Nobody is Straight

“We are all personally, biologically, culturally and spiritually predisposed towards sexual sin – some of us are simply predisposed in ways that are more culturally acceptable. In the end, every one of us is a sexual sinner” -David Platt in his book Counter Culture

When sin entered the world, it entered into every area of our life. Even our affections are infected. We desire to do the opposite of what we should. No one is straight. Everyone is skewed. This idea was introduced to me in a podcast by Jackie Hill Perry, a favorite speaker of mine.

I think sometimes people don’t realize that the Christian sexual ethic is not something ANYONE is predisposed to. No one, apart from the saving work of Jesus changing their desires, wants to be committed to only one person for life, and never have a single lustful thought about anyone.

I’m going to be honest, lately in my own struggle against sexual sin, I’ve caught myself deep down wondering why God is such a kill-joy. Why do we wait to have sex until we’re married? Why does God only esteem heterosexual marriage? Why does He create people one way and then demand that they are not allowed to live that way?

I am reading a book called Gospel Fluency, by Jeff Vanderstelt. I have only read two chapters so far, and already have been so challenged and encouraged! He has reminded me that yet again the answer to these questions is Jesus. It is so cliché , yet so Biblical. Paul, when writing to the Corinthians, responds to their accusation that he wasn’t an eloquent or philosophical enough by saying: “I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (2:2). The gospel is not something that we move on from after we become a christian – we spend the rest of our lives learning to apply the gospel to every part of our life!

So why is sexual intimacy created for marriage?

In the Bible, God describes His relationship with us as a marriage. He is the bridegroom, and the church, His people, are the bride. God pursues us throughout history, even though the bride is anything but virtuous. In fact, even though the bride actively pursues other lovers, breaking their pledge, “whoring” after other gods (Judges 2:17), God remains faithful to us.

I love the way Vanderstelt puts it:

Jesus loved His bride enough to serve her and give up his life as a ransom for her. She was unfaithful to Him. She gave herself to others. She did not wait for Him, but grew impatient and easily gave in to those not committed to a covenant relationship. And yet, He paid the bride price of His own life to purchase her out of her adulterous enslavement. His death on the cross paid the debt for her sin and cleansed her of all her impurities. With His own life, He purchased for her a perfectly pure wedding dress. In fact, the dress she gets to wear is His own righteousness, which covers the shame of her sin. He died to give her freedom, purity, and unending love. Then he rose again and went to prepare a place for her. One day, He will come for His bride and take her home to dwell with Him forever. And though it has been more than two thousand years, He is patiently waiting for that day when His bride will be fully prepared, and He will consummate the marriage at the greatest wedding party of all eternity. He has been waiting faithfully all this time for His bride. Talk about a faithful, loving, and patient lover who is willing to wait for the love of His life! (Gospel Fluency, page 32-33)

I’ve been told my whole life that marriage is supposed to be a picture of Jesus and the church, but I don’t think I have ever understood that until today.  I can be content waiting until marriage because Jesus has waited for me. I can remain faithful to one person because Jesus has been faithful to us.

Why does the struggle against sexual sin have to be so hard?

Jesus faced the ultimate struggle against all sin, and never gave in. Every temptation we face He too faced (Hebrews 4:15). Heck, Jesus was celibate his entire 30-some years on earth, even in the midst of a culture that placed extreme importance on getting married and producing children. Yet Jesus joyfully said no, even to his own desires. Jesus prayed a prayer before going to the cross that I believe he must have prayed many times in His life: “Father, take this cup from me. But not my will but yours be done”.

Jesus calls us all to say a profound no to ourselves. But again, this is because He too said no to himself. He gave everything – his life and his death – for us. How can we not give our everything to Him?

 

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What’s in a Name? Sometimes Everything.

According to google, my name either means “knowledge” or a combination of the names Ken, Sandra and Andrea which mean “clear water”, “protector of man” and “manly”. Now you know.

adult-named-babies

One of the things that I’ve learned at Bible school is that in the Bible, God often used the meaning of people’s names in freaky amazing prophetic ways. You can see that in the names of the twelve tribes of Israel, in Hosea, Isaiah, and many other places.

If you think I’m reading weird things into the Bible, you only have to look as far as Isaiah 8:18 to see that I’m right: “ Here am I, and the children the Lord has given me. We are signs and symbols in Israel from the Lord Almighty, who dwells on Mount Zion”. Pretty clear, eh?

Today I want to share with you about what I learned about the names of Isaiah and his sons! I had to write a big final exam on the topic, and I learned so much through it that I decided to share my findings with you! In this post I will discuss how the names are fulfilled in two events right within the book of Isaiah, and I will also write a post about how the names are fulfilled in Jesus and in the end times!

So what are Isaiah and his son’s names and their significance?

Isaiah means “salvation comes from Yahweh” and is literally the theme of the entire book. Isaiah’s son Shear-Jashub is first introduced in chapter 7 and his name means “a remnant will return”. Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz (poor kid) is mentioned in chapter 8 and his name means “quick to the plunder, swift to the spoil”.  For various reasons that I won’t get into, my prof and I believe that the promised kid Immanuel mentioned in chapter 7 is another name for Maher, and his name means “God with us”.

138

701 B.C.

In chapter 7 we find out that Isaiah goes to King Ahaz and tells him not to trust in Assyria, but Ahaz rejects Isaiah’s words and makes an alliance with Assyria. Because Ahaz and the nation rejects “God with us” (Immanuel), God is against them. Because they have broken their trust with God, He allows Assyria to break their covenant with Israel, and they plunder (Maher) and judge His nation:

“Woe to the Assyrian, the rod of my anger,
in whose hand is the club of my wrath!
 I send him against a godless nation (that’s Israel!),
I dispatch him against a people who anger me,
to seize loot and snatch plunder,
and to trample them down like mud in the streets”. (10:5-6)

If you read on in the chapter, you see that the King of Assyria, though he is being used as a tool of God, does not submit to God. And because he has plundered Israel, God will plunder Assyria, and he is going to do it quickly! Again, remember that Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz’s name means “quick to the plunder, swift to the spoil”. Isaiah 10:16 promises “the Lord will send a wasting disease on his sturdy warriors… in a single day it will burn and consume his thorns and briers”.

This is exactly what happens!! In chapter 37, in 701 BC, the Assyrian army marches up against Jerusalem to wipe them out. God is true to His word, bringing salvation (think Isaiah) to Israel by quickly plundering (Maher) the Assyrian army: “Then the angel of the Lord went out and put to death 185,000 of the Assyrian camp” (37:36).

536 B.C.

Later in the book, there is a new, somewhat better King in Israel. Even though King Hezekiah is a man of prayer, the nation as a whole is still far from God. Hezekiah, in chapter 39, pridefully shows off the country’s plunder to some visiting Babylonians. Isaiah prophecies to him that all of the plunder will be carried off to Babylon and many people as well. The nation will be reduced to a remnant (Shear-Jashub).

This is exactly what happens. “This is a people plundered and looted (Maher)” (42:22). God, in His extreme grace, does not abandon Israel, though they deserve it. Isaiah prophecies that God will raise up a foreign King, a man named Cyrus, who will take over Babylon and will allow Israel to return to their land and even pay for the rebuilding of Jerusalem. The remnant will return (Shear-Jashub)! (Isaiah 45:13)

In all of this, God’s desire is that Israel and all nations will look to God and say: “Surely God is with you (Immanuel) and there is no other!” (45:22)

The book of Isaiah is an incredible masterpiece filled with God’s foreknowledge. So much can be learned about His character – He is a God who longs to give grace to the obstinate people that He loves. So next time you read through Isaiah, make sure you take note of all the times the themes of the names ring through… obviously, I didn’t give you every verse or this would have been a lot longer.

I don’t believe every name has to be prophetic, otherwise I would be destined to be a manly protector of men full of knowledge and only drinking clear water.

I No Longer Want to do Big Things for God

When I was growing up, if you were to ask me what success was, I would have said doing big things for God.

What I classified as “big things” was indefinitely giving my life to God, winning souls to Christ and allowing Him to use me to do miracles and wonders. It wasn’t until last year that God started calling me on this, for God’s view of success is very different than mine.

The first thing that clued me in to my misconstrued mindset was encountering the stories of missionaries that nobly gave up everything for God and traveled land and sea only to tragically die on the mission’s field. This seemed like failure, but as time went on I discovered the stories of people in the Bible that showed anything but visible success.

The prophet Isaiah is one such character.

Isaiah was commissioned by God and experienced Him in an awe-inspiring vision. He witnessed the beauty and majesty of the Lord sitting on His throne in His temple, saw the angels that worshiped and ministered before the Lord, and even experienced the purifying of his tongue and his sins atoned for.  In Isaiah 6:8, when the Lord asked “whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” Isaiah cried out in gratefulness and awe, “here I am. Send me!”

But the mission to which God called Isaiah would lead to anything but attractive results. Isaiah would spend the next 59 years speaking to people who were ever hearing but never understanding, who had hearts who were calloused and ears that were dull (Isaiah 6:9-10). Isaiah asked the Lord, I imagine hopefully, “For how long, Lord?” Only to hear the dire proclamation: “Until the cities lie ruined and without inhabitant… until the LORD has sent everyone far away and the land is utterly forsaken” (Isaiah 6:11-12).

To these stubborn, perfidious people Isaiah preached the mercy and love of God; “yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you” (Isaiah 30:18). But he himself didn’t experience the fruit of his labor. Isaiah must have come to terms with the people’s lack of response.  In Isaiah 25:1 he declared, “Lord, You are God: I will exalt You and praise Your name, for in perfect faithfulness You have done wonderful things, things planned long ago”.

The prophet Isaiah challenges my view of results signifying success. To be faithful to God is to obey His directing and leave the results up to God. He is the one who changes hearts, and if He wants to use us that is His prerogative. Like Isaiah, we may never see any results of our faithfulness. And like Isaiah, we need to be okay with that.

I read a book recently for a class called Church Behind the Wire. 

If there was ever someone who would be entitled to a victim mindset, it would be Barnabas Mam. Barnabas was one of 200 Christians who survived the Cambodia killing fields under Pol Pot. He was separated from his family, most of his family members were brutally murdered, he was forced to flee the country and live in a refugee camp for many years. But all of this has not stopped Barnabas from faithfully following God.

In the midst of torture, hunger, disease and pain in a concentration camp, God gave Barnabas a dream, telling him “You won’t die. You will survive for My purpose”. At one point, Barnabas was interrogated – he was asked if he spoke English and if he was a Christian. In a time where being educated or religious was considered a crime by the Communists, answering yes would have been an immediate death sentence. But Barnabas did not fear death, and he could not lie. Miraculously, God saved his life and gave him incredible favor with the commander in charge.

Barnabas is a living example of what it means to be a faithful witness in the midst of atrocious circumstances. Even after surviving the horrors of the killing fields, he has not allowed his experiences to shape his faith. He has not become a victim, but a victor. He has planted hundreds of churches, preached to thousands and written music that has spoken powerfully to the Cambodian people. His circumstances have not hindered his faithfulness, and that is success! He came to Millar’s Missions Conference and it was so amazing to see his big smile and his heart or the gospel!

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I no longer want to do big things for God! Instead, like Isaiah, I want to be faithful to God, no matter the results. Like Barnabas, I want to be obedient to God no matter the circumstances. It has taken me almost twenty-two years to come to the conclusion that even if no one was ever saved as a direct result of my influence, even if I spent my entire life serving God in small ways, this could be a success in God’s eyes

My Least Favorite Prayers

I’ll just admit it. There are times, especially when I’m tired, I will count how many times people say a name of God in their prayer.

But this is not a blog about making fun of the way people pray.

 

 

Okay, just a little fun. 🙂

In the last while, there has been four little words that I have noticed a lot of Christians say at the end of their prayers. And for a while, this has been my least favorite prayer.

“…Your will be done.”

It started getting under my skin when, in the middle of a crisis, the person who volunteered to pray did not passionately approach God’s throne, entreating the Father on behalf of the person in trouble. Instead, they safely prayed, “Your will be done”.  Then I started noticing a lot of people pray very specific prayers, but at the end tack on the ol’ “Your will be done” as if it is a safe-guard. I need to still look spiritual, no matter the outcome.

It took me literally all last semester of pondering, ranting to my best friend, being challenged in class and allowing the Holy Spirit to show me two things I need to stop and one thing I need to start…

I need to stop the judgin’.

Romans 14:4 says, “who are you to pass judgement on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls”.

There may be some truth to my misgivings, but this does not give me the licence to judge other people’s prayers. God has been revealing a lot of pride and judgementaliness in me this last semester – unfortunately, this is just one area.

I need to stop thinking my will is God’s will.

In 2 Kings, there is an account of a king of Judah named Hezekiah. He’s one of the few good kings in the book. In fact, God says that “there was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him” (2 Kings 18v5). He’s a pretty cool dude.

But in chapter 20, Hezekiah gets super sick, and Isaiah the prophet goes to him and tells him he will die. Hezekiah doesn’t like this very much, and so he prays, pleading with God to save his life. God grants his request, and he lives another fifteen years.

When I read this, I want to say to everyone: See? Hezekiah prays confidently for a specific good thing, and God acts on his prayer. Why should we pray for God’s will all the time? Shouldn’t we just pray for the obvious? 

But then I kept reading and saw that during the last fifteen years of his life, his son Manasseh was born, who became the next king of Judah.

And unfortunately, Manasseh was one of the most evil kings in Judah’s history. He worshiped false gods. He brought idols and prostitution into God’s temple. He sacrificed his sons to the pagan gods and engaged in many occult practices. He led the nation into terrible sin. This sin would effect them for many years to come and ultimately lead to the Babylonian exile.

God in His grace answered the prayer of His servant Hezekiah. But this “good” request resulted in something terrible. Hezekiah’s will, his desire to live, was probably not as good as God’s will. And I think if Hezekiah could have seen the future, he would not have begged God for another chance. (I do believe in the sovereign will of God, but I’m not gonna get into that now.)

I do not know why God doesn’t answer my good prayers… prayers for healing, for salvation, for freedom. But I do know that God sometimes allows terrible things for a good purpose. Jesus’ death on the cross proves this!

I need to start praying like Jesus.

Before going to the cross, Jesus begged God to make some other way.  “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but Yours be done ” (Luke 22:42). Not all of Jesus’ prayers were answered! If Jesus Himself prayed for God’s will to happen, and taught His disciples to pray this (Matthew 6:10), I sure as heck should pray this!

Coming to these conclusions has been changing the way I pray. It has humbled me to realize the judgement I’ve had towards others and the arrogance in which I have approached God, assuming my will should be His will. Thank You Jesus for Your undeserved love and mercy!

I might not always use the exact phrase “Your will be done”, but I want to trust God more in prayer, no matter the results.

I Learned to Stop Being a Leader at Camp This Summer

campWhen people as me “how was camp?” it’s always hard to find an answer… hard? crazy? exhausting? exhilarating? incredible? fun? stretching? It was definitely all of those and more.

A few of my camp adventures include…

-I took a “shower” at an outdoor tap at the beach. There was too much of a lineup at the real showers, and I was getting desperate!

-I was complimented a lot by kids who were attempting to bribe me to let them into the dining hall for meals. My favorite was a little boy who would ask every day “Why did the girl wearing ____ (whatever I was wearing that day) cross the road? … Because she was pretty.”

-I was sitting on the front steps of the office, doing office work, when a friendly young bear surprised me by lumbering around the corner, only 15 feet away.

-A 13 year old boy had a very huge, very obvious and very annoying crush on me. His cabin mates were teasing him mercilessly, so finally I said, “you know what, guys? It doesn’t matter”. They all looked a bit surprised at my outburst and asked, “why?!” I replied, “because I am 22 and he is 13”. To my frustration, he shrugged, smiled impishly and said “that’s not that different”. Gross!

-I got to lead a canoe trip to an island. And it was a silent prayer retreat all day – no talking!

-I got bronchitis for two weeks this summer, which was super challenging. Praise God, He sustained me!

I marvel a lot at the fact that my job was to bring the fun to camp.  One day my job was to go on a boat and explore new sites for new camps. My job was to hang out with kids and teenagers and lead them closer to Jesus. My job was to pray for the staff and encourage the volunteers. I loved my job! 

I think I grew a lot this summer as a leader. During June staff I learned to be patient, because I was the only person who had done it before and most of them had never been senior staff before. I learned to listen to God’s leading and throw away the schedule when He was trying to do cool things. I learned to lead people by loving them, flaws and all.

But something else I learned, and am still learning, is to STOP leading. I was super challenged in one of the last chapels of the summer. The speaker was talking about Saul on the road to Damascus. He was a religious leader, someone who thought he had God figured out, someone who was passionately trying to serve God. But he was deceived – he was ‘serving God’ by killing Christians. Then God steps in and BANG! Saul becomes Paul, one of the coolest Christians in the Bible who wrote most of the New Testament!

I realized again that yes, I may be a leader at camp, but I cannot take that same mentality into my relationship with God. Lately I have been stressing again about the future, second guessing myself in my decision to go back to Bible school. I realized that somewhere along the way I had changed to thinking about my future and my plans, instead of trusting God’s plan for the future.  I need to stop being the freaking leader and just let God lead!

“You’re changing my heart
To want what You want
To love how You love
And that is enough
There’s no greater plan that I need to know
You only ask me to follow” 

-Tenth Avenue North’s song “What You Want” 

 

 

 

I Am Learning to Love the Gospel

I came to Millar College of the Bible at a very dry place, spiritually. I finished my year at Millar feeling a lot more encouraged … But it had to get worse before it got better.

Numerous things happened in the first semester that forced me to fall at Jesus’ feet. My grandma passed away. I hit a deer and had to write off my car. Stress was causing my back and hands to be really painful. I really struggled to find friends or even find motivation to find friends. Numerous sins and the desire to sin seemed to be so big in my heart that it felt like I was in a constant battle. To top it off, I realized I had been basing my identity on being a guitar player / singer, so when I got placed on a worship team as the keys player, I was crushed. I think I cried more in the first semester than I have my whole life.

So, if I could tell you the number one thing I learned at my year at Millar, it probably would simply be this: the gospel. It is crazy how I am 21 years old, I grew up in the church, but I feel like I am only now understanding it.

Pastor and author Tim Keller put it so beautifully:

“The gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.”

Throughout this last year, I have come to realize that, without even knowing it, I had forgotten the simplicity of the gospel.  And, because of this, I was struggling. I had forgotten that “nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature” (Romans 7:18). That even my best performance, my greatest deeds are like filthy rags compared to God’s perfection (Isaiah 64:6). And because I forgot that, I started living as if I needed to prove myself to God, and feeling immense shame when I would fail.

I had also forgotten that, because God is so extremely loving, so good and gracious, He loves me. He made me in His image and paid the price so He could have a relationship with me. Psalm 139:13 says, “You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise You for I am fearfully and wonderfully made”. Even better than that, He has taken my brokenness and made me whole.  God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

Isn’t God amazing?

I found this diagram the other day that really illustrates what was going on in my heart…

growing awareness of the gospel

As we walk with God and read His Word, we will grow in our awareness of His perfect holiness and our own sinfulness. If our awareness of the cross and all that Jesus did for us does not grow with that, we will choose to either ignore God’s holiness or ignore our own sin. When we think less of God, this can lead us to pride in our accomplishments. When we think more of ourselves, it can lead to shame, fear, insecurity and a whole host of other things.

This is the battle that I have been fighting this past year. I can honestly say that I am learning more about Jesus than I ever thought I would and I am also realizing the depth how much I need Him.

I pray that you too can learn to love the gospel and recognize it is NOT just for your salvation, but every day living. It is meant to change your life!

Jesus Did Not Die Just For You

The lights are dim. The youth pastor’s voice is passionate. And as the listeners take in the beautiful truths of the gospel, a Christian colloquialism is thrown out…

“Even if you were the only person on earth, Jesus would still have died for you!”

I’ve heard this saying, or something like it, at least a dozen times in the last few years. I believe it is meant to communicate God’s incredible, massive, astounding love for us. It is used to inspire awe in each person, as they consider Jesus’ sacrifice for them. It might even be a thought loosely based on the parable of the good Shepherd leaving the 99 sheep in search of the one lost fluffy.

It has always struck me as off, somehow. It has taken me until recently to mull it over enough in my mind to come to the conclusion that that I don’t believe that this should be taught. Here’s why…

The Gospel is NOT about YOU…

We live in an incredibly self-centered culture. I think too often we treat our relationship with Jesus the same way, as if He came and died just so we personally would be happy. We don’t live our lives for other people. We don’t go to others for help. We don’t confess our sins to one another. So when we say “Jesus died just for you”, it is so easy to think, “Welp, I am saved, so I guess I’m good. My job is done…”

Jesus does not agree. His last words to his disciples was not commending them for believing or encouraging them in their salvation. He commanded them, “GO and make disciples of ALL nations…” (Matthew 28:19)

This random thought hit me in all the pondering. If all that Jesus hoped to accomplish in me was salvation, then why am I still here? Why is the church still here? 

And I guess that’s my point in all of this. Jesus did not die just for you…. He died for the entire world. And if you are living just for you, you are not living in obedience to God’s word.

2 Corinthians 5:14-15 explains this so well! “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.” 

I’ve noticed that the writers of the Bible almost never wrote to an individual – they always wrote to the body of believers. Again, this is in stark contrast to our Canadian culture, where everything is about the individual. That’s not the way God sees things.

I don’t know about you, but I need to remind myself of this truth more often… 

Jesus did not die just for me. He died for my family, my friends, my neighbours, the dude that fills up my car with gas, and every single person who has and will ever be born.