Through the Fire
Sometimes it happens that God will test us; He’ll send us through the fire of adversity to refine us, and He’ll give us a choice, and see what we do. Well…God brought me face-to-face with a choice 2 days ago, and it was actually one of the hardest things I’ve had to do, though outwardly it probably seemed like everything was fine, inwardly there was a battle going on of epic proportions. I will share it with you, as I refer to my journal, though it’s hard…but I’m sharing it because I believe that this might be able to give some of you a perspective that you’ve never considered before on certain things…because I know I surely hadn’t.
I will preface this tale by telling you that on Thursday I was struggling a lot with my own desires – especially the desire to have a relationship, to be married, and to have a family. It was a pretty much a constant struggle throughout the day, as I tried to take my thoughts and desires captive and give them to God – I was getting exhausted just trying to keep up with them!
Then the Petrofskys led a Bible study at the house of some acquaintances Thursday night. It was a really nice time, and the message was about the time in 1 Samuel, when the Ark of the Covenant was brought into the temple of Dagon, and when the people woke up the next morning, the idol, Dagon, was on his face before the ark…and how our idols have to fall before the presence of the Lord in our lives. It was a really good study, and Mr. Petrofsky brought up some of the big things that become idols for most Americans, like success and entertainment. But I have heard these things multiple times throughout the last few months, and wasn’t particularly feeling like I personally was learning much of anything new. God has actually made it relatively easy (not a piece of cake, but not as much of a struggle as it is for some people) for me to give up worldly movies and music and worldly success, because none of those things has held a particularly strong hold on me, compared to the joys of the Lord.
However, toward the end of the Bible study, one of the guys asked Joel to share what they had been talking about earlier about what he foresaw as far as the direction of his own life…and Joel began sharing about how his whole life – all his plans, desires, and dreams are surrendered to the Lord completely……and in that moment, God was there beside me. He just suddenly opened my eyes and brought me face-to-face with the reality of what actually surrendering everything to Him could mean…and it was hard – really hard. He didn’t confront me about any of those things which I gave up without even much of a second thought when He asked me. He confronted me with the desires I have said I was surrendering to the Lord, but at the same time, holding onto the hope that my own desires were what God wanted for me, and not fully surrendering, or even really understanding what that truly meant. And, He confronted me with the very thing I had been struggling with so much that very day…which actually made what He was showing me even more intense.
I suddenly realized that if I actually completely surrender my desire for a relationship to the Lord, I am giving up having a lifelong closeness and intimate friendship with a guy, I am giving up ever having a first kiss or holding hands, I am giving up the security of having a husband to lead me and teach me and council me, I am giving up being able to serve God side-by-side with a husband, I am giving up having my own family………and all that is hard – incredibly hard, because my flesh wants it so badly. And it is doubly hard because I know that, despite all the joys of heaven, once I die, I will never again have the opportunity to be married, because things don’t work quite like that in heaven – so if I give it up on earth, I give it up for good. But I give it up for God.
And yet, I know that this realization does not mean that God will never let me be married. He may yet bless me with that. But God brought me to this place of realizing all of these things, so that the full weight of the reality of what He requires of me would fill me, and then He gave me a choice, so that I would not be surrendering in words only, but in truth. I had to choose. I had to choose if I would look back; if those things were more important to me than serving God with all of my heart, soul, mind, and strength, or if I truly love God more than life, more than my own dreams and my strongest desires. I believe God made this so clear to me and showed me the full picture so that I could make a fully informed choice.
I sat there for what seemed like hours, though it couldn’t have been…but I was wrestling with my own desires, with what God was showing me, and with all the pleasures the devil was laying before me. It felt like a tidal wave was pounding over me…and yet, as the roaring filled my ears, and the immense power nearly swept me off of my feet, God filled my mouth with the words, and my heart with the determination, and I said, “Yes. Yes, Lord, I will follow you no matter what it means. I will give up my life for you. All I am is yours. It’s impossible for me to go back, or to live only mostly surrendered to you. Take my life, Lord, and use it in any way you can – any way you choose. It’s all yours.”
So, it was a very sobering night for me…and the past couple of days I have been in a rather serious state of mind. But at the same time, I am rejoicing that the Lord caused my heart to be able to say “yes” to Him in the midst of the strongest of desires and dreams and doubts pulling at my heart.
I don’t know where the Lord will use me, or how…but I know that He is my Beloved, and there is nothing and no one else in this world that could ever be more worthy of my love and my life. There can be no turning back. And even if God does ever bring me into a marriage relationship, it must all be for His glory, and not for myself…and it can never be more important to me than Him.
O Lord, I pray that you would take this insignificant life of mine, and these petty desires that mean so much to my flesh, and use it - use me – to bring glory to your name.
But you know what the most special thing is? Jesus himself has called us – each of us – to follow him by name. That is amazingly special; that He himself has called us and set us apart for himself. May we live in a manner that is pleasing to Him. And may we serve Him with a joy that is befitting the amazing grace He has shown us, and the privilege He has given us of serving Him, and being used by Him.
And if you have any questions, feel free to ask away. )
“Take all I am, Lord
And all that I cling to
You are my Savior
I owe everything to
Take all the treasures
That lie in my storehouse
They cannot follow
When I enter Your house….
And I surrender all to You;
I surrender all.”
The world lies sleeping, snuggled up in cozy beds
As the stars twinkle in the velvet sky
As the silvery moonlight glistens off of snow-covered roofs
As the chilly wind blows through the dark silhouettes of trees
As time passes slowly by
Waiting for nothing
I lie awake
I wait, and watch
Is this what heaven went through that night
So long ago
Did all of creation hold its breath
Like it seems to, tonight
In expectation of the Creator
To ransom the lost world
Knowing the limits of humanity
Coming to serve
But coming to pay to price we owed
Once for all
Outside all is quiet
As I lie here
Praying with Scripture
I’ve been sort-of postponing writing any new posts until my blog was done being re-designed (especially since, with the new design, I wanted to introduce a bit of a new direction for my posts)…however, that isn’t happening as quickly as I had originally hoped. So, in the spirit of patience, and just accomplishing something instead of postponing it indefinitely – here is a portion of what I read in the Bible today, along with something I read of John Piper’s after a friend mentioned it to me Saturday, as well as something from George Muller that someone else emailed me today (and, yes – they’re all connected).
“In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints…” Ephesians 5:16-18
“Prayer is not some small thing. It is not some marginal thing. It is not some incidental thing in the Christian life. Prayer is at the heart of why God created the universe. You may have the modern, secular notion that the universe is really about great galactic events and supernovas and remarkable expanses of time and space and energy. But in reality the center of the created universe is man created in the image of God. And the meaning of man in the image of God is to display God’s glory. And the way God delights to display his glory in man is by being depended on through prayer.
If you want to walk in prayer all day long, you will need to linger in prayer in times of quiet communion with God.
Consider praying in concentric circles from your own soul outward to the whole world. This is my regular practice. I pray for my own soul first. Not because I am more deserving than others, but because if God doesn’t awaken and strengthen and humble and fill my own soul, then I can’t pray for anybody else’s. So I plead with the Lord every morning for my own soul’s perseverance and purification and power.
Then I go to the next concentric circle, my family, and I pray for each of them by name.
Then I go to the next concentric circle, the staff and elders of Bethlehem. I name them all by name.
Then I pray for you, Bethlehem Baptist Church. And then I go out from there to different concerns and groups at different times: our missionaries, our denomination and its schools, the Baptist General Conference, Evangelicalism in general and the church around the world, especially the suffering church. The wider circles include the city and the state and the nation and the cultural and social issues of the world.
You can’t pray for everything every time. So there need to be differences. And your heart will dictate much of your burden. Some days one family member or one staff member or one crisis in the church or the world will consume most of your time. But if you have a pattern – like the concentric circles – you won’t spin your wheels wondering where to start.
That’s the first thing I would say in answer to the ‘how’ question [of prayer].
The other is to pray Scripture. The prayer time and the Bible meditation time don’t have to be separate times. It would be best if they were not separate.
If you ask, What do I pray for myself and my family and my church and the missionaries and the city and the nations, the answer is pray Scripture. God’s Word reveals God and his will. What you want for yourself and those you pray for is more of God and more of his will. As you see him in his Word, pray that God would make this seen and known and loved in the lives of the people you pray for. And as you see his will, pray that God would cause it to be done in the lives of those you pray for. ‘Thy will be done on earth as in heaven.’
Be intentional about this, but don’t be too self-conscious. Contrived prayers seem inauthentic. If we are so self-conscious that we try to craft our prayers with interesting turns of phrase, we will lose the power and reality of prayer. But do try to pray specific Biblical values for people, not worn out cliches and trite generalities that have no spiritual depth.
For example, if you want to pray for somebody, pray the beatitudes: Father, grant that John would recognize his poverty of spirit. Let him mourn for his sins and not be indifferent or unconcerned for his own soul. Work a meekness into his heart. Grant him to be hungry and thirsty for righteousness. Give him the heart of a peacemaker and a reconciler. Make him pure and keep him pure, O Lord. And if you will for him to be persecuted, give him grace to count it all joy and to remember that his reward is great in heaven.
Praying like this will be mighty in the Spirit, because it is the Spirit’s own Word and the Spirit’s own will that you are praying.
The third thing I would say about how to pray is that praying in groups is important to build into your life. Families, pray together. Small groups, pray together. Ministry groups, pray together.” - John Piper
“The first thing I did, after having asked in a few words the Lord blessing upon his precious word, was, to begin to meditate on the word of God, searching as it were into every verse, to get blessing out of it; not for the sake of the public ministry of the word, not for the sake of preaching on what I had meditated upon, but for the sake of obtaining food for my own soul.
The result I have found to be almost invariably this, that after a very few minutes my soul has been led to confession, or to thanksgiving, or to intercession, or to supplication; so that, though I did not, as it were, give myself to prayer, but to meditation it turned almost immediately more or less into prayer.
When thus I have been for a while making confession, or intercession, or supplication, or have given thanks, I go on to the next words or verse, turning all, as I go on, into prayer for myself or others, as the word may lead to it, but still continually keeping before me that food for my own soul is the object of my meditation.
The result of this is, that there is always a good deal of confession, thanksgiving, supplication, or intercession mingled with my meditation, and that my inner man almost invariably is even sensibly nourished and strengthened, and that by breakfast time, with rare exceptions, I am in a peaceful if not happy state of heart.” - George Muller
May God bless your prayers as you seek Him through His Word.
A Week of Poetry – Day 7
Lord, send thy light,
Not only in the darkest night,
But in the shadowy, dim twilight,
Wherein my strained and aching sight
Can scarce distinguish wrong from right,
Then send thy light.
Teach me to pray.
Not only in the morning gray,
Or when the moonbeam’s silver ray
Falls on my, but at high noonday,
When pleasure beckons me away,
Teach me to pray.
It’s true that it’s so easy to set aside specific times for prayer each day, and neglect to remember that God is always waiting to talk to us – when we need him the most, when we are tempted or upset…but we just rush around trying to do things in our own strength before remembering that God himself is for us. It’s so human to want to try to peer through the shadowy, dim twilight on our own instead of asking Jesus to illuminate it with his light! When things look gray, and it seems like there might be more than one “right” way…O Lord – teach us to pray!
“Pray without ceasing.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:17
I don’t really know what I am going to write about right now, which is unusual, because I usually have my posts planned out in advance. In fact, I don’t even have a title for this post yet – and that is normally one of the first sparks of an idea that I get. So…just pretend like you are a page of a journal…sounds exciting – right?
I’ve been thinking a lot about my life lately. About all that God had brought me through to get me where I am, and all that I will necessarily go through before I go to live with him in heaven. I’m almost 20, and that sounds crazy to me (what’s even crazier is that I will actually be in my 21st year of life, if you think about it…). Of course, I’ve never really felt a difference between 6:12pm and 6:13pm on February 20th (6:13 is when I was born) – no surge of energy, no sparks, and no wrinkles or gray hair suddenly appearing. Change is a slow but steady thing…and it can be for the better…or worse. It’s hard to see when you are in the middle of day-to-day life. You have to step back and ask God to show you, as well as dedicating your plans to him, so that any change will be for the better; for his glory.
There is one reason that I like to keep a journal. I’ve been reading a decent book about leaving a trace of one’s life through journaling. “A journal-keeper is really the natural historian of his own life” it claims. Yes…true, which of course, is one reason I love to journal (mom used to tell me I should write historical stories for kids…haha…). And it gives many wonderful writing prompts, and styles of journaling to spark more than just a list of “things I did today”. But there’s something missing…and I guess I could probably attribute that to the fact that the author is not a Christian. You see, one of the main reasons (if not THE main reason) I keep a journal is so I can look back someday and see God’s fingerprints over every detail of my life…and how he’s changed me from an immature little girl of 10 who’s only concerns were the guys (well…guy…) she had a crush on and was SURE she would marry someday – and her own selfish day-to-day desires -, into a young lady who is falling more and more in love with HIM each day, and learning that each moment of her life is meant to point back to her Creator. And that’s just the beginning of the story – for I plan to keep a journal as long as I live. Though already I can look back at the days – sometimes weeks and months – that I felt I was going through a fire, and then read on to see how God used those times to purify me and grow me closer to himself. Or I can laugh as I was sure at various times in my life that I’d be a journalist, an archaeologist, a lawyer, a senator…etc…and here I am now 20, after God made it clear to me that college wasn’t exactly what he had planned for me…and I’m writing a book at home, blogging several different places, and seeking God first. (I think “Spiritual Disciplines for a Christian Life” has a chapter about journaling, which I never got to. I may read that in the next few days to get Donald Whitney’s persepctive on journaling…from a Christian worldview.)
This year could be interesting. I’ve been feeling like I am supposed to go somewhere I wouldn’t normally go. So of course my mind went through the most obvious options first: Missions trip, archaeology dig in the middle east, tour of Egypt…all of which are things I’d like to do. But through my parents not being willing to let me do any of those things alone, they have been put on a back burner for now (not to mention that they all take quite a bit of money – and I’ve purposed to not use the money I made in January for now). And I was left feeling unsure of what I was supposed to do again. Until some friends (actually, the family I stayed with while I was working in January) mentioned being a counselor at a Christian camp in NY for a little less than 8 weeks in the summer. They had mentioned it last year and I just kinda’ looked over it, but this year it sort-of struck a chord in me…and I’m definitely considering and praying about doing that.
I started the “reading through the Bible in a year” plan that’s in the back of my Bible on Wednesday…so we’ll see how that goes. It’s actually really neat so far – reading from several different books at once. I thought that would be confusing, but it actually is quite interesting.
I haven’ t started memorizing Psalm 119 yet…it seems so daunting. But I will. I will.
I’m on Chapter 15 of 21 in my book…and the annoying thing is that I keep getting ideas for other books too. Just writing them down and keeping them safe, but letting them sit for now…because my goal is to finish THIS book before I start another.
Annnnnddd…that’s all for now folks. I guess that was sort-of a random synopsis of things that go through my mind during the day. A spark of my life.
P.S. You could pray for me; the car I usually drive didn’t pass it’s inspection this year…so I can’t drive it any more…which severely limits what I can do to serve at our church, make money, fellowship etc. So, grace for that would be a great prayer. I did make money in January, but it’s not really enough to get a “new” car…
God bless you all!
Good Morning America – You Have A New President
Who’s in control of our nation?
Well, the outcome of yesterday’s polls may or may not be what you wanted to hear – though I can hardly think that many of you didn’t expect it. I personally stuggled quite a bit with the decision of the majority of America (And, if you supported Obama, please don’t pull the “race” ticket – I’m getting quite tired of it. I know that we were all created in God’s image and equal, and I have know many great men and women who are of a different race than myself, and were amazing people. Race has absolutely nothing to do with the reasons I was not supporting Obama.)…but after a bit, I was reminded again of God’s power over all things, and my need to place complete trust in Him. Complete trust. (My previous post on Trust here.)
God is my King of Kings (Revelation 19:16)
He is the Blessed and only Sovereign (1 Timothy 6:15)
He is the chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5:4)
He is the King of Ages (1 Timothy 1:17)
He is our Rock (1 Corinthians 10:4)
And He ALONE is our Hope (1 Timothy 1:1)
God is worthy of our complete trust, and when we give it to Him totally and sincerely, we begin to realize that the things that cause us to worry, or frustrate us in the world, really oughtn’t to. Our hope is in Christ, and we know that He is working in and through every circumstance .
Yes, there are some scary things in this world, but we should never let those things take our eyes off of God.
I personally plan to follow God’s Word. And you don’t have to agree with Obama – in fact, I would rather hope that you wouldn’t…but we can still honor and respect him without wholeheartedly agreeing.
Here’s to the next 4 years in our dear America; a blessing we don’t deserve, but have been bestowed with. Here’s to Barack Obama, who is just another man in the hands of our Lord; he can do nothing apart from the knowledge of God.
Now tell me again…who’s in control of our nation?
The King of Glory
A Psalm of David.
1 The earth is the Lord‘s and the fullness thereof,
the world and those who dwell therein,
2 for he has founded it upon the seas
and established it upon the rivers.
3 Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?
And who shall stand in his holy place?
4 He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not lift up his soul to what is false
and does not swear deceitfully.
5 He will receive blessing from the Lord
and righteousness from the God of his salvation.
6 Such is the generation of those who seek him,
who seek the face of the God of Jacob. Selah
7 Lift up your heads, O gates!
And be lifted up, O ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.
8 Who is this King of glory?
The Lord, strong and mighty,
the Lord, mighty in battle!
9 Lift up your heads, O gates!
And lift them up, O ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.
10 Who is this King of glory?
The Lord of hosts,
he is the King of glory! Selah