Category Archives: God

The Envious Eye

envious eye by nirots

image courtesy of nirots / freedigitalphotos.net

I’ve been really discouraged and frustrated lately about being single. The older I get, the more it becomes a real threat that I won’t have a husband or family. I know God calls some people to singleness, but I have never felt that call on my life. In addition, the Paul says in 1 Corinthians 7:9, “But if they cannot control themselves, they should go ahead and marry. It’s better to marry than to burn with lust.” And believe me folks, especially in the last few months: I’ve been on FIRE, out of control, and more than a little ticked at God about the whole thing.

For Christmas, my bosses gave me some little hand lotions and a spa gift card. Now, I don’t use conventional hand lotions because of all the chemicals, but these were really nice sets of lotions and I wanted them to go to a good home. So I stopped by a few offices on my way through the building last Friday, eager to give out these little lotions to some friends and coworkers. At the last office, I stopped and gave the last few lotions to the two secretaries that I always chat with when I visit that office. They were excited to have such a nice, little gift and very thankful that I thought of them.

As the two secretaries were sampling the lotions, another girl—we will call her Gina—came out from her private office and asked what everyone was doing. One of the secretaries answered, “Oh, Michelle brought us some lotions.” Immediately, Gina began to make a big deal about how I didn’t bring her anything, and I should have shared with her and not just these two girls, ad nauseam. When I pointed out to her that I was the giver, and she did not get to dictate who I gave anything to, she got even more incensed. I also noted to her that I had given her really nice gifts in the past, and she replied that that was “a couple of years ago.” I also pointed out to her that she had acted in this way before when I gave something to someone else—she had come in and started taking things that I had purposed for someone else. She then stated that the person I had given those things to had WANTED to share them with everyone. At this point, the two secretaries were so undone at how Gina was acting that they offered up their lotions to her. Then she made a big deal of not accepting them because that wasn’t what I wanted. The whole situation was totally embarrassing for Gina, even if she didn’t realize it or think so.

As for me personally, I was livid, really. You see, I had given to Gina in the past, and I felt it was pretty crappy and ungrateful for her to interrupt a thoughtful moment with her incredibly selfish banter. I was mad mostly because Gina is a Christ follower, and that kind of nonsense makes believers look incredibly petty—it was trial size hand lotions, for crying out loud. As I was recalling the situation and my anger to my mother, I said, “My gosh, does Gina act this way when God gives someone else something that He doesn’t give her? Because that would explain a lot!”

A few hours later, as I was stewing and trying to pray about this matter, God nudged me about that particular comment. He said very clearly to me, “But Michelle, isn’t that how YOU think? Don’t you believe that I should give you a husband and kids? Don’t you look at other people and go, they have a husband and kids, why don’t I?”

And that hurt. Because (as always) He was absolutely right.

I tend to believe that I am not all that selfish, but it’s really not true. My selfishness comes out in different ways—in fact, I act towards God like Gina did to me. I may not do it over hand lotion, but recently, I’ve definitely been doing it over getting a new job, having my own place, moving to a warmer state, and having that elusive family/husband. And though the Lord has provided so much for me—both now and in the past, I tend to interrupt any kind of thanksgiving with my own selfish banter about what I want and need right now that He has not given me. Or what someone else has that I want. And when God gave me a brief glimpse into that, I was embarrassed—this time, for myself.

Matthew 20 begins with a parable about a vineyard owner who is searching for laborers to work his fields. He hires three sets of laborers at three different times during the day, and each group he agrees to pay a denarius. The other groups are not aware of what each is getting paid. So imagine the anger of the first and second group when the third group gets paid exactly what the first two are getting paid. The owner doesn’t want to hear their grumbling. He is basically like, “Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? So then take your money and go.” But then he says something that catches my eye and rifles through my heart like a shot: “Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with what is my own? Or is your eye envious because I am generous?” (Matthew 20:15)

This is the point that I tried to relay to Gina, and it’s the point that God in turn relayed to me. Gina had an envious eye, but so do I—and maybe you do, too. Wanting something that God hasn’t decided to give me yet isn’t the sin. The sin is seeing God’s generosity in other people’s lives and being envious that those gifts haven’t been given to me. It’s okay for me to want to be married and have kids and to have my own place, etc.—as long as I don’t want those things more than I want Jesus, as long as wanting those things doesn’t become the focal point of my life, as long as those wants aren’t what compel me. Seeing others get what I think I deserve—that is the real sin. What I truly deserve is death. Anything I get beyond that is gravy!

Mostly, I need to make sure I am taking pains to pluck out the envious eye every time it surfaces and regrows in my life. Because when you have an envious eye, you’re not going to see anything the way it really is—you’re only going to see what you didn’t get or what you don’t have. And by doing so, you’ll miss out on the real blessings God is showering you with every single day.

Questions, Christians, and 50 Shades of Grey

questions by Stuart MilesI’m not going to see 50 Shades of Grey. I think that, if you’ve read my testimony and followed my blog, you know that for me to see that would be incredibly hypocritical. I did not read the books, and I am not following the hype. But I am on social media, and I know people are excited about it—even many Christians. And I don’t understand that. I have been reading comments on social media from Christians who are going to see the movie, and trying to understand their reasons for doing so. In response, bear with me as I ask some questions to get us thinking—and praying.

Some Christians have claimed that it is a redemptive love story—because Christian Grey comes from a very dark past, and eventually, this young lady saves him from that dark past. I understand redemption, because the best redemptive love story can be found in the Bible—and because I have lived through redemption myself. I was very lost in a world of porn and addiction to sexual promiscuity, so I do somewhat understand that about Christian Grey. But my question is this: does a love story of redemption need to include lewd and graphic sexual content to tell the story? In other words, do you need to see a video of my sexual escapades in order for me to tell my story of redemption? Of course not. If I posted a video of myself having sex with someone as part of my story here, Christians would RIGHTLY be enraged. But some of these same Christians will go into a movie theater and watch lewd sexual situations in this movie because “it is part of the characters’ redemptive love story.” Both situations are pornography. One is more acceptable by Christians. My brothers, this should not be so.

The other aspect to the “redemptive love story” claim is the idea of trying to present darkness as light. I have done this a lot in the past to justify my decision to do something I know is not increasing my Christlikeness. But I am reminded of a few things from God’s Word. First, the devil presents lies as truth and darkness as light. In Genesis 3, that is exactly how he deceived Adam and Eve. Even today, he continues as the great deceiver who packages some aspect of the light (it’s a redemptive love story) around darkness (it’s also full of sexual deviance and mistreatment). He is, of course, the father of lies. And the Bible is very clear that Satan and his servants disguise themselves as angels of light and servants of righteousness (2 Corinthians 11:14). So my question is this: have you been fooled into believing that this movie’s darkness is light?

I have also seen many Christians who will see this movie claim, “you can’t judge me,” “don’t judge me,” or “only God can judge me.” Interestingly enough, Matthew 7:1 is American Christianity’s favorite Bible verse to quote. American Christians, in my opinion, don’t believe they should be held accountable for the choices they make. And that is simply not true. To judge is to hand down the verdict as to whether or not you are guilty and I give you a sentence based on your guilt. And it’s true—only God can do that. But when there’s a standard or a law that you obviously don’t live up to, then I can and should point that out and lovingly correct you. Paul even gave us the how-to guide for that in Galatians (6:1, and chapter 2 when he lived it out). In fact, most of Paul’s letters were written to point out blatant sin in the church—but Paul was not God, so should we disregard most of the New Testament? Of course not! As fellow believers, we do indeed have not only the right but the responsibility to lovingly hold each other accountable for our sins, including impurity, lewdness, pornography, and fornication—all things represented in the movie 50 Shades of Grey. And that’s why we need to think before we say, “don’t judge me.” But my question is: would you even need to say “don’t judge me” if you weren’t doing something that you knew was not in line with Scripture?

I can’t tell anyone what choice to make, but I can tell those who claim to be believers what the Bible says. It says to flee sexual immorality (1 Corinthians 6:18), to think on pure things, to be pure as God is pure. We don’t do these things because we are prudes, we do them because we want to please God with our actions and our thoughts. We do them because our example, Jesus Christ, would. God’s will for every believer is simple: Christlikeness (see Genesis through Revelation). So my question is: how does seeing this movie contribute to your Christlikeness? Because that is the question we should be asking ourselves—not just about this movie, but about everything we say and do.

I pray that Christians will begin to stand up for Jesus Christ and the Holy Word, not Christian Grey and Hollywood.

Read more awesome coverage about reasons to skip 50 Shades of Grey here, here, and here, or check out an awesome book about Christian women and our awesome sexuality “Pulling Back the Shades” by Dannah Gresh here.

My First Love

Success. Everyone wants to tell you how to get it. In the business world, companies that made it big want to tell you how to succeed—even if they are Christian. Recently, I have been struggling with the idea of success. A few months ago, I was doing all the things that everyone told me to do to be successful: I was doing my social media posts, I was writing blog posts, I was talking to people about my business, I was scheduling events. I had a business plan for 2015, a brand new calendar to write my new business stuff in, and a head full of steam. I was “hustling,” as a friend of mine and I started saying about ourselves.

love sky by winnond

image courtesy of winnond / freedigitalphotos.net

 

I planned a brief vacation with my mom, with full intent of “getting back to hustling” when I returned. I couldn’t work on vacation—I was in another country and wanted to be present with my mother. So I put away my cell phone, my blogging, and all the nice new habits I had acquired. When I returned, I picked up my cell phone…and some weird virus that left me mostly incapacitated for the month of November. Then my father died in early December, and I spent the rest of that month mourning and recuperating. I realized that I was exhausted. I had been doing a lot. But save for one week in November, I had forgotten how to BE.

The seven letters to the churches in Revelation are one of many lists of seven in the Bible that correspond to the seven spiritual gifts in Romans 6. As a prophet spiritual gift, the first of the letters to the seven churches in Revelation 2:1-6 has always beckoned to me. I was recalling this over the holidays, thinking about where I am and what it means. Here’s what it says:

I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false; and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Therefore, remember where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent. (Revelation 2:2-5)

More than ever, this passage spoke to me. Of course God knows my deeds and my toil and my perseverance—that I have endured for His name’s sake and have not grown weary. But soon after my father’s death, I realized I had left my first love. Was I spending time in prayer? Sure. But I was spending more time “doing” God’s work than I was “being” with Him. For the same reason that I put away my cell phone while I was on vacation to be with my mom, God wanted me to put away these deeds and get back to my first love—being with Him.

So what does that mean? Does that mean PPG Ministries is no more? Of course not! But it means that I have to give up some of the “comforts” in my business for now, like posting on social media. I’m trading those things in for quality time at the feet of my Master. I want PPG Ministries to be filled with God, not with me. My business really belongs to God, anyway—so I know I can trust Him with it. And I’m finding that this is its own purity challenge—the challenge to bring holiness into all areas of my life, not just my sexuality.

Maybe you’re out there, having forgotten your first love, and you need to hit the reset button. Maybe God is asking you to give something back to Him so that He can refine and purify it and you, and make you both better than you ever knew. My challenge to you today is this: will you let Him? Will you trust God enough to give back to Him what is already His? If so, join me on this journey of purification. I don’t know where it’s going to lead, but I do know that God’s plans for us are for good and not evil, to prosper us and not to harm us (Jeremiah 29:11). And as further proof of that, here’s how that passage in Revelation ends:

To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God. (Revelation 2:7)

So are you ready for this year? Or more importantly, are you ready for this God? Ready or not, here He comes. 🙂

Good Grief

crying doll by Theeradech Sanin

image courtesy of Theeradech Sanin / freedigitalphotos.net

My father died today. I don’t think that there’s three points that I can give you in a blog format to help you learn more about yourself through the death of my parent. So I’m just going to unjumble my thoughts and let them flow here, and I pray that God will bless you in some way as you read.

If you’ve read my testimony, you know that I didn’t have a great relationship with my dad. Celebrate Recovery helped me do a lot of grieving and releasing, but especially with my father. It was good to grieve the father I didn’t have, the father I always wanted…to let go of expectations and begin to accept the reality of who my father was. To release my feelings of rejection and revel in the acceptance of my heavenly Father. I continued to do that for the next five years, never really desiring a full-time relationship with him for many reasons. As more and more information about the man I called “Dad” has surfaced in recent weeks, I know that God has been protecting me by removing that desire from me. Instead, I have accepted him as the flawed, sinful man that he is and loved him from an appropriate distance. I am thankful that God indeed protected my heart and gave me the strength to set healthy boundaries.

A couple of things happened as I began to grieve a few weeks ago when I was alerted that my father was on his death bed. The first thing I noticed was that I couldn’t stop thinking about this one person with whom I had unfinished business. Death tends to bring out those unresolved situations in our lives, making us uneasy with leaving loose ends. Eventually I realized that what was on my mind was, “If I died today, is there anyone to whom I would need to make amends?” There was. I guess because my own father never realized the “error” of his ways and never sought to make amends with his children, I wanted to break that cycle. I could say “I’m sorry” and I could make amends. I wanted to start a new kind of cycle—one of grace and pure love modeled after Christ. And while I had been concerned because there had been no one to talk to about my situation (other than God), I eventually realized that I didn’t need to talk to someone else about it. I needed to talk to the offended party. So I sent an e-mail today. It was hard, and I cried more over that e-mail than I have cried for my deceased father. But I felt a burden lift once I pressed “send.” Life is too short for unfinished business, unforgiveness, and loose ends.

Second, I realized that I wasn’t carrying any burden towards my father. Finding out a few really terrible things about him in the last few days, I thought I would feel heavier about things. When I confessed his deplorable acts to a friend, she assured me that who my father was is not who I am. I reassured her confidently that I didn’t feel that anyway—and it was true. I felt disconnected from that because I had forgiven him. But I also felt disconnected from that because my identity is not in my earthly father anymore. I have secured my identity as a princess of the King and a crazy but amazing pushy prophet girl, and because of that, there is no burden for being my earthly father’s daughter. Whatever heinous acts my father may have committed, they do not belong to me…I have been cleansed and forgiven. I am my Father’s child.

Third, I realized the significance of sexual sin in my generational history. Numbers 14:18 says, “The Lord is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression, but he will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, to the third and the fourth generation.’” I know that my grandfather and father’s iniquities have visited the generations below them and through me, and that is important for me to accept and understand in my continual quest for purity. Indeed, though I am my Father’s child, I now have some idea as to why I have struggled so mightily in the area of sexual purity. However, what grace and love the Father lavishes on us, that I can not only call myself His child but that I can receive forgiveness and cleansing from the sins of my forefathers. I am ready to break the cycle and bring forth a generation of purity. My tears have not been wasted; they have been collected by a loving Daddy who intends to use them to cleanse future generations as they walk in their PureID™. What joy that brings me!

So I stand here not crying, but instead praising! Praise God from whom ALL blessings flow, and I thank You, Jesus, for the opportunity to experience this blessed, good grief. Amen!

Spiritually Healthy Habits: Meeting Together

spirit health by Stuart Miles

image courtesy of Stuart Miles / freedigitalphotos.net

A couple of years ago, I was disgruntled with church in general. I wasn’t mad at anyone, and I had just finished up an incredible Bible study in a neighboring town. However, I couldn’t really find a church where I felt comfortable, so I just stopped going. In the process, I also stopped hanging out with my Christian friends. I started hanging with a non-Christian coworker and doing things that I knew weren’t right: drinking more, hanging with her friends while ignoring mine, flirting with married men. I was in a downward spiral. And then, before I knew it, I was dating a married man. Luckily, I told one of my Christian friends what I was doing (without remorse, sadly), and she gathered some prayer warriors to intercede for me. Within a couple of months, the relationship had fallen apart and I was back in church, repentant.

Meeting together with other Christians is an important piece to being spiritually healthy! Here are three benefits of consistently meeting together with other Christians:

  • Meeting together with other Christians keeps us honest. It’s so important to meet with other Christians so that honesty remains an integral part of our lives. Other Christians can be a spiritual thermostat in the midst of your thermometer moments. That simply means that when your feelings or emotions are rising or plummeting (thermometer), other Christians who know the Word can keep you grounded (thermostat). Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11) tried to hide their sin, but the truth eventually came to light because they were in fellowship with other believers. In my case, had I been hanging out with my Christian friends during that time, they would have told me from the beginning to stop flirting with and hanging around with married men. They would have been praying for me specifically for purity in all areas. They would have reminded me of God’s truths amidst the world’s lies.
  • Meeting together with other Christians makes us more Christ-like. Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.” Real friends will sharpen you. I found that I was dulling down as a Christian when I spent time with my non-Christian friend. I didn’t feel challenged to be a better Christian; in fact, I hardly ever spoke about God around her. I had to ask myself if I was being a good friend to her, because I wasn’t even challenging her beliefs or ideas. However, in contrast, when I hang around with my Christian friends, most of the time, I am challenged by them in all my attitudes and actions. They are not asking me to be more like them, they are challenging me to be more like Jesus. And as a Christian, nothing makes me better than being more like Jesus in every way.
  • Meeting together with other Christians gives us encouragement. We all need encouragement in our lives, and for Christians, our encouragement comes from many places—but rarely does it come from the world. Hebrews 10:25 says that we should “not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encourage one another.” As the world gets crazier, we need to be reminded and encouraged of many things: Jesus’ peace, the eventual return of the Savior, the end of suffering, a final victory. In addition, sometimes we simply need encouragement about our true purpose and calling and how our current situations are defining that. While the world can encourage us in some ways, our Christian brothers and sisters can reassure us in all of those ways—because they know Jesus. Christians can inspire each other because the Truth has already set us free.

If you are out of Christian fellowship right now, I’d like to urge you to return to your church or small group. There’s nothing the devil loves more than to separate us from God, and one way he does that is by separating us from each other. You can begin practicing spiritually healthy habits, but you can’t do it alone—so start by meeting together with some Christians this week!

Porn—When You Don’t Get It

confusion by Stuart Miles

image courtesy of Stuart Miles / freedigitalphotos.net

“How does she not get it?” I had a horrible fight with my mother today, and this is the question running through my mind. The long and short of it is that my uncle, who recently had a massive stroke and is requiring 24-hour care from my mom and sister, has been watching pornography non-stop on his computer for the past few weeks. Now, this is the same uncle who carelessly introduced me to pornography more than 25 years ago, so while not a surprise, it is unacceptable that he would do this in my mother’s house, where an eight-year-old girl lives 80% of the time. Naturally, considering my recovery, my disdain for pornography, and my ministry, I am furious, and I called and unleashed said fury on my mother. I made her cry in my passionate attempt to let her know she needed to take a stand for righteousness—something she has not done well in the past (she’s an S personality/servant gift to my D personality/prophet gift). But the call did not end well, and now I’m upset—because she doesn’t seem to understand.

If you’ve suffered from a pornography addiction, and you feel like people just don’t “get it” when it comes to porn, here’s a few things to remember:

  • People may not understand your pain. My mother did not notice how passionate and indignant I got when I first heard about the pornography debacle with my uncle. She is clueless about how my sister feels about him watching porn behind her as they sit in the living room. In addition, it seems my mom knows nothing about the effects of pornography on a person’s mind. I ask myself, “How can my mom not know, when I am so very open with everyone about my past addiction, when my own ministry seeks to end pornography?” I also wondered how she could be so calm and nonchalant about a situation that clearly has upset my sister and me. I felt like Jesus with the disciples—“Are you still so dull?” (Matt. 15:16). How come you don’t understand yet? Today’s conversation reminded me that she hasn’t suffered through this addiction. She barely even spoke about sex with me growing up. So of course she doesn’t “get it.” There are always going to be people who don’t understand some circumstance you’ve been through—or don’t want to admit they understand. The key is knowing that you have to…
  • Keep talking anyway. The more you talk about the issues you’ve had with porn, the more freedom you get. When you keep the truth hidden deep within yourself and you don’t address it with or acknowledge it to others, you remain a slave to your addiction. So keep talking! Perhaps my problem is that I have not talked with my mom enough about the pain that pornography caused in my life. Today, I told her that I yelled at her because I didn’t feel she ever thought this was important or urgent. This lack of urgency on her part made me feel unprotected, and I was afraid she was going to not protect the eight-year old that now lives with them. After our fight, I texted her a lengthy set of messages that included an apology and this text: “I love you. What I do not love is how pornography stole my childhood, my innocence, my freedom, my ability to have normal, loving relationships with the opposite sex.” I know that I have told my mom before about porn’s effects on me. But I said it again because hopefully one day she will gain some understanding about the addiction from which I’m still healing.

The Bible says, “Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding, for the gain from her is better than gain from silver and her profit better than gold.” Recovery from porn is a lifelong process, and you may have to help others get understanding about it from time to time. You may go about it the wrong way, or you may do it perfectly: the point is to just keep talking, so you and others can be blessed in the process!

The God Identity: Perseverance

Identity by Stuart Miles

image courtesy of Stuart Miles / freedigitalphotos.net

If there’s one thing that I remember from having a porn/lust addiction, it was that during tough times, I had something to turn to—my addiction. Whenever I was feeling lonely or down, I could watch magazines or cable TV shows that would feed my “pleasure zone”—the receptors in my brain that released that oh-so-feel-good oxytocin. And if those things weren’t available (which they weren’t, after I restricted myself), it was fantasizing. I could easily lose myself in my thoughts, focusing on things that would make me happy, whether physical or emotional intimacy. By doing this, I would simply immerse myself in a world where I had no hardships until reality settled itself back down. Unfortunately, due to my hiding, my God identity trait of perseverance was severely underdeveloped.

Google defines perseverance as “steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.” Here are three things I am learning about persevering as God intends:

  • Perseverance should make us joyful. The porn identity told me that no one cared that I was suffering, so I should withdraw from everyone and focus on my addiction/fantasy life. I would also whine and cry through my suffering (I’m still working on this!) until it was over. But the Bible says that we should rejoice in our sufferings (Romans 5:3)—one of the hardest things to learn. One of the ways I try to rejoice is by reminding myself that the devil is always going to attack those he feels are a threat to him, those who may have significance in the kingdom of God. So when things are going well for me, I have to ask—have I become complacent about my walk with God? Because Jesus did not say “if” you experience troubles in this world, he said “when!” So I should be joyful during difficulties, knowing that my suffering is normal and that God plans to use me in a great way—if I will just persevere!
  • Perseverance produces maturity. My porn addiction forced me to stay in what author Tim Challies calls pornolescence. This adolescent mindset made me believe that I could stay the way I was, keep doing the things I was doing, and still be godly and holy—and fulfill the God’s calling on my life. But truthfully, I was not growing in character, wisdom, or maturity in my walk with God. When tough times came, I was turning immediately to what would make me feel better, not what would make me BE better. But taking on the God identity means persevering and maturing in Christ. James 1:2 says, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” Trials produce steadfastness—if we let them. And when perseverance takes full effect in us, we mature in Jesus.
  • Perseverance brings blessings. I feel like I missed out on a lot of blessings in my life because I didn’t choose to persevere through trials—I chose to hide. I feel this most in my relationships with others. Being a prophet gift who sees and knows truth within relationships is difficult; and when I am hurt, sometimes I want to hurt others or withdraw instead of pushing through the difficulties of talking things through with others. Because of this, I’ve missed the blessings of strengthening my relationships. But the Bible says I’ve missed even more than that! The Bible says that those who endure will receive what is promised (Hebrews 10:36). The promises of God are many and wonderful, and I can’t help but wonder what other promises I have missed because I have not worked on developing perseverance.

The great news is that I don’t have to miss any more promises and blessings! I can start developing perseverance today—and I have. In the midst of my current hardships, I have been choosing to focus my thoughts more on God. Better yet, I am choosing to persevere, even though life is challenging right now. But I take solace in knowing that if the trouble is big, then the reward will be even bigger—including maturity and growth in my most important relationship (with God) and the strength to face whatever is next!

The God Identity: Grace

Identity by Stuart Miles

image courtesy of Stuart Miles / freedigitalphotos.net

I spent this past holiday weekend with two people who have hurt me recently. One is a younger girl friend that has leaned heavily on me this past year, only to disappear during the last few months when I’ve been struggling. The other is a friend of hers—a guy who used me over the course of the last year to meet his touch and attention needs yet ran the moment I became vulnerable with him. When I realized they would be attending the beach weekend, I prayed about whether to go. I asked my best friend, who told me to stay home—and I countered by saying that I was rusty in the area of grace and needed to practice. I even encouraged my bestie to show some grace to a girl in his life that had recently hurt him. So I went, had a blast spending time with friends besides those two, and tried to show grace for those two while keeping appropriate boundaries.

How do you move forward from hurt? How do you face someone who has hurt you and willingly forgive her? How do you draw a fine line between forgiveness and trust? We struggle with the answer to these questions, but the answer is simple: grace. But while the answer is simple, grace itself is hard, and here are two reasons grace has been difficult for me:

  • Grace hurts. Christ died for us while we were still sinners. He was crucified—a very painful death process that involved excruciating pain for hours and hours. There was not only physical pain, but the emotional pain of being separated from His Father and abandoned by His friends. So grace, by its very nature from the original Giver of grace, is painful for the one who gives it. This morning while rehearsing our worship set, I burst into tears in the middle of a song about Jesus rescuing us. I cried through our whole worship set. I have cried all day because of the intense emotional pain I felt this weekend—the pain of closure, the pain of the changing friendship with my gal pal, the pain of fighting against my flesh since last Wednesday, the pain of my own need for grace. But I also know this is a tiny fraction of the pain Jesus suffered for me—so I need to suck it up.
  • Grace is God-centered, not feelings-centered. Grace usually asks us to act the exact opposite of what we are feeling. The moment I saw the guy who had hurt me, I wanted to hit him with my car. When he said he left something we needed at his house, I wanted to make him and everyone else suffer without the items. When he got sick with diarrhea and spent part of the weekend in bed, I wanted to laugh and make fun of him. Instead of doing these things, I tried to push down those feelings and think about what God would do. When I saw him, I greeted him with a smile. I offered to and did take him to his house to pick up the forgotten items. I asked if he was okay after his bathroom bouts. I even left later from the beach than I originally wanted so that he and his friends could enjoy a boat ride. I wasn’t perfect, though: I did laugh at his “predicament,” I was annoyed about leaving later, and I was less than nice to him on occasion. But that was a reminder for me that I, too, need grace—from God and others. Grace is not just about serving those who are good to us; grace is about serving the undeserving—those who don’t love or serve us. Jesus died for all sinners, and that includes me and you.

Grace may be challenging but I have to keep working at it. The more I stop focusing on my feelings and start focusing on God, the less pain I will experience. I won’t be perfect at showing grace in this lifetime, but I can keep practicing. And since practice makes perfect, I look forward to reaching that state of perfection with God—when there will be no more crying or pain.

The God Identity: Patience

Identity by Stuart Miles

image courtesy of Stuart Miles / freedigitalphotos.net

Tonight for dinner, I had Grandma Utz’s potato chips, three chocolate covered strawberries, watermelon, and an Honest Tea juice box. Let’s face it: I’m eating my feelings. I’ve been going through an intense time of suffering, and the end is not in sight. My uncle is recovering from a massive stroke, my dad is close to dying, my job is stressful and changing drastically, and my friends have felt distant. My response has been to wallow, throw pity parties, and ignore my physical health. Worst of all, I haven’t had much patience with anyone—God, myself, or others. I’ve been really self-absorbed and irritated with everyone—including myself (see previous blog posts for examples!).

As I was convicted of this, I realized that I was allowing some aspects of the porn identity to take over my life in an area where the God identity has been trying to take hold: patience. We tend to think of patience as affecting only one area of our lives (timing), but here are the three areas where I’m trying to improve and adopt the God identity characteristic of patience in my life:

  • Patience for timing. I tend to think that my timing is perfect, and God is usually late. I know the phrase, “God is always on time” but I rarely live like that’s true. No question has been bigger in my life than, “God, where is my husband?” There was a time when I was unhealthy and addicted and I know that would have been a terrible time for me to get married. But now that I’m healthier and committed to walking with God, my struggle is even bigger. “I was closer to getting married when I was unhealthy than I am now!,” I reason with God. But the Bible says that it is not for me to know the times or the seasons God has fixed by His own authority (Acts 1:7). And each time I can peacefully accept God’s timing in my life, I am practicing patience.
  • Patience for others’ mistakes or sins. In the past, I have had very little patience for the mistakes and sins of others. I tend to get very impatient with people who don’t see truth right away as I do. Often, this means folks are missing truth and sinning instead of recognizing the truth and doing right. And this makes me angry—angry that people don’t realize they aren’t walking in truth, and angry that I am trying to do the right thing while others are not! And when I’m angry, I’m not waiting OR doing the right thing. But the Bible says that I should not become tired of doing good, because in due season, I’m going to reap a harvest (Galatians 6:9). And each time I hold back judgment while a friend muddles through a mistake or sin, I am practicing patience.
  • Patience for times of suffering. This is where I’m currently struggling the most. I can’t remember a time when I’ve prayed less than these past eight weeks. I’ve told my friends that their prayers have sustained me—and that’s true, but mostly because I’ve not been as vigilant about seeking the Lord during this time as I have sought solace, food, and other things to blame. Quite honestly, I’ve had little patience for this time of suffering—which has made me less patient for God’s timing and others’ mistakes and sins, too. Then today, I saw a Bible verse that reminded me of what I’m supposed to do when suffering and trials head my way: I should rejoice in hope, be patient in trials, and be constantly praying (Romans 12:12). Perhaps if I focus on doing these three important things, I can begin practicing patience during this time of intense suffering.

It’s not too late for me—or you! We can begin practicing patience today in any or all of these areas. The Bible lists many promises for those who wait on the Lord and show the virtue of patience: inheritance, blessing, strength, hope, etc. These are all things we want in our lives—the question is, are we able to develop patience so that we can have them? The God identity says that we can—so I challenge you to start today with me!

The God Identity: Meet Your Maker

Identity by Stuart Miles

image courtesy of Stuart Miles/ freedigitalphotos.net

“The prophet and mercy will stand together.” I heard it clearer than anything I’d ever heard. It was 2:30 a.m., and God had just woke me up and immersed me in His presence. Those words were the only thing I had heard crystal clear, and I was trembling. I couldn’t fall back asleep, as I mulled the phrase over in my mind, trying to figure out what it meant. The next day, I confided my middle-of-the-night meeting with God to a couple of close friends who held me accountable. And throughout the course of my conversations with them and further conversation with God, a part of my identity was revealed: I was a pushy prophet girl. Pushy prophet girl existed because of my intense desire to always push people along at my pace or push people away. It is a great identity for a life coach who desires to spur others on to greater health; but my friends often found it tiring. Obviously, it was a part of my prophet spiritual gift and D (dominant) personality, but it was also the result of many wounds and experiences in my life where I had learned to push people away or expect them to “travel” at my speed. And I needed to hear that about myself from loving friends so that I could begin to explore this part of my God-given identity.

When addictions and other things have defined you for so long, it can be difficult to allow your Creator God to tell you who you really are—and how you need to change. But here are two amazing things to understand about the author of the God identity:

  • The author of the God identity wants you to know and love Him. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind” (Matthew 22:37). It is the first of the greatest commandments, according to Jesus Himself. It is God’s desire that we spend time with Him, not only so that we will know Him, but also so that we can know ourselves. Most people spend time with their families of origin so that they can understand who they are. But too many people forego spending time with the One who knew them before they were born, who has counted every hair on their heads, and who loves them unconditionally. God is our Father, and He calls us to Him, desiring to reveal more about Himself to us. So whether it is a midnight session with Him or daily quality time with Him through His Word, we must respond to His call for relationship with Him.
  • The author of the God identity wants you to know and love yourself. “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39). The first step to knowing yourself is knowing God. But the Bible specifically states that you are to love others in proportion to how you love yourself. So how well do you love yourself? Do you know yourself? What are your spiritual gifts? What are your motivations? What experiences have you had? What natural talents and abilities do you have? Too many people walk through life not knowing the answers to these questions. And while these things make up your identity, it is God who has defined you and named you as His child. The Bible says that we were each fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14), which means that each of us is unique and has been gifted in beautiful ways. Do you know and embrace these things about yourself so that you can respect and love these things in others?

Know God, know thyself. As we walk through this series, we will be looking at characteristics of God, because as the author of our identities, He has called us to be like Himself. So in knowing Him, we will know who we are supposed to be, and how we truly should be loving ourselves and loving others. I hope that you will learn and walk in your God identity over the next few weeks—and that you will truly meet your Maker in a new and fresh way!