It’s enough to know the next step

“Publish Blog Post” says Google Calendar. How can I publish what I haven’t written? I’m pretty sure I deleted the last reminder though and I don’t want to skip over this one, so as I brush poptart crumbs from my keyboard, here’s your latest installment of “How long will it take for Ellie to realize the obvious?”

I take very careful mental notes of everything new, whether new people, new ideas, or new experiences. Depending on how much coffee I had that day, I can usually recall with decent clarity the day I first met someone, thought of something, or tried something. I like to live in that moment and think, “One day this will be a memory.” I’ll store up that feeling and later recall just how it felt, just what I thought, and what came out of it.

It’s a good hobby! I think it comes so naturally to me because I always expect something wonderful to come out of everything. Being on the young side, I realize that small things that happen now could lead to huge changes for the rest of my life. People I meet, places I go, they could one day mean the world to me.

But I’ve found myself lately trying to figure out exactly who that is and where that is. I want to know! I want to know exactly where God is leading me, and I want to pay special attention so one day I can think, “I remember how it all started, and how it felt.” Several times, many times, I’ve thought, “This. This is where God is leading me,” but just as often those doors have been closed, those ideas have failed, or sometimes I just decided it wasn’t for me after all.

So you can imagine the tears, the disappointment, the discouragement, when I am called just to wait and pray. I’ve been tempted to think and feel that there must not be a plan for my life at all. I think I’ve forgotten that waiting and praying isn’t a bad thing, in fact, it can be very, very good.

It also came as an epiphany (although it should have been obvious) that I don’t need see the entire plan before I take the first step. I have so many wonderful adults in my life! As I think of all the conversations I’ve had and all the advice and prayer I’ve received just in the past few weeks, I’m so overwhelmed with gratitude! Maybe I should write a blog post about seeking advice from godly adults. But for now let me paraphrase one of the many helpful people I talked to, “If you believe you want to go to college, than I’d say go ahead and start. You might get a couple semesters in and realize it’s not what you should be doing, or you might get a degree under your belt and decide to go farther. Be in such a relationship with God and be so receptive to the Holy Spirit that you know, not the whole plan, but the next step to take.”

We were talking about college, but the principle applies to the rest of my life too. I can just forget about trying to lay out the whole map of my life. If I can just be so in tune with God that I know the next step, even if the next step is waiting, His plans will come to pass. And I know His plans are wonderful!

With love,
Ellie

Anxiety vs Our Big God

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Photo credit to Lily Caldwell, thanks girl!

What do I have to be anxious about? Nothing, right? I am a child of the Creator of the Universe. But I’ve been struggling with anxiety and fearfulness for a few weeks now. Anytime I’m alone, I’m subject to a wave of terror and nervousness sometimes displaying themselves physically with shivers and a lump in my throat so big I have to cough to breathe. In a nutshell–I’m afraid of myself and my sin. I’m afraid of destroying relationships and people that I love. I’m afraid that my future will be one disasterous spiral as I mess up again, and again, and again.

I’m not used to anxiety, because I’m usually optimitic, sometimes even unhealthily to the point of not thinking about consequenses. So this new anxiety has paralized me, to a certain degree, but more than that, it’s forced me to lean on God, and for that I am thankful. When I feel my throat seize up and dread of impending doom settle in my stomach, I have two options: 1. fly apart as I believe that I am in charge of my life, or 2. acknowledge that Jesus is my Savior and my Master and He has freed me from the power of sin.

Isn’t God greater than sin? Hasn’t God directed me this far? Hasn’t He held me so very tightly that not even I can destroy our relationship? How dare I doubt that the God who can control stars can control my life, every single hour of it! From atoms to galaxies, He is Lord.
We’ve been going through a Bible study at church called Behold Your God. It’s wonderful. Through it I’ve come to see that what we need most is to see God for who He truly is. It has been my goal in the fear and anxiety to fix my attention on God instead of on myself. Psalm 139 has been my fallback scripture since I’ve been working on memorizing it. This is what I have memorized right now.
 
Oh Lord, you have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up. You discern my thoughts from afar. 
You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. 
Even before a word is on my tongue, behold O Lord! You know it altogether. 
You hem me in behind and before and lay Your hand upon me. 
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me! It is high, I cannot attain it. 
 
Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence. If I ascend to heaven, You are there. If I make my bed in Sheol, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there Your hand shall lead me and Your right hand shall hold me. If I say “Surely the darkness shall cover me and the light about me be night” even the darkness is not dark to you and night is as bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you. 
 
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. Wonderful are your works. My soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from You when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance, and in Your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me when as yet there were none of them
So wonderful and soothing. My God is big enough to calm all my fears. He is faithful and patient and will never let me go.
In Christ,
Ellie

Ten Questions to ask at the Start of a New Year

 

I think I broke my record for “Quickest time learning to write the new year instead of the old year when I write out the date.” If that doesn’t make sense, don’t worry, it’s not important.

I realize that it would have been helpful to pass along these ten questions at the beginning of the year or slightly before when everyone was making their resolutions and hardening up to be a better person, but maybe it’s best that that didn’t happen. It’s about now we have lost the excitement of the New Year and realized that we’re still the same old people we were last year, and only hard work and prayer is going to change that. So maybe now is the right time to examine ourselves yet again and decide to implement what we’ve resolved to do.

I didn’t write these questions, I’m only sharing them from what Don Whitney shared here. He also has 21 more questions if you’d like to ponder 1 question a day for a whole month. Let me tell you now, it’d be an overwhelming, but probably edifying month. And it’s a very worthwhile article.

Anyway, I want to share these 1o questions with you for your consideration.

1. What’s one thing you could do this year to increase your enjoyment of God?

2. What’s the most humanly impossible thing you will ask God to do this year?

3. What’s the single most important thing you could do to improve the quality of your family life this year?

4. In which spiritual discipline do you most want to make progress this year, and what will you do about it?

5. What is the single biggest time-waster in your life, and what will you do about it this year?

6. What is the most helpful new way you could strengthen your church?

7. For whose salvation will you pray most fervently this year?

8. What’s the most important way you will, by God’s grace, try to make this year different from last year?

9. What one thing could you do to improve your prayer life this year?

10. What single thing that you plan to do this year will matter most in 10 years? In eternity?
Convicting, no? Definitely a lot to swallow and think about, but don’t forget to put it into practice too. I’m setting reminders on my phone and Google Calendar to come back and think about these questions every month to examine my progress.

 

Love in Christ,
Ellie

A piece of my journal

November 14th, 2015

A scene comes to mind, one I heard of years ago. Why does it come to haunt me now? It disturbs me even more than it did then. Is this the manifestation of the fear that comes from ISIS and hearing about their plans for global domination?

The scene was told by the mother. A cartel invaded their town and began ransacking homes, plundering them and killing everyone who was found in them. This mother gathered her children who were in the house and as five men broke down the front door, she fled with her children out the back door and into the woods, where they ran straight into another cartel that was lining up people to chop off their hands.

She stood in line with her children and her heart began to plead with God to save them somehow. Then her youngest, a little girl, began to cry. She tried to quiet the child, but she only wailed louder. The desperate mother could do nothing. They tore the little girl from her mother and held the screaming child as they dug a hole in the ground. The girl cried until the very end when they buried her alive, her wails silenced by the earth.

Oh God! How my heart inside me melts and my spirit is burdened with the weight of this pain and cruelty! How can people do this? The battle inside hurts, this never-ending struggle to know: is man totally evil, only doing good when it benefits ourselves? Is there any decency in a man left to himself? How can one human being do that to another? How can one ignore this instinct to love and protect children and murder one so small? Does their conscience tear them? Do their morals scream for attention? How can such atrocities be accepted anywhere by anyone?

What happened to her? Was she and her children saved? And how could she ever be happy again having seen such things?

And while men and women are being executed on the other side of the earth for their faith, we struggle to wake up in the morning to read our Bibles that are easy to access in whatever format we want. We read without any fear of arrest, but then toss it away like another box on the checklist. And then we complain that the weather is not to our liking. We whine about people who rub us the wrong way and think that we ought not be forced to put up with these kind of people. We wish the pay checks were higher and our time free to spend at leisure.

What ugly pigs we are. How foolish and shallow I am. Lord, if there is anything I can do, show me. And remind me again of the pricelessness of your word.

Why I Battle

I have noticed in myself an apathy, and it concerns me. I haven’t struggled against sin like I should. I haven’t fought for righteousness and holiness like I ought. I’ve sat back and let sin trample me, throwing me down and around until I have absolutely no choice but to throw it off.

My own lack of passion has concerned me, usually when I am around other Christians who are striving for the life that the Lord would have them live–and I can barely managed to pray every day. Or when my brothers and sisters are convicted of sin–and I haven’t heeded my own convictions that fall like a puddle around my feet. It took me awhile to diagnose the problem. It is disbelief.

A few weeks ago at our church’s family camp, Mr. Tren Groat preached a sermon, linked here. He said in that sermon, “Satan wants you to believe that the sin in your life can’t be defeated.” I felt electricity course through me as I was lightning struck. I thought, “Well then–it can be defeated?” My head answered, “But of course!” Jesus died to rescue us from sin. He overcame death and the grave. God has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of His beloved son!

I realized then that I wasn’t believing what my head was saying, and my head was quoting the Bible. I wasn’t truly believing the gospel, that I have been rescued from sin.

The next evening, Pastor Scott preached a sermon, linked here. It was a beautiful sermon: a beautiful picture of a beautiful person who served the church in a simply beautiful way. I could have melted right there, swallowed in despair and the overwhelming feeling that I will never get there.

I love my church family so badly! I get choked up thinking about all my brothers and sisters in Christ. I want to serve them wholeheartedly, without prideful thoughts, without selfish intent. I want to be the person God has called me to be! But unconsciously I have been telling myself over and over that I will never get there, so why even try?

That question has beaten me up in the past few days. I couldn’t get around it. Why try if I’ll never get there? I know I will always have sin. I will never be able to do anything with a completely pure motive. So why should I try?

This is why I am not passionate. This is why I am despairing. This is why I am unhappy. Because I am not believing God’s promises.

I found the answer Wednesday night.

Why should I fight for righteousness? Because God is worth it, and our relationship to Him only gets sweeter and sweeter from here on out. If we could ever be perfect here on the earth, we wouldn’t experience His strength through our weaknesses like we can now. If we were perfect–there would be no grace. We hunger and thirst for righteousness because that is what brings us closer to God.

So why don’t I fight against sin? Because I don’t believe that I can conquer it. Which is true, but Jesus already did! I don’t have to subject myself to my old master. I’m no longer a child of sin, but a child of God.

Two things have really encouraged me through this battle to believe that the sin in my life is defeated, and I ought to fight against it.

1st, I look at people around me–and they aren’t perfect–but they’re awesome! I want to be like that. And I know that they didn’t get there by giving up. They got there by pursuing God with all their heart, soul, and mind.

2 Timothy 4:7
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

They struggled hard, went through trials, and sought after God as He worked in them to change them into a beautiful person. Those people–and if you know me, I’m probably talking about YOU–are the people that encourage me to love and good works. They inspire me to be more, to struggle farther, to follow after God and allow Him to work in my life. That’s why I need my church family so much! And for all those people–thanks.

2nd, the Bible is full of of admonishments to press on. On the one hand, that shows me that I’m not the only one who struggles with discouragement that leads to apathy.

1 Timothy 6:12

Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

And on the other hand, I know that it can be done and ought to be done.

Romans 8:10
But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.

1 Timothy 6:11
Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.

And that is my battle from the last couple of weeks, believing that I am free from sin. This confession has tried to stay hidden for a long time. I didn’t want to write it. I didn’t want to be held accountable for posting it. I didn’t want people knocking on my door (figuratively) to make sure I was struggling on, fighting the good fight, warding off apathy. But what I have come to see, and what I hope you see, is that I don’t need a chart to make sure I am keeping up, but an encouragement in the promises of God. He promised that He would never leave me or forsake me. And He promised me that I no longer belong to sin, but I belong to Him. And through Him I will overcome the sin in my life.

And now with this freshly strapped to my forehead, I hope to fight on, not out of obligation, but out of a passion to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

Romans 6:17-18
But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed,
and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.

In Christ,
Ellie

I’d Like a Laptop….

Imagine me packing up my laptop to stroll in the park. Under a favorite tree, I would unpack, settle down, and write. Out in the fresh breeze, under the blue sky and leafy boughs,inspiration would flow, stories would be written, truths be sifted through and explained.

Or imagine taking the laptop with me to a coffee shop where, with stealthy glasses, I would watch people enter and order, and write them down as characters to use in a novel. And picking up my handy Criminal Writer’s Reference Guide, I would plot out a mystery novel. Or imagine me with the simple opportunity to withdraw into a quiet bedroom with coffee and cookies nearby to write to my heart’s content.

I would like a laptop. But so far, it hasn’t come to reality. I have to put up with a desktop in the living room where the entire family lives.

Even more than a laptop, I would like selflessness. I feel chained to my own desires and comforts so that I cannot love as I ought.

I would like diligence, the ability and will to complete what I start and struggle through trials.

I would like self-discipline, to read the Bible and pray consistently and faithfully.

I would like grace of speech.

I would like wisdom and discernment.

Okay, the list goes on and on. (Yours probably does too.) I feel like such a baby Christian sometimes because I lack in all these areas.

Well, I read today from the book “Pentecost-Today?” by Iain H. Murray. He was actually quoting another book that said,
“Some things that we might think desirable we may not have. Before Christ was brought face to face with the tempter, he was fitted for his service by being kept hungry for forty days; and it may be that some things we desire may in like manner be kept back. But faith should always claim that that which God has given us, and is giving us, is sufficient for present needs. If faith is only in lively exercise we shall know this, That no single thing we do not possess would be a help to us today. What does the Word say? ‘No good thing will he withhold’ (Psa. 84:11) ‘My God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus’ (Phil. 4:19).

That struck home. A laptop would not be a help today, nor patience or compassion, as strange as that sounds. Because for some reason in God’s grand design, I’m not supposed to have it. I don’t know when I might ever get a laptop, but God does. And after all, true freedom is being a slave to Christ, including a slave to His plans for me.

And since the key to contentment is gratefulness, I have already begun to mentally review all the blessings God has given to me. Material goods are all around me, including the green grass and sweet smelling lilacs. And even looking at my character, which can be depressing, I see how I have grown and matured and I’m very grateful God has been patient to bring me this far. With His grace, I can only grow closer to Him.

In Christ,
Ellie
 

In the world, but not of the world

 

I am not praying for the world, but for those whom you have given me….
They are in the world….
They are not of the world….
I have sent them into the world. John 17

If you haven’t realized yet, these articles I write are just as much for myself as for anyone else. I have a hard time processing anything without writing it out. So now I’ll write out something that I’ve had in mind for a long time, and that ties into the last article I posted.

What does it mean to be in the world but not of it?

1 John 2:15-17
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world.  And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

To be in the world has a rather obvious meaning—we are here, “doing life” with the rest of humanity. If you’ve ever doubted that you were in the world, I’d be highly surprised. Go talk to your mom.

But to be of the world is different. According to John, “Of the world” means to be one with the world’s desires of the flesh, desires of the eye, and pride of life; the same goals, passions, purpose, and though the world may not know it, the same destiny.

The world has one goal-to be happy. It manifests its goal in different ways: the American dream, socialism, get rich quick schemes, and even funding charities to feel better.

But we, as Christians, don’t have the same goal. We don’t have the same motives, we don’t have the same purpose. Even while we buy cars, work a job, do school, take care of our families like others in the world, everything is different, because it is done for God.

The reason this ties into the last post is because the world is living for the world, but Christians, who are not of the world, are living for eternity. Before I go into how this looks practically, let me cover one more thing.

So if we have different desires and motives than this world, what does Paul mean when he says “I have become all things to all people”? 1 Corinthians 9:22.

Where is the line between being “not of the world” and yet becoming one with the world in order to win the world to Christ? I don’t believe this is an “either or.” There is no line. We can be all of both.

To become all things to all people is to break down every unnecessary boundary in order to reach someone for Christ. 1 Corinthians 8:13 “Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.” So we can still be different from the world in our purpose and motive, and yet put aside boundaries that disconnect us.

However there is a line concerning becoming “all things to all people.” How far can we go? We obviously can’t sin to become one with the world. Neither can we compromise our conscience. So how externally different from the world are we?

I have thought about this a lot. I don’t know that I can explain the whole thought process to you, but it has concluded in one thing, “They shall know we are Christians by our love.” *

So our clothing should be different in that it is loving.
Our music should be different in that it is loving.
Our media, reading material, internet intercourse, should be different in that it is loving.
More importantly though, our attitudes should be different in that they are loving.
Our words should be different in that they are loving.
Our actions, thoughts, and motives should be different in that they are loving.

I can’t tell you specifically what you ought to wear, listen to, or speak, but it must be loving. After all, to reflect God is the same as to reflect love.**

In this way, even though we break down unnecessary boundaries, and hopefully all of them, we are going to be different than the world. The world will see that we are different in our attitudes and motives, our words and actions. It is quite possible, in fact probable, that they will be offended. (John 15:19) But we must be sure that it is the gospel offending, and not us.

I ran through this all pretty quickly. So to recap:

  1. We are not of the world because we have different desires, passions, purposes, and motives. We are living for eternity.
  2. We are also sent into the world to win souls to God. We must break down every unnecessary boundary in order to minister God’s love.
  3. Practically, this is manifested in love. Everything must be done in love.
  4. We must be sure that the gospel is offending, not us, that we are not standing in the way of God’s work. (Jesus is the only way to God, we are not the only way to Jesus.)

I hope this all made sense and hopefully made some things a little clearer for you.

 

In Christ’s Love,
Ellie

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:2

 

*Why is love the reigning factor? I won’t go into this here, but there is a wonderful sermon here.
**God is Love [link]