The Other Side of Love

Hello, again! I feel like I am playing catch up from the last several months when I have not written. The Lord has yet been speaking to me and dealing with me, but I had not taken the time to write like I should have. I am picking myself up and working on my obedience once again.

One of the ideas that the Lord has been dealing with me on has been the other side of love. I know that my mission is to share the love of God with the world. And I know that my naturally rose-colored optimist self took that as some sweet mandate to spread sunshine and rainbows. But God has been pushing me to go beyond that. And it has not been easy for me.

God is love. I know that to be true. No matter what we have done, God loves us. He does not love our sin. He does not love our disobedience. He loves us.

God is also righteous. And because He loves us, He will not allow us to continue in unrighteousness.

For whom the Lord liveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.

Hebrews 12:6

Throughout history, God has sent prophets to proclaim His good news AND His judgement. But He did not judge just to punish people and wipe them out. Always, the intent was to bring people to repentance, so that they can once again be in right standing with Him. Sin separates us from Him, and must be banished from our lives so that we can enjoy fellowship with Christ.

And sometimes that requires chastening. Sometimes that requires someone we love to tell us about ourselves. And sometimes, we tasked with sharing His love are sent to tell others the truth, so that they may come to repentance.

As a parent, I know that my job is to help my daughter grow into the woman God called her to be. That means that I shower her with love and mercy and goodness – but I also correct misbehavior. I do it in love, and I make sure to communicate that to her – but there are some things that are not acceptable in our home. There are some things that I must correct if she is to be a good citizen of our world and a good witness for Christ. I know some of the calling God placed on her life before she was even conceived. Because I love her, I have to guide and correct her along the way as the Lord gives me wisdom.

And so God does with us. We are His children, and He knows the fullness of what we will become. But He also sees our misbehaviors and sins that will keep us from fulfilling those callings. Because He loves us, He corrects us. If He did not care, He would allow us to just continue doing whatever we wanted.

About a month ago, I was given the opportunity to speak on the fourth Sunday. I did not know what the Lord wanted me to speak on and wrestled the entire week prior. Well, correction. I knew, I just didn’t want to say it. The Lord had been dealing with me about envy in the body, and I knew it needed to be called out. I did NOT want to be that person! I tried to reason my way out, that it was not my place, etc etc. But God told me that if I had been tasked with bringing the message and His word, I was the one to do it.

I knew despite my misgivings I could not be disobedient. And I said what He told me to say. I remember crying at the beginning, because I still did not want to say it. But He took over, and I pray that whoever needed to receive it, received it. I received it for myself, for sure!

But the point He kept trying to make is that sometimes bringing the message of His love means calling out sin. It means saying the hard things to someone – not to offend them, judge them, or hurt them; but so they may come to repentance and be saved! If I claim to love my brothers and sisters, but I refuse to share a word that can make the difference in their lives because it is uncomfortable, then I am not operating and walking in love. And likewise, I hope that someone would share a word with me that would help me, whether I liked how it felt or not.

Now, I certainly cannot control how the message will be received. But I do believe that if God sent me at a specific time to a specific person, that He has prepared their hearts to receive His word. And certainly, there is a way to deliver His message in love, going to my brother or sister

speaking the truth in love…

Ephesians 4:15

And so, I am learning to embrace the fullness of love. With God’s love is the mandate of righteousness. Of course, we need His help to live holy, and it is Christ’s sacrifice that imputes righteousness to us. But we must not willfully engage in sinful behaviors and poor choices, thinking there are no consequences because of God’s love. It is because of His love that He will not allow such things to continue in our lives.

When chastening comes to you, I pray you receive it with an open and repentant heart, rejoicing that God obviously loves you enough to ensure that you do what is necessary to grow into all He created you to be.

God loves you!

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Trusting, or I’m Still Learning…

Greetings! It has been so very long since I have written. I just finished my first semester of law school, and already the summer semester has begun. But I want to purpose to make the time to share what God has done and continues to do in my life.

Law school… nothing really prepared me for the journey ahead. I knew it would be busy. I knew it would be hard. I knew it would be time consuming. But I really did not know the extent of that. Which is funny – because in Torts we learn that as long as something is foreseeable, the extent of it does not have to be foreseeable. And now, I cannot unsee “law” wherever I go and whatever I do. (I even dream it!)

Anyhow, I am thankful that I serve a God who is my ever-present help in time of trouble. Getting to law school tested my trust. And I thought I had learned my lesson. But, apparently, there is still much for me to learn! Getting through law school is an even greater test of my trust in God than I imagined it could be.

I admit that I am a perfectionist. I believe in working hard and giving my everything. I do NOT like to settle for less than 100%. But I am being convicted about whether I am trusting in God or myself. Am I relying on my own strength and understanding, or the divine Spirit of God?

5 Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.

6 In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

Proverbs 3:5-6 KJV

I am thankful for having a praying sister, who is not afraid to tell me the truth about myself as the Spirit speaks to her. One day as I was belly-aching over some struggle or other, she firmly told me, “Take your hands off of it.” God brought me to this place. I know that I am in His will. And I “say” that I trust Him, but my actions and indulging my fears do not reflect true trust. I humbly accepted the admonition, because I know it’s right. I have not been operating in trust.

The Lord gave me specific commands on rest days during my studies, but I think I know best and need to power through to get everything done. And when I have been obedient and followed His study plan, I have achieved everything and it seemed easy! But to my over-achieving self, that seems not fair. Surely I must work! The problem is that I wanted to be able to say that my hard work led to the result. But when I work on my own strength, I am frustrated, I can’t focus, and things seem to take twice as long. My hard work was NOT leading to a great result!

Sigh. Lord, I repent for thinking I know better than You.

Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts.

Zechariah 4:6 KJV

So, I am picking myself up once again and laying down my will on the altar. I will trust God. I will trust His plan and His will for my life.

My brothers and sisters, trust Him – even when it seems counter-intuitive to your own plans and understanding. We must trust that He knows best for us! After all, He is the only one with the whole picture – we only see in part. Trust Him with all your heart, and watch Him work miracles on your behalf.

Thirsty

Greetings in the Name of Jesus! It’s been a long while since I’ve written – law school is even busier than I’d imagined. God has been blessing me and helping me, and I am grateful every day for His continued move in my life. We serve a mighty God!

Around the last week of December 2018, the Lord put on my heart to go on a words fast, where I examined the things I say and also the things I don’t say, but allow to swirl and remain in my mind. In addition to that, He also led to me fast from all beverages except water. I called it my “words and water fast” even though I wasn’t entirely sure how it all tied together.

One day in prayer, I was seeking God to understand what this need for water meant. I began to search my concordance for all references to water. And then, the scripture, that they who hunger and thirst after righteousness will be filled (Matthew 5:6), dropped into my mind, and I began to search for thirst instead.

I found myself in Isaiah 55, and the Lord began to speak to my heart. The chapter begins with the call for those who are thirsty, to come and drink water. Then, it goes on to admonish us for wasting our money on frivolous wants instead of our true needs. I thought of the IG culture – doin’ for the gram. We’ve got people posting and posing, stuntin for the gram for likes and followers. And for what? Because they are thirsty. It’s become a joke – He or she is just thirsty. But really, it isn’t a joke. Because we are all thirsty for something.

We may feel an emptiness, a longing within us. We try to fill it with likes and followers, with new clothes and gourmet food and exotic travels; with lovers and friends and frenemies. But deep down, that thirst can only be filled with the living water.

And where do we find this living water? We’re not the only ones who are thirsty. People in the Bible were “thirsty” too. The woman at the well was thirsty, and she sought to fill it with men. It didn’t work of course. The rich young ruler wanted only to fill his thirst with his riches. It wasn’t enough. Those people – among others – were able to meet the fountain of living water Himself. But what about us?

Verses 6-7 show us how to quench that thirst. We must seek God. His mercy and pardon toward us is refreshing water to our souls and spirits.

I have always loved verses 8-11 in Isaiah 55. But this week, God opened my eyes to see it a little bit differently. The theme of water trickles throughout the chapter, but really flows in these verses.

10 For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater:

11 So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.

Isaiah 55:10-11 KJV

Rain – water in its liquid form. It meets the immediate need. Snow – water in its solid state, frozen. It meets the future need. The snow melts slowly into the earth, filling the water tables underground and the rivers and lakes.

I like to look at the structure of the way words are written. The two verses are analogous, and we can draw parallels. The word is like both rain and snow. It meets an immediate need – the rhema word in season. It also signifies a solid and lasting promise, it is water that goes through all the stages – solid, liquid, and vapor – the logos word of the Bible.

Shall not return void – rain and snow don’t just go back up to the sky in the same form. They may go through the water cycle, before only what’s left – the vapor – returns. The vapor is what is left after water has done all it can do. Our lives themselves are but a vapor. And so with the word of God – it will not return back to Him in the same way it went out. It is fulfilled/processed when it comes back to him.

Rain and snow watereth the earth – It shall accomplish that which I please. Watering the earth is sustaining life; refreshing. God’s word sustains us and refreshes our souls.

What does it accomplish: And maketh it bring forth and and bud – new life. Our lives are made new, new creation when we are born of the water and of the spirit.

What does He please: That it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater – sustenance. Sustenance for those who sow the word to others. Each of us has a responsibility to sow the word – into others, and also into ourselves! Farmers sow seeds to sustain their own families and to feed others! The word of the Lord is quick and sharper than a two-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12)– it cuts both ways, but it feeds both ways too! I know that many times, when I am speaking words of encouragement to others, they are the very words I myself need to hear. And in saying them, I’m blessing myself just as much as the other person. The water of the word helps those seeds that are sown to take root in our lives and to bring forth fruit.

So I have been thinking: what am I thirsty for? Am I thirsty for the approval and admiration of others? Or am I truly thirsting after righteousness? Those of you who have ever experienced true thirst, the only thing that can really quench it is pure, clean water. Soda, tea, coffee, juice won’t do. You need water. My prayer is that when I find myself doing things that make me look thirsty for the things of the world, that I will really examine myself and turn that longing into a longing for God. For we are promised in Matthew 5:6 that if we hunger and thirst after righteousness, we will be filled.

And as for the words aspect, well, input-output. If we are thirsty for the things of the world, it absolutely affects our speech and the things we allow to come out of our mouths and sit in our minds. But when we are thirsty for God, for righteousness, and when we are seeking to be filled with living water, then living water will flow out of us; righteousness will flow out of us in the things we say to ourselves and to others. At the feast in John 7:37-38, Jesus cried out that we who are thirsty can come to him, and if we believe on him according to the Word, out of our belly will flow rivers of living water. We must be filled with the water so that it can flow out of us to others who are also thirsty. Then they will see that there is a source, a fountain from which they too can be quenched.

When you are truly thirsty for God, for the things of God – only the living water will do. The sugary drinks of this world, though tasty for a moment, will stick in your throat and leave you unsatisfied, full of empty calories and craving for more. Let the living water that can be found in God’s Word satisfy your thirst.

May God bless you in the name of Jesus!

 

 

The Trap of Unworthiness

Happy New Year! I pray you are enjoying the blessings of the Lord in this new year.

In my prayer time this morning, I was really struggling. Law school has officially started, and I am flying out tomorrow evening to make the long trek from Japan to the east coast of the States for my first residency week. It’s funny – since the time I’ve found out that I got accepted, I’ve really kept the news quiet and have not shared it much with those around me. Sure, I’ve shared it on this blog, but with the exception of my sister, none of you actually know me, so it feels … safer.

I told myself that it was because I did not want to come off as prideful or boastful. And I admitted I wasn’t ready for some people in my life to rain on my parade and somehow make me feel bad about this occasion. But this morning, I had to really get to the root of my issues. I don’t actually feel worthy of such a blessing. Who am I that I should have this privilege and experience? I mean, I look around at the lovely Filipina ladies in our church who came to Japan to work for three years so they can support their families back home. They do such hard physical labor for what most Americans would see as very little money. They send most of their money home, keeping only about $100 for themselves each month, with which they must take care of all their necessities. And yet they are so kind and full of joy and they are faithful in church each week! What makes me think I deserve this kind of opportunity over them?

I know, “Comparison is the thief of joy” (Theodore Roosevelt). And God really dealt with my heart this morning. No one of us deserves anything, no one is inherently better than an other. But for whatever reason, God gave each of us our own unique abilities and purposes, our own roads to travel. According to His will, this is the road I have been given to travel. It is not any better or any worse than anyone else’s; it is just mine. Stay in your lane, Tiff. So, I will not compare myself to anyone else, for better or for worse. I will accept my lot with gratitude, looking unto the Author and Finisher of my faith (Hebrews 12:2), that He may get the glory out of my life.

We were each purposed for such a time as this. We each have a heavenly assignment and an eternal destiny. Ultimately, the goal is for Christ to get the glory! So, I will gladly proclaim the marvelous works of my Lord. I will walk forth fearlessly, keeping my eyes on Him.

May you live out your own purpose fearlessly and with thanksgiving. God is yet worthy of all praise and glory! Love and blessings to you.

 

Walking Through Open Doors

Greetings in the Name of Jesus!

In early November, I began to hear the Lord whispering “Behold, I have set before you an open door.” At the time, I was stressing about what to do with my life, since it seemed law school would be put on hold for our upcoming four years in Germany. But a potential opportunity had presented itself in the form of an ABA-approved hybrid JD program, and while I did feel the leading of the Holy Spirit, I was still a bit hesitant. That word from God helped me to move forward in faith, even in the face of fear. And now, I am so happy to report that I will be starting law school in about a week and a half! Look what the Lord has done! I remember that just a few short months ago, it seemed all of my plans and dreams were in disarray because of our assignment to Germany. But God brought everything together in the way that only He can.

I had promised to report about my LSAT experience, so I’ll take the opportunity to do that now. Leading up to the test, I spent a lot of time in prayer and fasting, turning it all over to God. That’s not to say I didn’t study – I spent over 6 months preparing. But I knew that I’d need the supernatural help of God to aid my natural efforts. So, the morning of the test, it is pouring down rain when I get up for my daily run. No worries. I pray and ask God that when it is time for me to walk to the testing center that it stops raining. And exactly that happened! I had even bought an umbrella on my way out just in case (oh ye of little faith), but as soon as I took a few steps out the door, it completely stopped raining. I was just enveloped in a sense of calm and stillness the entire morning. I didn’t specifically hear anything from God but I was aware that He was with me. It was just so .. still. 

So, I get to the test and the test is administered in such a way that not everyone gets the same test, and you don’t know what you will get until you open your booklet. As the proctors were passing out the test, I prayed, Lord, there is nothing random with You. You know what I prayed for and I trust You to give me the test I need. There are five sections on the test: (1) reading comprehension, (2) logical reasoning, (1) analytical reasoning, also known as logic games, and (1) experimental section, which could be any type of the previous sections, and you don’t know where in the test it is located; in fact, any of the sections can be presented in any order. Many people seem to hate reading comprehension the most, but that has always been my strongest section in the test, and I actually prayed that my experimental section would be another reading comprehension section. When we finally get to the test, and I open the booklet, my very first section was reading comprehension. Praise the Lord! I finished the section before time, and felt super confident about my answers. My next section was logical reasoning, and the section after that was another reading comprehension! Yes, Lord! He gave me what I had prayed for. When we got to the very final section, which is an unscored written sample, I was still riding high. I finished that section with plenty of time to spare and took some time to reflect and unwind. I thanked God for the way my test had been laid out, and thanked Him for keeping me laser-focused and energetic throughout the test. I had felt no nervousness or fear, just still.

When scores came out a couple of weeks later, I rejoiced that I had scored in the 91st percentile. God is so amazing! I know I put in the effort studying, but I know God was with me, and I really cannot take the credit for it. To God be the glory! But even with that high feeling was a bit of disappointment, since I couldn’t do anything with that score; at least it would be valid for five years. But soon after, I felt the leading of the Holy Spirit to look again at hybrid programs, and I came across the one I ultimately applied to.

God knows what He’s doing. In the early days, I just could not see how in the world He could bring me this far along the journey of preparing for law school only to seemingly put it on hold for four years. But I learned to trust Him and to seek Him so much deeper in that time of waiting and trying to figure out my life. I learned to surrender my will, my ambitions, my fears – everything! – to Him, trusting that His way is the best way for me. And in the snap of a finger, it all turned around! Look at God!

As I head into the next year, my prayer is that I continue to seek Him above all. He knows what is best for me – and you. I pray that you will grow in trust, and that you will seek Him with your whole heart. I pray He will open doors in unexpected ways in your life, and that you will walk in faith through those open doors. May you experience God like never before, in a real, abiding relationship with the lover of your soul. May you be wrapped in His love, and walk confidently in His grace. May the peace of God keep your heart and mind through Christ Jesus.

Blessings upon you!

Like a Child

I love children! And God does, too!

I teach English at Japanese elementary schools in our town. It is so neat to see the similarities and differences between American and Japanese education. On one hand, children are children, no matter their culture. And on the other hand, there are ingrained cultural ideals regarding respect for adults and the value of education. Japanese children have really helped me to fall in love with Japan, where I was rather resistant to liking it at first.

I have witnessed such kindness in the students. For one, they always greet adults, and I am now known throughout the schools as “Love sensei”. They enthusiastically greet me with waves and high fives, attempting to communicate with me in Japanese (which I unfortunately understand very little). But it is in their little acts of kindness toward each other that have really touched my heart.

A few months ago, I brought in American candies for my classes. They were each given the opportunity to practice a conversational exchange and pick a piece of candy. They didn’t ask for more, but gratefully accepted one piece, careful not to take too much time in choosing out of respect for those after them. But in one of my first grade classes, a couple of students were out that day. I was able to communicate to the teacher that I wanted to leave a treat for those students as well, and she selected other students to stand in place of the absent children and choose a piece. These little first graders took the task so seriously! They spent more time trying to select the perfect piece of candy that they thought their friends might enjoy than they spent selecting their own piece! I remember feeling so touched by their thoughtfulness.

And just today, I was in a third grade class that was doing a craft to make a Christmas tree out of their handprints. They were passing back pieces of construction paper, and one student accidentally dropped the piece that was to go to the young lady behind him. He reached down to retrieve the sheet, and instead of handing it to her, he gave her the clean sheet from his own desk and took the one that had fallen on the floor. No one else noticed this little act of kindness, but I did, and though I cannot speak Japanese, I tried to communicate through a reassuring smile that I saw what he did and I thought it was great.

Of course, I do not mean to say that Japanese children are the only ones that show kindness to their peers. I’ve worked with American children for many years, and know that they also demonstrate such kindness. I just work with Japanese children predominately these days, and I remember in each of these incidents hearing a whisper from the Lord from the scripture in Philippians 2:3-4

Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.

Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.

Each student I remember chose to put the needs of his/her peers first. How often to we do such things? How often are we more concerned with making sure our own needs are taken care of that we are careless toward our brothers and sisters around us?

Jesus said

Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.

Lue 18:16b KJV

The kingdom of God is made up of those with pure hearts, who demonstrate kindness and humility and love toward others. May we take the time to learn to act like the sweet children in our lives, showing little and great acts of kindness to those around us. Even if they are never seen or acknowledged by others around us, God sees and remembers.

Walk in love, and in the pure faith of a child!

Take heed!

Hello, hello!

I was scrolling through Facebook this afternoon and came across something that gave me pause. One of my associates had posted something along the lines of: Don’t worry about what other people get away with; God has called you to a place more powerful than them. On the surface, I could see what was meant, but it rubbed me the wrong way. It seemed to rely on the idea of comparative righteousness (something I learned from Priscilla Shirer’s Armor of God study) to both make oneself feel better and to put others down. Almost like, well, they are allowed to go on getting away with some sins, but I’m above all of that because I’m called to a place more powerful than them. I think it’s the last part with which I take issue: More powerful than them.

We’re all trying to make it on this Christian journey – and a journey it is! In this past year, I have encountered some major storms but through them all, my faith and trust in Jesus has grown that much deeper. But I have found that the more I go out into these deeper waters, the more humbled I am that He would allow me to grow in this way. I know that I still fall – many times! I am aware that even on my best-behaved days, my righteousness is still but filthy rags. I understand that without the power of the Holy Spirit working within, I can do absolutely nothing, and I am nothing. And I want others to come to Him and experience Him in the same way!

As I look back over the past six months, I can see that I am not the same person. And I don’t see how I could ever go back to being the old me, with my surface-level relationship with God. And as I look around me, I want everyone to know this amazing goodness! I want everyone to learn to walk in power and authority! If God can do this great work in my life, surely He can and will do it for you – if you desire more of Him!

Yes, we are all at different levels and stages in our walk with Christ. There are those who are much further along than I am, and I can look to them as an example and for encouragement when my way seems hard. And there are those who may not be as far along as me, so I can reach back and encourage them to keep walking. At any moment, any one of us can experience a major blow to our faith; any one of us can “fall out of grace”. But I pray that my brothers and sisters in the Lord would be willing to reach down and lift the fallen one up in love, helping to restore him/her to Christ.

So, I don’t want to get puffed up, thinking that I have ascended to some higher plane and experience, suddenly rendering me immune to the attacks that may be facing my sisters and brothers on the lower levels. The Bible warns us to take heed, lest we fall. Yes, I am progressing, yes I am growing in power through the working of the Holy Spirit within me. But I am aware that that power has nothing to do with me (except for my willingness to surrender to God’s will) and everything to do with God. Just as He grew me, so He can and will grow those who may be behind me in the road. But let us remember to keep our eyes on Him, not so much on those around us, unless it is to help them up and point them to Christ.

Sisters and brothers, do not seek to compare yourself to others, for better or for worse. Keep your eyes on God. Surrender your will to His, seek Him with your whole heart, and watch Him work a miracle in your life. In all things, remain humble and grateful, remembering that the grace we have is a gift that was purchased by Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. I pray you continue to grow in grace and love, rooted and grounded in the truth of God’s word.

Righteous!

Greetings in the Name of Jesus! I pray you all are well and enjoying the blessings of God.

Several years ago, when we were stationed in Germany, we had a pastor we absolutely loved. He was only there briefly during our time, as his family PCS’d before we did, but they made such an impact on our lives and we recall them fondly to this day. Before he left, he said something that has stuck in my mind all these years: You don’t have to sin.

I heard what he said, but I could not understand it. I mean, the Bible says “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23)” and “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us (1 John 1:8).” As humans, surely sin is a given in our lives. Right? Of course, we want to do our best and live holy, but it seems impossible. Even Paul wrote about the struggle in Romans 7 – he wanted to do good, and yet he still found himself sinning. I know I can relate to that!

But I’ve turned those words over in my mind for these several years, wanting to know if there was indeed a way to be free from sin. And while I do not profess to have the answer to that, I do want to share what I have learned.

Our women’s Bible study at church has been doing Priscilla Shirer’s The Armor of God study, which takes an in-depth look at each piece of armor laid out in Ephesians 6:10-19. Our study for this month is the breastplate of righteousness. This particular section has spoken to me on a level that I didn’t expect. Truthfully, I never quite understood this piece of armor. Sis. Shirer takes us through 4 types of righteousness – perfect righteousness (God’s righteousness; perfect and unattainable for us humans), comparative righteousness (how good are we compared to others), imputed righteousness (imparted freely by God, thanks to Christ’s sacrifice), and practical righteousness (living a life of righteousness daily). God really began to speak to me on the imputed and practical righteousness.

We receive the imputed righteousness of God as a result of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection and as a result of our belief in Him. Abraham was an example for us – he “believed God and it was imputed unto him for righteousness” (James 2:23). God’s righteousness is perfection, the quality of being blameless before God. We cannot attain this on our own; it is simply impossible. But thanks to Christ, and His blood that covers our sin, when God looks at us we who are believers and are saved are seen as righteous!

But that doesn’t mean that we can do whatever we want and claim righteousness. Of course, when we sin (because we will), we can repent and know that God will forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. But I found the idea that God sees me as righteous quite revolutionary!

God sees me as righteous, perfect, blameless before Him. That makes me want to walk in righteousness! It goes against so much of the tradition that I’ve always been taught about how we have to earn our way into the kingdom. I recall many years of struggling, trying to live holy before God, only to leave church beat-down on Sunday after scathing messages that assured me I’d never make it in! I remember hearing messages that if you were still struggling with the “little” sins when you’ve been saved X number of years, then you were doing it wrong, and maybe you didn’t have it (salvation) after all. But to understand that I am already made righteous because of the work Christ did on the cross – well, that changes my perspective. I want to practice righteousness in my daily living, my thinking, my speaking, my existing so that I may bring honor to my Lord. I will indeed stumble, but I don’t have to wallow in condemnation. I have a new power to say “no” and stand strong against those “little” sins because now I understand who I am. I’m righteous because God says so, so I am going to pick myself up and walk in that righteousness.

I think that this type of message could really help those believers who are struggling with condemnation and guilt as they try (and fail) to live holy. Knowing that we have righteousness from God isn’t a license for us to sin. But it is responsibility and accountability. I want to do better because I am righteous. Not, I need to do better so I can become righteous; I’d never make it! Knowing that I have this precious, divine treasure in this earthen vessel gives me a little more determination and power to say “NO!” to temptation. No, I don’t want to sin, because I am righteous. And what do I look like, a righteous woman, out here sinning all willy-nilly? You’d better get thee behind me, Satan!

Seeing myself as righteous really transformed my life. Yes, I still make mistakes. Yes, I still sin. But I have found that many times, I have been able to be victorious over old temptations because I confess with my mouth that I have the righteousness of God, therefore I don’t have to sin. And suddenly, I understood what my pastor had meant. I don’t have to sin willfully. I can choose to walk in the righteousness that I have already been gifted. And when I do inevitably fall, I can recall that same righteousness, which will convict me and lead me to repentance, and I can receive forgiveness and strength to get back up and keep walking and living a holy life before God.

You do not have to sin. If you have been saved by the precious blood of Jesus, you have been gifted righteousness. Walk in the power of the Holy Spirit and choose to say no to willful sin. And when you fall, confess your sins, knowing God is faithful and just to forgive you and cleanse you of all unrighteousness; then, keep walking in righteousness. You are not doomed and you are not condemned (Romans 8:1).

Walk in righteousness. Walk in love.

Faith to Receive the “Yes”

Praise the Lord, everybody!!

Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.

In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

Proverbs 3:5-6 KJV

The past several months have been an exercise in trust for me. And I thought I had been doing well at learning my lesson! But the Lord really dealt with me this week and I had to re-examine whether I was truly trusting God will all my heart, or just going through the motions of trusting.

A week before my LSAT, I went up for prayer at church. After my pastor finished praying for me, he said, “You need to make preparation.” But he didn’t say what I needed to prepare for. I began seeking the Lord, combing through the Scriptures to find some indication of what the Lord wanted me to do. There was a teensy, tiny thought in the back of my mind; so small, I figured it was my own imagination. Law school. But surely that could not be right. My law school plans had to be put on hold for a few years while we go to Germany. Right? What was there to prepare for?

So, while I have been going through this lesson on trust, I’ve simultaneously been learning the lesson of total surrender. I have had to frequently surrender my will on the altar of sacrifice. It started off generally: Lord, I surrender my will. But over time, the prayers started to get really specific. Lord, I surrender my ambitions. Lord, I surrender law school. Lord, I surrender my desire to go to Harvard or Duke. Lord, I surrender my fears about law school. Lord, I surrender my husband and my daughter and my need to feel like I’m in control of everything in our lives. Lord, I just lay all of me on the altar of sacrifice! 

At finally, it really took root. I really felt surrendered. I had let go of all of my ambitions. I had to get real with myself and admit that I wanted to go to a top school to stroke my own ego. I tried to convince myself that God’s children deserve the best. But honestly, I wanted to be able to say that I went to a top school – for my own desires. And I wanted to be able to say it so I could impress my mother and maybe gain her approval. So I laid all of that on the altar.

If we really want to experience a breakthrough with God, we have to be willing to be really honest with ourselves. God already knows the full deal; but we have to be willing to acknowledge it. The best thing is that our wonderful God brings loving conviction to help us to confront our shortcomings, and it inspires true repentance and change in us. We accept His loving correction and strive to become all He is calling us to be, because we are able to remember:

There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

Romans 8:1 KJV

So I continued to seek the Lord daily, imploring Him to send me a word, a Scripture, a message – something! – to help me on my way. A few days ago, comes this small whisper, easily dismissed: I’ve set before you an open door. You see, an amazing opportunity seemed to drop into my lap once I made the surrender breakthrough. There are hybrid JD programs, that would allow me to study mostly online with some travel to the school required over time. And one program in particular just seemed to fit exactly what I needed. I began to seek the Lord, to know if this was His will for me. If so, I’d need to get my applications ready and ask for letters of recommendation – because this program could potentially start in January! Ack! If I had listened to the first instruction to “make preparation” then I would not be feeling the time crunch. Nevertheless, I trust God.

Now, here’s where the Lord really convicted me.

In the beginning, I felt this opportunity was all God. The timing, the circumstances just seemed … supernatural. But of course, doubt began to set in. I prayed and sought the Lord, begging again for a word. I’ve set before you an open door. That can’t be God. Right?

I was driving back from one of the Japanese schools where I teach, and I began to feel the Lord speaking to me. It is so easy for me to accept a no from the Lord when I ask a big thing of Him. I’ve grown accustomed to the no. I’m okay with the no, because it lets me keep walking, believing that something better is coming. But sometimes it takes greater faith to hear a yes from God. Believing that God has said yes to my requests is risky! I may have to risk my reputation, my money, my hope. What if I get it wrong? Then I have to do damage control. What if I face conflict and push back? So, it’s so much easier to just accept the no and be pleasantly surprised when it all works out. But that’s not trust! That’s not faith!

I had to repent. It’s true – I’ve gotten things wrong in this Christian walk at times. But honestly, it was because of me trying to force my own agenda on God; now I am learning to walk in full surrender. Lord, I believe You! Lord, I trust You! I believe that You will cause all things to work together for my good. I believe that Your thoughts toward me are of peace and not evil, to bring me to an expected end. I trust Your infinite wisdom and Your perfect timing. You will do what You will do. Blessed be the Name of the Lord!

I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and has kept my word, and hast not denied my name.

Revelation 3:8 KJV

I will walk through this open door with the help of the Lord! If He brought me to this open door, He’ll walk with me through the open door! Nevertheless, not my will, but His!

May your faith be strengthened, my brothers and sisters, to receive the yes from the Lord when it comes! When you seek Him with your whole heart, I promise you will find Him. May your spiritual ears be open to hear and receive what He is speaking into your heart. And may you stand firm in your faith and in the truth of His word.

God bless you! You are so loved!

He Always Causes Me to Triumph!

Many years ago, when we were stationed in Shreveport, Louisiana, the Lord put a wonderful woman in my path who became a mother to me at a time when I needed mothering. We actually bonded on a road trip to see a mutual friend of ours who had moved to Oklahoma. We didn’t know each other before that trip, but by the time we made it to OKC, it was as if we’d always known each other. There were so many parallels in our lives, and I appreciated the wisdom she was able to offer in dealing with life challenges, including infertility. Our relationship started off more as friends, but over the years progressed to a more mother-daughter type relationship. In fact, I still refer to her as “My Momma in Shreveport” when I tell people about her.

A few years ago, around the time we first moved to Japan, we were chatting on the phone and I remember her telling me the scripture that she just held onto:

Now thanks be unto God, which always causes us to triumph in Christ, and makes manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place.

2 Corinthians 2:14

He always causes me to triumph.

I grabbed ahold of that Word, and it became the guide for my life. No matter what I faced, I could say: He always causes me to triumph.

When people on my job were acting funny and mistreating me, I could continue to smile and be gracious, because He always causes me to triumph.

When I didn’t know what to do next in life, I could have peace that it would all work in my favor, because He always causes me to triumph.

It works in any situation! No matter what you face, remember that God always causes us to triumph in Christ, and our lives will be a witness of Him everywhere we go. People will see you with joy, peace, and triumph in difficult and trying situations, and it will be an opportunity to point them to our source of hope – God.

Be encouraged! You are loved by the Creator of the universe. He, who sent His only begotten Son (Christ Jesus) will cause all things to work together for your good because you love Him (Romans 8:28). He will cause you to triumph in Christ – for without Him, we can do nothing.

Keep standing on His word, standing on His promises! He will surely cause you to triumph in Christ, and for that we can give God all the thanksgiving and praise and glory!

Walk in love!