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Your Identity in Christ

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I think that most of us have battled with the fear of man more than once in our lives. It’s a tough issue especially for us girls. We like to look pretty and be pleasing to everyone, but that doesn’t always work out as well as we’d like.
     I personally have had a desperate struggle with the fear of man, especially over the past couple of years. The enemy has been trying to tear down my standards by sending me thoughts like, “Well, everybody else is doing it!” But I’ve found that doing something just because it is the “in” thing is a terrible way to live. Just because a lot of people do it doesn’t make it right.
     So much these days, we as Christian girls are swept along with the world, doing the “in” thing because it’s “cool” and will make us popular and feel accepted. But just fitting in with the crowd doesn’t make us stand out as daughters of the King. Doing what everyone else is doing doesn’t give the world a refreshing picture of a pure and joyful young woman who is living for her Savior and not concerned about what the world thinks.
     So how do we get out of the rut of doing what everyone else is doing? How do we step out of the level of superficial comfort, where we are accepted because we look and act like everyone else? How do we stretch beyond what the world is doing, and instead live our lives for Jesus and Him alone?
     These are some of the questions that I have been struggling with. I am a person who likes to blend in. I don’t like to stand out or be considered “weird”. So if I am with others and they start to talk about something that is rude or uncalled for, I tend to laugh and joke along with them. Or if they start picking on someone, I tend to just go with the flow. Is that the way God wants me to act? Of course not!
     So I can see that my struggle is with the fear of man versus the fear of God. Do I want to please people and do what they are doing and try to “fit in” with the crowd? Or do I want to please God, go down the less-traveled path, and stand for Him?
     The Lord has been showing me how to overcome the fear of man by finding my identity in Jesus Christ. “Identity” means uniqueness, personality, character, and individuality. We have all been made different – after all, no two fingerprints are the same. We have all been created by God with our own uniqueness. When we try to pattern ourselves after other people, it is like telling God, “I don’t like the way that You’ve made me; I want to look just like someone else.” Finding your identity in Christ means finding your uniqueness in the Kingdom of God. God has created each one of us with different talents and personalities, and He wants us to use them, not to cover them up and try to be like everyone else.
     If we are close to Jesus, and we are studying His Word and doing what we believe in our hearts He wants us to do, then we don’t have to worry about what people think of us. As we become increasingly consumed with Jesus Christ, the fear of man will disappear. We are no longer interested in pleasing people; we are only focused on Jesus and we want to please Him. What everyone else thinks falls way behind. Jesus is the only One who matters anymore.
     When your focus is on what people think, then your focus is off God. That’s a scary thought! How many times have we made God’s thoughts less important to us than what people think? How many times have we put the fear of man before the fear of God? The awesome thing is that God is always there to forgive us, no matter what we’ve done. (See 1 John 1:9.)
     Do not waste the precious time of your youth worrying about what people think of you. Focus on God, and place Him at the center of your life once again. ©

 ~ Written by Melody Dornink, used with permission from http://www.thekingsdaughtermag.com

The Vine

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“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.”
John 15:5

Whenever I have done something apart from God in the past, it has been fruitless. I felt no real satisfaction, and I never felt that what I was doing was truly worth the time and effort I was giving it. This feeling was one of the things that led me to surrender my art completely to God- and since I have, He has given me ways to serve Him with my artwork by allowing me to illustrate Aletheia, highlighting stories and such in the Bible, and opening my eyes to appreciate His wondrous creation and so I can seek to mimic it in the spirit of His own creativity. It has led to a new, fruitful way of life, giving me joy as well as new discovery.

It’s led me to continue to give everything else to Him as well, including my writing, my conduct, how I am with my family, my time- and it has indeed produced much fruit in my life and affected other’s lives positively as well! It is wonderful to be a part of the Vine, the giver of true satisfaction and good fruit. :)

~  Heather G.

Choose God’s Peace

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This article by Jennifer Steele re-used with permission from thekingsdaughtermag.com

I have been pondering much lately over God’s timing and how we are to wait on Him. We can pine away, wishing for what is not. We can push through the fog, demanding that something happen now, creating a counterfeit of what God had intended. We can drown ourselves out in the plague of “What if’s”. Or, we can rest. We can accept the unknown, and choose God’s peace. This has been my challenge of late as I have been waiting on the Lord for direction for this next year. What is so amazing and comforting is that He has never failed me yet. Do I think that He is going to “let go” now?
     As much as I want His will and His best, I have often wondered, “How do I practically ‘choose God’s peace’?” Do I assume an attitude of prayerful meditation, humming hymns like “Trust and Obey” while soberly acting the martyr? Or maybe I should just bounce right along through my days, answering questions like, “What will you be doing now?” with “Congratulations! You’ve just asked the question of the hour! You know, I have no clue, but please call my prayer support hotline in 24 hours for an update.”
     Hmm… J. Actually, I think our proper response to God is beautifully summed up in the following account by Corrie ten Boom. She tells of a time when she and her father were on a train, headed back home from Amsterdam:
     …he stood up, lifted his traveling case from the rack over our heads, and set it on the floor.
     “Will you carry it off the train, Corrie?” he said.
     I stood up and tugged it. It was crammed with the watches and spare parts he had purchased that morning.

     “It’s too heavy,” I said.
     “Yes,” he said. “And it would be a pretty poor father who would ask his little girl to carry such a load. It’s the same way, Corrie, with knowledge. Some knowledge is too heavy for children. When you are older and stronger you can bear it. For now you must trust me to carry it for you.”
     And I was satisfied. More than satisfied – wonderfully at peace. There were answers to this and all my hard questions – for now I was content to leave them in my father’s keeping.
     Later on…
     Father sat down on the edge of the narrow bed. “Corrie,” he began gently, “when you and I go to Amsterdam, when do I give you your ticket?”
     “Why, just before we get on the train.”
     “Exactly. And our wise Father in heaven knows when we are going to need things, too. Don’t run out ahead of Him, Corrie.”

     Whenever we are worrying or fearful in some way, it is so important to take those things straight to our Father, and tell Him that we cannot hold it. He will gladly lift it from us. Fear and worry are burdens that the Lord never intended for us to have. In fact, He commands us not to cling to these things, for the burden of it will pull us down. The practical application of choosing God’s peace for me has been just this. He has given (and will give!) the grace to recognize the enemy coming in my thought life, and to refuse anything that does not line up with His commands and promises in Scripture. The choice is ours!
     “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” – Isaiah 41:10.
     “But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying ‘Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.’ And Peter answered Him and said, ‘Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.’ So He said, ‘Come.’ And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, ‘Lord, save me!’ And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him ‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt?’ And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased.” – Matthew 14:27-32.
     It was when Peter began to fear that he began to sink. Whatever the cause of your fear, have you considered that the Lord has a reason for allowing the circumstances just as they are? Be of good cheer! It is the Lord!
     “Therefore the Lord longs to be gracious to you, and therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you….  How blessed are all those who long [literally wait] for Him.” – Isaiah 30:18. Waiting for God is not an easy assignment. It is, however, worth it. He will bring your answer, and you can rest assured that it will be incredible.
     In closing, I would like to share with you a poem called “Make Me Thy Fuel” by Amy Carmichael.

From prayer that asks that I may be
Sheltered from winds that beat on Thee,
From fearing when I should climb higher,
From silken self, O Captain, free
Thy soldier who would follow Thee.

From subtle love of soft’ning things,
From easy choices, weakenings,
Not thus are spirits fortified,
Not this way went the Crucified.
From all that dims Thy Calvary,
O Lamb of God, deliver me.

Give me the love that leads the way,
The faith that nothing can dismay,
The hope no disappointments tire,
The passion that will burn like fire.
Let me not sink to be a clod,
Make me Thy fuel, Flame of God. 

Salt and light?

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  Matthew 5: 13-16 says –

13 “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.
14 “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

I know of some people who use this as an excuse for behaving like the world. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard it stated that ‘You’ve got to be like the world to reach the world.’ Even in churches this idea is prominent – but it’s so wrong! When someone comes to church, they’re looking for something they don’t already have. Therefore, if they come to a church with this ideology, they’re not going to think ‘Yes! This is what I need!’ They’re going to think ‘Why would I want this? They’re no different from me – I guess I’ll go look for something else.’

God came to earth to save the sinners, not be like them. We’re supposed to be salt and light – but by trying to be like the world, we’re doing exactly what Matthew is telling us  not to do – we’re hiding our light under a bushel and losing our saltiness.

“But God ate with the tax collectors!”

Yes, he did. But he didn’t steal with them, or be sexually immoral with them. He remained on neutral ground; he did not sink to their level.  Inviting non-Christian friends over to your house, or going to a game with them, those sort of things are neutral ground. But never, ever think you have to join and be like them to minister. If you’re just like them, then why will they feel the need to change? Don’t allow yourself to be dragged down to their level out of the desire to lift them up.

There was an illustration once, in one of the Christy books by Robin Jones Gunn. Christy and Katie are at youth group, and their youth leader calls Katie and another boy, ‘Peter,’ up front. He dubs them ‘Katie Christian’ and ‘Peter Pagan.’ He has Katie stand up on a chair, and hold her hand down to Peter.

“Try to pull him up,” he says.

Katie tries – but ends up getting pulled down by Peter.

This is an excellent example – bad company corrupts good morals. Be a shining light, be a ministering angel, be Christ to the world – but don’t allow yourself to become mired. Stay on neutral ground. It’s much easier to sink than the lift up, and as Christians we must remain examples to everyone else. This is much easier for homeschoolers like myself, I think, than people in public school. I have a very good friend (Heather G. from this blog, actually!) who is a shining example of being both salt and light where she is in High School. She remains a fantastic role model for non-Christians while not letting herself be dragged down. in fact, she has gotten several teens at her school interested in God and the Christian faith!

‘Bad company corrupts good morals’ isn’t just a pithy saying, it’s a Biblical truth. (1 Corinthians 15: 33)

In order to retain our saltiness and light, we must continually be in communion with the Lord. Pray without ceasing. Read your Bible. Read Godly, inspiring authors. One of my favorite things to do is read short passages and quotes from authors that I love that pertain to God and Godly principles. I have a special journal that I write these quotes and passages down in. (quoting is in the Neal blood; I quote all the time – movies, books, friends…)

I tend to love quotes from George MacDonald, C. S. Lewis, and G. K. Chesterton – though I’m always up for a new good quote by somebody I’ve never heard of before.

Another thing I like to do if I’m feeling particularly ‘unsalty’ is watch ‘Facing the Giants’ – sort of my ‘spiritual pick-me-up’ movie. It always inspires me to do better and live Christ.

I love to read fantasy allegories, too – the Dragons in Our Midst series is always faith-strengthening (though you might want to read my reviews on thebookfae.wordpress.com before reading them, as they aren’t age-appropriate for everyone).

Find the things that encourage your spiritual walk with God. they might seem silly, but the things that turn your eyes heavenward are never silly.

A final note – don’t think you can continue being salt and light to the world if you aren’t continually soaking up the rays of God’s light, or letting yourself be seasoned by his word. You MUST keep replenishing – daily! – if you wish to remain effective and not wander off the Straight and Narrow. A car can only go so far before it needs to be filled up with gasoline again, or else it stops!

Ever in Christ,

Mirriam

A Wait-Until-The-Alter Woman

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“You’re one of those wait-until-the-alter women?”
I spun around in the middle of the lobby, the brass name-plates on the doors flashing and my shoes making the wet green tile squeal as I turned. The sentence had been shouted down the hall, and I brought my eyes toward the speaker. I wasn’t sure that she was even speaking to me, and, on the occasion that she was, I had no idea what had spurned an outburst like this one.
Hoisting my books higher in my arms, I looked past the other students casually talking. Some of them leaned against the wall here and there, bracing their armload of books on one knee while they chatted. Others, like myself, stood in the center, bewildered and confused.
The flow of traffic slowly resumed and a few last minute dashes were made into the classrooms as I once again moved down the hallway, that phrase sliding around in my mind like the books that were trying to escape my grasp.
Wait-until-the-alter woman?
It had almost sounded mocking to my ears. In a secular setting, mockery was more or less commonplace toward standards, but here, in a Christian school, I thought . . . I had hoped that the students would be a little less antagonistic to the “bygone” and “old-fashioned” ways of doing things. After all, Bible was Bible, was it not?
All day, I couldn’t get the shrill tones out of my mind.
A wait-until-the-alter woman.
I found myself muttering it under my breath as the day went on. Each time the bell rang— a terribly painful sound— the words would gently tap my mind again. Every word I heard, faint and drifting down the halls or across a classroom spoke of it to me, and I wondered, “What is a wait-until-the-alter woman?”
My room was dark and a single light was on as I slogged wearily up the stairs toward it as the day drew to a close, the words now a weary refrain in my mind. I still could not determine whether they were condemning or exhorting.
On my desk, among the other clutter that came with being in school, was my tattered, white Bible. Bookmarks galore speared from here and there in its pages, sermons and bulletins were stuffed in its front and back. I had always found answers there— that was why it was so worn. That was why it was so . . . available. Of course, I had an electronic Bible on my laptop, but the real ink, the real paper, and all my colorful underlinings couldn’t be replaced by a luminescent screen and digital letters.
I set down the bookbag that had been tearing at my shoulder and flipped open my Bible. It fell open to a page where a particularly insisting bookmark had been placed. It was in the tiny book of Jude, near to the end of the New Testament. My eye fell to something underlined heavily in black. It was verses 24 and 25. “Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.”
To present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy.
It may as well have slapped me in the face. God wanted to be able to present me faultless. Not forgiven, though I certainly had been forgiven. And, what’s more, to present me faultless caused the One who died for me exceeding joy.
And what exactly was faultless? How did it apply to being a ‘wait-until-the-alter woman’?
I turned to first Corinthians chapter seven. I knew what I would find. Instead, my eyes caught on the last two verses of chapter six: “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.”
The very next verse was the one that I’d always heard. “It is good for a man not to touch a woman.”
Yes, I knew it. I knew it well. Through my teenage years, the question had been thrown around in teen group. What exactly was ‘touching’? It seemed we always argued over something when we didn’t want to accept it.
Touching was touching. In any way other than a brief handshake. Too strict? Perhaps. But that was what First Corinthians 7:1 said. There was no mystery in the Greek words there. Touch meant touch. End of story.
Some people struggle with this. Some rebel. Some don’t care what the Bible has to say and cast it all off entirely. Why? Because they don’t want to change themselves, they want the Bible to change itself and say what they want.
In the glare of the yellow bulb on my desk, the words of Jude came back to me.
. . . . Present you . . . blameless.
I smiled and gently shut my Bible. If that’s what a ‘Wait-until-the-alter woman’ was, I’d be happy.
I wanted to please God.
I wanted Him to use me.
And I wanted Him to be proud of me in a hay-wire world.
. . .to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy. . .
Of course, it was always easier said than done.
But wasn’t everything?

~ Amanda B.

Confessions of a Teenaged Hypocrite

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Posted with permission from Beautyfromtheheart.org
 
This past week brought word of a friend’s fall. The run toward abstinence was too much for her feet to bear alone, but after spurning her God-given authority, her own feet were all she had.

It began in the little things—miniature mutinies only the heart knows. But then her family noticed the difference: a few sharp words, an occasional discontent remark. Sin starts small, but it grows like a pathogen on steroids. Heartbreaking and yet-oh-so-typical for the human race; the fall of this conservative, homeschooled Christian girl is only one of the latest in a long series since the beginning.

“You will not surely die,” the serpent said to Eve, a sweet yet naïve, God-worshiping girl. He offered her a piece of the juicy, luscious–forbidden–fruit. With a hiss of his forked tongue, the serpent sowed suspicion: “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:4-5 NIV) With a little movement, Eve stepped nearer the tree. In a few short moments, she rationalized the situation. What could a little taste hurt? Certainly the end (becoming like God) would justify the means, and if she ended up regretting it, God would surely overlook such a miniscule mistake. Without another thought, she took a tiny bite.

Eve’s decision is the kind I make flippantly each day, yet her fall remains one of the most pivotal actions of all history. Her dirty little secret led to the Holocaust, mass murder in Darfur, the shootings at Virginia Tech and…my quick temper yesterday.

Choices—even seemingly insignificant thoughts concealed deep in the heart–can have a more profound affect than we realize. James wrote that sin starts small as a dormant desire, then grows. “Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” (James 1:15) My soul, take note: “Insignificant” desires can grow to big sin. Little choices matter.

In spite of this truth, after hearing of my friend’s fall, the serpent’s same old story was repackaged for my consumption: “You will not surely die by merely patting yourself on the back,” the serpent said. “Be proud that you did not choose her path.” Oops. That lie sounds familiar. A white lie here and there, a little curse word when I stub my toe, and just a dab of self-righteousness as icing on the cake; although my stray arrogant thoughts seem small compared to my friend’s fall, they’re of the same significance as biting forbidden fruit. Look at the cost of Eve’s mouthful.

Examining my friend’s situation, the temptation for self-righteousness was replaced by a throbbing sense of shame as the realization hit: I am equally guilty. “All our righteous acts are like filthy rags,” Isaiah said, “….and like the wind our sins sweep us away.” (Isaiah 64:6) Although she may have leaped off the cliff, haven’t I equally flirted with the edge? Although she’s embraced sin, haven’t I given it a sly wink more than once?

There is no compensation I could possibly offer for my crimes. If Eve’s fruit was all it took to bring death into the world, I’m certain my numerous “little sins” are enough to purchase my own execution. Yet the whispering resumes: “You will not surely die,” the serpent said. “Surely you can redeem yourself. Try following Mosaic Law, donating to a charity, volunteering in the community or attending church to assuage your guilt.” But I’ve attempted to connive my way into God’s favor enough to know it’s impossible, and these whispers are yet another lie.

C.S. Lewis painted a telling picture of my own attempts to “earn grace.” In Till We Have Faces, Istra, a beautiful, patient and loving girl, is ordered to be executed. As the best the land has to offer, Istra must die as a human sacrifice on behalf of her people. Her sister, Orual, of course, cannot bear the thought of Istra’s death, and implores the King to intervene. In desperation, Orual pleads: “You are right. It is fit that one should die for the people. Give me…instead of Istra.” The King then grabs poor Orual by the wrist and drags her until they both stand before a massive mirror. There, Orual sees the full extent of her own ugliness. The offering called for “the best in the land,” the King says, “And you’d give her that.”

Now, reality sets in. I’m an Orual. My righteousness (which is actually “filthy rags”) is not a worthy offering for a Holy God. Who am I, to dare to even attempt to settle up my actions with Him? When Job demanded God speak, His voice arose from a storm with words that knocked Job to his knees. Job, humbled and awed, replied, “I am unworthy—how can I reply to You? I put my hand over my mouth. I spoke once, but I have no answer—twice, but I will say no more.” (Job 40:4-5) If Job could barely speak to Him, how do I expect to negotiate my pardon?

As Orual found, the cost for redemption is the death of the Perfect One. My sin stands, along with my friend’s fornication and all other evil acts throughout history as a debt I am powerless to pay. Yet in this sorrow, I find the deepest joy. Jesus’ words ring true, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.” (Mark 2:17) It was the sin of the fruit-eaters, fornicators, liars, thieves and hypocrites that gave need for the Cross, and to us broken sinners the Cross was given.

This is the Gospel, that the One we owed paid our debt. At the foot of the Cross I have no excuses to offer. My sins, big and small, have condemned me. I can only echo the words of John Bradford, who, when witnessing a criminal’s execution uttered, “There but for the grace of God go I.”

With my sin in perspective, my friend and I are equally debtors. Any anger at her sin must eventually melt into prayer on her behalf; a request for her to see her own evil and embrace the God whose blood was tangible grace for us.

A True Friend

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  Most of us know people that we consider friends  but how many of them are true friends? Do you have a friend that sticks closer than a brother (see Proverbs 18:24b)? Are you that kind of friend to others?
     Friendship is a gift and a responsibility. It is something we have to work on, and something we are able to reap from. Oswald Chambers wrote, Friendship… means identity in thought and heart and spirit.
     True friendship is not an emotion, preference, or feeling. It is giving of oneself to another person. Friendship, in essence, is love.
     God, as the Creator and Giver of friendship, set the perfect example of true friendship. In the Old Testament, it is said that God spoke to Moses as a man speaks to his friend. Moses is called the friend of God. (See Exodus 33:11.) God was like a Counselor or Confidante for Moses. He supported Moses and stood beside him. At times the children of Israel were angry with Moses, and several times they wanted to kill him. Even Moses own brother Aaron didnt always support him. But God was always there for him, always standing by him, always encouraging him.
     Through His relationship with Moses, God gave us an example of true friendship. And more importantly, He illustrated the personal relationship that He desires to have with us.
     Usually when we think of friendship, we think of love. This makes perfect sense because true friendship cannot exist apart from love. But what exactly is love?
     In his best-selling book My Utmost For His Highest, Oswald Chambers wrote, Love is the outpouring of one personality in fellowship with another personality. This means spending time with those you love, but especially getting to know them and letting yourself be known to them. Nearly everyone has different sides or aspects to their personality. Your true friends will know your other side, and you will know theirs.
     Fellowship is important, but true love and friendship go deeper. Jesus said in John 15:13, Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Jesus demonstrated this love by giving His life on the cross. Now thats true friendship! Just as Jesus selflessly laid down his life for His friends, a true friend will be willing to give her time, talents, abilities, possessions, dreams, and even her life for her friend. As Christians, we have that kind of Friend in Jesus. Are we willing to be that kind of friend to others?
     In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul defines and describes true love. This passage also seems to describe a true friend.
     Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
     Love never fails…. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, 13.
     Yes, this is true love and true friendship! What more could you ask for in a friend? What more could you be?)

By Havila Worden, the King’s Daughter Magazine