As Time Goes By

It’s hard to believe it is already 2009… I remember last year, as each month flew by, watching it go incredulously.  And now here we are, in a whole new year! 

It’s time for New Year’s resolutions, and I have a couple to share and perhaps keep this time around.  I have noticed on other blogs that women write how they are keeping up on their resolutions; what they have accomplished, how far they have come.  I am so proud of them!  Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for me.  Maybe this time!

I have this thing where I like to start new things on significant dates — like Christmas, my birthday, or the beginning of a month.  I don’t like to start something on, say, September 17th.  So the first of the year is the most important date to start anything, and I am starting a whole new life.

2008 was not a good year in my life, and I knew it as I went through it.  I muddled through it, rather… and while I knew I had to get organized, get together, get with God, I never made time to do it, resulting in an entire year that I can’t look back on with happiness.  I’m not proud of it.  And I know God wasn’t proud of me.  Perhaps that is what hurts most of all… knowing that I disappointed Him in many ways.  Looking back, I see them all clearly.  In that moment, I didn’t really care to look.

As time goes by, we can take that look back and see what we did and evaluate it.  I truly resent doing this because I see my words and actions and cringe.  “Did I really say that?”  “How could I have…!” “That was really, really dumb.”  If I don’t look back, though, I won’t see what I did and learn how to overcome it.  I won’t see the problem, so I won’t look for a solution; I won’t know I have a disease, so I won’t find a cure.

A resolution, in and of itself, doesn’t accomplish anything.  A lot of non-Christians make resolutions, and by sheer willpower accomplish what they hoped:  better fitness, fewer hangovers, or spending more time with the family.  For Christians, there are two facets to our goals/resolutions:  first, they are based on what God desires us to be, not only our personal opinion of what needs to change; and second, we are not on our own accomplishing them.  God will give us strength.

So when I look back at my past year and find what I need to change, I can’t just make a resolution ‘not to do it again’, because I said that hundreds of times and did ‘it’ again!  The first step is to recognize our failures not as ‘mistakes’ but as sins.  The more lightly we view our sins, the less grateful we are for forgiveness — if we even seek it.  We must understand the magnitude of going against the will of God.  We must ask Him to reinstate us to Himself, because sin separates us from Him.  ‘Mistakes’ are accidents.  I don’t know many instances of ‘accidental’ sin. 

In recognizing sin for what it is, we can take the next step, which is to forsake it.  This is where the resolve comes in!  Yet our resolve need not be to make ourselves resist temptation, but to make ourselves trust God when we are tempted.  I didn’t understand this at first.  When we trust God in temptation, we admit to Him that we know He ‘will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we can bear’ and that He ‘will never leave us nor forsake us’.  In this confidence, we can conquer.

It in this way that we make each New Year’s resolution produce real change in our lives.  It’s not on human willpower, but on trust and humility in an almighty God.  Consider also that the enemy will do anything to make us fail.  Too often I write off Satan as a man in a red suit running about with a pitchfork in hand.  He’s much more powerful than a sunburned farmer.  Realizing this helped me to know when he was tempting me, recognize it as such, and turn to the One who is my strength and stronghold.

2009 can be different for me, and it can be different for you as well.  Whatever you may be facing, what trials, heartaches, hardships, obstacles — entrust them.  I have plenty of all of the above.  Holding onto the them only gives me a stomachache.  Surrendering them to Jesus Christ gives me a life worth living — one to be proud of as time goes by.

 

 

 

Holding Out for the Fairy Tale

There was a certain girl I knew from when I was in kindergarten forward, and we had grown up knowing each other somewhat distantly.  We didn’t do a lot together, because she was older than me, but we interacted enough that I knew how she was doing and what she was up to, as aquaintances usually do.  She had a boyfriend in high school, and had planned to continue the relationship when she graduated — but only weeks after her open house, he dumped her.  I watched her then go through several hair color changes, and several more boyfriends.  We never knew when one relationship began or ended.  While she had remained pure in the prior relationship, she had given away her kiss.  Now she was left with a broken heart, searching for someone to put the pieces back together.  No one stayed long enough to finish the repairs, instead leaving her heart in even more shatters.  For her, fairy tales don’t come true.

That girl is just one example of thousands. 

To choose not to date in high school, and even afterward, it perhaps the most absurd thing people can try to comprehend in this day and age.  They cannot fathom why you wouldn’t, and how you would ‘meet anyone’ outside of their idea of relational correspondence.  Perhaps one the silliest things to me is the fact that these very same people are in anguish over the rates of teen pregnancy and date rape, and are upset over sexually promisicuous teenagers and abortion — yet they cannot understand that letting two young, hot-blooded people go out alone together could be the cause of it. 

The girls who choose to save their bodies for their future mate are often applauded for their wonderful contribution to society.  We are indeed a minority.  But the girls who take it a step further — those who choose to save their hearts — they are the ones who are often greeted with scorn.  They are ‘naive’ and ‘too pure’; ‘prudish’ and ‘inexperienced’.   Their commitment is often viewed by the world as a result of fear of men or relationships — when truly, this commitment is the result of a love for one man, and the protection of the wonderful relationship a woman will have with him. 

The world will mock.  They want no part of purity, for light and darkness cannot have fellowship with one another.  They want solutions for their problems — for unwanted babies, teen mothers and physically involved young people — but they don’t want to do what it takes to achieve that solution.  It takes too much.  It makes you different.  Yet those girls who have chosen Christ have already made the decision to be ‘different’.  Being different is their lifestyle.  Walking in purity is just one facet of the ultimate commitment they have already made. 

God has our lives in the palm of his hand.  He knows that walking in purity, going against the grain of society, turning down dates — it won’t be easy.  Singleness in truth is not a ‘gift’, but a trial.  Gifts are gladly received and usually don’t entail any pain in the receiving.  Trials are what show you for who you truly are.   Trials test you, push you, stretch you and finally mold you into the person that you need to become for God to use you to your full potential. 

So hold tightly to Him.  Trust Him to bring things about in His own time.  I have to learn this right now.  But even in the waiting, never lose faith.  Keep holding out for the fairy tale.  With God, they do come true.

Walking Through the Fire

Charles Swindoll wrote:

“Walking with God is the most exciting and rewarding of all experiences here on earth.  I should add, it is also the most difficult.  I don’t think I’ve ever met an exception to the rule, that those who walk closest to God are those who, like Jesus, become aquainted with trials and testings.  God takes us through struggles and difficulties so that we might become increasingly more committed to Him.”

Oswald Chambers said in My Utmost for His Highest that if a Christian never receives a “hard word” from Christ, or allowed by Him, then he doubted that Christian really knows God at all.  The facts are, as we draw closer to God, the more the Enemy tries to draw us away. 

“Do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing.” ~1 Pet.4:12

The “fiery ordeal” correctly describes the past three weeks for me.  It seems that as soon as I graduated every possible thing that could go wrong did — mostly in the area of relationships.  Family issues, unresolved long ago, rose up at my graduation; friendships changed; accusations were hurled; rumors were spread.  It seemed to me that my world, so beautiful and well planned, the world I was entering out of high school, was falling about my ears.  I was surprised.

Peter said we shouldn’t be surprised when trials confront us.  At the time of my graduation I had been very close to God — He was my “very present help”, and I truly felt that we were on a journey together.  I was so excited.  My graduation day related that excitement.  But the Enemy knows when to attack.  It took only a few days for my bright dreams to be the last thing on my mind as I tried to resolve conflicts, settle disagreements, quell rumors and keep what relationships I had in good shape.  But I was so busy that God took the back seat.  Or rather, I shoved Him back and told Him to buckle up, because we were going for a wild ride.

My time with God quickly passed away because I was gone so early in the morning to work.  At most I got in a little at night, but even then my mind was full of what I had to do and take care of.  Without my time with Him my attitude and actions quickly became irritable and resentful. I had no reservoir of love to draw on, because I did not seek the One who owns it.  The fire of my ordeal, rather than testing me and showing me as gold, began to consume me.  Instead of letting God lead me on through the flame, I tried to fight it myself, and ended up burned and weakened.  Looking back, I quickly saw that when I stopped spending time with the Lord, that is when the Enemy had his greatest opportunity.

In order for us to endure the “fiery ordeals” of life, we must, and I repeat — MUST — be constantly connected with God.  I have to get up at 5:30 to do it.  But I have found that if I do not give Him first priority that others will rise up to take His place.  Beth Moore once said, in her Bible study “Believing God”, that we must live each minute of each hour of each day on the “CPR” of God’s Word.  We must turn to the verses we know and lean on the memory of His promises to be successful in our walk with Him —  even in our walks through the fire.

“Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees… let us be grateful in receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.”  ~  Heb. 12:12, 28-29