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One Sunday evening as I sat in the pew of a cozy chapel full of worshiping men and women, I found that my own mind was far away. Anxiety, frustration, and discontentment crowded my mind. I flipped absentmindedly to the hymn whose first few notes were being played on the piano, and there I found the fears and doubts and frustrations shattered as the words pierced my dull heart. I realized that I had lost focus, that I had forgotten my purpose, that I was sinfully failing to trust in God. Here are two verses:

“Father, I know that all my life is portioned out for me;
the changes that are sure to come, I do not fear to see:
I ask thee for a present mind, intent on pleasing thee.

“I ask thee for the daily strength, to none that ask denied,
a mind to blend with outward life, while keeping at thy side,
content to fill a little space, if thou be glorified.”

-Anna L. Waring

If, like me, you are tempted to lose perspective, I pray that this hymn will renew your vision, as it did mine.

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I love hearing stories of God’s faithfulness and seeing His fingerprints all over my life. It’s so easy for me to be so caught up in each day that I forget that all along He’s had a plan. I thought I might share with you a recent instance in which God has shown me a glimpse of His faithfulness and control of my life.

First, I must tell you that when I was younger, one of my talents was being able to look up Scripture references quickly. In one church, I even won a contest for it (I say this with a smile!). I attribute it to my own church and how they helped us memorize the order of the books in Scripture and continually drilled us on it.

Recently, I started visiting a widow, Mrs. B. She is legally blind and has diabetes, arthritis, and a painful nerve condition in her hands and arms. But she is incredible! She rarely complains and constantly talks about God. She loves having the Scripture read to her. I have been so blessed getting to know her, as her background is so different from my own.

One visit, she wanted me to read aloud a tract that a group of Jehovah’s Witnesses had given her so she could understand what they believe and how it differs from what she believes. She wanted me to read each Scripture reference they gave, as well. Constantly she complimented me on my ability to quickly look up the verses, and she told me what a blessing that was to her. Now I know that plenty of people can look up passages quickly (and many people are probably faster than I am!), but looking back, I can still see how God prepared me for this through the church in which He placed me and the love He gave me for memorizing.

God’s grace is amazing! I love the little ways in which He shows us that He is in control. He truly does equip us for everything He calls us to do. I could list numerous more ways that I can see how He’s equipped me for serving Mrs. B. But for now, I’ll stop. This encourages me as I prepare (in a little over a month) to step out into an area of life that is new to me- college. I am confident that God has prepared me for everything He calls me to and will continue to do so… for my good and His glory.

“We will not hide them from their
children,
but tell to the coming generation
the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his
might,
and the wonders that he has done.”
Psalm 78:4

“Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of
them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there were none of them.”
Psalm 139:16

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Over the weekend during my re-reading of Joshua Harris’ Stop Dating the Church, I found this quote by John Piper:

“It astonishes me how many Christians watch the same banal, empty, silly, trivial, titillating, suggestive, immodest TV shows that most unbelievers watch- and then wonder why their spiritual lives are weak and their worship experience is shallow with no intensity. If you really want to hear the Word of God the way He mans to be heard in truth and joy and power, turn off the television on Saturday night and read something true and great and beautiful and pure and honorable and excellent and worthy of praise (see Philippians 4:8). Then watch your heart un-shrivel and begin to hunger for the Word of God.”

dsc06094.JPGThose words are so true, and not just on Saturdays. We must be exceedingly careful what we put into our minds, whether by watching, listening, or reading. Everything has some effect upon us, and we must be careful that we are not wasting the time God has given us, or hindering ourselves from living a life devoted to Him. I am always struck by what John Wesley’s mother told him when he asked her to define sin:

“Whatever weakens your reason, whatever impairs the tenderness of your conscience, whatever obscures your sense of God, whatever increases the authority of your body over your mind, whatever takes away from your relish for spiritual things, that to you is sin, no matter how innocent it is in itself.”

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Philippians 4:8

Do the things we watch, listen to, read, or think about pass the test of Philippians 4:8? May we set our minds on things above, as we set aside all that hinders us in our walk with Christ.

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Saying Goodbye

Goodbyes are very common around this time of year, as caps and gowns signal the end of one educational stage. As I will be graduating soon, this is a topic that is very familiar to me and also something that I’ve been struggling with. There are many changes that take place, forcing us say goodbye to a season of our lives. What are some things to remember as we say goodbye?

Be all there!

As one season of life draws to a close, it’s easy for me to realize the lack of contentment in my heart. It’s easy to get so caught up in the future (or to be nostalgic for the past) that we forget to joyfully live out each moment for the glory of God. Each new day is a gracious gift from the Lord. Let us work at each task in each season that God gives us with all our hearts (Colossians 3:17,21). In the words of Jim Elliot, “Wherever you are, be all there. Live to the hilt of every situation you believe to be the will of God.” As Elisabeth Elliot says, “…it is today for which we are responsible; God still owns tomorrow.” God owns yesterday, as well. Let’s not let our desire or fear for the future or our longing to re-visit the past keep us from living wholeheartedly the day God has given us today.

God is faithful!

As you look back over a season of your life that is drawing to a close, I challenge you to see God’s faithfulness to you. It’s usually not hard. And then rest on His immutable nature and incredible love, realizing that He will guide you and give you grace in this next season as well. Live with a quiet and joyful trust in the God who gave you life, who sustains you, and who will continue the good work He has begun in you (Philippians 1:6).

Leaving One Place- Coming to Another

Realize that as you close the door to your present season, you are walking into a new one. And God is already there. Just like the last season, this next season will be another tool God will use as He shapes us and another season in which we can choose to live either foolishly for ourselves or for God and His glory. And there will be joys and blessings and pain in this season, just as the last. But we must go into it with a confidence in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. We must stay close to Him as we step out in faith, knowing that as we look to Him, He will guide our feet.

Tears are Natural

Realize that it’s natural to feel sad at what you’re leaving behind. Maybe you’re getting married, and with all the joys and hopes for the future and new love that you feel, you realize that you are losing your present season. But don’t let sadness keep you from a joyful trust in God. Don’t let it keep you from living wholeheartedly in this next season.
Grieving over loss is normal. Our culture is good at trying to suppress the pain instead of facing up to it. We are told to turn up the music loudly so we don’t have to think about it. We are told to run and run and run, focusing on the pounding of our feet on the pavement, trying to forget. But it’s not God’s plan for us to suppress our feelings in this way. Instead of running from fears and doubts and sadness, bring them before Him. Face up to them. And He will draw near to you, comforting and sustaining. His mercies are new each morning (Lamentations 3:22-24).

“Commit now all your griefs and ways into his hands;
to his sure truth and tender care, who earth and heav’n commands.
Who points the clouds their course, whom winds and seas obey,
he shall direct your wand’ring feet, he shall prepare your way.”
-George J. Elvey

Our Purpose

I know I touched on this is some of the previous points, but this is the most important of all. As we walk through life’s seasons, we must remember the Gospel, proclaiming it, loving it, and living it.

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ- by grace you have been saved- and raise us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:4-10.

The Gospel, as it transforms us by the power of the Holy Spirit, causes us to live a life of humility and love, as Christ did.

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God, the Father.” Philippians 2:5-11

The Gospel teaches us to live for others, pouring ourselves out to serve and love. It teaches us to work cheerfully without complaint at the work God has given us to do. It teaches us that we love Him by obeying His commands. And it teaches us that we are incredibly loved by the God of the Universe, not because of anything we have done or have avoided, but because He has chosen us.
Live for Christ, pouring your life out for the sake of the Gospel in love to God and to others. Thus you won’t waste your life or any season of it. Our lives are short. Let us not forget our purpose: living to glorify Him. And as John Piper truthfully proclaims, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.”
When we close a season of our lives, let us remember to live purposefully, remembering Who owns our every breath and Who is worthy of all blessing and honor, glory and power.

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Senior Slide

 

 

 

Recently, I read some humorous statements about being a second semester senior.

You know you’re a second semester senior when…

..you actually find yourself doing a math problem to figure out how low of a grade you can get on your finals and still pass a class.

…you can tell someone the recap of every tv show on every channel from any given night of the week.

…you figure as long as you get a decent grade in your classes there’s no sense in doing extra credit or work.

…you think senior privileges of sleeping in means sleeping in…the entire day.

I hear it often from fellow seniors- tired of working and ready to graduate. It’s easy to adopt this slack-off attitude as the end of my highschool years come to a close. However, while day-dreaming my way through my math class it came to me (kidding). In all seriousness, while reading these humorous statements, the Lord impressed upon my heart that this lazy mentality is ungodly and does not bring glory to Him.

While we are students, school is part of our God-assigned work. Although it is a blessed time to learn more about the Lord and His world, it’s not just a preparation time for serving Him. School is one way we serve Him while we are students and under the authority of teachers and parents. As we obey God and work faithfully in what He has called us to do, we realize that we’re not working for a temporal goal, such as a diploma. We’re working to glorify God with every breath, every day, for we never know when it might be our last. We’re working for the eternal.

We cannot stop doing the work God has given us (or do it half-heartedly) simply because we grow weary of it. We cannot justify lazy attitudes. As followers of Christ, we are called to diligently do the things He has called us to do. We’re to work cheerfully and to the best of our abilities, knowing that we are working for Him, not for man. And He will bless that.

In all our work, let’s not think, “How little can I do and still (whatever goal you have- graduate, pass the class, make my boss happy, please my parents, etc)?” Instead, let’s ask, “How can I honor Christ in my work today?” This may mean doing more than the assignment calls for, or maybe just doing the assigned with a cheerful, grateful heart. May these words of the Apostle Paul encourage you in your working for the Lord today:

“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him… Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” Colossians 1:17, 23-24

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Before reading this, you should read this post from Beauty from the Heart. Very thought-provoking!

I was visiting Beauty from the Heart recently (one of my favorite sites, if you haven’t already figured that out!) and read their post entitled, “Overbearing Daddies and Magazines That Care.” It talks about how a certain teenage magazine thinks that a father protecting his daughter’s purity is, well, bizarre and grossly restrictive.

Reading about this, I was once again saddened by the way our culture takes the truly beautiful and makes it look undesirable (such as purity and faithfulness to your future husband, while it takes the truly undesirable (ungodly) and makes it appear beautiful (such as adultery and fornification).

Then, I realized that it’s not just our culture. It’s been going on since sin entered God’s creation. You see, one of the first deceptive tricks used by Satan on Eve was making the undesirable- the forbidden- appear beautiful. He made the beautiful- walking with God and trusting and obeying Him- appear undesirable. Satan made Eve question her Creator’s goodness.

“But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that it was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.” Genesis 3:4-6

We know the results of Adam and Eve’s taking of the fruit: banishment from the Garden, banishment from fellowship with the Lord, their Creator. And we know the happy ending to the story: redemption in Christ by the grace of God and work of the Holy Spirit. Until the Lord takes us to Heaven, though, we still live in a fallen, sinful world. And Satan still uses the same trick to tempt us into sinning. He makes us question God and what God has told us is beautiful.

Our sinful world (and culture) also gives us this deceptive message (I John 5:19, James 4:4). We are told that it is much more beautiful to be a seductive woman than to be a pure woman. Because what is purity anyway? Just some crazy set of rules to keep us from having fun?

See, our loving Heavenly Father knows the ramification for sin. We do, too. We can read about the Fall and see how it brought pain, suffering, death, separation from the Lord. Sin destroys.

“But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is full grown brings forth death.” James 1:14-15

From this verse, we see that sin comes out of our own hearts- our own desire. Our hearts are so corrupt that we have no hope of overcoming sin and knowing what is true and what is false. We must constantly look upward to the One who gave us life, reading His Word and thus filling our minds with a different message than the one the culture is giving us.

Then, knowing God’s truth, we must trust and obey Him, even when our culture thinks we’re being foolish, even when our own hearts object.
The Lord, our Heavenly Father, has something better than what this world promises. Can you wait? Can you trust? Can you obey?

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It was one of the scariest experiences of my life: a missions trip to Mississippi over the summer. We went to offer Hurricane Katrina relief. I most definitely am not what one might call “the construction-worker type.” So this was a leap for me. God was so faithful in giving me strength and perseverance, as well as gatorade breaks!

On the second day, our project was to “gut” a house. We drove up to a decrepit house that reeked of mold and rotting food. After donning respirators and safety goggles, we were given crowbars and other tools and instructed to get the house down to the studs. At first, the work was difficult; the house was small and stifling. However, as we removed rotten, moldy boards and took out the windows, breezes were able to blow through the house. It was rough work. Often I wondered whether it would not be easier to tear the house down with a dozer and rebuild. However, the man who owned the house had built himself. It was a work of love. He was the creator of this house, and he couldn’t bear to see it eradicated. So we labored over the house- pulling nails, tearing out the bathroom, and prying floor-boards as rats ran about under the foundation. The odor dissipated as the breeze blew threw, and after much effort, we finished tearing the rottenness out of the house. Fresh boards could be now placed on the floor joists, and the house could be rebuilt. Unbuilding is a dirty, smelly job, but it is necessary.

One of our pastors spoke of our hearts in a similar way. Destructing is messy and difficult. As the Lord rips out our sins and idols, it hurts! But He is our Creator; we are His work of love. The effort it takes to cleanse our hearts is worth it.

In Ezekiel 36, God talks about the new hearts He will give us. But first, He must rip out the old one with its foul odor and rampant growth of sin. This is the messy, painful work. It begins when you first become a Christian. God begins pulling and prying at the structure and throwing away the rottenness so that your heart may be rebuilt on a solid foundation, the foundation it was meant for: Himself. After all, we wouldn’t want to build a house back on top of mildew and rotten boards; the house would be shaky (and gross!).

However, it doesn’t stop there! God has set His mark on us- He has put His Spirit in us-and He won’t leave His people. He will continue His work in us for His glory.

“I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.” Ez. 36:24-27

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