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Out with the old, in with the new.  Here you can find archives of old devotions and writings!

Taking Care of Business

 

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. 1 Peter 4:12-13

 

Within the past year, myself, one of my best friends, and recently, my boyfriend experienced a very similar upset concerning our workplaces.  Although none of us worked for the same employers, all three cases involved occupations where we felt comfortable, we were doing our best, and we were doing a very good job.  Out of nowhere our employers dropped a bomb on us, expressing dissatisfaction with the way we’ve been doing our jobs and offering solutions of how we could do it better.  In all cases we sensed that the way we were doing our jobs was not the issue, and the “solutions” to the problems were not really solutions at all because the problems didn’t really exist, or weren’t serious enough to scrutinize the way they were.  In actuality, it seemed the employers had a hidden agenda, whether it was to rehire someone else they preferred or control a situation their way, even though it was already functioning well.

 

In my case, the problem lied with the fact I did not fit in there.  I was not a “company person” like my co-worker.  I didn’t laugh at my boss’s unfunny jokes or agree with all her opinions.  It hadn’t always been that way.  Before I had become serious about my Christian walk I was good for a gossip session with them and even contributed sometimes.  After that, my Christian values conflicted daily with the way her and my co-worker saw things.   

 

I won’t pretend I’m perfect and that I was doing everything right.  I agreed with some areas for improvement; however, I disagreed with the way she handled it, and saw past the excuse that she was “trying to help me”.  A valued employee is not insulted and made to feel “pushed out” of their place of employment like I was.  I got the impression she did not want to fix things, and I didn’t know what to do.

 

When bad things happen to good people, so to speak, where it’s hard to understand what’s happening and what happens makes such little sense and is so uncalled for, it’s a good indication that the Devil is at work.  But on the other side of the coin, God uses trials and difficulties to make us stronger.  He doesn’t allow harm to come our way unless He knows that it will refine us and make us better Christians.

 

For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11

 

It is hard to accept at the time it’s happening.  I have been there and it’s not unlike drowning in a sea of hopelessness, wondering how, and if you will ever get out.  I know what it’s like to lie awake late at night, to think you have cried all your tears only to be attacked by a sudden gush of them, like a dam breaking in a river at any given moment.

 

Like the Christian girl, who stands in line at Wal-Mart, freshly parted from her unbelieving fiancÚ.  She sees couples walking hand in hand, magazines stocked at the check out with pictures of Hollywood’s smiling faces.  She did the right thing in leaving him because she did not want to be unequally yoked, but it still hurts so much and she feels like she will be alone forever.

 

The couple who poured all their time and energy into gathering food and clothes for the poor, only to be shut down by their biggest suppliers with feeble excuses motivated by greed.

 

The parents who have just lost a young child to cancer:  They prayed to the point of exhaustion.  Their child had his ups where they rejoiced that he might be getting better.  Then God still took their child.

 

Insult, persecution, false accusations, and heartache: Not one of these things is foreign to God.  Jesus did everything right and was repaid with betraying friends, isolation and eventually the most excruciating death known.  Now the break down of a relationship or having your job threatened may not seem equivalent to what He experienced, and it isn’t.  But our hurts are very real to God and instead of turning bitter and turning our backs on Him (How could You let this happen to me?) He wants to give Him our burdens, our job, our relationship, our fears, our anxieties, no matter how big or small.  He wants us to put our trust in Him so that He can handle the big things that we would never be able to on our own.

 

Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall. Psalm 55:2

 

Often, when God closes a door He opens one up that holds much better things for us.  He provides us with opportunities we’d never dreamed of because we had become so complacent in the spot we were at.  We forget how big God is, and how He sees the whole picture.

 

“Yes, God does have another point of view, and there is wisdom behind His words.  Why did Jesus watch His disciples straining at the oars through the stormy night? Why did He, though unseen by others, watch the sequence of agonizing events unfold at Bethany as Lazarus slowly passed through the stages of his terminal illness, succumbed to death, and was finally buried in the rocky tomb? Jesus was simply waiting for the perfect moment when He could intercede most effectively.”[1]

 

And I can honestly say from experience that when God moves, you notice! The happy ending to my story and my friend’s is that we were both provided new opportunities that brought us more happiness and gratitude to God, opportunities we may not have noticed had we been wrapped up in our comfort zone.  As for my boyfriend, I wait excitedly to see what God has for him in the future.

 

As I have said before, Jesus NEVER promised us it would be easy.  In fact, He said in John 16:33:

 

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

 

Not may, not might, not probably, not likely, but you WILL have trouble.  So lets take the focus off ourselves and present circumstances because trouble is inevitable, and let’ s thank God in advance for what He’s going to do in our lives because trials are evidence of better things to come!

 



[1] Streams in the Desert

Perseverance

 

I walked swiftly down the moving walkway in the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport, unaware of the time and still a little flustered by the suspicious looks and trick questions Customs had thrown my way.  I was looking very much out of place with my ankle wrap platform shoes and dressy top towing a huge carry-on bag strapped to a wobbly wheel cart.  I was headed for my gate to get on a plane that would take me on a long awaited vacation to see the man I love, something I had looked forward to for the three months before that I booked it, daydreamed about during my classes and caused me to get only a couple hours of sleep the night before because of the excitement.

 

With my gate nowhere in site, and not even at my concourse yet, I heard the dreaded page for my name: “Two minutes, the door is closing!”  I started to run, the ties on my shoes coming undone and the wheel cart spinning out of control a few times, finally I had to heave it up and carry it.  I got to a hallway and the sign announced to me that it was the right concourse; however, my gate wasn’t listed!

 

Knowing I wouldn’t make it, I was ready to just give up and cry.  But with one last ounce of hope I prayed, and decided to just keep running.  As I rounded the corner, I could see my gate in the distance.  My right shoe was almost off my foot, and my top was practically turned sideways.  I ran with everything I had and made it to the gate, looking disheveled and sweaty.  As I made my way towards the lady taking the boarding passes I was so exhausted and my throat was so dry I thought I was going to pass out.  I extended my arm with the pass pinched between shaking fingers.  She took it, and informed me, “M’am, that bag is too big to carry on the plane.”  She took it from me, and at that point I didn’t care.  I was more than happy to take a three-hour flight with nothing to read rather than miss it all together.

 

Once on the plane, trying to salvage my dignity, I tied my shoes, straightened my hair and top and took a deep breath.  I thanked God.  I had made it.  I had pleaded my case with Him and when things looked bleak, I hadn’t given up.

 

This occurrence has been on my heart since it happened, and three weeks later I am finally sitting down to write about it.  How many times have your situations looked completely hopeless but you kept moving? How many times have you given up in the face of uncertainty?  Above all I have faced in my life, opposition from others and even my own self has been one of my biggest struggles.  In my late teens and early twenties I quickly learned to second-guess myself and immediately assume I was doing the wrong thing.

 

We may not always know what the right thing is for us, so doubt is common, especially when our circumstances look so hopeless.  However, God gave us the Holy Spirit who lets us know through conviction in our hearts that something is wrong.  God also puts desires in our hearts that we strive for and believe in, and no matter how often we seem to be let down, we know that we are supposed to keep going.

 

Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4

 

There are several Proverbs that speak unkindly about people who are quick to give counsel and advice without wisdom, and we are not supposed to listen to them, but to God.  The book of Job is a perfect example where everyone, including Job’s own wife was telling him what to do, and what they were telling him to do was wrong! Job’s friends suggested he must have sinned to bring all this on himself, and his wife told him to “Curse God and die.”

 

It is good to ask for and take advice from wise people who have our best interests in mind; however, some things are matters of the heart and must be discussed with God.  Remember, God has a still, small voice that can be quickly blocked out by everyone else’s opinions if that is what we’re listening to.  If we truly seek God’s way, we will listen for His voice and we will hear it, because He wants us to seek Him first. 

 

I’ve found pastors to be the guiltiest of spewing out advice without thought and prayer.  This can be harmful, especially because most people think pastors have all the right answers.  Don’t be fooled.  You answer to God.

 

How many times have you given up in the face of adversary? Sadly, I believe we miss out on many blessings simply because we feel we can’t stick it out.  Jesus never promised it would be easy; in fact, he assured us we would have trouble.

 

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. John 16:33

 

Most of the greatest blessings received in life are the ones people persevered for, and showed faith for, even in the darkest, most hopeless circumstances.  How disappointed they would be if they had listened to everyone’s advice, maybe even their own doubts?

 

Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD. Psalm 27:14

 

 

 

The Power of Praise

 

Yesterday I found myself strangely drawn to 2 Corinthians 12.  Inspired by what I read in that chapter, and my devotions this morning I would like to talk about two subjects: 1. How Jesus makes us stronger through our suffering, and 2. How important it is to praise God for all things (even our trials).

 

I think people tend to avoid devotions that deal with positive things like praising God because they would rather lament over their hardships and sufferings.  But praising God is essential to a fulfilling relationship with Jesus.  In 2 Corinthians Paul talks about his excitement of telling others about God and also his sufferings.

 

To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:7-10

 

Why are our sufferings and trials important and we shouldn’t attempt to “pray away”? Because God allows them for a reason, and the reason is to refine us and make us stronger in Him.

 

It makes it sound like Christians are suckers for punishment, and to the non-Christian may not sound like a very inviting way of life; however, when you look at almost every goal in life, it takes a lot of hard work.  Most career advances mean going the extra mile, even taking additional training to get where you want to go.  Losing weight or getting in shape means giving up the things you love to eat, and getting up to exercise when you feel like lying on the couch.  It takes a lot of commitment to get results, as the saying goes, no pain no gain.

 

As Christians, if we continued to live our content, complacent lives where everything we prayed for was handed to us how strong, and how effective for God would we be?

 

No amount of blessings will satisfy us until we decide to be thankful for what we have.  Why? We will always be wanting more.  If you think your happiness depends on your success in a career, or how many possessions you have, take a look at the pastors and missionaries in Communist countries who’s next meal depends on the support coming in, and who spend their life in and out of jail simply for telling others about Jesus.  They have nothing, yet they still keep going and praising God for the privilege of knowing Him! God’s grace is certainly sufficient for them.

 

That brings me to the next point: the importance of praising God.  In my morning devotion I read “Our praise will bring forth “water…in the wilderness and streams in the desert” (Isa. 35:6), while complaining will only bring judgment.  Even prayer itself may fail to reach the fountain of blessing.

 

Nothing pleases the Lord as much as praise.  There is no greater evidence of faith than the virtue of genuine thanksgiving…Are you boldly praising Him even for the trials in your life, which are actually blessings in disguise? And have you learned to praise Him in advance for answers yet to come?[1]

 

Today, instead of my usual morning prayer that consists mostly of requests and maybe thanks for a few things in my life, I dedicated it to thanking Him only.  I wrote a list on paper of the things I am thankful for and came up with a page and a half.  It would have been more if I had wrote each thing individually (some I categorized, such as “Good health”.  This includes no sickness; injury, deformation, good mental health [most days!] and the list could go on and on).

 

Are you consumed with the fact you have never been married and God hasn’t brought anyone into your life? Thank Him that you aren’t married to the wrong person, in an abusive relationship, or in a messy divorce.  God’s timing is perfect and He knows what is best for you.  I know it’s not easy.  I have struggled with this one a lot and have to keep reminding myself to just trust Him and allow Him to work!

 

Whatever the trial you are going through, your Heavenly Father is by your side and allowing it for a reason.  You have two choices: grow bitter and turn your back on Him or accept His will and allow Him to strengthen you through it.

 

And if you think there is nothing in your life you can thank Him for, remember that He loves you, He chose you, and no matter what you have done, He hasn’t given up on you.

 

Think of it in this perspective:  If your spouse only talked about what they wanted you to do for them, and never appreciated anything you had done, how much would this wear on you and take away from your relationship and how motivated would you be to keep giving.  On the other hand, if they thanked you for every little thing and never expected anything else from you, how much more would you desire to do nice things and shower them with gifts?

 

 

 

 

 



[1] Selected from Streams in the Desert page 209

Doubt

 

Doubt is the biggest thief of our trust in God.  When we are longing and praying for something we truly believe is God’s will for us, and nothing, or something out of the ordinary happens we forget what we had faith in and allow the doubt into our minds.  It can and will open up a floodgate of worry, anxiety, sadness, stress, and even loss of appetite.  I know from experience how quickly doubt takes effect and how much damage it causes.

 

Doubt’s job is to crush our hopes especially if we are trusting God to give us something.  Most of you have or had a family member, friend or coworker who, whenever you express an opinion, idea, or desire they pounce on it, undermine you, and discourage you.  What is the result of this? Either you believe them and crawl into a hole, giving up your ideas and dreams, or you get so frustrated you say: “Get off my back!” and steer clear of them from then on.  Even though doubt is not a physical being, and is often generated from inside our own selves, it needs to be dealt with in the same way: cut off from having any more say in your life.

 

The only one we answer to is God.  And God does not cause us to doubt.  When there is something wrong in our lives the Holy Spirit makes it clear to us through conviction, so that whether or not we listen to His conviction we still know deep down that it’s there, and we can do with it as we will do with it, as we will.

 

I wonder how many people have turned away blessings because doubt has stirred up so much unrest in them that no matter how much they would like to make a move they are paralyzed by doubt and essentially, fear.  They are convinced they cannot accomplish something because either they or someone else has told them they can’t.

 

God is not the god of confusion.  If we doubt anything and everything in our life we have to ask ourselves why? And are we more comfortable watching life pass us by instead of reaching out and taking hold of God’s promises?

 

Maybe you have trouble trusting God because you may want something and you’re not sure if it’s His will to give it to you.  You ask yourself what is the point of trusting Him to give you something when He’s not going to do it?

 

[1]While God’s will for each of our individual lives is not written in black and white, there are a few questions we can ask:

 

  1. Make sure what you are asking for is not something the Bible forbids; and
  2. Make sure what you are asking for will glorify God and help you grow spiritually. 

 

If these two things are true and God still is not giving you what you are asking then either it is likely not God’s will for you to have what you are asking for or you just need to wait a while longer for it. Knowing God’s will is sometimes difficult.  People want God to basically tell them what to do: where to work, where to live, who to marry, etc.

 

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is His good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2

 

God rarely gives people that direct of information. God allows us to make choices regarding those things. The only decision God does not want us to make is the decision to sin or resist His will. God wants us to make choices that are in agreement with His will. So, how do you know what God’s will is for you? If you are walking closely with the Lord and truly desiring His will for your life – God will place His desires on your heart. The key is to want God’s will, not your own. “Delight yourself in the LORD and He will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4).

 

Examine your motives.  If you want God to bless you with a good job so you’ll have a lot of money to buy the things you want, He probably won’t give it to you because your motives aren’t pure.  Rather, they are purely selfish.  If you want Him to find you a husband because you’re lonely then perhaps it is not marriage that is His will right now, but to repair you as a person and make you solely dependant on Him so that you won’t be lonely and putting all your dependence on a husband!

 

Listen to what God is telling you deep inside.  If He’s not convicting you to let go of the thing(s) you want then you can be confident to believe.  And closed doors do not always mean a no answer from God.  If they meet the above criteria then sometimes they are put there to strengthen you as you persevere.  Keep your eyes open and keep praying to Him for direction.  He doesn’t want us to stumble blindly around trying to find our way…He wants to help us.  All we have to do is ask and be quiet, still, and attentive for the answer.



[1] Paraphrased from http://www.gotquestions.org/know-God-will.html

Negative Feedback

 

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone the new has come! 2 Corinthians 5:17

 

I spend a lot of time on eBay, both buying and selling.  At the end of the transaction, buyers and sellers have the opportunity to post feedback to tell other members what they liked/disliked.

 

Occasionally there are bad transactions, and members leave negative feedback for each other.  This can affect that member’s ability to buy and sell.  The feedback usually cannot be retracted and instantly lowers your score.

 

Jesus doesn’t work that way.  He doesn’t keep a long list of our offences.  When we ask forgiveness for the things we’ve done, He remembers our sins no more.  He doesn’t forget what we’ve done because He’s God, he cannot forget.  Rather, remembering no more means that He won’t use our sins against us.  Our feedback form is wiped out.

 

I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake and remembers your sins no more.

Isaiah 43:25

 

Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work the same with us.  When someone offends against us we tend to hold onto it and let it eat away at us.  Our ‘negative feedback’ of others can sometimes affect the way another person feels, too, so be careful what you say! I have been guilty of this in the past.  There is no better way to remind you to keep your mouth shut then when your gossip comes back to bite you! God commands us to forgive trespasses just as He has forgiven us our trespasses.  It is easy to disguise gossip with “showing concern” or “sharing prayer requests”.  But if you share with anyone else but the offending party, it’s gossip. If someone has hurt us, let God deal with it, just as long as we have forgiven him or her first.

 

It is mine to avenge; I will repay.  In due time their foot will slip; their day of disaster is near and their doom rushes upon them." Deuteronomy 32:35 

 

What a blessing that God does not hold grudges, and we are not forced to ‘raise our score’ by making up for our sin with good works!

 

 

 

 

The Big Picture

 

For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11

 

I was preparing to take my cat to the vet for minor surgery.  They had instructed me to take my cat’s food away the previous evening so that he would go into surgery the next morning with an empty stomach.  Needless to say, he did not like this and could not understand why his dish was missing last night.  He stood by the fridge where the dish used to be, meowing and looking at me, wondering why I was doing this to him?  Later that night, I caught him pawing under the fridge for a stray piece of food that fell out of his dish and got wedged under there before.

 

The next morning, when I picked him up and carried him out to the car, he immediately knew something was wrong.  I never brought him outside, or for car rides.  He became frantic when I plopped him down on the seat beside me and began scurrying around the car, looking out the windows and trying to get out.  As we drove, he cried in the shrillest voice that even with my music cranked up I could still hear his piercing cry.

 

Finally, at the vet, they took my information and locked him into a cold, metal cage.  He didn’t cry, he just looked around in confusion and perhaps accepted what was happening.

 

How often are we like this with God when He tries to change things in our life? How often do we neglect to see the big picture because we are upset over things being taken away from us, and afraid of the changes? We, too, do not understand, and try to take our problems into our own hands, fighting and scrambling for that one, old, stale piece of food while God is planning a banquet for us.

 

God repeatedly tells us to trust Him and have faith in Him especially during the difficult times in our life.

 

Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!

Matthew 7:9 –11

 

In the same way I knew what was best for my little cat, and knew I had to put him through some discomfort in order to achieve for him what was best, God knows what’s best for us and knows exactly how to bring it about.  It’s up to us to either be still and know that He is God, and allow Him to change us through difficult situations, or to try to fight Him all the way.  That is where trust comes in.

 

Some people insist they know what’s best for them and live their lives falling short of God’s plan for them.  Some don’t understand why God is putting them through trials and become angry and bitter towards Him and deliberately disobey Him because they think He has forgotten them, or doesn’t care. Others accept the difficulties God puts in their way because they know that God only takes away to give back more in return.  That may or may not happen in this lifetime.  Missionaries in countries where it is illegal to preach the gospel have really no hope of rewards in this lifetime other than to see others come to know Jesus.  For them, the rewards will be heavenly.

 

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. John 16:33

 

Jesus never promised it would be easy.  But because He has overcome the world, we would be foolish to walk away from the One who has the power to deliver us from these difficult times.  It took me a while to grasp this.  I too would become anxious and weak when difficult times would come.  I have become angry with God because He hasn’t given me something that I had so fervently prayed for (as if He owed me something).  I have become frustrated because I do my best and follow His commands and believe and still experience the same, monotonous suffering.

 

What changed? My heart changed.  I realized that God is in control and hasn’t forgotten about me, that He has a plan for me and if He hasn’t answered my prayers, it either isn’t time, or He has something else in store for me, something I cannot comprehend.  Knowing this brings me peace.  Although difficult situations, bad feelings and memories threaten to steal my peace, I have to keep coming back to the common ground that God is working and any fear, anxiety, or my own puny, human problem solving will only interfere with and slow down the process of His plan!

 

 

Time and Talents

 

“Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. 15To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. 16The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more. 17So also, the one with the two talents gained two more. 18But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master's money.

 

Lately, I’ve been convicted with how I spend my time, and more recently, how I waste my “talents”.  I wake up in the morning with good intentions to spend lots of time with God, and as little things get in the way I find I’m pushing Him further and further to the bottom of the list, justifying it by thinking that I’ll have lots of time, later.

 

But when later comes I always seem to fill it with some other meaningless tasks.

 

If you had a close friend you were always there for, and when you wanted to spend time with them they always seemed to put you off, or spend minimal time with you, wouldn’t you doubt their devotion to you? In the same way, God is the Creator of the universe, the All Mighty God, our Savior, Comforter and also, our friend.  He gave us His word, His blessings, and access to Him whenever we want, through prayer! How many so-called important people on the earth would give us that kind of time?

 

If the Prime Minister of Canada or the President of the United States called you because he wanted to have lunch with you, and talk about things that were on your mind, would you decline because there was a show you wanted to watch on TV? God is immeasurably more important than a mere man and yet we continue to push Him to last place, except when we ourselves are in despair and need Him.

 

But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. Matthew 6:6

 

There are several passages in the Bible, which emphasize spending time alone with God.  Even Jesus often withdrew from the crowds that followed Him so He could spend time praying to His father.  Why is it so important? Because anything that comes between us and spending time with Jesus actually takes away from our relationship with Him.

 

Not to say we must all give up our jobs, family and friends in order to grow and not lose ground with Jesus.  He gives us these relationships and they are important, too.  However, anything that causes us to compromise our morals and essentially move further away from God, whether it is a television show we like, friendships, and yes, even relationships with family members, is not in His will for us! At the same time we are supposed to spend time connecting with God we are also called to make the most of every opportunity to share our faith (which I’ll get to shortly) and not to conform to anything of the world.

Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the lake, and a large crowd from Galilee followed. Mark 3:7

I have heard many Christians complain about not knowing God’s will for them, and complain that God is ‘evasive’ about what He wants for them.  What I don’t know is how much time exactly that they are spending with Him, trying to get to know Him and what He wants? It would be like hiring a contractor to renovate your house, and every time you tried to explain what you wanted he would take a call on his cell phone, cut you off in mid-sentence saying, ‘Yeah, yeah, I know, I know’, tell you he didn’t have time to talk and would get to you later…you would walk away and that contractor would be standing there with his hands in his pockets looking around wondering what to do! Or worse, because he wasn’t listening to your voice, he would go ahead and do what he wanted to do, which may not be what you wanted at all!

The same is with God: no matter what we are busying ourselves with we are tuning Him out and unable to hear his voice.  We think we know what He wants when really it’s what we want, and we end up making a mess.  Or we keep interrupting him with our daily tasks and then wonder where He is when it’s quiet again? Even Christian ministry can get in the way of hearing His still, small voice if we’re not frequently setting aside quality time just with Him.

Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you 1 Thessalonians 4:11

I’ve heard many people my age complain that they don’t have enough time to spend with God.  The only solution is to make time.  Sometimes God even makes it for you (but don’t wait for Him to do that!).  I find if I go days without a good, solid prayer time, I end up waking up in the middle of the night and being unable to sleep for hours, so I use that time to pray for everyone God brings to mind.  Even if you have a busy schedule, start with just reading a devotion in the morning and evening.  I started with Our Daily Bread and soon bought a couple of good devotionals.  Pray when you’re in the shower, washing dishes, biking, running…play praise and worship in your car when you’re driving, or just have it on in your house when you’re home.  READ THE BIBLE! Christian books are great (and sometimes more fun and easy to read) but the Bible is God’s word, and part of getting to know Him besides through prayer is to read from this incredible gift He gave us!

Last night one of my devotional books was about the parable of the talents.  I didn’t think much of it until I cracked open my Bible and the same parable was on that page! After I was done reading, I lay in bed wondering how this applies to me and what God was trying to tell me through this.  There were things from the past that came to mind where I had opportunities to talk about God with people, or, at least show my faith and I had passed them up.

God loves me and chose me, and He also chose to bless me with certain talents.  To hide Him from others is burying the talents.

“After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. 20The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.’ “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!’ “The man with the two talents also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two talents; see, I have gained two more.’ “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!’ “Then the man who had received the one talent came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’ “His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? 27Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.

One of the things I was convicted with was, one day myself and some other students from my school went out for lunch.  I had the perfect opportunity to show my faith by saying grace; still, I prayed a quick, subtle prayer that I don’t think anyone noticed.

I was filled with so much shame afterward.  It would have been better to not pray, I think.  It says in Revelation that God will spew the ‘lukewarm’ out of his mouth!

‘Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. 29For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. 30And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

The next day I went for lunch with a girl who isn’t a Christian.  Just before we ate I told her I wanted to say grace.  She didn’t seem surprised (which is a good thing) and looked totally okay with it.  This is one of the easiest ways of not showing others we are Christians, but showing we aren’t ashamed of our faith! We will never know if we ignore our convictions and do nothing, and we are only selling ourselves short and possibly cheating others out of salvation by assuming that they don’t want to hear about it, or that it makes them uncomfortable.  There are so many opportunities to make our faith known without going out and beating someone over the head with a Bible, the simplest being showing kindness and not judging others.

Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Colossians 4:5

One of the many wonderful things about God is that no matter how many times we have messed up, no matter how many opportunities we’ve wasted He is always willing to start fresh with us if we’re willing! Hold your head up high when you walk into Church, because the Creator of the universe gave you that opportunity.  Treat reading the Bible and praying to the All Mighty as a privilege and devour as much of the Word and your prayer time as possible.  Take time to be silent, and listen for His still small voice.  People’s advice and opinions and your roller coaster feelings can often get in the way of God’s direction for you.  God doesn’t want to sit us down and shout His will at us; He wants us to listen for it if we really want it.  He created us with free will, and that includes following Him and listening for and obeying His will.  God bless you in your journey of getting to know Him; it will be time well spent!

 

 

In All Things

 

Cast your cares on the Lord, and He will sustain you. Psalm 55:22 

 

Sometimes in my relationship with God, it feels like I’m treading water.  I work at it, doing the things I should, reading His word, going to Church, attending bible study, and praying.  But then I let things like worry drag me down.  I get tired and all my cares, concerns and worries threaten to drown me.  All of God’s promises I read about don’t help me unless I chose to believe them.

 

When I dwell on my burdens, I block the way for God to work in my life and help me grow stronger.  He doesn’t want us to just get by.  He wants us to walk confidently beside Him, and if we stumble, He wants us to call to Him first for help.

 

These things I have known for a long time, but have yet to consistently practice them.  In the span of a few months my world has totally turned around, including leaving a job and starting training for a new career.  Although I feel I am on the right path, I still felt weighed down with uncertainty about whether I would find the money to pay for my training, and how well I would do.  I got overwhelmed looking at the course materials! Part of me wanted to give up and the other part wondered where was God when I was feeling so bad? He brought me this far, so why do I feel so afraid?

 

God hadn’t gone anywhere.  I had simply become preoccupied with what was in front of me (and what was potentially in front of me) and lost sight of Him.  Someone very close said to me, referring to troubles in life, “If you were hit with twenty different waves, what would your anchor be?” I instinctively said, “God.”  And he said, “Would you? Because you’re only being hit with a few, now.”

 

Knowing it and practicing it are two different things.  I know in the past when I have had troubles, I will eventually run to God.  That is, after I have cried, fretted, worried, and talked with others.  So essentially there was truth to my answer, I knew if twenty troubles fell on me at once I would turn to God, because I wouldn’t have anything else.  But when I would turn to God was the real question.  When I realized I had nothing else and had tried everything else to fix it? God doesn’t want to be a last resort.  The prophets in the Old Testament believe that God should be a part of everything in your life.  When you are inclined to try to “fix it on your own”, its very difficult, when faced with troubles to drop to your knees and ask God to help you first.

 

I began to think of people I had met in the past; people that were obviously blessed and still could find things to complain about.  Then there were others I’ve met with almost nothing, who continue to thank God for what they have.  When I think about those who did not acknowledge the things God had already done for them, and kept feeling deserving of more, I felt turned off and disgusted and also rudely awakened that I too tend to act like these people.  What is the secret of those who have joy, even in the middle of troubles?

 

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. Philippians 4:11

 

There are many things that I know have to change in my life, many things I look forward to seeing God do:

 

Being content, whatever the circumstances means no longer having to face disappointment, because I will no longer decide what I deserve.

No longer worrying, because God is in control.  As it says in Romans 8:28

 

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.”  We can be confident in Christ knowing and believing that.

 

So how do we find this confidence? How do we let go of our worries and concerns and forget about our every day life?

 

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Matthew 6:33

 

It seems like a simple solution but people complicate it.  They whine, “I don’t know what that means.”  I think if you were to sit down and really think about it, you could find many ways in which you can seek God first.  Giving your money to missions, rather than spending it on something you don’t need.  Helping a homeless man on the street instead of walking on by because you don’t have time.  Simply, you sacrifice the selfish things you want, for what you know God wants.  And all these things will be given to you as well.

For those who are sitting there reading this, thinking it sounds too hard, I’ll remind you that you (and I) have tried it the other way, and look at how well it’s worked out.  We’ve been self seeking, self-centered people and all we wind up with in the end is dissatisfaction and disappointment.

 

Be content in all circumstances.  In all things, give thanks.  Only then will all these things be given to you.

 

 

 

 

Knowing God’s Will

 

The troubles of my heart have multiplied; free me from my anguish. Psalm 25:17

 

I don’t claim to be an expert in this area of God’s will by any means, however the last little while I have been struggling with this, and it is on my heart to share what insight I have learned about this topic.

 

My particular struggle deals with where I am going in life.  Many say to just sit back, trust God and enjoy the ride.  But when the ride contains bumps of uncertainty and doubt, it makes me wonder if I am really on the right road?

 

My parents are an interesting pair: my fathers a realist, highly logical, and also very Godly.  My mother, also Godly is highly spiritual.  So talking to them about my problem brings up two entirely different solutions.  My father would tell me that if what I’m doing is not working, then try something else.  My mother would tell me to put whatever I’m struggling with to the test, or lay out a fleece (see Judges Chapter 6) as she always puts it.  The confusion lies in the fact that I inherited both traits from them.  On one hand I am logical and like to think things through.  I like to see results and when I don’t I question whether my prayers are aligned with God’s will.  On the other hand, I am spiritual.  Although I am an impatient person, I also believe that not all answers to prayers are instant, and in fact, God often delays His answer to build our faith.  Do you see the conflict?

 

A few nights ago I was discussing this problem with someone very special to me.  He told me things that deep down I knew, but just needed confirmation from someone else.  I have been afraid to ask for other’s insight, because each time I do I hear a variety of opinions based on what that person feels, not necessarily what God wants. 

 

He encouraged me not to run to anyone else, but to the Bible for answers.  He explained that my conflict might not be where I am going in life and whether or not I’m doing the right thing, but that those things are getting in the way of an intimate relationship with Christ.  And he said it sounds like God wants that relationship so much, He wants to remove anything that is getting in the way.

None of us like to fail, and if plan A isn’t working out we immediately want to move to plan B.  But God has a special plan for our lives, and if we are willing He will move us towards it.  Some believe that no matter what, God’s will be done.  However, what if you turn against that completely? What if you chose to do it your own way? Not to say that in time when you realize your own way was a mistake and you come back to Him for guidance, He won’t help you.  The best illustration about this I have heard was in a daily devotion I have emailed to me.  The writer compared it to traveling with a GPS.  If you go off course, the GPS will not tell you you’re hopeless and lost, and you should have taken instructions properly in the beginning, rather it will redirect and point you in the direction you are supposed to be going (paraphrased).

 

My soul is in anguish. How long, O LORD, how long? Psalm 6:3

 

The first, easy step to knowing God’s will is to make sure what you are wanting aligns with what God wants.  How do you know? You check it in His word.  Using marriage for an example, how do you know if you are supposed to get married? Is it Biblical? Absolutely.  BUT does the person you feel you should marry also align with scripture? Is the person a believer? (2 Corinthians 6:14) and if so, do they build you up spiritually or tear you down? Do they encourage you to compromise your morals? And although they may say they are a believer, do they have morals of their own? What are your motives? Are you lonely and/or getting older, or do you really love the person and want to share your life with them?

 

I know a few women who have possibly cheated themselves out of good marriages simply because they were in a rush, and settled for someone who came along, even though he wasn’t a Christian.  God was taking too long, so they got fed up and did it their self.  

 

Sometimes what you’re struggling with isn’t in black and white.  Say you’re applying for a job or wanting to start a new career.  Will this job/career take you away from your family? Will you have to work Sundays and will not be able to go to Church? What are your motives? If it’s simply to make a lot of money, or for prestige and self-promotion, etc. chances are your heart isn’t in the right place. 

 

Why do you think this is the right thing for you? For me it has always started as a strong feeling, and although feelings can be deceiving, the strong feeling stays consistent.  Again its a question of does it align with Gods will? Will it glorify Him? Will it build your relationship with Him, not break it down.

 

I take comfort in the fact that God has always been faithful in showing me what the wrong thing is for me. And it’s not just a tingling feeling of doubt.  It is anxiety so powerful that it makes me physically sick.  I’ve been in situations where, on the surface they seem like the right thing and I’m convinced in my heart they are.  That’s why I could never understand why I felt so wrong, so sick.  In some cases it took years after I got out of that situation, that I realized how crucial it was for God to pull me out.  Something that appears right on the surface, but deep down is so ugly and wrong is very dangerous, and I don’t believe God would allow His children to stumble blindly into anything like that, without warning them or even (as He did for me) rescuing them.

 

Or sometimes God’s rescue mission includes a chain of events so bizarre and so dramatic that you have no choice but to believe that He is moving and He is taking you out. Sometimes He will allow that to happen, and then sit back and let you make the decision.  We can chose to ignore it, and keep moving the way we want to despite the sign He gave us, or we can listen to Him and walk away.

 

Now back to searching God’s word for the answers.  I don’t believe I have ever wholeheartedly tried.  Maybe that’s why He hasn’t spoken to me, until this morning.  I woke up with a heavy heart and opened my Bible.  I started in John; because I had heard a few recommend that book.  Convinced I would have to read half the Bible before the answer jumped out at me, I was pleasantly surprised when within the first chapter of John it jumped out at me.

 

   47When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false.

   48How do you know me? Nathanael asked.

   Jesus answered, I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.

   49Then Nathanael declared, Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.

   50Jesus said, You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You shall see greater things than that. 51He then added, I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.

John 1:47-51

Throughout the Gospels, Jesus is pleasantly surprised when someone simply takes Him at His word, and believes.  Because Nathaneal believe Jesus was God, simply because Jesus said He knew who Nathaneal was, Jesus promised to show us even greater things.

I sensed God showing me that if I would give up my own will and my own plans and solutions for my life, and just believe in His promise; He will take care of the rest.

For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11

So if the solution is to give it to God and just believe, that sounds good to me.  Worrying never accomplished anything good, and plans can always fall through. 

I know this will be an ongoing issue for me, until I believe God with my whole heart and trust that He knows what Hes doing.  At least this is the first step, realizing I will not see good results if I keep trying to do it on my own.

Not all of us will move mountains with our faith after a simple revelation.  In fact, we are asked to first believe in the small things and the bigger things will follow.  It wont happen over night, just one day at a time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taming the Tongue

 

Part I- Gossip

 

Proverbs 16:28

A perverse man stirs up dissension, and a gossip separates close friends.

 

Often, even in Christian circles gossip is often overlooked or downplayed.  Gossip is disguised as showing concern for the person who is being gossiped about, or constructive criticism.  Sometimes gossip may also be candy coated as [my favorite] an attempt to have others pray for the person who is living in sin, by sharing what is going on in that person’s life (as you see it).  The missing common denominator is that the person you are allegedly concerned about and trying to help through constructive criticism is not present to hear your concern and suggestions.

 

Gossip wears many masks:

 

Mask#1: Concern.  “Her boyfriend’s car was parked at her house all night last night.  I’m worried about her.  What do you think about that?”

 

Mask #2: Constructive Criticism.  “That outfit makes her look fat.  Someone should talk to her about that.”

 

Mask #3: Spiritual Concern. “I think she has been drinking again because I heard she was in the bar with friends.  We should pray for her.”

 

Each of these cases has a few things in common.  Although they appear as an attempt to help, they cannot possibly benefit the person because the person is not there. And they all contain sketchy details and opinions.  “Her boyfriend’s car was parked there all night.”  Maybe it was because it didn’t start and he had to catch a cab home.  Or, even if he did spend the night, what right is it of anyone else to discuss it behind that person’s back?  If they were really concerned about that person’s moral wellbeing they would speak directly to that person.  They may even find they were mistaken, and it would stop the wildfire before it started! And before one is quick to point the finger they better make sure they have a leg to stand on.  How embarrassing it is to accuse someone of appearing to live immorally when you yourself have not practiced what you preached, and they know that!

 

“That outfit makes her look fat.” Is discussing this really going to change how she looks, and why do you want to change how she looks? So she’ll fit in better? So she’ll feel better about herself? Usually this kind of gossip is used to draw attention away from your own faults and insecurities, and point out others to make you feel better about yourself.

 

Wouldn’t it be nice to have people take you at your word? So often when a story is being told I’ve heard the response, “Consider the source”.  In other words, the person who originally told the story is notorious for stretching the truth.  Instead, what if once you said something, people would believe it because you were trusted for speaking the truth?

 

I’ve heard Christian friends (and I myself have been guilty of this) justify talking about others as “venting”.  We must be careful our “venting” isn’t an attempt to make ourselves look better by tearing others down. 

 

The hardest lesson in realizing the damage gossip causes is when you yourself are the target of gossip, and when the story gets back to you, whether it’s close to the truth or couldn’t be further, the pain and feeling of betrayal is unbelievable.  So why would you want to do the same to someone else? Or, have you ever passed on a story only to find out it was not true? Usually, the people we have gossiped about will not be confront us.  If they do, what will we answer when we’re asked, “Where did you get your facts from?” and, “What gave you the right to say that?”

 

In junior high, a Christian girl who to this day I continue to stay in contact with and am close to had a method to avoid being drawn into badmouthing others.  When the girls would get together and start tongue lashing someone else, or even strike up a conversation in an attempt to get a good gossip session going, she would respond, “I’m not saying anything.”  It is no fun to cut others down to someone who won’t participate.

 

A good rule to follow to determine whether what you’re about to say is gossip or not is this:

 

  1. Do I have all the facts?
  2. How will sharing this with someone affect both the person it’s about, and the person I am sharing it with?

 

If you would be comfortable saying something with the person who is the topic of that conversation present, then chances are you are not gossiping. 

 

Much of what I have discussed here is common sense.  Like any sin, we think just a little is harmless; however, several passages in Proverbs alone deal with the dangers of gossip, and describe someone who gossips as follows: “betrays a confidence” (11:13), “gossip separates close friends” (16:28), “avoid a man who talks too much” (20:19), “without gossip a quarrel dies down” (26:20), “The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to a man's inmost parts.” (26:22).

 

Christians are supposed to be the light of the world.  And although we don’t all go out evangelizing, there are things we can do to let our light shine.  Speaking the truth is one of those things, and if we can’t take a stand against something that to the world appears small, we won’t be able to take a stand against the larger things.  And if we can take a stand for the bigger things and not the small, we will have no credibility. 

 

James 3:8 

but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

 

 

What I Want To Do

 

We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 

Romans 7:14-15

 

Living the life of a Christian is an ongoing battle.  Not only are we faced with the temptations of the world and essentially, the Devil but also we are forced to fight against our own evil desires.

 

Once I had decided to stop living for myself and start living for God I was under the misconception that it would be easy from here on in.  But no sooner did I get on the right track I noticed even more obstacles in my way, trying to keep me from growing in my relationship with God.  I would love to say the Devil singled me out because I suddenly became a threat to him and his cause, and this is partly true. He wants everyone to fall regardless of how close they are with God, and I will elaborate on that in the next paragraph.  But many of the struggles I faced were my doing: allowing my evil thoughts and desires to consume me.

 

If someone at work was making your life miserable, and you decided that in turn, you were going to destroy their life, it wouldn’t take very long to find out their weaknesses and know how to expose the weaknesses and use them against that person.  The same is with the Devil.  He has been watching us since the beginning of time, studying us and trying to figure out how to make us fall.  Once he finds a weakness (which for most of us wouldn’t take too long) he will attack with the most sly and unpredictable attacks that most of the time we don’t even know what hit us.

 

But what about the times when we can foresee trouble, and don’t do anything about it? In fact, there are times when we may actually welcome it, dabble in it, and play with fire.  We think we are so strong, and because deep down inside we have those desires, we rationalize that we can step as close to the line as possible and not actually sin.

 

The Devil loves those opportunities, because he can sit back and watch the show.  At times I envisioned the Devil telling his demons, “Don’t waste your time on her, boys.  She’ll make a mess of her life all on her own.  Focus on someone who’s really trying.”

 

We would be foolish to think just because we haven’t actually sinned, we haven’t done anything wrong.  When someone sins, it rarely comes out of nowhere.  It is usually the result of one succumbing to thoughts and temptations after a period of time.  It is always small steps towards the big fall, rather than simply stepping off a cliff.

 

There is no easy way to keep from sinning and staying on the right track towards and intimate relationship with Jesus; however, there are preventative measures we can take. 

 

  1. Think long and hard about what provokes you to sin, emotionally.  If you find yourself craving attention from other men and therefore, you dress to attract attention and even stoop to flirting with married men, find out why.  Is your partner attentive and does he make you feel loved and wanted? If not, have you, like many women simply remained silent about your need to feel wanted and loved, and secretly compared your partner to others who you think may be able to give you everything you want? Instead of looking for solutions that are beside the point, focus on the problem at hand.  If you avoid it, rest assured you with face it again and again in future until you resolve it.
  2. Physically, what does it take to move you towards the danger zone of sin? Using the example above, let’s say you are feeling unwanted by your partner for one reason or the other, or are even a single person who’s lonely and craves attention.  Once your emotions set in, what causes you to take that first step? Maybe it is a suggestive conversation with a man, that starts off as joking but moves towards being serious? Or maybe it’s confiding in another man about your boyfriend or husband, and he tries to convince you that you do deserve better.  Remember, sin often appears innocent at first.  You would not be the first woman who decided to go for a coffee with a guy who wasn’t your partner, “just to talk” and ended up in bondage to an emotional (or more) affair with the person who is “such a good listener” and makes you feel like you’re worth something.  If you need someone to talk to and a shoulder to cry on, your safest and healthiest bet is a female friend or pastor.  OR maybe it works the other way.  Maybe a man approaches you and says he’s having problems with his wife, and needs you to talk to and (my favorite) pray for him! Women are nurturers, and when the poor wounded puppy limps onto our doorsteps, we have a very hard time turning them away.  In fact, we want to do everything we can to help.
  3. Pinpoint the danger signs.  Look back in your life and find out what warnings consistently popped up.  For me it is:
    1. A man showing extra special attention to me; and
    2. A man wanting me to help “bring him back to God”

      I have a fairly good self-esteem and a great relationship with my father, so I am not sure exactly why I feel such a hunger to be needed and wanted.  In any case, the problem is there, but it doesn’t mean that I’m destined to be imprisoned by it the rest of my life.  Like an illness, you find ways to live with it.

  1. Avoid.  Running from your troubles may seem like a cowardly thing to do, but when your “troubles” really have no resolution present, and their only purpose is to consume you and pull you into a web of sin and darkness, do what Joseph did in Genesis 39:12 and run!
  2. Finally, the most important way to keep from sinning, and even entertaining the possibility of sin is to stay close to Jesus.  The instant your mind starts to wander, and you start to think about so-and-so in a way that is not pleasing to God, pray about it.  God loves to hear our prayers, and He loves to help us.  When we are afraid of doing wrong we are supposed to run to Him, like a parent and ask Him for help, no matter how big or small it is.  Many have said absorbing yourself in praise and worship music helps.  It’s a mindless task where you can be enveloped by God’s spirit as the music fills the room, and no evil can get near that.  Reading is good too, although for me I find my mind is still susceptible to wandering.

 

We will never be perfect, and God doesn’t expect us to.  Even the Apostle Paul said in Romans 7:24 “Oh wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from the body of death?”  The answer? Not us, with our limited human resources and self-help books, but as Paul continued, “Thanks be to God, through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

 

 

 

Finding "The One"

 

Many of us singles (with the exception of a few that enjoy being single and are in no rush to get married--ironically, those are usually the ones that settle down first!) have been or are searching for a marriage partner.  Some of us may be involved with someone we think we should marry; however for one reason or another it's not happening.  So how do we find, or know that someone is the right one for us? 

 

Contrary to what some believe, I don't believe there is just one person out there for us, and if we marry someone else we are missing out on our soul mate.  I knew a man whose high school sweetheart became a missionary, so they didn't get married.  Later he married a lady, had a family and several years together.  Then she got cancer and passed away.  Not long after, his high school sweetheart, never married, came back into the picture and they got married! So is anyone to say that the first wife was the wrong one for him? Not at all.  Or that Jeremy Camp (Christian rock singer) shouldn't have married his first wife because she passed away not long after they married? No one can say that, and no one could judge who was more right for these men.

 

So back to the original question: how do we know who is the one?

 

Some know from the day they met someone that they are going to marry them.  Most take a little longer.  Some take a lot longer! If you are dating someone that you KNOW you aren't going to marry, and are holding on because you don't have anyone else, or that you're hoping something will change you should stop wasting his/her time and yours and end the relationship.  If God is putting on your heart that this person is not the right one, especially if it involves moral conflicts, or that this person is drawing you away from God, there is really no room for debate.

 

It is possible to just not be ready to get married yet.  You may be holding out until you see fireworks or are overwhelmed with excitement at the thought of spending the rest of your life with this person.  This too can be deceiving.  Think back to someone you dated who you thought you were going to marry, and how you felt.  When it turned out to be the wrong person, you may have wondered, why did I feel so sure and so excited? Those feelings can be very deceiving and you can have them about anyone.  Not to say you aren't supposed to be excited about marrying someone.  But that shouldn't be the deciding factor.  Some of the deciding factors should be:

 

1. Why should I get married? Marriage is scriptural, invented and encouraged by God because "It is not good for man to be alone.  I will make a helper suitable for him." (Gen. 2:18) Marriage was designed not only so we could populate the earth, but also to fulfill our sexual needs.  Although Paul chose not to get married, even he endorsed marriage for that reason "For it is better to marry than burn with passion." (1 Cor. 7:9) Also, marriage gives us a greater picture of God's love for us.  The man is designated the head of the home and represents God, while the woman represents Jesus by being the mediator for their children who represent us as sinners.  The bible talks of Jesus pleading our case to God when we sin, or when we need prayer for something.  Marriage and parenthood can also give us a better understanding of unconditional love.  That is why we can forgive our spouse when they hurt us or let us down, no strings attached, and love our children even when they rebel.

 

You've heard people call their spouse their "better half".  Marriage can make life easier because two people are doing the work of one, and where one person is weak the other can be strong.  He hates folding clothes but she loves to do the laundry.  She gets flustered taking her car to the garage when he is mechanical inclined.  And spiritually, a married couple can uplift each other in prayer and encouragement.  They can assure each other by making a commitment that they will be with them until they die and will support them always. 

 

2. Does this person have the characteristics I am looking for in a spouse? Standards are important, but you must be careful.  If you're basing your choice of marriage partner on sparks you feel when you're near them, or physical attraction, you may be waiting a long time, or you may very well marry the wrong person.  Those things are important, somewhat, but not crucial, especially if the rest of the relationship has no substance.  According to statistics, the most important things for a woman to have in a husband are affection, stability, financial support, and quality time with family, trustworthy.  The most important things for a man to have in a wife are physically attractive, and before I go on I would like to reiterate on this one...it doesn't mean you have to look like a model.  Men are visual so it is important that you don't let yourself go.  I've seen many cases where a woman on the hunt for a husband will lose a pile of weight and buy new clothes, and once she's landed him she gains it all back and starts wearing sweatpants.  This is no more fair to the man than if the woman married a guy because he spent so much time with her and made her feel special, and then once he closed the deal he started hanging out with his buddies after work and going fishing every weekend! The others include domestic support (most men have trouble with housework), sexual fulfillment, a recreational partner (not to be confused with sexual fulfillment...if you don't feel like playing catch with him, going golfing, biking, or sharing any of his interests, he will spend that time with his friends who do.  It wouldn't kill you to watch the football game and show a little bit of interest by asking questions...just do it on the commercials, and keep the snacks flowing (just kidding about the snacks, kind of).  The last one is admiration.  Men like to be complimented as much as women.  So often we feel it's the man's job to compliment us and wait around for it.  He needs to be told he's smart when he fixes your car, because he is! He needs to know you're looking at him and only wanting him when there are other men in the room.  Compliments may seem like a cheap way to make someone feel loved, but both men and women need to hear the words sometimes.  You can be given compliments all day and it only takes one negative comment to kill your spirit and make you doubt yourself. 

 

If this person meets your needs (and no you don't NEED to marry a supermodel) is a good person, loves Christ and desires to grow in their walk (don't hold it against them if they aren't at your "level" of Christianity...it is not for you to judge especially if they are trying).

 

It is difficult to find someone special.  The older you get and the more opportunities you pass up because you're waiting for someone who is absolutely perfect and ideal, the more likely you will end up unmarried, waiting a long time, and possibly end up just settling for someone.

 

Christians have the most difficult time finding someone because most of us want to marry a Christian.  Once we find a Christian we have to figure out if we connect, have anything in common, or are able to communicate.  If our personalities clash completely, it's back to the drawing board.  A lot of us want to marry someone who is not divorced, and who does not have children and that's becoming increasingly hard, even for people in their early to mid twenties! And being a Christian does not always make them compatible.  Christians come in many shapes and sizes (and I'm not talking physically, here) there are lukewarm Christians, backslidden Christians, Christians with absolutely no desire to grow in their relationship with Christ.  There are Christians with twisted morals and Christians who "have their own beliefs"...

 

Hear me out: IF YOU FOUND SOMEONE OR HAVE SOMEONE WHO SHARES YOUR BELIEFS, VALUES, AND DESIRES TO GROW IN CHRIST YOU MAY HAVE FOUND THE ONE BECAUSE A PERSON LIKE THAT IS A RARE FIND.  Hang on and don't let go because it could very well be God brought that person into your life, and if you're writing them off because you don't feel the sparks, they aren't as drop-dead gorgeous as you'd like, etc. etc. etc. you may be passing up someone very special, and may not get a chance at someone like that again! God gives us blessings, but if we turn them down or pussy foot around He's NOT going to force them on us.  So if the person you're with or that you know has all the qualities you asked God for and you're still not sure, then give your head a shake.  Deciding to get married is not always easy, especially if you have been single a long time.  Put it in this perspective: What scares me more, getting married and having a family, or being alone for the rest of my life with no children?

God puts the desires in our hearts, and I don't believe He puts them there to go unfulfilled.  Sometimes a test of His will is to step forward with what you know not always letting your feelings guide you.  Feelings can inhibit you from doing something you may be sorry you didn't do later.  I don't believe God will allow you to venture blinded into territory you're not supposed to.  If He's opened doors for you this far concerning someone special, you may have to get out of the boat and take a step on the water...otherwise you'll never know if you can walk on the water.  He will close and lock the doors along the way that you aren't supposed to open.  That is part of trusting Him--to take a step in blind faith and move forward!

 

3. How will I be better off getting married than if I stayed single?

I think a table is in order to best demonstrate the differences:

 

Benefits to being Single
Benefits to being Married
Being single allows you to date as many or as few people as you want.
Being married elliminates heartbreak and rejection that dating brings.  It gives you the security of coming home to someone who loves you unconditionally and who commited their life to you.  You have someone you can talk to, who supports and encourages you. You always have an escort to special events.  You have a partner and a helper and someone you don't have to guess about what their intentions for you are.
Being single gives you mobility for serving God.
Being married gives you mobility for serving God, just in different areas than if you were single. 
Being single allows you to spend more time alone with God.
Being married gives you the option of spending time alone with God, and spending it with your spouse, reading, praying and talking together.  You have someone who is always there who can encourage and uplift you.
What if I get married and my partner is no good in bed? Being single allows me to experiment and find the one who is sexually compatible.
Let's be honest people...being married enables you to have your sexual needs met, and part of your sexual needs being met should also include meeting your partner's needs.  This can only be done morally by being married.  Single Christians who have sex because they have needs will end up unfulfilled and empty, possibly guilt ridden.  They may even continue to chase sexual conquests in hopes that some day the emptiness is filled.
With so much divorce and broken homes people are better off staying single.
Marriage ISN'T easy.  Many couples have said it's a lot of work.  It's a lot of work to keep picking up the same socks and t-shirts, after the same person every day.  It's a lot of work to keep forgiving when a special day is forgotten, or something exciting is disregarded.  It's a lot of work to stand by someone in the midst of their struggles, especially when they've become difficult to live with.  It's a lot of work to keep the lines of communication open when feelings are not expressed, or worse they are expressed and disregarded or put down.  When preparing to say your wedding vows, if you cannot vow to stay till death do you part then you're right, you should stay single.  But if you're willing to invest the time, work hard at a relationship as opposed to bouncing from relationship to relationship (when the going gets tough, you get going...) then you are ready!
Statistically, marriages that are "unhappy" that stayed together just five more years became "good to very happy" marriages.  The ones that didn't stick it out, got divorced and re-married had a 60% chance of divorce to their second spouse.
The grass always looks greener on the other side, but that is because you're not close enough to see the bugs, weeds, rocks, and garbage.