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Posts Tagged ‘Faith’

Hello, everyone. I hope you had a nice holiday weekend (those of you in the U.S.) and an excellent start to the week.

Very often God provides answers that I need to hear, not necessarily ones I want to hear, or ones that directly answer my questions. My last post was a plea for help and advice in figuring out how important physical attraction is in a relationship. Recent messages at church, my prayer time, blog posts from others, and insight from the Holy Spirit have yielded a number of answers—none of which answer my question per se, but are far more important.

Here they are:

1. If physical attraction to my Hypothetical Future Husband is my top concern regarding my maybe-someday-future marriage, then my heart is not in the right place, and I have bigger problems than that.

2. God calls us, as Christ-followers, to love without prejudice, discrimination, expectation, or selfishness. Whatever guy (or girl) enters my life for however long, I need to love him (or her) anyway, no matter how attractive (or not).

3. I Thessalonians 3:24: Faithful is He Who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass.

Have a blessed start to your week.

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I received an incredible tidbit of insight from the Holy Spirit earlier. Reading my assignment for small group—we’re talking about true beauty, and currently discussing dating relationships and proper boundaries—I decided to take a closer look at one verse using blueletterbible.org.

I Corinthians 10:12: Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.

On the surface, a simple caution against becoming prideful and too comfy in our “holiness.” But the Spirit prompted me to look closer.

Among many definitions or synonyms for “stands” I found: kept intact, upheld, unharmed, immovable, and escape in safety, which I found very interesting. Escaping seems to convey running away, which doesn’t fit very well with the idea of standing firm. I like to think of one who stands as one who does not change, who constantly faces every challenge head-on with the same readiness and resolve.

But this cannot always be the case.

I Corinthians 6:18: Flee from sexual immorality. …

Flee. Such a small word conveys so much. A lot of things come to mind when I think of fleeing. For example, think of all those Discovery Channel documentaries where the antelope is fleeing a lion (or a panther, or a cheetah). You can almost see the fear in the antelope’s eyes and imagine the racing heart, the pounding hooves, the surge of adrenaline as it attempts to escape. It is clearly not standing firm as we think of it—if it did, the lion would very easily overpower the antelope, probably laughing at it for being so stupid. But if the antelope’s flight is (miraculously) successful, what happens? It is unharmed, it is kept intact. It is still standing.

Sometimes when standing with God, we do need to hold our ground and be immovable, such as when making a correct but difficult decision. But sometimes, standing involves fleeing temptation that would otherwise devour us, so that we can escape in safety.

Because what happens otherwise? What if someone does not “take heed that he does not fall”?

I also looked up definitions and synonyms for “fall,” and found: come under judgment, condemnation, overcome by terror, perish, descend from a higher place, be cast down from prosperity, fail to participate in or miss a share in.

Most of these weren’t surprising, until the definition cast down from prosperity then led to fail to participate in. After a little bit of thought, these two definitions actually go together. Even when Christians sin, as all humans do, we are covered by the blood of Jesus and therefore protected from God’s judgment and condemnation. But God does not remove the consequences for our sins, whatever they may be. Therefore, by sinning, we may lose out on blessings and good things in our lives. A man may lose his wife after the sin of adultery. A woman may lose a friendship after one too many hurtful words. God will not judge us for these sins, but we may still fail to participate in or miss a share in blessings that we might have had if we had stood and not … fallen.

Thank goodness it’s not up to just us and our own power.

I Corinthians 10:13: No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.

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Several weeks after joining an 11-week Bible study, and I have had my first “aha!” moment.

I love those moments.

I wasn’t sure if I would have one, truth be told. It seemed that the class would be very interesting, but would build on my preexisting knowledge rather than provide brilliant new insights. I should have been more patient, but the Spirit finally flipped that illuminating switch in my brain.

As I said before, we have been studying Abraham, starting from Genesis mid-12 and so far reaching chapter 18. This covers about 25 years of Abraham’s life, and guess what we haven’t even gotten to yet? The birth of Isaac, the child God promised to Abraham and Sarah.

When studying patience, learning to wait on God, and searching our hearts to decide if we really think anything is too difficult for God, Bible studies and leaders often refer to Abraham. After all, he waited about 25 years before he began to see God’s promises fulfilled in the birth of Isaac, not counting the 75 years he had lived before God made His first promise to Abraham. But there’s another part of the story that I had never seen until today.

I never considered how gradual the Lord was in revealing His plans to Abraham.

The Lord didn’t just appear to Abraham one day and say, “Look, here’s what’s going down and what I’m gonna do for you. You’re going to the land of Canaan, which I’ll give to you and your descendants and all the nations that will come out of them. In a few years, say about 25, your wife, Sarah, is going to have a son by you at an insanely old age, say 90 or 91, and you’ll name him Isaac. Several generations from then my Son will be born of your descendants and He will redeem all of mankind forever and ever.”

That’s what was promised, but that’s not how God announced it.

First He says, “Leave your family and go to this place that I’ll show you.”

Once that was complete: “OK, see this land? You and your descendants will possess it all.”

Then, in the face of doubt: “Don’t worry, your descendants will come from your own body.”

Then: “OK, ‘wife’ should have been implied, but yes, it is your wife Sarah who will have your promised child. Oh, Ishmael? No, it’s okay, he’s taken care of.”

A little later: “All right, next year is when it’s all happening—you’ll have a son, and name him Isaac, and he will live under My covenant and all his descendants. Sarah, stop laughing. Just you wait. Trust Me, I’m God. I can do this.”

And guess what happened? All of it.

I can’t tell you what Abraham was thinking for those 25 years, but I can imagine. Maybe he was hoping that God would be a little more specific a little sooner. Maybe he wondered if he had misheard God in the first place, or that God hadn’t given him all the information he needed. Perhaps he wondered if God had deliberately left out information that Abraham had to figure out on his own.

God gave Abraham the information that he needed, as he needed it. God took the time to build a relationship with Abraham, who was living in a pagan land and probably was not entirely familiar with El Roi when He called him elsewhere. God did not overwhelm Abraham with a barrage of details regarding what would happen in his life. God led Abraham step by step, working through his human mistakes, assuring his human concerns, and finally bringing an answer to his wife’s doubtful laughter.

It all came together, but only the Lord knew every step and how they would all match up. And in several thousand years, I can’t see how that’s changed much.

What will happen in our lives? If we truly live by faith, if we really trust the Lord, and if we truly believe that nothing is too difficult for him, then all we can do is take everything one day at a time, working with the information that He provides, and having faith that He knows what’s going on. Because God’s got a plan, and it will work out somehow, even if it’s not exactly how we might have preferred, and even if we don’t have all the details.

As usual, the breakthrough is the easy part. The hard part is 1. Remembering the lesson, and 2. Applying it to the rest of my life.

Romans 4:18-22 is a relevant passage in Scripture, and one that was part of my Bible study homework this week:

Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.”

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I’m doing a classroom-style Kay Arthur Bible study at my church on Sunday nights. So far it’s been educational, exciting, overwhelming, and challenging, and tonight I learned something at the class that was unrelated to the lesson. Actually, it was something I overheard the instructor telling another young woman as we waited for the class to begin.

She was telling my classmate about a man who was praying to God about the “future wife” he was looking for. But he eventually came to the conclusion that he first needed to pray about whether or not it was even in God’s plan that he marry at all–which would change his perspective on dating and the kind of woman he sought. It was only a snippet of a conversation that I overheard, but it was enough to turn on a light bulb in my head. Here was something, I realized, that I needed to be doing as well.

Lately, I have really been questioning whether God even has it in His plan for me to be married someday—but I haven’t been praying about it seriously. This hasn’t changed my desire for a boyfriend, or heck, a date next Friday. But I have been learning a few things about myself that have made me question if I’m supposed to be married someday.

For example, I am an introvert who needs alone time to recharge her batteries and stay sane. This doesn’t necessarily mean I am shy or that I have no social skills, but I do thrive on alone time. The #1 thing I hate about living in the DC metro area is that it’s too expensive for me to have my own place, because I desperately want to live alone. Although I have friends that I treasure and I absolutely love to make new ones, I’m not really a people person in general. And my things that I enjoy about being single haven’t really changed. Also, I don’t really want to have kids, and 99.99% of Christian guys that I have met … well, they want them.

And yet I have some qualities that seem ideal for being married someday. Firstly, if I may be honest and yet put it lightly, I’m not crazy about the idea of lifetime celibacy. Aside from that? Well, I may hate sports, but I like sports bars (mmm, bar food) and I wouldn’t begrudge a man his Sunday-night game (unless that interfered with church, and God gave us Tivo for a reason). I couldn’t care less which way the toilet paper comes off the roll. I don’t need jewelry or flowers, I can carry my own purse, and I would never ask, “Does this make me look fat?”

Some people know that they will get married someday, it’s just the when or to whom that remains to be seen. Other people, as Paul writes in I Corinthians 7, know that they are called to a life of celibacy and singleness. I’m in a strange state of limbo and could see myself going either way. Hence the need for serious prayer about this issue. In the past, when I said “IF I get married,” or “IF I find someone,” it was followed by a wistful sigh of self-pity. Now I use “if” seriously, genuinely not knowing that marriage is in my future. Sadly, some people, who have been conditioned to do so, jump at the chance to say things like, “Of COURSE you’ll find someone! Don’t be silly! Guys are just stupid and don’t know what they’re missing.” Then I have to correct them and say, “No, really. I really don’t know if I’m going to get married!”

So, all my single ladies: Do you know for sure you want to get married and that someday, somehow, you will? And if you are, what are you praying? Perhaps that God will not only prepare your future husband for his new life with you, but that you will be prepared as well. And for those of us who don’t know, are you praying for God’s wisdom, that He will show you what you are to do and be? I think in either case, it’s also good to remember to pray for patience, and for the peace to be content in our current circumstances, whatever they are.

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Can I tell you a story?

Of course I can.

Would you like to hear it?

Of course you would.

Once upon a time (yes, we’re going with this intro), there was a young woman who moved from the MidWest United States to the Nation’s Capital to seek her fortune. She targeted many positions at some glamorous companies and organizations, attending interview after interview, constantly searching for her perception of the ideal job. Friends, former coworkers, former employers, and college professors recommended her highly. It was an exciting place to be at one of the most exciting, freest times of her life, and she was determined to see her dreams come true.

Unfortunately, time after time, her applications were so often denied, or she reached the top of the interview process only to be passed over for someone else who had just a liiiiittle bit more to offer. After months of such disappointments, the young woman began to wonder if anyone would ever want to hire her. She had a variety of talents, recommendations, and passions, although perhaps she lacked experience—but that could be changed, if she were only given the chance! Maybe there was no place in existence that could use her set of skills. Perhaps she had made a terrible mistake by moving there in the first place. Perhaps there was something wrong with her approach, or her resume, or her interview skills.

Then, one day, this young woman went in for an interview at a small, unassuming company she had never heard of—except for an ad it had placed in an unexpected location, seeking someone with just the sort of skills she could offer. She liked the people she met there, and the office had a nice atmosphere. Over the course of the interview, she began to think she liked the sound of this job. There were a few things that made her balk—a start time of 6:30am, for one thing, and a low starting salary. It definitely was not the sort of work, or sort of office, she had anticipated when she had first begun to seek adventure. But she liked her would-be boss, the work sounded interesting enough, it matched her skills, it would give her experience, and after all, she didn’t have to stick with it forever, right?

Suddenly, the young woman woke up and realized that she had been at this job for well over a year. What had happened? Well, she had made friends there, and learned new skills and new information, received raises and bonuses, and learned to appreciate the shift of 6:30am to 2:45pm—especially in the winter, when she could leave the office and still have daylight left. She had more than enough money to get by, and an easy commute, and a job that provided somewhat interesting dinner-party chatter. Of course, there were things she did not like about her job all the time, such as a 10pm bedtime and 5am wakeup call, but they were simply part of the whole package, and she considered it well worth the trouble. She was not too far away from friends and family, and had weekends and holidays free. Of course, she had made some sacrifices, but her life was far from over, and she knew that other adventures would soon come her way. Some days she would wake up and think, “What am I doing? I hate this. I’m so bored,” but that would change after a while, and she would realize she was right where she was supposed to be, and that it was all going to be okay.

Now for, as Paul Harvey would say, the “rest of the story.”

Yes, that young woman is me, and yes, I went through all of that in my process of moving to the DC area and getting a job. Occasionally I think, “How did I get here?” and it’s pretty clear that God’s grace was fully involved.

So, what’s my point? Why did I tell you this?

Well, I started thinking how my job search is kind of like my “search” for a boyfriend, a husband, a significant other. Of course, I’m not actually ready to be married, and I don’t intend to be for a while. But most days, I think that I would at least like a boyfriend. Some days I think, “Why would anyone want to be married? Being single is ridiculously great.” Other days I think, “When will this terrible season of life-sucking singleness end?”

The thought that dominates in these times, though, is: “Where is he, and why haven’t I found him yet?”

I often forget this, but I believe that, if I do get married, or enter into a long-term relationship of some kind, it will be similar to how I got my current job. I had no idea what was going to happen and I was about to give up, and it just kind of worked out over time, often in unexpected ways. There are things that are difficult about it, of course, but it has benefits that go hand-in-hand, and other great things that I never even expected.

For example, I’m not a morning person, and I hate that I can’t go out too late (at least not often) and I hate that it’s difficult for me to sleep. I hate waking up before dawn every day of the year. BUT … if I had the option of starting later and getting out later, at 5:30pm with everyone else, I wouldn’t do it. I like being able to have a couple hours of daylight left, even in the winter. I like being able to go to the bank, get a haircut, or go to the dentist during normal office hours without having to take off work. And I love being able to leave and drive to visit family and get there at a reasonable hour, and not having to deal with the brunt of rush hour either in the morning or evening.

The scariest part is that the 6:30 start time had not been posted in the ad. If it had, I would not have looked twice at it, and would have kept searching for something else. Not until I was at the interview did I find that out, but by then I realized that I did want the job, and I was going to have to make it work somehow.

When I think about that, I remember that God has it all worked out, even in the boyfriend department, even in the lifetime-single-or-not department. Even if I have an idea of what I want to do, it may not work out that way. What does happen is not going to be perfect, but it’s going to work out in ways that I didn’t even fathom.

If I am going to get married someday, he is probably not going to match my idea of what is perfect for me, and he may not be someone to whom I would otherwise give a second look. Maybe he will be. But ultimately it’s in God’s hands, and he knows what’s best for me, and how it’s all going to happen. It will probably not be what I thought I wanted, or should have, but it’s going to be fantastic in ways I hadn’t considered. There will be things I don’t like about him and our relationship, but taking the bad with the good is what life is all about.

ULTIMATE LESSON(S):

1. Trust God.

2. Don’t give up hope, but keep an open mind.

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In today’s society, to say that someone has “an agenda” is a terrible insult. It may imply single-mindedness, fanaticism, deceit, insensitivity, conspiracy, or any number of negative ideas. Like many Christ-followers, evangelism is a difficult area for me (“difficult” being probably far too mild of a word for it), and this is partly because I do not want to be seen as someone who has … an agenda.

I don’t remember if I’ve ever shared on this blog the way that God usually speaks to me, but it happened again at church last night.

Usually it starts with an idea being planted in my mind—whether it’s something I should be doing, something about myself that needs to change, a person I should talk to, etc. I think about it occasionally, during which time it may somehow come up in conversation. And then, once I have been “primed” to hear the message, it’s usually delivered via a church sermon or other authoritative method, as a spiritual wake-up blow to the head.

Lately I’d been thinking a little bit about how I need to share my faith more (uh, at all). Then on Saturday night we discussed evangelism at a mini-reunion of my mission trip team from this summer. I kind of felt this pressure to do something about it, and then, TA DAAA! it was the subject of last night’s message at my church.

So … yeah … God is trying to tell me something, perhaps.

This morning, Bethany and I were talking about how we both hate having an agenda. It seems dishonest, or disingenuous, or somehow not-good. But then I thought, OK … if someone is standing on a train track, and another person pushes them out of the way, the pusher has an agenda, right? That agenda is to save another person’s tuchas.

So, yes, we as Christians have an agenda. Except that agenda to distribute life-saving information, share the joy that we have found in Christ Jesus, and, oh yes, obey the God that we claim to love and serve.

I do hate to sound like a hypocrite: this is just as much a pep talk for myself as anyone reading this. I’m pretty much the least-qualified person to tell you how to go about doing this. Everyone may have a different method for evangelism, different fears regarding evangelism, and have different stories to tell. But the most important thing is to do it.

And whatever stands in your way—time, fear, resources, a speech impediment—God is even bigger.

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One of the songs my choir did at our church service last night. Click on the video to play, and again for the YouTube page itself.

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