Monday, April 18, 2016

"Everyone else is"

I glanced at the clock. Not even 12:30, and already I wished the school day was over. I knew how the kids felt. They must be impatient for Spring Break to begin as well. Their behavior certainly said so.

It was nearing the end, though. After being pulled to cover for meetings where there were no substitute teachers, only study halls remained before the students would be herded into the auditorium to watch a documentary for the rest of the afternoon. Two study halls had been canceled, and I had just gotten through one. That left only one more before the movie. How bad could it be?

The kids traipsed in, and took their seats at the computers as I gave out the instructions. Those who had forgotten their login info were doomed to reading. Most of the students, though, found talking about spring break plans with their peers more compelling than following directions.

As I tried to still the room back into a studious quiet, someone decided to make sound effects. As soon as I called Kevin* over, the room buzzed again.

I took a deep breath, begging for a little more patience. "Kevin," I asked, "why did you start making those noises right after I told everyone to stop?"

Kevin looked up at me, his dark eyes wide behind his glasses. As if I'd asked him to eat a ream of paper. "But everyone else's talking."

For a moment, I didn't know what to say. I had called for quiet because everyone was talking. Was he being smart with me? "But why are you talking when I asked everyone to stop?" I asked again.

The same stare. My goodness, the kid means it! "Everyone else is," he said again, faltering a little.

I bit my lip. He wasn't a bad kid. I had been in his classroom a couple of times last year. But how could I make him understand?

The room crept into a roar. I called for quiet again, and turned back to him. "Kevin," I said, "I asked you to stop. Do you think you should keep talking afterwards, regardless of what anyone else does?"

A blank stare. I was losing him. I tried again, keeping my voice calm. "Do you think you should?"

No change. The kid could've been a statue. I kept back my sigh. "Please, stop," I said, motioning him back.  As he returned to his computer, I quieted the room again. But I couldn't get our conversation out of our mind.

Because I had done the same thing so many times.

We all do, if we're honest. Whether it's the language we use, the TV shows we watch, or the music we listen to, we judge how we should act based on those around us.

Why shouldn't I read 50 Shades? Everyone else is...

I really shouldn't peek at those test answers, but the rest of the class is, so it's not really cheating if we're all doing it...

How can abortion really be murder? All those scientists say it's just a bunch of cells...

I really don't feel right about going to that party, but all my friends are going, so I guess it's okay...

God gave us the Bible to guide us in our decisions, but we tend to ignore it in favor of popular opinion. Like Kevin, who reasoned that there was no reason for him to stop talking if other kids didn't, we think that we get a free pass because of other people's behavior.

But that's just a lie Satan likes to tell us, that we're too willing to believe. After all, it's hard to stay strong and refuse to participate when "everyone else" is. It's much easier just to go along with it, to do what we really want to do anyway, to sugarcoat it in the "everyone else is" wrapper.

I really like this glass. I'll take it, the restaurant has more. And my friend is taking the dip bowl, so it's not that big of deal.

I don't really feel like going to work today. I have so much at home to get done. I'll just take a sick day, that's what everyone else does.
Since when did our standard become what "everyone else" is doing? God's Word is supposed to be the sole authority in our lives. We're supposed to judge our behavior, make our decisions, based on what the Bible says is right and wrong, not what our friends or the media or scientists or any other person says.

I want to read that book, but the reviews say it's full of sleeping around. I want to think about pure things...

This test would be so much easier if I could just take a quick look, but it's wrong to cheat...

The Bible says God forms us in the womb...

If my conscience is telling me not to go, I shouldn't...

I really do like this glass, but it's not mine...

I have a responsibility to my boss, and those sick days are for when I'm sick, not when I don't feel like going...

We need to return to the Bible as our guide, not popular opinion. God's standards don't change with people's whims. What He said was wrong 2000 years ago when the Bible was written is still wrong today. If we truly serve Him, if we truly desire to please Him, why are we letting Satan convince us otherwise?

We can't let "everyone else" be our cop-out any more.

*This isn't his real name, but as best as I remember, the rest of the story is how it happened.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

"He Knows Them All"

"...Who among us doesn't have sin or discouragement? Who among us doesn't fail? There are a million things we don't want to let anybody know about us, but He knows them all. And He is not discouraged about us..." ~ K.P. Yohannan, founder, Gospel for Asia

Confession time: I am an overachiever. And while there are a lot of good things that can be said for having that kind of drive, it can also be a very dangerous thing.

Being an overachiever means that, if I fail at something, or if I don't get something done on my to-do-list, I feel like I've failed for that day. It doesn't matter if I got five other things done which were really important. I'm unhappy with myself for not getting that one little thing done.

For almost the whole month of July, dipping into August, I've been struggling with some health issues, and looking back on it, I feel like this area of my life is what God was trying to teach me about. There have been so many days these past weeks where I've felt like a total loser because I couldn't get done as much as I wanted to get done. I would keep telling myself things like, "Come on, are you serious?! You can do better than that! You need to learn to mange your time better..."

And of course, there were bits of truth in that. There were days where I could have worked a little harder, where I wasted time watching an episode of Major Crimes or Suits or Pretty Little Liars. There were days where I honestly did not give it my all, where I let my illness be an excuse.

But the amazing thing is that, despite what we feel about ourselves, despite being failures and hopeless in our own eyes, God doesn't see us that way. We fail, we get discouraged, we have incredibly high standards for ourselves that we try to attain alone without God's help. But even though we're constantly messing things up, even though we start to think of ourselves as total losers, God never gives up on us. He's constantly working in our lives to mold us into what He knows we can be.

The idea that haunts me is that, while we put up a good image of ourselves, while we hide things even from our closest friends and families that we don't want them to know, for fear of rejection, God knows all of it. He knows in exact detail every horrible thing we've done, every time we messed up a commitment to Him or to someone else, every time we fell flat on our face because we thought we could do life without Him, and yet He. Still. Loves. Us.

Isn't that amazing?

I see myself as a life failure because I didn't get my birds' cages cleaned, and yet He doesn't see me that way. I think of myself as hopeless because I ignored a friend who was hurting to complete my own deadlines, and yet He doesn't.

God see us all as we are: sinners who are in desperate need of His grace. Broken people who He can make new.

Psalm 139 tells us that God knows exactly who and what we are. He knows each part of us, each wicked way, each sin we're particularly vulnerable to. And yet He doesn't give up on us. He hedges us all about, He is ever leading us, ever guiding us. He knows what our end will be. He knows that, even though we fall far from Him, He can make something beautiful out of it.

God's never finished with us, even when we're ready to throw in the towel. And unlike those "white lies"* we tell others so we look a little better, unlike those secrets we keep because we don't dare let others know how we truly are, God knows every little thing about us, and still loves us.

Pretty mind-boggling, huh?

*Come on, we all know they're just lies.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

3 Things God Can't Do

I cringed writing this title. It just makes my skin crawl, the idea that God can't do something. Isn't that saying He's not all-powerful? But really, it's not a lessening of God's might that He can't/doesn't do these things, but rather a reassurance of the goodness and holiness of His character, and of just how powerful He is.

1. He can't lie

"Paul, a bondservant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God’s elect and the acknowledgment of the truth which accords with godliness, in hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began" ~ Titus 1:1-2 NKJV

Depending on the translation you use, this verse either says "cannot," doesn't," "can't," or some other variable of the same thing. The idea across them all is the same: lying is not something God does, it's not even in His nature. 

Unlike us, who sometimes struggle to tell the truth, who find lying much easier, God cannot and will not ever lie to us. Everything we read in the Bible, we can take as solid truth. God never wrote something in there that is a lie. He didn't lie about the free gift of salvation. He didn't lie about His holiness, or our own sinfulness. He didn't lie about His love for us, or how He's ever willing to forgive our sins and help us overcome them.

2. He can't change

"Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever" ~ Hebrews 13:8

God's stance on sin has been the same throughout the ages, and always will be. God has always been all-powerful, all-knowing, all-seeing, ever-present, and always will be.

This is great news! We don't need to worry that God will decide one day that Jesus' blood isn't enough to cover our sins. We don't need to worry that there may be some other "scripture" out there that tells us what God wants us to do in the 21st century. God's Word is God's Final Word. There are no updates to the Bible. There are no additions, no subtractions. Once the Bible was completed, that was it. There are no contradictions in God's Word.*

And God will never stop being all-powerful, all-knowing, etc. He doesn't change. The day will never come that He is no longer with us because He is no longer omnipresent. We never have to worry that He will grow weak and be dethroned by another "stronger god." We never have to worry that He doesn't know what's going on in our lives anymore. He never changes.

It's interesting to note that cult writings (at least all of the ones I'm aware of), even though they may claim to believe in God and be following Jesus, directly contradict pieces of Scripture. If something or someone tries to contradict or "update" the Bible, you can be confident it's not of God.

3. He can't lose

"Who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began, but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel" ~ 2 Timothy 1:9-10 

God has already won the battle with Satan. There isn't some war being waged over whether Jesus's sacrifice is going to be enough to redeem us from hell. His blood is enough. Jesus offers the free gift of salvation to any one who will accept it.

There is still a very real spiritual battle going on over souls, but the results are already in. God is victorious, and those who repent and place their faith in Him will get to worship at His feet forever. Whereas Satan and his followers, including those who refuse to repent, will be cast into an eternal pit of fire, an eternal dungeon, forever.

The final battle's already been won. The only question left for each of us is whose side we're going to be on.

What are your thoughts? Do you think there are some things Gods can't do? Or are you shaking your head and thinking "WHY DID I READ THIS?" Share in the comments below!

*Now there are some places where it looks like there might be contradictions, By careful study, though, you can see that those passages really aren't contradictions of each other, but instead different explanations/nuances. For example, the book of James makes it sound like salvation is through works, rather than grace. But in reality James is explaining how true faith is evidenced by works, rather than that works save (I believe Pastor John MacArthur delves into this issue in one of his sermons).

Thursday, May 14, 2015

4 Reasons to Slaughter Self Pity

We can find ourselves in a lot of traps as we're going along, trying to live for Christ and trying to act like one of His.

One of the worst is the Self Pity Pit.

I confess, I find myself falling into it when I'm really impatient about something in my life or really frustrated. But honestly, there's not much point to it.

Instead, self pity is guaranteed to make you even more worse off than you were.

And we can find ourselves "indulging" in it over the most ridiculous things.

Let me give you a very recent example.

After a series of health issues, I started on an elimination diet to see if I could pin point what is making me ill.

For those of you who don't know what one is, it's basically where you take certain foods out of your diet for an extended period of time (usually 3-4 weeks). After that, you add one food in at a time for a day or so and see whether it causes a reaction.

In other words, it's horrible (whoops, see what I mean? Self pity pops up where you least expect it).

So right now I can't eat 6 different foods, or a lot of sugar (fruit excluded), including gluten and dairy.

(sniff, bye mac 'n cheese)

The first few days were hard, but after a while it started getting easier, and after about ten days my stomach troubles started to clear up.

Then came last weekend.

My grandparents came for a visit.

There's an old family recipe for cinnamon rolls, which my grandfather actually copied down from his  grandmother (who probably threw him out of the kitchen after he made her measure every single ingredient for these rolls, she was a throw-it-together-and-see-what-happens kind of woman). Since they are his favorite, and he doesn't get them very often, my mom makes them for him almost every time he comes to visit.

Of course, we're talking Pennsylvania-Dutch cinnamon rolls. Full of things like butter and brown sugar, and of course heaps of cinnamon.

They're kind of my favorite too.

And I helped make them, but couldn't eat a single one.

(toot! toot! all aboard the self pity express!)

Of course, it was super hard not to have one while everyone else indulged. I think I practically dove into the pit that weekend. But I've come to realize 4 very good reasons to blow up that train as soon as it starts pulling in the station:

1. It doesn't solve your problem

I don't know about you, but sitting around having a pity party for myself never helped me out of my situation. It certainly didn't help me last weekend. I didn't get a cinnamon roll. I didn't get to the point where I didn't want one either. I wanted something I couldn't have the entire weekend.

2. It doesn't make you feel better.

Self pity is like chocolate cake (or cinnamon rolls). You eat a little bit, and it tastes sweet. But as you eat more and more, you only feel worse and worse.And not even a single crumb is really good for you.

I didn't feel better about myself wanting those cinnamon rolls. I didn't feel better about how I felt not eating them. I didn't feel better about anything going on that weekend.

3.  It causes you to forget what's going good in your life.

My stomach was feeling better, not cramping anymore or giving me trouble. And yet I was so miserable about the fact that I couldn't eat a cinnamon roll that I totally overlooked the fact that I could actually eat without feeling sick.

When we fall into self pity, we don't see the good things in our life any more. We're so focused on the fact that we don't have a full-time job or that our sister took the last apple, that we overlook the part-time job that pays pretty well, or the two oranges that were sitting right next to the apple.

4. It causes you to doubt God.

Self pity and trust in God are like oil and water, impossible to mix. Because if we really trusted that God had our best in mind, that our all-knowing, loving, merciful Father was working out each little detail of our lives to our good, that He has carefully crafted for each one of us a future in this life and riches untold in His presence forever in Heaven, why would we pity ourselves?

God was helping me figure out how to heal my body, which He designed so intricately and remarkably that nothing man has made comes even close to matching what a few cells can do, and here I was upset because I couldn't eat a piece of sugary dough.

Even though my situation may seem a little ridiculous, the reality is self pity is ridiculous in any situation. It is one thing to be sad (I am not telling you that if your cat dies you are not allowed to cry), but self pity goes beyond that, where we start feeling as if the world is out to get us, and woe-is-me-that-I'm-in-such-a-position.

The truth is, things don't always go our way, and sometimes they can be downright tragic. It could be something as "little" as my diet restrictions, or something as heart-wrenching as your boyfriend breaking up with you.  It's tough, it's terrible, but wallowing in self pity about it doesn't do us any good. We'll be sad, but we can't let ourselves get caught into feeling sorry for ourselves.

The cinnamon rolls are about gone. I'm trying not to give into self pity, but it's hard. We have to constantly be on our guards against it. I feel like it's one of Satan's favorite little tricks, because once he has gotten us to doubt God, it's so easy for us turn our back to Him.

So stay strong. Resist the urge. Stay away from self-pity and stick close to God. After all, He's going to work it out for your best anyway.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Fish Bones

A while ago I was watching a YouTube video, and I heard a saying I'd never heard before. The girl in the video said that when it came to things you learned in life, you had to "eat the fish and spit out the bones," meaning that you had to decide what you would take from something, that you had to pick and choose what you would accept and what you would reject, what worked for you and what didn't.

She used this as an example of how she could participate in yoga even though she doesn't believe in Hinduism. And while I agree with her in regards to yoga, and that this idea can be helpful in some situations (during my counseling classes, I had to decide what theories worked best for my personality and pick and choose between techniques), this idea can also be rather dangerous.

You can't pick and choose when it come to God's Word.

You can't decide to accept the part about the Flood but reject that God created the earth.

You can't decide to accept the part about Jesus healing the sick but reject that He is Who He said He is, the Son of God.

You can't decide to accept Paul's teachings about communion and reject what he says about women pastors.*

We don't get to pick and choose when it comes to the Bible. Every bit of it, as 2 Timothy 3:16 tells us, was inspired by God. He put it all in there for a reason, and it certainly wasn't so that we could decide what we wanted and what we didn't like kids going through the toppings at the fro-yo.

I confess, I don't know a lot about cults, but from what I understand of them, a lot of them do exactly this. They pick what they want from God's Word, and add what they want to it. A little here, a little there.

So when it comes to almost anything else, whether it be exercise programs, how-to-advice, etc., I think there's no problem picking and choosing what we want from them. As long as we remember we can't do that with God's Word. It's all or nothing where it's concerned

*Trust me, when I was a little kid and first learned this, I was really bummed. I wanted to be a pastor. That's why my blog is for women (although guys are welcome to read it). As women, we have a different but equally wonderful ministry, helping, teaching, and encouraging each other even though we're not the ones giving the sermons every Sunday. And whereas Priscilla did help Aquila correct Apollos' faulty understanding, notice how she did it. With her husband. I could be totally wrong on this, but I don't think Paul teaches that we should let the guys do and believe whatever quietly, regardless of how off the mark they are. But I do believe he teaches that we should try to get another guy to approach them about the issue, just as a guy should try to get a lady to approach a woman. We as woman are just not to be in the positions of leadership over the church. That's the men's job.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Why I Don't Like How People Use These Words

This is a Bible. A giant book of cats is not.


We know what these words mean. The world uses these words in a different way than their definition.

And I hate it.

Like seriously.

There are certain phrases you'll hear thrown around a lot containing these words. You probably can name a handful of them yourself. Like the Cat Bible. Or the popular show, Property Virgins. These terms seem to be becoming more and more popular in our culture.

On Amazon, for example, I found more than a dozen cookbooks with "Bible" in their titles.

I hate the way these terms are used in these titles/phrases.

It cheapens the meaning

The Bible isn't just a book of wisdom. It's the infallible, God-breathed, sacred teaching of God Almighty Himself.

A virgin doesn't just refer to not having done something before. Rather, it specifically refers to someone who has never known another person sexually. Someone who, instead of falling into the temptations of the world, has chosen to keep his or her body pure until marriage.

By using these terms in the way the world has started to use them, it devalues them. When we refer to books containing inordinate amounts of information as "bibles," we start to lose our wonder, awe, and respect for the Word and the One Who wrote it. When we use the word virgin to refer to anything someone hasn't done before ("Oh, I'm a homework virgin"), we scoff at the gift God's given us to give to our husband someday.

You might read this and think I'm overreacting. Or nit-picking. Or getting into the legalism pool. But if we as Christians make light and use these words regardless of their true meaning, how can we expect anyone to take them seriously?

How can we expect someone to hold the Bible as the truly sacred book it is when we boast the Mac N' Cheese Bible on the same shelf?

How can we expect our friend who's struggling to keep sexually pure with her boyfriend think it's worth it when she hears the word "virgin" dropping from our lips as we say we've never worn a pair of heels before?

I'm not saying we should go bashing people who use these terms. They've been conditioned by the sinful world they live in. But I am saying that we as Christians should not partake in the world's shameful speech. We should not make light of these words.

A Bible is God's holy, incorruptible Word.

A virgin is someone saving him or herself for marriage.

And that's it.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Why I Love Meditating

Doubtless you've heard of it. Meditation features in almost every TV show/movie that has an eastern flair or character in it. It's a huge part of New Age practices, and abounds in yoga.

It's also in the Bible.

More on that in a bit.

Meditation has gotten a bad rep from the way people practice it, but it has many benefits. For me personally, I notice I am more focused and calmer on days I take the time for it.

And unless you think I've totally gone off the deep end of sanity into some miry pit, check out the Psalms. At least a handful of them talk about meditating (especially Psalm 119), though not in the way we hear it described today. Rather than the common "empty your mind" nonsense, the Psalms name something specific we are to fill our mind with: God's Word.

You see, meditation as described in the Bible is really just a fancy way of saying focus on/think about.

Meditating on God's Word is useful. Meditating on nothing and letting any little thought float around in there is like jumping into a garbage truck and expecting to come out squeaky clean in the end.

So of course, we don't want to practice meditation the way it's normally taught. Emptying your mind is never a good thing. If you're thinking of nothing, you can bet your last pair of fuzzy socks that Satan's going to take care of that. Instead, let's follow the example of the Psalms. Here's what I meditate on, and recommend you do the same.

1. God's Word

"My eyes are awake through the night watches, That I may meditate on Your word." 
~Psalm 119:148 NKJV

Meditating on God's Word reminds us of what He has already done, what He's capable of, and what He's promised to do. It reminds us that we don't have to worry, because He's bigger than our problems. It reminds us of how much He loves us, and how He's working everything out for good toward us.

See why I find it so calming? How can we be stressed when we remember those things?

I like to especially focus on verses such as Proverbs 3:5-6, Philippians 4:13, Joshua 1:9, and Hebrews 13:5.

2. What God has already done in your life

"Only fear the Lord, and serve Him in truth with all your heart; for consider what great things He has done for you." ~ 1 Samuel 12:24 NKJV
Samuel spoke this to Israel at Saul's coronation, and imagine how differently things may have worked out if the people had listened to him! 
No matter how horrid you might think your life right now, no matter what kind of mess you're in, if you think hard enough, you can remember something awesome God did in your life. God worked it out so I have a part-time job. There's lots of people without even that much. God helped me find some pretty awesome friends. God gave me a pretty amazing family.

Think about how much worse your life could have been. God saved you from that. And if your situation is pretty amazing right now, this exercise should be easy.

3. What God is like

"Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits" ~ Psalm 103:2 NKJV

Think about it. When you're constantly reminding yourself how mighty, strong, kind, loving, forgiving, powerful, wise, comforting, and merciful God was, is, and will continue to be, it's hard to get into a funk. It also makes it easier to know what you should be doing (hint: if God is the same now as He was a thousand years ago, you can be pretty sure the Ten Commandments still stand, let alone the teachings of the New Testament). Don't remember all his attributes? Psalm 103 is a good place to start (it also talks about a lot of things He does for us).

Just take a few minutes a day and try it. I usually try to meditate a few minutes in the morning and the evening, to get myself ready for the day and to unwind before going to bed. See how you feel after trying it for a few days.

What are some of your favorite verses to meditate on? Let me know in the comments!