

power. popularity. control. fame. notoriety. praise. adoration. wealth. recognition. acceptance.  

And a label that says, " I am the BEST Christian there ever was!"

"The best"?  Who was "the best"?  What would make one "the best"?

Jesus was the only one who can claim the title of "the best" anything. period.  I am probably "the worst" Christian, because there is not one single thing *I* can do to become "the best".  However, I belong to the Best, I have been washed in the blood of the Best, and even though I am not the best on my own, I am part of the Best.  I am a branch on the vine of the Best (John 15:15)!

We get so wrapped up in what we want that we forget what we are supposed to give.  Look at the words of our Beloved...

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  
 Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.  
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.  
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.  
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.  
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.  
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.  
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.  Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. -Matthew 5:3-12

In these verses, I see a complete and total lack of a me-centered attitude.  In fact, the text above is just oozing with self-LESSness.  He doesn't say "blessed are those who are popular, self-righteous, famous, adored and idolized for they shall inherit"....what?  What will they inherit?  You see, getting the focus off yourself and all your sappy goodness is how we get our eyes pointed to Jesus.  It is how we see that there is absolutely nothing we can do to earn His favor and His inheritance...  Why do we want to take this beautiful gift that God has bestowed on us, and throw it back in His face?  Why do we want to make it about our hopeless selves, instead of the One who is infinitely perfect? 

That is something that every Christian struggles with.  It is just part of the spiritual battle that we face against the enemy and our own flesh; but what scares me is when it can't be identified.  I know that I get wrapped up in my "ideals" and they can become the object of my focus.  I know that I struggle with making my salvation about my works!  It is when we think that we have it perfectly together that we need to be concerned.  It is when we look in the spiritual mirror and go "Dang, we are looking good, my friend!", that we should feel convicted and probably worried

So as the idealism that associates itself with my youth (and my zealous heart doesn't do my idealistic nature any favors, let me tell you) becomes progressively harnessed for something even greater, I am learning that pointing my eyes to the cross and feeling my very imperfect heart sting from the pain of my sin, is a beautiful way for me to learn how to forget about myself.  I want to give all of myself to helping others!  I want to be the poor in spirit, mournful, meek, merciful, pure in heart, peacemaker who is persecuted for Jesus' sake and hungers and thirsts for righteousness!  When others look at me, I don't want them to see *me*, I want them to see Jesus Christ and His work manifested in my pitiful life.

But that is only going to be accomplished if I take my eyes off my temporal, justice seeking ideals, and point them towards the feet of Jesus.

"Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen." -Ephesians 3:20-21

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Of Buses and Betrayal

We all understand what it means to be "thrown under the bus"... the purpose can be a little vague, but betrayal is something that is an all too familiar feeling to us as human beings.  I know that I personally am well acquainted with the meaning of the phrase and although the pain of getting beat up under the said "bus" can be intense, sometimes the pain of being betrayed and thrown under is worse.

You feel that you are united to other Christians in a significant and inexpressible way; but there are moments where sin becomes so overwhelming that bonds are broken and backs are stabbed.  What should've been a chain linked arm and arm in spiritual warfare for the kingdom of heaven, becomes a spiritual blood bath against each other.

One thing that I notice in my own heart is the need to justify myself.  I hear the lies and I instantly want to jump on top of it and bring justice!  I hate deceit, but sometimes my desire to rid the world of deceit becomes obsessive and I feel frustrated when my attempts fail.  When I feel like the scape goat in a situation, I bristle and fight it.  When others seek to taint or even ruin my reputation, I fight like a maniac to try and *fix* it all. 

But you know, I would rather someone ruin my reputation and make me the scape goat, then make someone else.  I don't like seeing my friends or brothers and sisters in the Lord suffer... so if it happening to me, means that it doesn't happen to them, I will bear that burden and it is selfish of me to despise being hurt.

It is an attitude of selfishness rising up inside of me that says "I don't deserve this".  Instead of fighting it because of how I feel, I need to fight it because the recognition that the deceit on the villains part will destroy them and bring them to total ruin.  Instead of acting on a selfish motive, I need to act on a selfless motive... an act that is driven by a love for the Lord and His people--Not a love of myself. 

Which is why reputations don't matter to me.  Gossip, slander, hatred, envy, lying, deceit, anger and every other thing that seems to be targeted at the core of my being, all don't scare me anymore.  It does not matter.  What matters is that Jesus is Lord and His way is perfect and more than worth fighting for.

My heart is broken at times.  I feel betrayed and hated--but so did Jesus Christ.  Only He didn't deserve it because He was perfect, and I am hopelessly flawed and deserving of death.  But He has chosen me and bestowed His righteousness on me and (Galatians 5:1)  I don't need anything else.  Being addicted to other peoples' praise is a dangerous thing and one that will certainly let us down.  Friends don't matter.  Having people like you doesn't matter.  Respect, devotion, loyalty and support aren't things that are going to save you.  You're not going to die if people who claim the name of our Savior, then turn around and spew venom from the same mouth they proclaim blessings.  All that matters in this life is that lost souls see the work of salvation that God has wrought in your own heart.

 I feel so overwhelmed with grief at times.  A lot of these blog posts are written from a time where I was going through a painstaking trial and this post is no exception.  I've laid so much on the line and it haunts me everyday.  So why does it haunt me?  Because I had a picture in my mind of how life among Christians should operate and when it didn't happen that way, I felt hopeless.  

One chief lesson I have learned in most of my miserable moments, is that just because things are supposed to happen a certain way, doesn't mean that they automatically will happen that way.  Just because people are supposed to act in a way that exemplifies dignity and noble character, doesn't mean that is what they will default to.  Feeling challenged can be a rather enlightening thing for those around us.  It usually shows the people who surround us what kind of heart we really possess.  The tricky part is that if we have a black heart--a heart of stone, we can hide it for a little while, but the Lord will reveal it all in due time.  Whether for our salvation or our damnation, He will do what is best and that means that our lies and our deceit will come out of the woodwork.  Unfortunately, that means that others are probably going to have to be hurt in the process and that is where I am at right now.  I see how God is using trials and difficult situations in my life to reveal a *greater* web of lies and deception; but He is also using it to show me the places in my heart where I am indulging my own flesh and desires.  He is using it all to grow me and make me resilient and further dependent on Him for satisfaction and happiness. 

When I feel most despondent and sad, I go and I just read!  I just inundate myself and God never fails to comfort me.  The more I delve into God's Word the more He shows me and it brings me such peace and joy.  One scripture that really stood out to me in my reading today, came from Proverbs and was very applicable to some of the current difficulties I am facing...
"Crush a fool in a mortar with a pestle along with crushed grain, yet his folly will not depart from him..." -Proverbs 27:22

That verse made me see that it does not matter what I do.  It does not matter how hard I try to justify unjust circumstances, a fool's folly will not depart from him.  God has to do that work, and He can use others in a mighty way, but if I scream at the top of my lungs from every roof top I can find, it might prevent others from being deceived, but the root of the deceit will still be there and that is what really counts. 

So as we endeavor to battle against the evil that ensues us, may we cast off all fear we have of our own desires and be challenged to ask ourselves if our motive is for the kingdom of heaven, or for our own wounded egos. 

"The wicked flee when no one pursues...
But the righteous are bold as a lion." -Proverbs 28:1

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

It's Alright

"Now when He got into a boat, His disciples followed Him.  And suddenly a great tempest arose on the sea, so that the boat was covered with the waves. But He was asleep.  Then His disciples came to Him and awoke Him, saying, "Lord, save us! We are perishing!"  But He said to them, "Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?" Then He arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm.  So the men marveled, saying,  "Who can this be, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?" Matthew 8:23-27

I have read this story a million times, but for some reason, it struck a cord with me like it hasn't ever done before.  I felt like I could genuinely *feel* the fear that the disciples must have had on that boat.  Sometimes life is like an angry sea and there is a lack of assurance that everything is going to be okay.  I know that I have many moments where I feel despondent, hopeless, deserted and vulnerable. 

But what I find the greatest comfort in, is when Jesus says "Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?"

He knew that everything was going to be okay.  He was the one controlling the wind and the waves, if His disciples were trusting in Him and believing that He was the Son of God, then it didn't make sense why they questioned their own safety, when their safety lied in the hands of the God Who was with them on that very boat.  

And so I've wondered why I question the outcome... why do I wonder if everything is going to be okay?  Honestly, if I truly have the faith that Jesus is the keeper of my soul, what on this entire earth should I have to fear?

Absolutely nothing.

There is not one thing that can pluck me from the hand of God:

"And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.  My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father's hand." John 10:28-29

So I realized how silly my fears were.  Fears about failing, or about what the future has, or about not living up to extra biblical standards... fears about people gossiping or lying about me-- all these things that the enemy uses to distract me from the greater purpose that the Lord has set before me.  Things to take my mind off my redemption and point me back to myself, instead of my Savior.  If I can just focus on myself and my own failures, then I will lose what the very definition of salvation itself is.  I need to be looking to the cross, not myself.  Even if it is a focus on shortcomings, it's still a focus on me.  It is still my heart saying that I need to do this, or I need to do that, when it has already been done for me.  I need to show forth good works so that I can be a testimony to a lost and dying world; not so that I can somehow be pleasing before the Lord and earn favor with Him.  

God has used these trials in my life to show me my own lack of faith.  I desire the kind of faith that can move mountains! (Matthew 17:20)  Or the kind of faith that isn't afraid to take a stand so powerful that it is a risk to my own physical life! (Esther 4:16)  I want to be able to impact others with the work Jesus has done in my own life and show how beautiful salvation is.  

But without the faith that God knows everything and is in control of everything that happens, my ability to have a huge impact is inhibited because all I can worry about is me.  (Philippians 4:6)  Instead, I need to trust God and just focus on proclaiming the glory of His name throughout the earth.  Instead of letting my fears bog me down, I need to meditate on the fact that Jesus is with me and ordaining my steps.  If I fail, then it is just an opportunity for me to become sanctified in an area that I need to be convicted in, and if I am wounded, it is an opportunity for me to become even more dependent on my Savior for comfort and love.  God's love is perfect.  It isn't unwavering like human love and affection; but it is constant and unchanging.  Why do we act like it just isn't enough for us?  Why can't we just hold onto something so perfect and glorious that was given to us in all our unworthiness?  

When we go through times where we feel unwelcome, unloved, rejected or lonely, those are moments just bursting with potential for a deeper relationship with the Lord!  It is God telling us that we don't need to be accepted, adored, or admired; but that we just need Him.  Corrie Ten Boom said "You may never know that Jesus is all you need, until Jesus is all you have" and that is just jam packed with truth.  It is in our darkest moments that the light of Jesus is so bright and powerful... it is when our hearts are broken that the balm of Gilead is the sweetest and the comfort of the Holy Spirit is overwhelmingly glorious. 

With that I shall end with a link.  (I know you're just overwhelmed with excitement! ;)  It is a song that has been a great source of comfort to me lately and is probably responsible for the inspiration of this blog post.  

So here you go:

"...for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you." -Matthew 17:20

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Love Much

One thing I have noticed is that it can be too easy to forget the Lord's work in our lives.  We get on our "holy trails" and forget where we would be without the Lord's saving and sovereign work.  We elevate ourselves above others and think that we are better than them because we somehow have it together more than they do. 

It makes my heart ache to see my generation think that it is unscathed from the world because they were home educated or raised in a reformed church.  The typical check list says that if you: dress modestly, haven't dated, haven't gone to college, were not in public school, abstain from youth group, have no tattoos or odd piercings, and you don't smoke and you don't chew or go with people that do, you have got the market corner on conservative christian holiness... congratulations!

But do we love our Lord?

We think we have a perfect little appearance, but do we love the Savior who really was perfect and took the penalty of death that we so adequately deserved?  Do we even know what it means to love Him?

"There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty.  And when they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both. Tell Me, therefore, which of them will love him more?" Simon answered and said, "I suppose the one whom he forgave more." And He said to him, "You have rightly judged."  (Luke 7:41-43)

"If you love Me, keep My commandments." (John 14:15)  

"This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends. You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.  No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you. You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you. These things I command you, that you love one another." (John 15:12-17) 

When we think that we are better than others because we haven't lived a rebellious life, we might as well say that Jesus' blood has washed us purer than those who have experienced what it is like to live in that utter darkness.  When we start caring about appearances and reputations more than we care about the name of Jesus Christ being brought throughout all the earth, then we might as well stop saying that we care about the Kingdom, because our attitude strongly suggests that we don't.  When all we can focus on is what we (think) we have done right, and what everyone else has done wrong, then we had better start evaluating our motives, because Christianity isn't about everything we can do, it is about everything that Jesus has done and continues to do on our behalf. 

I love this passage of Scripture:

"Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has washed My feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head. You gave Me no kiss, but this woman has not ceased to kiss My feet since the time I came in. You did not anoint My head with oil, but this woman has anointed My feet with fragrant oil. Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little." Then He said to her, "Your sins are forgiven." (Luke 7:44-48)

There are times when I wish I was the woman who had to be forgiven much so that I could love that much!  Where I would have been so radically saved that my heart would feel eternally fused to the heart of my Savior in a way that I didn't have to struggle with feeling better than others, because I was once the worst of the worst in the way I lived my life outwardly.  Some of my best friends have the most beautiful testimonies!  I am inspired and brought to tears every time I think on the Lord's work in their lives.  He has worked a wonder in their hearts and His power is made so evident through the salvation of their once perdition bound souls, and it warms my heart!

It is not that I am lacking a testimony of how God has saved me, but mine seems so small sometimes, in light of those who were really bound by the world, before God set them free.  

I think that as young women, we are prone to feelings of superiority, more than others.  We glory in our feminine "works" and our Proverbs 31-ness--we think that our (seemingly) "spotless lives" coupled with our exemplary "homemaking skillz" somehow make us prime marriage material, as opposed to that new convert who is just learning about submission and her irreplaceable role in her home. The young woman whose body is marred by piercings or tattoos.  We stand afar off, gazing with our mouths gaping, wondering if she is really saved or if it is a put on, all because we think ourselves so much better and above, because we have not "lived like that"! 

The question we need to ask ourselves is why. Why do we want to be good homemakers?  Why do we want to be submissive women?  Why do we want to pursue being wives and mothers, over six figure incomes?  Why do we want to be feminine women?  Is it because it is all we know to do?  Is our motive that we simply want to follow the proper steps so that we can be married one day?

Or do we embrace these things so that the world may see the light of Jesus Christ through our lives?

You see, just looking the part on the outside is not what's important.  It all has to stem from the inside.  You can't build a sky scraper and start at the top, you have to build from the foundation up; and you can't transform a heart of stone into a heart of flesh from the outside... it is a work that has to take place inwardly first.  We cannot just go through the motions, our motive has to stem from a heart that has been radically transformed by the blood of Christ and we desire all of those in darkness, to be impacted by the light of our Savior, shining forth from our own lives.

As Christians, we are all a part of the same Body and we all have a role to fulfill and need each other to function properly.  God does not categorize us as those who are more fit vessels for the furtherance of the Kingdom, as opposed to those who are elect and yet of little use because of their scandalous pasts.   My right arm has a lot of scars on it (yes I am accident prone and it shows... but I'll have you know I got most of those scars in the kitchen! ;), but I don't value my left arm more simply because it has not incurred the trauma that my right arm has.  And it is the same principle among us as brothers and sisters in the Body... those of us who do not bear the scars of the world in the same way that others do, are not of more value in the sight of God.

I think a lot of this thinking can be avoided if we understand that we all had the potential to become the worst terrors the world has ever seen, before the Lord saved us and rescued us from a life of misery and destruction.  We forget so quickly what we could have been like apart from the love of God.  We forget that He is the one working through us and we are not the source of righteousness and goodness.  When we look at the lost, we should be thankful that the Lord has saved us from a life without Him, but we shouldn't feel thankful that we are better than them.  Our hearts should break for those who are on the path to hell!  How miserable would life be if we had to live apart from Christ?  This kind of grief will kindle a passion in us and help us to make sure that our lives are about being a witness and a testimony to lost souls, and avoid thinking that we are superior because of our "holiness".  We will inhibit the work that the Lord could do through us, if we do not learn to put off our pride and have a broken heart for those who will suffer eternal condemnation.  May God allow us to feel the weight of conviction and wear our knees out in prayer before Him. We must remember that we have nothing, that was not given to us by Him. 

"Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all.  See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all.  Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.  Do not quench the Spirit.  Do not despise prophecies.  Test all things; hold fast what is good.  Abstain from every form of evil.  Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it."  1 Thessalonians 5:14-24


Saturday, June 2, 2012

"Weep with those who weep"

My dear friend Jean Marie and Avery Notgrass

"Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep." Romans 12:15

As the Body of Christ, we are intrinsically united in a way that is rather inexpressible.  We function together and when one of us is wounded, we all suffer.

Today a precious family lost their 16 month old son and while I didn't know them, my heart goes out to them in the deepest sense.  My family has experienced this kind of loss and it is a pain that cannot be equaled.  But I am so thankful that the Lord allows us to grieve as those who do in fact have hope! ("But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope." 1Thessalonians 4:13) This dearest baby boy is in the arms of Jesus, and so while grief is strong, it is not despairing.

There are not any words that can bring comfort better than our Savior's grace, and so I pray that is poured out mightily upon all of those who grieve over this little one.

So dearest Notgrass family, know that there is an entire body of believers lifting you up before the throne of God this evening.

This is for you.

And for Jean Marie, whose tender heart is constantly a source of inspiration to me... my heart is broken for you all.

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Heavy Hearts

Is there anyone who doesn't know that I love to debate?  It is like it's infused into my very being!  Someone challenges me on a topic and my heart skips a beat at the opportunity to engage in an enlightening and sanctifying discussion.  I am eager to learn and to share; but on the other hand, sometimes it becomes so personal, that I end up more wounded than I would prefer to be.  Sometimes it leaves me feeling as though I am drowning in the blood of my own wounds, and I just want a good Samaritan to come along and extend a hand of kindness in that precise moment.  Continuing on in the massacre is the furthest thing from my mind.

But why is this?  I have studied apologetics, worldview and philosophy.  I love talking about my convictions!  I love sharing a biblical perspective on issues regarding autonomy, feminism and egalitarianism.  I love feeling challenged to recall biblical examples and passages and convey the reason why I believe what I believe, and how firm a foundation Jesus Christ is and what a beautiful assurance that is to my soul.

Which is why it doesn't make any sense that there comes a point in these conversations where I feel like my heart is a hundred pound weight in my chest and I can't go on.

It usually happens as soon as my personal character starts being slaughtered.  I get accused of the very thing I tried to avoid, or the thing that makes me draw back in disgust; and then all of the sudden, I feel that "weight" and I say "enough".  As soon as my opponent tries to stuff me into one of their little boxes, I bristle... because I know in my heart of hearts, I was designed to live in "a Body", not a box.  As I was asking God why my spirit feels such grief at times, I began to understand the purpose behind having a "heavy heart".

When in heated conflict, it can be easy to go through the motions and not even be aware that what you are saying is truth to you.  It's like being trained to do something-- there comes a point where you don't even think about performing the actions in which you have been conditioned to execute.  It can be easy to not see the other person as a human being whose eyes are blinded... to look at them as just an experiment for you to exercises your "skills" on.  Then the argument loses its flavor of love and becomes robotic.  We should share our passion for the Lord and the convictions that He has been gracious enough to give us, because we *care* about the souls of others, not because we want to feel superior.  We should have an attitude of humility, not a haughty spirit that desires to simply conquer the other person... a gentility that seeks to have mercy on that blind soul is much more precious.

So when I feel my heart become heavy, it is when I realize that the hatred on the other end is too deep to be waded through in one conversation.  Even though the entire debate is personal (because redemption is a personal aspect of a Christian's life), there comes a breaking point where the personal angle becomes targeted directly at the heart and it's like flaming arrows piercing through the tenderest of places in a soul.  It is like you can see the venom spewing from their tongues and you become despairing because the scenario seems hopeless, graciousness is lost and a dirty fight becomes even dirtier.  You draw back in grief and can only pray that the Lord will use a sliver of your words to pour out a spirit of conviction upon their hard hearts.

The other thing that I noticed about this kind of conflict, is that it is a tool of satan to distract from a greater purpose the Lord might be trying to accomplish.  It can be easy to sink into the grief that comes and focus on that instead of the bigger picture.  I was talking with this dear friend recently about the neglected topic of fasting and it brought to mind a small project this friend had talked about starting, and an idea sort of morphed in my mind from a culmination of the two conversations.  This recent experience of grief was a perfect distraction from an area the Lord had recently laid on my heart to pursue; I was so excited about it and the ways it could increase an entire generation of young women's faith!  And then... Wham!  I was bombarded and it was excruciatingly hard for me to regain my perspective and focus back on what the Lord had convicted me to work on.

I will admit, I was disappointed in myself... I was disappointed that I wasn't able to overlook the hurt and just plow on through it.  But that is exactly the kind of attitude that will cause me to focus on my own abilities instead of on Jesus.  It isn't about what I can do, it is about what He can and does do.  Allowing the grieved state of our souls to turn our eyes upon ourselves will only make us sadder... because we will see our own inabilities, which are rampant in our lives, when we should be looking to the cross, as the only able and perfect thing in our lives.

It is a lesson learned, and one I am grateful for-- because feeling sad isn't the crime in and of itself, allowing it to alter the object of my vision is.  Letting it have the ability to rob me of the joy I experience in my redemption and make me look at myself, almost in an attitude of pride, instead of looking heavenward.  Understanding how to harness the potential that can lie within a weary and burdened heart can be a wonderful thing and something that can be so profitable in life!  If we only keep our eyes on the eternal goal and not this temporary earth which shall pass away.

"...let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God." Hebrews 12:1-2

Friday, May 4, 2012

Thinking Caps

Before being completely home educated, I attended kindergarten, briefly, in the pagan (more commonly known as "public") school.  My mother had already been working with me extensively, so I'm not certain that I learned much, but there are a lot of things I remember.

One thing, for instance, is that whenever we were about to embark on a "learning journey", the teacher would instruct all of us young impressionable children to "put our thinking caps on".  She wanted us to be fully alert before our lesson was presented before us.  Which makes perfect sense! 

To me, a "worldview" is like a "thinking cap".  It is like the filter we put on over our minds before we take in information.  That is why our worldviews are so important.  Our worldview is what helps us sort truth from fiction, fact from myth.  It tells us whether we are being told something that is in accord with the word of God, or whether someone is trying to shove a doctrine down our throats that is undeniably from Babylon itself.

You would think that with worldview being such an important topic, it would be more studiously pursued by Christians, but it is often grossly neglected.  Academia is exalted, while the shaping of minds and character is put on the back burner.

A biblical worldview helps us to identify false doctrines and refute the pagan philosophies of our modern culture. "Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ." Colossians 2:8

We must seek to build a foundational worldview upon the word of God so that we are constantly evaluating every single little speck of information that we consume, in contrast with God's precepts.  Understanding that genuine knowledge cannot be achieved outside of the fear of the Lord, is crucial to our development of a sound worldview and our defense of the Christian faith.
"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction."  Proverbs 1:7  " whom {Christ} are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." Colossians 2:3

In his book, "Always Ready", Dr. Greg Bahnsen explains the importance of God being the source of all knowledge:

"God's word has been seen to be foundational to all knowledge.  It has absolute epistemic authority and it is the necessary presupposition of all knowledge which man possesses.  All our knowledge must be a receptive reconstruction of God's primary thoughts; the Lord is the originator of all truth.  God's word must then be taken as the final standard of truth for man.  Those who would feign intellectual self-sufficiency and refrain from presupposing the word of Christ in Scripture are led into foolish ignorance.  One must begin with Christ in the world of thought or else surrender any hope of attaining knowledge--about himself, the world, or God...
"Paul declares that all knowledge must be related to Christ then, according to Colossians 2.  He says this is for our protection; it is very dangerous to fail to see the necessity of Christ in all our thinking.  So Paul draws to our attention the impossibility of neutrality "in order that no one delude you with crafty speech."  Instead we must, as Paul exhorts, be steadfast, confirmed, rooted, and established in the faith as we were taught (v. 7).  One must be presuppositionally committed to Christ in the world of thought (rather than neutral) and firmly tied down to the faith which he has been taught, or else the persuasive argumentation of secular thought will delude him.  Hence the Christian is obligated to presuppose the word of Christ in every area of knowledge; the alternative of delusion.  (Always Ready)
 So what is the purpose in developing a solid worldview that is wrapped around the core of God's word?  "But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear..." 1 Peter 3:15  We are called to be always ready to defend our faith and give an answer for the hope that is within us.  A worldview that is in sync with God's principles is vital in our role as Christians.  Stating that we are going to just "love" the lost by closing our mouths and claiming neutrality, is in fact, not love at all. 

"The plea for Christians to surrender to neutrality in their thinking is not an uncommon one.  Nevertheless it strikes at the very heart of our faith and our faithfulness to the Lord...
Attempting to be neutral in one's intellectual endeavors (whether research, argumentation, reasoning, or teaching) is tantamount to striving to erase the antithesis between the Christian and the unbeliever.  Christ declared that the former was set apart from the latter by the truth of God's word (John 17:17).  Those who wish to gain dignity in the eyes of the world's intellectuals by wearing the badge of "neutrality" only do so at the expense of refusing to be set apart by God's truth."  (Always Ready)

In reality, it is a selfish person who would say they were not going to be decisive in their convictions and presuppositions.  Claiming that our lives are built upon the rock of Jesus Christ Who has redeemed our souls and that He alone possesses all authority, is more demonstrative of love than a declaration of neutrality could ever possibly be.  When the world evaluates our lives and sees our walk as Christians, they ought to be able to tell who is the Ruler and Lord of our lives.  There should be no blurring or confusion in regards to the possessor of our hearts, minds and souls.

"Therefore, the Christian who strives after neutrality in his thought is found actually to be endeavoring to efface the fact that he is a Christian!  By denying his distinctive religious commitment he is reduced to apostate thought patterns and absorbed into the world of unbelief.  Attempting to find a compromise between the demands of worldly neutrality (agnosticism) and the doctrines of Christ's word results in the rejection of Christ's distinctive Lordship by obliterating the great gulf between the thinking of the old man and that of the new man. 
No such compromise is even possible.  "No man is able to serve two lords" (Matt. 6:24).  It should come as no surprise that that, in a world where all things have been created by Christ (Col. 1:16) and are carried along by the word of His power (Heb. 1:3) and where all knowledge is therefore deposited in Him who is The Truth (Col. 2:3; John 14:6) and who must be Lord over all thinking (2 Cor. 10:5), neutrality is nothing short of immorality.  "Whosoever therefore would be a friend of the world maketh himself an enemy of God" (James 4:4).  (Always Ready)

The importance of defending the faith is the driving force behind developing a worldview that is able to refute the philosophies and vain deceits of the world.  The point in apologetics (the defense of the Christian faith) is not to shove our faith down the throats of the lost by bashing their beliefs; but rather it is about showing them that they are not built upon The Rock, but upon sand.  It is so that God can use us to possibly convict lost souls and in the end, bestow redemption upon them if He so chooses.

We are surrounded every single day with the worldly ideals of the society we live in.  It is inescapably important that we recognize this and cultivate a way of thinking that can guard our minds from procuring a pagan field of thought.  The movies we watch, songs we listen to and the books we read all reflect and convey a worldview.  Sure, most authors or artists don't create something with the intention of making it a philosophical allegory of their lives, but it is none the less, that very thing.  A person's worldview is imputed into every aspect of their life... especially the things he/she creates.  Satan uses the world and the entertainment we indulge in, to indoctrinate us and plant seeds of thinking that could radically inhibit our work in the Kingdom.
"Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God."  James 4:4 (Always Ready)

With that, I will end with one last quote from the irreplaceable Dr. Greg Bahnsen:
 "Do you have the courage of your Christian distinctives in scholarship, apologetics, and schooling, or have you been trying to wipe out the contrast between Christian thought and apostate thought by following the demands of neutrality?  Put in biblical perspective this question can be rephrased in this way: does your thinking operate under the Lordship of Jesus Christ or have you become an enemy of God through neutral, agnostic, unbelieving thought patterns?  Choose this day whom you will serve!" 

Monday, March 19, 2012

A Lack of Love

"And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing."  
1 Corinthians 13:2

Loving one another within the Body is a difficult task for us to execute.  We all have different definitions of what love looks like, and they all tend to be geared towards whatever makes us feel good.  Our selfishness pervades righteousness and we get lost in an unjust and unbiblical expectation.

I'll just start off with a personal note on the topic...where I tend to struggle with graciousness and love is when I am sinned against.  Now don't get me wrong and start having visions of me taking my butcher's knife in hand and threatening to take matters into my own hands!  I don't struggle with feelings of violence ;), but with immense sorrow that comes from a wounded spirit.  I don't feel like loving the other person; instead, I feel like  washing my hands of them and pretending they have fallen from off the face of the earth.  I dwell on my pain, rather than just having a good cry and moving on with life.  I think about it all day long and try to reason out why the other person saw fit to shove a blunt object right through the center of my heart.  It becomes the center of my focus and I feel sullen and hopeless.  This is so wrong for me to do!  I am not loving the other person, because all I can focus on is myself.  Instead of pitying them for being so blind to their sin, I get stuck on a "me me me" kick.  I am learning that laying my burdens before the feet of Jesus Christ is all I can do to overcome my hurt.  Being sorrowful over my hurt should not be the central point of the situation, but instead, it should be in dealing with the other person's sin...not even their sin against me, but their sin against God.  Taking my eyes off of myself is something God is teaching me right now and He has shown me that it all stems from a lack of love within my own heart.  

"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.'  But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.  For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?  And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so?  Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect."  Matthew 5:43-48

Another problem we can encounter when dealing with loving one another, is having a misconception of what love really looks like.  We think that if our egos are not being padded and if people don't stand by us in our sin, we are somehow being unloved by them.  But that is not real love at all!  Real love cares enough about one another to confront a sin that will separate the other person from God.  Not in a holier-than-thou manner, but in a spirit of Christian love that says, "I care enough about your soul to be as iron sharpening iron to you."  When we are confronted, face to face, with our own sin, we tend to bristle and take our anger and feelings of injured pride out on the person through whom the correction was initiated.  It isn't right at all!  We are not only misinterpreting what love looks like, we are not loving the other person at fact, we are demonstrating hatred towards them.  Jesus says that hating our brothers is like murder...

"You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.'  But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, 'Raca!' shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, 'You fool!' shall be in danger of hell fire."  Matthew 5:21-22

We all tend to use love in the wrong way.  For instance, we have no trouble loving ourselves!  We wallow and sulk in our attempts to love ourselves, instead of giving of ourselves to love others.  If it rubs us the wrong way, by golly, it must be wrong!  We have so much trouble stepping outside of our comfort zones and denying ourselves for the benefit of others.  

What is wrong with us?  Why is it so hard for us to allow God to mold us into the image of His Son?  Why do we resist and bristle against correction?  Why do we hurt each other?  Why are we so quick to stab each other in the back, instead of being long-suffering and loving each other?

We are called to be selfless and giving of ourselves.  We are not called to only watch our backs, but sacrifice everything, even our very lives, for the sake of our brethren in the Lord.  

"This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.  Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends."  John 15:12-13

What would Jesus think of us, when we are not even willing to sacrifice our reputations or popularity for the sake of loving our fellow brothers and sisters within the Body?  It's is a shame and something we should feel immensely grieved about.  

We are meant to work function as a family!  But we don't--we act just like the world.  We hate each other, fight, complain, gossip and seek each others' destruction.  This is not love.  This is not what we have been called to.  We are not in a competition against one another!  We are in a family with each other!  It grieves my spirit to see the wickedness that is exercised against fellow heirs to the Kingdom--and from fellow heirs to the Kingdom!  We need to remember that God views our brethren in the Lord as His children.  And when we sin against each other within the Church, we are sinning against the children of the Lord of hosts.  That should make us tremble and prick our hearts to contemplate the severity of our actions when we sin against one another.  

Why can't we dwell in unity and put off our divisive spirits?  

  • "Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment."  1 Corinthians 1:10

  • "I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.  There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all."  Ephesians 4:1-6

  • "Behold, how good and how pleasant it is For brethren to dwell together in unity!  It is like the precious oil upon the head, Running down on the beard, The beard of Aaron, Running down on the edge of his garments.  It is like the dew of Hermon, Descending upon the mountains of Zion; For there the Lord commanded the blessing —  Life forevermore."  Psalm 133

You see, the scriptures are very clear about how the Body is supposed to function.  But we just can't accept it!  We have to put our arrogance above what God's Word teaches us.  God has been specific with us, but we somehow complicate it and make it difficult to understand.  This is not what we are called to.  When we embrace a worldly philosophy on relationships in general, and we drag it into the Church instead of practicing what the Lord has called us to, we strip the Church raw of all its beauty and potential.  Instead of being focused on how we can be a light in this dark and darkening world, we have to fight for our lives... unfortunately, among our brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ.  We are so blind.  We are to lock arm and arm and combat the wiles of the enemy together; not be each others' enemies.  

It is a sad and grievous thing we have embraced.  May God convict our hearts and lead us to this much greater and inexpressibly glorious way of life. We are capable of living in it...if we would just look past ourselves and look above to our omnipotent God and Savior.  

"Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.  And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.  Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away.  For we know in part and we prophesy in part.  But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.  When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.  For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.  And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love."  1 Corinthians 13

Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Problem with Problems...

I can often times have trouble keeping my life focused on eternity.  I get caught up in what is bothering me today, and I forget that those nuisances were stragetically placed in my life to sanctify me in the Lord.  I get spiritually exhausted from fighting battles day in and day out; and there happens to be more than one occasion (that I can recall to my memory), where I would just like to put my sword down, wipe the blood off of it, mend my wounds and give myself time to heal before moving on to the next blood filled battle.  But what I forget, (absent minded fool that I am) is that Jesus is my rest.  My redemption and eternal salvation is my peace for dwelling here on this wicked filled earth.  

I am an enormous Greg Bahnsen fan!  I just have to proclaim that for all of you fellow Greg Bahnsen guru's out there.  I have such an admiration for the way he would debunk false religions and defend the Christian faith with a strength and confidence that is not often seen these days.  You would think that I would be able to harness all of my apologetic and worldview studies and conquer the temptation to dwell on my sorrows, with a grace like that of a seasoned veteran for the battle of a lifetime!  

But do I?


Nope!  I cower, I complain, and I conjure up all sorts of additional miseries for my "woe is me" moment.
It's so simple!  Forgetting what our purpose is in life is one of the easiest things for us to do when life gets hard.  We get focused on our hardships, rather than what the purpose is behind our hardships.  We want life to fit into our little molds of what we deem acceptable and good-- and when they don't, we fall apart and succumb to the common thought that the world is coming to a complete and utter end and we are all doomed!  

We are massive control freaks...and we just can't let go and realize that God is the one who is in fact, in complete control.

It is the hardest thing for us as human beings to do.  But we must relinquish our wills to the perfect will of our Father!  He knows everything, is infinite in wisdom and has foreordained every event that takes place!  Our knowledge of the future is absolutely nil--why is it so hard sometimes, to trust the One who can see the entire future and be able to rest in the knowledge that He is orchestrating every moment of our lives?  You see, when we try to do things in our own power, we always end up either regretting or questioning the results.  Whereas, if God is the one who brings about the events in our lives, then we can be assured in the confidence of it being wholly good and blessedly perfect. 

When we are finally able to take our hand out of every situation that we are trying to tyrannize, we will be able to keep our focus on what God wants us to fix our eyes on, with greater ease.  Learning to bear good fruit and pursue what is good for edification and sanctification will come so much simpler to us!  Striving is important, but when we surrender everything to the Lord, it will feel more like achieving, rather than straining.  There will still be pain, but the pain won't feel like an injury as much as it will feel like a growing pain.

I find that as young women, we get distracted with thoughts of matrimony, acceptance and popularity.  We all want to be well known, well liked and pursued; both in friendships and romantic relationships.  But this is not what we are called to!  We are called to seek righteousness and holiness!  Our face should be continually before the Lord and our thoughts should be geared towards how we can best glorify Him, not how we can exalt ourselves and elevate our positions in life.  

Young women, in particular tend to be very competitive, and it only leads to our becoming distracted and the enemy finding a perfect door to walk through and stomp the living daylights out of our potential in the Body of Christ.  We are vessels that the King of Kings has cultivated for battle on this earth; it is a terrible shame and a waste for us to use our energies and throw away our time on silliness that can only brew sinfulness.  

Thinking about how we can be productive unmarried individuals, and how we can climb the social ladder of our reformed circles, all at the same time, is a practically impossible task.  When we focus on the temporal, we lose sight of the eternal.  

"'Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal;  but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.'" 
Matthew 6:19-21

And we do it everyday!

I'm guilty of it!  You're guilty of it!  The little, sweet elderly woman down the street is guilty of it!  But just because everybody does it, doesn't make it right!

Just because "we all do it", doesn't mean that God just winks at it and shrugs it off.  It breaks His heart and it is a sin against Him!  He has bestowed upon our souls, one of the tenderest and most precious mercies ever fathomable!  How dare we throw it back in His face by being focused on our own worldly well-being.  We need to make Him the focus of our daily lives and the reason behind all of our actions.  Who cares if everyone likes you.  Does God really care if everyone knows your name and what a wonderful person you are?  I don't think so.  It is exactly this kind of self-centered mindset that will rob us of every single ounce of influence we could have on the kingdom of Jesus Christ. Our job is to make His Name known, and His alone!  

Because that is what it is really is about what kind of impact we are able to make in the short window of time we are granted life here on this earth...this earth that is full of *things* will pass away, and yet, it is a gateway to all of eternity!  It is just a gateway.  The whole of life's purpose does not rest within this earth. The whole of life's purpose resides on His throne in Heaven above, and He has placed us on this earth to proclaim His name to every hell bound soul we could possibly encounter!  Sure, that doesn't mean we will all be street preachers, but it does mean that when a lost soul encounters us, they should be able to see the substance and priority of our focus, and the object of our love and affections! They should be able to see Jesus and our love for Him!

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 
gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.  
And those who are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  
If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.  
Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another."
Galatians 5:22-26

Monday, January 30, 2012

Pick a Little, Talk a Little

Do you know that there is a disease that is rampant in the modern Church?  It eats the Church alive, from the inside out; and is like a repulsive decay that destroys so much potential for beauty and productivity.  It kills any godly endeavor one may possess, and is the root cause of an innumerable amount of issues that can take years to recover from.  

It is gossip.

When most people hear the word "gossip", they think of elderly women playing Bridge, teenagers in high school, ladies in the beauty parlor or gentlemen gathering at the local cafe.  But when I hear the word "gossip", I have an instant picture of the Church in mind...and it ought not to be so.

Gossip is like termites.  Everything looks good on the outside, and before you know it, it is all caving in underneath you.  While things appeared to be just peachy, there was a silent killer eating away at anything viable underneath.  This is not what we are called to; THIS, this is what we are called to: 

"Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers." Ephesians 4:29

Are our conversations edifying?  If Jesus was standing in our midst, would He be pleased with the words that are coming out of our mouths?  What if the person who we were discussing were in our presence...would we change the topic of our discussion?  You see, we get so caught up in our selfish motives, that we don't look ahead at all.  We don't care what kind of damage we can do with our words, just as long as we feel good while we are doing it.  

This is tragic!  Look what just a fraction of the verses in Proverbs says about our mouths...

"Put away from thee a froward mouth, and perverse lips put far from thee."  Proverbs 4:24

"For my mouth shall speak truth; and wickedness is an abomination to my lips.  All the words of my mouth are in righteousness; there is nothing froward or perverse in them."  Proverbs 8:7-8

"The fear of the Lord is to hate evil: pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way, and the froward mouth, do I hate." Proverbs 8:13

"The mouth of the just bringeth forth wisdom: but the froward tongue shall be cut out.  The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable: but the mouth of the wicked speaketh frowardness."  Proverbs 10:31-32

"An hypocrite with his mouth destroyeth his neighbour: but through knowledge shall the just be delivered." Proverbs 11:9

"He that keepeth his mouth keepeth his life: but he that openeth wide his lips shall have destruction." Proverbs 13:3

We don't understand how much power we hold in our tongues.  James says:

"For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body.  Indeed, we put bits in horses' mouths that they may obey us, and we turn their whole body.  Look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires.  Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles!  And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell.  For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind.  But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.  With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God.  Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so.  Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening?  Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh."  James 3:2-12

Taming our tongues is vital!  If the world hears our gossipy voices, they are going to be able to see right through us and come to the conclusion that we are just like them.  They gossip and so do we!  Why should they desire a Savior when we have One and indulge in the same sins that they do?  

When we take our words and use them to manipulate others' opinions of each other, we are treading in dangerous waters.  God is not pleased with these kinds of actions.  He has told us over and over again in His word, that we need to use our tongues for His glory and the edification of His Church.  Now, I am not against lighthearted conversations, they can be edifying if they are lifting your spirits and encouraging you to pursue the furtherance of the Kingdom with joy!  That is a great thing!  But if you get joy out of bashing your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, then that is cause for genuine concern.  

When someone does something that rubs you the wrong way, or that just didn't appeal to you, and you go to someone else and attempt to get them to feel the same way as you do towards that person, then you are in sin.  If someone has sinned against you and you go to another brother or sister in the Lord to ask for prayer regarding the scenario, that is a little different; but if you go and ask for prayer just as an excuse to talk bad about someone, then you are in the wrong.  

Gossip will destroy a Church faster than a wildfire.  It divides the Body and wounds spirits.  Going to Church on Sunday merely so you can get the latest "news" or "dirt" about everything that went on that week, is a severe offense in the eyes of God.  We should be using our tongues for something beautiful; not ugly and deceitful!

We as young women fall into this so easily.  Someone rubs us the wrong way and we are on them like flies on honey.  We want everyone else to have a low opinion of them too, we want them to feel less, we want them to be the outcast and we want to feel superior to them in our friendships with others.  It is a dirty business.  It is repulsive and disgusting.  It makes ugly hearts and will eventually show up on our faces and in our actions.  We want to radiate the beauty of Jesus Christ and convey the tender feminine heart that He bestowed upon us!  How dare we pick up something so horrid and wicked and claim that as our prized possession!  

Girls, what are we doing?  

Forming cliques and leaving people out is all worldly!  Why do we do this?  Because we want to feel good.  We don't give any thought about being Jesus to others, we want to feel like the Queen Bee.  What about being a servant?  What about denying our flesh and stepping outside of our comfort zone?  What about confronting the sin of gossip when it is right in front of our eyes?  

Why are we so scared?  Because when people gossip to you, you know they will gossip about you.  We don't want to be gossiped about!  I don't want to be gossiped about!  Nobody does!  But are we willing to give up a seemingly good reputation for the sake of God's glory?  I mean, if someone is going to gossip about you because you decided not to gossip with them, that's a pretty good reason to be gossiped about.  

Part of why girls gossip in particular is that they are immensely competitive.  They see a girl who they think is prettier or smarter than them, or who they feel is getting more attention or the guys like better and they instantly conjure up a complex plot to bring them down in the form of gossip.  They want everyone to dislike them as much as they do, so they go to this person and that person and start a rumor mill that will eventually leave somebody in tears... and it's usually the victim of the gossip.  

Do you see what the common thread is with gossip and rumors?

It is pride.

Someone's pride gets wounded, or threatened, and that's when gossip is at its strongest.  If we could only heed the warnings of pride found in the Scriptures, and put on humility, we could find that avoiding the temptation to gossip becomes a lot easier.

"The fear of the Lord is to hate evil: pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way, and the froward mouth, do I hate."  Proverbs 8:13

"Only by pride cometh contention: but with the well advised is wisdom."  Proverbs 13:10

"Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall."  Proverbs 16:18

"A man's pride shall bring him low: but honour shall uphold the humble in spirit."  Proverbs 29:23

Gossip is so dangerous.  It comes from a place deep within ourselves.  It isn't like children throwing toys at each other, it is deeper than that.  We are attempting to hurt people and cut them in their souls!  We are trying to would their spirits and make them feel less than ourselves.  That is not what we were called to do!  We were called to put others before us.  Gossip is a reflection of the ugly reflection of the heart.  It also show a real lack of compassion and empathy.  Listen to the words of Jesus with regard as to what comes from within:

"And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man.  For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness:  All these evil things come from within, and defile the man."  Mark 7:20-23 

*emphasis mine

If we could only obtain a birds eye view of the damage that is done on behalf of gossip!  Why is it so hard for us to understand that it is a reflection of what is in our hearts and it isn't pretty?  Gossip is a venomous plague that leads to brokenness and destruction.  We need to be evaluating our hearts and make sure that we are actually being light, not just reflecting it.  This life isn't about how good we felt or how popular we were, it is about something huge, something glorious!  It is a tiny window in the vastness of time, and it is so short.  Why would we waste our opportunity to further the Kingdom, on something as silly and superficial as gossip?  It certainly isn't a Gospel mindset.  If our conversation would make someone think that we might not be a Christian, then we ought to be ashamed.  We need to repent and beg God to forgive us for wounding others with our words, and to give us the grace to seek repentance from those we have hurt.

May God soften our hearts and show us our sin!  May He pour out an abundance of grace so that we may keep our eyes on Jesus.  And may we always have an eternal perspective in our minds, rather than just always living in the moment and pleasing ourselves.  

"...and be clothed with humility, for 'God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.'  Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.  Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour."  1 Peter 5:5-8