Faith

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Some time ago I was reading in the New Testament about the blind man whom Christ heals in John 9. I really felt like God showed me something extraordinary in that chapter that I’d like to share here. This is for anyone who feels like they have no purpose, anyone who feels forgotten or useless.

In this chapter of John, Jesus is walking and sees a man who was blind since birth. His disciples saw who He was looking at and asked Him, “Master, who sinned, that he was born blind? Was it him or his parents?” (My paraphrasing.)

Jesus answers: “It wasn’t that this man sinned or his parents; he was born blind that God’s works should be manifested in him.”

This is the verse that stood out to me.

Jesus’ words, “…but that the works of God should be made manifest in him,” struck me in a way they never had before. Because in these words is the crux of every soul’s heart-cry: “What is my purpose? Do I even have one?”

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Take a moment and think about this blind man.

His story is hardly explored but we can learn a lot from the disciples’ question. They took one look at him and assumed that he was being punished for something he did wrong. How many people, do you think, looked at him over the course of his life and thought the same thing? How many people even told him to his face that he was accursed, that he or his parents deserved this affliction? Can you imagine how broken this man could have been? To think he was rejected of God and man, simply for being born?

He would have been a burden to his parents his whole life. It’s unlikely that he could work and it doesn’t seem like he had any family, outside of his parents, whom we meet a few verses down. We can imagine that this man’s life was probably a lonely one. We can assume that he must have felt terribly purposeless and useless at times.

He spent his whole life in a prison of darkness. Not knowing why. Not knowing what he had done that he should be afflicted so. I wonder if he ever cried out to God, begging Him, “why, God, why? Why me? What did I do to deserve this? Why was I even born?”

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And then here comes Jesus.

Jesus, sent by God, walks past him, of all men, that day. I’m sure that he could have never forgotten that fact afterwards. Jesus walks by him and He stops and says this incredible thing: that God’s works were going to be manifested in him. Jesus anoints him and sends him to the pool of Siloam to wash, which he does.

When his eyes are opened, he sees.

And so this man who was once a burden, once the object of people’s censure and criticism becomes a living, walking miracle. The man who once had no purpose learns that God had one for him all along.

He is questioned and followed by the naysayers and the incredulous. He tells them all the same thing: “I was blind, but now I see.” He tells the Pharisees in verse 25 that, “Whether he (Jesus) be a sinner or no, I know not: one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see.”

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The words of the beautiful hymn Amazing Grace came to my heart when I read those words. I was blind, but now I see. Not only do we find such an incredibly encouraging truth regarding God’s purpose for us who feel the most useless, but we see a beautiful analogy for how Jesus opens our eyes that we might see the light and be in darkness no more.

That’s why Jesus, after speaking of God’s works being manifested in the blind man, says, “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” He is the light that reveals the darkness of our sin; after we are washed clean, our eyes are opened and we see what we have never seen before: the truth of our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ.

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This man recognized what had been done to him. He realized, in verse 33, that “if this man (Jesus) were not of God, he could do nothing.” And the Pharisees cast him out from their presence when he said those words, saying, “You were born in sin – and you think you can teach us?” What abominable pride – more than that, what blindness. It was they who were blind, and not that man.

But you know what? I don’t think he cared very much at that point.

Because when he was cast out, Jesus heard about it and He came and found him (how I love those words). And He asked him, “Dost thou believe on the Son of God?”

The once blind man answered, “Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him?”

And Jesus said to him, “Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee.”

And he said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped Him.

He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose. (10)

So much can be gleaned from every verse written in the Bible. There are a thousand more sermons that can be written on this chapter, but what the Lord showed me through it was exactly what my heart needed to hear. Not only can we see an incredible example of how God opens the eyes of sinners and washes them clean, causing them to “see the light,” but He has a purpose for each and every one of us, even those of us who feel the most useless, the most purposeless, and the most unworthy. And like this man, I do believe God has a time prepared for each of us when He reveals that purpose to us.

So hold on to that hope. You may not understand why right now (not very many of us do) but I truly believe you will someday. God had a purpose for you from the very beginning. You weren’t a mistake and you haven’t been forgotten. God’s works will be manifested in you, in the proper time. Wait for Jesus. He’s coming your way. ♥

He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose. (11)

Faith

elisabeth-elliot-quotes-inspiration

Today I thought I’d write about one of my favorite writers and greatest spiritual inspirations, Elisabeth Elliot.

For those of you who don’t know who she is, she was a well-known author and the widow of the beautiful and inspiring martyr, Jim Elliot, who died in 1956. She wrote such books as Let Me Be a Woman, Passion and Purity, Shadow of the Almighty, etc. All books which my sister and I have.

I don’t remember when I first learned about her, but I think it may have been sometime before her death (which was last year in the summer of 2015). My sister and I were reading some of Eric and Leslie Ludy’s books and she was mentioned in their writings. Soon after that, I heard about her death and I started to read more about her. Stumbling upon some of her quotes immediately captured my attention. There was such maturity in her words, such keen understanding, such wisdom – she wrote in a way that my feminine heart could identify with.

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I learned more about her and then bought her book Shadow of the Almighty: The Life and Testament of Jim Elliot. It was there that I learned about the death of her husband, how he was martyred, and the joy with which he went to his death. Through his letters and journal entries, I gained entrance into a heart that was sold out for Christ, a soul that was bent on sharing the gospel, and a mind that was so intensely human and yet so extraordinary in its spiritual maturity.

Time and time again, I return to Elisabeth’s writings and my soul gets fed on such quotes as:

“The secret is Christ in me. Not me in a different set of circumstances.”

“We never know what God has up His sleeve. You never know what might happen; you only know what you have to do now.”

“Faith does not eliminate questions. But faith knows where to take them.”

“God has promised to supply our needs. What we don’t have now we don’t need now.”

“Waiting on God requires the willingness to bear uncertainty, to carry within oneself the unanswered question, lifting the heart to God about it whenever it intrudes upon one’s thoughts.”

“One does not surrender a life in an instant. That which is lifelong can only be surrendered in a lifetime.”

“Of one thing I am perfectly sure: God’s story never ends with ‘ashes.’”

“Freedom begins way back. It begins not with doing what you want but with doing what you ought. That is – with discipline.”

“When obedience to God contradicts what I think will give me pleasure, let me ask myself if I love Him.”

“Today is mine. Tomorrow is none of my business. If I peer anxiously into the future, I will strain my spiritual eyes so that I will not see clearly what is required of me now.”

“The will of God is never exactly what you might expect it to be. It may seem to be much worse, but in the end its going to be a lot bigger and a lot better.”

“Waiting silently is the hardest thing of all… But the things that we feel most deeply we ought to learn to be silent about, at least until we have talked them over thoroughly with God.”

“Is it more important to understand than to obey? Is it more important to me to know than to believe?”

“When people are depressed, they are almost invariably angry, and the anger almost always leads to fear. Put your trust in God.”

“Don’t dig up in doubt what you planted in faith.”

“Fear arises when we imagine that everything depends on us.”

“The fact that I’m a woman doesn’t make me a different kind of Christian, but the fact that I’m a Christian does make me a different kind of woman.”

“We are not meant to die merely in order to be dead. God could not want that for the creatures to whom he has given the breath of life. We die in order to live.”

“When you don’t know what to do next, just do the thing in front of you.”

“I have one desire now – to live a life of reckless abandon for the Lord, putting all my energy and strength into it.”

“To be a follower of the Crucified means, sooner or later, a personal encounter with the cross. And the cross always entails loss.”

“If your goal is purity of heart, be prepared to be thought very odd.”

“Restlessness and impatience change nothing except our peace and joy. Peace does not dwell in outward things, but in the heart prepared to wait trustfully and quietly on him who has all things safely in his hands.”

“He says no in order that He may, in some way we cannot imagine, say yes. All His ways with us are merciful. His meaning is always love.”

“Leave it all in the Hands that were wounded for you.”

“You are loved with an everlasting love. And underneath are the everlasting arms.”

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I hope these words bless you as much as they do me. Elisabeth Elliot, and her martyred husband, were truly a man and woman of a great God.

Faith

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Once in awhile I get into a slump. It’s a period of time in which my creativity runs dry; exhaustion seems to seep out of me at every side; and my general energy and inspiration is nowhere to be found. I’ve been having one of those as of late (which would explain my absence) and I decided I’d try to sit down and write about it.

A slump can be caused by any number of things. Maybe you know what I’m talking about. Maybe you’re going through a slow season, where God has you waiting on Him for some promises. Maybe you’re overwhelmed at a task you’ve been given or responsibilities you may have. Maybe your inspiration is low and you don’t know where to go next. For me, the reasons vary, but I guess you could say it’s some combination of these.

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Sometimes I just have to wait the slump out. Other times, a good conversation with my mom can spark me back to life; most of the time, sitting down to journal for a bit proves to be an excellent help.

But where I find true freedom and deliverance is in quiet, consistent time spent in my secret closet with the Lord.

There, my energy is renewed. My eyes are refocused on what truly matters. I am strengthened and I walk away feeling that I have rediscovered my purpose.

But what about the daily grind, the times in-between our projects, the wearying routines of life that sap us of our inspiration?

Back in October, I decided I needed a good, purpose-driven project to keep me busy and give me back some of the pep in my step. I decided to start a fitness regimen. I’m really happy at how it’s been going so far and it’s definitely given me a little bit of something to look forward to. I think we all need some of that in our lives. Whether its fitness or some other worthy project, we all need something to work towards, a worthy occupation, a reason to keep going and to stay focused. Right now, fitness is doing that for me – in times past, finishing my book or working on a writing project produced a similar effect.

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Writing my second book hasn’t been that project for me, unfortunately. My family is at a place right now where working on it just proves to be just a little bit too painful. It’s regrettable, because it was my goal to work on it this year, but 2016 threw me for a loop. That’s okay. I know it will happen someday; maybe I just need to buckle down and work through the pain aspect. I’m not really sure. Either way, I rely on the Lord to lead me.

If you’re like me and you too go through these recurrent seasons of fatigue and weariness, know that you’re not alone. First of all, Jesus is the source of our joy and strength and He will renew it. He is also faithful to ensure that we are about His business, full to the brim with the calling He has placed on our lives. But in those in-between seasons, where we feel a little bit like sitting ducks, we need to be faithful stewards of the time given to us and keep ourselves from growing stagnant or complacent.

Here are a few ideas to spark your creativity, inspiration, and/or give you back some energy!

  • Take up a worthy hobby (gardening, fitness, writing, etc.)
  • Learn a new skill (cooking, knitting, crocheting, painting, drawing, an instrument, a language, etc.)
  • Get outside often and/or go for long walks.
  • If you’re a writer like me, try doing some creative pieces or poetry.
  • Keep a journal.
  • Spend (a lot of) time with the Lord. Make it a goal of yours to grow closer to Him, to learn more about Him, to spend more time in His Word. The benefits are endless!

One last thing: remember that slumps are temporary. “For every time there is a season,” and seasons, praise the Lord, do pass. In the end, you and me are going to be just fine ♥

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Faith, Life

suffering

“I am certain that I never did grow in grace one-half so much anywhere as I have upon the bed of pain.”

Charles Spurgeon

Some days, I feel terribly alone.

Some days I open my eyes and I’m filled with dread because I don’t want to get out of bed and face the day.

Some days I wonder if all of hell has been stirred up against me.

Some days, it seems like everything that could go wrong has gone wrong. Friends and family have turned on me and I wonder if God has, too.

For those of you who experience similar days, I have a message of hope for you. It’s something I have learned over the course of the past few months, and it’s something I cling to in my darkest and loneliest of moments.

It will all be worth it

For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time [are] not worthy [to be compared] with the glory which shall be revealed in us.

Romans 8:18

There will come a day where you emerge on the other side of this affliction – whatever it may be. That is a fear, I think, that we all face in the midst of our trials. Will this ever end? Will I ever be happy again? 

Here is a fact: for the child of God who is faithfully serving Him, you have a prize set before you.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel. Think back on all the times in the past where you were in the valley, alone, hurting, and suffering. You made it out, didn’t you? You will come out of this pain as well. But you will emerge stronger than before, and closer than ever to the glory that God will reveal in you.

Remember that you are not alone

When thou passest through the waters, I [will be] with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.

Isaiah 43:2

The whole world could be against you; friends and family may abandon you; loved ones may pass on, leaving you grief-stricken and lonely, but in these many waters, this loneliness, Jesus is with you. 

I can’t even comprehend the vastness of that statement. It’s a humbling one; one I can’t even fully grasp. If only we could see in the Spirit the battles He wages on our behalf, the enemies He vanquishes with a single breath, the closeness of His Being to ours… I think we would forget the meaning of fear. We would cast off forever the notion of loneliness.

The Lord knows your pain and sorrow. There is a purpose for it, and He will bring good from it. This He promises us.

If you are in the valley now, I extend these gifts of truth to you. Please accept them from a fellow valley-walker:

  • You have a Savior who died for you, He loved you so much
  • You have a whole family in Heaven, even if you have none on this earth
  • The Lord carries you, as the beautiful Footprints poem reminds us, through the darkest moments of your life
  • You may be surrounded on all sides by what seems like the very host of hell, but Jesus stands at your side and He will never leave you

Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the LORD thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee. (Deut. 31:6 KJV)

God will deliver you

Many [are] the afflictions of the righteous: but the LORD delivereth him out of them all.

Psalm 34:19

In the midst of persecution or affliction (or both), we forget that the Bible has already spoken in this respect: we will face persecution, we will suffer affliction. This is not a one-off; it’s not something out of the ordinary. In fact, this should be a very ordinary reality to the believer (1 Peter 12:9).

But God hasn’t abandoned you. This is a line of thinking that I fall into too easily. I think, “Everything is going wrong. God must be angry with me. He has left me!” instead of thinking, “I am partaking in Christ’s sufferings, and yes, it is grievous. But God is going to deliver me, this I know. He is with me.”

My father always says, “Go back to the last thing God told you and stay there. God’s doing something in your life right now and you’ve just gotta trust Him.”

We are to evaluate our walks and hearts before the Lord, to ensure that we are not offending Him. But if we know we are not, then what is the answer?

You are in your fiery trial. God has allowed it and He is walking you through it. Trust Him. Keep your eyes on Him. Cling to His Word, to His promises, and know that this too shall pass. It is a season. Reminding myself of this always comforts me. It’s a season! And seasons pass. There are blessings ahead. I may be bleeding now, but tomorrow I get to experience His miraculous healing. I may be suffering now, but tomorrow I will be rejoicing!

…Weeping may endure for the night, but joy cometh in the morning. (Psalm 30:5 KJV)

You must be doing something right

Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you [from their company], and shall reproach [you], and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man’s sake.

Luke 6:22

Do you feel hated by man? Do you feel rejected and cast off? Do they reproach you, saying that you are evil?

Welcome to the Body of Christ!

They did the same to Jesus! JESUS! Your Lord and Savior! And He told you of this… He told you that the world would hate you, because it hated Him. You are one of His. You are partaking in the sufferings of Christ Himself.

You probably don’t feel like rejoicing… and I understand. I didn’t (and don’t, at times) either. But I always smile a little at this thought: we must be doing something right. You can bet your bottom dollar that satan doesn’t get stirred up over any old little threat. Nope. He goes after the big ones, the ones who are wreaking havoc on the kingdom of darkness. Doesn’t that make you giggle just a little?

And he’s already defeated! That’s the best part!

This too shall pass

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

Revelations 21:4

There is a beautiful song, one I sing to myself often.

This too shall pass

Like every night that’s come before it

He’ll never give you 

More than you can bear

The lyrics of this song could be the anthem of the valley-walkers. Listen to it. Let the words sink in. This too shall pass. You will make it out of this valley, out of this trial. Cling to the Lord in the meantime, and set your eyes on the mountain. Praise Him because He knows – because He will deliver you – because there is day coming where He will wipe the tears from your eyes, and there will be no more death, sorrow, crying, or pain.

I look forward to that day. I pray that you might have the strength to do so, too.

Faith

bible study

“You ought to search the Scriptures yourself, to discover the glorious gospel.”

Lailah Gifty Akita

As a lot of us know, studying the Bible is a cornerstone of the Christian walk. The Bible is, after all, the Word of God, and it is just as prevalent to us today as it was when it was originally written 2,000+ years ago.

I grew up reading it, of course. Studying the Bible in communal gatherings is also familiar to me – my family sits down together every morning to read and study with my father leading us. But when it comes to my private relationship with the Lord, I’ve always felt a little bit confused and unsure about how to go about it. Do I close my eyes, open the Bible, and point with my finger, assuming that’s the verse God wants me to read that day? Do I start at the beginning and work my way through to the end? Most of the time I’d just pick a random chapter to read through, but I wouldn’t retain anything.

I wanted to be diligent to spend time in the Word, but I didn’t know where to start or how to do it. I started Googling things like “How To Study the Bible” but nothing really stood out to me. Except for this video, which I actually found when my sister showed me this channel:

After watching this video, I understood that I needed to have a focused approach to Bible study. Taking elements of what Gretchen spoke about, and compiling them with the bits and pieces that I was picking up in other places, I began tackling my “secret closet” time in ways I never had before.

But it was one particular thing that brought studying the Bible to a whole new level for me.

A notebook.

“I believe the Bible is the best gift God has ever given to man. All the good from The Savior of the world is communicated to us through this Book.”

Abraham Lincoln

If you read my last post, 7 Reasons Why You Should Keep A Journal, you would have noticed that reason #3 had to do with the secret closet – writing your prayers down to the Lord. But what I didn’t get into was my own personal testimony when it came to the amazing ways that journaling helped me in delving into the Word.

So just how do you study the Bible using a journal?

First of all, watch the video up above – Gretchen, the speaker, gives a great foundation on how to go about it, including insight on how to navigate choosing your study. When I started using the method of journaling as I studied my Bible, I chose the Book of Ruth for my first in-depth study (and wow, was that a huge blessing!)

Pray for the anointing of the Holy Spirit

This is first and foremost. You should pray before every study session for the Lord to touch you and anoint you with wisdom and understanding. He wrote the Bible; He holds the honored and glorified position of interpreting it to you. Don’t leave Him out.

“Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.”

Psalm 100:4

Read

Using the Book of Ruth as an example, I open up to the chapter I’m preparing to study, and I read through several verses. How much you read through and how long you take to study a particular verse, or verses, is up to you. Sometimes, I use the whole of my study time to focus on one single verse; other times, I read through and take notes on several verses. It depends, and there’s no right or wrong way of doing this. Let the Lord lead you and take rest in the fact that this is a learning process and a journey – you can’t fail!

Reread & meditate

Often, we skim over the words, not letting them take root in our hearts and minds; being a fast reader, I’m particularly prone to this. Read slowly. Meditate on the words. Read the verses over and over and over again. (Literally. It’s amazing how things start to become clearer when you’ve read the same verse eight times in a row.)  If you’re wondering about the meaning of the word, get your hands on a Strong’s Concordance (if you don’t have one, consider investing in one – it’s a priceless addition to your Bible study toolkit). You can find the Hebrew root meaning of any given word in that concordance, and oftentimes the verse you’re studying can take on new depths and meanings when you understand where the word comes from.

Take notes

This is where the journal comes into play. I write the date; some people choose to write the hour and the location – I don’t bother with that sort of thing, but you can if you want to. I write down the verses I’m studying, and then I break it down. Sometimes – like when I was studying Psalm 119 – I copy down the verse, and then I write my notes on it. My notes include everything from my impression of the verse, what I think it’s saying, how it pertains to me, what I think God could be showing me with it, and so on and so forth. If I don’t understand something I write it down. This brings the Word home in a deep and personal way. I’ll never forget those verses that I took notes on, that I meditated on and pondered.

You can ask yourself these questions:

  1. How does this apply to me?
  2. What is God showing me through this verse?
  3. What can I take away from it? 
  4. How can I learn from it?

Other things I write down in my prayer journal are personal testimonies, answers to prayer, dreams, things God is showing me, trials I’m going through, and how God is ministering to me through my study of the Word.

Here are some things to keep in mind:

  1. Be open to the leadership of the Holy Spirit. You may be in the middle of a study on the book of Proverbs, but God may put into your heart one day to turn to the book of Galatians. Don’t hesitate. That’s God speaking to you. He wants to show you something.
  2. It’s okay to play ‘Bible Roulette’ every now and then. (That’s when you close your eyes, open your Bible, and point to a verse.) Sometimes when we’re desperate and in need of an answer, God will use this method of “chance” to minister to us. However, use wisdom. There’s a story of a man who does this and the verse his finger falls on is that of the man who vowed to God that he would sacrifice the first person who came out to greet him on his return home from battle and it ended up being his daughter (Judges 11:29). Naturally, this left our Roulette friend pretty confused. I would pray and ask God for discernment if you’re confused about what you’ve read.

Did this help you in any way? Do you have any tried-and-true methods when it comes to studying the Bible? Leave me a comment and let me know! 

I have one desire now – to live a life of reckless abandon for the Lord, putting all my energy and strength into it.

Elisabeth Eliot