Refuge

Finding trust in our walk with God is one of the hardest aspects of the Christian walk, but it is also the most necessary.  In fact, trusting God is the core of Christianity.  Think for a moment:  if you didn’t trust God at least a little, you wouldn’t be a Christian!  You have to trust that He lives, that He loves you, and that you will be with Him in eternity.  Somehow it’s easier to trust Him on these things than it can be to depend on Him for the day to day.

I am home from the INCH conference in Lansing, delighted after speaking to a group of wonderful girls and parents who attended my workshop there.  But getting there wasn’t quite so easy!  The day before INCH (Thursday) much of the printing we had to do was not finished, so after work on Thursday I drove straight to the shop to work on the books.  We ended up working all night.  The next morning was Friday, the first day of INCH, and we needed to be in Lansing by noon.  Driving with no sleep was impossible, even though I drank a gallon of coffee to try, and the result was that we had to stay home and rest before leaving that night. 

I was upset.  I was tired, stressed, and unhappy that I had missed the entire first day of the conference.  I was sure that my workshop would not garner as much interest because I wasn’t there for the first day.  I wasn’t trusting God.

When we are doing what God wants, we have to trust Him to take care of the consequences.  Just as I was worrying over the conference, so often we worry about little things that we think will destroy our goals and dreams, when God is allowing them just so we depend on Him.  I had no choice:  I had to trust Him for my speech and hope the girls would enjoy it.  And from what I saw, I think perhaps they did!

Walking as a Christian young woman is the perfect juxtaposition of pressing on and giving up.  We press on in the faith, fighting the good fight, but we also give up our own desires, worries and fears by trusting in an Almighty and loving God.  Trust is that giving up.  He is our ultimate refuge, no matter what our circumstances.

“For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him.  He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken.  On God rest my salvation and my glory, my mighty rock, my refuge is God.  Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.”  (Psalm 62:5-8)

To Think About

  • Do you struggle trusting God for any areas or decisions in your life?
  • How can you practically surrender these areas to God?
  • How can you live in trust, giving up worries and fears that hold you down?
Advertisements

All Your Needs

The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want; He maketh me lie down in green pastures, He leadeth me beside still waters; He restoreth my soul… 

Counting sheep wasn’t working, and as I lay in bed with the glare of a brilliant moon in my eyes, I recited that age-old Psalm to fall asleep.  But it wouldn’t put me to sleep.  In fact, it actually made me sit upright as something dawned on me… something I had never thought of before.

Today was the presidential inauguration.  Most of our nation is rejoicing — while there are others who cringe to think of what is to come under our new leader’s direction.  For some, he provides ‘change’ and ‘hope’ — two ideas that seem to be our nation’s most pressing needs.  For others, he symbolizes an artful deception over the majority of Americans — people who, in an appearance-oriented and materialistic society, are convinced by charisma and unsupported promise. I won’t pretend my sentiments lie with the former.

I wasn’t thinking about the president when I was lying there in bed.  I was thinking about my own life… how many things I need to get done, the places I need to go, the assignments for college, the papers at work — and of course, the future.  I don’t think about relationships much, but at night those thoughts tend to make themselves much more available.  I finished reciting Psalm 23 and began to say it again, but stopped:  The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want… I shall not want… I shall not want… 

The Lord does not say I shall not need;  He says I shall not want.  What do I need?  Clothes, food, water, funds… there wasn’t much to list that I was in dire need of simply to survive.  I thought about what I wanted.  There are things I want that are not wrong to be wanted — but God does not see that I need them at the present time.  If I needed those things, the Lord, as my Shepherd, would give them to me:

“And my God will supply all your needs according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”  (Phil. 4:19)

God is there.  He fills our needs and when He sees us fit to be blessed with our desires, He gives us those as well.  Yet we can rest knowing that we at the very least are supplied with what is necessary to survive — and not only to survive, but to thrive.  Too often we as Americans grow dull to the concept that we are so very blessed.  We scream for ‘change’ when we stand in full health, without distended stomachs from weeks without food, without sewers full of rats where our children play, and without huts for our only homes.  We stand ‘entitled’ to free health care and prescription drugs, demand that we get more money, more loans, more everything.  This is America as a whole:  a world of wanting, wanting, wanting — and never is there enough.

Barack Obama can’t be the nation’s Messiah.  He can’t supply all of our wants — not even all our needs.  The Lord is our Shepherd — and when we realize that, we won’t need to scream for more, because we will be completely satisfied.

Forever’s As Far As I’ll Go

Classes started today, and I was not looking forward to it.  I enjoyed my break far too much to want to get back to studying.  I was excited for one thing though — I do have good classes:  Newswriting and Civil War, two of my favorite subjects.  Tonight I had to head to Newswriting right after drama meet and a short dinner out with a friend.  I ran into the dank depths of the Technology building, not sure what to expect… and dreading what I was sure to be expecting:  The Interview.

Contrary to what many people think about me I greatly dislike interviewing people.  I feel like I am treading on their own ground — like I am trespassing on their time and information.  Perhaps I am scarred by my perceptions of reporters from movies I watched in the past, but whatever the case, I don’t like that kind of confrontation.  But I love a story — and I love to write.  What good am I unless I have something to write about — specifically something people want to hear?  People want to hear news.  Thus, I need to get it… and to get it, I need to get out of my comfort zone.

As I sat in class, however, I got more and more excited.  My teached is the former editor of our local newspaper, a kind and intelligent man who is happy to teach us what it means to be journalists.  He gave us assignment after assignment, and then stopped and looked at the six of us (it’s a small class!).  “For those interested,” he said, “there may be a position open with the college newsletter if you would like to write for it.  You can get out of lab if you choose to do so.  I can’t guarantee your work will be published, but there is a chance.”  You can imagine my reaction — I’m going to get that spot!  He also said that in the spring we might head down to the state capital to meet Lansing’s top journalists, eat lunch with them, and watch a broadcast be filmed.  When I left class, my head was spinning with ideas and opportunity.

Sometimes we have dreams, and as time wears on those dreams that were once exciting become increasingly dull.  Since it takes time for them to develop they tend to get rusty, and after a while we may want to throw them away.  Opportunity seems scarce, and the daily grind of life doesn’t seem to be taking us anywhere.  Yet truly, life is a roadtrip:  when you start out you are excited and filled with anticipation.  As the drive lengthens, you can lose sight of the luxury awaiting you at the end and get caught up in the annoying car games, your brother’s leg sticking in your face and the endless, empty landscape out the window.  It may not seem worth the destination.

Then you see a billboard on the side of the road with a picture of the resort you’re headed to.  It reminds you of the purpose of the trip and excites you all over again — inspiring you and enabling you to bear with the annoyances that were wearing you down.  You have renewed strength and determination to get to where you’re going.

I know what I want to do  — but I have even more ideas now, all spinning in my head like a little tornado.  The great thing is that God is right there.  He provided the opportunity, and He’ll see it to its fulfillment.  With Him, forever is as far as I’ll go.

From Here to Eternity

When you hear the gospel message often it can become one of those “Ho-Hum Sundays” when your pastor preaches on what you’ve ‘already got covered’.  You flop your Bible in your lap and get out a pen to keep focused, scrabbling down notes that gradually turn into caricatures of fellow church members as time wears on.  Thoughts wander… which you quickly ‘take captive’ with a scowl to yourself that has your neighbor wondering what hidden sin you are being convicted of, hoping it will turn up under the church bulletin prayer requests so she’ll know.  The gospel never grows old, you tell yourself, concentrating hard on outlining the word JOHN with your escaping pencil.  You just can’t seem to keep your mind on the sermon, no matter how hard you try. 

It’s sad, but it’s true:  and the devil would love nothing better than to have people forgetting what Christ did.  Even when they are reminded of it, he would love to have them yawning and doodling throughout the retelling — and while he isn’t present in the church, he’s probably doing a regular happy dance on the stoop. 

We shouldn’t give him the chance to dance.  Sometimes we need to be reminded of what Christ did for us so that we do not grow cold or hardened to the sacrifice.  We can begin to take for granted the life He lived, and the death He died.  Worse yet, we can forget how and why we were saved, and thus are unable to give an explanation to those who do not have Him as their Savior.

In John chapter three Nicodemus comes to visit Jesus to ask Him some questions.  There were essentially two:  the first was, “Why do we need to be born again?” and the second, “How can we be born again?”  As Christians, we probably don’t ask those questions anymore.  We are saved, and that’s that.  But ‘that’s’ not all there is to it.  When someone gives you something precious, like a wedding ring, you don’t cherish it for a time and then forget it.  You keep it near you — in this case, on your finger — as a constant reminder of the love of the one who gave it to you.  Our salvation is the same way.

So why do we need to be born again?  Jesus said in John 3:3:  “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”  And also in John 3:5:  “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.”  Not only can we not even see God’s kingdom in our sinful state, but we most certainly can not enter it.  We are all born in our sinful natures, passed down through Adam from the beginning.  This is the reason for evil in the world. 

Our fleshly nature, our human self, is spiritually dead.  It is also spiritually bankrupt. 1 Corinthians 15:15 says:  “…flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.”  In our own natures nothing we do has ‘kingdom value’.  We need a new life.

How are we born again?  Being ‘born again’ means to be born with a new nature;  to be awakened to a new life.  Just as we are born into this life as a child, we are born into spiritual life as a child of God — but only if we make that choice.  We can remain in the darkness of the womb of the world, or we can journey out into the light of God’s love and law, where we will grow to full maturity. 

I watched The Matrix last night and it fits very well with this sermon.  For those of you who have seen it, you will know that when Neo is awakened from his stupor, he finds himself to be not the free person he thought he was (which he was in his mind) but simply a pale, naked, weak creature dependent on a machine for sustenance.  The lost are like this.  In their minds they are free, but in reality, their souls are in bondage to sin — only to be freed when they make the choice to remove themselves from the womb of their former life and be born into the new. 

Christians may no longer be in the fetal state that the lost are in, but many choose to remain in a stage of infancy when it comes to their spiritual life.  Rather than growing up, and taking to heart hard words about sin, they prefer to be coddled and fed the milk of ‘a loving God’ without challenge or consequence.  They never mature, but remain a weak, toddling baby as long as they refuse to let go of the umbilical cord they have left uncut from their former life.

For those who choose be born again, they are led by the Spirit of God and are changed by Him.  They grow and mature and are used greatly for His glory.  They are our leaders, and they are very few — but there can be more.  It just takes more people to stop doodling and take seriously what their salvation is, from here to eternity.  Will you be one of them?

Any Man of Mine

“Do not put your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation…” (Ps. 146:3)

 It seems that everywhere I look I see books on waiting, courtship, dating, and singleness; blogs and posts about it; podcasts and magazines, articles and videos — the list goes on.  It’s a hot topic today.  Our world of fleeting romance is definitely not the ideal.  Yet it seems that as a result of choosing the path of purity we are turning out members of society with the ‘ideal’ as their ultimate focus.  Most of it belongs to the feminine side of the equation.  Some belongs to the masculine side.  With the commitment to purity, it seems that many young people form an idealistic concept of who, when, where and how, and when theses dreams don’t take place quickly, the participating faithfuls begin to lose faith.

High school is far too young for young people to be dabbling in relationships.  This is a fundamental idea that with any rational thought can be perceived as perfectly valid.  But what about afterward?  Why is the homeschool/purity movement producing persons (especially women) whose only real desire is to ‘get married’? 

The problem is not with marriage.  I truly believe that marriage is wonderful and I will be delighted when it happens to me.  Yet I have observed, over and over, young women leaving the nest of homeschool with one purpose alone: to catch a man.  My dear persevering relatives have seen this same tendency in me — although not so much to ‘catch’ one, as simply to throw my dime-a-handful fish pellets in the water and see if any come around. 

Girls will dream of their wedding day, that is a given.  But what about making your life around a wedding day?  Until you reach that time, you will not have a purpose.  No goal except to find a mate.  With any other object this may be attainable — a job, an education, even a home — since these things can be found and earned.  A mate is an entirely different animal… a human.  As time goes on, this human can become a god:  all youth is spent in pursuit of him, much time is spent in dreaming of him, and marriage, a wedding and a mate can become all you ever want out of life.

So what happens… when the wedding is over?  What then?  Wedding days are over by sundown, honeymoons are over in a week, and then there’s the rest of a lifetime to deal with.  Tests and trials much like singleness come — often much more difficult as the family must provide for itself.  What then?

The Ideal Mate suddenly is revealed as a sinning human, as well as are you — despite all the preparation for marriage.  If marriage was your idol before the ring, your eyes are opened wide as you see that it’s not all romance and candles.  All the time spent to attain it may make you wonder if it was well spent at all.  Did you redeem the time of your youth?  Did you make the most of the years you had?

Preparing for marriage is an admirable goal, and I would never say to stop learning to be a homemaker or provider (whichever you may happen to be).  At the same time, if that is your only goal in life it is a low-sighted vision.  While God works mightily through married couples, He can work mightily through anyone who is called by His name.  Those with the freedom of singleness are often more readily available than those that are wed, as with the Apostle Paul:

“Now as a concession, not a command, I say this.  I wish that all were as I myself am.  But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another.  To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am…”  (1 Cor. 7:6-7)

Would I like to stay single for a long time?  No.  I want hugs and kisses too.  My mom and dad seem to have a rather fun time with it, and I wouldn’t mind trying it myself with my husband someday.  However, if that becomes my only goal then I am making an idol out of something that is a blessing of God, not God himself.  It is the same with a career or an education — or anything that takes the place of God in our lives.  Yet it often seems that marriage is somehow given a license to take this position in the lives of young people while careers and educations are not, especially to girls.

You may be alarmed by the feministic ring to that last statement, but don’t be; I will tell you what I am for.  I am for young men and women making these years when they are unmarried, without commitments and people to provide for, the years that they fill with learning and moving forward.  These are the years to do things you dream of — not in a selfish way, which the world recommends, but the dreams that God lays on your heart.  Dreams beyond marriage.  Once a woman has children she should be in the home educating them as her God-given position in the family.  But until then, she has work to do either for her husband or for her God.

Marriage can seem like the safe haven that escorts a girl out of her parents’ home into the home of her husband.  She never has to face ‘the world’.  The truth is that we live in the world.  We may not be of it, but we sure better be able to face it.  We had better know what to say and do, how to speak and how to teach — and in these things we can still be all the wife or husband that we need to be.  In fact, we will most likely be better. 

Any man of mine will be worthy of my respect and love because he went out into the world and accomplished the dream God laid on his heart.  He will be my hero because I will see in him a man who took his time and redeemed it, preparing for me by not wasting his time dreaming of me, but working to support me.  And I will do the same:  use these years to their maximum.  So when my man and I meet, our years together will be twice as powerful as our years apart.  That’s my dream, and marriage is a part of it — but marriage isn’t the dream itself. 

Society may be set against marriage, instead being a proponent of the ‘swinging single’ image, but that does not give us the license to take the pendulum the other direction with the idea that marriage is the ‘only way’.  We must strike a balance, with morality as our guide and God as our hope, knowing that our work for Him will be effective whether we have a spouse at our side or not.  When He is in His rightful place, then He can give us those blessings that we desire.

First Love

Some mornings I wake up happy, not knowing exactly why.  Then, as my eyes adjust to the light, I remember some wonderful thing that is happening that day, and excitedly I leap out of bed.  I have heard that’s how it is with first time love.  You wake up knowing your sweetheart is yours, forever, and it’s just the thing that makes the morning cheerful. 

When I was first saved, that’s how it was for me.  I’d wake up thinking, “Why do I feel like something is about to happen?  Oh yes, Jesus!”  As time goes on though, and as we hear the same messages and sermons, and sing the same songs, our faith fades from initial devotion to duty.  Duty turns to drudgery.  When life becomes a drudgery, we no longer act out of love.

God had something to say about this topic in Revelation 2:4-5:  “But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.  Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first.”  (ESV)

How do we keep the first love burning?  How do we keep it fresh in our hearts, never letting it burn out to duty or become the sullen ember of monotony?  We cannot depend on emotion because love is not dependent on how we feel.  Love dictates emotion.  We must be so dedicated to Christ that our love of Him changes how we think, act and feel.  When He is our first love, all other loves automatically take second place.

A bride does not keep former boyfriends around ‘just for fun’ in case her husband gets boring.  He is her first and only love — no matter what the distractions.  Out of her love of him she eliminates the other distractions, so that her emotions remain fixed where they belong.  Can we do this with our relationship with God?  What must go in order to keep Him as our first priority?

Perhaps you don’t feel loved, so you think you aren’t.  Perhaps you have tried to fill that need for love with other people, only to be frustrated when they fail you.  Maybe you’ve tried to fill the gap with material things or money.  “I was ready to be sought by those who did not ask for me; I was ready to be found by those who did not seek me.  I said, “Here am I, here am I”…”  (Is. 65:1)  No matter how much you ‘look for love in all the wrong places’ you won’t find the love that fulfills. 

Here is the truth:  “Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand.  You guide me with your counsel, and afterward receive me to glory.  Whom have I in heaven but you?  And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.  My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”  (Ps. 73:23-26) 

His is a love everlasting, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.  Let Him be your beginning, and He will make your life beautiful to the end.

Through Our Father’s Eyes

Beginning this month I am starting a new pattern for this blog.  Monday through Friday will be themed posts covering topics like relationships, singleness, flirtation, modesty, and other issues, Saturday will be movie and/or book reviews, and Sunday will be a sermon review based on what my pastor talked about that morning.  Since it is Sunday — the first one of the year — I will be giving my readers the first sermon review. 

Being human, we often look at the world through our own biased lens.  We see things colored by our circumstances and perceptions, our backgrounds and histories, our pains and our joys.  Too few times do we stop to think if these perceptions are right and true; if they are in line with God’s word or even with the actual facts.  Sometimes the fiction appeals more than the truth. 

Everywhere you look, in your own life and outside it, there are problems with the world.  There is death and destruction, whirlwinds and war, hurricanes and hatred, bitterness and bloodshed… concentrating on these things can be depressing.  For those in a lost world, it is.  For those in the lost world, depression and despair are well known.  There is no hope.  Yet those of us that have Christ have hope — we have a hope that transcends circumstance. 

Are we as Christians giving this world our hope, or are we hiding it under a bushel as we join in the moanings of those who see nothing but the evil of society?  We have a choice — to perceive our world as negative, focusing only on the evil, or to remember the hope that lies within us.  Do we share that hope?  We should.

In 2 Kings, the prophet Elisha was being sought by the Syrians.  The Syrian army surrounded the town of Dothan to capture and kill the prophet.  In the middle of the night, hundreds of chariots encircled the little city, and as morning dawned, Elisha’s servant beheld what seemed to be an impossible situation: “Alas, my master, what shall we do?” (2 Kings 6:15).  Elisha replied, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those that are with them.”

Do not be afraid?  That’s our first instinct — but in every situation that confronts us God calls out for us to trust Him and dispels the fear from our hearts.  When the angel came to Mary his first words were, ‘Do not be afraid.’  When the host of holy ones met the shepherds of Bethlehem, they announced, ‘Do not be afraid.’  “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”  (2 Timothy 1:7)

When we decide that our circumstances or situations are insurmountable we are limiting God.  By limiting God we lack faith in Him.  We must choose to believe what He has said He will do, and that He is who He says He is.  We must also surrender the attitudes that we have taken upon ourselves that keep us from believing Him — attitudes of pride, self-righteousness, and insecurity — and take hold of the promise that He has extended to us…

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”  (Isaiah 41:10)

I forgot to tell the rest of Elisha’s story.  After he admonished his servant to take courage, Elisha prayed that the servant’s eyes would be opened to see what God was doing on behalf of his people.  As the servant looked again at the surrounded city, he saw fiery chariots and horses by the thousands, ready to protect only one prophet of God and his trembling companion. 

Fear not… He is with you.