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Monday, November 23, 2015

Craving Security? You Can Have It!

We women long for security. For many of us, that was why we longed to be married. It seemed that marriage would give us the security we craved.

lock and key bigjom.jpg

As wonderful as marriage can be if you're in a secure-feeling marriage, what's more important is the sense of security before God. That can be elusive at times. 

One friend of mine thinks she shouldn't feel secure in her salvation because she might not otherwise be motivated to obey God. Yet I find that knowing my salvation is secure encourages me to serve God out of love and gratitude instead of fear. 

In my last post, I mentioned the security that knowing the truth of Ephesians 1:13-14 gives us: "In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation--having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God's own possession, to the praise of His glory."

The story about Rahab in the book of Joshua speaks directly of security in God--especially the scarlet cord hanging in her window. We can learn a lot about security from her spiritual journey.

Even though all the residents of Jericho heard about how God parted the Red Sea and delivered the Israelites from their captors, the Egyptians, it would seem only Rahab was willing to put her trust in the God of the Israelites. Rahab even said, "our hearts melted and no courage remained in any man any longer because of you; for the Lord your God. He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath."

But now think of it, of all the inhabitants of Jericho whose hearts melted, only Rahab responded in faith. If you walked through Jericho, which person would you have identified as a likely candidate for belief? Most likely not a sinful woman like her. She was a prostitute and ran a brothel. We wouldn't have voted for her for "most likely to repent."

That fact can assure us of God's power. Like me, haven't you thought, "Of all people, that person won't believe!" or "He's too old now to believe." What limitations do we put onto God's "wooing" power? 

I remember how my elderly aunt said she had prayed to receive Christ--and she was in her late 80's! It's never too late. Let's not give up and also not try to determine who is the best candidate. You and I wouldn't have had much hope that Rahab would respond. 

When the Israelite spies left Rahab's house, she wanted some assurance of their promise to spare her and her household when they returned to destroy Jericho. They directed her to "tie this cord of scarlet thread in the window." And that would alert the Israelites to not destroy the people in her house.

That scarlet thread brought her peace. And we can have the same peaceful confidence because our "scarlet thread" to be spared from destruction is the Holy Spirit which Ephesians 1:13-14 says is our "pledge" or "seal."

wax seal simon howden.jpgThink of that "seal" this way. During the Apostle Paul's time, wax sealed the outside of an envelope as a way to make the contents secure. Then the writer used a monogram tool pressed into the warm wax to indicate the letter was his or her private property. And the seal made the scroll valid and authentic because each "monogram tool" had that person's specially designed insignia. 

If we think of that as an analogy to the Holy Spirit imprinted into us, we can know we are:

  • Secure: God doesn't break His covenant
  • Approved: a seal was used only after the owner verified the information within the letter or document as acceptable to him
  • Genuine: a monogram's tool's design was unique and one of a kind
  • Identifiable: such a seal indicated the owner who had sent the document or letter.

Daughter of the King, you have been given the "seal" of the Holy Spirit as a guarantee of even greater things to come in heaven. Rejoice! He wants you to know you are secure and sealed in Him.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Cinderella's Story Can Be Spiritually Uplifting

For my book Princess to Princess which was published back in 2003, I thought of using the plot of the book about Cinderella to communicate about our security in Christ. I can't remember how the idea came to me, other than the Holy Spirit's leading, but it ended up working quite well. Please forgive me if my method seems a little off but with a little bit of grace, I think it communicates well.

In my book, I wrote fictional short stories to communicate different aspects of who we are in Christ--as His Princesses. So for our security in Christ, I wrote about 5th grader Megan whose teacher assigned the students to read the story of Cinderella and ask, "From this story, what could we learn about being a Christian?"

In my story, I have Megan notice how the wicked stepmother tells Cinderella she is ugly and lazy, even though Cinderella is actually beautiful and hard-working. 

  • Megan thus learns that she often believes what other people say about her even though it's not the truth. And she also can be tempted to agree with the lies Satan whispers in her mind. Megan says, "I know I'm a Christian, but sometimes I wonder how God can love me enough to forgive my sins. Sometimes a little voice says something like, 'If you're bad, that'll be more than God can forgive.'"
Megan reads in the book that a palace messenger announces the Prince is having a magnificent ball for finding the love of his life and every maiden is invited. The stepmother and stepsisters laugh when Cinderella asks if she can go. Without a fancy dress, the three women convince her she can't attend. But then the fairy godmother provides a fabulous one.
  • Megan comments, "This reminds me that the Bible says everyone is invited to be part of God's kingdom by asking Jesus into their life. Maybe the godmother represents the Holy Spirit who provides everything we need to live as Christians--even a robe of righteousness."
Megan then reads that the godmother uses the pumpkin, rats, and mice for her purposes but warns Cinderella that the pumpkin, rats, and mice will turn back to their original form at midnight.
  • Megan concludes, "Maybe the Holy Spirit takes the skills and talents God gives us and uses them for His glory."
Megan continued reading to discover that the Prince immediately falls in love with Cinderella when he meets her.
  • Megan wonders, "Maybe that represents how Jesus feels about each of us when He created us. He loves us from the beginning."
Megan reads that at the ball the stepmother and stepsisters criticize beautiful Cinderella when she dances with the Prince. They don't recognize her all dressed up. They feel threatened by her beauty and his love for her.
  • Megan thinks of how her school friends criticize her when she tells them about Jesus. "Maybe that's what's happening with them. They are jealous of what I have. I'm glad I share Jesus with them so they might also believe and feel loved and special."
As Megan reads about how everything the godmother made turned back, she noticed the glass slippers didn't turn back.
Megan finished reading the book and its last words were, "and they lived happily ever after."
  • Megan was reminded that, "I'll live happily ever after in heaven even though that's not a part of the plan here on earth."
I concluded the chapter by writing, "When was the last time you felt like Cinderella? Does it seem your precious glass slipper is lost? Do you afraid Prince Jesus is going to appear and find the glass slipper doesn't fit?

"Jesus wants you to feel secure in His love and in your position in Christ. That's why God sends the Holy Spirit into your heart--to prove you really did receive the gift of salvation."

Ephesians 1:13-14 assures us, "In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation--having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God's own possession, to the praise of His glory." (NASB).

(graphics and photos from digitalart, ponsuwan, Witthaya Phonsawat, found at www.freedigitialphotos.net)

Monday, November 16, 2015

What Has God Done that Defied Human Logic?

As I tried to think of a good question to ask a group of women for a sharing time, an idea popped into my brain: "Looking back over your life, share one or two things God did that defied human logic--whether it seemed 'good' or 'bad' from a human standpoint."

I immediately recalled several incidences of my own. The major one was the first time I was asked to speak. It was 1979 and I had just received the acceptance of my very first magazine article which shared my testimony of how God delivered me from being a child abuser. 

I was still so ashamed of my sinful behavior that I requested the magazine publish the article anonymously and they agreed. I'd always wanted to be a writer since childhood and when they accepted my article and actually sent me a check for it, I was thrilled. So thrilled that it was easy for me to tell a friend, "A magazine accepted my first article!" But so thrilled that I didn't realize my friend would then reply, "Wonderful! What is the article about?"

Gulp. I didn't know it at the time but God was beginning to bring me out of my shell of shame and teach me how to tell others the work He had done. 

With trepidation, I would reply, "How God delivered me from being a child abuser." In the next second, I mentally cringed and emotionally turned my heart away expecting the onslaught of shock and condemnation. If that had happened, I would have shelved my enthusiasm and never told anyone else.

But God graciously made sure the responses were positive and I continued to have the courage to share.

Soon after, I had an opportunity to get to know a woman from church. We introduced ourselves and I mentioned about my article. Gulp. What will come this time? I fearfully thought, still not sure what reaction I would receive.

I was the one shocked when she said, "You should share your story at our mom's group here at church. I'm going to tell my friend about you. She is in charge of that group."

Gulp! What? Speak? What? No way! I have only told a few people about this. Speak to a group of strangers? No way!

And that's what I told her. "Oh, I couldn't do that. There's no need to tell her because I won't do it." That may sound rude--and it was--but that's what I thought the possibility was of me doing such a stupid and revealing thing. 

When my new friend said, "Oh yes, I'm going to tell her anyway," I again tried to convince her it wouldn't do any good. 

She just smiled.

Over the next few days as I thought of and prayed about what had happened, I realized God was changing my heart. I decided that if God opened that door, I would say yes. 

And that's exactly what happened. She called me and asked and I said yes. For that first speaking opportunity in 1980, 120 women heard me share my story (as my knees knocked and I was terrified). It was the largest attendance the group had that year. None of my fears happened. Not one woman criticized me but several told me how it ministered to them. 

As I look back now, I'm even more in awe of God's work that the woman in charge of that group asked me. 

  • She didn't know me.
  • She knew I'd never spoken before.
  • It was a controversial subject. 
  • It was a topic that people believed shouldn't be addressed in church because as people would tell me over the years, "A true Christian can't be abusive to their children."
  • My "deliverance" had only taken place a year before so there was as yet no guarantee of the results.
But with the little bit of information that my new friend had shared with her, God worked to prompt her to ask me. In addition, God had changed my heart from fear to trust. 

As a result, God birthed my ministry that day. A woman in that audience who was from another church asked me to speak at her church and the "word of mouth" began. 

Four years later, my first book with my story was published.

Truly, what happened defied human logic. That woman in charge risked her own reputation having an unknown and unproven "speaker" share.

Yet God knew His plan and as always, He fulfills it beyond what we can possibly imagine. 

Would you be willing to share something God has done in your life that defies human logic? Please do so in the comment section. May God be glorified through it!

(Photos courtesy of Pixomar and nun-skyman from www.freedigitalphotos.net).

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Maybe Lydia's Story Happened Like This

Maybe Lydia's story happened like this.

Lydia's arrived at the riverside and greeted the other women. They were a varied lot from different backgrounds, but their desire to seek God was their common bond. Because Philippi didn't have the required ten men to establish a synagogue, the women met on the Sabbath day for prayer by the river, a common location for worship. As each of the women seated herself on her favorite rock, Lydia thoughtfully reflected on her journey toward God. She was a Gentile who recognized Jehovah as the true God. Yet there was still something unsettled in her soul.

Lydia was the most successful of the women there and yet her success did not satisfy her. She once thought it would. She could remember telling her sister many years ago, "Just wait until my business really takes off, then I'll be successful and happy. I'm going to be just like Sonia. Remember her?"

Her sister had nodded, remembering their mother's successful friend who was a seller of purple cloth. She had a head for business and a strong personality. She was respected and clever, never letting anyone trick her out of anything.

"But Lydia, Sonia never seemed happy to me. Do you really want to be like her?"

"I'm going to have the rich part and also be happy. Just you wait."

Yet now Lydia had more money than Sonia ever had and she still wasn't happy. It bothered her that her little sister had been so insightful. She just didn't think it would turn out like this. She could see God's hand in leading her to believe in Jehovah through her dissatisfaction but she'd expected believing would make her totally satisfied. But it hadn't. That bothered her. 

As the women began their silent prayers, they were suddenly interrupted by three men who approached their small group. At first Lydia's heart leapt with joy. Men! Maybe they could establish a synagogue soon. The men introduced themselves as Paul, Luke, and Silas. Paul, who seemed to be the leader, addressed the women, asking them questions about the area and the beliefs of the townspeople. 

Then Paul explained that they represented a new division of the Jews called "The Way." At first when this funny-looking man began talking about someone named Jesus and identified Him as the Messiah, Lydia felt suspicious. If the Messiah had actually come, why hadn't they heard about it? Her business sense warned her that these men might be looking for money. But as they spoke of this "son of God" who had performed miracles, and how He died and then was raised again from the dead, she felt her heart pounding with anticipation.

"Now don't get carried away, Lydia," her sensible mind warned. But the more she heard, the more she saw the significance of it. She hungered for more and could tell that the other women did too. For once she was hearing of a proposition that was too good to be true, and for some reason, she knew it was!

Before she knew it, she cried out, "You have persuaded me. I do believe this man Jesus is the Son of God and died for my sins on that cross. What must I do to be saved?"

Within minutes, she and several of the women were baptized. Lydia's heart was overflowing with joy and gratitude. No longer did she feel that deep dissatisfaction and emptiness. (Tweet that!) She didn't care whether she was rich or poor. She belonged to Jesus, and Paul explained that she was now a "new creature in Christ." Well, whatever that meant, she knew she wanted to know more and invited Paul and his friends to stay at her house.

Lydia became the lynch pin for the future church in Philippi. And her joy and release from dissatisfaction empowered her to generously use her resources for God's glory. 

We don't know if Lydia's story was exactly like that, but so many have been drawn to Christ because of their dissatisfaction. Knowing Christ doesn't guarantee satisfaction, but we can know all our true needs are met in Christ (Philippians 4:19). 

Monday, November 9, 2015

My Nose Was as Big as a Rhino's

Growing up, I didn't like my body. I was too tall. I was teased about being too skinny (I know! Don't laugh!). I was so sensitive about my body that I always wore a sweater to school regardless of how hot it was. I wanted to be covered up. And additionally, I cried about everything and my nose was too big. Sometimes it felt as big as a rhino's.

When I looked at how God made me and I concentrated on my physical imperfections and personality weaknesses, or I thought of some bad things that had happened, I concluded that God didn't love me very much; otherwise He would not have saddled me with such burdens.

When I first heard that saying, I found it hard to believe because of all the faults, insecurities and sins that oppressed me. Eventually, as I began to comprehend the truth of that statement, I could receive God's love. I really began to believe that since God made me, I wasn’t junky! 

God made you, too, and He wants your estimation of yourself to be as He regards you: important, valuable and loved. Psalm 139:13-18 says: 

You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body, and knit them together in my mother’s womb. Thank You for making me so wonderfully complex! It is amazing to think about. Your workmanship is marvelous—and how well I know it. You were there while I was being formed in utter seclusion! You saw me before I was born and scheduled each day of my life before I began to breathe. Every day was recorded in Your Book! 

How precious it is, God, to realize that You are thinking about me constantly! I can’t even count how many times a day Your thoughts turn towards me. And when I waken in the morning, You are still thinking of me!” (LB)

God created you for His purposes and plans. No matter what your past represents, you can appreciate God's design of you because He knew exactly what He wanted for you! 

If you reject yourself, you are saying, “God made junk!” Isaiah 45:9 encourages us to submit to the workmanship of our Heavenly Father: “Woe to the man who fights with his Creator. Does the pot argue with its maker? Does the clay dispute with him who forms it, saying, ‘Stop, you’re doing it wrong!’ or the pot exclaim, ‘How clumsy can you be!’?” 

Once we surrender to God's design of us, we can concentrate on how He shows us His love. His primary way was by sending His Son, Jesus, to die for our sins. When we acknowledge that we have sinned and receive God's forgiveness through Jesus because He took the punishment we deserve, God adopts us as His children.

Then we can more fully appreciate God's design of us--because of that kind of love.  (Tweet that!) After all, if He did all that for us, certainly His love motivated His beautiful creation of each of us. 

Is there something that you didn't like about yourself that you now see God is using for His glory? He can even use a nose that's as big as a rhino's! (And yes, I do appreciate starting out too skinny!)

(Etching by hin255 and photo by dan found at www.freedigitalphotos.net)

Friday, November 6, 2015

Quotable Quotes: You Are Declared Innocent!

Declared Innocent!

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous;--1 John 2:1 (NRSV)

Wouldn’t you love to be represented in court by the best lawyer in the world? Jesus represents you in the court of heaven and He always wins His case. (Tweet that!)

"If I could hear Christ praying for me in the next room, I would not fear a million enemies. Yet distance makes no difference. He is praying for me."
--Robert Murray McCheyne

(Etching by vectorolie, found at www.freedigitalphotos.net)

Monday, November 2, 2015

I Didn't Receive the "Best Servant" Ribbon

We had a great time that weekend but if I'd known there was an unexpected award ribbon at the end, I would have done things differently! 

The girls' club that I belonged to as a teenager was lots of fun and our annual weekend in the mountains was especially great. The adults--our parents--treated us like princesses. Although we each had one time of KP, the adults primarily did everything in the kitchen: fixing food and cleaning up. What could be better than having fun with little work involved?

On Sunday during our final time around the fireplace, the excitement continued as thanks were expressed and awards given--all in fun. Bu then one of the awards had a serious nature. Our adult emcee announced, "Now we're going to give a special award we've never thought of giving before. This is for the girl who has sacrificially helped out in the kitchen without being asked. The moms who worked there appreciate it and so they wanted to honor her...."

In an instant, I tried to remember how often I'd helped in the kitchen. My heart sank as I couldn't think of any time other than my assigned time for KP. My attention flipped back to the woman's voice as she said,

"...and that girl is Suzy."

There was a spontaneous burst of applause. Suzy went forward with blushing cheeks and seemed to be deeply touched as she reached out to receive the homemade ribbon labeled "Best Servant." 

As I applauded, my first thought was, "Well, if they had let me know there was going to be an award, I would have helped out too." (Tweet that!)

OUCH! I immediately saw my motive for what it was: selfish. I was willing to sacrifice and serve--if it was noticed and awarded. That, of course, wasn't being a servant at all! I clapped all the louder for Suzi, recognizing her selflessness and my lack of it.

I look back at that experience (and I could name other incidents that revealed my need to be noticed and acclaimed), and I don't know why I was so needy. I craved being admired and in some ways that neediness still resides in me. 

Such a need now diminishes my selfless motives to see God glorified. Biblical selflessness is still somewhat an elusive concept for me and hard to define. 

I do know what selflessness is not. It's not being a victim. It's not being a martyr. It's not false humility or having low self-esteem. It's not having a slave mentality or being abused by a husband in the name of "submission." 

God values you and me as His children. We are His daughters in His royal court with a wonderful spiritual inheritance. Just as we can't imagine a princess being mistreated in the royal court, we can be sure that God doesn't want us mistreated. 

One thing I do know is that God looks at our motives for our service and gratefully He doesn't expect us to have perfectly pure motives. He knows we're still needy even as His princesses. But wanting God glorified goes a long way toward our Biblical selflessness. Wanting His glory helps us to surrender to being a servant.  (Tweet that!) And seeking what that means for each of us draws us closer toward His heart because we're seeking Him. For each of His princesses (and princes), that may look different because there are no formulas. But be assured, God wants to empower you to be selfless--as much as possible--in your serving. 

Just think of this. Since God will say to us, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant," maybe we'll all get the "Best Servant" ribbon. Actually, though, it won't reflect upon us at all. It'll be to His glory because He was the source for it!