Tag Archives: gospel

The Savior’s Gift

20 Jan

My reading goal for the beginning of 2011 is to finish all of the books I started simultaneously in 2010. Moreover, I am trying to finish all of these books before starting any new ones (a task which is proving very difficult and less and less appealing the more books I encounter that look really good!). The books in progress are:

  • Soul Craving by Joel Warne (finished reading this on vacation)
  • No Man Is An Island by Thomas Merton
  • No Little People by Francis Schaeffer
  • Because He Loves Me by Elyse Fitzpatrick
  • Kiss Me Again by Barbara Wilson
  • The Traveler’s Gift by Andy Andrews (just finished this 2 days ago)

I have mentioned how much I enjoyed Soul Craving before but since I just finished The Traveler’s Gift, I wanted to share what I got out of it. While I love reading and am constantly tempted to read books so fast that I don’t retain hardly anything of what I read, I am trying to be intentional about taking a little time after finishing each book to go back through and write down/think about the points that stood out most to me. So that’s where these thoughts came from.

This book is not a Christian book, though it pretends that it is. It mentions God several times and even quotes a few Bible verses but the Seven Decisions that Determine Personal Success effectively leave God out completely, while borrowing Biblical principles. How convenient. And how tragic. The way I see it, philosophies about life like these (including Buddhism, Taoism, and Islam) lay out all these great principles but don’t address the 2 biggest issues facing mankind: 1) sin and 2) the power to change.

These issues are actually very much related. Because of the pervasiveness of sin, we need Someone outside of ourselves to redeem us from our sins, as well as empower us to change.  (The links I added explain what I mean by these terms more thoroughly.) In light of those beliefs, I took the liberty of adapting the Seven Decisions that Determine Personal Success to have a Biblical foundation. I believe that I still captured the essence of each Decision. I have included the author’s wording of each Decision in brackets.

1. [The buck stops here.]

Act with integrity. Trust that God can and will use you and your past for His glory. Be bold in your decisions, led by the Spirit, even if they’re socially unpopular. “Let steadfastness have its effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:4).

2. [I will seek wisdom.]

Use discernment and be intentional about how you live. Bad company corrupts good character. Seek wisdom but “be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil” (Prov. 3:7). “Through love serve one another” (Galatians 5:13).

3. [I am a person of action.]

Beginning today, I have a new future because I am a new creation. I inspire others when I live for God’s glory by being true to who He has created me to be. I will make the best use of my days because they are gifts from God. Because my future in Christ is secure, I can move forward into each day with joy and energy. I have the Spirit of Christ in me to guide and instruct my decisions. I can be confident in my future because I know that God works all things together for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28).

4. [I have a decided heart.]

I have staked my heart and life on Christ and the Gospel. I am passionate about God. I will awaken every morning with an excitement about the new day God has given me and the opportunity for growth and change. My thoughts and actions will work in a forward motion a la the Apostle Paul in Philippians 3:12-14 — never sliding into the dark forest of doubt or the muddy quicksand of self-pity, by the grace of God. I will lay my head on my pillow at night happily exhausted, knowing that I gave my all in service to my Lord and accomplished the work He gave me to do. God has given me a unique dream and vision and I glorify Him by pursuing that dream with vigor, persistence, and faith.

5. [Today I will choose to be happy.]

Today I will choose to be happy because of what Christ has done for me on the cross. I will choose to be thankful for all things; to focus on things that are encouraging, uplifting, and Christ-centered; and to love others. Enthusiasm is faith in action because it trusts God for the success of its actions. I will smile at others and seek to be a blessing to them. I will be slow to anger and quick to listen.

6. [I will greet this day with a forgiving spirit.]

I will forgive others as Christ has forgiven me. I will forgive those who don’t deserve it, don’t ask for it, and don’t even want it. I will cultivate a forgiving spirit by spending time getting to know my Savior more and more. I will die to myself and my selfish desires. I will kill bitterness, conquer resentment, and eradicate revenge through the power of the Spirit. I will forgive myself for failing to be what I want to be, finding hope and redemption in my Savior, Jesus Christ. I will trust in Him to conform me to His image.

7. [I will persist without exception.]

I will press on toward the goal of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. I will not grow weary in doing good, for I believe that I will reap abundantly in due season. I must not allow myself to get discouraged or be derailed by trials and struggles. I must keep “looking to Jesus” and “run with endurance the race that is set before” me (Hebrews 12). I will endure; I will remain steadfast under trial because of the joy set before me: heaven and perfect unity with God. As a child of God, I must rise above the status quo and dare to do improbable, even impossible, things because “this I know, that God is for me” (Psalm 56:9).

 

As I read and re-read these statements, they become my prayer to God. I know that in myself, I do not have the power to effect this change in my life. But He does. He has a plan for me, He knows where He is leading me, and it is through an intimate relationship with Him that I discover myself, my purpose, and my potential. I hope these words encourage you as well.

Validation

18 Aug

Tonight, at my women’s meeting, one of my friends shared about how much it affects her when she remembers how she lived before she really started living out her faith. I’ve heard most of her testimony and the first thought that runs through my head is “That ain’t nothing.” It’s a big deal to her and she knows where the Lord has brought her, so it shames me that I so quickly discredit her experience because mine is supposedly better, because it’s more dramatic.

Which got me to thinking – what is it about human nature that has that tendency? When someone has a cute purse or new car, it’s not enough to just admire it and say “Wow, that’s really something!” Instead, we want one just like it. When someone gets a haircut that makes them look really stunning, the first instinct is to feel insecure about our own hair and how we look drab and boring.

While it would be easy to blame this phenomenon on society’s tendency to define beauty (thin) or success (money) one way, I actually think it’s the reverse – society tends to do that because people do that. We are narrow-minded because our pride does not allow for multiple things to be equally as good. Whatever I have is good, whatever they have is not as good. By invalidating whatever you offer, I in turn validate myself. If I were to validate anything of yours, I would be invalidating mine – so the sinful logic goes.

But with God, all things are good because He created them all and everything He created is good. Look around – God loves variety. He decided to weiner dogs short little legs instead of longer ones that matched their bodies. Why? Because He could. Are they any less of a dog than a Golden Retriever? Ask any Daschund owner and they’ll tell you no.

The same goes with conversion testimonies. Is my friend’s testimony any less compelling and amazing because she didn’t do drugs and sleep around before dedicating her life to Christ? No. She’s still a sinner saved completely by grace – an amazing thing.

Is my testimony any less compelling and amazing because hers is too? No. Mine is different and perhaps more dramatic according to the world’s standards but God sees the same jaw-dropping transformation in my life as He does in my friend’s.

Good things can co-exist. Two or more things can be equally as good as one another at the same time. This may sound trite or obvious but think about it. Think about how many people in this world live believing this is true. Think about how many Christians in this world live like this is true. Think about whether or not you live like this is true. If you really lived like it were true, jealousy, pride and selfishness would be eradicated from your life. You would feel no need to validate what you have or are because you recognize that, in Christ, everything you have and are is already validated and is equally as good as what anyone else has and is.

Especially as a Christian, what we have is Christ Himself! It doesn’t GET any better than that!

But alas, we will never be rid of this sin until heaven because this is exactly the character flaw that Satan tempted Eve with in the Garden of Eden – suggesting that God had something better than she did – knowledge. With that sin was born discontentment – the idea that what I have isn’t good enough – and pride – defending what I have because I must be good enough.

That’s just one of the reasons why the gospel is amazing. It shows humans that we don’t have to prove how valuable we are…

Because Christ already did.

Fighting against self-righteousness

16 Aug

“He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt:

‘Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’

But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’

I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted'” (Luke 18:9-14).

One of my co-workers is a Christian and while she goes to church on a regular basis, she doesn’t read the Bible much, doesn’t know much about what the Bible says on specific things, and doesn’t seem to care about changing that. She also has a perpetually bad attitude, complains a lot, and has a tendency to focus on the worst in people.

I have found myself passing judgment on her, thinking that at least I try to have a godly attitude, I make Christian fellowship a priority, and I know more about the Bible and theology because I read the Bible and was very involved in a college ministry.

I know this tendency of mine is a sin. Who am I to think that I am better than anyone else? And even if I am “better,” it is solely by the grace of God. Before I was a Christian, I had no morals, no ethics, and no standards. I did whatever I wanted, regardless of the consequences to others, as long as I came out pretty well off. Any action I do now that takes others into consideration is evidence of the Spirit working in me.

But this struggle reveals something about my condition. It is the same reason why it’s so tempting to tell non-Christians stories about what a rebel I was before I became a Christian. The reason why I want to be skinnier and prettier than other women. The reason why I need to be successful in my job. 

I want to prove my worth.

I want to show others that I have something to offer, that I matter, that I am to be envied. My flesh does not think it is not enough to be loved by God, to be saved by Christ, to be validated by the One who sets the ultimate standards. I want my worth to be about me.

But I’m glad that it’s not about me, no matter how misled and lost I am about what is really important. If it were about me, I could never be sure of my real worth because everything would be relative. Who can define beauty? Who can define success? Who can define truly living? Humans try but without an objective truth, everything becomes subjective and nothing is for sure. Only God can define those things.

And only God can judge other people. My co-worker’s relationship with God is just that – her relationship with God. It’s between her and God. I cannot hold her up to a standard that I cannot attain myself. Without the Holy Spirit, neither of us are anything. But with God, all things are possible.

So instead of judging her and setting myself on a pedestal because “at least I’m seeking to know God,” I should pray for her. I should ask God to make Himself ever more real and lovely in her life, so that she desires to know Him more. I should ask Him to change her attitude, to give her the grace to give thanks always, to soften her heart in repentance, to help her focus on what really matters.

And while I’m at it, I should pray those things for myself as well.

Just Do Something

28 Jun

The sermon at church yesterday was a very good one – we are starting to go through the book of Colossians and Glynn (our pastor) emphasized the importance of truth in the Christian life. Without truth, our faith and hope are unfounded. We need the truth of Christ to ground us.

Some of the notes I took were:

“We can’t walk in the newness of life without being rooted and grounded in Christ.”

“We’re called to grow and bear fruit. Fruit comes from knowing Christ.”

“All we have in Christ is all we need to grow and bear fruit.”

While I wholeheartedly agree with those statements, I find myself struggling with them. I have returned yet again to my struggle of feeling like I live my life for myself and that the daily activities I engage in are pointless and futile. If God is the one who does the growing, then why am I stuck in this indecision about what I should be doing with my life?

I hate to say it but I feel like the statements I wrote down above are elementary and surface-deep. They don’t explain HOW. They state these truths of the Christian faith like it were easy to figure out how the work of the Spirit actually happens.

We had a “family meeting” at the church last night about who we are and where we’re going. A guy stood up and told a story about a co-worker who had been in need and his care group stepped up to help him out. The first thing he said after the congregation got done clapping (our church claps for everything) was “It wasn’t me. It was all God.”

Statements like that also puzzle me. I think, “Really? All God? But you’re the one who told your care group about this guy’s need and your care group provided for the guy.”

It is obvious that I am hung up on the practical side of God’s grace working in a believer’s life.

Then tonight, as I was sitting at the kitchen table reviewing my notes from the sermon, something hit me. The Christian life is lived from the heart – God is in the business of change from the inside out. It would go to reason, then, that the way God inspires action in a person’s life is by changing their heart. What they once valued no longer holds appeal and what they once would have never even thought of doing is now captivating. We are called to be faithful to the convictions and notions God puts into our hearts.

In my case, I have long been convicted, as I mentioned above, that I live for myself and should be more giving of my time. So I think I should volunteer somewhere. But there are so many good causes I could get involved with, I have a hard time deciding which one to do – which is God’s will for me? I could get involved with Habitat for Humanity or the Denver Rescue Mission or tutoring underprivileged kids or collecting shoes for kids in Africa or stuffing envelopes for Blood Water Mission. I have sat at this crossroads of indecision for almost a whole year. My convictions haven’t gone away.

I realize now that I just need to choose. God’s will isn’t about circumstances – it’s about heart attitude and about being obedient and faithful to the convictions that God lays on my heart.

Two different opportunities were brought to my attention in the past month or so – one just last night. One is volunteering with Life Choices Pregnancy Center. I had wanted to volunteer there when I still worked at D2S but couldn’t because they were only open during business hours, when I had to be at work. But now that I work fro m home and can create my own hours, I think it would work out. The other opportunity is volunteering in the church office. I have already contacted the office administrator about this because it would be a great way to serve in the church again (I had to quit children’s ministry when I got my new job), I would meet more people at the church, and I would be donating my time to a worthy cause.

There’s a book I’m really excited to read – I just ordered it today – called Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach to Finding God’s Will OR How to Make a Decision Without Dreams, Visions, Fleeces, Open Doors, Random Bible Verses, Casting Lots, Liver Shivers, Writing in the Sky, etc. I have so long been looking for a Christian book that would at least slightly validate what I’ve been going through and bring some more clarity to this situation (though I do feel like I just got some today) – I hope this book helps.

In light of eternity…

12 Jan

I wish I could turn my brain off. I wish I could stop analyzing. Stop comparing. Stop condemning. Myself, that is.

You see, I walk around with this shadow of guilt sitting on my shoulder. I haven’t done anything wrong… but then, I haven’t done anything right either. I’m mediocre, stuck in the middle. One of the masses. Your average Joe…Joette?

And I want to be fine with that. I used to be fine with that. I’m not the kind of person who needs the infamy of the limelight. I am content in the background, supporting, organizing, planning.

But there’s this restlessness in my head that just won’t let me be content with my life. I keep seeing the ways I could be better, ways I’m not measuring up. Ways I should be different.

A leadership book I’m reading says I should accept myself. “How does a Christian do that?” I wonder. “Is that even a biblical principle?” I dare say it’s not…

At least not totally.

What does Paul mean when he says “Nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh.” I think he means exactly what he says. There is nothing good in him.

Does that sound like self-acceptance?

No.

Hmmm… then what? Jesus said in John 10:10 that He came so that we might have life, and to the fullest. Pray tell, where do I find that life?

Some would say the fullest life is found in self-acceptance. But I’ve tried that and found that there’s really nothing much in me worth accepting.

The trite (though true) Christian answer: the gospel.

But what does that mean? The terminology is thrown around so much that I think a telling head nod and eyebrow rise should go with it… you know, the gospel?  What they don’t explain, though, is how does the gospel give us life and life to the fullest? Because I understand the gospel, at least in principle. But as of yet, I don’t think I’ve found the fullest life. At least, I can imagine a fuller one. I can imagine a lot of things. And therein lies my problem.

If you asked me why I’m discontent with my life, and what I thought I should/could do to make it “better,” my answer would be something like, “Well, I feel like I should be making a difference, more giving of my time, more generous with my money, less lazy with my evenings, more productive with my weekends, more loving toward my husband and more enjoying of my life.”

So you ask, why don’t you do those things then?

Good question.

Self, why don’t I do those things?

::Silence.::

I guess you’ll have to check back later.

But I had the insight as I was driving home from work tonight, that it’s all because of eternity. Living in light of eternity is always presented in a positive light as something Christians should do. We’re reminded about it so often because our natural tendency is to live for the present only and forget that we’re going to heaven when we die and that our actions here do matter for eternity.

But you know what, I think that my initial inclination was wrong. I thought I was too concerned with eternity, so much so that I couldn’t live in the present without feeling the “weight of glory” on my shoulders, as C.S. Lewis puts it. But actually, I think that I, too, am only concerned with the present. Whereas most people’s inclination is to lose touch with the fact that their present actions have eternal ramifications and they just go about their day without thinking, I can’t seem to move off of that notion. I am consumed with thinking that everyday, eternity is being written. This is my one life…

And this is how I’m spending it.

Just as I longed for the days of unanalyzed eating in the midst of my calorie counting obsession, I now long for the days of unanalyzed living.

I can’t wait for eternity.

Why hell?

7 Nov

Last night was the first night of the Dare 2 Share Denver Blaze Conference (I work at Dare 2 Share). There is always a drama on Friday night and last night’s drama was about a letter from hell. A guy died and went to hell and wrote a letter back to his friend who was a Christian, demanding to know why she didn’t try harder to make him understand the gospel. It was very powerful and I’m sure that it affected pretty much everyone in that arena.

It definitely affected me but instead of wanting to go out there to share the gospel with others, I want to crawl under a rock, crouch in a corner, or any of the places the psalmist names in Psalm 139, despite knowing that “even there [God’s] right hand shall lead me, and [His] right hand shall hold me fast.” 

It’s not because I think I’m going to hell that I feel this way. As a Christian, I believe that because (and only because) Jesus Christ lived a perfect life and died on the cross for my sins, I am declared righteous by grace alone through faith in Him alone and am given eternal life in heaven.

But not everyone believes that. Which means not everyone is going to heaven. There are some people going to hell.

The depiction of hell last night was on par with Jonathan Edwards’ sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” I’ve heard that while he was giving that sermon, there were people gripping the pews out of fear that they would fall into hell right then and there. It is a VERY sobering thought. One that I don’t think about enough.

Because I hate thinking about it.

Greg (the President of D2S and the speaker at our conferences) wanted us to grapple with 3 theological truths last night: 1) It’s God’s responsibility to save. 2) It’s our responsibility to share. 3) It’s their (unbelievers)  responsibility to believe. But this morning, I am left grappling with the question: Why hell?

Jesus said in Mark 14:21 about Judas Iscariot, “…but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.”

I feel that way about all humans who go to hell. It would have been better for them to not be born. It wouldn’t even make a difference if this earth was the most magical place ever. It’s a blip on the radar screen of eternity. If one experienced bliss here for their entire lives, they would promptly forget all of it in hell for the agony, torment and fear would erase every trace. 

And the part that bothers me even more is that we all deserve to go there. Without the substitutionary death of Christ, we all would be going there. I don’t deserve heaven any more than a man who has killed 10 people. I argue with my husband, am jealous of other women, disrespect my boss, not to mention all the hideous things I did back in college, before I knew Christ as my Savior.

Don’t think those things are as bad as murder? Doesn’t matter. Romans 6:23 says that “the wages of sin is death.” That means even just one sin–one little lie–merits death. And death means separation from God, which means hell. Because at the end of this age, this world as we know it will pass away and there will be a new heaven and a earth and only the righteous in Christ will allowed in.

But WHY? God knew we would sin when He created us…He knew people would go to hell. Why did He move forward with creation then?

The only answer I have isn’t the most developed but I believe God did it for His glory. Without our sin, there would be no need for Christ. And without Christ, God could not have revealed His character–His love, mercy, grace, forgiveness, justice, wrath. Colossians 1:15 says that Jesus “is the image of the invisible God” and verse 19 says “in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell.” Jesus Himself says in John 14:9, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” So then Jesus is the full, complete, perfect, divine revelation of who the Father is. By revealing His character, God reveals His glory.

As for creation, if we had not been created, we could not have an intimate relationship with God through Jesus.

Switching gears a bit, this excerpt written by John Piper in an article called “How Willingly Do People Go to Hell?” has helped me understand what the Christian’s role is in light of the reality of hell:

What sinners want is not hell but sin. That hell is the inevitable consequence of unforgiven sin does not make the consequence desirable. It is not what people want—certainly not what they “most want.” Wanting sin is no more equal to wanting hell than wanting chocolate is equal to wanting obesity. Or wanting cigarettes is equal to wanting cancer.

So when a person chooses against God and, therefore, de facto chooses hell—or when he jokes about preferring hell with his friends over heaven with boring religious people—he does not know what he is doing. What he rejects is not the real heaven (nobody will be boring in heaven), and what he “wants” is not the real hell, but the tolerable hell of his imagination.

Because those who are heading to hell don’t know the reality of their dire circumstance, God has called believers, those who know the freedom and rest found in Christ, to proclaim the good news of the gospel. In light of hell, the gospel really is GOOD NEWS! There’s a way to avoid hell! And even better than that, there is way to spend eternity with God Himself! It is through the person and work of Jesus Christ. There is hope for mankind in Christ.

And so while I still do not completely understand the answer to Why Hell?, I can bow at the throne of God and believe that, regardless of how much I comprehend of Him, HE IS. He is just but He is also loving, gracious, kind, patient, and forgiving. And I would say that His love trumps His justice because He was willing to kill His one and only Son to trump His justice with love.

What an amazing, awe-inspiring, majestic God. His ways are past finding out.

We all, like dogs, have gone astray.

27 Sep

A few blog posts ago, I blogged about a book I was reading called The Wonderful Spirit-Filled Life. Since I stayed home from church today with an unknown illness (H1N1?!?!?), I was flipping through the channels and stumbled upon a sermon by Charles Stanley, the author of that book. I had planned on listening to a sermon anyway, so I watched it.

His sermon was on Isaiah 40 and God being a God of comfort. He reminded his listeners that God knows everything tiny little thing about us–He knows so much about everything that He even knows how much the dust on the earth weighs! So we don’t have to be ashamed when approaching Him or polish ourselves up because He already knows the full truth.

And it got me thinking about the verse in Psalm 103, “For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.”

Our dog, Katy, is a well-behaved dog for the most part. But there are still things that she does “wrong,” like chewing on a blanket or eating poop (ew!) from the backyard, though she knows that she shouldn’t (because of our repeated reprimands).

Though I am disgusted by her behavior in those moments, I still love Katy because what she is doing is typical dog behavior. She can’t help it. She’s a dog and she’ll act like a dog.

Similarly, when we sin against God as Christians, He is disgusted by our behavior but He still loves us. “He knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.” He knows that we are sinful human beings and can’t help ourselves. That’s why He sent Jesus to die–to be our Redeemer, our Savior!

But He doesn’t just stop there. When Katy eats poop or chews on something she shouldn’t be chewing, I don’t just walk away and say “Oh well, she’s just a dog.” I try to get the poop out of her mouth (always unsuccessfully) and pull away what she’s chewing on. Just because she’s a dog doesn’t mean I don’t try to teach her better behavior.

In a similar way, God doesn’t just abandon us to our selfish and sinful inclinations. Instead, He sends His Holy Spirit to dwell inside of us, changing us from the inside out. He accepts that we are sinful human beings but doesn’t settle for that. He sees our potential in Christ and His greatest goal for us on earth is for us to be holy, like He is holy.

It helps me to remember that God is an understanding God. Hebrews 4:15 says, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” Christ not only understands intimately what we are going through, He was also successful in beating these temptations! He shows us the way to victory–and that is through Himself.

This Puritan Poet

12 Sep

I went to the library during the last week of August and picked up a book about dog care (since I’m pretty much starting from square one there). While I was there, I perused through the books near the front that had been selected by the library as part of a certain theme for the month.

One of those books was Mistress Bradstreet: The Untold Life of America’s First Poet. I’ve also been quasi-interested in poetry and I love biographies. Since we were heading to Minnesota on vacation, I picked it up for what I call “fun reading” (books that don’t make you think too much). 

It is a great book. While I admit that I not only find the typical history lessons boring, I can’t remember them to save my life, this kind of history is just fascinating to me. I love hearing about what life was like back in “the old days,” regardless of the age. I love hearing about people’s lives in times ranging from Biblical times, to the 1600s (during which time Anne Bradstreet lived), all the way to the 1950s. It’s not that I don’t like history; I can’t get into historical political happenings but I can get into people’s lives.

Anne Bradstreet (author of famous lines such as “If ever two were one, then surely we. / If ever man were loved by wife, then thee; / If ever wife was happy in a man, / Compare with me ye women if you can.”) was born in England in 1612. Raised in a Puritan household, she was taught to be submissive to men and her parents, to never speak her mind or ask questions, and to aspire to be a godly Puritan mother, the greatest achievement for a woman.

Whereas Anne could hold no radical ideals, her father and husband did. It was these radical ideals (the idea of creating a new Puritan nation, free from the sin and evil that characterized their native England during that time) that prompted their uprooting to start a new life in America, a land that at that time was still very undeveloped and uncivilized. They would have to endure cold winters, hard labor, near starvation, unknown diseases, and attacks from new enemies once they reached land–if they even survived the journey there.

The strength of Anne in the face of moving against her will and literally starting a whole new life in a new, undeveloped country is undoubtedly representative of the majority of Puritan women. Their faith in God, though somewhat radical at times, was unshakeable and penetrated every single aspect of their lives. Everything had spiritual significance and everything was viewed in relation to God. They prayed constantly, about everything from the most practical matters to the most spiritual ones. Because for them, there was no such distinct. If your milk curdled surprisingly early, it must have been God’s way of showing His displeasure. Everything revealed the state of one’s soul.

I admire their constant prayer and commitment to their faith. I admire their work ethic and bravery. I also admire Anne’s courage to venture out as a women writer, especially as a poet. The author of this book, Charlotte Gordon, makes the point repeatedly that Anne was being very audacious in her ventures as a female poet. It had never been attempted by a woman, as the realm of poetry was strickly the territory of men. But Anne, through her own family’s wealth and other fortunate opportunities she had during her childhood, was not only extremely bright, she had also received an education, something very rare for a woman in that day.

Besides it being obvious that I find all this information captivating, it has had implications for my own walk with the Lord. I see my old paltry prayer life in contrast with Anne’s and am chastized for not striving to deepen my relationship with Lord through that avenue. I see her dedication to research, writing, and studying the Scriptures on top of her immense, never-ending list of duties and wonder why I can’t find the time to dedicate even 30 minutes some days to my own studies? I see her life-encompassing view of God and am saddened by how much of my life I live in ignorance of Him and His ways.

But then I read about her doubts, her weaknesses (perceived by none other than herself), her worries and fears and unwomanly emotions (though she had the self-control to channel them exclusively through her poetry, instead of the outbursts I am prone to). And I see that often times, how people see us externally doesn’t often match how we see ourselves internally. It is easy to portray having it all together on the outside when everything is in shambles on the inside. For all the Puritans strivings toward purity, they were still sinful humans when they left this earth, just like all of us. What great assurance it is that we are all human, all in the same boat of needing a Savior! I often get down on myself because I feel like I’m not doing as much as “others,” like they’re making use of their lives and I’m wasting mine.

What really matters is our relationship with God, not how we manage our time or what we achieve. I finally finished my study of Romans today (only took me 8 1/2 months!) and Paul reminded the Romans at the very end that God is one with the ability to strengthen us for the obedience of faith; we are not. We are utterly and totally dependent on God for our lives of faith; there is nothing therein that we can or have accomplished ourselves.

This comes as an immense relief to me, for I often struggle with doubt, uncertainty, angry outbursts, indifference, laziness, and guilt. It is great knowledge that I can run to God in those moments of struggle and rely on Him to restore to me what I am lacking, so that I am able to glorify Him through all aspects of my life, even when it feels that I am a horribly lost cause.

Paul also reminded the Romans that this strengthening for obedience happens through the gospel, through the knowledge of what Christ has done for us on the cross and what our relationship with God now is as a result. Time and time again, God will lead us back to the gospel as the truth by which we live. Without the gospel, there is no hope. Without Christ, there is no life. Without God’s love, there is no meaning.

Whatever question may be circling through your mind, even if the answer seems very far off and totally indiscernable, the solution is always Christ and the truths within the gospel. God brings you through the bogs of confusion so that you may reach the open meadow of understanding.

The gospel according to Pretty Woman

25 Apr

I just watched Pretty Woman with my friend Charlotte. That’s a great feel-good movie. As I was driving home, feeling happy and upbeat like I usually do after a particularly good movie, I found myself thanking God for this world He has created.

But I couldn’t get past the fact that Julia Roberts’ character in the movie is a prostitute. Her lifestyle (and the fact that it is a reality for millions of women in this world) grieves me. No woman should have to live like that.

And yet, look around us. So many young women treat their bodies the same way. But they’re not selling their services; they’re giving them away for a reputation, for a good time, for empowerment and control, for a broken heart.

I know because I was one of them. I didn’t think twice about hooking up with a guy before I was a Christian. My ability to allure guys was actually part of my identity, part of what I thought made me valuable.

But then Christ rescued me, like Richard Gere rescued Julia Roberts. Christ looked past my ratty clothing, bad hair (Julia Roberts does not look good with platinum blonde hair), and indecent ways. He invited me into a relationship with Him, gave me new clothes (robe of righteousness!), and promised to teach me good manners (His ways).

And when Satan reminds me of who I really am (like Jason Alexander’s character reminds Julia Roberts), Jesus destroys him and kicks him out.

Obviously there are parts of the movie that don’t fit with the gospel but there is no denying that the storyline is compelling. And why? Why do human beings like movies like that–the whore who is redeemed by a rich guy when they fall in love?

Because every human heart is yearning for the gospel. We ALL want to be redeemed from what we have made our lives on our own. I didn’t like my life before I was a Christian. I was trapped in a web of lies, emptiness, and fear. I knew I wanted things to change but had no idea what I wanted them to change to…until I met Jesus.

I got a letter from my mom in the mail with an article by a lady who is training for her first triathlon. In the letter, my mom wrote, “I am really proud of you, who you are and all that you’ve accomplished and all that you are striving for. I feel so honored and blessed to be your Mom. I love you!”

Hearing my mom say that is one of the best things ever. And I honestly feel like Christ is the only reason why she can say that in honesty. Because before I knew Him, I wasn’t even proud of myself. I was ashamed and lost. But I’ve been found. And I’ve been redeemed by the Ultimate Savior.

That is so much better than Pretty Woman.

All I Have is Christ

25 Jan

I am proud to say that yesterday, I worked on my memoir for about 5 hours straight. I got into the groove and was on a roll. Hopefully I can keep this up so that days don’t turn into months and then years before this thing is finished.

I am currently writing about the time I studied abroad in Venezuela and one of the guys I dated, German (accent on the a), who was actually from Venezuela. I met him in Rochester, where I grew up, when he was studying abroad.

I won’t go into detail here, mostly because it isn’t relevant. But I am finding it difficult to remember really what happened between us and what our relationship was like, which is a blessing and a curse. A blessing because I have been praying ever since I met Travis that I would forget everything about the “other guys” in my life. A curse because it makes it hard to write a memoir!! But I’d rather not remember for the sake of my marriage than remember for the sake of a book. 

To “research” what happened during those years, I’ve been reading some of my old journals. It’s amazing to see how I have changed. More than just maturing over the years, I have developed a hope and purpose for my life that can only be from God. 

I think of what my life would like right now if I hadn’t heard God beckoning to me that hot, sticky day in Venezuela: I’d probably still be basing my worth on men; hopping around the party scene; investing a fortune into fashion, fitness, and beauty; trying to climb the corporate ladder while secretly pining for a husband and a family. I would be lost, scared, and insecure. Most of all, I would be without hope. I would wonder if this is all there was to life, if no one ever craved something more. I would never be satisfied.

Reading Romans has really revealed to me how much we need the gospel–a Savior who demands nothing but faith for a gospel that is based on nothing but grace. Tim Keller said once in a sermon that there was a woman on the verge of becoming a Christian. She was scared to accept Christ because she knew that once she did, “there is nothing He can’t ask of me.” The gospel demands a full surrender of ourselves. There is nothing we can hold back from God.

This is my song right now:

I once was lost in darkest night
Yet thought I knew the way
The sin that promised joy and life
Had led me to the grave
I had no hope that You would own
A rebel to Your will
And if You had not loved me first
I would refuse You still

But as I ran my hell-bound race
Indifferent to the cost
You looked upon my helpless state
And led me to the cross
And I beheld God’s love displayed
You suffered in my place
You bore the wrath reserved for me
Now all I know is grace

Hallelujah! All I have is Christ!
Hallelujah! Jesus is my life!

Now, Lord, I would be Yours alone
And live so all might see
The strength to follow Your commands
Could never come from me
Oh Father, use my ransomed life
In any way You choose
And let my song forever be
My only boast is You