How to Date with Holiness, Honor, and Humility

I was flabbergasted and a little shook up. About four years ago, as I progressed through the book I Kissed Dating Goodbye, I was flabbergasted that couples existed who waited to kiss until their wedding day and shook up because, if God commanded this, then I had already blown my chance over a high school romance.

Even still, something was not sitting right with me about this premise. So I went to my pastor.

We sat in his office and talked for a solid hour about the purpose of this book and the thoughts it advocated on dating. I still have the email he wrote to me, finishing up our conversation. He said:

I also think we need to be wise about our dating approach. To go out to dinner and a movie with a “date” is one thing. To go for a weekend trip to a cabin in the woods is putting oneself in a situation where one is more removed from helpful boundaries…

Helpful boundaries. Let’s talk about them.

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10 Questions to Ask When You’re Angry at God’s Plan

I had tried every remedy I could think of.

From melatonin to other sleep aids, from sleep masks to ear plugs, all of these so-called “solutions” for sleeping trouble resulted for me in more wakeful evenings. For the girl who had never had much trouble with sleep, I was struggling.

And struggling is probably not the most accurate word I could use to describe my sleep-deprived state. The better word is angry.

Yes, I admit it. Angry. Angry that, no matter what I tried, no matter how tired I was, I would lay awake for hours on end, unable to fall asleep. Angry knowing that the next day at work was going to be difficult. Angry that my dear husband was fast asleep next to me.

Angry at the Lord for ordaining a trial that seemed so torturous in the moment, one that made no sense to me at all.

Our bodies run on sleep. Doesn’t God know that?

Doesn’t God see that I have some big projects to complete this week at work and that I simply cannot be a walking zombie to finish them?

Doesn’t he hear my cries for help?

Doesn’t he care?

I had reached my breaking point after about two weeks of interrupted sleep. The tears continued to come, my mind spinning from not understanding why I had to endure such a ridiculous trial. But one thing was certain: I knew that, deep down, my anger was directed toward the Lord. I knew simultaneously that this attitude did not honor him and that it was revealing a deeper condition of my heart.

But what? What was making me so angry over something so small? What was at the root of my anger towards the Lord?…  READ MORE

[Post Credit: iBelieve | Photo Credit: Free Digital Photos]

How to Put Your Fear to Good Use

I’ll never forget the phone call.

“Really? You’re absolutely sure?”

I questioned the nurse because I could not believe my ears.

The diagnosis was Lyme disease.

After five years of battling chronic pain; after numerous visits to various doctors and mysteriously normal blood test results; after diet changes and lifestyle changes and exercise changes, I was finally given my answer. The illusive malady was Lyme, and it was a diagnosis I never saw coming.

Perhaps you understand this feeling, but my emotions were torn. A part of me rejoiced with relief. Finally, a diagnosis! No more meandering from doctor to doctor, and no more guessing. But the other part of me was immediately weighed down with troublesome thoughts of the road ahead of me. Would my body respond to treatment well? What will my husband’s reaction be? How will this affect us financially? What if this never goes away?

Can you relate?

The troubles of our lives are usually unexpected obstacles to be faced, and typically they produce in the human mind our unwelcome friend, Fear. I am no stranger to it. Fear has reared its ugly head many a time before now. Fear can be crippling. It can be paralyzing. It can seem altogether negative.

But fear can also be put to good use…  READ MORE

[Post / Photo Credit: iBelieve]

An Ultimate Test of Ministry

“Can I use the computer for a minute, please?”

My younger sister determinedly entered the family office, posing her innocent, but rather inconvenient, question. I immediately rolled my eyes, uttering an annoyed sigh and said, “Really? You can’t wait for five minutes?”

After all, I was in the middle of teaching myself how to implement a new design technique for my blog. You know, one of those very involved processes that takes loads of concentration, creativity and time to carry unto completion.

Please note the sarcasm.

Even still, the process was intricately involved, and her interruption was an unwelcomed one at best. After another roll of my eyes, I caved to her needs, stood up abruptly from my chair and proceeded to leave the room, while she finished what she just had to start.

Needless to say, I am not always the most loving sister in the world.

The thoughts and attitudes of my heart are very accurately judged when I am in close proximity to those people whom I know the best. And these people just happen to be at home. How I interact with them translates into a very significant form of ministry, the love of Christ made manifest in my most daily of relationships. I would argue, in fact, that ministry and service are most aptly challenged by how we love the people we are surrounded by on a daily basis. To put it simply: ministry meets its ultimate match at home.

Three questions beg to be asked about at-home ministry, all of which Scripture delights to answer for us. To find our answers, let us delve into 1 John 4:

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God… 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us…

20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.

Why At-Home Ministry Is Important

The ultimate test of ministry, demonstrating Christ’s love at home, finds its purpose in the glory of God. First, our love for the people in closest proximity to us reveals both an inward and outward manifestation of our relationship with Jesus Christ: “Whoever loves has been born of God and knows God” (v.7). The more time we spend at the Savior’s feet, the closer we grow to Him and the more like Him we become. Christlikeness will show itself in the way we treat those closest to us. And when we love like Christ, God is glorified.

Second, the way we love others is a testimony to the outside world. Whether unbelievers dwell within our homes or they are looking in from the outside, our love—or lack thereof—will either validate or dismantle our testimony for Christ. Verse 12 reminds us that the unseen God’s love abides in His disciples, that we are His ambassadors to a lost world. How do you utilize at-home ministry when the lost, outside world is watching? Better yet, how do you love when that very world is within your four walls?

How At-Home Ministry Is Made Possible

We purpose to glorify God and reflect Christ when we love others, especially those people who are in closest proximity to us. But how is this made possible? There must be a motivator, an initiating factor propelling our love into action. The above verses remind us that love, ministry and service are not possible apart from the Gospel: “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins” (v.10).

The fact that genuine love is not possible apart from the Gospel exposes the world’s vain attempts at good deeds and empty moralism. Without a cause, without a motivation, loving gestures and acts of service fall desperately short. The Gospel reminds us that it was God who first loved us, deeply enough that He sent His perfect Son to absorb all of our sins. In turn, we gain the righteousness of Christ. Now that is genuine love and ministry propelled into action.

Loving Those Closest To You

The practical question then is, “What does at-home ministry look like?” Applying verse 21, “whoever loves God must also love his brother”, can be worked out in various capacities. Three helpful ways include acts of service, attitudes and words.

Be observant; take notice of a chore that a family member, spouse or roommate dislikes and do it for them. Ask yourself, “How can I serve this person today?” Consider your attitude during conversations or when something is being asked of you. Align it to the attitude of Christ, who was humble and willing to serve. Edify a brother or sister with words by relaying genuine encouragement or thanks: “It means a lot that you took out the trash—thank you!” Sometimes, merely sitting next to a person is enough to say, “I love you and care about you.”

In the words of Nancy Leigh DeMoss, “Having a servant’s heart is more than doing a few good things for people…It’s a heart attitude of giving ourselves to God by giving ourselves to others” (Service and the Kingdom of God, 2013). May we give ourselves to at-home ministry in love, all because God first loved us!

[Post credit: iBelieve]

Confessions of a Hyper-Planner

I confess that I didn’t have the time to write this article.

In fact, I believe this article really should have been entitled “Confessions of a Crazy Person” because that would more clearly express how my life feels as of late. Crazy. Deeply rich and very blessed. But crazy nonetheless.

I confess that, without even realizing it, I sometimes act as though I have total possession over my time. My grip can become even tighter when I have less time to allot to each task. I begin operating under the assumption that I own my time; therefore, any interruption of it causes irritation, defensiveness and increased stress within me. Take this past week as an example: I found myself stumbling over my perspectives as I thought, “My time is being disrupted right now by circumstances that I never saw coming. How dare my time get interrupted!”

My time.

There is an obvious problem with the above statement.

You see, I would consider myself to be somewhat of a hyper-planner. As an exercise, I thought it might be insightful to define these two terms (especially for those of you who might consider yourself to be a similar personality):

Hyper: seriously or obsessively concerned; fanatical

Planner: A scheme or method of “doing,” developed in advance, for a specific project or purpose

Okay, fine. So what if I am a seriously, obsessively fanatical schemer when it comes to planning? I like my time.

Oops. There it is again.

The only problem is that my time is not mine. And your time is not yours. We need a serious perspective adjustment! We need to see that our attempts to produce an orderly manifestation of our craziness can get reduced to nothing if our plans are graciously reordered by God’s hand.

And they will be re-ordered—because time is not ours, it is His.

A conversation goes a bit too long. Your once-a-week date night gets cancelled. Sickness takes you out of the running for a day. An opportunity to share Christ with a friend arises. You don’t get the job. You must stop to pray.

I confess that I so easily forget the truth that time is the Lord’s. In dealing with time, I get consumed by my own little world. I believe that the reason I overlook certain fundamental truths is because I am too busy getting my ducks in a row, creating a hyper-planner’s paradise in the form of my overly booked schedule, harried endeavors and sleepless nights.

But there are ways to remember what is true about our time, our lives, and the glory of God. Hyper-planners, we need to hear some fundamental gospel truths each and every day! So let us not forget:

The Lord reigns! I confess that I do not fully grasp, especially when I am frantically clawing to get my hands on any free 15-minute time slot in my planner, that God does not exist to serve me. My life is not about me. Your life is not about you. We must get over ourselves to declare worshipfully that the Lord Almighty reigns (Psalm 99)!

The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything (Acts 17:24).

God exists to glorify Himself. He does not exist to glorify us, or our schedules, or our plans, or even the good deeds we perform, which are but dirty rags in light of His holiness. Only God is perfectly great, and He rules creation by His abundant power and steadfast love. He rules our time!

Remembering this truth is an incredibly humbling breath of fresh air, especially for all of us hyper-planners. God’s holy rule is a necessary reminder, not only for a lost world consumed by self-orientation, but for His children who are not yet perfect. In His grace and wisdom, our God continues to sustain the foundations of the world despite what we do, say, think or plan.

Our lives are here today, gone tomorrow. Every detail of our earthly craziness can seem so pivotal in the moment. As I hyper-plan my weeks, my heart starts palpitating at the thought that I might let people down, not complete certain tasks, nor have the time to slow down at night and breathe. After all, we only see in part—and the part that we see is tainted by sin, because we are not home yet.

Think about the fact that your body eventually gets so tired that you must surrender to sleep (despite your resistance!). This is a relinquishment of power, as you silently succumb to your physical limitations. Consider that God never sleeps nor slumbers—proving that only He is eternally aware and in control (Psalm 121:4). Our physical limitations are but a metaphor for our spiritual depravity, and this should humble us greatly, especially when we find ourselves declaring time as our own:

For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust. As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field; for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more (Psalm 103:14-16).

Jesus owns you. That’s right—He owns you. If you are a Christian, then every part of you belongs to the Great High Priest who sacrificed Himself on the cross, absorbing the wrath of God for your sake. Though once we were slaves to sin, now we are slaves to righteousness—meaning that Christ’s very identity has become our own, and we no longer live for our own selfish desires and plans. Living selfishly is actually contrary to our new nature; it does not suit us! Paul admonishes the Corinthians for their immoral ways and then reminds them of this glorious gospel truth:

You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

I confess that my flesh rebels against Christ’s ownership of me at times. I want time and plans and decisions to be my own—until I recall that the Son of God has a claim on my life, because He purchased it with the price of His life. He is not only infinitely wise but blesses those who earnestly seek Him with broken and contrite hearts (Psalm 51:17). What freedom there is in surrendering our time to a all-knowing, providential Lord!

The God of grace knows our limitations and sees that we are dust—yet He is mindful of us, His unique creation, giving us the grace to be transformed in our perspectives. The next time you feel yourself taking the slippery slope to self-indulgent thoughts regarding time, remember that it was never yours to begin with. He is Lord! So let’s glorify Him—even with our time.

[Post credit: iBelieve]

God Will Give You More Than You Can Handle

I sit here, my legs elevated, staring at a blue hospital boot on my left foot.

Whoever coined the expression, “God won’t give you more than you can handle” was clearly living in another universe…because it is absolutely not true. Nowhere in the Bible does that statement appear. Nowhere in the Bible are we told that hardships and struggles come with an “only-as-much-trouble-as-your-strength-can-carry” standard attached to them.

Of course, this adage is an excellent encouragement for people with no need for help or rescue. But I see my human reality on a daily basis; I know that I am weak. We are weak. And often, we are indeed given much, much more than we can handle on our own strength.

As I add “blue hospital boot” to my quickly-expanding mental list of injuries, I humbly look at my Lord and Savior and admit, “I cannot do this alone. This hurts. This is digging to the very core of my pride. This is uprooting my false hopes. This is more than I wanted, selfishly. And it is certainly more than I can handle.”

Let’s face the truth: It is fooling ourselves to say triumphantly that God will not give us more than we can handle. Believing this wrongly emphasizes our own ability to weather storms and save ourselves. It assumes that God’s desire is never to overwhelm us, which would cause us to actually need Him. At best, believing this adage attempts to brush the difficult reality of our weaknesses right under the rug.

See, all of the above might boost our self-esteem for a little while, but soon we will find ourselves increasingly discontent. Because, if God won’t give me more than I can handle, then why do I feel that I simply cannot handle the hardship and pain set right before me?

No, my friends, the Bible does not say that God will spare us from circumstances that are too hard for us to endure. The opposite holds true. He has lessons for us to learn regarding weakness. Weakness is His instrument. God will give us increasingly more than we can handle so that He, in His infinite grace, can root out our sin and replace it with a deeper love for Him and His strength.

If you are not sure that you can believe this, consider the following men:

Take Moses, who was given an assignment much greater than he could manage. He was to lead the enslaved Israelites out of Egypt, despite Pharaoh’s flagrant refusal to let them go freely. More than he could handle? I think so.

Take Job, a man who loved God, and whose entire livelihood was taken from him, including his family and his health. More than he could handle? Absolutely.

Take Paul, whose gospel-preaching ministry landed him in jail multiple times. Add to this beatings, starvation, and shipwreck, and you’ve got only a portion of his difficult circumstances. More than he could handle? Yes and yes.

The wonderful, yet difficult connection between our weakness and God’s infinite strength runs throughout the whole salvation story. Here is our reality: our Heavenly Father desires that we would share in His holiness (Hebrews 12:10). And though we will never know precisely the wisdom of God, why He does what He does, we can trust this promise from Hebrews 12:

Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?

“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
nor be weary when reproved by him.
For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives.”

It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

God will give us more than we can handle, and so:

We consider Christ and draw from His strength (vv. 3-4). We look to Jesus and see quickly that God gave His Son the weight of the world to shoulder, all by Himself, so that we would not need to! Our Savior knew what it was to endure hardship, all the way to the cross. And for those who believe in Him, His Spirit dwells within, providing the strength to endure hardship with trust in and submission to the Father’s will. Hardship, then, becomes an opportunity to fellowship in the sufferings and power of Christ.

We trust that all hardship stems from His love for us (vv. 5-6). When it feels like God is giving you more than you can handle, praise Him for such a loving demonstration of His grace! This might sound counter-intuitive to us, but the Bible says that God shows His love for His children through discipline and trials. How can he root out our selfishness and pride and vanity except to lovingly show us where we are wrong? This can take a million different forms. But our weaknesses showcase that God is interested in doing a more important work within our souls. That is love!

We set our hope on that which will endure forever (vv. 10-11). What might be this more important work within our souls, which God is interested in doing? God gives us plenty more than we can handle so that our hopes are redirected to the treasures of heaven. Rather than believing that we can conquer our difficult circumstances and somehow be happy, God would have us trust that His Kingdom is the only thing worth truly hoping in, and that He is producing in us the peaceful fruit of righteousness…regardless of how our situation unfolds. The things of the world cannot be trusted to endure; but the reign of Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God will endure forever.

My sister, has God given you more than you can handle today? If so, I’m with you. I’m with you in all the tears and the confusion. But you and I don’t need to stay there because we know God’s truth: He will give us more than we can handle so that we rely on the wonderful, all-sufficient, hope-producing strength of Jesus Christ. Our Lord and Savior came to save weak sinners, supplying forever the strength to endure, until the day when He comes again on the clouds of heaven.

And to that I say, Amen!

[Post credit: iBelieve]

The Perfectionist Plague

If you are plagued by perfectionism, then it’s time remember the gospel.

Believe me—I will be joining you in this holy endeavor because I need the reminding, too.

Oh, perfection. I love working hard. The ability to do so is a gift from the Lord. Beyond working hard, I enjoy working precisely. Correctly. Exactly. Clearly. I enjoy working and living in such a way that exudes the excellence of Christ and presses onward past challenges and obstacles. Especially within ministry, working excellently brings me deep joy. And I believe it honors the Lord.

What saps me of joy, however, is my tendency to expect absolute perfection of myself. See, working hard as unto the Lord should be the pursuit of every Christ follower. But, if a person is not careful, working excellently can quickly evolve into working for self-righteous perfection. There is a difference between working by the Lord’s strength in utter dependence on Him, and working through our own independent efforts, which naturally results in self-glorification.

The pursuit of perfection by our own efforts and for our own vain purposes reveals in us a stunning truth: we are plagued by it, and therefore, we need reminders of the gospel of grace.

Six Signs of Perfectionism

It’s time to take a test.

If the following traits are true of you, you might be a perfectionist:

  1. You expect perfection from yourself.
  2. You expect perfection from other people. Common attitudes toward others involve critique, judgment and disappointment.
  3. You beat yourself up for making mistakes or failing.
  4. You are afraid of failure, and the fear keeps you from moving forward.
  5. You are unwilling to let others help you.
  6. You refuse to take correction and hear the messy truth about yourself.

If the majority of the above statements describe you, then it is possible that you have been plagued by the need for perfection in many aspects of life. You are not alone. All of the above have described me, at one point or another.

The truth is that our understanding of the gospel is reflected through how we live on a daily basis, especially in relation to our dependence on Christ. Conversely, not coming to terms with the fullness of Jesus Christ and His death and resurrection leaves a disconnection, whereby we attempt to fill in the gaps with our own vain efforts to be good (and do good). It hit me like a ton of bricks that my need for perfection meant that I was missing the full extent of the gospel message, which trains us “to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age” (Titus 2:12).

What’s at the root?

What is at the root of perfectionism? In pondering the desire to be perfect, it seems that at its root lie four sinful tendencies: The need to be in control, the need for approval from man, self-justification (making ourselves “good”) by works, and the sins of unbelief (doubting Christ’s sufficiency and goodness) and idolatry (hungering for worldly gain and pursuits).

I don’t know about you, but if those sins describe the heart of a perfectionist, then I am running—no, sprinting–the other direction. Straight to the gospel, straight to the cross.

A Perfectionist’s Reality Check

My prayer for perfectionists is that we would remind ourselves daily of the good news of Christ. Only in fixing our minds on Jesus through His inerrant Word will we be transformed by truth and made into His likeness. So, what does the gospel say to us?

  1. Jesus is Lord, holy and perfect. He rules our lives.
  2. No one person is good. We were all under the law and slaves to sin (3:10).
  3. God will judge all of mankind (2:6).
  4. Christ died for sinners (5:6).
  5. We are justified by His blood (5:9) when we believe.
  6. Our righteousness is in Christ (5:18).

Read that last point again. Your righteousness is in Christ. My sister, this means that righteousness—your need to be perfect and without failure—has been bestowed upon you by Christ alone! All of our vain efforts to achieve perfection and control circumstances cannot make us good. They are futile.

But the gospel reminds us that the Author and Perfecter of our faith is the One who makes us righteous. In Christ, we are blameless and without fault. We are adopted saints, dearly loved and wholly approved. Grace is lavished on us through the love of Christ, who compels us to love others (yes, even imperfect sinners!) as we have been loved. Our inheritance is in eternity, not in the fleeting pleasures and treasures of worldly success, accolades and titles.

What Now?

Galatians 2:20 says, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.  I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.”

For my sisters struggling with perfectionism, may you preach the gospel to yourselves on a daily basis. Get in the Scriptures. Journal each and every spiritual blessing that Christ has given to you, for His glory. Worship God for providing the perfect sacrifice in His Son, who loved you and gave Himself for you.

The life you live in the flesh, live by faith in Christ, who is your righteousness! And be plagued by perfectionism no more.

[Post credit: iBelieve]

Keys to Building Confidence

I sat on the edge of my bed and wept.

To this day, I recall so clearly the desperation I felt at that very moment. The moment when I realized that everything I had invested my life in was slipping like quicksand from my grip. And it was slipping without my permission.

If not for the Sovereign Lord, the darkness would have consumed me.

I was living in New York City at the time, testing the waters of show business and working three unsatisfying jobs to (barely) pay the rent. My family and friends lived thirteen long hours away. The marriage I thought I would enter after one year of dating turned out to be a heart-wrenching break up. And just when I thought circumstances could not get any worse, I started having excruciating pain in my left knee—a devastating injury to sustain while living in a walking city.

Lord, where are You? The tears rolled down my cheeks as I inquired of Him. The God of all creation, full of goodness, faithfulness and sovereignty, seemed so far away.

Yet, there was one thing I knew for certain: God was still with me. No, I could not see Him or sense Him. But I held on to the hope that knowing Christ had instilled in me: that I could go nowhere from His presence, His care, or His abundant grace even when I felt utterly, desperately weak and broken.

Somehow, in the most ironic way and despite everything falling apart, my confidence in God deepened.

You may be asking, “How is that possible?” If you do not yet know Jesus Christ, I am here to assure you—it is possible, indeed. It is more than possible, in fact, to have everything falling to pieces around you and yet still to rest in the security and strength of the Lord. However, the keys to building confidence cannot be sought and found in earthly solutions, remedies, religions and mantras—but only in realizing our weakness, trusting the Lord’s sole sufficiency, and finding our hope in Him.

KEY #1: Realize your desperate need for the Lord.

Psalm 62 is a beautiful prayer sung by King David, a weak, sinful man in desperate need of God’s strength. David states, “Those of low estate are but a breath; those of high estate are a delusion” (v.9). The first key to finding God-confidence is in realizing that we cannot find it within ourselves. We are but a breath. The world sends us the opposite message: “Be all you can be!” But as sinful beings, no amount of righteousness or strength or effort or beauty can attain the inner-satisfaction and perfection we so desire. We need a Savior.

KEY #2: Trust in the Sovereign Lord, who is solely sufficient for you.

Becoming a more confident woman is only possible by surrendering to the one perfect example, Jesus Christ. In admitting that we simply cannot find satisfaction or strength within ourselves, God gladly bestows righteousness and a secure identity upon us, in exchange for His Son’s very life.

Verses 1-2 read, “For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken”.  David’s prayer above reminds us that there is only one solution to our innate need for satisfaction, acceptance and confidence: God alone. Notice how David uses the words “alone” and “only” to describe the satisfying character of the Lord. He is set apart. No human being can find even the slightest bit of security or strength apart from knowing Him. In Jesus Christ, God sent His Son to make this relationship possible, and by His redeeming blood our souls can be eternally satisfied.

KEY #3: Find your hope in Him.

“Put no trust in extortion; set no vain hopes on robbery; if riches increase, set not your heart on them” (v.10). Clearly, the world is not as it should be. The simple fact that it is impossible to predict tomorrow’s circumstances should confirm the obvious: our confidence cannot be found in the things of this world. We invest in relationships, expecting them to satisfy us, only to experience disappointment time and time again. We crave financial gain, plan our ten-year goals, and strive for achievement and recognition—no matter what the cost.

In and of themselves, money, relationships and successes are not sinful. It is the heart motive behind them that draws fallen people into sinful attitudes and allegiances. Above, David exhorts us never to put our trust in earthly gain. When we come to terms with our weaknesses and put our trust instead in God’s strength, we are found no longer in the world—we gain Christ! Turning from selfish ambition and worldly hopes to finding our hope in Christ is the only way to build true confidence that will last for eternity.

Lyricist Edward Mode wrote the words to this traditional hymn, which brilliantly expresses the keys to building confidence in Christ: My hope is built on nothing less / Than Jesus Christ, my righteousness / I dare not trust the sweetest frame / But wholly lean on Jesus’ name / On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand /All other ground is sinking sand.

May we build our hope on nothing less than Jesus Christ, finding our true confidence in Him!

[Post credit: iBelieve]

Submission Is Not Just for Married People

Submission is not just for married people.

I should know; I’m not married. But submission is most definitely for me. Submission is also for you.

When you hear the term “submission”, what comes to mind? Far from a comfortable topic, submission does not always garner the most supportive responses from people. Even Christ-followers hear the word and cringe because—let’s face it—submission has been misused and its purpose misunderstood. For many, the image that comes to mind is that of becoming a repressed doormat. In our minds, submission looks akin to slavery.

For a long time, I thought submission was limited to the context of marriage. Years ago, out of a desire to obey the Lord, I pursued a supposedly submissive attitude in a dating relationship—to my disappointment and confusion. The so-called “submission” that leaves a person disrespected, neglecting holiness, and being taken-advantage of is not submission at all. It is foolishness. At that point, I wondered if I would ever fully understand it. How could I get submission so wrong, when my intentions were so right?

A month ago, on flickered the lightbulb.

What a stunning realization it was for me. My pastor was teaching a large group of women from Titus, where Paul instructs young women to be “submissive to their own husbands” (2:5). Naturally, there was an intrigued, expectant silence in the air, as we women awaited his explanation of the controversial “submission” word. What we came away with left our hearts rejoicing.

Submission is not just for married people. Nor does submission find its origin in marriage.

Submission began with Christ, Himself.

How? Our Savior humbly and willingly obeyed the Father’s will, trusted Him fully, and went to the cross for our sins. Jesus submitted to God, “Not my will, but Yours be done,” and as a result, grace abounds. Through Christ’s submission, sin and death were defeated by His blood on the cross, and reconciliation with God was made possible for all who trust in Him.

Submission is all about following the example of Jesus Christ.

Submission is therefore not just for married people because all Christians are called to submit to Christ. Living in submission to Christ’s lordship means acknowledging that our lives are truly no longer our own, offering them up to God’s perfect purposes and will.

Submission says, “Yes, Lord, You are in control of my life, and I trust that Your grace is sufficient for me. I will therefore rest in my identity as Your adopted daughter and trust the work of the Spirit in my life. I will walk by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”

Here’s the freeing truth about submission: The reason God commands our submission, both within marriage, the Body of Christ and to Himself, is because through it, His grace is fully manifested and His Son glorified. Submitting ourselves to God means trusting His purposed plan, His leading by the Holy Spirit, His Word, and His sanctifying work in us. What freedom there is in relinquishing control to our Sovereign God, whose grace is sufficient in our every weakness!

But what about submission in our other relationships? John Piper says that “submission is a wider Christian virtue for all of us to pursue, and it has its unique and fitting expressions in various relationships” (The Beautiful Faith of Fearless Submission).

Submission to others must begin firstly with submission to Christ. This means following the example of Christ through obedience to the Word of God. “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another, and if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other…Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom” (1 Peter 3:12-13,16).

So submission in our Christian relationships looks like: grieving with the brokenhearted, forgiving another’s sin, humbly listening to correction, looking past insignificant quirks, speaking honestly about a situation, putting another’s interests before our own, choosing a teachable spirit, serving others, holding our fiery tongues, and in everything humbling ourselves for the sake of the gospel.

When we choose to submit to Christ, we revere and honor His Name. The scope of submission is so much deeper than we ever could have thought or imagined! Submission is not just for married people. For in submitting to Christ, we become like Him, to the praise of His glorious Name and for the sake of the gospel!

[Post credit: iBelieve]

The Cure for Spiritual Amnesia

“Don’t forget me!”

Every evening, my little sister would yell these three precious words to my mother, once the tuck-in routine was complete, the lights were off, and the bedroom door was closed. Her tiny voice would cry out in love and in need, and my mother would respond with a chuckle, “Oh, I couldn’t possibly!”

How we long to be remembered! It feels wonderful to receive a phone call from a distant friend, as she lovingly communicates how we had crossed her mind that day. Birthdays are full of celebratory remembrance of a person’s life, as the cards arrive through the mail and emanate, “You are not forgotten.” Laughable, nostalgic stories told around the dinner table by old friends cause us to recall details of days-gone-by, as we share, “I will never forget the time when you…”

The act of remembrance is equally integral to our faith walk. Put more precisely, forgetting our desperate need for the Lord—developing a case of spiritual amnesia—weakens our intimacy with Him and fuels a life that functions dangerously apart from Christ. The Christian’s dependence upon Christ is necessary to knowing Him deeply and being all-satisfied in Him; yet all too often we forget our desperate need, choosing instead cheap worldly substitutes and unreliable, idolatrous self-sufficiency.

The process can be a slow fade. In examining my heart a couple of months ago, I realized that my comfortable life circumstances combined with my pride had somehow been blinding me to how desperately I needed Christ. My passion for spending time at His feet had dulled. Thank the Lord above I had a “measuring stick” in the form of remembrance: the previous year of my life had been one of loneliness, poverty, physical distress and, ultimately, utter dependence upon the Lord.

I knew what it was to suffer. I knew what it was to cling to Christ for dear life. And I knew what it was to find Him all-sufficient for my every spiritual need.

What about you? Do you honestly believe that your life is nothing apart from Christ? Each day, are you seeking to remember the depth of God’s grace, as you cling to Him for dear life?

Or are you coasting? Have you forgotten? The slow fade to self-sufficiency, busyness and pride can creep up stealthily without us even noticing. Life gets comfortable, our need for Christ supposedly lessens as a result, and in sets spiritual amnesia. Our heart grows apathetic, as we go through the motions of our faith, instead of engaging in the life, death and resurrection of Christ by abiding in Him.

We need a cure, a reality check. And praise God, His Scripture is continuously faithful to give us wisdom and guidance in our time of need.

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.” (John 15)

Realize your need. Ladies, think of the last time you went to the doctor when you were ill. You clearly would not have put forth the effort if you thought you were healthy. Your realization that your health had somehow failed you prompted your visit. Similarly, the Christian must realize that she can do nothing apart from Christ. Nothing. Before you trusted in Christ, your depravity was so great that it meant being forever separated from your Creator. Yet even now, as a believer reconciled to the Father, you can bear no lasting fruit apart from abiding (holding onto, keeping with) in Him. Though we have overcome sin and death, our victory is not complete until the day of Christ, so our need for the Savior stands as our reality each and every day.

Do you truly believe that your very life—from your salvation to your sanctification to your eventual glorification–depends solely on Christ?

Remember the Gospel. “Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you” (v.3). When Christ humbly submitted to His Father’s will, went obediently to the cross to absorb God’s wrath for our sake, and then rose to new life, He defeated the power of sin and death once for all time. An eternity with God was made possible by Christ’s shed blood and victorious resurrection. The person who places her faith in Christ is united to Him, takes part in His inheritance and is made into a new creation, holy and blameless in the sight of God.

Remembering what Jesus did for us—meditating on His perfect life, atoning death, and powerful resurrection—puts our lives in eternal perspective. Without Christ, we would be eternally lost—but because of Christ, our lives are purposed to glorify Him, our future is secure, and a living relationship with God is our reality!

How does remembering the Gospel point you to your need for Christ?

Repent of sin. What are the cheap substitutes that threaten to dull your desperate need for Christ? What are the attitudes of the heart that cause you to turn away from Him? Is there anything getting in the way of you spending time at the feet of Christ?

Yes, Christ has made the believer clean by His perfect record; but until we reach eternity, our struggle with sin continues. Staying connected to the Father involves a constant practice of confession and repentance, as we seek first to recognize our sin and then to turn from it. Ask the Lord to search your thoughts and attitudes for pride, to help you recognize idols, and to strengthen you to lay aside sinful patterns and return to the cross. Only by His power are we able to recognize our sin, confess in humility, and repent, knowing full-well that His grace abounds in our weakness.

Remain in Christ. Abide in me, and I in you” (v.4). What’s the final truth to the cure for spiritual amnesia? Stay in Christ. Read the Word daily. Persevere in prayer. Obey His commands as a response to His loving kindness. Fellowship with others believers. Boldly proclaim the Gospel. If you are united to Christ, being a partaker of His very life, then certainly your life cannot function apart from Him.

May the eyes of our hearts be enlightened by the Holy Spirit to know more deeply each day the love of Christ, as we praise Him for the cross and cling to Him in our desperate need!

[Post credit: iBelieve]