Friday, May 15, 2015

Growing Pains

 “The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” (Exodus 14:14)

He will quiet you with His love...” (Zephaniah 3:17)

Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalms 47:10.)


I'll admit that for a really long time now I have been fretting over what a horrible job I feel like I'm doing at being a Christian. I've been experiencing what I call “growing pains” in my spiritual journey. I have felt like I am at a place in my spiritual journey where God has chosen to challenge what I say I believe in, to see if it holds up under fire. At times it seems like He has been remaining silent to test my faith, to see if, no matter what, I will really choose to trust Him – even when I cannot feel Him. And I feel like I am being crushed under the weight of it all. There are moments I say, “Yes, Lord, I trust you even in the darkness.” But there are more moments where I cry out in this darkness, sometimes in pain and sometimes in anger – “God, where are you? God, I can't do this. God, my faith is not strong enough.”
Sometimes I think, how can I continue on this path of fighting sin and keeping in step with the Spirit for another 50+ years?

The old attacks on my sufficiency are louder than ever, and this time they come from my own mouth and not from the Enemy.
You are not strong enough to resist sin. You are not holy enough to be in the presence of God. Your faith is not strong enough to endure a real life of struggles, pain, and disappointment. You do not have enough joy to display God's value. You do not have enough compassion, you do not show enough grace, you do not give enough love.
Enough, enough, enough! Satan need not bother himself with trying to break me down because I am working on doing that all by myself.
When did being a Christian mean that you had to do enough or have enough to be enough?

When I chose you, I did not have this in mind for you. I did not plan for you to be overcome by guilt and weighed down by sin and crushed by life.”

Then what did you plan for me, Lord?

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” {Jeremiah 29:11-13}

I ache with the pain that sin brings into my life. Paul tells me in the book of Romans that I am no longer a slave to sin, but I still have phantom feelings of the weight of sin's shackles. My sinful self has been crucified with Christ and I am now a new creation, but death still breathes down my neck. Day after day, moment after moment, I come face to face with choices of obeying Christ or following my sinful desires. More often than not I choose to follow my sinful desires. How can I call myself a Christian or a disciple of Christ when sometimes I barely look like Him and choose not to follow Him? Wretched woman that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?

Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Though I am weak, He is my strength. Though I am unrighteous, He is my righteousness. Though I fall into despair, He is my hope. Though I am powerless, He is all-powerful. Though there is nothing I can do in my sin, He has done everything through His grace.

I want to encourage those of you who are in the same battle that I am against sin. Though we feel like we are losing the battle, Christ has already won it. Be still and know that He is God. The God who loves you, who has redeemed you, who is perfecting you, and who is sanctifying you. You cannot do anything in your own strength or power. It is not by might, nor by power...but by the Spirit of God that you are being sanctified and being made into the image of His Son. You need only to be silent, the Lord will fight for you. 

Friday, February 27, 2015

An Intro to my Study of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood

In January, I helped lead a guy's and girl's winter retreat put on by the youth ministry I volunteer with. Our theme for the retreat was Biblical manhood and womanhood – What does it mean to be a man or woman? I can't speak for anyone else, but I got a lot out of our time discussing what it meant to be a woman. For the teaching and discussion content we mainly used the Bible and the e-book, Good: The Joy of Christian Manhood and Womanhood by several authors posted as a free download on John Piper's website, Desiring God.1 I hadn't really done any serious studying on Biblical womanhood before so this retreat really sparked my interest and got the wheels turning in my head. Of special interest to me was the idea that the wife is supposed to submit to her husband and the man was the woman's headship. I've always thought of this as a negative thing, one that leads to the woman being trampled underfoot and the man having complete control over the woman. However, after reading the Good ebook, I started to see that submission can be a beautiful, Gospel-centered thing that glorifies God and is something God sees as good.

                                      

If God sees submission as a good thing then shouldn't I?


God is a loving and just God and shows no partiality towards man or woman. There is neither male or female, in Christ we are all one (Galatians 3:28). God loves me and knows what is the best for me, regardless of my gender. And as a woman, what He sees as the best for me is to submit to the authority of man. Now there's a striking thought and one that I hadn't put into words before. But it's true – the command for a wife's submission to her husband and the specific hierarchy of God than Christ than man than woman is clearly laid out in the Bible (see Ephesians 5:22-33 and 1 Corinthians 11:1-16). And that is a hard pill to swallow (at least for me, and I'm sure for a lot of other women) because submission still has negative vibes for me. Which is why, shortly after completing the youth retreat, I decided to do an in-depth study on submission. I wanted to know what exactly is meant by submission, who is supposed to submit (just wives or women in general?), and how it can be a good and Godly thing. And because I like to do things thoroughly and go to the root of issues, my study has expanded to the more general subject of Biblical manhood and womanhood, which will eventually lead me to studying submission. What is it about manhood that needs woman's submission? Why is man the head of woman? How can men and women, working together, live out God's intended design for them? And a more personal question I wonder – How can woman be all that she is created to be (smart, beautiful, creative, strong, rational, passionate, etc.) and still live under the God-given restrictions of submission and man's headship? How does the virtuous wife of Proverbs 31 live in harmony with the apostle Paul's views of how women are to behave found in Titus 2? Does being a Biblical woman mean just staying at home, tending to the children, and serving her husband? What if she has a knack for business? What if she is a brilliant teacher?  And what about single women who do not have a husband or children?

I have so many questions, all of which I will try to answer as I study Biblical manhood and womanhood. I plan to publish posts as I study and I hope that you will follow my journey on this blog. Please feel free to comment on my posts with findings from your own studying and experiences. I already have some interesting things I've learned, so keep a look out for my next post!

Until then, I leave you with a quote from Good: The Joy of Christian Manhood and Womanhood about submission that gave me hope and a glimpse of what submission can be when done in a Godly way.

Submission is also not about belittlement, inferiority,or worthlessness. Scripture teaches that we are to “encourage one another and build each other up” (1 Thessalonians 5:11). Also, Ephesians 4:29, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” And Colossians 3:19, “Husbands,love your wives, and do not be harsh with them.”A wife’s submission is also not blind and absolute.Ultimately, Christ is the wife’s final authority. As a part of Christ’s church, she is his Bride chiefly. As a wife follows her calling to submit in marriage, she is ultimately submitting to Christ. She also gets her spiritual identity and ultimate strength and meaning through Christ and not through her husband. Though her husband’s role is to encourage her and build her up in the faith, Christ is the sole source of her faith.”2




1 You can find the ebook here: http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/good-the-joy-of-christian-manhood-and-womanhood-new-ebook. While I've only read the chapters specifically talking about Christian womanhood for the retreat, I have started to read the other chapters and have found this book to be well written and full of thought-provoking material.

2Christina Fox, Good, 60 (pdf page no. 86)

Sunday, February 8, 2015

God's Play

[This is probably the closest thing I'll ever get to a rap...and I won't try to perform
it for you, which is for the best :) ] 

Lights, camera, action
my part in your play is only a fraction
All too often I forget my line
But from the side, you tell me "you're doing fine"

Beginning, middle, end
through it all you're my support and friend
Before each scene I'm filled with fright 
You smile and tell me, "you'll be alright"

Curtain call, take a bow
I made it through, but I don't know how
Then a look of understanding fills my face
I step back and beckon for you to take my place

Clap, clap, clap
My name suddenly drops off the map
The Creator and Director of the show
is the only one anyone really should know


Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Run the good race

On your mark, get set...Go!
But I don't move. Paralyzed, stuck – I didn't move.
Seconds that feel like ages pass and my hands and feet are still glued to the race track.
I visualize myself springing from the ground and racing forward, and my muscles feel as if
this visualization is a reality. But the reality is I am frozen in fear and frozen on the mark. What if...I can't...
I can feel heat in my face and cool sweat dampen my neck.
I relax my body and slip from my toes to my knees and I rest my forehead on the dusty track. You blew it. You lost before you even began. You...
Hey, are you okay?” I hear the voice of my coach ask.
The race is over, isn't it?” I ask from my fetal position.
Not if you don't want it to be. You still have a chance.”
At that I raise my head and sit on my heels.
You can't be serious? You saw me. I didn't even take a single step. I froze at the starting point. I blew it.”
You can try again. You can run this race and you can finish.”
Well, even if I had another chance to do it over - What if I'm not fast enough and I come in last place?”
My coach smiled a warm smile.
Those who are first will be last and the last will be first. ”
Coach extended his hand to me, I grabbed it, and he pulled me up in one smooth movement.
You aren't running to beat anyone else. And in my eyes you have already won.”
Well...What if I trip and fall?”
Then I will come and pick you up and you will continue to run the race as if you never fell.”
What if I can't get back up?”
Then I will carry you across the finish line.”
And what if...”
Listen to me.”
I shut my mouth when I noticed that my coach's smile was gone and a serious expression had taken its place.
I have already run this race myself and I have already obtained the prize. There is nothing for you to lose because I have already won for you. All I am asking is that you keep on running and don't stop until you reach the end.
And if you continue to run then you must only remember what I am about to tell you and silence and cast away any doubts you may have about your ability to run or any worries you may have about circumstances you could come to in the race.
You cannot run to beat others or prove yourself. You will run with the strength I have trained you in. And when you falter I will be your strength. Run with endurance because this race will be long. Run with courage and boldness because you will come upon many obstacles. Run with hope because you know that you will finish this race and I will be at the end to meet you. And run with joy because, although this race will be exhausting and challenging, it will also be once in a lifetime and an amazing race. I have fully equipped you for this moment and I couldn't be more pleased or proud of you, no matter how the race plays out.
Now,” the smile returned to my coach's face, “Are you ready?”
As my coach described the race I was going to have, my confidence began to build up in me once again.
I think I am. I'm really excited and also a little scared. But I believe in what you say and I trust you. I'm ready.”
My coach gives me a nod.
You've got this, superstar. Go run with all you've got.”
I walk to the starting line filled with determination.
On your mark.
I place my feet in their proper place and bend my knees.
Get set.
I reach my fingertips to the ground and lift myself onto my toes.
Go!
And I shoot forward, confident in my steps, joy in my soul, and my eyes fixed on my coach at the finish line. A smile spreads across my face and I have a plan in my heart to run this race with all my might. I have nothing to lose and everything to win.


“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses,
let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before Him He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Hebrews 12:1-2, NIV

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Those who turned the world upside down

In the days of the early church things were radical. People not only said they believed in the risen Christ, but they lived like it as well. They endured horrible torture and still did not denounce their faith. They believed with their whole beings that Jesus was Lord and that He deserved their entire devotion.
How does that contrast with our body of believers today?
Believers back then were called Those Who Turned the World Upside Down (Acts 17:6, ESV).
Do believers today deserve that title? Are Christians the ones in our society who are a forced to be
reckoned with? Are we leaders in media, science, politics, literature, and the arts?
Are we history makers, risk takers, or just hypocritical fakers?
Do those who are outside Christianity look at us as shining examples of  Christ Himself and
because of our examples give glory to God?
Sadly, I think the answer is no.
There are amazing Christian leaders out there, but there are only a few of them.
We have dropped the ball and have not given it our all. We could do better, but we just don't.
I cannot point fingers at Christians and say what they have been doing is wrong, but what I can do is encourage them and say they can do more! We need to blow the low expectations for Christians out of the water!
I believe that it is not over. This is not as good as it will get.
I believe that this generation of Christians will do something big.
Imagine with me for a minute...

Imagine if we as Christians did not fear what others thought of us
Imagine if  we loved God with a crazy love
Imagine if because of that crazy love we took action
Imagine if those who had the desire to write wrote
Imagine if those who had the desire to build built
Imagine if those who had the desire to preach preached
Imagine if those who had the desire to lead led

Imagine if how the Christians lived back in the time of the early church became normal living for us.
Imagine if Christianity infected all aspects of life.

If you love God and desire do His will and you have the desire to do something...then why aren't you doing it? What is stopping you from creating or getting involved in politics or helping the homeless or whatever else it is that you want to do? You may have this big idea and are not sure how it'll ever happen..
Do you not know that with man some things are impossible, but with God all things are possible?
You may be aren't sure where to begin with doing what God has placed on your heart to do.
So pray!
Make a plan, create steps that will help you get to where you want to be. Take action!


Francis Chan in his book Crazy Love shared a list of qualities he thought those who were obsessed with Jesus possessed. 

"People who are obsessed with Jesus are…

+ lovers, who give freely and openly, without censure. Obsessed people love those who hate them and who can never love them back.

+ risk-takers, who  aren’t consumed with their personal safety and comfort above all else.  Obsessed people care more about God’s kingdom coming to this earth than their own lives being shielded from pain or distress.

+ friends of all, who  live lives that connect them with the poor in some way or another. Obsessed people believe that  Jesus talked about money and the poor because it was really important to him.

+ crazy ones , who are more concerned with obeying God than doing what is expected or fulfilling the status quo.  A person who is obsessed with Jesus will do things that don’t always make sense in terms of success or wealth on this earth.  As Martin Luther put it, there are two days on my calendar: this day and that day.

+ the humble, who know that the sin of pride is always a battle.  Obsessed people know that you can never be “humble enough” and so they seek to make themselves less known and Christ more known. 

+ servers, who do not consider service a burden.  Obsessed people take joy in loving God by loving His people

+ givers, who are known as givers not takers. Obsessed people genuinely think that others matter as much as they do, and they particularly aware of those who are poor around the world.

+ sojourners, who think about heaven frequently. Obsessed people orient their lives around eternity; they are not fixed only on what is here in front of them.

+ the engrossed, characterized by committed, settled, passionate love for God, above and before every other thing, and every other being.

+ unguarded ones, who are raw with God; they do not attempt to mask the ugliness of their sins or their failures. Obsessed people don’t put it on for God; He is their safe place, where they can be at peace. 

+ the rooted, who have an intimate relationship with him.  They are nourished by God’s Word throughout the day because they know that forty minutes on Sunday is not enough to sustain them for a whole week, especially when they will encounter so many distraction and alternative messages.

+ the dedicated,  more concerned with his or her character than comfort. Obsessed people know that true joy doesn’t depend on circumstances or environment; it is a gift that must be chosen and cultivated, a gift that ultimately comes from God.

+ sacrificers, who know that the best thing he can do is be faithful to his Savior in every aspect of his life, continually saying “thank you!”  to God.  An obsessed person knows there can never be intimacy if he is always trying to pay God back or work hard enough to be worthy.  He revels in his role as child and friend of God."


I believe that to be ones who turn the world upside down we must be obsessed with Jesus.
So I challenge you (and I ask that if you are my brother or sister in Christ you challenge me as well) to live a life in pursuit of all the qualities of the obsessed. Become someone so different from the world that people can't help but wonder who is causing you to be like that. And take a step today towards making your God-given ideas a reality. Start praying about what you want to do for Christ. Start praying and don't stop. Our society is decaying and becoming more corrupt each day. As Christians it is our job to show them that there is hope and another way of living.

"Stand at the crossroads and look;
ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is,
and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls."
Jeremiah 6:16


Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Jesus is life

Life. It is celebrated when it starts and it is mourned when it ends.
It is full of good times and full of bad times.
It is reality and is all we have experienced. We don’t know what it was like before we were born and we don’t know what it will be like when we die. The life we have now is all we’ll ever have.
Or is it?
I said earlier how when we are born physically alive we are born spiritually dead because sin has already corrupted us and the penalty of sin is death. There is hope, however. 
I know that it is the most used Sunday school answer (other than God), but Jesus really is the answer.
Jesus is my hope. Jesus is your hope. Jesus may not be the answer to every question (unless you're really creative, 2+2 does not equal Jesus), but He does answer the question of, 
If we are dead spiritually how can we become alive again?
And that's what we want right? We want to be alive, don't we? Because, although life can be absolutely painful and at times terrifying,  life can also be absolutely amazing.
Another reason why we would want to be alive is that we don't want to be dead. Especially because
being dead doesn't mean we just cease to exist. Our souls were created eternal and so they just don't stop, they keep existing. We either exist with God or without Him. We either exist with eternal joy or we exist with eternal torment.

(Now, I didn't mean for this blog to be about deep theological things. I honestly don't know too much about what it will be like when I die. And I'm probably not the best one to explain to you what the bible does say about that subject. So, if you are curious about all that, read the bible and find out for yourself what it says about what happens when we die!)

You want to live? Then believe Jesus when he says that he is the life (John 14:6).
When we were dead in our sins he came and died on the cross for our sins so that we could live!
I had often felt unwanted and unloved growing up. Love was given to me by people, but my soul longed for a deeper love.
When I think about what Jesus Christ did for me -- that he died for me, a messed up and imperfect, girl, he redeemed me and gave me life. That is when I feel most loved. That is when I feel most wanted!
Because I don't deserve it, I didn't earn it, but he did it anyways. For free.
He loved me that much. Whoa.
And because Jesus gave me life that means that I am no longer dead in sin. I am now alive.
Romans 6:11-14 says:

11 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.  
12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires.
13 Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. 14 For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.

Before I came alive in Christ it was all about me. What do I want? What do I want to do? Why is this happening to me?
My sinful desires controlled me. 
When I was brought to life by Christ, I died to those sinful desires. Essentially, I died to myself.
I then put on Christ as my new identity.
That is true for any Christian who accepts Jesus as their savior. 
Paul, the writer of many books of the New Testament and follower of Christ, describes his new identity 
this way:

 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)
Jesus Christ lives in me. So that should make me perfect right? When God looks at me he sees Christ in me and He sees Jesus' perfection. But I am by myself still imperfect. Sin no longer is my master, but I still struggle with the temptation to go back to sin. Before my choice was to sin, now I have the choice through Christ not to sin.

Before Christ's living in me it was about me. Now that Christ lives in me it's all about him.
I am to offer every part of me to God as an instrument of righteousness. And that is such a struggle!
Because all too often I choose to go back to sin. Every day, though, I am practicing the act of 
refusing myself and living like Christ. And every day it gets easier to choose righteousness than wickedness. Is the struggle worth it? Is it better to have Christ live in me and not do what I 
naturally incline to do? You betcha! 

Christ has brought me out of the darkness of my hopelessness and  my unloved and unwanted state.
Christ has brought me into his marvelous light! And in that light I feel more love and  more wanted than I ever have.

Some questions to ask yourself:
~What does it mean in Romans 6:11-14 to not offer yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness?
~What does it mean to offer every part of yourself to God as an instrument of righteousness?
 ~You have died and it is Christ that lives in you. If your old self is no longer, then who are you 
and what is your identity? 
~If your purpose is to no longer live for yourself, what is your purpose? 











Tuesday, December 27, 2011

My Father's house

“No, you don’t understand. I have to get in there!”
The guard stood his ground and blocked the entryway.
“No, I don’t think you understand. Unless you have been invited you are not getting in.”
I extended my hand to the wall of the outer courts and leaned against it.
Exasperated, I rested my head against the cool clay wall and closed my eyes.
I ached with the desire to be in the presence of the one who, when everyone else deserted me, comforted me through the darkest moments of my life.
All of a sudden anger welled up in me. I pushed myself off the wall and stormed off away
from the light and noise of the gathering and stood in the darkness next to a palm tree.
I looked up at the stars and a breeze lazily lifted my hair of my forehead.
Looking at the stars in the silence of the night had always given me peace before, but
now I was seized with rage and my whole body was tensed.
Don’t my deeds count for something? All my life I’ve tried to be a good person.
I was faithful to my family, obedient to my parents, I followed all the laws that
were set before me.
In hopes of getting to be in the presence of the one I loved most I tried
everything to win favor with him.
And finally when I have the chance to be with him he does not let me in.
The sight of the night sky eventually calmed me and my anger turned into despair.
“So I guess this is it. I’m always going to be on the outside looking in.”
“Why is your heart cast down, child?”
I lowered my eyes from the sky to the silhouette of a man standing by me.
“I didn’t see you walk towards me. Why aren’t you inside?”
“I ask you the same question. Why are you not dining and singing joyful
songs in the home of my father?”
I squinted my eyes and tried to get a better a look at the man.
He turned and gestured towards the lit building in front of us.
“Is not that a better place to be then out here alone and in the darkness?”
I sighed and again I felt an ache in my heart.
“Believe me when I tell you that that is what I want more than anything.
But just a while ago I tried to enter in and I was stopped.
I explained to the man blocking my path that I knew the man inside
and that he would be pleased to see me.
The guard, however, said that I was not on the list of those he was allowed to let through.
I then told the man that I, more than one else, should be let through.
I was a good citizen and a righteous man.
“And as I was speaking to him this man in worn and ripped clothes came up.
The guard asked for his name and the let him through.”
“Good sir,” I addressed the mysterious man next to me. “Am I not clothed more finely than a king? My robes are of the finest cloth and crafted by the most excellent of cloth workers.
“How is it that this poorly looking man was let in and I was not? If you know the answer then please tell me because I am at a loss.”
“It is not the things that you do or the clothes that are on your back that will get you into my father’s house. All are worthless in my father’s eyes. He asked for obedience and faithfulness from those who serve him and all have fallen short of that. I tell you the truth, no one comes to my father except through me. For those who seek to be with my father, they must also seek me. For those who love my father, they must also love me.
Those who do not know me or do not love me my father will say he does not know them.”
The man turned and light illuminated his face. He resembled his father remarkably.
I bent down on one knee and bowed my head with respect.
“I am your father’s servant and now I am yours. Whatever you tell me to do, I shall do.”
The man put his hand on my shoulder.
“Arise and follow me.”
I stood up and the man led me towards the house I had failed to get into.
The guard saw us coming and moved out of the way with a bow.
A grin spread across my leader’s face as he entered the room.
“Father! I am home and I have brought a guest!”
The one who I had been trying to see my whole life stood up from the head of the table and
let out a bout of laughter.
“A guest of my son’s is a guest of mine! Come child,
I gladly welcome you into my home.”
He walked towards me and gave me a giant bear hug.




“Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. 
No one comes to the Father except through me.’”
John 14:6