Monday, August 6, 2007

Holiness Before Happiness

Over the past several months, but especially in these past few weeks, God has been dealing very closely with my heart on this subject of "holiness before happiness". It grieves me that the Lord's call to be holy as He is holy is so neglected in the church--- and in my own life---while the quest happiness receives our most devoted attention. May you be blessed, as I was, by the following challenge from another of my spiritual fathers, A.W. Tozer.

"That we are born to be happy is scarcely questioned by anyone. The lovelorn columns of the newspaper are wet with the tears of persons who write to inquire how they can preserve their happiness. The psychiatrists of the land are getting fat off the increasing numbers who seek professional aid in their all-absorbing search for happiness. Almost all popular books and plays assume that personal happiness is the legitimate end of the human struggle. The only question before the house is how to get the most happiness out of life.

Now I submit that the whole hectic scramble after happiness is an evil as certainly as is the scramble after money or fame or success. How far wrong all this is will be discovered easily by the simple act of reading the New Testament through once with meditation. There the emphasis is not upon happiness, but upon holiness. God is more concerned with the state of people's hearts than with the state of their feelings. Undoubtedly the will of God brings final happiness to those who obey, but the most important matter is not how happy we are, but how holy.

For those who take this whole thing seriously I have a suggestion: Go to God and have an understanding. Tell Him that it is your desire to be holy at any cost and then ask Him never to give you more happiness than holiness. When your holiness becomes tarnished, let your joy become dim. And ask Him to make you holy whether you are happy or not. Be assured that in the end you will be as happy as you are holy."

~A.W. Tozer, Of God and Men (1960)

"O God! let Thy voice sound through the depth of our being, with a power from which there is no escape: Be holy, be holy!" (Andrew Murray) Amen and amen.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Direction of Discipline

This selection is taken from My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers. It centers on a subject that God has dealing with me about lately, and I have rarely seen it so well expressed. May it challenge your heart as it did mine, not merely to contemplation, but to action!

"And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off and cast it from thee; for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell." (Matthew 5:30)

"Jesus did not say that everyone must cut off the right hand, but---If your right hand offends you in your walk with Me, cut it off. There are many things that are perfectly legitimate, but if you are going to concentrate on God, you cannot do them. Your right hand is one of the best things you have, but, says Jesus, if it hinders you in following His precepts, cut it off. This line of discipline is the sternest one that ever struck mankind.

When God alters a man by regeneration, the characteristic of the life to begin with is that it is maimed. There are a hundred and one things you dare not do, things that to you and in the eyes of the world that knows you are as your right hand and your eye, and the unspiritual person says---Whatever is wrong with that? How absurd you are! There never has been a saint yet who did not have to live a maimed life to start with. But it is better to enter into life maimed and lovely in God's sight than to be lovely in man's sight and lame in God's.

In the beginning, Jesus Christ by His Spirit has to check you from doing a great many things that may be perfectly right for everyone else but not right for you. See that you do not use your limitations to criticize someone else.

It is a maimed life to begin with, but in Matthew 5:48, Jesus gives the picture of a perfectly full-orbed life---'Ye shall be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.'"

Is there anything in your life that is as a "right hand" or "eye" that is detracting from your walk with the Lord? Dear brother or sister, there is nothing in this world worth losing ground with Him over!!! Seek Him for the strength to cut it off and cast it from you, whatever it is, for "it is better to enter into life maimed and lovely in God's sight than to be lovely in man's sight and lame in God's."

Friday, June 29, 2007

II Chronicles 14:11

"...Lord, it is nothing with Thee to help, whether with many, or with them that have no power; help us, O Lord our God, for we rest on Thee, and in Thy name we go against this multitude. O Lord, Thou art our God; let not man prevail against Thee."

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Think! Think! Think!

(The following challenge is copied from "Drops from the Honeycomb",
a compilation of inspirational readings by James Alexander Stewart)

"Why stand ye here...idle?"
(Matthew 20:6)

"It is possible to be idle and yet to be fully occupied; to neglect one's paramount duty while yet employing every moment of one's time.

Young Christian, is it possible that it may be thus with you? Can it be that your industry and diligence are running in wrong channels, and so are, in result, mere idleness? Would the Lord Jesus Christ, after watching all your secular and sacred engagements the week through, and observing that you are really busy all the time, address to you nevertheless, in sad, reproachful tones, the question,

"Why stand ye here all the day idle? Working, but not where you are needed---in My vineyard; toiling, but not in the best way---in My service; busy, but not about My Father’s business; industrious in a sense, but, as far as regards the spread of My kingdom, idle!”

Consider then! is it not idle to waste time in trivial occupations when we are charged with serious responsibilities, or to employ only our lowest powers and talents and leave our higher ones unused?

For a Michelangelo, who could plan and erect a St. Peter’s, to spend his life in rough hewing blocks of marble, would it not have been a sin and a shame? For a Duke of Wellington, who could direct a battle or arrange a campaign, to devote his energies to serving a gun or commanding a regiment, would it not have been wasteful folly? For Peter, James, and John to have continued their fishing after receiving from the risen Savior their great commission, or for Paul to have retained tent-making as his life’s main business after his conversion, would it not have been sinful waste of precious time, as well as sinful disobedience?

And without being either an eminent genius or a divinely commissioned apostle, many a Christian man and woman may be in danger of similar folly and sin. They may be spending the one life God has given them to live for Him, in doing work of kind different from that which their Master intended, qualified, and commanded them to do; of a lower and less important description, than that for which they are competent and consequently responsible.

Such persons, however busy, are idle."

-Grattan Guinness

Friday, May 18, 2007

"The Gladness of My Joy"

The world has varied charms, yet none
Without some base alloy,
I turn from it to Thee, my God,
The gladness of my joy.
Sorrow may sorely press me down,
Yet not my peace destroy,
It only drives my soul to Thee,
Still gladness of my joy.
Earth's highest prize becomes a straw,
A worthless, glittering toy,
Beside Thy beauty, O my God,
The gladness of my joy.
Then let me all my heart and soul,
My every power employ,
In serving, praising Thee, who art
The gladness of my joy.

-Elizabeth Prentiss

Monday, May 14, 2007

Purple Crayons or Millstones - Part #2

In the first part of this article, we looked at the powerful influence that teens have in the lives of young children, simply by the way they live their own lives every day. Now I would like to take it a step further with one of those last questions I asked: Do you actively involve the young ones in your life in your activities and interests, or do you see them as an annoyance and hindrance to those things?

Reading the way Jesus took time to hear and take care of the needs of a man who everyone else thought was just “getting in the way” really puts our responsibility into practical perspective. Take a moment to read it in Matthew 20:29-34 and notice how the intense gratitude the man felt for what Jesus did motivated him to start following Jesus.

For the sake of our study, I’ve written up an imaginary (but entirely plausible) modern-day reenactment set at my house. Make sure you read the Scriptural account first so you can think about the parallels:

And as I was leaving my bedroom, several wild and rambunctious little boys met me in the hallway. And one little boy, seeing that I was not totally occupied at the moment, began frantically begging, “Abigail, I need you to help me!“ I could tell he wasn’t hurt or anything, so I sternly told him that I was too busy and he ought to be quiet, but he kept on begging all the more. So finally, I stopped and asked, “What do you want me to do for you?” And he said to me, “I need you to find my man‘s sword. Timothy threw it back in the container and I can’t find it anywhere!” Moved with compassion, I went in the room and spent five minutes rummaging through the Playmobil container until I produced the sword. And immediately he took it and returned to playing with his men.

Unlike the “important” things like blindness and demon possession and death that Jesus dealt with, most of the needs and wants of our younger siblings---like finding plastic swords for Playmobil men---are probably not what we would consider “important”, especially in the light of everything WE have to do. Nonetheless, we need to take the time to listen to their needs and deal with them.

Consider Jesus if you think you’re too pressed for time for that---He only had three years of ministry on this earth, and yet, He took time for a simple beggar who no one else cared about.
If you do take that time, you might be surprised to find your younger siblings following the example of your life.

Realistically, yes, when you give an inch, they’re probably going to take a mile, and you’ll probably spend multiple five-minutes over the next weeks searching for Playmobil men if you continue to be “moved with compassion”. As many of you older brothers and sisters would verify, in all reality, my little brother was NOT going to get up immediately and start physically “following me” after I found his sword, or begin asking me what he could do for me. He was going to keep on playing!!! That was the point of my finding the sword after all, wasn’t it?

Take heart, though, that in the long run, the interest you show those little ones and their world will give them in interest in yours. And if you’re living like a maturing child of God should, that just may be exactly what they need.

Yes, kids need role models and heroes today; but the place they need them most isn’t in magazines and on the TV’s in their own living rooms, kitchens, and backyards. In the words of Arthur Ash, “True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others, at whatever cost.”

Jesus said it this way: “...whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:26-28)

We teenagers desperately need to take this responsibility seriously and start seeing younger ones in our lives, especially our own little siblings, not just bodies in the background of what we’re trying to get done in life, but as an integral part of our ministries NOW. And this consideration ought to shift our focus from simply enduring or even simply enjoying our younger siblings to a focus on serving, loving, and instilling Godly visions into them.

What things are you motivating the children in your life to love and pursue? What vision are you giving them to strive after? What kind of example are you leaving for them to follow? And lastly, when this season of opportunity is passed and those little ones aren’t so little anymore, when you stand before God and give an account for your influence over them, will your legacy be purple crayons or millstones?

The choice is yours.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Where are they?

In this day and age, and in such a medium as the internet, I must be extremely careful. Originally, I posted links to blogs and websites that contain articles and materials that have been a blessing to me, hoping that these articles and materials would also be a blessing to the readers of my blog. However, I have only read a portion of what these blogs and websites have to offer.

This morning I was reminded again of the verse I quoted in my article below, Matthew 18:5-6: “And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me; but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.”

I read blogs with the perspective of gleaning---looking for truth and guarding against error. It was with this understanding that I linked to the sites I did, assuming others would do the same. However, I realize that is not necessarily the case, and that even this mindset does not protect me or others from being deceived.

I have removed the links, because quite honestly, I am not willing to be held responsible for causing someone to stumble if they are led astray by some error that creeps into any of those blogs or websites without my knowledge. The links may return in the future, but at present, I believe the wisest course for me is to remove my link to these people and groups. It is a heavy enough responsibility to keep watch over my own words without being a discerner of how others' words might affect those who read them.

To all of you who I had linked to, please know that you are still a blessing to me, and I will personally continue to read your blogs (with the perspective of a gleaner!), but I am seeking to be careful at this time. Thank you for your understanding, and may God bless you!!!

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Purple Crayons or Millstones - Part #1

If you had asked me to name three famous actors when I was seven or eight years old, I would have given you a blank stare.

In contrast, I have vivid childhood memories of the older girls who helped in my Sunday school class. While I may have wished for a personal encounter with the president as a child, when it came down to daily life, I was in the clouds if one of those girls six or seven years older would just smile at me. Good grief, I didn’t care how Britney Spears styled her hair---but those girls colored their Bible characters with blue and purple crayons, and by George, so would I.

That, my friends, is called influence. Role models---the people we look up to---have an incredible ability to instill a love for something into our hearts, in little and big things...especially when we are children.

If you don’t believe me, come over to my house any random afternoon, and I’ll show you one absorbed thirteen year old soaking up his older brother’s historical novel from the Napoleonic era, and one animated little seven year old on the floor next to him, studying an encyclopedia open to the same subject. Random chance that three boys with completely different make-ups find the same period of history fascinating? Maybe, maybe not.

A wise man once said, "The vision that you glorify in your mind, the ideal that you enthrone in your heart---this you will build your life by, this you will become."

All of us are influenced most by the people we are around in daily life. Knowing this, what kind of vision are you instilling into the hearts and minds of the little people looking up to you? What ideal are you living out before their eyes? I assure you, whether you are attempting to or not, your daily life is giving them an ideal to judge their own life by, both now and in the future.

Does your life present a challenge for them to meet and exceed your accomplishments, or are you stifling their ambition through daily habits of laziness, disrespect, and selfishness? Are your words, your attitudes, your actions with them and around them an encouragement for them to pursue their best for God? Or does your apathy squelch their budding passion? If they took you as their blueprint, what kind of life would they be building?

Matthew 18:5-6 says, “And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me; but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.”

We don’t usually think of “stumbling” as being a very big deal, but when it comes to His little ones, the Lord Jesus Christ does. We as teenagers need to think long and hard on the realization that the choices we make in our lives affect not only our future and us but also the lives and futures of the children who are watching us. And we need to realize that whether we like it or not, if that influence is a bad one, not only are those precious little ones going to suffer for it, but we are going to be held accountable by the God of heaven.

That thought has challenged me of late to stop and look at the kind of example I have been living out for my little brothers, and to start viewing them not as “in the way” of where I’m going in life, but as part of it.

Join me in considering the following questions:
  1. Do you actively involve the young ones in your life in your activities and interests, or do you see them as an annoyance and hindrance to those things?
  2. Has your influence on those young ones been an inspiration or a detriment? What can you do on a practical level to chance and improve?
  3. How did older teens affect you positively or negatively as a child? How can you improve upon their example?
God bless you as you seek His heart about these things!

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Source of Joy: the Beginning Story

Ever since I entered the world of the blogosphere some six short months ago, I have been delighted to find that there is quite an abundance of blogs written by conservative Christian young ladies who seem to have a sincere heart after God.

Knowing this, when the idea first began to grow on me that I should like to have "a blog of my very own", I knew I would have to come up with some very good reasons why to present to my father before gaining permission to join the rest of the blogosphere butterflies. In my customary fashion, I prefaced this conversation by trying to imagine every question he might ask, in order to see if I need even bother going to him about it.

Somewhere along the line in questioning myself, I got sidetracked on a question my father probably wouldn't have asked, (but I would) which was what I would name my blog, should I have one. And oddly enough, that decision was what suddenly broke away the branches and showed me the flower of purpose I had been catching whiffs of. As any observant reader has already noticed, the name I finally decided on is Source of Joy.

My father and mother named me "Abigail" after the godly woman of wisdom and discernment in the Bible. From a young age, that name has challenged me to be all that it declares I am---both to be like Abigail of old in wisdom and discretion, and also to live up to the literal meaning of the name, which is, "source of joy". Many times I have lain in bed at night considering certain courses of action, and my name has come to mind as a strong reminder of the spiritual heritage I cannot bear to disgrace.

"I am to be a source of joy---I cannot do that thing and bring grief to my father and mother." "I am to be a source of joy---I must find a way to encourage my friend in this dark time." "I am to be a source of joy---I cannot give way to murmuring and complaining and discourage my family even further through this hardship."

What a blessing this name has been. And yet...for most of my life, while the joy of being Christ's child has earned me nicknames like "the songbird" and "smiley", I have not known the full joy of victory that my Creator intended for me. Instead, I was daily grieving both myself and everyone I was supposed to be a "source of joy" to by defeat after defeat in my Christian life.

In John 15, the Lord Jesus spoke to His disciples of how they might know this victory, by a constant abiding in Himself, who alone is the Victory. And finally in verse eleven, He explained, "These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full." Since I became a Christian, the joy of Christ has been my treasure, for He lives within me by His Holy Spirit. However, I never realized that Jesus' work on the cross has made possible a much greater plane of the Christian life that I was missing---the life of a joy made FULL.

And that is the primary purpose of this blog. There are many secondary purposes, such as challenging me to write regularly and with excellence, but the overarching desire of my heart in launching Source of Joy is to create a place where I can share with my dear brothers and sister the FULL joy Christ gives me as He works in me that complete surrender to Christ's entire possession of my life.

I believe that to truly live up to my name, I must first of all and most of all be a joy to my God. And I am now quite convinced that it is this life of victory that brings the greatest joy to my beloved Savior's heart, for He is glorified when we bear fruit, and we can bear fruit only when we abide in the Vine---the Lord Jesus Christ.

I have given myself over to Him as fully as I know how, but the process of surrender will continue, and I want to share with you the lessons I learn along the way, as well as encourage you to step onto the path and join me in this journey if you have not already. I have received such a blessing from listening in on God's lessons to other Christian young ladies in the blogosphere through their blogs, and it is my hope that that same blessing might be yours through mine.

May I be a source of joy to you as I share with you the Source and Fullness of my joy!