Sunday, August 17, 2014

Bless the LORD, oh my soul!

"Come, soul, look at the greatness and  goodness of God. Join my mouth, and let us bless the Lord with our whole being."  
-John Piper

This is what it means to 'bless the Lord'. Especially while singing excellent songs such as Matt Redman's '10,000 Reasons', I have wondered exactly what the Bible means by 'blessing' the Lord with my soul, not just my mouth. 

I may have been praising the goodness of God with my mouth but now I am telling my soul to come, look and see.  

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Why I Object...


We have all received those fliers in the mail--"Discount Christian books!", "Buy in Bulk and SAVE!", or "NEW From Your Favorite Authors!". While there is nothing inherently wrong with the Christian fiction industry (weeeelll...), there are some things I have learned from experience, my mom's wisdom, and Scripture and want you to know and hopefully avoid. (Disclaimer: this is not really a critique of any particular books. This is me asking you to consider new levels of brain-purity. I will explain. I may or may not offend you. I have offended myself. All I ask is that you hear me out.)

If you know me, you know that I am an avid reader. Well, there was a time period where a friend of mine introduced me to a series of "Christian" novels that will remain nameless. I do not blame her for this at all, mind you. Every single one of them was a 'marriage of convenience' story. The plots were not exactly believable...but I read two of them and stopped in the middle of the third. Why did I not finish the third book?

Whether the nice married lady who wrote the novels realized it or not, her books had a very distinct message: love equals hopping in bed together. (Gasp!) But I am not kidding. These books are very popular in the Christian market too. But what other message can I get out of a book that reaches its climax in the romance department when the two formerly bickering and 'in this marriage for the sake of my kids' main characters jump in bed together? Of course the book isn't explicit. Otherwise the Christian publisher would not have published it. But the story, that message, and that scene have already done their damage in our minds, haven't they?

Look, just because the characters are married does NOT mean that it is okay for me to have that in my mind!
Here is the biblical principle that shows what I mean. Song of Songs 2:7 says: "I charge you, O daughters of not stir up or awaken love [or desire] until it pleases."

This is a command we girls would do well to heed! Only you know in your own conscience what stirs up or awakens your desires. Basically, this verse says "Don't do it! Do not read, watch, or listen to anything that will prematurely stir up passion in you. It is not what God designed. Keep that desire for later, when you are married!"

It is exactly like Paul says in 1 Cor. 6:12: "All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any."

It makes a lot of sense for Paul to say "all things are lawful, but not all things are helpful". Indeed, a great many things are extremely unhelpful to our consciences, our hormones, and our poor teenage girl brains! So Paul resolves, "I will NOT be brought under the power of any"!!

I urge you-- do not let yourself be unwittingly brought under the power of your desires. You are so much more able, clean, and free to serve Christ when your mind is not focused on things that will 'not please' in this time of your life. All those things do is distract us from "single minded devotion to Christ Jesus".

One very practical way to not be brought under the influence of those things that are so unhelpful to our consciences is to think seriously about what you read. I weeded out my bookshelf and threw out books that my conscience said "NOT helpful!" to. You really have to listen to the Holy Spirit to tell you. If you feel that guilty pricking, don't justify the book! Chuck it! Here is Abigail's principle #1:

NO BOOK, MOVIE, SONG, OR FEELING IS WORTH A DIRTY CONSCIENCE!!! 1 Timothy urges us to flee youthful lusts. Let's do it!

Principle #2: (This is actually My Mom's Wisdom #1)

This area is where your choices may divulge from your friends, even close ones. Remember that your conscience, brain, and heart are just that: YOURS. Do not let someone else's choices dictate to you what is right or wrong. You can feel your conscience's prompting. Obey it. I promise you that it will always be so worth it. I am by no means the perfect example of this, but I have tried it and I am telling you, you will feel much freer and cleaner! :) Whenever your friends or even older people you admire greatly are doing, watching, reading something that you know is wrong for you, remember: Others may, you cannot. They may not be sinning by reading whatever book it is, but you will if you disobey your conscience. So just simply value the thing that is much more long-lasting.

I hope that this post has been encouraging and maybe a little convicting. Like I said before, I have offended myself. I did not want to examine my reading so closely. But it was necessary for my conscience. It just might be for you too. Mind you, I am not perfect at this! I have slipped, and disobeyed the Holy Spirit's prompting, but I am forgiven and desperately want to obey the next time and be continually purified. Join me.


Monday, August 5, 2013

Newsflash: We Have NOT Arrived

"Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers,  I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead. I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." Philippians 3:12-14

Has it ever occurred to you that the Christian life is one of constant striving? According to Paul, there never should be a place where you can sit back, relax, and announce that you "have arrived". Nobody, not even the 'greats' of the faith like Hudson Taylor, Mother Theresa, and Billy Graham "have arrived". In fact what makes them so 'great' in our estimation may be the fact that they would be the
first to admit it. Can you take a guess at the one Person in all of history who "arrived"? Yup. Jesus Christ.

And what is Paul saying my life goal should be? To paraphrase v.12: to find out why Jesus saved me. To find out what He saved me for. Cause there is a reason. There is a plan for you, a purpose, a job God has for you and you alone to complete to bring Him glory. It is what He created you for and it is why He saved you. It is your life's goal to find out what "it" is.
Exclamation mark.

Oh, it is hard to pull yourself free of the mindset that you are "better" and more "mature" than others, and therefore it is okay to sit back and drag your feet a little spiritually. Maybe not fight sin as aggressively. Maybe not pursue Jesus, the Lover of your soul,  like He is everything you need and want.

I understand how difficult it is, especially if/when you are in fact more mature than the other kids in your youth group. And if you compete in NCFCA, that may place you on another level in your mind.

But don't be mistaken.
Please don't be mistaken.

God's calling on you is just that: on YOU!! And only you. He doesn't care how you line up next to your sister, or brother, or peers, or anyone! He cares how we line up next to His Son. "What!?!" you say. "How am I ever going to be that perfect?"

Precicely. God's goal is to conform us to the image of His Son. We only get finished in heaven, so it makes sense that Paul would say "forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead".

Paul is saying; "Look! I am not finished yet! I haven't arrived! So I am going to strain and press on and forget what is in my past so that my eyes can always be fixed on the prize: Jesus Christ!"

So this is my plea to you, fellow young person: Don't waste the opportunity you have to press on and strain forward. There are 2 reasons you do this:

>"to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me"
>"to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus"

Make those things your life goals!! Resist the temptation of allowing yourself to think that maybe you "have arrived". Make it your ambition, your abiding zeal, to attain those 2 things above. It will take a lifetime. But it will be worth it. Please join me.

P.S.--There is one major thing that will always help "set you straight" when it comes to how highly we think of ourselves. Look to Jesus' example in His Word. If you stay in the Word, chances are you will also stay in the right frame of mind. :)
 Listen to My Pastor's recent sermon on this passage (Phil. 3) It is an exposition of what I just talked about. It is super helpful.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Stink-bug Mercy

(The below is, oddly enough, a very freeform poem written from the perspective of a stink bug I rescued from the inside of a window about a month ago. I thought it illustrated God's redemptive, pursuing mercy towards us.)

Zipping through the air
Saw the hole, not the screen
Dropped right in; such fun

Other bugs were in there too
Had a blast
Till we realized the obvious truth.

No way out
That we could see
Only a pile of dead bugs on the sill
At the base of the screen.

Fate realized, the others rebelled
Wasted their strength
Attempting to fly out of that
Impenetrable screen.

Some fought long
Some short
All fell.

Same answer:
No way out
The pile grew
At the base of the screen.

Why I didn't try to fly
Like crazy
Don't ask
I knew I had it coming to me.

Sat and waited
Buzzed around
Wished, hoped, looked
For an exit.

Bright and white It floated
Toward me
Looked familiar yet

The Thing came towards me
I ran away
Up to the top of the pane.

Thing pursues
I run downhill
Scared now, shaken
Attempting to survive.

Thing now in front of me
I back up
One leg no longer
Can stand on anything.

What's happening?
I back up more
Away from the Thing
And fall

Into open air!

I gasp
Tumble free
Looking back
I see the hole in the screen.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Esau and Purity

Did you take a look at my title and ask yourself, "how do those things relate?" Well, let me explain...

(below is actually something I had written down a few months ago, and wanted to put on my blog)

"What will a man give in exchange for his soul?" Matt. 16:26b
Hebrews 12: 16, 17 says that Esau was wicked. Why? Because he sold his birthright for food. (Note: Esau esteemed his birthright so lightly that he would sell it to satisfy his stomach's temporary cravings) The verse goes on to say that when ("afterward") "He wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears." Cross references to this might include Jerimaiah 5:25.
When I read the above verse tonight, I thought, "What's like selling your birthright today?" Purity. The way Esau flung away his birthright--esteeming it so lightly--to satisfy a momentary desire, and then  could never get it back is so similar to the way many people treat their God-given, "birthright" of purity today.
If you guard and highly value your purity, in the long run this will yield great joy and blessing. But if you choose, like Esau did, to toss your breakable birthright from God in the gutter and treat it like dirt...all because you want the "food" of your desires more...then it is over. The truth is that nothing can ever be the same again. Can you:
~be forgiven by God? Yes.
~not repeat the sin? Yes.
But you can never get the maiden birthright, that beautiful, pure innocence back. As Hebrews says, "he found no place for repentance,  though he sought it diligently with tears." See, there are some mistakes, some sins that once repented of will not largely affect your life forever. But your purity is too sacred to fall under that category. You will never be able to retrieve the loss of this birthright. Esau never did. Yes, you can be forgiven! But not even by seekig diligently with tears can you recieve back the same exact crystal clear, shining birthright. So esteem this purity gift highly. It is not to be played with.


Thursday, April 11, 2013

In the Refugee Camp...

Decorating flip-flops with Syrian women

       I had the opportunity to go with some women to the refugee camp here. We did a craft with the Syrian women; 'making' flip-flops. Someone had donated a ton of shoes, and so we had beads and fake flowers, etc. to decorate them with. The women loved it--and it was practical, too, because they all need shoes very badly!
I did not take pictures of the camp itself--don't ask me why; I just didn't! But this camp looks like all of them: thousands of dirty tan tents with UNHCR printed on the side, gravel, dirt, dust...little Syrian kids running around everywhere; adorable and dirty. I will say that my admiration of the UN went up several notches. They seem to be doing a pretty good job dealing with the massive influx of refugees from Syria, considering everything.

The lady I came with had promised a Syrian woman that she would come visit her tent; this was a big deal to her--they are all super hospitable! So when we were done with the crafts, the Syrian lady--I will call her 'Lisa'--got in our car and showed us the way to her tent. According to the woman I came with, this particular family had kept their tent and little children remarkably clean. There were a few flies buzzing around, but that was it as far as "squalor" goes :) A large group of other Syrian women came too, and so we sat around, chatting, smiling, and drinking first juice and then coffee (like I said, these people are super hospitable, and even if that was the last of their coffee or juice, they would have made us drink it!). I think we were in Lisa's tent for about an hour. When I say chatting, I did not talk much, except to one woman right next to me who knew some phrases in English. Mostly I listened to the banter in Arabic, and one of the people I came with (I'll call her "Betty"), would translate for me and tell me what was going on. Betty's Arabic was very good, by the way! A thirteen year old girl in Lisa's family had been in a room (in Syria) with about 13 people when a rocket or a bomb hit it. Miraculously, no one was killed and this girl was not injured. I assume that the family left Syria soon afterwards. The woman sitting next to me asked at one point; "Do you like Jordan?" and I said, 'yes, I like it a lot!'. She told me, "Syria is much better!" :) They love their country. Apparently Syria is much more beautiful than Jordan--lots of women are saying that!

I have been amazed by the strength and resiliency that the Syrian women I've met have shown. They may have had their homes destroyed and family members in the army, or many harrowing and difficult experiences in their past, yet they are able to sit around, smoke a cigarette and laugh and joke about their husband maybe getting a second wife or how their sister married a really ugly man (he was bald, apparently), and yet he was very good to her and the family loves him!! It is really impressive. Though the pain is deep inside, they manage an outward appearance of strength. It is that pain deep inside that only Jesus Christ can heal.