Monday, August 25, 2014

To the Girl Who Waited

By Julie Gernand
"So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate" (Matthew 19:6).
There has been an article circulating lately written by a young married woman who waited until her wedding night to have sexual intercourse, yet who claims she regrets this decision. 

My heart broke upon reading her words, for it appears to me that she suffered this regret as a result of unguided Christian teachings and a lack of knowledge of the truth of God’s wonderful plan for men and women, as written in his Word. 

Out of love for this woman and the many readers she will reach, I will quote some of the author's thoughts and, below them, share my own beliefs on the subject. I am not a doctor or an ordained theologian, but I am a believer in Christ who feels deeply for her sister.

The woman states:
"I learned that as a girl, I had a responsibility to my future husband to remain pure for him. It was entirely possible that my future husband wouldn't remain pure for me, because he didn't have that same responsibility, according to the Bible. And of course, because I was a Christian, I would forgive him for his past transgressions and fully give myself to him, body and soul.*
My dear sisters, the Bible teaches that everyone, both man and woman, should remain pure for their spouses:

Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body (1 Corinthians 6:18).
It is God's will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God... (1 Thess. 4:3-5).
Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity (1 Tim. 4:12).
God wants the best for his children. He knows how very special sex is, in its bonding and deeply intimate nature. You see, marriage and sex are a beautiful picture of Christ and his Bride, the church. Sex is a little glimpse of what heaven will be like, when God's plan is brought to completion on the day when Christ returns and takes us to live with him forever in Paradise. Because of how truly special this intimacy is, and in light of what it is meant to represent, God desires for both men and women to treat sex with the respect it deserves, saving it for your life-long husband or wife.
God also desires for us to be married to those with whom we are equally yoked.
Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? (2 Corinthians 6:14-18).

For us to really experience Christlike marriage, it is important for those who marry to share the same values, beliefs, and identities in Jesus. Without this strong trunk as the tree of your marriage, the fruit the tree produces will not be optimal, leading to much turmoil and misunderstanding between spouses.

The woman states:
When we got home [from our honeymoon], I couldn't look anyone in the eye. Everyone knew my virginity was gone. My parents, my church, my friends, my co-workers. They all knew I was soiled and tarnished. I wasn't special anymore. My virginity had become such an essential part of my personality that I didn't know who I was without it. It didn't get better. I avoided undressing in front of my husband. I tried not to kiss him too often or too amorously so I wouldn't lead him on. I dreaded bedtime. Maybe he'd want to have sex. *
Sisters, God desires for us to find our true identity in Him alone. When we find our identity in Him, we begin to realize how incredibly loving God is - so loving that he gave us the gift of sex with our spouse! God LOVES sex! So much so, he dedicated an entire book of the Bible to its beauty - the Song of Solomon. 

The Bible contains more about intimacy than you may have realized:
How beautiful and pleasant you are,
    O loved one, with all your delights!
7 Your stature is like a palm tree,
    and your breasts are like its clusters.
8 I say I will climb the palm tree
    and lay hold of its fruit.
Oh may your breasts be like clusters of the vine,
    and the scent of your breath like apples,
9 and your mouth like the best wine.

It goes down smoothly for my beloved,
    gliding over lips and teeth.

10 I am my beloved's,
    and his desire is for me.

(Song of Solomon 7:6-10)
Pretty racy stuff, right? God delights in our intimacy!
I am saddened to think that the author of the original article did not understand that sex in marriage is a true celebration of the waiting one has done for their spouse. It seems the writer was caught a trap of legalistic thought. Yes, sex is awkward, uncomfortable, and new - but what a welcome adventure for husband and wife to share together! 
God never intended for us to feel shame in the sex of marriage - but true joy. After finding the person your heart has yearned for, the one to whom you are equally yoked in Christ, it is then time to celebrate marriage with the freedom of deep intimacy - the true reason why waiting was so darn cool.
The writer finishes by saying: 
I'm now thoroughly convinced that the entire concept of virginity is used to control female sexuality. If I could go back, I would not wait. I would have sex with my then-boyfriend-now-husband and I wouldn't go to hell for it. We would have gotten married at a more appropriate age and I would have kept my sexuality to myself.*
Again, my heart is sad to think that this woman is under the impression that purity is something used by church leaders to control others. This is simply not the case. It is a command given by God out of great love for us and a desire for us to lead Christlike, full lives.
Three truths to remember, dear sisters:
1) All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Everyone makes mistakes of all kinds - no one is exempt.                                           
2) If we confess our sins, God who is faithful and just will cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:19). AMEN! What a blessing! God does not see our sin when he looks at us. He sees brand new creations, no matter what our past contains.
3) There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). FOR REAL! Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved - murderers, thieves, the sexually immoral - and, gloriously, EVERYONE who sins in ANY MANNER. What joyous news!
Lord, What a glorious thing to know that no matter what we have done or will do here on Earth, when we turn to Jesus, You see us ALL as clean, new, and white as snow. Help us all to live by your truth, remember your promises, and delight in your love!
Amen.
* Original article can be found at: http://www.xojane.com/sex/true-love-waits-pledge

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Sticks and Stones

By Anna Bachinsky
“Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.”
…and there goes one of the most popular and well-known lies of all time.


Over the past few years I have learned that the most powerful part of your body is not your eyes that can see incredible things, it’s not your back that can carry heavy burdens, and it’s not your feet that can bring you to places you’ve only dreamed of.

No, it’s that little tongue that’s inside of each one of our mouths.

Why does the tongue, which seems so insignificant compared to the rest of our body have the most power?

Because it produces words.

Words that according to Proverbs 18:21 have the power for life and death.

Once spoken out loud, words can never be taken back.

They can be forgiven but they can never be ignored.

These words, when spoken with kindness, can bring healing and hope to the heart of a broken person.

They can encourage and they can uplift a person who is discouraged about life.

But when spoken out of anger, out of jealousy, and out of pain these words can damage a person more than a sword ever will, for the wound that it leaves is one that cannot be covered up with a bandage or a prescription pill.

No, words often replay in a person’s mind and stay in their heart forever no matter how much they try to forget.

Which is why God says that He counts every single word that is spoken out of a person’s mouth, because He knows the damage that words carelessly spoken can leave.

“But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken.” (Matthew 12:36)

They leave behind broken hearts, anxious minds, and shattered dreams.

They break a person more than sticks and stones ever will.

And though recovery may come, it doesn’t come quickly or easily.

I can count so many times when my perspective changed and my attitude was affected because of words that were spoken to me or about me.

Words of love always encouraged me to live my life faithfully and courageously for God.

And insulting words left me feeling broken and hopeless, wondering how I could be positive again.

We think words are so innocent and can be easily taken back, but they can’t be.

And yet so often we speak without even thinking.

We never take the time to realize how those seemingly innocent little words we say can hurt a person.

How our inability to hold back unnecessary words, unnecessary gossip, unnecessary judgment can bring a person so much pain.

And so we continue to speak without a second thought.

We keep on unknowingly discouraging lives and hurting hearts.

It has been my prayer that as believers we will be careful when it comes to using our words.

That, rather than gossiping about other people’s issue, we will pray for them and encourage them.

That, rather than always saying the first thing that comes to our mind, we will know how to keep our mouth shut, lest it opens up old wounds and scars hearts.

That we will use wisdom and self-control about what will come out our mouths daily.

Today, before you say something to someone, ask yourself these questions: 

How would I feel if the very same thing was spoken to or about me?

Will these words bring hope and encouragement or will they bring hopelessness, judgment, and harm?

Will these words destroy or will they build that person up?

And once you answer these questions honestly, you will know if you should open your mouth and speak, or if you will have to leave some words unsaid.

Lord Jesus, So often we use our words and we don’t even realize the impact of what we say in a person’s life. Sometimes we don’t purposefully try to hurt a person, but when we speak without thinking that’s exactly what we do. I pray that you help each one of us guard our mouths and control our tongues with wisdom today so that every word we speak will be one that will bring more of your light, your truth, and your love into the world. That we will use them to bring blessing instead of burdens into the lives of others, and that we will leave unnecessary words unsaid. Thank you for your wisdom and guidance. 

Amen!

Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Who Is Worth Believing?

By Aubrey Hoeppner
I’ve been doubting lately. 
There, I said it. Let the gasping begin. Don’t worry, I’ve already directed myself to the Christian apologetics section of the library. I snuck out with a stack of books, praying I wouldn’t bump into anyone from church and be forced to explain my reading choices.

There’s a shame that accompanies doubt, a feeling that you are failing in faith. We all like to pretend our faith is rock solid, never fading, exploding with unbridled trust in every word of Scripture. But if you occasionally feel something ranging from a twinge of uncertainty to a potential full-blown loss of faith, set aside that shame and pull up a chair.

My particular brand of doubting tends to be intellectual distrust; someone else’s might be more emotional, based in anger, confusion, or disenchantment with God. As humans we have no shortage of questions about why we should deign to submit our lives to God’s lordship. Our world has produced an abundant selection of lords to choose from. And there are certainly times when it feels like continuing on in Christ is not the obvious choice we once found it to be.

I’ve spent my whole life as a part of the Church, and I can’t remember a time when I didn’t believe that Jesus had died to save me from sin. So I’m always a little surprised when I begin to feel that nagging voice of doubt invading a prayer: Who are you really talking to? Are you just deluding yourself? Or in church: Do you really believe in the God you’re praising?

From there it progresses to your garden-variety “rational” skepticism. The items in question are the usual suspects—the problem of evil, the authority and authenticity of Scripture, the divinity of Christ from time to time. All the qualities of God I have come to trust and find security in, the community of believers I belong to, the hope I look for in Christ—it could all disappear, quickly and silently if I were to turn the corner and embrace the message of doubt.

What if it’s all a lie?  

In these times of doubting, sometimes all it takes to calm the questions is a glance out the window to remember the glory of God proclaimed in creation. But sometimes it’s days and weeks of studying and praying and re-evaluating. Sometimes I’ll even find Christianity to be the clearly logical victor in whatever issue I’m wrestling with, only to hear the voice of doubt still lingering.

And after days and weeks of searching, without freedom from that nagging voice, I start to tentatively consider the other options. Where else can I go? The other options are fairly straightforward, though hopelessly bleak: Choose another faith, or give in to disbelief, nothingness, and meaninglessness of all existence. This is a point of intense loneliness. On the side of Christianity, my familiar comfort and hope and Christ called into question; on the side of other faiths, even more troubling sets of questions; in the chasm of atheism, nothing.

And then comes a different question: Which of these is worth believing? Looking beyond just the questions, which of these truly offers life?

Looking my other options in the face, I know that, compared to Christ, I have no other real options.

No other option offers what Christ offers. Nothing else offers me the mercy that Christ does. Nothing else offers the hope that Christ does. Nothing else even claims to meet our need for freedom from sin the way Christ does. 

In a revealing moment, Peter comes to the same conclusion in John 6. Many are turning away from Jesus because of the difficulty of His teachings, though He is describing the eternal life available only through Him. (“I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”) But when Jesus asks His twelve disciples if they plan to leave also, Peter answers that they have no better option, because no one else offers them what Jesus can:

After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God”(John 6:66-69).

To whom shall we go? To whom shall we turn for the life Jesus offers?

Who else claims to have to power to remove our sin and restore us to God?

Who else offers to meet our deepest need for freedom from darkness?

Who else offered His very own self as the sacrifice for us?

Who else is worth believing, besides Christ?

To whom shall we go? Who, besides Jesus, has the words of eternal life?

Peter doesn’t present a lengthy apologetic argument about why he is choosing to follow Christ (though he certainly could have). He simply states that no one else can give him anything that compares to the life available in Jesus.

This perspective doesn’t answer all the questions we face in relation to our faith, but this truth does give us a reason to seek out answers to those questions and to follow Christ even as we are seeking answers.

Doubt is only worth defeating if its object is worth believing. And Jesus is the only one worth believing.

Lord, Thank you for all that you offer us in Christ. Thank you for your faithfulness to us, even as we question you and doubt you. Please fill us with confidence in your power to accomplish all that you desire in and through us, and let that confidence carry us through seasons of doubting. For those of us who struggle with this, please lead us to answers that ground us in you, give us faith through uncertainty, and grant us peace that transcends our understanding.

Amen.

Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

In Response to Robin Williams

By Kristen Wetherell
I’ve not seen Good Will Hunting or The Dead Poet’s Society, but I’ve observed enough of Robin Williams on the big screen to know that he was one talented man, one very versatile actor, who was deeply respected by many people.

My heart broke the other day to hear of his suicide. And while many online voices are responding to the unfortunate event, I’d like to share some thoughts, hoping they might provide encouragement, instigate action, provoke some helpful conversation, or cause you to think if you disagree.

I’ve not personally struggled with depression or suicidal thoughts, so I won’t pretend like I understand these particular battles. But I do know that all human beings struggle, in one way or another. We struggle against our flesh and the fallen world surrounding us. For me, the darkness has lately manifested itself in the presence of fear of failure and doubting my abilities. One thing I know: no matter what the struggle looks like, people need hope. They thirst for it.

Hope is like oxygen; our souls cannot survive without it.

We live and breathe on hope…even if it’s false hope. And it is false hope that ultimately wears us down and leaves us hungering for something more, something better. A more secure hope. A hope that won’t fail us.

We cannot hope in people; they are fickle (just like us) and struggle with their own individual battles. We cannot hope in money or material possessions; in an instant, they could all vanish. We cannot hope in health or youth or beauty or vocations or dreams or abilities or success or titles. 

And we most certainly cannot hope in ourselves because we know, better than anyone else, that we are insufficient and imperfect…and hungry for hope. We know, deep down, that we are lacking…that there is something terribly wrong within us...even if we cannot pinpoint it.

The Apostle Paul talks about what is terribly wrong within us when he cries,Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?

But--

then he says, Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:24-25). 

What's happened here? Paul has found hope.

If you’re a believer, then you have placed your hope in Jesus Christ. You have confessed what is terribly wrong within you – your sinfulness that once separated you from God – and you have embraced the person and work of Jesus Christ to set you free from it.

You have placed your hope in the Son of God, who deserved to stay seated at the right hand of his Father, but instead became a man and endured pain and suffering and God’s rejection – ultimate darkness – so that you, an imperfect and sinful human, would not have to be cast into utter despair forever.

Jesus Christ is your hope because he accomplished what you never could for yourself: the total defeat of sin and darkness and death and hopelessness, once for all time.

You have Good News other people desperately need. It’s easy to begin and end here: “If only Robin Williams/my friend/my co-worker/my mom/_______ had found hope in Jesus Christ before it was too late.” And how true that is! Our grief is very real. But it is much harder to do something – to engage in an honest, open conversation with an unbelieving neighbor or friend or family member about the hope we've found in Jesus Christ. 

Let’s not just think about the hope of Jesus in the face of such tragedy; let’s pray and proclaim the gospel. Let’s love the people we cross paths with every day by giving them the best news they’ll ever hear. Let’s lovingly challenge peoples’ worldviews. Let’s share with them the hope we’ve found in Christ.


The world desperately needs hope. Will you be an ambassador of it? 

Lord Jesus, We ask that you would strengthen and sustain and comfort Robin Williams' family today. We ask in faith that they would hear the Good News and put their hope in you. We pray you would make us bold witnesses of the gospel, unashamed of the truth. Give us the words to speak as we interact with loved ones and people in our circles. For those people who are unsure or who have rejected you, call them to yourself. We love you, our Only Hope!

Amen.

Monday, August 11, 2014

When Singleness Doesn't Feel Like a Gift

By Caitlin Williams
Something has been bothering me. 
That something is the subject of singleness. The term, itself, bothers me. It sounds like some kind of condition or disease…

Lately I’ve noticed an increasing trend in single Christian women (myself included). I’ve had too many conversations with women who feel discouraged in their singleness. On top of managing the sometimes-not-so-awesome-side-effects of desiring marriage while being single, there is a sense of guilt or inadequacy for feeling the way they do. Why is that?

I think I’ve discovered part of the problem. Most of what I hear from the pulpit and in Christian literature promotes singleness as this extraordinary gift—full of freedom and opportunity to serve the Lord—a wonderful season of life that God has called us to.

But, what if it doesn’t feel wonderful? What if I would gladly exchange all of this supposed freedom for a husband? What if my heart aches for marriage? The message in what I’m hearing is that there must be something lacking in my relationship with the Lord. I’m hearing that my faith is weak or immature. I’m hearing that I should think being single is fantastic. I’m hearing that this ache should go away.

Hear me say: I don’t think that is the intended message. However, that’s what I and many other women are hearing.

So, what is true and what should be communicated to us? How should we feel about it? Here’s the truth of the matter as I believe it—for myself and for any single woman who desires marriage.

I believe in Christ’s love for me.

I believe, therefore, that the Lord’s will for my life is perfect and His plans for me are good.

I believe Scripture and that nowhere in Scripture am I promised marriage or motherhood.

I believe that, if I am seeking the Lord, He will give me the desires of my heart. That is, He will guide me to what my desires should be (Psalm 37:4).

I have a deep desire for marriage and motherhood. I’ve asked God to take that desire from me if it is not in His plan to fulfill it. So far, it still stands. That being the case, I’m called to remember that there is purpose in this single time, however indefinite it may be. I am to be content and to praise God for the life that I’ve been given.

And this is what I, and every single woman, should be hearing: It is okay to feel longing, sadness, and loneliness from time to time. Experiencing those emotions does not indicate a lack of faith or strength or spiritual maturity. I can feel those things without giving in to bitterness or jealousy.

When those from-time-to-times happen, I can pour my heart out to the Lord (Psalm 62:8). Hannah did. Tamar did. All the Marys did. The Lord was near to them (Psalm 34:18). He did not expect those women to have a superhuman ability to mask their heartache, or to be able to self-help their way out of feeling what they were feeling.

In Philippians 4:6 when Paul writes that we should “in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving” bring our requests to God, he means everything.

In 1 Peter 5:7 when he says, “cast all your cares upon Him, because He cares about you,” he means all of them…all your cares. …even when you’re bummed beyond what ice cream and Netflix can help because three more of your friends got engaged in the last 48 hours. It’s not silly. The Lord wants to know what’s on your heart, whatever it is.

I love the first part of Hebrews 2:17-18: “Therefore He had to be like His brothers in every way, so that He could become a merciful and faithful high priest…” Jesus was like us in every way. He got lonely. He longed for things. He is able to pour mercy on us and intercede for us in the most intimate way because he felt all the same things that we feel. Yet, he never sinned in any of those feelings. That tells me two things:

ONE: Christ understands why my heart aches sometimes, why I get lonely even though He is ever-present in my life, why it’s sometimes hard to rejoice in this single season.

TWO: He doesn’t find fault in me for any of those things.

So, what’s the take-away? If you are single and your heart longs for marriage, it’s okay. Feel whatever it is that you feel, wrap it up…or dump it out in a big pile of mess (my usual method)...then take it to the Lover of Your Soul. Repeat as needed

Lord, For us to whom you have given a desire for marriage but not yet fulfilled it, give us patience. Give us hope in your perfect will and in your plans that promise good. Give our friends, families, and church leaders sensitive ears and careful mouths. When we are overwhelmed with sadness, loneliness or desire, choose those moments to reveal pieces of your purpose and your plans. I ask for these things out of the grace and mercy that are mine in Jesus.

Amen.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Jesus Couches

By Morgann Burres
Until five days ago, my husband and I had been without a couch for three weeks. 
 
We had been actively searching for couches on Craigslist and other similar sites.  We even resorted to looking at couches new (a BIG deal for us).  Between my travel, my husband’s travel and nothing being available online, we found ourselves just waiting (rather uncomfortably) for the “right” couch to pop up on the screens in front of us. 

During this time, I was convinced that God was letting us learn patience and contentment, which may have been true.  But it wasn’t until the very end of this journey that we got to see his full purposes unfold.

We decided that if nothing came up by Wednesday after I got off work, we would march ourselves down to the local furniture store and pay a pretty penny for a sofa and love seat combo that we had fallen in love with last weekend. 

Funny enough, around noon that same day, my husband stumbled across a Craigslist ad for a beautiful couch and love seat that was only $400 – less than half of what we had planned to spend.  After corresponding with the lady selling the furniture and driving to take a look, it became clear that sure enough, this was the couch.  Later that night, we made arrangements to pick up the couch and love seat and we couldn’t have been more thrilled to only be paying $400 for something that was worth much more. 

We showed up, her husband helped load the couch and we handed her four crisp $100 bills.  She thanked us and then looked at the money and said, “This is my act of kindness for the day,” as she handed back one of the bills.  We were stunned.  The only thing I could utter was, “Thank you so much.  We are full-time missionaries and the only way we live is because God provides for us, His children.” 

I was immediately taken back to a passage in Matthew: “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?  And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.  But even the hairs of your head are all numbered.  Fear not, therefore, you are of more value than many sparrows”  (Matthew 10:29-31).

Wow.  Ladies, we are highly valued because we are his.  We belong to our Maker and our Sustainer.  He cares about the little things and the big things.  For goodness sake, if he cares about my couches, surely, he cares about your worries and fears, trials and temptations, joys and sorrows, triumphs and failures. 

Not one sparrow falls without our Father in Heaven allowing it.  God knows.  God sees.  God hears. 

When we found the couches for just $400, I was convinced that I was seeing God provide for us in the most tangible way possible.  I was blown away by his goodness to give us what we wanted for much less than we were willing to spend.  And yet God, in His goodness, had more in store. 

The Lord desires to bless his children.  Paul writes to the church in Philippi, “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” 

Every need.

Ultimately, God supplies our greatest need: himself. Yes, he cares about my material needs, but more than anything, the Lord supplies and sustains my salvation.

Our couches remind me daily of God’s great provision.  We call them our “Jesus couches.”  And if that’s what it takes to bring to mind God’s great care for us, then they may just remain our Jesus couches as long as we own them. 

From couches to salvation, girls, God provides. 

Father God, Thank you for who you are!  Apart from the gifts you give, you are good. Thank you for your promises to take care of us and provide for our every need. Teach us to be content in all things. We love you, Lord! 

Amen.

Friday, July 18, 2014

We'll Be Back

Bon voyage!

The Identity Project will be on a two-week "summer hiatus" (Kristen is going overseas with little access to Internet). But we'll be back the week of August 4th.

In the meantime, send me an email if you're interested in writing for the blog or joining our team of writers: kristenleighevensen@gmail.com. [Check out the "Join Us" page for more details.] The team has been growing, and it's very exciting!

May God bless you and keep you in his peace these next two weeks. Until next time!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...