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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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Stay Tuned…

I hope to start posting regularly again by the end of this week. May God bless you!

Sporadic Posting

Because of various summer things, I may post a little less frequently during the month of June. By July, I’ll hopefully have a more established routine. Thanks again for reading.

God bless your summer!

Ella

Rethinking Intake

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.

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.

Some Recommendations

Due to end-of-school-year-busyness, I thought I would post a few short CD/book recommendations today that I wrote not long ago. These are just some resources that have greatly encouraged me.

Valley of Vision CD

I know it’s been a while since the “Valley of Vision” CD was released by Sovereign Grace Ministries. Still, I want to recommend it to you- very highly. If you don’t know about it, this CD is a collection of 12 songs based on the book of Puritan prayers by the same title (an amazing book!). The songs range from the soft, quieter sounds of “In the Valley” to the more upbeat sounds of “Let Your Kingdom Come.” The vocals are clear and beautiful. The music is varied, yet uplifting. The thought-provoking lyrics are centered upon the Cross and very theologically sound, unlike many “Christian” songs out there today. This CD constantly helps me focus my mind and heart upon the Lord.

Elizabeth Prentiss ‘More Love to Thee’ by Sharon James

I’m probably breaking an important law of book-reviewing by talking about this book before I’ve finished it (only a few pages left- and I’m trying to savor them!). However, it was recently the Girltalk Bookclub Book, and their high praise of it encouraged me to check it out. To my delight, I’ve had trouble putting it down. This book is a biography of Elizabeth Prentiss, the writer of the classic book, Stepping Heavenward. Sharon James has done a riveting job in writing about Mrs. Prentiss’ life. I find myself lost in the story. I see things in Elizabeth Prentiss that I can relate to- she’s very human. And I am encouraged by her devotion to the Lord. I have been challenged greatly in my walk with the Lord by the biography of this great saint.

Stop Dating the Church by Josh Harris

Recently, I’ve been discouraged by the lack of love for the church that is so prevalent in our society (and all too often, in my own life). So many of my Christian friends greatly dislike church for various reasons. This book helped me see that the problem starts with our me-centered hearts. This book inspired me in devotion to the church. As with all his books, Josh Harris stays centered upon the Cross, writing with humility and bold truth. He gives practical insight for finding and committing to a local church, and he challenges us in the way we view Sundays.  There’s a lot of wisdom packed into this small book!

And if you enjoy encouraging, thought-provoking audio messages, I highly recommend Albert Mohler’s Radio Program and Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss. The speakers are very different from one another, but they are both Gospel-centered and have an evident love for the Word of God. Nancy Leigh DeMoss’s series, “The Power of Words,” challenged me more than anything else in the way I use my tongue.

Appearance Insecurity

Insecurity. It’s a word that’s often used to describe a common condition. It’s a watered down way to talk about a problem of the heart: lack of trust in and focus on God. I know that guys may deal with insecurity, too. But I want to specifically address girls and insecurity over their appearances.

Most girls today are unhappy with the way they appear. Like it or not, we’re bombarded with images of perfect-looking models with great figures, creamy complexions, smooth, silky hair, and straight, white teeth. No wonder we feel insecure! But my question is: why do we want to have these things? I find that for myself, the answer is often to win the favor and approval of man (gender neutral). Any desire to be beautiful must stem from a heart motive of glorifying God. And honestly, I don’t think that having shinier hair or an hourglass figure will help me glorify God more.

It’s so easy to be insecure. Maybe you wonder if any guy will ever want to marry you, since there are so many prettier girls out there. Maybe you wish you had a better figure and could wear that oh-so-cute top that you saw on the mannequin in the mall. However, when it comes down to it, realize that insecurity about appearance stems from a desire to please man and not God. And that is sin.

The Solution: Trust and Gratitude

This doesn’t mean you can’t wear makeup or attractive clothing. On the contrary, you can dress beautifully and modestly. We should ensure that our appearance is presentable, but that it is also that which befits a godly woman. From Creation, it is evident that God loves color and beauty!  But the most important thing is having a beautiful heart, and that comes only from a secure faith in God. Are you trusting in God with your appearance, with your money, with your future? Are you thankful for what He has given you? And are you careful in not using your beauty to cause men to stumble? Are you spending too much time or money obsessing over clothes? Is working on your appearance making you late to events? There is such thing as a good amount of time, money, and effort as far as wardrobe, make-up, and hair go. And it may be different for each of us. It is important to routinely perform a “heart-surgery” (as one of our pastors says) and prayerfully evaluate the time, money, effort, and worry that you put into things such as make-up, clothes, hair, and exercise.

As Shakespeare eloquently states, “…rosy lips and cheeks within [Time’s] bending sickle’s compass come…” Outward beauty may not last forever, but beauty that comes from a heart that trusts sincerely in God will last. “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” Proverbs 31:30

Enjoy the beauty God has given you! Be content with your appearance. I don’t mean a reluctant contentment, but a joyful, sincere, gratitude to God for what He has given you, and also, what He has given to others. You can’t be grateful and envious at the same time! Nor can you be grateful and complaining at the same time. God created us beautifully, knitting each part together deliberately (Psalm 139).

In desiring to please God, we must talk to Him about our struggles. Ask Him for help in managing what He has given you well and to His glory.

Confidently rest in Christ’s work for you on the cross and continual mercy and grace in your life. Joyfully thank Him for everything! Then, you will find true security- security that a perfect complexion or gorgeous hair can never give.

Resources

Here are some resources that have helped me in my struggle with appearance insecurity:

-Check out both of these Boundless articles that can be found here and here.

-Check out the Girltalk Beauty Section for thought-provoking, Gospel-centered articles.

-Download Carolyn Mahaney’s talk, “True Beauty.” It’s well worth the money!

-Listen to the episode of Albert Mohler’s radio show, “The Nature of True Beauty in Confused Times.”

And, most importantly, continue studying Scripture and knowing your Savior better. It is by gazing and focusing on Him that we truly stop obsessing over ourselves.