True Beauty in an Instagram Culture

true beautyAs I open up my Instagram Explore page, I am bombarded with images that look similar: the most gorgeous women from all over the world: long, thick hair, full, pouty lips, curves in all the right places, and dressed to entice. As I am looking at these images of these women, thoughts pop into my head, “I definitely need to go to the gym today-shouldn’t have eaten that cookie!” “I wonder how she got her hair to curl like that, mine never stays-ugh I hate my hair” or “I wish I had longer legs”.

Self-centeredness becomes my mindset.

Comparison creeps into my mind on how I can look more beautiful.

This morning, after a solid one hour scrolling session, I brought these feelings to God. I asked Him what He thinks true beauty is.

I wanted to know what true, real, lasting beauty is that remains once the makeup is off, the hair isn’t cooperating, the filter is gone, and some weight is put on.

What does God say is beautiful?

The foundation of our beauty begins with what God says about us. He looks at you calls you daughter, worthy, precious, and loved. The God who put the stars in their place, who parted the Red Sea, who set the earth in motion, who upholds everything by the power of His word calls you daughter, beloved. Throughout this blog, I want to explore what makes us beautiful and what God says in His Word is actually a beauty that ought to be pursued.

“The God who put the stars in their place, who parted the Red Sea, who set the earth in motion, who upholds everything by the power of His word calls you daughter, beloved.”

 

But how do we know He loves us?

We know the depth of His love because He sent His Son Jesus, who was fully man and fully God, to die for us. Jesus didn’t have to do this, but He willingly submitted to The Father, and took on weak, human flesh. Jesus was tempted in every way, yet He lived the perfect life. The He was brutally tortured, crucified, and was killed.

He endured all this for you.

But it didn’t end there, He was raised to life after three days so that we could be restored back into a right relationship with God.

That is the length God will go to call you His own.

He loves you.

That is why you are beautiful and beloved.

 

Now that we have the foundation of where our worth comes from (what God says about us and what Jesus did for us), let’s look at scripture where God outlines characteristics we ought to pursue.

 

Quiet and Gentle Spirit

As I was praying this morning, 1 Peter 3:3-4 popped into my head, “Do not let your adorning be external-the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear-but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a quiet and gentle spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.”

As someone who has always considered myself a strong, I-N-D-E-P-E-N-D-A-N-T woman, this verse took me a while to grapple with. I always wanted to be passionate, fierce, and opinionated. But maybe there is more strength in the ability to hear others, empathize with them, meet them where they are, and gently point them back to the truth of Jesus than to be someone who values independence and autonomy over everything. Because anyway, we are all thoroughly dependent on Christ.  Once we understand that, it frees us up to love people in a way that is marked by patience, kindness, and gentleness which is produced by the Holy Spirit working in us.

“But maybe there is more strength in the ability to hear others, empathize with them, meet them where they are, and gently point them back to the truth of Jesus than to be someone who values independence and autonomy over everything.”

 

Proverbs 31

 

Proverbs 31 came to my mind as I was considering the type of beauty we ought to be pursuing. The entire chapter is full of godly characteristics we ought to cultivate.

 

She is trustworthy. “The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of grain.” Proverbs 31:11

 

She does good. “She does him good and not harm all the days of her life.” Proverbs 31:12

 

She is a hard worker. “She seeks wool and flax and works with willing hands” Proverbs 31:13

 

She has responsibility. “She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.” Proverbs 31:16

 

She is compassionate and gives willingly. “She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy” Proverbs 31:20

 

She is clothed in strength and dignity. She doesn’t fear the future because her trust is in the Lord. “Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.” Proverbs 31:26

 

She is wise and kind. “She opens her mouth with wisdom and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue” Proverbs 31:26

 

Lastly, She fears the Lord. “Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord will be praised.” Proverbs 31: 30

 

These are the characteristics that contribute to real, unfading beauty.

Beauty that grows which each passing year.

Beauty that delights in the promises of God and treasures His Word.

Ultimately, the Bible points us away from external appearance and to the “hidden person of the heart” (1 Peter 3:4) to determine where real beauty is found. I’ll be completely transparent with you, there are times my words are harsh, my heart leads me to judgement instead of compassion, my flesh tells me to pursue idleness rather than discipline. I fail on so many of these characteristics. But luckily for me, for all of us, Jesus is strong where we are weak. When we fail, He is there to pick us up. In our insufficiency, He is fully sufficient. When we fail, let’s turn away from that sin, ask God to give us a right understanding of the gospel, and praise His name for his goodness.

Join with me in pursuing this kind of lasting, enduring beauty. Let’s fight for that. Let’s fight for that when the entire world is screaming to us that physical beauty entices and sex appeal is the way to get attention. When I find myself nose deep in my phone, I take those feelings to God. I let Him know I feel insufficient, I confess that to Him and I ask Him to remind me of my true identity-the one that is in Christ alone. And I meditate on scripture that speaks into that truth (Ephesians 2).

So Let’s be women who trust in our identity that is rooted in Christ. A true identity tells us we are precious because God says so. Let’s pursue a beautiful heart that remains and becomes more lovely as we mature more into the image of Jesus.

 

-Rach

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My New Year Resolutions

img_10332016 has come and gone. According to memes on Instagram, people are stoked to say farewell. As I examine this past year, I see how God has used incredibly painful circumstances to increase my reliance on Him, humbled my heart to see I am nothing apart from Him, and seen how He has made me fight to treasure Jesus more. As the New Year is here-there is always more joy to be found in Jesus and increased love for Him. In order to chase after that joy more actively, I have decided to make some resolutions that I am going to make into habits.

 

1. Spend 30 minutes a day in The Bible

This year I want to be shaped by God’s Word. I want to find my rest in Him and Him alone. Psalm 19 tells us:

“The law of the Lord is perfect,
    reviving the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is sure,
    making wise the simple;
the precepts of the Lord are right,
    rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is pure,
    enlightening the eyes; 
the fear of the Lord is clean,
    enduring forever;
the rules of the Lord are true,
    and righteous altogether. 
More to be desired are they than gold,
    even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey
    and drippings of the honeycomb.”

I want my soul to be revived daily by His Word.

 
I want to stop watching Netflix so much and start meditating on His promises.

 
I want His Word to give me a discerning and wise heart that is able to maneuver the gray areas of this life. Most importantly, I want to be transformed more into the image of my Savior, Jesus Christ. The Bible is God’s revealed will for our life-it tells us how to navigate the unsure waters of this world. This year, I challenge both of us to spend 30 minutes a day in His Word. If you are unsure how to read the Bible, read this or this to learn how. Click here for my favorite Bible that I use-a reputable study Bible is a must. Also, they’re on sale right now!

“Most importantly, I want to be transformed more into the image of my Savior, Jesus Christ.”

2. Be More Committed to Making Disciples

In Matthew 28 Jesus tells us to, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”
This year I want to seek out more women God has put in my life to disciple. Discipling just means teaching them Jesus’ commands and helping their walk with Him. It is meeting people exactly where they are and taking them where Jesus want them to be. In The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer defines discipleship simply as “adherence to Christ.”

“We’re just sisters in Christ seeking truth together in God’s Word. We mutually encourage each other to look and act more like Jesus. Jesus is our ultimate disciple making model.”

You will never know all the answers. That is actually what I tell every girl I disciple up front: I’m messed up and imperfect too. We’re just sisters in Christ seeking truth together in God’s Word. We mutually encourage each other to look and act more like Jesus. Jesus is our ultimate disciple making model.

 

How did He teach His disciples?
He did life with them. He talked with them, He ate with them, He hung out with them. He did life with them.

Hebrews 4:15 tells us, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.”

Jesus is our ultimate example. Study and emulate what He did. This year I want to be more committed to life-on-life disciple making. Who has God already put in your life who you can come alongside and encourage?

3. Be More Confident in Who God has Made Me

This year I want to be more confident in who God has created me. Psalm 139 tells us, “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”
There is a tension we live in because God has made us unique and beautiful, but we are constantly being transformed more into the image of Jesus. One thing I struggle with is craving other’s approval. This year I want to focus more on my identity in Jesus-I want to recognize that I am still a work in progress, but I want to simultaneously rest in my identity as a daughter of God. He made made us all singularly beautiful and unique, but there is always more growth to be found in Jesus-more transformation to be done. This year I am praying every day that I would find my confidence in Christ alone and that I would be confident of the Holy Spirit living within me.

“I want to recognize that I am still a work in progress, but I want to simultaneously rest in my identity as a daughter of God.”

4. Increased Reliance on Prayer for Others

I want to be more outwardly focused.

I want to ask my friends weekly how I can be praying for them and actually be fervent in my prayers for them. I want to be more servant minded with my prayers and love others better by praying daily for them.

You’ll notice as you pray for others, your love for them increases and you are able to care for them better.

I love it when Jesus prays for us in John 17, “I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.”

(P.s. Sanctify just means to be set apart for God, holy)

” You’ll notice as you pray for others, your love for them increases and you are able to care for them better.”

5. Call Two People I Love a Week

Confession: I am poor communicator with long distance friends and family. The result is a loss of friendship. This year I want to care others more diligently by calling at least two people a week.

I want these five things to become habits, not just things I try to do in 2017-but quit mid February. What are your New Year resolutions/habits? Have you prayerfully asked God for discernment on areas where you could grow and experience increased rest and satisfaction in Jesus? My prayer for all of us as we enter 2017 is increased dependance on Christ and for hearts that long to be molded more to His image.

Happy New Year!
-Rachel

Trusting God in Singleness

img_0809I don’t know about you guys, but I often times fail to trust God fully. You would think at this point in my life, I would have it down. I’m in full time ministry, contributing author to several books for Lifeway, and I’ve seen God take the most broken of circumstances and turn them for my good and His glory. But for some reason, I am struggling. I know I am not the only girl out there trying to trust God fully and getting frustrated with my own lack of faith. So as I write this post, I want you to know, I am right there next to you-fighting to believe God’s plan is best, fervently praying that God would help me believe His promises, and desperately wanting Him to capture my heart more. That being said, let’s find out together what it looks like to trust God during singleness.

Singleness is not a problem to be solved

I can’t tell you how many people ask me how I am single or try to set me up with their husband’s twenty-something co worker. I want to tell all of them that singleness isn’t a problem to be solved.

In fact, singleness is a gift.

In 1 Corinthians 7:34, Paul says, “And the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married one is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband.”

Singleness is a unique time in a person’s life where he or she can be completely devoted to furthering God’s kingdom. It’s not wrong to desire a husband, but it does become a problem if that desire supersedes a desire for Jesus. If you are single right now, then God has called you to singleness in this particular time. Until you are engaged, God has called you to singleness. That means an undivided dedication to seeing Jesus’ kingdom expanded.

What is marriage’s purpose anyway?

The purpose of marriage is to display the gospel.

Paul explicitly lays out the purpose of marriage in Ephesians 5 by commissioning wives to  submit to their husbands as the church submits to Christ. He goes further to explain men’s role in marriage,
“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.”

“If you want a marriage that reflects the design God intended, then wait on the Lord and that informs who and how you date.”

The role of the wife is the church, whom Christ laid His life down for. The role of the man is Christ. Christ died for the church. Marriage displays the gospel in a unique and beautiful way. If you want a marriage that reflects the design God intended, then wait on the Lord and that informs who and how you date. Are you dating men who treasure Jesus above all else? Are you seeking Jesus with all your heart and seeking to live a life worthy of the calling you have received?

Lean into God’s promises

The other day, I asked one of my guy friends how he had such strong faith in Jesus-how was his faith so unwavering? His answer was simple:
Pray and read God’s Word.

 
Everyday I pray for a heart that mirrors Jesus-a heart that treasures Jesus above all else. I beg God to capture my heart more, so that I have nothing before Him.

Guys, I fail a lot.

Trusting God is difficult and praise the Lord He is faithful when we are faithless. Lamentations 3:22-23 are two verses I always cling to,

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
    his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.”

His love never changes.
His love never doubts you.

Jesus took your place and you are made right before God because of His perfect blood. Ask Him to help you remember that. God wants you, His daughter, to come to Him in prayer-to beg Him to transform your heart.

Daily remind yourself of His faithfulness

How has He transformed your life already?

Remember when you first felt the weight of your sin. Recall when you first heard that Jesus Christ, who was fully man and fully God, lived the perfect life, died the death that you deserved because of your sin, but then defeated death, and was raised to life and is seated at God’s right hand.

Remember the first time you heard that and allow your heart to be filled with thankfulness.

One of my favorite authors, Jerry Bridges says, “Preach the gospel to yourself everyday.” Tim Keller tweeted (classic Timmy, amirite?!), “The gospel is not just the ABC of the Christian life but the A to Z of the Christian life.”

“There will be no man who can possibly complete you. The only one who can do that is Jesus. Putting that kind of pressure on a guy will crush him and the relationship preemptively.”

 The gospel is the lens from which you view everything. Set your mind on His faithfulness and goodness, and stop being so concerned with who you are going to marry. Contrary to Jerry Maguire, there will be no man who can possibly complete you. The only one who can do that is Jesus. Putting that kind of pressure on a guy will crush him and the relationship preemptively. Trust that God is working all things for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 2:28).
Singleness can be a difficult time, but it can also be a really awesome time. Consider these questions as you learn to trust God during this season of your life.

Are you living your life unafraid and passionately for His Name?

Are you fulfilling the Great Commission by making disciples and teaching them all Jesus taught?

Are you bringing your desires to Him and asking Him to strengthen your faith?

Are you going to His Word everyday and fighting to believe His promises?

“God is using everything to transform you more into the image of Jesus”

God is using everything to transform you more into the image of Jesus. You are a woman empowered by the Holy Spirit to live a life for the sake of the gospel. It’s my prayer for all of us to be changed more and more into the image of our Savior as we learn to trust Him more fully.

xoxo,

Rach

Overcoming Sadness

IMG_5377Have you ever been in a really sad season of life?
A season where your sadness overwhelms and feels like it is going to crush you. A season where you force yourself to crawl out of bed because you don’t want to face anyone or anything the day has to offer. A season where you feel so alone, all you want to do is cry. A season where the promises of God seem so far away, you have to fight every day to believe them.

That’s the season I am in right now.

My sadness seems every where, a prison created by my own self-centeredness combined with the brokenness that is etched into this world. Everyday I wake up and pray to God to sustain me. Yesterday I met with a friend who pointed me to truth and encouraged me that there is beauty in authenticity and in rejoicing in the midst of very real pain. She pointed me to scripture that reminded me of the Gospel and gave me practical suggestions to focus my heart on Jesus and I would love to share those with you friends.

Be Real

I don’t know about you, but my whole life I’ve tried to be perfect. To look perfect, act perfect, have it all together- the fake it till you make it mentality. Imperfections were never an option. But here’s the thing- we are broken.
We are weak.
We are little.
God is strong.
God is powerful.
God sustains.
God wants every aspect of our hearts and most of the times, going through that process is painful. Usually God puts us out of our comfortable situations into uncomfortable one where we have to be stretched. Sad seasons are uncomfortable. It’s uncomfortable when a stranger asks how you’re doing to say, “You know what, it’s a hard season, but I am fighting to believe God’s promises through it.” But God desires our integrity. He wants us to be real- to be honest. Not necessarily to bare our souls and tell our deepest sin struggles to every stranger at the grocery store. But he wants us to be real, to be authentic.

Make a List of Thankfulness

Everyday now I am making a list of things I am thankful for. At the top of this list is always the Gospel. When you remember that Jesus Christ, who was fully man and fully God, came to earth, lived the perfect life, died the death that we deserved, then defeated death so that we could be restored back into the original design He intended for us-it puts everything back into perspective. It centers our hearts where they should be- on Jesus. God wants us to rejoice through suffering.

Memorize Promises

Scripture is our weapon. Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Here are some promises from scripture to encourage and remind you of the heart of God and how to rejoice through sadness.

“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing; so that also at the revelation of His glory, you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.” 1 Peter 4:12-14

God is sovereign over all things-all suffering, all sadness. He is sovereign over all circumstances. He is sovereign over Satan. God is sovereign over suffering. He uses it to make us more like Him, to make us understand our utter and complete dependance upon Him. The times I have been closest to God are the darkness times of my life. God used my biggest fear and biggest hardship to call me into ministry. I remember it vividly. I hadn’t eaten in days because I was crying out to the Lord to sustain me. I had been attacked by one of my closest guy friends. My biggest fear had become my biggest reality. I cried out to God, telling Him I had no desire to live anymore. With a soft voice He answered me with Philippians 1:21, “to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Right then I knew that this God who met me in the midst of my deepest sadness and rescued me-is a God worth living for-worth giving everything for.
God used that hardship to push me into ministry. We do not suffer in vain.

“He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” Romans 8:32

God does not withhold good from us. All His plans are for His glory and for our good.

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair;  persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.” 2 Corinthians 4:7-12

Our power belongs to God. We are His broken vessels to do His will. We are going to be attacked on every side, but we are never without hope. Our lives and our hope is rooted completely in Jesus and in the cross.

God uses suffering. He uses it to remind us of our desperate need for Him. He wants our whole heart. He wants our everything. Remind yourself every day of the Gospel, of His promises, and that He is a good, good Father.

What’s Wrong with Joe Jonas’ New Song “Toothbrush”: God’s View of Sex

IMG_4888I just finished watching Joe Jonas’ new video for Toothbrush and it left me disheartened for our generation. I know it is a huge win for healthy female body image because Ashley Graham, a plus size super model, is featured as his love interest. That’s why his video is getting all this hype-because the song itself is just a really terrible song. But the reason this song left me depressed is because of the fundamentally wrong message it sends to viewers. Jonas’ serenades his new love saying, “Baby you don’t have to rush, you can leave a tooth brush at my place.
Is this the new standard for sleeping with someone?
Leaving a toothbrush at his place?
Please, Joe Jonas. Staaaahp.
Growing up, sex was something no one in my family liked to discuss. I never really understood why it was wrong before marriage. I was just told to not do it. I don’t want another girl to pass by not understanding God’s purpose for sex and why it is so important to express your sexuality in the correct context.

God created sex.

Yes, God created sex and it is not a bad thing in itself. He created it before sin entered the world in the garden of Eden. In fact, God commanded Adam and Eve to have sex, “Be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28). How do you multiply? I think you can figure that one out. God blessed the first marriage with sex. He intended sex to be in a marriage covenant.

Sex reflects the Gospel

In Ephesians 5:31-32 Paul says, “‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.”

Marriage reflects the Gospel.

Sex binds husband and wife together making them one flesh. In The Meaning of Marriage, Tim Keller explains, “Indeed, sex is perhaps the most powerful God-created way to help you give your entire self to another human being.  Sex is God’s appointed way for two people to reciprocally say to one another, ‘I belong completely, permanently, and exclusively to you.’  You must not use sex to say anything less.” Women, if sex reflects the Gospel, when we have sex with someone other than our husband, it says that the bride of Christ does not have a groom worthy of her. We are defaming Christ.

How far is too far?

This is a question that seems to always come up. Basically through asking this question, one is asking, “How close can I get to sin before I make God mad?” or “What can I get away with?” Ephesians 5:3 tells us, “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.”
Not even a hint.
Does kissing cause you to think impure thoughts? Does it cause your boyfriend to lust? It may sound crazy, but I have decided to not kiss in a relationship until engagement. Sexual sin is so pervasive and can be absolutely detrimental to a relationship and walking in intimacy with God, I want absolutely nothing to do with it. We are called to flee from sexual immorality (1 Corinthians 6:8). 1 Corinthians continues to tell us, “All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body.” Sexual sins pervade and destroy.

Jesus cares about our hearts

In Matthew 5:28, Jesus tells us, “But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” What does this tell us about Jesus? It tells us that Jesus cares about the condition of our heart. When Jesus is telling off the religious leaders of the day in Matthew 15, He says, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts–murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.” Jesus wants us to guard our hearts. He does not just want our actions to reflect Him, but our hearts also.

Sex is a god that over-promises and under-delivers

When we take sex out of the covenant marriage that God intended it to be in, it destroys. It leaves you feeling empty. It is a god that promises happiness and unity, but instead it breeds distrust, shame, and emptiness. Pastor Tyler David explained it best when he said, “Sex is a god that over promises and under delivers.” It does not live up to this hype that our culture has given it.

No sin is past the power of the cross

I would estimate almost everyone has struggled with sexual sin at some point in their life, whether or not they want to admit it. If you are struggling with sexual sin or have really struggled in the past, I want to point you to the Gospel. The blood of Christ covers all sin. Let me repeat that, all sin.
Romans 8:1-2 tells us, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.”
You have been set free.
There is no guilt, no shame-because you are a new creation.
If you are struggling with shame from sexual assault or a sexual sin that was against you, I want to remind you that the cross is strong enough to cover not only your sins, but also those sins that are committed against you. Jesus’ blood covers and heals everything.

So let’s be women who stand for something greater. Let’s be women who stand for purity and who strongly desire to honor God with our relationships. Let’s not be women who are swooned by a guy allowing us to leave a toothbrush at his place (lol). We are more valuable than that. We were knit together in our mother’s wombs, we are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). We are daughters of the King.

How I Healed from an Abusive Relationship

IMG_4376

I remember in the beginning, you were so charming.

 

I remember thinking finally I found a great guy.

 

I remember being wrapped up in the idea of a relationship.
I remember the excitement of getting to know you and spending time with you.
I remember how you made me laugh and how you spoiled me.
I remember feeling like I was being swept off my feet.

I don’t remember when it started…

But I remember how you told me you hated long hair. How I didn’t love you because I wouldn’t cut mine.
I remember you would point out every girl who had short hair-no matter where we were. You would comment about how much you liked how she looked.
I remember you constantly talking about how attractive girls with tattoos were-and how I didn’t have any.
I remember how you wanted to pick out my clothes. And you told me I was selfish because I didn’t wear what you wanted.
I remember how you always wanted me to eat less so I would lose weight. You would literally take food out of my hand and cut me off when you thought I’d had enough.
I remember how I was the butt of every joke-but as long as you got a laugh it was okay.
I remember how you would tell me not to speak so I wouldn’t embarrass myself.
I remember how you preferred me in my glasses. You would get mad when I didn’t wear them.
I remember when I started making fun of people with you so that I could be accepted.
I remember always hanging out with your friends-and losing touch with all mine.
I remember doing everything you enjoyed, but never doing what I enjoyed.
I remember always being wrong.
I remember never being able to speak my mind.
I remember being called stupid.
I remember believing you were mentally superior to me.
I remember how you never wanted to hold my hand-
never wanted to kiss me
never wanted to hold me
never told me I was pretty
never made me feel special

Then I remember when it was over.

I remember feeling lost.
I couldn’t remember the things that used make me happy.
I couldn’t remember the things that I loved.
I couldn’t remember who I was, because I had tried so hard to be who you wanted me to be.

That’s when I remembered that identity was in Christ.

 
Suddenly I remembered that I was made in God’s image (Genesis 1:27)
I remembered that I have freedom through Christ (Galatians 5:1)
I remembered that God knit me together in my mother’s womb (Pslam 119:73)
I remembered that God’s love is unfailing (Psalm 33:22)
I remembered that God draws near to the broken hearted (Pslam 34:18)
I remembered that He would sustain me (1 Cor 1:8)
I remembered that God chooses the weak things of this world to shame the strong (1 Cor 1:27)
I remembered I was called to be Christ’s ambassador (2 Cor 5:20)
I remembered that I know the Prince of Peace (Ephesians 2:14)
I remembered that I had joy in Jesus (1 Thessalonians 2:20)
I remembered that God is faithful (1 Thessalonians 5:24)
I remembered that the Lord can rescue me from any evil (2 Timothy 4:18)
I remembered that Jesus was crucified for me. Left hanging on a cross. Beaten, spat on, humiliated- for me.
I remembered that Jesus already paid for my pain.

He carried my burden.

He took away my sin.

 

I remembered, for the first time in a long time, what love really was.

Jesus is the ultimate healer. Verbal abuse comes in many different forms. Sometimes it is obvious. You get put down, called names, constantly disrespected. But it isn’t always. It took me 2 years to realize I was being verbally abused.

Verbal abuse takes place when you no longer have a voice.

When you believe and listen to all the lies someone says about you. When you accept what someone calls you as true. When someone is trying to manipulate you or transform you into someone you aren’t.

In my case it was mostly about my looks. From my shoes to my hair. He literally wanted me to change everything about me. He never let me forget that he hated the way I looked. Every day he would make little comments. And little comments everyday for two years aren’t so little. I believed no one would ever be attracted to my physical appearance. I believed no one could ever possibly be interested in me. I believed my opinion didn’t matter because I was probably wrong anyways.

When we broke up I dedicated everything to Jesus. He was my sustainer. I went all in wanting to be healed from my broken heart, and I was. But a year later I still wasn’t healed mentally. I was terrified to date. I didn’t want someone to control my identity ever again-my identity is rooted and established in Jesus Christ. After a year of trying to escape all the lies I so deeply believed, I finally asked for help. I found godly counsel through my church. I finally was able to have a healthy mindset of myself again. I stopped looking down on myself and thinking less of who I am. I began believing that I was beautiful and I finally gained my confidence back.

 
If you are in a verbally abusive relationship, get out now. I want to remind you that your identity is found only in Jesus. You have been sealed with the Holy Spirit and that is your defining characteristic. Romans 8:38-39 tells us, “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” No lie anyone feeds you, no lie you tell yourself, no sin you commit, and no sin committed against you will ever take that identity away from you. You are a beloved daughter of the King.

-Anonymous

How to Study the Bible

IMG_4096Growing up I had no idea how to study the Bible. In fact, it wasn’t until I received some formal theological and seminary training that I actually understood why and how I should study the Word of God. And I even grew up in a Christian home. And went to a Christian school and University. I used to always be that kid who would hold my Bible between my hands, with my eyes closed and face positioned skyward and say, “Ok, God show me what you got!” and then I would open to a random spot in the Bible, hoping the Spirit would move. Don’t get me wrong, God can move that way. I just wish that someone had taught me a practical way to actually study the Word of God and Its importance in my life. Through this blog, I’m going to first briefly explain why we study the Bible and then a practical method I’ve been using over the past two years to study the Bible more in depth.

Why do we study the Bible?

It is our authority.

1 Timothy 3:16-17 tells us, “All scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training up in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

Scripture is God’s Word to us.

That is why we study it and that is why it is essential to know it. It is our road map in this crazy world. The Bible is God’s revealed will to our lives. Have you ever just hit a cross road in your life and are crying out to God to show you what to do?
Open your Bible.
God speaks to you through His living and active Word. That also reminds me of Hebrews 1:1-2, “In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days, He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things and through whom He made the universe.” We study the Bible because it is our authority and It is God’s will He has chosen to reveal to us.

How to study the Bible

 

Through my church I have been taught the method of studying the Word called REAP. It’s an acronym for Read, Examine, Apply, and Pray. I choose one chapter of the Bible and go through all these steps.

1. Read

This step is as easy as it sounds. Just read the chapter. Then in your journal write a short summary restating what was in the chapter. Don’t get too philosophical just yet. Just write a short summary about what you read.

2. Examine

Next, you are going to think about the chapter using these questions:
1) What characteristics of God does this passage reveal? His goodness? His holiness? His compassion? His righteous wrath? His power? What is this passage teaching me about God?

2) What is this passage teaching me about people? What is the state of humanity without God? How do we change with God?

3. Apply

Now apply this scripture to your life. Be honest with yourself. Are there areas in your life, you are refusing to surrender to God? Is there sin in your life that you need to confess through prayer and then turn away from? What characteristics of God are you not believing or accepting? What characteristics of man do you disagree with? How can you use this scripture to bring more glory to God’s name, to know him more, and walk more closely with Him?

4. Pray

One of the biggest roles the Holy Spirit has in our lives is to teach us and remind us of Truth. Whenever I pray I confess whatever sin or unbelief is in my heart. I then ask the Spirit to help me trust in God’s goodness and His plan for my life. I ask the Spirit to conform my heart to be less like mine and more like Jesus’. I ask for Him to transform me. Change me. I ask Him to take away any façade of pride, doubt, or unbelief. Pray about what you just learned and ask the Holy Spirit to change you.

It’s my prayer for all us that God will work in our hearts through the power of His Word. It’s my prayer that when we wake up every morning we would remember Lamentations 3:22-23, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” It’s my heartfelt prayer that God’s Word would reign in our hearts and lives. I pray that His Truth would permeate every single sinful crevice of our hearts and transform us more everyday into the perfect, radiance of Christ.

LYLAS,
Rachel

Why You Should Ditch Your “Husband” Checklist

IMG_3732A little while ago, one of my friends went on a date with a guy. He was attractive, fun, loved the Lord, passionate, and she loved spending time with him. As her best friend though, something about this guy rubbed me the wrong way. He had this long list of qualifications necessary to be his girlfriend. The many qualifications on this list ranged from “sexy,” to “passionate woman of God”, to “hipster.” Needless to say, I wasn’t a fan. How dare he try to fit my beautiful, Gospel-loving, hilarious, adventurous, bold, compassionate, and thoughtful friend into this list where he was trying to play God to find a woman who fit into his ridiculous mold or standard.

I was furious.
After thinking about this, I realized that growing up, I was always told to make a list for my future husband. I had tons of lists. I have lately been convicted of how this took my eyes off Jesus. Before we begin, I want to be sure to communicate several things to you. The first is that you need to know what a biblical man is. If you don’t know, check it out here. Another thing is I am not saying to stay in an abusive relationship. Having been through several myself, I know how hard they are to escape from. If you are struggling, send me an email and I can encourage you personally. The last thing I want to communicate is that I am not letting men bow out of their standard set forth by God. I’m not giving them an excuse to treat you unkindly or in a disrespectful way. That is between them and God. Through this article, I want your heart and love for Jesus to be the focus. Ok, now we can start.

Here are a few reasons why you need to ditch your list of requirements to date you

1. Stop Focusing on a Guy and Start Focusing on Jesus

There are many reasons why making a list might not be the best idea, but this is the most important. Putting anything before Christ is idolatry. Jesus Christ and the Gospel need to be at your core. When you have a deep love for the Gospel, you will be able to trust that within Him, all your needs are met and satisfied. Then you won’t look to fulfillment through a potential or imaginary “soul mate” as your “other half.” You have been liberated and completed in Christ. Until God is where He needs to be in your heart, you are constantly going to be complaining that your partner is not loving you adequately, treating you well enough, or respecting you like he should.

2. It Can Put Unnatural Pressure on Your Partner

Tim Keller said it best in the Meaning of Marriage, “It is the illusion that if we find our one true soul mate, everything wrong with us will be healed; but that makes the lover into God, and no human being can live unto that.” He goes on to say, “If your only source of love and meaning is your spouse, than anytime he or she fails you, it will not just cause grief, but a psychological cataclysm.” God needs to be your first and foremost love-not your boyfriend or husband. Trying to force him to fit into your little list puts too much emphasis on him and too little on Jesus and the Gospel. The Gospel and Jesus is where your identity lies, not in a relationship or man.

3. Your Relationship Shouldn’t Be a Transaction

Think of Philippians 2:3, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” Is your list putting another’s needs before your own? Ultimately it is selfish. Also, I don’t know about you but I do not want my marriage to be a consumer relationship. Tim Keller explains it best, “Throughout history there have always been consumer relationships. Such a relationship only lasts as long as the vendor meets your needs at an acceptable cost to you. If another vendor delivers better services or the same services at a better cost, you have no obligation to stay in a relationship with the original vendor.” Biblical marriage is a covenant relationship NOT a consumer relationship. Keller describes a covenant relationship as “a sacrificial commitment to the good of the other. […] The Bible sees God as the supreme good-not the individual or family.” You should want a relationship built on Jesus and love, not considering how much you can gain through the other person.

4. Christ Came to Serve and Not To Be Served

I always think of this incredible passage in John 13 when Jesus washes His disciples’ feet. Not only was Jesus presenting a beautiful picture of the Gospel to His followers, He was also showing us an example of how we ought to serve others. I remember Matthew 20:26 when considering this, “It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Jesus is our example. We shouldn’t be looking for what we can potentially gain out of a relationship, but how we can demonstrate Christ’s love to that person God has called us to be in a relationship with and how you can further the kingdom together.

 5. Love Like Jesus

Seeing my friend being held to this guy’s ridiculous standard enraged me. It made me realize just how arrogant and egocentric this particular guy was. He didn’t see the wonderful girl before him because he was so transfixed on finding this “ideal” girl developed in his mind’s eye. Instead of fitting someone into your mold, I want to challenge you to love selflessly, expecting nothing in return. One of my favorite pastors Matt Chandler says in his book The Mingling of Souls, “there is a beauty even in loving without response because that kind of love is truly selfless. When we love with no expectation or promise of reciprocity, we know what it means to sacrifice and deny ourselves in ways we wouldn’t otherwise.” Love that way. Love selflessly. Love like Jesus loved.

6. It’s a Control Idol

All sin can be traced to different root sins. Creating a list of requirements necessary in a man is not surrendering your desire to the Lord. It is the opposite. It’s like saying, “God, you are not strong enough to control this, you have too much on your plate. Just let me take care of it.”

Hold on.

Remember that verse in Matthew 10:29-31, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.  But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” God knows your desires. He understands. Surrender that to God. Seek His face before anything else and hold on to the promise in Romans 8:28, “God works out all things for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.”

The Measure of a Man

themeasureofamanA few weeks ago, two of my best friends and I sat down, determined to find exactly what the Bible said we should look for in a man. Sick of reading watered-down blogs with vague qualities we set out to find truth straight from the source. Resolutely, I grabbed my trusty ESV Study Bible and got to work. We delved straight into scripture and through prayer and mediation on God’s Word, we came up with these awesome qualities.

1. Spiritual Leader

If you’re dating for keeps, you want a man who cares about your spiritual welfare. Someone who will pray with you, read the Word with you, and discern your spiritual walk. You want a man who on your first date, asks if he can pray over your food. A man who will continuously spur you closer to the Lord through His heart for God and how he cares for you. Husbands are to love their wives in a completely self sacrificial way, following the example set by Christ, who gave Himself up for the church in a loving sacrificial way. The Biblical picture of a husband giving his life for for his wife is directly opposed to any kind of male tyranny or any kind of oppression. He needs to promote your walk with the Lord. A godly husband is bound by love to ensure that his wife finds their marriage a source of spiritual fulfillment and joyful service to the Lord together. He has to point you closer to Jesus.

2. Loving

Ephesians 5:25 says, “husbands love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her.” Whoa. That is a high calling. Your man must love you and cherish you so much he would be willing to die for you. Marriage is a picture of the gospel- of Christ coming down to earth, living the perfect life, dying the death we deserved, and then defeating death. Husbands are called to love their wives AS Christ loved the church. Talk about a high standard. Don’t settle for anyone who doesn’t love you like Christ.

3. Truth Speaker

Ephesians 6:14 says, “put on the belt of Truth.” I definitely want my husband to speak the gospel into my life. He should be rooted and established in the gospel to be able to do this. Whenever you mess up, he should be able to point you to the saving gospel and you two should be able to rejoice and praise God for His grace together.

4. Righteous

Righteous means “right before God.” In order for anyone to be right with God, he or she must have Christ as Lord of their life. Romans 10:9 says “if you confess with your mouth “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” That is how you achieve righteousness, it is by your faith you have been saved (Ephesians 2:6).

5. Gospel-Centered

Ephesians 6 talks about being readied by the “gospel of peace.” The gospel should rule in his life. He should be so firm in his faith and confident in his identity as a son of God that it guides his steps in life. The gospel should produce joy and peace throughout his life. His life should be marked by it.

6. Prays and Values God’s Word

Ephesians 6 calls believers to be “praying at all times.” A godly man is a one who prays and who seeks truth through the Word of God. Ephesians 6 also tells us to carry the “sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.” The Bible is our weapon. It has power and the ability to pierce any heart. Hebrews 4:12 is one of my favorites, “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” God has revealed himself to us through His word. I want a man who prays and values the Word of God.

Sometimes it feels like there are not any godly men out there. Sometimes it feels like the right one will never appear and the world is only filled with awful men who just want to use you. I completely understand if some of you feel that way. But I want to encourage you of several things if you might be looking for your right man.

The first thing is to make God #1. You should be running after God with EVERYTHING you have. You should be falling in love with the absolute greatest love story of all time-of Jesus Christ dying for YOU.
Just take a second to be in awe of that insurmountable truth.
Rest in that peace and knowledge that you don’t need a man. You have the BEST man. You have Christ. Your identity is in Him and Him alone.

The second thing is that no one is perfect. Guess what, whenever you do get married, you’re going to marry an imperfect human who was saved by gracejust like you. That means he’s probably going to be insensitive sometimes and hurt your feelings. Searching for someone perfect is not right and is opposite from the gospel. Tim Keller said it best in his book The Meaning of Marriage, “It is the illusion that if we find our one true soul mate, everything wrong with us will be healed; but that makes the lover into God, and no human being can live unto that.” A man can not take the place intended for Jesus. It is impossible and unhealthy, but most importantly raising someone to that standard is idolatry. But his life should be marked by a love and compassion that only comes from the Lord. He should be able to say he’s sorry because he definitely will mess up sometimes, and so will you.

-Rach

P.S. If you want to read an amazing book about relationships pick up The Meaning of Marriage by Tim Keller. This is an amazing book-whether you are single or married. I’m currently trying to convince my parents, who have been married for 35 years, to read it. You can buy it here.

How to Deal with Bullies

Dealingwithbullies.PNGDear My Heavenly Father,
I am broken. Sadness consumes me. I feel completely alone. No one will look me in the eye. I sit at a lunch table and everyone leaves. Girls I’ve been friends with since third grade. I am an outcast. Lord, I don’t understand. I don’t understand why I have this label. I’m depressed. Everything that once gave me happiness I just don’t have the energy for anymore. I feel worthless. Lord, why am I being treated like this? Why am I shut out of every relationship I once had. Why do boys feel like they can treat me however they want? Why do the girls go along with it? Are they afraid that they will be next? Father, rescue me. Empower me. I want to feel your love. I want to feel accepted. I need you.

Love,
Your daughter

Have you ever been bullied? Have you ever been been to feel as though you are worthless or undeserving of love? Middle school, high school, and college are all difficult years, there is no getting around it. Throughout middle school and high school I was bullied. I remember feeling alone, isolated, even worthless. Those years were tough. One thing I wish someone would’ve told me was my identity. I wish so badly someone would’ve explained to me how precious I was and how much God loved me. If you have gone through something similar or are going through it now, I want you to hold fast to these truths about who you are.

1.Your Identity is in Christ

This is who you are. This is your defining characteristic. This is the only thing that truly matters. You have been saved by the blood of Christ and no one can take that identity from you. No matter how hard they try. No matter how they treat you or make you feel. Romans 8:37-39 are my favorite verses, “we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

NOTHING can separate us from His perfect love.

2. You are Beautiful

I want you to know that. You are beautiful. You are beautiful because God created you. You are God’s beautiful and perfect creation. David explains in Psalm 139, “For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb.I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”
You are God’s best creation.
Describing a woman of high character Proverbs 31 states that “she is far more precious than jewels.” Your worth and beauty is found in the one who saves you. Your hope rests in Him.

3. God Approves of You

I struggle with wanting people to like me. Throughout middle school and high school, I just wanted to be liked. I tried and clearly failed (lol). I wish someone would have reminded me that God approved of me. God loved me so much that He sent His son to die for me. God loves you so much He sent His son to die for you and poured his righteous wrath out on His son so that He could be reconciled with you.

God loves you.

He approves of you.

He heard the lies those boys said about you, he saw the way those girls rejected you, and He wants you to know that His opinion is the only one that matters. His love is redeeming and powerful. He rescues his children from death.

4. Boys Do Not Define You

I think this is always going to be a struggle for women. It is so easy to caught up in relationships or in that desire to find “the one.” But Christ should be your #1 and not guys. As women, we live in this society where we all want to look a certain way for validation, to feel accepted and attractive. Before you get into any relationship, I want you to understand your relationship with the Lord. I want you to understand just how amazing, beautiful, loved, and cherished you are. I want you to understand that this because I want you to walk away the first time he calls you an unkind name or yells at you. The first time he is talking to other girls behind your back.

If you understand your value, your beauty, your worth, you won’t settle for guys who treat you less than a daughter of the King.

If you are dealing with bullies or being rejected, hold fast to these truths. Abide in God and go to school everyday armed with the knowledge of who you are and how precious and beautiful you are. Walk in the power and knowledge that God approves of you and you do not need to approval of man. You have been accepted.

-Rach