I hope this past week has gone better for you than it has for me. This week has been a rough one. I have been facing some trials within myself as well as in the world around me.
There were a couple of battles that I was not sure I was going to win. The first was a terrible allergic reaction. I have always been slightly allergic to apples, green apples in particular. I never could really eat a green apple or eat any kind of cooked apple anything without it making me sick. I really thought I was more on the side of intolerance to apples rather than a full-blown allergy. Boy was I wrong. This reaction came by just being in the same room as some organic applesauce. (Maybe some is an understatement. It was probably around 60 servings of the stuff.) Anyways, I experienced hives, itching, labored breathing. It was not a good situation. Needless to say, I now take this allergy a whole heck of a lot more seriously.
The other battle I faced happened yesterday. Let me start this by saying I have been immensely blessed by the Lord the past few weeks. I am not going to go into details, but May 2015 will be a signpost for the rest of my life. My entire life has been preparing me for this summer and the last 30 days or so have started bearing the fruit I have been waiting so long to see. I say all that to really say, I have kind of been expecting some emotional fallout in myself.
I struggle when things are going well. I know that sounds ridiculous, but it is the truth. The events of my life have taught me that good only brings pain. My defense mechanism is to run when things are going to great. My flight response kicks in when there is no need to fight. Peace is scarier than chaos. The only way I made it through yesterday without hitting self-destruct was through some extremely faithful friends and my wonderful, relentless God. There were tears. There were book length text messages. Sleep evaded me for several hours. However, this morning I awoke feeling free of the fight. That battle was won. Time to prepare my heart for the next.
This week was not about living in a place of fear. Preparing does not mean you do not believe that the Lord is not going to follow through with His promises. It means you are doing your part of the work. We are not supposed to sit around and let life pass us by. We are supposed to be active participants in our environment. The Lord has already won the war, but we still have to do our duty.
Now that you have seen inside the depths of my soul, it is time to get down to business.
I love this passage of Scripture. It really lays out how I desperately try to live my life.
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 5:1-2, ESV)
The NIV translations starts verse 2 off by saying, “Live a life of love.” That is exactly how I want to be. I know I have gone on rants before when it comes to the idea of love. If you are new to the blog and have not had a chance to read those posts, let me give you a quick synopsis. I LOATHE the way the world has twisted the idea of love. The idea that love means butterflies and conversations that keep you up all night is ridiculous to me. Love is a choice. Yes, when it comes to romantic love, there does have to be attraction. There does have to be those little things at the beginning, but love is so much more than that. Love is a choice; it is a commitment. In order to have a sustaining love, you have to decide to experience something beyond affection. You have to live your life through service to those around you. You make yourself lower than them, not because you see yourself as less than, but because you want push them to be better.
But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. (Ephesians 5:3, ESV)
So let’s just break it down for a minute. I feel like every thing I post lately blasts our culture’s sexual mindset. That is probably because it does. We are called to be better than the world. It is easy to make excuses when you slip up if you see on television almost on a daily basis that people are expected to have sex on the third date. We do not have room for that kind of thinking in the church. If we really are going to be set apart, this goes so far beyond just sex before marriage.
Since I have made a promise to always be open and honest with you all, let me be real. I am twenty-five years old and have never kissed anyone. The movie Never Been Kissed rings true with me. However, I would not change my experience for anything. I made a vow when I was between the ages of 12 and 14 that I was not going to kiss anyone until my wedding day. When you are in middle school or high school, this seems like an easy thing to say. You think it cannot really be that far off. You do not think about the fact that it could be 10 or 15 years down the road. The struggle is real. It is not easy to be looked at strangely or made fun of by your “friends”. Do I look down upon people who have chosen differently than me? Absolutely not. My journey is my own. God calls everyone to different things. I know how strongly I get attached to people. This was something I chose to do, that I felt called to do, to protect my heart.
For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of the light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. (Ephesians 5:8-11, ESV)
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells us we are supposed to let our light shine so that others may see us and give glory to the Lord (Matthew 5:15-16). A few chapters before in Malachi 4:2 we are told that the sun of righteousness brings healing. The only way to deal with the things that cause you to struggle is to bring them to light. You need to practice the discipline of confession. Whether it be with a friend, a mentor, or a significant other, things need to be brought into the light. The Lord did not mean for us to struggle alone. If He did, he would not have created within a need for companionship.
Furthermore, we are to suppose to be figuring out what is pleasing to the Lord. This goes beyond devotion and prayer. We need to be willing to take a stand even when it means standing alone.
This seems like the perfect time to transition to Esther 3.
In Esther 3, we get a small glimpse into the culture war at the time. We get a great example of Mordecai who would not kneel before Haman the Agagite whom King Xerxes had made his second in command. After reading the notes in my study Bible regarding these verses, I learned that Haman was a descendent of the Amalekites who were ancient enemies of the Jews. Mordecai was not just refusing to bow down before Haman but before anyone who wanted to be in the place of God. Haman was not just angry that one man refused to bow down, but wanted to eliminate the Jews based on cultural differences that went way back.
Mordecai’s determination came from his faith in God. Doing what is right is not always popular. Those who do right will always be in the minority. Obeying God is more important than obeying man. In Acts 5:29, we see the example of Peter before the Sanhedrin. We must worship God alone and not the opinion of man. It is important to remember that silence can be interpreted as approval.
However, when it comes our time to take a stand, we must do it tactfully. We do not want to alienate someone who otherwise would have no contact with the church. We must LOVINGLY speak out for what is true and right. We cannot expect someone to listen to us if we are only tearing them down. We must come from the same place that God would. As cheesy as it sounds, we need to be Jesus with skin on.
The challenge this week is a simple one. Do not be afraid to speak. You have a voice for a reason. When the Lord is asking you to take a stand, do it. Do not back down from the fight. You might need to diffuse the situation a bit first. Ask God for the words. Ask Him to guide you in the battle, and He will.
I hope you all are enjoying this study. It is pushing me more than I thought it would. The Lord is using it in my life in a big way. I pray He is doing the same for you. Remember to use #prepareyourheart to share your journey.
Week four's readings are Ephesians 5:15-32 and Esther 4.
I’ll be praying for you.