Thursday, September 28, 2017


New England Patriots players kneel during the national anthem. Image source.
1. How Harry Potter Parallels to the Deaf World (posted March 7) "It is because ever since I read the very first Potter book when I was a little boy, I've always felt like the author J. K. Rowling were inspired by the Deaf community for her Harry Potter and the whole wizardry idea."

2. It's Been 96 Years Since White Mobs Destroyed Tulsa's Black Wall Street (posted May 31) [content note: anti-black violence] Yeah, I remember this was in my history textbook in high school- we learned about it when we studied the civil rights movement, but I didn't really *get* it. I didn't get how much the white people involved HATED black people- as in, hated them so much that they literally didn't want them to live there as full members of society (and that there are still white people today who truly do hold those same explicitly racist, evil beliefs). The term "riot" makes it sound like a crowd kind of got out of control and it's not really anyone's fault, it "just happened" in "the heat of the moment"- but no, it wasn't like that. You don't "get out of control" and then go pilot a plane to drop burning balls of chemicals on the areas of the city where black people lived and worked. That takes concentration. That's something that's done by people who know exactly what they're doing. Must have been that those white people had wanted to destroy black homes and businesses for a long time, and they finally found an opportunity where society would let them get away with it.

And I didn't get how it must have felt for black people to live in fear of violence. (And actually, that's still true today.) How thousands of them fled their homes after the massacre in Tulsa, and had to go rebuild their lives, and there was no justice- nobody in charge did anything to meaningfully address the great injustice they had suffered. Like, society is just okay with it when people do these terrible things to you, and you just have to move on and deal with it without any help, without any justice.

3. White evangelicalism, 1975: Before the change (3.1) (posted September 19) "Back in 1975, “therapeutic” still meant mostly positive things."

Also: White evangelicalism, 1975: Before the change (4). An excerpt from an evangelical book published in 1975, arguing "But what about the right of the child to be born despite the evil way in which it was conceived [rape]? In this case the right of the potential life (the embryo) is overshadowed by the right of the actual life of the mother. The rights to life, health, and self-determination — i.e., the rights to personhood — of the fully human mother take precedence over that of the potentially human embryo."

4. These are the NFL players protesting today amid Trump criticism (posted September 24)

5. The Washington Post and the Kaepernick Controversy: A Tale of Normalizing Toxic Christianity (posted September 25) "Further, the white supremacist, misogynistic, anti-LGBTQ Christianity embodied by the vast majority of white Evangelicals is incompatible with democracy and downright irredeemable, and we need to say so. Kaepernick’s Christianity does not need anything from Tebow’s."

And a good post from Libby Anne along the same lines: Progressive Piety and Conservative Politics: On Kaepernick, Tebow, and American Christianity.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

The Parable of the Living Wage

Photo of workers picking strawberries in a field. Image source.
Today let's take a look at Matthew 20:1-16. In this passage Jesus tells a parable about a vineyard owner who hires workers at various times during the day. When he hires the first group, very early in the morning, he tells them they will be paid 1 denarius for the day. Then he goes out 4 more times during the day and hires more people- some of them arriving in the late afternoon and only working a few short hours. In the evening, he pays the last workers first- and they each receive 1 denarius. So when the ones hired first come in to get paid, they expected to get more- but they also received 1 denarius each. And complained about it. But the vineyard owner says they can't complain because at the beginning they agreed to the terms, and he has the right to pay everyone the same if he wants.

So here's the interpretation I always heard in church: The vineyard owner is God, and "working in the vineyard" means being a Christian. The day represents a person's lifetime. Some people become Christians during childhood ("early in the morning") and serve God faithfully through their entire lives. Some people "repent" and "accept Christ" on their deathbed. But all of them get the same reward- they get to go to heaven. And we shouldn't criticize God for the way they chose to reward people.

But let's try a different interpretation, one that's not so spiritualized. The workers are working for a very low income, and they don't even have guaranteed employment from one day to the next. They stand around in the marketplace and wait to see if anyone will hire them or not. And at the end of the day, the vineyard owner pays them all a living wage, even though some of them didn't "work hard enough" to "deserve" it, by capitalism's standards.

The book The Parables of Jesus: A Commentary has this to say about the practice of hiring workers as shown in the parable:
The manner of recruiting workers is a familiar sight even today. The traveler to the Middle East can observe day laborers who wait beside streets or at street corners early in the morning to be hired by landowners or others who have work for them. One finds the same scene played out in various parts of the world (including the United States) wherever there are fruit and vegetable crops that need planting, weeding, or harvesting by migrant and other temporary workers. Those looking for work stand at a place where landowners can come in trucks and hire as many as they need. 

The laborers portrayed in the parable have no permanent employment, no ongoing economic relationship with an employer. In this respect they differ from "slaves" who have permanent work on an estate. Their lives and livelihoods are less secure than those of slaves, since their employment is seasonal.
The commentary also mentions that "A denarius was considered adequate pay for a day's work, neither generous nor miserly."

Another blog post about this parable says:
But there is also a broader application. The owner in the parable pays all the workers enough to support their families.[2]The social situation in Jesus’ day was that many small farmers were being forced off their land because of debt they incurred to pay Roman taxes. This violated the God of Israel’s command that land could not be taken away from the people who work it (Leviticus 25:8-13), but of course this was of no concern to the Romans. Consequently, large pools of unemployed men gathered each morning, hoping to be hired for the day. They are the displaced, unemployed, and underemployed workers of their day. Those still waiting at five o'clock have little chance of earning enough to buy food for their families that day. Yet the vineyard owner pays even them a full day’s wage.
Because, in the kingdom of heaven, everybody deserves to have enough money to eat. Everybody deserves health care, good housing, etc. You don't "earn" that by being financially beneficial to an employer. No, people already deserve those things, just because they are people.

One might say it's not fair that the people who were hired last got paid the same as the others. They didn't work as hard, apparently. In reality, though, it's a lot of work to be unemployed, or poor, or homeless. And on top of that, there's the stress of not knowing where the money is going to come from for your next meal. Aren't the workers who were hired first in a better situation because they didn't have to worry about not finding a job and not getting paid? It's not logical for them to be jealous of the people who spent most of the day worried they would go hungry.

I'm not saying all jobs in all of society should be paid the same. It makes sense for people to have the opportunity to earn more money as they move up into positions that require more skills. Nothing wrong with that. I'm talking about the opposite end of the spectrum- unemployment, minimum wage jobs, poverty. Nobody should have to "work hard" in order to "deserve" food and housing and health care. People deserve those things already.

Good evangelicals (in white American Christian culture) would say my interpretation is wrong and this is just a parable about spiritual things like "getting saved" and going to heaven. These are the same people who claim to be following "the plain teaching of Scripture" and not "distorting" it. Somehow, in "the plain teaching of Scripture", a parable about money and economics and poverty is, apparently, not actually about money and economics and poverty at all. Somehow, a story where Jesus commends a man who pays all his employees a living wage does not actually have anything to do with the question of whether employers should pay a living wage. Nope, apparently it's just meant to teach us not to be too jealous of deathbed converts.

Sure, okay.

From cover to cover, the bible preaches that society needs to care about those who are poor and in need. But evangelicalism trains us not to notice- trained me not to notice. And so when people say "the bible is clear", they're usually talking about rules for other people's sex lives.

That's messed-up. In Matthew 20, Jesus teaches that people deserve enough money to meet their basic needs, and it's not dependent on how hard they work or their value in the eyes of capitalism.


This post is part of a series on the gospel of Matthew.

Previous post: White Privilege and the Rich Young Ruler (Matthew 19:16-20)

Next post: On Zebedee's Sons and Counting the Cost (Matthew 20:17-28)

Click here to go to the beginning of the series.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Wedding Posts Round-Up

A Star-Trek-themed wedding cake. It has the Starfleet badge, cake toppers of a man and woman in Starfleet uniforms, and the words "Live long and prosper." Image source.

As an ex-evangelical, ex-purity-culture feminist, I figured I would have a lot of opinions about experiencing the actual reality of a wedding and all the ways it's different than the "ideal" I was taught in purity culture or absorbed from mainstream society. So I said I was going to write a LOT of blog posts about getting married. And I did.

Here's a list of all of them. (You can also find them in the "engaged" tag.)

Feminism and Traditions
We're Not Doing the Garter Thing
Kiss the Groom
Here's What We're Doing With Our Last Names
The "Groom's Cake" Tradition is So Sexist
I Do Care About the Invitations
I Don't Expect My Wedding to be "The Happiest Day of My Life"
On Perfect Weddings

Marriage in Chinese Culture
My Chinese Marriage License
Getting Engaged Isn’t Exactly a Thing in China
Giving Candy to All My Coworkers Because I'm Getting Married

Purity Culture and Breaking the "Good Christian" Rules
I'm Really Really REALLY Glad I Had Sex Before Marriage
You know that whole "white dress means virginity"? Yeah, not actually a real thing.
He's Not "My Future Husband"
We Don't Need Anyone's Permission to Love
So I Gave My Fiance the "Letters To My Future Husband"
Worth the Wait?
Now that I'm engaged, I'm all like "hell no" on the whole "wifely submission" thing
I Told Them We Already Live Like We're Married
In Purity Land, a First Date is a Bigger Decision Than Marriage
I'm dating a nonchristian and I want to marry him. Here's why I believe that's not a problem.
I Know We'll Have a Good Marriage, BECAUSE We're Not Pure
On Marriage and Knowing Each Other

What Marriage Means To Me
I'm not sure if a wedding is a beginning or an end
I Can't Write Wedding Vows Without Thinking About Divorce

Monday, September 25, 2017

I Told Them We Already Live Like We're Married

A bride and groom. Image source.
At our wedding ceremony, I read out loud this thing that I wrote. It was about how Hendrix and I already love each other and are committed to each other. We already support each other for better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and in health. We already live together and share everything we have. At the wedding, when we make vows, we're not promising something completely new and different; we're stating out loud the promises that already exist in the way we live every day.

It was important to me to read this at my wedding because it's extremely anti-purity-culture. In purity culture, you can't love each other fully until you're married. In terms of tangible rules, that means you can't have sex or live together until you're married. But it's more than that- there's this romantic ideal of "two becoming one" and that sort of thing, as if the wedding day marks a massive change in the very nature of the relationship. Like it changes it into a completely different thing. Before the wedding, you're not a family yet, you're not 100% committed, and then after the wedding you have fully given yourselves to each other, you're "one flesh"*, having awesome honeymoon sex that's awesome because you waited and all that.

Back when I was in purity culture, I believed this myth about romantic relationships having "phases" which were very distinct and the transitions were marked by big, obvious events. Something like this:
  1. Dating: You need to "guard your heart." You should be careful about loving your partner "too much" because there's a possibility that you might break up and then that would be the end of the world. Allowable physical contact: Holding hands, hugging.
  2. Engaged: It's finally okay to be in love, you don't have to "guard your heart" anymore, because there's no longer any risk of breaking up. Finally you can let yourself feel your emotions, happy emotions of love and attraction. Allowable physical contact: Kissing. DEFINITELY NOT ANYTHING INVOLVING ANYONE'S GENITALS.
  3. Married: Wow finally you can fully love- share your heart, your body, your home, your possessions, your dreams. Allowable physical contact: Sex. But not anything "depraved" like porn or non-monogamy.
Different purity-culture adherents would, of course, sort the "allowable physical contact" differently between those 3 categories. (This is the subject of endless "where is the line?" discussions in youth groups everywhere.) But my point is, in purity culture I envisioned a system where there were strict rules for physical contact with one's partner, and those rules would change drastically, instantaneously on the day you get an engagement ring and on the day you have your wedding. The rules about the physical side were the most obvious part of this "three phases" perspective, but the emotional side of the relationship would also change drastically, I believed. The relationship would suddenly become a completely different type of relationship.

That's not reality though. Here in the real world, relationships grow and change gradually. People live as committed partners for several years before the wedding. Couples have discussions about whether or not they want to get married- the proposal doesn't just come out of nowhere. It's not a fairy tale where you just meet Prince Charming one day and then you're suddenly in happily-ever-after, never look back.

But even though that's not what a wedding really is, I couldn't help but feel like that's what we were pretending. I felt like a wedding is sort of a performance where you come in as two separate people and leave as a couple, as if you want your guests to believe the myth that it is a big drastic change in the entire nature of the relationship. I felt like there was this ideal we were pretending to follow, where we don't fully love each other and share our whole lives with each other until the wedding day. Like, yeah we know that's not reality, but we should be ashamed of our reality and at least put on an act.

So that's why I had to read my little reading at the wedding. To explicitly say that no, we're NOT drastically changing our relationship today. We're already committed to each other, and our wedding ceremony is a way to show the world our love and commitment- it's not somehow the cause of that love and commitment. I felt a bit weird, like I was telling everybody "our wedding's not real, because we already love each other for better or worse." But I had to do it, for me.

Probably none of the wedding guests really understood what it meant. They were probably just like "aww that's nice." For me it was a very anti-purity-culture statement, and there's no way I, Perfect Number, could have had a wedding that didn't include some anti-purity-culture statement. But I didn't mention purity culture specifically. I didn't mention sex. I did say we live together, which I know is quite the dog whistle for good church people, even though it's the most boring, normal thing for "secular" people.

It's important to me that, at our wedding ceremony, I stated that Hendrix and I were already fully committed to each other and the wedding isn't the start of that. Part of me felt weird, like I was saying our wedding isn't real, and that's not something I should admit in front of all the guests; I should at least pretend to follow the "ideal." But that's exactly why I needed to do that. I don't believe in purity culture anymore, and I don't believe the "ideal" understanding of a wedding is one where the entire relationship changes in one day.


* As a white woman married to a Chinese man, I have some opinions about this whole "one flesh" thing. My "flesh" is very different from my husband's. Like literally a different color and not the same at all. And no matter how long we're married, that's never going to change. We're not "one flesh."

Thursday, September 21, 2017


Saturn. Image source.
1. Median wealth of black Americans 'will fall to zero by 2053', warns new report (posted September 13)

2. Cassini: The Grand Finale: Toolkit Wow this is so cool- everyone needs to know about this! Cassini is a spacecraft that was launched in 1997 and entered Saturn's orbit in 2004. Since that time, it's been sending back tons of super-cool photos and data about Saturn and its moons. But now it's out of fuel so they've decided to let it go down into Saturn's atmosphere- the end of its mission. It entered Saturn's atmosphere on September 15.

3. Dignity kits distribution begins for Barbuda women and girls impacted by Hurricane Irma and Jose (posted September 12) "At the aid distribution centre, as Ms. Jacobs talked to relief coordinators, displaced women ran up to her, because they had overheard about the dignity kit items and were looking for sanitary napkins and other products that women and girls urgently needed."

4. Christians Give Your Tithe Towards Trans Surgeries (fundraiser during the month of September) Hey let's all donate to this! I just did~

5. Harry Potter Theory: Voldemort's FULL Tri-Wizard Cup Plan! (posted September 14) " could suggest that the Tri-Wizard Cup was intended to be a portkey the whole time."

I really enjoy how fan theories are a lot like apologetics. The fourth Harry Potter book has a lot of plot holes (why was Harry required to compete? why was fake Moody such a good teacher? couldn't Voldemort have found an easier way to kill Harry?) and so a ton of fans have come up with a ton of explanations for why those weren't actually plot holes and it all makes sense. It's a fun game~ we can play it with the bible too, but remember it's just a game~

6. The NIV on Tradition and Teachings (posted 2010) WHATTTTTTT?!!! This is a post about how in the NIV, the same Greek word is translated as "teachings" when it's used in a positive way and "traditions" when it's used in a negative way- because of translators' anti-Catholic bias. HOLYYYYY CRAP. I used to memorize the bible and put a lot of importance on every word, and this makes me feel very angry and betrayed.

7. John Piper on Forgiveness (posted September 21) Yep, this crap is EXACTLY what I used to believe. Thank you, Libby Anne, for getting receipts. (The kingdom of heaven is like an atheist blogger exposing John Piper's teaching for the anti-human nonsense it is.)

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Autistic at the Aquarium

Sharks in an aquarium. Image source.
Recently Hendrix and I went to an aquarium here in Shanghai. It was a weekend and the aquarium was so crowded, and there were tons of little kids being loud. The amount of crowdedness was just... hard to describe, like nothing in my suburban US childhood, but pretty normal for a big city like Shanghai. I was really really uncomfortable having so many people all around moving in unpredictable directions. Like, if no one is moving, or there's only one direction that people will be moving in, that's fine for me. But to have to constantly monitor 360 degrees all around me, to make sure nobody is touching me and I'm not blocking anyone's way, dang that's EXHAUSTING.

And did I mention it was loud? You know all those glass walls at the aquarium- the sound bounces around and it's basically a constant dull roar of crowd noise. And I just want to look at fish and penguins and there's all these PEOPLE crowding around with their cell phone cameras and bumping and not having any concept of personal space.

Anyway, I don't know if it's because I have autism or if everybody who grew up in the suburbs with limited experience in city crowds would be freaked out and uncomfortable in that environment. I asked Hendrix (who is Chinese) if he thinks the average Chinese person is okay with that- he said they are used to it but don't like it.

So when we walked in to the aquarium, and there were so many people we couldn't even get close to the first fish tank, I brought Hendrix over to the (empty, non-crowded) wall and told him I felt really uncomfortable because of how crowded and loud it was, so I will probably need to take a lot of breaks. You know, like when I feel overwhelmed, go over to a quieter, hallway-type area with no fish tanks and therefore a reasonable amount of people (walking through in one predictable direction rather than crowding around). Yeah, like I can take a break and go stand by an empty wall for a little bit, until I feel better and ready to look at fish again. So this was my plan, and I let Hendrix know about it.

I'm writing about it because this idea of "make a plan beforehand and communicate about my needs" is still so new and revolutionary to me. Ever since I was a little kid, if I was in an environment that wasn't comfortable for sensory reasons, I would just "pretend to be normal" and then if it got so bad I couldn't pretend anymore, I would "suddenly freak out."

I don't know when that habit started, but maybe it was because adults didn't take me seriously if I did say that I had a hard time being in certain environments. They said it's "not that bad" ... and I wanted to be a good kid and not "complain." I thought that the adults understood how nervous and uncomfortable I felt, and they had made the decision that it was fine and I just needed to "obey" and accept that.

I would try to go along with it and be like everybody else, trusting that if the adults thought this environment was okay for me to be in, then it was. Trusting them more than I trusted my own feelings. (Notice this is similar to gaslighting- and probably everybody who's autistic or has sensory processing issues is SEVERELY gaslighted by other people for their entire life.) That's what it meant to be "brave", the adults told me- it means continuing to stay in a situation where you don't feel safe, and not complaining about it.

So I would feel anxious, sometimes for hours, and keep trusting that no really it's okay, it's fine. Until I couldn't trust anymore. I couldn't ignore reality any more. There would be a moment where the stress was too great, and it would all come out, all the anger and pain at being forced to exist in this environment that constantly irritated my senses. An outside observer might say "everything was fine, and then you suddenly freaked out," but really it was after a long period of time where I could barely think about anything else besides withstanding the sensory inputs and trying as hard as I could to act "normal." And when I've expended all my energy on "acting normal" and I'm at the breaking point, I'm not able to tell people in a nice and polite way "this is bothering me so I will just leave for a little bit." Instead I'm angry at how people react like they're shocked and have no idea what the problem is. All this time, they've been existing here, in the same situation as me, somehow not noticing the constant sensory assault all around us.

And I internalized the idea that there was something wrong with me because I can't just "be normal." I'm pathetic and "sensitive" and I should feel bad about it. (I didn't get an autism diagnosis until I was an adult.)

In that mindset, the idea of communicating beforehand "hey I feel kind of nervous here so at some point, if it gets worse, I'll have to take a break" is not okay at all. That would be admitting defeat right at the beginning! Not even making an attempt to "be normal." How can I ever learn to "be normal" and stop being so weak and pathetic if I give myself a way out like that?

But now, just in the past few years, I've figured out that my needs are actually legitimately different from other people's. And those needs are real things and it's not "selfish" for me to advocate for myself. I've developed this new strategy where, if I'm experiencing something that could potentially become overwhelming and traumatic, I communicate about it to people who care about me, and make a plan about how to leave if necessary. And wow this works SO MUCH BETTER than just "try to be normal." I feel a lot safer knowing there's a plan in place if the sensory stimulus becomes unbearable, and knowing that people support me and care about me.

Maybe this wasn't possible when I was a child. Maybe I didn't have enough freedom- the adults might have thought "we can't just let her avoid things if she doesn't like them- how will she learn to function in the real world?" and would not have let me use the "communicate about my needs and make a plan about how to leave if necessary" strategy.

This is still so new to me, but it's so much better. And I'm glad I have a loving and supportive husband who believes that my needs are real needs.


Related: Autistic at Disneyland

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Christianity and "Selfishness": Here are the Receipts

Image text: "Dying To Self." Image source.
[content note: Christian anti-self ideology, including anti-queer ideology]

Previous post: On Selfishness, Christians Have It Exactly Backwards

I've written many times about how I learned in church to "always put others first"- which meant that my needs don't matter, my desires don't matter, my emotions don't matter.

This was one of the most basic, foundational parts of the Christianity I used to believe. I cannot emphasize enough how deeply it ran through every single aspect of that religion. Die to self. Put others first. Give up everything for God. It's always good to sacrifice my own desires and pretend my own needs don't exist.

So I've compiled a list of examples. Receipts. This is an anti-human ideology, the direct cause of my depression several years ago, and I'm still struggling to get away from that way of thinking.

Let's start with some general statements from Christians about "self" and "selfishness":

What does the Bible mean by "dying to self"?
Jesus spoke repeatedly to His disciples about taking up their cross (an instrument of death) and following Him. He made it clear that if any would follow Him, they must deny themselves, which means giving up their lives—spiritually, symbolically, and even physically, if necessary. This was a prerequisite for being a follower of Christ, who proclaimed that trying to save our earthly lives would result in our losing our lives in the kingdom. But those who would give up their lives for His sake would find eternal life (Matthew 16:24–25; Mark 8:34–35). Indeed, Jesus even went so far as to say that those who are unwilling to sacrifice their lives for Him cannot be His disciples (Luke 14:27).
Dying to self is never portrayed in Scripture as something optional in the Christian life. It is the reality of the new birth; no one can come to Christ unless he is willing to see his old life crucified with Christ and begin to live anew in obedience to Him.
What Does It Mean To “Abstain From The Appearance Of Evil?”
“No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God” (1st John 3:9), and that means they won’t want to even give the appearance of doing evil, but instead, will do everything they can to live a holy life that is pleasing to God...and not a life that focuses on pleasing themselves.
MercyMe "So Long Self" (lyrics)
So long, self
Well, it's been fun, but I have found somebody else
So long, self
There's just no room for two
So you are gonna have to move
So long, self
Don't take this wrong but you are wrong for me, farewell
Oh well, goodbye, don't cry
So long, self

Stop right there because I know what you're thinking
But no we can't be friends
And even though I know your heart is breaking
This has to end
And come to think of it the blame for all of this
Simply falls on me
For wanting something more in life than all of this
Can't you see

Don't feel so bad (don't feel so bad)
There'll be better days (there'll be better days)
Don't go away mad (but by all means)
Just go away, go away
You Are Dust, Not Divine
Pride, or self-exaltation, or self-reliance is the one virus that causes all the moral diseases of the world. This has been the case ever since Adam and Eve ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil because they wanted to be God instead of trust God. And it will be true until the final outburst of human pride is crushed at the battle of Armageddon. There is only one basic moral issue: how to overcome the relentless urge of the human heart to assert itself against the authority and grace of God.
In All Thy Ways… Let Him Be Supreme.
It is nothing less than self-idolatry to conceive that we can carry on even ordinary matters of the day without [God's] counsel. He loves to be consulted. Therefore take all thy difficulties to be resolved by him. Consider no circumstances too clear to need his direction. In all thy ways, small as well as great; in all thy concerns, personal or relative, temporal or eternal, let him be supreme.
Serving Others Gets Noticed
“No journey will be easy,” she continues, “but if you allow Him to take control, by trusting in Him with your whole heart, and leaning not unto your own understanding; victory will be waiting for you.”
Actually, Dove would hasten to emphasize that the will that matters most at TOPPS is God’s, not her own.

People like Annette Dove, “get no headlines, no reward, no glory, and they regularly have their hearts broken, only to soldier on to help the next child.” And yet, Kristof says, they “help to restore my faith in America.”

To which Dove would no doubt reply, what needs to be restored most is faith in the God she serves.

A few years ago, Warren Smith and I wrote a book called “Restoring All Things.” As the subtitle says, it’s about “God’s extraordinary plan to change the world through ordinary people.” We had not heard of Annette Dove and TOPPS back then, but like so many stories we tell in the book, this is what restoration looks like: an “ordinary” woman going to extraordinary lengths to teach kids how to change their lives for the better.

And of course, how to always put God first.
Putting Others Before Yourself: 7 Great Tips
These verses tell us we should put others first. Then we are given the wonderful example of how Christ did this for us. How will you put others first today?
How to Die to Yourself
Focusing on yourself is easy. It’s what we all do, naturally.

This is part of our fallen nature. Instead of looking to God, we take matters into our own hands (Gen. 3:6).

Instead of trusting God, we do life in our own strength and understanding. Is it any wonder we feel the pain, rejection, and fear that we do (Rom. 5:12)?

Christianity cures our self-focus by giving us something greater to focus on—God our Father, and His Son, Jesus Christ.
Spending more time in the Bible, prayer, and fasting are good ways to break the habit of self-focus. You can also ask a pastor, friend, or mentor to pray for you. Again, we turn our attention to the Lord, who is above our problems, weaknesses, and self—for it is He who perfects us.

In Christianity, we find our life by losing it (Mk. 8:35). This sounds strange, but our freedom is found in surrender (Jn. 3:30). We’re made to live with and for Him, and we won’t experience peace until we do (Jn. 14:27).

Our life is truly found in the laying down.

“For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it” (Mk. 8:36).

Accept Jesus’ invitation to lose your self-focus today, and find the life that only He can give!
What Should You Look For In A Church?
I believe it’s time to leave when a church stops preaching the Bible and becomes nothing more than a glorified entertainment center. If it is people they seek to please, then it is people they will please, and they will likely have huge numbers and offer all kinds of activities for the whole family, however, if it is truth they seek through expository preaching, then the sheep in that church will starve to death. They’ll die from malnutrition from the absence of the Bread of Life. If there are no sacraments, no church discipline, and no biblical preaching, you don’t really have a church. The primitive church got it right, and as a result, God grew the church (Acts 2:47). They focused first and foremost on the apostle’s teachings (today, it is in the New Testament), they fellowshipped and broke bread together, and were dedicated prayer warriors (Acts 2:42). The primate church never focused on this being “your best life now.” If this were their best life now, then that meant they were headed to hell, but for believers, their best days are not now; they are coming in the kingdom, and even though we still have joy, the way is hard, the road is narrow, and few find it (Matt 7:13-14).
They teach that we're supposed to be willing to sacrifice anything and everything for God. We aren't allowed to be in control of our own lives. We belong to God:

A Lesson in Yes and No
Last week God told me “no” to something I really, really wanted.
But instead of listening, I virtually stuck my fingers in my ears and sang out, La-la-la-la-I-can’t-hear-You-God!
The next day God made it physically impossible for me to step outside His will by sending not one, not two, but three financial hits that completely upended my hope of buying a little homestead.
Steward the Gifts God Has Assigned to You
You are on assignment from God. This is why Paul says, “Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him” (1 Corinthians 7:17). “You are not your own” (1 Corinthians 6:19). You are “a bondservant of Christ” (1 Corinthians 7:22) and a steward of the gifts you have received. Others need your gifts. That’s why you have them.

Our lives are not about pursuing our dreams. Many of our dreams are self-exalting pride fantasies and gratuitously selfish when we really examine them. And the truth is, we rarely know what’s best for us and what will really make us happy. But our Designer knows. He knows exactly what we’re made for and how we can live the life we’ve been given to the fullest and most fruitful. If we follow him by faith, he will lead us in the most ultimately fulfilling paths — even when those paths lead through suffering and death.
We Are Not Our Own
We confess it because what it says about God, the universe, and us is TRUE. On Ash Wednesday and during the season of fasting, prayer, and almsgiving called Lent, we redouble our efforts to heed Jesus’ call to pick up our crosses and follow him. We meditate and remember with Paul that we have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer we who live, but Christ who lives in us.

Crucified with Christ! Our hopes, desires, politics, intellect, and yes, even our sexuality—crucified with Christ. What a thing to say! Jesus, who redeemed us by His blood, lays claim to all of these things.

This is not the God of what sociologist Christian Smith has dubbed “moralistic therapeutic deism,” a god who demands nothing more than that people take it easy on themselves and be nice and fair to one another.

This is a God who says the two greatest commandments are to love Him with all of our hearts, souls, minds, and strength, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. And as Jesus said, to love Him is to obey Him (talk about counter cultural!) and to believe in the One He has sent. To love our neighbors, we preach the Good News of Jesus’ death and resurrection and His triumph over sin and death. We feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the prisoner, take care of the widow and orphans.

Friend, what could be more authentic, more relevant, than to conform our lives to Jesus, who is the Way the Truth and the Life? Jesus did not and will not conform Himself to the culture. Why would we? How dare we urge others to? As Paul says, we were called to freedom in Christ, which is a freedom from conformity and from the desires of the flesh and a freedom to serve one another in love, joy peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5).
"I Surrender All" (lyrics)
I surrender all,
I surrender all;
All to Thee, my blessed Savior,
I surrender all.
"Take My Life and Let It Be" (lyrics)
Take my life and let it be
Consecrated, Lord, to Thee.
Take my moments and my days,
Let them flow in endless praise.
Take my hands and let them move
At the impulse of Thy love.
Take my feet and let them be
Swift and beautiful for Thee.
Take my voice and let me sing,
Always, only for my King.
Take my lips and let them be
Filled with messages from Thee.
Take my silver and my gold,
Not a mite would I withhold.
Take my intellect and use
Every pow’r as Thou shalt choose.
Take my will and make it Thine,
It shall be no longer mine.
Take my heart, it is Thine own,
It shall be Thy royal throne.
Take my love, my Lord, I pour
At Thy feet its treasure store.
Take myself and I will be
Ever, only, all for Thee.
How Can I Find Out What My Spiritual Gifts Are?
For one thing, none of us can boast or brag about our spiritual gifts. ... We have nothing that we did not receive from God so how could we ever boast about anything at all? ... Paul’s point is that all these gifts have different purposes but they are all empowered by God and “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (1st Cor 12:7), not the individual good. They are for the good of the church and these gifts are intended by God to build up the church into the image of Christ. It is God “Who apportions to each one individually as he wills” (1st Cor 12:11), meaning we don’t pick and choose gifts. This is God’s decision for His purposes, not our decision for our purposes. ... When a person finds their niche in the church, they seem to just gravitate to their giftedness and they will feel a sense of joy and purpose in their serving. It does seem that people have more than one gifts but no one has no gift because that contradicts God’s Word (1st Cor 12:11).
What happened to holiness?
I fear that many preach a soft gospel, one that welcomes people to Jesus without repentance, without remorse. He is the way, the truth, the life, but we, too, must bow our will before Him, subjugating our will to His through the power of the Holy Spirit who gives us the uncanny ability to choose Him and His ways. Again, this is not a pro-bootstrapping post. It’s a post about the importance of our dependence on Him. It’s a post about acknowledging our own inability to walk in a manner worthy of the Gospel. We can’t, in our own strength, live the Christian life. But we can ask for help. We can depend on the Spirit. We can keep choosing to follow after Jesus.

That’s the pathway of holiness: our dependence.

In our crowded, loud world, I fear the voices of those who revere God’s holiness are getting drowned out by little messiahs with myths about our comfort. In contrast, though, we should listen to those who truly preach from God’s word, the whole counsel of Scripture. It’s not convenient.
Bonhoeffer reminds us that when “Christ bids a man, he bids him come and die.” Dying is not fun.
Yet holiness is not a joyless pursuit. In fact, if you’ve been taught to run after your own paint-by-numbers truth, you have missed out on the genuine joy that comes from finally living for the One who created you. Truth is a person. Truth is Jesus. And Jesus loves you so much, He died for you. He willingly suffered on the cross for you. He conquered death for you, for us. A savior who does that deserves our unashamed allegiance. And our obedience.
It’s Not Only Athletes: What Platform Has God Given You?
But regardless of what vocation or position or role in a family God gives us, when God gives His people a platform to stand on, and a voice that can be heard, He expects them to represent Him faithfully. When they achieve something, whether as a farmer, factory worker, teacher, nurse, clerk, or salesperson, He calls upon them to give Him glory.

You may not have as many people watching you as pro athletes, but innumerable angels, saints and the Lord Himself are watching. No matter who you are, God has given you your physical and mental and spiritual gifts to provide you a platform from which to draw attention to Him.
Why the Gospel of ‘Authenticity’ Has It Wrong
A few years ago, when Facebook really took off, a friend of mine frustratedly said, “I’m deleting my Facebook account. The Bible tells us He must increase and I must decrease.” I kept my Facebook account, but I couldn’t really argue with her. The tension we feel about social media reveals the truth about our hearts: We know it isn’t about us, and it was never meant to be.
Teaching Your Daughters to Value Modesty
Ultimately, the most important reason for embracing modesty is that God’s Word tells us to do so. If the Holy Spirit lives in us, our bodies are God’s temple, and revealing clothing is not honouring to Him. It is also not honouring to our spouse (or future spouse). Our bodies are meant for our spouse alone to enjoy, so a girl who displays her body publicly is actually defrauding her future mate.
Skin Deep
But as people made in the image of God, our bodies were not ultimately created to attract other people. More than anything else, our bodies are created to attract the presence of God. How? Through worship. We can worship God in our bodies through service, love and acts of praise and mercy. The apostle Paul exhorts his readers in the book of Romans: “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Romans 12:1). Understanding that our bodies are primarily meant to be vehicles for worship can help us turn the cultural obsession with attraction on its head.
"Lord I Give You My Heart" (lyrics)
Lord, I give You my heart
I give You my soul
I live for You alone
Every Breath I take
Every moment I'm awake
Lord, have Your way in me
How Can I Know God’s Will For My Life?
If you think it’s God’s will for you to do something for Him, then He will either open a door, or close a door you’re not supposed to go through so that you’ll find the door that’s open. God may see if you’re genuine in seeking to do His will by seeing how you react to closed doors. If you find a closed door, would you be willing to go through a window? One way to know God’s will is to try the door and see if it opens. Some never get that far. How many open doors have we walked right past in our life? I think it’s wise to at least look at opportunities. Perhaps opportunity and God’s will meet at the same place.
Lecrae "Background" (lyrics)
I could play the background
I could play the background
Cause I know sometimes I get in the way
So won't You take the lead, lead, lead?
So won't You take the lead, lead, lead?
And I could play the background, background
And you could take the lead
It's evident you run the show, so let me back down
You take the leading role, and I'll play the background
I know I miss my cues, know I forget my lines
I'm sticking to your script, and I'm reading all your signs
I know I'm safest when I'm in Your will, and trust Your Word
I know I'm dangerous when I trust myself, my vision blurred
Flame "Surrender" (lyrics)
I'm never gonna run away, away from You
I open up my heart to You, I'm Yours
I'm pulling out my flag and I, I surrender
Anchor of my ship, You can hold me down
I'm never going to run, no, I'm never going to run.

Jesus here's my white flag, I surrender right now
Here's What You Need to Know Before Taking a Leap of Faith
As we let go of the steering wheel and began to learn what it means to trust God, I had an epiphany: it all belongs to God—all of our money, all of our time, each hour of every day. Every time I give something away, I get a glimmer of what it means to love like Christ.
Why Guys Aren’t the Reason I Dress Modestly
I dress modestly because I understand God’s big perspective on the purpose of clothing. I dress modestly because I desire to honor God with my life. I dress modestly because I love God and want to reflect Him well in the way I represent Him. I dress modestly because I understand that God created men and women differently and I want to bless and encourage the men around me. I dress modestly because I want to point others to Christ and not my body.
Rules Without Reasons
If I’m being honest, there are some things in the Scriptures that I simply do not get. Some positions which I believe are biblical still make me a bit uneasy. At times, I simply do not understand why God set these things up the way that He did. But I’m asked to obey them nonetheless.
Perhaps He is still asking His children to trust that He knows best. I’m convinced we are called to take God’s Word as it is. We aren’t called to decide whether or not we like this particular rule or that particular path of obedience. We are called to just obey. Some day it’ll make sense—but that isn’t for now. Now is time for trusting our Father and walking in obedience.

Yes, obedience just because He said so.
William McDowell "I Give Myself Away" (lyrics)
I give myself away
I give myself away
So You can use me
I give myself away
I give myself away
So You can use me

My life is not my own
To you I belong
I give myself, I give myself to you
They go so far as to teach that one's entire identity should be consumed by God, leaving no room for a "self" apart from God, no room for individuality, no purpose in life besides pleasing God:

Jesus Culture "You Won't Relent" (lyrics)
You wont relent until you have it all
My heart is yours
You wont relent until you have it all
My heart is yours
Come be the fire inside of me
Come be the flame upon my heart
Come be the fire inside of me
Until you and I are one
Body Shame and Gospel Freedom
We often fall prey to body shaming because we are desperately seeking worth and identity outside of what’s been given to us twice over as Christians: We’re created in God’s image and we are given a redeemed, perfect beauty through a new identity in Christ. Yet we repeatedly reject our true identity that’s fulfilled as we rest our gaze on the beauty of our God, choosing instead to chase after an image we see reflected in mirrors of our own making. Our deepest problem is a worship exchange. We feel empty and victimized by body shaming because we have exchanged our true glory for false images.
What is the meaning and purpose of life?
According to the Bible, our purpose, the reason we are here, is for God's glory. In other words, our purpose is to praise God, worship him, to proclaim his greatness, and to accomplish his will. This is what glorifies him. Therefore, in this we find that God has given us a reason for our existence, a meaning for our existence. We were created by him, according to his desire, and our lives are to be lived for him so that we might accomplish what he has for us to do.
There are those will not like this. There are those who will deny that God has made us. For them, they want to determine their own purpose. They must decide for themselves what is meaningful to them. They want their independence. They want to proclaim what is good and bad in their own hearts, and determine their purpose based on their desires. But the problem is that this becomes self-serving. When we do what we think is right in our own eyes, we often make mistakes -- especially when we deny God. When a child says "I want, I want, I want," he is showing his immaturity and self-centeredness. Adults become other-centered as is demonstrated by the sacrifices involved in parenthood and marriage. As we grow older, we realize the value in considering the interests of others. "Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others," (Phil. 2:4). In this, we learn that purpose is best defined not by selfish desires but by the ability to love and consider others more important. This carries over to receiving a purpose from God. If we are selfish and want to determine our own purpose, then how is that truly loving? After all, if love is other-centered then shouldn't we love God, center our lives on him, and humble ourselves before him in his wisdom and trust what he desires for us? Think about it. He knows infinitely more than we do, and by trusting him we can discover the ultimate purpose of our lives. It makes sense.
Top 7 Bible Verses About Purpose and Meaning
The Westminster Shorter Catechism addresses the purpose for which we were created in question number one: “What is the chief end of man?A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” We were made to glorify God. That is “man’s chief end” or main purpose but also “to enjoy Him forever” and that enjoyment was meant to be with God for all eternity in the coming New Jerusalem or the Kingdom of Heaven as described in Revelation 21 and 22. We were created in the image of God (Gen 5:1-2) and for the glory of God. We were created for God’s glory and to glorify Him.
By now you see that we were created for a purpose and a special meaning and these are related to glorifying God. If we are not giving God glory for what we have, we are robbing Him of glory. If we are not producing godly fruits, we are not bringing glory to God. If we are not praising God, we are not giving Him His proper glory. If we are not confessing Him before others, we are not glorifying Him.
Martha Munizzi "Glorious" (lyrics)
I was created
to make your praise glorious
And we are supposed to "give God credit" for our abilities and our successes.

Giving God the Glory
In the spotlight of some success, it’s tempting to keep the applause focused on “me.” But when you think about it, we would have no success in our lives at all if God did not see fit to give us the opportunities to succeed, the brainpower, the education, the temperament and gifts to accomplish praiseworthy things. Even so, when people notice that we have something good going, an internal spiritual battle occurs: Do we keep the glory for ourselves, or do we turn the spotlight back to God where it belongs?

Paul had it right in Philippians 3:1-11Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) when he encouraged us to stop bragging about ourselves and to start rejoicing in the Lord. He put together an impressive list of his own accomplishments and then said they were like “dung” compared to the glorious reality of Christ in His life.
Giving God the Credit
The truth is, we are incapable of doing anything apart from God, including our work.

“Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God,” (2 Corinthians 3:5 NASB)

I recently sat down with a seasoned believer who owns and incredibly successful business. I asked him what three things he learned through being a life-ling business owner. Being on the other side of his life’s work he had a clarity of vision that we don’t often have in the middle of our careers. He is a strong believer and a wise man, and here is his first thing:

“I didn’t always give God the credit.”

He tended to think that it was his hard work and efforts that brought him success and didn’t look at God as the answer. But now, looking back over his life, he can see God’s influence on his business. He can trace back through the years God’s direction, path to success, protection from harm and errors, and how it was God that did all of the work that brought him success.
It's common to hear stories about how "God called" someone to go somewhere or do something that they really didn't want, but TOO BAD, what they want doesn't matter. (Oh, and God will totally punish you if you refuse):

When Does Wanderlust Become Selfish?
One of the smartest people I’ve ever met is a missionary in Colombia, where he teaches at a seminary. By his own admission, he doesn't like it there. Life in Colombia can feel personally stifling for him, and it is hard on his family. He would much rather have stayed at Oxford University, where he did his doctorate work, because it was one of the few places where he’s ever felt deeply understood and where his gifts would be celebrated. Instead of staying at a place where he felt “at home,” however, he decided to move to South America because he is convinced that is where God has called him to be. He holds no romantic notions about the "adventure" of doing missions in the developing world or spending time in a new culture. When asked why he stays in Colombia, his answer is simple: “Because I’m called.”
Does Fasting Even Matter Anymore?
I’ve sensed God whispering to me about 40 days of fasting and prayer since last summer. I’ve been resisting it for months for obvious reasons.
Called to childlessness: The surprising ways of God
It would be nice if God’s call on our life always coincided neatly with our passions and talents, but that’s not always, perhaps not even often, how it works. While it’s certainly true that our passions and talents hint at our calling, God sometimes calls us to things we don’t want to do and don’t have a knack for.

Just ask Moses.

Just ask Martin and Katharina Luther.

Just ask the fast food worker pulling long hours in order to put a roof over the head of the child God called him to father.

Just ask my many, many single friends who don’t have any particular passion or skill for being alone (quite the opposite, in fact) but have yet to be called by God into the office of marriage.

Or just ask me.

I believe God has called me to childlessness.

I have written about my infertility resulting from endometriosis. Infertility doesn’t necessarily or always mean perpetual childlessness, of course. After all, one can become a parent other ways. I had always desired to be a mother since I was a little girl, so, naturally, my husband and I considered these alternatives.
Instead, quite against my own personality and inclination, God kept calling me away from home—to travel, to speak, to write, to work—and blessing that work abundantly. Perhaps God thwarted my plans just to shatter my assumptions about my life and about him. He is, after all, as C. S. Lewis says in A Grief Observed, the great iconoclast. He shatters idols we don’t even know we’ve made.
Sometimes God’s calling is not one we want. Yet, obeying that call is the only thing that will bring us true and lasting joy. Recognizing my childlessness as a call of God has transformed the way I see my whole life and the work of the Lord in it. For many years, my desire was to be a mother. My desire now is to be the woman that God calls me to be. No more. And no less.
You Are Worth Fighting For
If your need for more and more approval apart from God builds, it might distract you from your earthly calling entirely. You might miss what God has for you. Here's why: The Holy Spirit might nudge you to take a new job, adopt a child, move to the mission field, become a Sunday school teacher, start a Bible study, or write a book. But if you're looking over your shoulder, wondering what people think of you, you might be inclined to ignore that nudge. You might walk away from your call, your God-designed purpose for living. Because you are afraid. You fear disapproval and rejection, so you turn your back on the very mission God has called you to.

I have been guilty of ignoring nudges. I have been a modern-day Much-Afraid.
Don't Overthink Your Calling. It's Closer Than You Think
Of course, Jonah may have been susceptible to depression; his extreme reactions to the vine incident at the end of the book indicate that he struggled with emotions and perspective. Brain chemistry and family history certainly contribute to this condition but I’ve also learned from experience that the reluctant prophet would have opened the door to a powerful dose of despair when he resisted his calling. When he denied the very thing that the author of his life designed him for, he was assailing his own soul. That kind of denial and rejection will quickly lead to depression.

Why do people like Jonah—and I, and maybe you sometimes—resist our calling; one of the things that God created us for (Ephesians 2:10), and something that can certainly bring us and others joy? It could be fear, it could be laziness, pride or belief in a lie. Whatever it is, it’s not in line with God’s Word, and it’s probably making you miserable.
And the idea that sacrificing what you want just for the sake of sacrificing is an inherently good thing:

Christians Are Not Called to Have Amazing Sex
Although sex is indeed God’s gift to us, Christians are not directly commanded by God to have great sex. Couples may find themselves incompatible in the bedroom, and they should not be bombarded with pressure from the Christian community to start having good sex and lots of it. Instead, they should find support and comfort—support that sex is not the only thing that makes a good marriage, and comfort that historically all Christians have been called by God to suffer through numerous trials.

Christians are, and should be, hopeful people. After all, we believe in the resurrection of the dead, heaven and miracles. Some couples may find themselves miraculously gifted with good sex well after their vows, and books such as the LaHayes’ and Leman’s have helped a lot of people in this area. But in this world we will certainly have trouble. The world and all who dwell in it are imperfect. Sex, too, is bound up with the world’s imperfection. Some couples may spend their whole lives struggling with their physical relationship, and it is deceptive to teach that all Christians will, or are somehow biblically required to, have good sex.

Sexual incompatibility, therefore, is a cross that some couples bear, and Christian communities could lighten this burden if we made an effort to put sex in its rightful place. If sex were viewed as a gift that, like everything else in this world, is marred by sin, it may be easier for couples to accept that bad sex is neither a reason for divorce nor an excuse to stop investing in a marriage. As with other trials, bad sex is an opportunity to rejoice in suffering (1 Peter 4:13) and to be further conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29).
Glennon Doyle Melton's Gospel of Self-Fulfillment
Rather, the good life has been radically redefined according to the benefit of the individual while the former measures of flourishing—God’s glory, society’s health, the family’s well-being—have been displaced. We’re all on the throne now.
Because while the self-fulfillment narrative isn’t new, here’s what is: how easily and insidiously it gets baptized as a Christian story. Melton hasn’t simply said: I should be happy. She has emphatically said: God should be equally and unequivocally committed to my happiness as I am.
To be clear, I am not writing this essay to wag my moral finger at Melton, nor am I arguing the wrongness of gay and lesbian relationships (although I do believe they are wrong). No, I am writing this essay to plead pastorally with the church to make better sense of the story of desire than Melton and Gilbert. I am writing to remind us, as Taylor astutely does, of the sometimes irreducible gap between “thy will be done” and “let humans flourish.” God wills human flourishing, for sure. But that doesn’t mean he values our momentary happiness above everything else. Indeed, the Christian story is not just one of flourishing but renunciation. We deny ourselves to follow Jesus. We deny ourselves to serve our neighbor. And while holiness does surely reap happiness (in the next life if not this one), we must recognize moments—today—when it becomes necessary to forgo our flourishing as an act, not just of obedience, but of “repairing the world” (Taylor again). This is the only way to make sense of the Cross—both the one Jesus bore and the one we ourselves take up. This is the story of desire as the gospel tells it.

[The article fails to give a single example of how denying one's desire for a same-sex romantic relationship does anybody any good. It's just sacrifice for the sake of sacrifice.]
How Do You Super Bowl?
In a spirit of humility before God, sacrifice the whole game to his holiness. Just don’t watch it. Give it up for Jesus. Fast from the game as you desire to seek the kingdom of God above the pleasures of this world. Not for the sake of practicing asceticism, of course, but just because you love God far more than the things of this world. What better way to demonstrate it than by fasting from a pleasurable event we have looked forward to for a whole season?
Dying to Self and Living for Christ
Individuals called to serve in an international context will be forced to sacrifice their wants, desires, and comforts as they enter into new cultures. With each opportunity to deny their own comforts, their ability to sacrifice themselves for the sake of the gospel increases.

Just as our muscles grow stronger as we lift weights, our ‘muscle’ of sacrifice strengthens as we accept more and more opportunities to deny ourselves in order to love others radically, serve others selflessly, and minister to people when it is inconvenient or messy.

This leads us back to our original question: How do we, as missionaries called to serve in the United States, strengthen our muscle of sacrifice and selflessness for the sake of the gospel?
We were not placed on this earth only to strive for happiness and our life is not meant to be lived for ourselves. Jesus has called us to see our places, communities, neighborhoods, and families as our mission field.

Let us train ourselves to see our life in light of eternity. Let us remember we are on this earth to reach those who are lost. Let us sacrifice and deny ourselves as we surrender every moment to the work and leadings of the Lord.

As followers of Jesus, we know our eternity is secure. So while we are on this earth, we must be ready to sacrifice anything or everything to do the work of the Lord and see eternities transformed.
They even say that sacrifice is the only way to be "truly happy," and that if you're "selfishly" pursuing your own "worldy" needs and desires you will end up unhappy anyway. If you put God first and don't care about your own needs, God will end up giving you those things you need anyway:

5 Things Keeping You From the Life You Want
Being who you want to be outside of God’s plan for your life means you will be crushed under the reality of sin. Submitting to who God designed you to be means living free of this world’s bondage over your life. The more in tune we are with Scripture and our relationship with Jesus Christ, the less of this world's weight we will feel.

As easy as that is to write, and even understand: Sin means death and personal destruction. God's way is equal to life, eternal blessings. It is often a lot more difficult to live out.
God often uses discomfort to bring about His greatest glory.
The longing for comfort is natural and normal, but we must resist thinking that a comfortable lifestyle or life is what God desires of us, as there are many Biblical characters who lived and died in extremely uncomfortable lives.
Think about this: What do you think you deserve? And why? The honest answer is probably that you don't deserve it all, and that pride has taken you out for a date.
Entitlement says, “I deserve the best life now.” Where the Bible only speaks about laying down this life for Christ, in order to receive peace and eternal salvation.
God is either just, or you can have the life you want. Christianity is all about sacrifice. Entitlement says no sacrifice needs to be made because it's all about me.
I Am Not Disgusting. I Am Not Alone. I Am Redeemed.
I understood that it was with love that God could say “no” to same-sex relationships, and I came to understand that his intentions were best for me. I also came to realize that God says “yes” to a life full of joy and deep friendships. Obedience to God’s sexual ethic wasn’t just saying “no” to the pleasures that tempted me, but saying “yes” to a more intimate relationship with God involving humble submission to and utter vulnerability with him.
Do You Want to be Made Well? Probably Not
The hardest thing about spirituality for me, and I suspect many Protestants, is grasping the amount of effort and will power it takes to daily surrender to the love and power of God. The life-change and healing we seek is 100% from God, but it takes everything we’ve got just to surrender and to trust completely. It takes so much effort to bring ourselves to the place where only God can work to heal us.

Healing will never come from our own plans, methods, and “medications.” We can choose to limp along with sleeping pills, wine, recreational drugs, consumerism, or sexual indulgences. We can choose to run from the pain of the past, the anxiety of the present, and the terror of the future. There’s no escape that we can engineer on our own. There’s no way to medicate this pain long enough. There’s no healing that we can engineer on our own that replaces the healing power of God’s loving presence.
4 Myths That Are Getting in the Way of Your Calling
The process of discovering your calling may necessitate some serious self-reflection, but make no mistake: It’s not really about you. Calling is not about self-fulfillment. Calling is submission to and fulfillment of God’s will for your life. Many people experience a special sense of satisfaction that comes from exercising their God-given gifts, talents, and passions, but that sense of fulfillment is a byproduct of being in God’s will, not the goal.
A Q&A on Marriage
Ultimately, most of us underestimate God’s sovereignty. He is the One who gives us every good gift. Pursue Him. Serve Him. Trust Him. This area of life [dating and marriage] is not ultimately something you control; it is all under His wise, good, sovereign control.
Christian Hedonism
By Christian Hedonism, I do not mean that our happiness is the highest good. I mean that pursuing the highest good will always result in our greatest happiness in the end.
As Christian Hedonists we know that everyone longs for happiness. And we will never tell them to deny or repress that desire. Their problem is not that they want to be satisfied, but that they are far too easily satisfied. We will instruct them how to glut their soul-hunger on the grace of God. We will paint God’s glory in lavish reds and yellows and blues; and hell we will paint with smoky shadows of gray and charcoal. We will labor to wean them off the milk of the world onto the rich fare of God’s grace and glory.

We will bend all our effort, by the Holy Spirit, to persuade people
  • that reproach suffered for Christ [is] “greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt” (Hebrews 11:26);
  • that they can be happier in giving than receiving (Acts 20:35);
  • that they should “count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus [their] Lord” (Philippians 3:8);
  • that the aim of all of Jesus’s commandments is that their “joy may be full” (John 15:11);
  • that if they delight themselves in the Lord, he will give them the desire of their heart (Psalm 37:4);
  • that there is “great gain” in “godliness with contentment” (1 Timothy 6:6);
  • and that “the joy of the Lord is [their] strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).
Is Self-Sacrifice Ultimately Selfish? Wow this whole article is a disaster. It completely accepts the premise that "selfishness" is by definition bad, and then addresses the question, "If sacrificing my interests for another’s sake makes me feel good about myself, is my so-called “act of kindness” selfish at its core?" It tries to weasel out by making up some nonsense about how "selfishness" and "self-interest" are totally different things:
Selfishness is a sin, but self-interest is necessary to live out the Christian life. While the Bible clearly condemns selfishness, self-interest is a good thing—it enables us to become well-functioning, contributing members of God’s community. Self-interest motivates us to get up and go to work in the morning, to make friends, to care for our children, to drive carefully to work, and to go to church. It is even in our self-interest to be altruistic. Self-interest is not mutually exclusive from altruism in the Bible.

But is altruism also selfish if you like the way it makes you feel? No. Feeling good after an act of charity or self-sacrifice is not selfish. As Paul says in 2 Corinthians 9:7, “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

God loves a cheerful giver. That means God wants us to give freely and enjoy the act of giving. Rather than attributing the benefit of cheer we feel after giving to our selfishness, we should accept this joy as a blessing from God. After all, joy is a fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5:22). Why would God want us to feel bad for doing something good?
Pure or Boy Crazy: which direction are you headed?
If you can discipline yourself and develop some self-control [ie don't have premarital sex] so you are headed in the direction of purity, you may be rewarded with a beautiful marriage one day and will not doubt avoid scars on your heart.
Dying to Self in the Age of Self-Love
Sometimes, obeying God is hard. Many days, submitting to his laws feels restricting.
There’s much talk of self-love in Christian circles right now, the kind of self-love that promotes a perceived circumstantial happiness. When I hear of Christian bloggers or authors or even just professing Christians in my own private life diverging from orthodox Christian faith or values because it’s “too hard,” I feel a depressing weight on my shoulders. Their quest for happiness outside of orthodoxy demoralizes me in a way a combative atheist never could. They demoralize me in a way even my own particular burdens of suffering do not.
No, it’s not true. Embrace the path of suffering in obedience to God’s instructions. Lose your life. Let go of yourself and your expectations. And trust God to meet you, redeem your story, and give you a place of import in his larger story. As you lose your right to your story, you emerge in a much greater one, and what you will find is worth it.

I’ve walked a hard path, and I continue to walk a hard path. But God gave me manna to sustain me at the hardest points and has blessed me abundantly even through the removal of things I thought I couldn’t live without. He has proven himself to me, and he has proven the goodness of his words. When others tried to encourage me by telling me I wasn’t constrained by God’s instructions, I found instead abundant grace and help when I felt convicted that I was.
We can't be trusted to know our own needs. In other words, if people claim they have certain needs, but those needs don't match what "God" says, then you can just ignore them. Similarly, if God says people have a certain need, then they definitely do, even though they may not know it:

5 Ways to Start a Conversation with a Woman Considering an Abortion
We know that abortion is wrong. We know we must defend the unborn. But when we’re face-to-face with a woman who is considering an abortion, we don’t always know what to say. Here are five ways to start a conversation with her:
Nicholas Wolterstorff's Cheap Shots
If I try to nurture, cherish, and will the good of someone to whom I’m not married by having sex with them, the Christian tradition would say that no matter how gently, kindly, devotedly, and self-sacrificially I feel and behave towards that person, I am not in fact truly loving them. Truly to love them, I would need not only to care for them emotionally; I would need also to will their greatest good in accord with how they were designed by God to flourish. I would need to reflect on the moral order built into the cosmos and seek to care for them in light of that, willing their good even when—or especially when—it may conflict with what I (or they) feel would be most satisfying.
How Can We Help Christians Who Are Struggling With Homosexual Desires?
He, Joe, said to me: "Don't ever let any man tell you he is a homosexual. Always correct his vocabulary, because in Christ Jesus that is not who I am. In Christ Jesus I am a new creature."
5 Steps for a Gospel Empowered Ministry of Counseling
3. What many women think they need is not what they most need.
How can we best serve women who have given their emotions more authority than God's Word?
The Christian Response to Gender Dysphoria
Some respond that dismissing the legitimacy of a person’s experiences is to dismiss them wholesale. To be clear, we shouldn’t dismiss but feel compassion for anyone experiencing mental distress about a perceived misalignment between their gender identity and their body. Not dismissing the reality of their inner feelings, however, is not the same as affirming those feelings. It’s important for Christians to understand that people who experience distress, anguish, and conflict over their perceived gender identity really do exist. They’re not freaks. They’re not simply cross-dressers or people desiring to “gender-bend.” In most cases, their experience cannot be reduced to simply “living a lie” since most don’t feel they’re lying to themselves. In fact, just the opposite is true. People with genuine cases of dysphoria believe it’s their biological body that is lying. A person in this situation truly believes he or she is a member of the opposite sex.
But as Christians, we’re also required to confront new challenges with biblical truth. God made men and women different (Gen. 1:27). Contrary to mistaken interpretations, sexual difference does not exist on a continuum where some men are more like women or vice versa. Men and women are different at the deepest levels of their being.
Biblical counsel would begin by helping a person embrace, however difficult it may seem, that their birth sex is a testimony to their true nature, and that perceptions of a different gender identity, while sincere, do not constitute an actual identity change.

As those who believe that love rejoices in truth (1 Cor. 13:6) and that truth sets people free (John 8:32), we must state what Time and a culture of enablement won’t: If Evan was born with XX chromosomes, Evan is not a man, nor can Evan ever be a man.
Because our biological sex doesn’t lie, and because our minds are susceptible to confusion, repentance and sanctification for the dysphoric individual involves the long work of bringing their perceived gender identity back into conformity with their biological sex.
Jesus vs. the Bible
When we open the Bible, we are stepping into God’s story, understanding our place in His design, and encountering Him on His terms. When we don’t find what we’re looking for, we should ask whether we’re looking for the real God—or remaking a god in our image.
Christian Colleges & Gender Identity
So, absent a religious exemption, schools that want to honor Christ in their teaching and lifestyle standards could be vulnerable to charges of Title IX discrimination if, for example, they tried to deny a male who “identifies as a female” from living in a women’s dorm, or participating on a female sports team, or using a woman’s public restroom.
When Church Discipline Goes Really Public
This fall, a man named Jason Thomas posted to Facebook a year-old letter of discipline from his church, Watermark, in Dallas, Texas.

“We are left with no other option but to remove you from our body and treat you as we would anyone who is living out of fellowship with God,” reads the letter to Thomas, who is in a same-sex relationship. “This means that you are no longer a member of our body at Watermark.”
Following this model, church discipline—or, as Watermark calls it, care and correction—is not initiated through the church leadership, but through the smaller community groups of which every member is a part. Wagner encourages his members to lovingly and humbly correct those they’re close to.
Halfway through the year-long process, feeling “alone, sad, and angry with God,” Thomas dropped out and began dating another man. Six months in, his small group encouraged him to break it off, so he did. But a week later, he resumed the relationship, and his small group widened the circle of church involvement until it eventually included the leaders and elders.

In total, church staff and Thomas’s small group of friends met with him for more than a year.

“We would never send that letter to anybody who is saying, ‘Man, help me! I am stuck in my sin,’” Wagner said. “In this case, it was hours of meetings, and many tears. It was in a circle together with his friends and their ministry leaders that he finally said, ‘Guys, I don’t see what I’m doing as wrong anymore.’”
Though anyone separated from membership is still welcome to worship services, unrepentant individuals receive clear communication that they will be treated as an unbeliever by the church, he said.
'Missionary Dating' Isn't Just Unbiblical, It's Selfish
In other words, instead of painting the unbelieving partner as the evil scoffer that impresses weak Christians to backslide, grow complacent or leave Christ altogether, have we ever stopped to consider that they, like us, are beloved souls in need of God’s grace?
They need Jesus.
Truly loving someone means caring about their soul more than anything else.
The days I'm an expensive date.
Just two seconds ago, He epically rescued them from slavery, parted the Red Sea so they could escape their enemies, and then He promised He’d take care of them, love them, lead them and never leave. They’d just been singing about it with tambourines for more verses than an early ’90s Bon Jovi ballad. They’d seen who He was. They knew who He promised to be.

And then they complained about the way He’d chosen to provide for them and tried to take it into their own hands. They didn’t so much like the day-by-day thing.

“Do you ever get that fluttery feeling, that nervousness of having to trust when you can’t see what’s coming?” my friend asked.

Yes. Yes I do.

She had said that day that I was a cheap date ... but she was wrong. On mornings like the one where I read about the manna with bloodshot eyes, I’m a pretty expensive date. I want it to happen my way, on my terms, to come gift-wrapped in a way that I like. I’m laying awake in the dark, begging God for answers or direction like a kid begs for a pony.

I want to know how this is going to play out.

I want it to be enough for leftovers for the next couple of days.

I want to be able to gather a Tupperware container with enough manna to last the year, if I’m being honest.

I don’t want to not know what’s coming and how it’s going to show up.

I think I’m entitled to more than I really need. I know how the Israelites felt.

Could God have given them food that lasted several days, several years? Sure He could’ve. But He didn’t.

He gave them what they really needed instead ... and that was Himself, and the life lesson of how to look to Him to be what they need.
How Should We Respond to Caitlyn Jenner?
None of this means that Jenner’s decision to self-identify as a female is okay.
If we are compassionate, prayerful people who reasonably understand transgender and sexual-orientation issues and what the Bible says about them, we are in a good position to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). Speaking truth is itself a form of love, even if a person doesn’t receive it as such initially.
Jenner’s hope is that “as soon as the Vanity Fair cover comes out, I’m free.” But we know he will not be free. After some period of euphoric relief, he will find that he is still a “wretched man” who needs to be delivered from his body of death (Romans 7:24).
When God Loves Me Too Much
It’s not that God loves me too little to give it to me. He loves me too much. He loves me too much to give me that thing I am convinced I need. He loves me too much to give me something that will compete with him. He loves me too much to give me anything I may love more than I love him.

Whatever it is—an object, a person, a position, a recognition, an award—God expresses his love in withholding it from me. He knows me far better than I know myself. He knows what I need, and he knows what I don’t need. He knows what would soon step into that place he reserves for himself.
If Your Boyfriend Feels More Real Than God’s Promises
Even we girls who follow Jesus are tempted to think the things of this world will fill up the longings in our heart [in this case, longing for a boyfriend]; they often seem more real to us than the promises of God.
If God Loves Me, Why Am I Still Single?
I measured God’s love for me by whether He fulfilled my deep desire. But He expressed His love to me by withholding what is good so I might treasure what is priceless.
The Christian Response to Homosexuality
While people's personal feelings do have their place, they are less important than what Scripture says.
People who use the Bible to argue that accepting homosexuality is how we are to 'love our neighbor' wrongly omit the first half of what Jesus said in that context. Jesus actually said, "The great and first commandment is 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind'" (Matthew 22:34-40). In other words, love for one's neighbor is bounded by one's primary allegiance to God. How can one claim to love God, yet despise what His Word says about homosexuality and disregard His design for marriage?
Remember, what God forbids He forbids from a loving heart.
God is against the wrongful use of sex because He has our best interests at heart. It is the curse of sin that warps our minds and leads us to re-define happiness according to our own desires. We want happiness as we choose to define it. But God isn't a willing recruit for anyone's personal agenda. Instead, He wants to rescue us from ourselves.
As for so-called "homophobia," Christians don't fear homosexuals, but fear for them, just as we would for anyone in bondage to sin of any type. We know what awaits (Revelation 21:8) all those who will not turn from their sin and turn to Christ.

Jesus frees sinners who turn to Him in faith: His sinless life, His substitutionary death on the cross, and His rising from the dead emancipates anyone who no longer wants to be enslaved by sin. In Christ, there is no more fear of judgment or punishment for the sins we've committed (John 3:16, 3:36).

That's why Christianity positively declares that knowing Jesus Christ is the greatest thing in the universe. We are rightly related to the God who made us, and that not of ourselves, it is the gift of God's grace. We want everyone to know this joy. It can't be found in anything else on earth, only in Christ alone.
Talking to Buddhists in Light of Christmas
Buddhists do not understand that sin before a holy God is man's major problem.
Despite these great differences, Christians can help Buddhist friends see the beautiful and freeing truth that Christ came to earth for our salvation.
Choosing (True) Gratitude
If we allow the enemy to set up a shop of ingratitude in our hearts, he can produce and sell a whole assortment of lies to us.

I deserve more.
God’s not giving me what I want.
I can’t be happy with what I have.
Why isn’t my life different?
Why can’t I have what they have?
Has ingratitude settled deep into your heart? What are some ways you can tell?
  • A grateful person recognizes the things God has given her instead of noticing all the things she feels she’s missing.
  • A thankful person is humble and understands she doesn’t deserve anything from God; an unthankful person is proud and believes she deserves better.
You Need to Stop Complaining About #Adulting
We invented the word “adulting” just so we could complain about how difficult it is. ...

The fact is, as a middle-class American, I will not go hungry. I have tried dozens of things since graduating high school and many of them failed. And I have certainly been a whiner at numerous points. Yet there was not one day I worried about going hungry or not having clean water to drink.
One of the more overlooked areas of sin is complaint. Let us not forget that in Numbers 21, God allowed snakes to kill several thousand Israelites simply because they were complaining.
The Ultimate Reason Why Unbelievers Don’t Give Their Lives to Jesus
However, all Brad did was argue with me and come up with all sorts of excuses about why there isn’t a god.
All these excuses aren’t the real reason behind why an unbeliever doesn’t REALLY give their life to Christ.
So the ultimate reason unbelievers don’t give their life to Christ isn’t because of any excuse that they give.

It’s because they love their sin more than they love God.
More Christians affirm same-sex marriage: my response
Every time Scripture addresses same-sex relations, it prohibits them. ... Scripture is never irrelevant or misleading regarding the human condition. The God who made us knows what is best for us.
We Should Expect Non-Christians to Share Our Morals
Christians do well, then, when they advocate Christian ethics in the public square, both as a word to the conscience of non-Christians, hoping they will repent before their Creator, and as a way to promote what is best for human flourishing.
Therefore, we must not shrink back from fighting for what we believe is God’s design for marriage simply because it is controversial. That morality is contested and controversial simply displays how fractured societies are and how obstinate sinful humans are to God’s design. We advocate for biblical marriage in the wider culture, not because we want to create a theocracy or because we need government sanction for our beliefs, but because we believe that the way God ordered human life offers the best opportunity for human flourishing. Ending human trafficking or supporting the best marriage policy has real-world implications for the common good.
In fact, knowledge of human depravity should motivate Christians in a representative republic to fight for a government that promotes God’s law.
Newsboys "Step Up To The Microphone" (lyrics)
Steppin' right up to the microphone
I say hey man!
There's only one way!
One God one body one faith alone
If you don't know
Then you need to be told
O. C. Supertones "Away From You" (lyrics)
What if I told you I held the one true philosophy
Would you hear me out or just turn your back and laugh at me
Lord I just don't understand
This strange creature you call man
Who thinks he lives by his own hand
But I know, I know, I know, I know
There's no life away from you
Bruce or Caitlyn? He or she? Should Christians accommodate transgender naming? An article about how Christians have the responsibility of judging trans people and determining which names/pronouns are correct for them. Because apparently trans people can't decide for themselves.
How do we refer to people who have adopted a transgender identity? Transgender ideology says that we must refer to transgender persons by their assumed name, not by their given name. It also requires using pronouns that match their transgender identity and not those that match the sex they were assigned at birth. Should Christians go along with this or not?
Truth-telling is always necessary for the Christian (Eph. 4:15). We are not allowed speak in ways that are fundamentally dishonest and that undermine the truth of God’s word about how he made us and the world. Transgender ideology is fundamentally a revolt against God’s truth. It encourages people–sometimes very disturbed and hurting people–to deny who God made them to be. It traps them in a way of thinking and living that is harmful to them and that alienates them from God’s truth. We do not serve them or love them well by speaking as if transgender fictions are true.
The practical upshot of this principle means that I must never encourage or accomodate transgender fictions with my words. In fact, I have an obligation to expose them. For me, that means that I may never refer to a biological male with pronouns that encourage him to think of himself as a female. Likewise, I may never refer to a biological female with pronouns that encourage her to think of herself as a male. In other words, I have to speak truthfully. And that includes the choice of pronouns that I use.
A lot of teaching that says your happiness isn't really something you should care about when making decisions about marriage:

Marriage Isn't About Your Happiness
I heard a married man on TV say (regarding whether or not he was going to stay in his own marriage), “I shouldn’t be with someone if I’m not happy.” It’s an attitude many people have, and hearing it made my stomach turn.

What an accurate reflection of the self-centered society we live in, everyone believing their main goal in life is their own personal happiness. What a small and shallow way to live.

If you’re getting married with your own happiness as your main goal, you will be disappointed in a severe way.

Marriage is not about your happiness, it’s not even about you. It’s about love—which is something we choose to give time and time again. It’s about sacrifice, serving, giving, forgiving—and then doing it all over again.

No wonder we choose divorce over commitment. Because often, we’re choosing “personal happiness” over real commitment, over real love.

They say marriage teaches you more about selflessness than you ever wanted to know. I have definitely found that phrase to be true in my relationship with my husband. Because at the heart of it, real love is all about sacrifice. About the giving of yourself, in ways big and small.
Why I Didn’t Choose a Marriage That Would Make Me Happy
If there’s one piece of marriage advice that always makes me cringe, it’s this: “Find someone who makes you happy.”

I’ve heard this advice countless times in countless places, and every time I hear it, it really bothers me.

It’s not that you shouldn’t be happy–you should–but happiness should NOT be your number one goal in marriage.
When I married my husband, I wasn’t looking for happiness. I saw him for who he was, I saw that he was a good, good man, and I knew that he was the person that I wanted to be by his side forever. When I pictured the life I wanted to have, I knew he was the one I wanted to create a life with. I never once asked myself if he would make me happy. But you know what? I’ve never been so happy in my entire life. I never even knew I COULD be this happy.
And there are young, single Christians asking whether it's necessary for them to marry someone they're attracted to. There is so much emphasis on finding someone who meets all the correct godly guidelines, that people are actually uncertain about whether their own feelings of romantic or sexual attraction should be a factor at all. (Please note: most of the articles written to address this question say yes, physical attraction is important and you probably shouldn't date without it. But the fact that this question is asked so much shows how Christians have bought into the "my desires don't matter" ideology.)

Should I pursue a godly woman, hoping that I will become attracted to her, or should I keep my distance?
I'm a 28-year-old guy with stable income. I feel mentally and emotionally ready for marriage. I've been praying about it for sometime. I met a wonderful Christian lady during my college years. After we both graduated, we stayed in touch. She has all the characteristics of a godly woman, and I am sure she will be a great wife. The only problem is that I am not attracted to her.

I know that she is somewhat attracted to me, and even her family seems interested in me.

Should I pursue her, hoping that I will become attracted to her, or should I keep my distance?
Isn't She Beautiful?
How significant should physical attraction be in the pursuit of marriage? Or, what role, if any, should physical appearance play in Christian dating?

Guys have come to me over the years asking about this. Usually he respects or admires a godly young woman (or, maybe more often, other people in his life think he should admire her more), and yet he’s not physically attracted to her. She’s not his “type,” he says. “Should I still pursue her?”

What would you say to him?
Should I Marry Without Romance and Attraction?
QUESTION: After my share of bad relationships, I re-dedicated my life to the Lord and I am dating, essentially, the "perfect man." He wants to marry me, he is a believer, and he fits every quality I want in a husband. However, I feel empty inside. He is not physically my type, he looks and dresses in the opposite way from what I find attractive, I don't find him handsome, and can't feel attraction for him the way I have felt in previous relationships. My friends say I'm crazy for doubting our relationship. I know that "romance" and "physical attraction" are not in the dictionary of God's word, but I get scared and panic sometimes when I think about marrying without any attraction or romance. What keeps me going is God's promise that my marriage will be favored and blessed and "every other thing will be added." But that doesn't close up the hollow feeling or give me peace. Please advise.
Why attraction matters (and you’re not shallow to want it)
‘I’m dating a nice Christian guy who I like and respect,’ said the email (so far, so good – however, I hear a ‘but’ coming). ‘But…’ (there it is!) ‘I’m not physically attracted to him. I know there are more important things in a relationship, but shouldn’t there be some spark? Or as a Christian, does God expect me to be less shallow?’

I’m surprised how many people – both women and men – write to me because they’re worried that they ‘ought’ to date someone they’re not attracted to, and to insist on attraction would be superficial and unGodly.
The bizarre argument that having premarital sex is an inherently "selfish" (and therefore bad) thing, and waiting until marriage is inherently "unselfish" and therefore good:

5 Lies That Make Sexual Purity More Difficult
While Jesus came to give us a full life (John 10:10), His command to us is to "deny yourself," "lose your life" and "take up your cross and follow me" — even unto death! The call to holiness isn't supposed to be easy or even fair. In fact, Jesus said that while many would call Him "Lord," very few would actually follow Him.

There is nothing in the Bible about the fairness of holiness. In fact, it is profoundly unfair that God would invite us into the divine privilege of sharing His holiness. If you answer the call to be "set apart," this will require you to think differently than the world thinks. A follower of Christ intentionally sets his or her mind on what the Spirit desires, not what the flesh demands.

Many great men and women who have walked before us have chosen to give up families, homes, material goods, reputations and the pleasures of this world. We have the invitation to do the same. But let's not be deceived: Being a follower of Christ has never been the easy road.
How to Destroy Your Marriage Before It Begins [spoiler alert: it's by having sex]
[Satan's] end goal is for us to develop a consistent pattern of resisting the Spirit and following our sinful desires once we get into marriage. He wants us to learn to resist service and to pursue selfishness ["selfishness" is, bizarrely, a euphemism for sex here]. If we learn to do what we want when we want before marriage, we'll carry that pattern into the days and years that follow. This, however, is deadly since service and sacrifice are essential to a healthy, Christ-honoring marriage.
Similarly, masturbation is "selfish" and therefore EVIL:

A Dad Talks with His Son about Masturbation
“That is what I think. I mean ... I guess it’s like you said before, sex is all about serving just your wife, I guess, and, [masturbation] is just about my—uh—yourself.”

“That’s very true, Sean.”

“But, I was talking with my friend Paul and he said that at his school he had a class where they said that it’s not bad, it’s natural and everybody does it and it is just super-strict Christians who are all messed about it.”

“And what did you think of that, the natural part?”

“I mean, we already talked about it. It makes sense. Natural is not always good, right?”

“Yes, outstanding! Masturbation is obviously something one person does alone. And that does not fit with what the Bible says about sexual relations. That is what I am trying to get across. When people do things that don’t follow God’s direction, things don’t turn out well.”
Masturbation - Male
[Masturbation] is a selfish act. Sex is more than just a way to get pleasure. When you masturbate, you’re using a sexual function just to get pleasure. If you look at sex this way, you’re probably not going to be very good at it when you get married. What if sex is about making your wife feel good? When you masturbate, you’re only practicing making yourself feel good. If you want to be good at sex, you have to be unselfish. Instead of masturbating, take time to serve people.
Sex is NOT Selfish
Masturbation is an inherently selfish act. Any act which is undertaken for selfish gain will not be honored by God.
Masturbation is the result of a lack of self-control.
Masturbation is sinful. No, you won't find any scripture that implicitly states masturbation is sin. However; it is self-serving and ultimately makes our desire to satisfy our physical needs an idol we're willing to put before God.
So What about Masturbation?
Sex and our sexuality were not created by God primarily for our own pleasure.

God created sex and sexuality as a wonderful gift that is to be given to our life partner… this gift bonds us together in a special and intimate way. It is something God meant for us to experience in relationship to another human being. When we use it individually, we have twisted something wonderful and there are some dangers that then enter in.
Our bodies and our sexuality are not our own to use for our own pleasure, so, for the married person, masturbation deprives your spouse of something they are supposed to receive from you.
Masturbation plays into the sin of selfishness.

We are all prone to selfishness by nature and masturbation seems to fan that flame. It also tends to isolate us. We withdraw and focus on ourselves. “What would be good for me? What really excites me?” All of this thinking breeds an attitude that is contrary to biblical love. Biblical love involves giving for the needs of another expecting nothing in return. Love is giving not getting.

The activity of autoeroticism by nature is a ‘getting’ activity rather than a giving activity.
Philippians 2:3-4 drives this home. “Let nothing be done from selfish ambition… let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”
They frequently argue that it's totally reasonable to require gay people to never ever have any romantic or sexual relationships, and that trans people should just quit being trans, because Christianity is all about making sacrifices and not getting your needs/desires met:

Letter to a Struggling Gay Christian
I fear you're forgetting something basic about the Christian life, my friend: the distinction between sin and temptation. Same-sex attraction isn't the same thing as same-sex relations. The first is temptation; the second is sin. Every believer this side of heaven has a heart corrupted by sin, a sinful nature at war with the presence of the Spirit of God. Our hearts daily stir up carnal and corrupt desires, leading us to dwell on godless thoughts and intentions. These temptations happen within ourselves, not to mention those brought about by the world, by others, and by Satan himself.

Every day, married Christian men are tempted to look a second time at women who aren't their wife. But being tempted isn't the same as fantasizing about these relationships or having them in reality. Joe, true Christians repress these desires, saying “no” over and over and over again. They think about their wife, their kids, and especially their God who hates adultery and their Savior who died for sin. Every resistance in the face of temptation, then, is a momentous occasion of victory and liberation.

The same applies to every sinful desire in the heart of a Christian. Joe, conversion to Jesus doesn't mean perfection, and it doesn't mean the absence of temptation. This you must understand.
Joan or John? An article about what pastors should do if a trans person who was assigned male at birth but currently identifies as a women wants to "repent" and follow Jesus.
This means the pastor should, in his role as an undershepherd of Christ, start speaking to Joan as “John” and identifying him as “him.” This will seem strange and discordant to Joan. Of course it will. What is going on in this person’s life, however, is what goes on in every Christian’s life. We’ve put on a “new man,” crucifying the old way (Eph. 4:21–24). We’re a “new creation” with the past done away with (2 Cor. 5:17).
In saying I don’t think Joan can continue living as a “woman” I’m not saying regeneration will mean he suddenly “feels” like a man. John is telling you the truth when he says he’s felt all his growing-up life like a woman trapped in a man’s body. He will not suddenly turn into a lumberjack. He will probably grapple with this issue for the rest of his life.

I was saved from, among many other things, covetousness. Coveting seems natural to me. Not coveting is unnatural to me. Not a day goes by in which coveting isn’t the easier, more natural thing for me. But I fight against covetousness because God is conforming me into the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29; 2 Cor. 3:18). He does this through suffering, through discipline, and through the warlike struggle of the Spirit against the flesh, the new creation against the satanic powers (Rom. 5:3–5; Heb. 12:5–11; 2 Cor. 2:11). If you’re in Christ, your testimony is the same, with any number of sinful patterns and weak points in your life. The same will be true for John. Don’t give up on him if he suffers setbacks, and don’t give up on him if he still “feels” like a woman for the rest of his life. Keep pointing him to the gospel, and to the faith that hears and acts.
Love Your Neighbor Enough to Speak Truth
A few years ago, I was speaking at a large church. An older woman waited until the end of the evening and approached me. She told me that she was 75 years old, that she had been married to a woman for 50 years, and that she and her partner had children and grandchildren. Then she said something chilling. In a hushed voice, she whispered, “I have heard the gospel, and I understand that I may lose everything. Why didn’t anyone tell me this before? Why did people I love not tell me that I would one day have to choose like this?” That’s a good question. Why did not one person tell this dear image bearer that she could not have illicit love and gospel peace at the same time? Why didn’t anyone—throughout all of these decades—tell this woman that sin and Christ cannot abide together, for the cross never makes itself an ally with the sin it must crush, because Christ took our sin upon himself and paid the ransom for its dreadful cost?

We have all failed miserably at loving fellow image bearers who identify as part of the LGBT community—fellow image bearers who are deceived by sin and deceived by a hateful world that applies the category mistake of sexual orientation identity like a noose. And we all continue to fail miserably. On the biblical side, we often have failed to offer loving relationships and open doors to our homes and hearts, openness so unhindered that we are as strong in loving relationship as we are in the words we wield. We also have failed to discern the true nature of the Christian doctrine of sin. For when we advocate for laws and policies that bless the relationships that God calls sin, we are acting as though we think ourselves more merciful than God is.

May God have mercy on us all.
On My Struggle With Homosexuality
God’s Word gives two options for homosexuals. The first is to deny the flesh and enter into a marriage with someone of the opposite sex — which is possible. There are those who have been freed from this curse or those who have been able, with God’s help, to bring the voice of that craving to a mere whisper. Both of these are able to marry someone of the opposite sex.

But for those who are never delivered from this curse in any way while in this life, God’s Word requires the second option — celibacy. Paul says it is the best option for everyone, but if someone burns with lust, they should marry so that they do not sin (1 Corinthians 7:6-9).

For some Christian homosexuals, they sometimes burn with lust and cannot fulfill it in any way. Can we understand this? Can we empathize with this? Instead of turning up our noses, can we have a conversation about this?

Yes, God knows best and His Law is good, but can’t we just tell our struggling brothers and sisters, realizing that they cannot participate in this action that is meant to bring pleasure, “You know what, that really sucks. I’m so sorry.” Empathy over disdain. (See Romans 12:15)

You know, sometimes I write about this subject in an abstract way. Then I remember I’m writing about me.

This sexual desire is just a manifestation of what is really craved. For me and many, many others, the sexual component is truly but a fraction of what we crave. We crave intimacy. I want a guy to hold me tight and tell me everything is going to be okay. I want to walk down the street holding my guy’s hand. I want to be able to wake up next to the man who takes my breath away. But as much as I want to, I can’t have a man in my arms. God’s Law forbids it

Could I have a woman in my arms? Yes. I have the ability to — I am still attracted to women. But I am nowhere near ready. I don’t know that I will ever be.

The possibility exists that I will never get the intimacy I crave. From men, because God’s Law forbids it. From women, because if I cannot commit myself faithfully, I sin against God and woman. I am caught in this tension. I feel like I am being torn in two.

I think about this constantly. I think about how I might never get married. It’s possible I won’t ever have the emotional and sexual intimacy that I crave. I might never have the children I long for. I might never see the family that I have imagined myself having since I was eleven years old.

Loneliness is a constant companion of mine. I think about the relationship I had with a girl that was wonderful and so sweet to me that I had to end because I was unfaithful. I think about the time I spent with guys who made such an impression on me with just a smile that I was forced to cut short by the weight of my guilt and the power of the Holy Spirit driving me to repentance. And I think about the hurt I’ve caused these people in my fight with homosexuality. I have sinned against those whom God loves, in leading them against God’s Law. And that thought that I pointed people away from Jesus still haunts me. And, yet, I long with all my might for any of them. I can hear my heart beat louder, like a drum reaching a crescendo, as I consider what I had, what I held, and that I no longer have, and will never hold again.
If I live a lifetime with a broken heart, a heart that is pining after my own sin that would be nothing compared to how my heart would be torn asunder if I turned my back on Christ. As much as I could love my sin, as much as I could love a boy, it is incomparable to the love of God in Christ Jesus for me.

But every day I am forced to fight. Every day I beg for a different cross to bear. Every day I wish that today were the day where Christ returns, that He might deliver me from this curse once and for all.
He promises that even when I don’t see it, He is working in me. Even when I look at myself and see the wretchedness in my body and the thorn of homosexuality, I remember that the God-man promised that just as He was raised from the dead with a perfect body, I will be too and His work in me will finally be complete.
Christian leaders criticize people for leaving church for reasons that they believe are invalid. These reasons all relate to their own happiness and their own needs. All these blog posts about "bad reasons to leave church" mock the idea that you matter and your emotions matter and that should be a factor in choosing whether to go to church:

5 Really Bad Reasons To Leave Your Church
4. “My Needs Aren’t Being Met”

When someone lists this as a reason for leaving it is a dead giveaway that somewhere along the way they came to believe that the Church actually exists to serve their needs. They’ve bought into the lie that, when it comes to church, it’s really about “me.” Here’s the problem: the Church actually isn’t about you. It’s about Jesus.
7 Bad Reasons to Leave Your Church
The church is not a marketplace where we pick the spiritual products we like.


If the church leadership wants you to be involved, but hasn‘t found the right fit yet, keep trying.

I’ve known people to stay at our church for years before we finally found the right fit at just the right time. They were always glad they waited.

4. Someone Hurt Your Feelings

If you leave your current church over hurt feelings, you’ll leave your next church for the same reason. People are people. Feelings get hurt. Sometimes we’re too sensitive, sometimes the hurts are real. Either way, the solution isn’t leaving, it’s reconciliation. Or growing thicker skin.
Sometimes Christians teach that you should also take care of yourself, you shouldn't ONLY serve others ALL the time, but their reasoning is that you'll be able to serve people (and God) better if you rest sometimes. They're not claiming that your own happiness is an intrinsically good thing- no, it's just a tool to help you serve people/God more efficiently:

Being So Stressed Out Might Be Killing You
If you abuse your body eventually it will affect the other areas of your life. For example, poor gut health is linked to depression and anxiety. All these things affect our connection to Father God and our effectiveness to do His work.

How are we going to spread God’s message of health, love, joy and freedom to the rest of the world if we are exhausted and aren’t modeling it in our own lives? It’s time we start taking care of all the aspects of our being, including our bodies. We will be able to serve our communities better with more energy and love if we spend a little effort on ourselves.
How to Love God by Getting More Sleep
Getting a good night’s rest shows that we know God is in control and will watch over us when we are at our most vulnerable.
Show God you trust him and are a good steward of his resources by deciding to do more to get a good night’s sleep.

[Nowhere does this article say that your health and happiness are inherently good things that matter because YOU matter. It's just about your duty as a good Christian to keep your body healthy.]
Your Body, Your Spirit, and a Good Night’s Sleep
So what’s all this got to do with a Christian worldview?

Well, let’s go back to the beginning. God created day and He created night. A time to work, and a time to rest. The Sabbath, remember, begins in the evening, and we enter into an earthly rest in anticipation of resting eternally in God’s presence.

Remember too that we’re not pure spirits. We’re embodied spirits. The state of our body affects the state of our spirit. It’s why we avoid drunkenness and bodily immorality. It’s why we try to stay fit.

It’s no wonder then, as Kate Shellnutt writes at Christianity Today, that those who get quality sleep report feeling closer to God and having better faith lives overall.

And also, as Charles Spurgeon said, “God gives us sleep to remind us we are not Him.” We have limits. He doesn’t. We lie down at night trusting in God’s care, open to Him speaking to us, trusting him to revive these earthen vessels of ours in the morning—ready once again to join with God in His work to restore all thing in Jesus.

Now I’m not saying give up your cell phone or Facebook (especially if you read BreakPoint on them). But I am saying don’t let them deprive you of God’s gift of sleep, and in turn all the personal interaction, productivity, creativity, and especially spiritual vitality that make us fully human as God intended.
JOY = Jesus, Others, Yourself?
The better I learn to love myself, the better I can love others. If I recognise my need for rest more readily, I can respond to my spouse’s need for rest at the end of the day. If I forgive myself when I am snappy under stress, I can forgive my colleague when they snap too. If I take up exercise to care better for my body, I can encourage someone else to join me.


So, where is God asking you to love yourself better? And how does that help you love those on your frontline better? Learn to love yourself more fully so that you can love others in the same way.
Efficient Work, Sufficient Rest
I experienced firsthand the foolishness of insufficient rest and how it hindered my work. Long hours and an “I can do it all” mentality added up to a subtraction of ministry. Overworked, I lost my health, and as a result, I had to stop ministering in some outreaches I loved. I had to learn to embrace the words of Christ: “apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5), as well as the wisdom about priorities and rest in Scripture. I learned to schedule breaks, get sufficient rest, and plan personal retreats to refuel. God restored my health and ability to serve as He changed my perspective on work and rest.
Things I wish Christians would stop saying: “Joy means putting Jesus first, others second, and yourself last”
If we unfailingly put others first, we will soon run out of gas. We restock our resources when we love ourselves. We can’t serve others to the exclusion of eating and sleeping, or of paying our bills — we need to love ourselves at least this much. If we keep giving away all of our money and food, we will stay homeless and hungry. I can’t imagine that God calls any of us to that.

We also need to love ourselves enough to fully live the life God has granted us. Sometimes this is about reaching out and achieving, working hard to accomplish a goal. Other times this is about recovering from past life difficulties. It even involves enjoying and embracing the good life has to offer. All of these things give us strength and experience we can share with others.

And we should live our lives in the way God made us to live it. If you were given boldness, live boldly. If you were given quiet thoughtfulness, live quietly and thoughtfully. However you live, turn daily to God so he can shape you for his service.

In no way do I mean to promote a selfish life. I promote living to serve and living to have rich resources to give.
When something you care about is taken away, someone treats you unfairly, or you experience some kind of big disappointment, you're wrong to feel negative emotions as a result. You have to force yourself to be okay with it:

When Ministry Becomes an Idol. In this article, the writer says her sadness and feelings of losing her identity when her ministry came to an end (feelings which are very normal in that kind of situation) were signs that she had sinfully made her ministry "an idol."
Everything—every possession and every position—must be held with open hands. God has the right to change how you function in your particular ministry, the people on your team, or the organizational structure of your outreaches. For me, this meant letting go of nine years of hard work because God saw that this season and service was complete.

It certainly did not feel "complete" at the time. It felt wrong, and it was painful to see the years of investment vanish. But in God's wisdom, it was completed. God knew that it was more important for me to learn the lesson of surrender—having open hands—than it was for me to continue serving with the heart attitudes I had in the previous years.
Dying to Self and Discovering So Much More
Would I say something or keep quiet? My friend had just bought a new specialty Bible (one with notes) and was showing me what she liked about it. But I couldn’t hear her because I was mentally debating whether I would tell her that I had written many of that Bible’s notes and introductory articles. When she asked me a question, I realized I was too busy listening to the argument in my mind to hear my friend. Convicted, I looked directly into her eyes, knowing that she wanted my attention. Loving her meant letting go of my self-congratulatory thoughts and listening carefully as she repeated her question.

To die to self is to set aside what we want in this moment and focus instead on loving God with everything we’ve got and valuing others as highly as we value ourselves (Matthew 22:37-39). This moves us away from self-centeredness and closer to becoming openhearted followers of Christ who care deeply for others. It’s much easier to pay attention to the concerns, interests and needs of people (Philippians 2:3-4) when our own interests no longer consume us.
As we die to self, we no longer try to get our own way or try to get people to look up to us. We stop offering unasked-for advice, as if in self-importance we think we always know better than others. We let go of trying to make a good impression on others. We find freedom from the self-focused life Evelyn Underhill describes: “We mostly spend [our] lives conjugating three verbs: to want, to have and to do. Craving, clutching and fussing, we are kept in perpetual unrest.” Quite simply, when we die to self, we’re no longer obsessed with self.

Dying to self actually makes life easier because, for example, we can be content even when we’re overlooked. Several years ago I led a woman through a one-on-one, 10-week time of study, conversation and prayer about becoming a disciple of Jesus. When she announced in church that she had decided to give her life to Christ, she talked about the people who had influenced her. I thought she would mention my name, but she didn’t. I considered standing up to excuse myself so she would notice me! But I knew the Spirit, not me, had done a great work in her life. I also saw this as an exercise in dying to self by not squeezing myself into the spotlight.
Ask God how you might deny yourself a little something every day: In our me-first, materialistic culture, it might mean something as down-to-earth as refraining from sweets or other junk foods harmful to you. Or not becoming defensive when ridiculed, humiliated or questioned. Or not buying the latest phone you really want because your current one is fine.
Jesus and the Victim Card
When someone begins to share their burdens in the context of the church, they inevitably draw the attention of deeply compassionate church members. They immediately identify those who could give them the attention for which their hearts have longed. Love for approbation and affection then leads such a person to nurture his or her sin struggles by constantly linking them to past experiences of suffering. One of the evidences that this has happened is that he or she will talk about these struggles ad nauseam. No amount of friendship or counseling ever helps. Rather than experiencing growth in grace, they paralyze themselves by nurturing self-pity. Instead of going to the Scriptures and to Christ, they form an unhealthy dependency on others.

When we find ourselves in a situation in which we are seeking to help someone who is playing the victim card, we must remind them that Jesus also had painful experiences. The Scriptures tell us that Jesus wasn't particularly physically attractive (Is. 53:2). The Evangelists constantly draw our attention to the fact that he was ridiculed by His brothers (John 7:3-5), mocked by his fellow church members (Matt. 9:24), forsaken by his disciples (Matt. 26:31; 56), falsely accused by powerful government officials (Luke 23:6-12) and crucified with criminals (Mark 15:27-28). As a boy, Jesus was most likely scorned by His friends on account of the fact that his mother conceived out of wedlock--though she was a virgin (John 8:41). We can be sure that Jesus had many other painful childhood experiences. Yet, he never adopted a victim mentality. Jesus never played the victim card. He never allowed his past circumstances keep him from pressing on in order to accomplish the will of His Father in Heaven.
Living for More than Sunday’s Game
How do you witness brokenness in your work?

When guys don’t have a good game, I notice their disposition changes, and they aren’t their normal selves. It’s particularly easy to see brokenness from that side of things—finding your identity in your performance.
Worrying Is a Spiritual Issue
Part of worry is this unspoken belief that God won’t totally take care of us or those we love. It’s the opposite of the one thing God says He wants most from us: faith.

We may have heard it before: “Fear tolerated is faith contaminated.” And it's true. Too often we tolerate worry. We get concerned over other more “sinful” habits, while we forget to recognize the seriousness of worrying. In actuality, this persistent little habit is a far greater sin than we realize. It's fear that actively doubts God’s goodness and power. It comes from a mentality that we’re alone or God is just at the sideline, and we have to self-preserve.

This causes us to take matters into our own hands, control whatever we can and try to fix a situation ourselves. And actions are not only a way to try to fix a situation; worrying is an effort to fix it too. Worry is a means to control that overestimates our abilities (or that of others) and underestimating God’s.
Trust comes from really knowing someone and we can’t trust God if we don’t know Him. We may know a lot about God. We may have grown up in church and even have a good relationship with Him. But when we worry, it’s a symptom that we don’t fully know and believe His goodness.

Notice I said “fully believe.” Many of us know mentally that God is good and able, but do we know it in our hearts? Or do only 50 percent of us know it?

When we’re afraid of the bad stuff that could happen or wonder if we can get through a difficult time, we’ve got a faulty or incomplete view of God’s character; namely, His love and power.
To the Overlooked and Underappreciated
So what can we do the next time we’re feeling overlooked and underappreciated?

Remember Jesus.

He—the Creator and King—willingly made Himself nothing and took on the form of a servant (Phil. 2:7). He—“very God of very God”—was despised and rejected by humanity (Isa. 53:3). He was made perfect through suffering (Heb. 2:10). This, by the way, doesn’t mean He had to be perfected morally; it means His suffering made Him the perfect Savior for broken humanity.

As we remember Jesus, let’s cry out to Him for help to embrace His way of meekness. Repent with me of our bitter jealousy and selfish ambition. These are demonic; they bear no resemblance to our older Brother, Jesus.
How to Cultivate a Thankful Heart No Matter What
1. Being Thankful When You Don’t Have Reason to Be

Think about it. God had just struck 70,000 Israelites when David built an altar of praise. No doubt, David felt grief and even anger based on what had just happened. However, he chose to respond to the Lord with praise and gratitude that the Lord spared Jerusalem. Now that’s just incredible. Who would want to be thankful in a moment like that? Yet we are encouraged to “continually offer a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that profess his name.”

Maybe you find yourself this Thanksgiving feeling like you have very little to be thankful for. A true sacrifice of thanksgiving is declaring the goodness of God when life is anything but good.

Corrie Ten Boom, the author of The Hiding Place, shared a story of offering such a sacrifice of praise. Corrie and her sister, Betsie, had been captured by Nazis for hiding Jews and placed in the Ravensbrück concentration camp where Betsie eventually died. Of course, the conditions were horrible, including fleas in the barracks constantly biting them. Betsie challenged her sister with the verse, “Give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:8). With her sister’s encouragement, Corrie very reluctantly thanked God for her terrible circumstances, even the fleas. Eventually, Corrie realized that because the fleas were so bad, the guards never came to their barracks, allowing Corrie and Betsie to hold worship services! Now that’s a sacrifice of Thanksgiving!

What is the last thing in your life you feel like thanking God for today? Maybe now is the time to offer a true sacrifice of Thanksgiving, trusting that God has allowed even the worst circumstances for his unseen purposes.
Marriage Isn’t Supposed to Be 50/50
Perhaps you feel unappreciated. Perhaps you feel overwhelmed. Maybe you’d give anything for a little help around the house, but you aren’t getting it.

“It’s not fair!” you think, as your husband sits on the couch watching football while you do the dishes or break up a fight between your children for the 100th time today.
At the end of the day, you just want a little help. You long for a 50/50 marriage–one where you only have half the burden. One where your spouse carries his equal share. One where you can be happy.

As nice as the 50/50 marriage sounds on paper, though, there’s one big problem with it: It’s a lie. It doesn’t work. Not in real life anyways. Not if you want to stay married.
The vows you made were NOT based on the other person’s reaction or response to you. You vowed–in front of God and man–that YOU would hold up your end of the bargain. Period.
That’s why, when my husband and I got married, we decided that Marriage is not 50/50; it’s 100/100.
And even if the other person can’t–or won’t–give back, it doesn’t matter. You give because you promised you would. You give because it’s the right thing to do.

Hopefully, your spouse will return the favor, but even if they don’t. Your vows–the vows you made before God and man–aren’t based on him. They’re based on you.
You see, your marriage isn’t just about you. It isn’t for your convenience, and it certainly isn’t for your happiness. Not that you shouldn’t want to be happy–it just isn’t the point. Like everything else in life, the purpose of your marriage is to bring glory and honor to God.
Our Identity Is in Christ. Here's an article about a man who is a shining example of godliness because he didn't have any negative feelings upon finding out his father wasn't his real father.
So, to put this matter to rest once and for all, rather recently the Archbishop agreed to a DNA test, and the results shocked both him and his mother. Anthony Montague Brown, not Gavin Welby, was the Archbishop’s father. Justin Welby was the result of a brief affair his mother had with Brown just before she eloped with Gavin Welby.
While calling the DNA results “a complete surprise,” Welby added that, “There is no existential crisis and no resentment against anyone ... My identity is founded in who I am in Christ.”
Julian Fellowes, creator of “Downtown Abbey,” said that Welby had bolstered his “street cred” with the British public. He said that “it’s good to see a spiritual leader tested spiritually and meet the challenge as eloquently as he has. He is an example to us all.”
Valentine’s Day Isn’t About You
There are many legitimate reasons for grief on Valentine's Day, but not having someone buy you flowers, send you notes, and tell you you're awesome should not be among them. Why? Because February 14 ought to be a celebration of love, not ourselves.

Somewhere along the way, it became acceptable to be angry and depressed when your Valentine's Day is lacking a person to celebrate you, to proclaim your beauty, to confess undying devotion to you. How ironic to prize selfishness in the name of love.
How Do I Get Joy In My Life And Keep It?
Even though we experience many trials in life, our happiness doesn’t have to depend on our circumstances. We must be like Jesus “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb 12:2).
Their joy comes from Christ and knowing that the kingdom is coming, they can even rejoice when beaten for Christ as the Apostles were and rejoiced in it (Acts 5:41). ... [Paul] says “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Phil 4:13), not by trying to force myself to be happy, contented, or joyful. Even in his time of need, he knew that “God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:19). His circumstances could not touch what was eternal.
Every Christ follower should have joy because it is a fruit of the Spirit. Fruit should be just as evident as it is when it’s hanging on a tree. People should clearly see your joy of the Lord.
A lot of teaching about "forgiveness" is about squashing down your emotions and forcing yourself to be okay with it when other people mistreat you- because that's what God requires:

Forgiveness Isn't an Option
Forgiveness means letting go of the false idea that you can be harmed, stolen from, made to feel less than or that someone else can change your identity in the Father. The truth is, no one can do that and in Christ, nothing is lost. It may feel like a loss but we are to live above that.

You can see yourself as less than you are and in doing so, give others the power to harm you. We all do this; I am as guilty of forgetting my true nature as anyone. Thankfully I’ve started practicing remembering who I am. I remind myself that I am spirit first, body second; that this world fades, but the soul is limitless; and that the Father of heaven calls my soul one of His own, and my home is elsewhere. This planet is just a pit stop.

People are still going to be cruel and unkind at times. But you have the choice to accept that unkindness and hold it tight to your chest, filling you with offense and anger—or you have the choice to let it go, remember who you are in the Father, and say, “If I am seated with Him, then no pain or trouble or offense can change me.”
Amish Grace and the Rest of Us
All of this helps us understand how the Nickel Mines Amish could do the unimaginable: extend forgiveness to their children's killer within hours of their deaths. The decision to forgive came quickly, almost instinctively. Moreover, it came in deeds as well words, with concrete expressions of care for the gunman's family. For the Amish, the test of faith is action. Beliefs are important, and words are too, but actions reveal the true character of one's faith. Therefore to really forgive means to act in forgiving ways-in this case, expressing care for the family of the killer.
Psychologists who study forgiveness find that, generally speaking, people who forgive lead happier and healthier lives than those who don't. The Amish people we interviewed agreed, citing their own experience of forgiving others. ... Coming from members of a religious community that emphasizes self-denial, these comments show that the Amish are nonetheless interested in self-care and personal happiness. Forgiveness may be self-renouncing in some respects, but it is not self-loathing. The Amish we interviewed confirmed what psychologists tell us: forgiveness is a gift to the person who offers it, freeing that person to move on in life with a greater sense of vitality and wholeness.

Still, if the Amish provide evidence that forgiveness heals the forgiver, they provide even more evidence that forgiveness is a gift to the offender. Forgiveness does not deny that a wrong has taken place, but it does give up the right to hurt the wrongdoer in return. Even though Charles Roberts was dead, opportunities to exact vengeance upon his family did not die with his suicide. Rather than pursuing revenge, however, the Amish showed empathy for his kin, even by attending his burial. In other words, the Amish of Nickel Mines chose not to vilify the killer, but to treat him and his family as members of the human community. Amish forgiveness was thus a gift to Charles Roberts, to his family, and even to the world, for it served as the first step toward mending a social fabric that was rent by the schoolhouse shooting.
At the same time, we may know that, had our children been the ones gunned down in the West Nickel Mines School, our response would have been rage rather than grace. It's an honest perspective, but also a problematic one, because it assumes that revenge is the natural response, and forgiveness is reserved for folks like the Amish who spend their lives stifling natural inclinations.

We often assume that humans have innate needs in the face of violence and injustice. For instance, some who said that the Amish forgave Charles Roberts "too quickly," assumed that Amish people had denied a basic human need to get even. But perhaps our real human need is to find ways to move beyond tragedy with a sense of healing and hope. What we learn from the Amish, both at Nickel Mines and more generally, is that how we choose to move on from tragic injustice is culturally formed. For the Amish, who bring their own religious resources to bear on injustice, the preferred way to live on with meaning and hope is to offer forgiveness—and offer it quickly. That offer, including the willingness to forgo vengeance, does not undo the tragedy or pardon the wrong. It does, however, constitute a first step toward a future that is more hopeful, and potentially less violent, than it would otherwise be.

How might the rest of us move in that direction? Most of us have been formed by a culture that nourishes revenge and mocks grace. ... Traffic accidents galvanize hoards of lawyers, who encourage victims to get their "due." In fact, getting our due might be the most widely shared value in our hyper-consumerist culture.
The challenge for the rest of us is to creatively use our resources to shape cultures that discourage revenge as a first response. How might we work more imaginatively to create communities in which enemies are treated as members of the human family and not demonized? How might these communities foster visions that enable their members to see offenders, as well as victims, as persons with authentic needs?
For the Amish, gracious remembering involves habits nurtured by memories of Jesus forgiving his tormentors while hanging on a cross and of Dirk Willems returning to pull his enemy out of the icy water. When thirteen-year-old Marian said "shoot me first" in the schoolhouse, and when adults in her community walked over to the killer's family with words of grace a few hours after her death, they were acting on those habits. And just as surely, their actions at Nickel Mines will be recounted around Amish dinner tables for generations to come, creating and renewing memories about the power of faith to respond in the face of injustice—even violence—with grace.
The Struggle to Forgive Is Real
Do you find yourself struggling with animosity in your heart toward this person? Do your actions toward them reflect a heart controlled by bitterness?
Struggling to forgive is a battle we all fight at times. The struggle is real. But the bottom line you may be missing is that the struggle is not just between you and them, the offended and the offender; it’s between you and God.
Like in the parable of the Good Samaritan, we are to extend the love God to our others by following in the steps of Jesus. We are called to forgive “as the Lord has forgiven you” (Col. 3:13). In those moments when you find this calling difficult, turn to the God who first modeled forgiveness; consider what He has done for you.
How to Love a Church You Don't Even Like
Our spiritual family is no different than our earthly family, yet why do we give up, hang our head in disappointment and walk the other way at the first sighting of flaws and inadequacies?
We’ve learned to forgive our family for their faults and their failures and to love them through all of their messiness. It’s time we do this within the family of God.
9 Big Myths About Forgiveness
When the subject of forgiveness surfaces in a discussion group where I’m a member or a leader, it is as if a bomb went off in the group. People who seemed to be loving and gracious, who I believed to be mature, turn into angry, frustrated people who refuse to budge. The amount of unresolved anger and bitterness bubbling just under the surface has been incredibly shocking.
Myth: Forgiveness is about the other person.
Truth: Forgiveness is about you.
There's a famous quote that's been ascribed to several people throughout history that says, “Refusing to forgive someone else is like drinking rat poison and expecting the rat to die.” We often think that refusing to forgive will someone “show” the other person how bad their actions were. We believe that forgiveness is about what they did and whether they’ve done anything to rectify their actions. Truthfully, forgiveness is about you (the wounded person) moving on from the offense and living in freedom.
Girls in modesty culture are told that their desire to look cute or sexy is an unimportant little thing that pales in comparison to their responsibility to "not cause a brother to stumble":

The Bikini Question
Because I want girls to know that dressing modestly is a SACRIFICE. It’s not always fun or easy. Sometimes you’d rather wear something else. I would like to wear a bikini at the beach, I think they’re cute. I also find all the extra fabric of tankinis annoying when trying to swim. And lastly, more material on swimwear = more $$$.

So why don’t you just wear a bikini, you ask? Why? Because I am making a sacrifice for the guys around me.
So really, how hard is it to not wear a bikini? If you’re like me, it might be a little disappointing. You also might have to save a little more babysitting money to buy a cute (yes, cute ones do exist) tankini or one piece. But honestly, a little disappointment and a little extra cash aren’t that hard to swallow. Especially when such things are to fulfill a God given responsibility. In his Theology of the Body, soon to be Saint John Paul II said, God has assigned as a duty to every man the dignity of every woman. He also assigns to every woman the dignity of every man. Let’s make a commitment this summer to ditch the skimpy swimsuits, earn self respect, and help our brothers in Christ.
Modesty, Yoga Pants and 5 Myths You Need to Know
I like those pants. I like them because not only are they comfortable—as all yoga pants are—but I look trendy. I look like one of those suburban moms with a ponytail, pushing her children through the market in a twin-seat stroller. And I like that look, regardless of the consequences.

But there are consequences.

The issue here is not that I wore yoga pants. The issue isn’t yoga pants at all, but the principle of the matter. The pants are skin tight. You can see every curve of my lower body. Not only is it attractive to Mr. M, but from several informal interviews, comments and input from other men, it’s a recurring blind spot with Christian women everywhere. It’s about how hot I look, or how I want to dress, regardless of what anybody thinks.

Let’s be real: I have failed and still do fail at modesty on occasions like I just depicted above.
When I give into my desire to for a man’s attention, at the expense of his endeavor to honor God, I am giving in to the lust of my flesh and encouraging the lust of his eyes.

I am also expressing pride by ignoring God’s command for ‘decency and propriety’ since I claim to worship Him. I am becoming Eve.
When I am not walking in God’s Spirit and seeking to do what I read in His Word, I will wear whatever I want at the expense of the men around me and my own self-respect.
When we stubbornly resist the call to cover up, we reveal hearts that have misplaced priorities.
Modesty Matters
Satan is winning the war of indiscrete clothing, and these are the weapons he’s using on parents:

My daughter won’t fit-in with other girls if she doesn’t dress like them. If wearing conservative clothing disqualifies a friendship, then that friendship should not exist. ... And if the Lord allows my daughter to lack friends for a season, it’s only because He wants her to learn to walk closer with Him.

The temperatures are too hot for my daughter to dress modestly. ... In hot months, we travel from our air-conditioned homes to our air-conditioned cars to our air-conditioned churches and movie theaters. A few inches of fabric matter little to physical comfort but make all the difference in how we present ourselves. ...

My daughter must dress in short/tight athletic-wear to play her sport. ... Joking aside, if a team uniform doesn’t meet God’s standards and an alternative is not allowed, then God doesn’t want my daughter playing that sport or participating in that activity. Her personal testimony is worth even more than an athletic scholarship to college.
I Was Confronted For Being Immodest
So often we as women – first see the fashion trends and in our desire to be attractive begin to buy into the lies that immodesty is attractive. So just as Eve, we see the clothes and desire to have them. Once we have bought into Satan’s lies it won’t be long before the clothes are hanging in our closet and we are tempting men to have impure thoughts by our sinful choices.

So what do we do?

Summer is here – this is when the most skin shows. I encourage you to really pray and ponder the clothes that are hanging in your closet. If the Lord is convicting you about something you should not wear – do not wear it – be bold and toss it in the trash can! God will be glorified!
What Do Men Think of Modesty?
I am so appreciative of the sacrifices that these ladies make to glorify God and to serve and care for the guys. I heard of one girl who went shopping and really liked the shirt she was trying on. But then she thought, ‘No, I can't do this to the guys.'
Embracing Modesty Throughout the Hot Summer Months
Modesty isn’t always easy. Modesty takes sacrifice. You have to acknowledge that dressing modestly makes shopping a little bit harder. You also need to acknowledge that modesty isn’t always the most weather friendly option. When it’s one-hundred and something degrees outside, it’s not easy to stay covered. Modesty may require that you forgo some of the latest fashion trends and styles.
3. Dressing modestly isn’t about you.
When I have a “me, me, me” mindset, modesty is very difficult. When I remember that dressing modestly is first and foremost to honor Jesus, it becomes a lot easier. I really encourage you to remain humble in this area. As Christians our first priority is always to glorify Christ and point others to Him. If you are struggling in the area of modesty, I encourage you to spend some time getting your heart right before God. Pray and ask God to give you a humble attitude and a desire to honor Him with your clothing.
And then there's all the articles about how people who choose not to have children are "selfish":

Fur Babies
Twenty-five years later, it seems that life is imitating art, though in James’s novel, childlessness was the result of a mysterious and catastrophic collapse in male fertility. Today, it’s the result of people’s choices. But in both James’ dystopia and today’s celebration of personal autonomy, the result is the same: Animals have become substitutes for actual children.
While there is something “stunning” about such “self-centered transparency,” as Mattes put it, we shouldn’t be surprised. It’s the logical outcome of the triumph of personal autonomy in the West. We exist for our own benefit and pleasure, as do our children and our pets.

Whereas having children was historically thought of an as act of obedience to a divine command, an obligation we owed past and future generations, today it’s an act of self-fulfillment. Children are now a means to an end, not ends in and of themselves.

For many, having a child is just another bucket-list item; something we do (or don’t do) to “complete” our lives, preferably after we’ve experienced the other things we believe make for a “complete” life, like a successful career and travel, etc.

The problem with this idea is, with kids, the “feel good” phase passes pretty quickly, and is replaced by a long, hard slog of raising them with all the sacrifice that entails. If you get struck by the travel bug, you just can’t board your kids at a local kennel.

Now if you’re a Christian, this shouldn’t be a problem. We get—or at least we should get—concepts like “obligation” and “self-sacrifice” and “self-giving.” But if what matters most are our “needs” and desires, pets can sound like a preferable alternative to children.

After all, as one person quoted by Mattes put it, “Who needs children when research has shown that certain hormones that increase when we cuddle children also increase when we cuddle our pets?”

So get your fix of oxytocin, the “cuddle hormone,” and you still get to live however you want. What’s the problem with that?
This is where the enshrinement of autonomy and self-fulfillment will take us as a culture. It’s a dead, loveless end. And no amount of oxytocin or fur can change that fact.
Motherhood Is a Calling
The truth is that, years ago, before this generation of mothers was even born, our society decided where children rank in the list of important things. When abortion was legalized, we wrote it into law.

Children rank way below college. Below world travel for sure. Below the ability to go out at night at your leisure. Below honing your body at the gym. Below any job you may have or hope to get. In fact, children rate below your desire to sit around and pick your toes, if that is what you want to do. Below everything. Children are the last thing you should ever spend your time doing.

If you grew up in this culture, it is very hard to get a biblical perspective on motherhood, to think like a free Christian woman about your life, your children.
Motherhood is not a hobby; it is a calling. You do not collect children because you find them cuter than stamps. It is not something to do if you can squeeze the time in. It is what God gave you time for.
But a Christian should have a different paradigm [than our culture]. We should run to the cross. To death. So, lay down your hopes. Lay down your future. Lay down your petty annoyances. Lay down your desire to be recognized. Lay down your fussiness at your children. Lay down your perfectly clean house. Lay down your grievances about the life you are living. Lay down the imaginary life you could have had by yourself. Let it go.
Is It Selfish to Not Have Children? This one in particular is pretty ridiculous. It talks about a bunch of possible reasons to have children or not have children, and judges which reasons are "selfish" (and therefore invalid), and which are okay.
If a person having children is doing so solely for the purpose of making themselves happy or for another form of self-service, that is then, a selfish action. Granted, selfish actions can have simultaneous good purposes, and a selfish desire does not mean we should entirely rule out a certain course of action.
If these are the bases for not having children, how can we argue these types of reasoning are anything but selfish? We should gladly choose the service of God, others, and country over having a perfectly fun, selfish life.

I grant myself too much power when I think I have the complete right to decide whether children have the right to exist; to "mess" with my life; to cause me grief with their supposed ungratefulness.
It is also entirely possible for people to choose to not have children for unselfish purposes. There may be those on the mission field, in a certain career track, or who, for other reasons, choose to not have children. As long as their motive is others-focused and not self-focused, I believe this can be a legitimate and unselfish choice, too.
Some Christians respond to women working for feminism and equality by telling them that, regardless of whether they're right about the whole equality thing, it's still wrong ("selfish") for them to fight for their own rights:

Feminism, Jesus and the Search for My Identity
What I wanted from feminism was simple: I wanted equality. I wanted men and women to be viewed and treated the same. I wanted to stop hearing Christians say that women are to “submit.”

But then a question flashed across the screen of my mind I never considered before: “Do I care about my identity as a woman more than I care about my identity in Christ?”

In that moment, I felt like I was suddenly presented with two platters. On one was my feminism, a fight for equality, standing up on behalf of my gender and the entirety of my mental and emotional capacity. On the other was my knowledge of who I am in Christ, and my cross. After all, the apostle Paul writes to the Christian in Galatia, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you all are one in Christ Jesus” (3:28).

I was overcome.

If God was asking me to humble myself, and lay down the fights and desires I craved to carry in my feminism, could I do it for Him? I finally decided I care more about God than I do my feminism.
This is where I spend my time as a Christian woman—not on my feet in demand for my rights, but on my knees asking for humility before God.
John Piper: Does a women submit to abuse? [GIANT TRIGGER WARNING FOR ABUSE] Piper says that a woman doesn't have to "submit" to abuse, but the reason he gives is NOT anything along the lines of "her happiness and health matter, and she doesn't deserve to be abused." Instead it's about how she has to submit to both God and her husband- they tell her what to do, she can't make her own decisions.
"Be submissive" is not an absolute, because the Lord has other things to tell her, so that if the husband tells her something that contradicts what the Lord tells her, then she's got a crisis there of "to whom do I submit now?" ... The reason that she's submitting to her husband is because of her prior, superior submission to the Lord. So if this man for example is calling her to engage in abusive acts willingly- group sex, something really weird, bizarre, harmful- that clearly is sin, then the way she submits, and I really think this is possible, it's kind of paradoxical ... she's going to say, however, something like, "Honey, I want so much to follow you as my leader. God calls me to do that, and I would love to be that, it would be sweet to me if I could enjoy your leadership. But you ask me to do this, and I can't." ...

If it's not requiring her to sin but simply hurting her, then I think she endures verbal abuse for a season, and she endures perhaps being smacked one night, and then she seeks help from the church.
What does the Bible say about feminism? Should a Christian be a feminist?
Feminism arrogates to itself the right to demand respect and equality in every aspect of life. Feminism is based in arrogance, and it is the opposite of the call to the born-again believer to be a servant.
Often, when Christians make big decisions, they don't reason "I'm choosing this because it's what I want/ it would be a really good thing for me", because that's not seen as a good enough reason. Instead they spiritualize it by reasoning that their desire to do something must have been given by God; it's an indication that God wants them to do it. See, "I want to do this" is definitely not an okay reason to choose to do something, but "God wants me to do this" very much is:

3 Ways to Know Your Ambition is From God
It's an important question. If your dream isn't from God, it isn't worth pursuing. It would be a waste of time and energy. It would ultimately lead to frustration and discouragement.

It’s not always easy to disentangle our selfish ambitions from our God-given dreams and desires, but there are a few filters you can run your idea through to begin to figure out if it’s really from God:
Are You Called To Be A Missionary?
It’s strange to have someone feel that they might be called to be a missionary and yet never having witnessed for Christ in their own community and among family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers. That doesn’t seem to fit the heart of someone called to be a missionary because most missionaries I know are almost obsessed with sharing the gospel. It’s as if they can’t help it! If a person doesn’t have a broken heart for the lost that compels them to share Christ, then I would question whether that person really has a calling to be a missionary.
If God has called you to be a missionary, He will make a way possible. He will never call you to do something that He won’t provide the means to do so. He is God. If it’s His will you go overseas, He’ll open doors to make that possible.
Lastly, but most importantly, is the call? Have others told you that you might make a great missionary? Do you already know a foreign language or are you willing and able to learn a new language of a door opens in a certain country? Are you able to leave your home or, if you have any, immediate family? If you can answer to yes to all of these things, then God may be calling you, but the point is that God calls and not man. We see this in the call of Abraham, Moses, Jeremiah, the Apostle Paul, the disciples, and perhaps you. Never was it found that man called himself to any ministry. If God isn’t calling you, you will find it difficult to try to open doors that He has intentionally shut.
4 Things to Consider Before You Go on Your Next 'Adventure'
But at the end of the day, as Christians, we recognize we must not “go” out, we must be led out. As we all seek God’s Will and plan for our paths, we must seek to be led by the Spirit (Galatians 5:16) and not by our personal agendas. As much as I would love to uproot and plant our family in a hustle and bustle cityscape with a gorgeous urban apartment along the East coast, I must seek God’s desire for our family before I even consider my own. And I certainly do not want to just “go” and miss out on all of the other opportunities God had lined up for me in a season I discarded and left behind. 

The world tells us to go and experience all of the pleasures that can be found in our youth, but the book of Acts teaches us to go and consider our lives nothing to us, and only aim to finish the race and complete the task God has given us—to share His grace. (Acts 20:24)
How Do I Know God’s Calling for My Life?
God is not calling you to do something he has not gifted you to do. What is the gifting?
When God is moving someone into missions, he is ordinarily giving them a recurring, not just a flash-in-the pan, but a recurring and growing interest and awareness of a need he is leading them to. So my question for people is: What are you reading about? What are you investigating? What do you return to again and again? What are you finding compelling as you ponder the needs of the world?
How Can I Be Sure of God's Will and Call?
But make no mistake, the Holy Spirit does the calling. He simply uses a variety of microphones to get our attention. Likewise, your calling to ministry can come through a variety of channels.

You may logically conclude ministry to be a good stewardship of your life.

You may be compelled by the great need of those who haven't heard the gospel.

It might be your experience of God using you in ministry, or simply an intense desire to serve God.

There's an assortment of means by which God calls us into the ministry, most of which are not in the category of the miraculous.
How Do I Know When God’s Trying To Tell Me Something?
How do you know when God is trying to tell you something? You start with the Bible and then you value the opinions of others. You seek godly counselor with older, trusted Christian friends or family members. If you think God is trying to tell you to go to college, He will enable the means that would allow you to do so. If you have friends or family members who think you would be good at some trade, think about what they’ve said. Do some research. Also, what is it that you really love to do more than anything else? Is it something that is already an occupation or one that’s a certain ministry? There are so many places where people are needed in ministry these days that no one should have difficulty finding a place to serve. Ask others about it and talk to church leadership to see which needs in the church are the most pressing. Read about how others have found out what God was trying to tell them. A few people told me they had dreams and they woke up, knowing it was obvious what God wanted them to do. God can communicate to you through your passions, your friends, your family, your interests, your church, your dreams, and in the strangest of places. Some tell me they felt a sense of peace when they found out what God was trying to tell them. They call this feeling, a “holy pleasure,” since they are sure that God has told them something specific. Of course, God would never contradict His Word, and anything done contrary to Scripture is certainly not from God. For example, God clearly tells us to glorify Him in our bodies because we were bought we a price and we are not our own (1st Cor 6:20).
How Churches Should Engage Culture
So your boss asks you to stay late. Maybe it’s because your pastor’s sermons have trained you to be a hard worker. You now work “as for the Lord” (Col. 3:23), and your boss trusts the quality of your work. Hopefully, however, your pastor’s sermons have also taught you that you’re not justified by your work, so that you’re able to say “no” to your boss when other stewardships require, like a family’s needs.
Let God Fill Your Plate
When you’re asked to help, serve, participate, or give to something else try to discipline yourself to not answer on the spot. Just like we need to eat a little and then wait to let that food settle before deciding whether to go get more, we also need to wait and pray and honestly consider how more commitments will affect our schedule before adding more to our calendar.
Starfield "I Will Go" (lyrics)
I will go, I will go
I will go, Lord send me
To the world, To the lost
To the poor and hungry
Take everything I am
I'm clay within your hands
I will go, I will go, send me
God's Sovereignty and Orphan Care: One Mom's Encouragement
I knew that God was sovereign and in control, but still, I could not understand why He was choosing to withhold the blessing of children. We had tossed around the idea of adoption, but to be honest, I was frustrated and angry. Why did it seem so easy for everyone else to have babies, but so difficult for us? Slowly, the Lord began to change my heart and help me realize that what He desired for David and me was much better than I could have asked for or imagined. I began to realize that adoption was a calling that the Lord had placed on our lives—a true gift from Him. And oh, what a gift!
Also, if you do a good thing but for "the wrong reasons" then THAT'S BAD. And these "wrong reasons" are about benefits for yourself. That's right, if any aspect of your motivation to do a good deed relates to it being a good thing for you, then you are selfish and your "good deeds" are sinful":

The Most Dangerous Identity Crisis
Those who serve in leadership roles may be even more susceptible. We may receive praise and affirmation that polishes those good works and makes them appear more beautiful. The ladies we serve may tell us that we’ve changed their life, that we saved them from a desperate situation, that if not for us their life would be a mess right now.

If we’re not constantly careful to divert that praise away from us and give the glory to God to whom it belongs, we will begin to pile those good works into the foundation of our identity.
What Is Sin? The Essence and Root of All Sinning. This one says "good deeds" are BAD if God isn't the center of your life (ie, you need to put God before your self).
In other words, the reason some deeds of unbelievers are called “good” in the New Testament is because in the ordinary use of language we sometimes describe deeds according to ordinary human standards. Committing adultery is bad. Not committing adultery is good.

But there is another angle. If not committing adultery comes from a heart that has no love for God and treasures many things more than God, then that act of chastity is not an expression of love to God. It’s not a way of expressing his value. And so it is a dishonor to God. He is neglected, ignored, not a decisive factor, and in that sense the fruit of that heart is not good. Westerholm put it like this: “Where God is not honored, something basic is awry, spoiling even what would otherwise be good” (48).

What this calls for is a radical God-centeredness in the way you think about everything. If God is not central and supreme. If his honor and glory are not uppermost in your affections, then God-ignoring kindness, God-ignoring, truth-telling, God-ignoring generosity will not be seen by you as evil. You won’t have a category for that. That only makes sense if God’s glory is the all-defining, all-pervasive good in the universe.
If you like something too much, then it might become more important to you than God. So anything that gives you happiness must be regarded with the utmost suspicion:

Rethinking the Sexy Workout Mirror Selfie
I’m guilty. I have totally done it. After a long hard workout I remember snapping a “sexy” picture of myself in front of my bedroom mirror. You know. The kind where you angle your body just right to make your fat disappear and your muscles look huge.

Yep. That was me.

Nobody could see me though. I was in the privacy of my own bedroom. That didn’t matter though. I wanted to see how hot I looked. I wanted to admire my body.

I loved myself. A lot.

To be honest, I didn’t post that picture anywhere because I was too prideful of what people would think of me. Not to mention social media wasn’t really around then.

But that didn’t change my heart.

Deep down, I was self-obsessed and I didn’t care. I was working out because I wanted to look good. I wanted people to admire my fit body. I wanted other girls to be secretly jealous of me.
I was reminded that as a Christian, I should have a much bigger reason for working out. I should be motivated for something deeper. For something more eternal. Even my motivation for exercise should be fueled by my love for the gospel.

My friend explained that working out should motivate us to have healthy bodies, yes…but not just for ourselves. Not just for our spouses. Not just to inspire people. We should be motivated to workout for two primary reasons:

1. The body is God’s temple and we should take good care of it (1 Cor. 6:19).

2. The healthier we are, the more energy we will have to serve God and advance His Kingdom long term (1 Tim. 4:8).
Before you post any gym selfie pics from now on, I encourage you to sift your motivations through this filter. Ask yourself the following five questions:

1. Deep down, why do I want to post this picture?
2. What am I hoping to accomplish by posting this?
3. Who will this selfie glorify most: God or me?
4. What will this photo inspire others to do? Then what?
5. Does my outfit and body reflect purity and modesty?

Instead of posting sexy pictures that draw attention to us, let’s be intentional to use our social media accounts and photos to point people back to God’s glory. May our motivation for exercising and being healthy be rooted in our love for the gospel and God’s Kingdom.
The Threat of Joy in Ministry
How can we know if ministry has taken first place in our hearts? When being with God is not enough. When knowing God takes a back seat to doing for God. When true worship of God is replaced by worship of self, self being used by God.
When ministry offers you joy, Jesus presents an alternative. Do not rejoice that God has used you, has gifted you for ministry, has given you power over the enemy, or that you can do great things for God. Rather, rejoice in your salvation. Rejoice that you know Him. Guard your heart against the wayward path of self-glory that creeps into the ministry-minded unnoticed.
Is Boy-Craziness Really All That Bad?
As for me, I’m convinced boy-craziness is a serious problem. Treason, actually. What about you? Do you see boy-craziness as idolatry, or do you see it as an innocent but bothersome issue almost every girl struggles with?
Our Christmas Traditions and the Lordship of Christ
Think about it with me for a moment: what rituals and practices does your Christmas season revolve around? Putting up a Christmas tree? Hanging garland? Decorating your house in Christmas lights until you cause the whole neighborhood to lose power because you blew a transformer? Reading the Christmas story from Luke 2? Buying presents and maxing out credit cards? And, lest we all forget, watching Elf!

To be clear, I am certainly not implying that these traditions are bad. There is nothing in Scripture that would condemn Christmas trees or lights or fun stories or giving special gifts. These are actually good gifts flowing from God’s common grace that bring us joy and help alleviate some of the burden of living in a sinful world. The questions is, What do you most look forward to during the Christmas season?

What you get most excited about when you think about Christmas is what your Christmas is about. In this light, can you honestly say that your Christmas is about Jesus? Is it immediately obvious to those closest to you based on how you spend your time and money during the Christmas season that Christmas is chiefly about the glory of God seen in the lordship of Christ? Or do you celebrate Christmas like your agnostic neighbor next door?
The Work-Life-Faith Balance
Because we put so much effort and energy into work, it can easily become an idol. We are called to work, and to work excellently, but not to be enamored with the results of our efforts. At the end of the day, work is still just work. Our God, on the other hand, is the God of the Universe.

In our culture, we are defined by our work, whether at home or in the marketplace, part time or full time, professional or vocational. It’s the first thing new people want to know about you: “It’s nice to meet you. What do you do?” As Christians, we are not locked in to that culture. We don’t have to fit in, and in many ways we shouldn’t.
Pride Still Matters in Ministry
Augustine was a man of profound gifts and abilities that he used to serve God’s people. Yet he was aware of the allure of ministry success, and maybe even more so of the tricky tendency to find self-worth in the gifts that make ministry possible.
The further we go in ministry, the more we’re susceptible to the kind of pride that can access the approval of others through the skillful deployment of our gifts and talents. You don’t need to be a bishop (like Augustine), a preacher, or church leader to experience this. Counselors and shepherds of people can know how to wield words and wisdom to “garner every little tribute of approval.”

I am truly grateful for the blessing of God that allows my gifts and experience to be used for his glory. I’m equally grateful for the words of Augustine so well placed in my path by the Holy Spirit the day after a ministry success. I’m thankful for the regular failures and ineptitude in ministry that remind me that getting good at this is not the answer.
Idolatry in Corporate Worship
“Little children, keep yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21), John ends his first letter. In other words, don’t see anything but God’s glory in Christ as the source of your greatest joy, deepest satisfaction, and highest authority.

Idolatry can be active in my heart even when I’m gathered with the church. Whenever I think I can’t meet with God unless “X” is present, I’m making a profound statement. If “X” is anything other than Jesus Christ, and his Holy Spirit, I’ve moved into idolatrous territory.
Why You Should Avoid the Gospel of Comfort
As Christians, the same thing can happen to us. We can focus so much on the blessings that we forget about the God that provided them. With God out of mind, we can begin to compromise our convictions. These compromises may start small, but can grow and spread into different areas of our lives. For David it started with a glance, which lead to adultery, then to murder. However, there is always hope if we decide to change and turn back to God as we see in David’s life.

Living life to the full requires us to be uncomfortable. It means choosing to live a life that is only possible with God taking lead. It’s realizing that nothing on this earth will ever satisfy us or replace the joy, fulfillment and contentment we receive from God. The Bible constantly reminds us to be vigilant, sober-minded and alert because we can easily forget and slumber in our spiritual lives.
It’s the Most Selfish Time of the Year?
Could it be that the reason we’re crazy for Christmas is because it provides us the perfect and celebrated excuse to be selfish throughout the month of December?

I know, that kind of notion makes you want pop in your earbuds and turn up Bing Crosby a little louder. We don’t like being confronted with anything that could put a damper on our Christmas cheer. In other words, we don’t like confronting the ugly truth about our hearts.

Will you hang tight and consider this idea with me anyway?

Let’s ponder these subtly selfish phrases often heard at Christmastime:
  • Here’s what I want for Christmas.
  • You can’t decorate the tree unless I’m there!
  • You made the pecan tassies without me? Why would you do that?
  • I hope that big gift is for me.
  • Wait—we have to do it this way. Don’t change the traditions!
  • We have to take another picture! I didn’t look good, and I need this for Instagram.
  • Stop talking—it’s my turn to open a gift now.
  • But this wasn’t the gift I asked for.
And their advice about abuse, depression, or any other mental-health issue includes warnings to not focus on yourself too much:

Trusting God to Heal the Scars of Sexual Abuse
The path to thriving begins with God-focus, not self-focus. If we continue to gaze inward, we will always see our scars, but when we gaze on Jesus, we see His scars and remember He died to make us whole again. We can trust this One who loved us so completely.
The Selfishness of Suicide and the “Depression Excuse” Industry [TRIGGER WARNING: SUICIDE]
Well known comedian/actor Robin Williams committed suicide this past week. What he did was a selfish act, one of passive violence toward the rest of society, his family and friends particularly and in the least, indirectly toward God.
As I said earlier, depression is the club of supreme victimization wielded on the heads of society in general and often on the heads of friends and family, specifically, in defending misbehavior by depressed people. “You just don’t understanding depression, especially my depression”, is the mantra. “You lack compassion and are judgmental”, it is said. “How dare you speak of what you do not know?”, it is chimed.

These are all forms of posturing and crusading. It is arrogance in a bright color as if people who don’t experience something cannot understand it. Poppycock. This is precisely why we observe, study, take notes and test theories, so that we can understand something apart from ourselves. In fact, what a small world such victims of depression demand of us all; that we only speak of what we have experienced first hand. Talk about no advancement in civilization!
Why is it then, we so often fail to make clear the utter selfishness and narcissism of self-murder or suicide? Why can we not see its villainous nature, its passive violence on others and its illiberal nature? Yes, most often its perpetrators know exactly what they are doing and do know the pain they will leave behind.
Also, God thinks our suffering is a good thing (or at least "can be used for good"):

The God Who Broke My Heart
What if it was God who broke my heart?

I believe it was. Though I don’t know all the reasons he brought this suffering on me, there are truths I know about God that lead me to believe my particular season of affliction comes from his hand and that it’s for my good.

Historically, God deals with those he loves by breaking them. He leads people to the edge of themselves and then shoves them off into the unknown. He topples the towers to heaven we try to build. He confuses us to the point where we have to stop what we’re doing and walk away because we can no longer carry on the work that once seemed so right and so clear.

This is my God, the divine thwarter. He’s fiercely committed to opposing any attempts I might make to claim my independence from him. Because of his loving-kindness he moves me always deeper into a posture of dependence. Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil because he’s with me.
I also needed what God has brought. I needed to lose control. I needed a broken heart. I needed to be dipped in the crucible of suffering. Why? I may never fully know. But the God who brings his children low doesn’t do it for spite. He does it to awaken desire, like a pang of hunger in the newly risen phoenix that makes it unfurl its wings to fly. He does it to give us new eyes so that we might see the world in a new light. He does it to stop us from continuing down the path we’re on and to set us on a new one. He grants us weakness so that we might not trust too much in our own strength. “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:21).
If my affliction was a severe mercy to awaken in me my need of God, then it’s a wise gift from a loving hand.

So then, what do I do with the anger that accompanies it? I wait for the fury to subside, and then I study what just came over me. When I do this, here is what I see: My initial flashes of rage are the way my heart rises to say I was not ready for this—like the surliness in a child just waking up.
Finding the Positives in Your Problems [MASSIVE TRIGGER WARNING FOR RAPE]
I once counseled a young wife who had been sexually attacked when she was a young girl. I could see by the expression on her face that she was still discouraged and distressed about the incident and embarrassed to talk about it. Feeling she had been cheated in life, she was somewhat resentful that God had allowed such a horrible thing to happen. Still unable to eliminate her deep feeling of shame over the situation, she began to discuss how she felt about it now as an adult.

I began by telling her she would never be free from the resentment, shame, and negative attitude resulting from her experience unless she could first see the benefits which resulted from the attack. She looked at me like I was crazy and she asked, "What benefits?"

"I'm going to ask you a very difficult question based on two Scriptures—1 Thessalonians 5:18 and Romans 8:28. Do you think that right now you could thank God that this happened to you?
By the time she left my office, she had all the reasons she needed to thank God for her past. After being in bondage to negative feelings for years, she was set free simply by thinking through the positive factors involved.
Four Ways God Uses a Leader’s Suffering
Sometimes we aren’t even aware of the expectations we have in life until our hopes are threatened. God uses trials, pressures, and afflictions to reveal our true desires and beliefs so we might repent and find healing at the foot of the cross. As we learn to apply the gospel of grace and truth to our own hearts, we become better equipped to help the women we serve see that their greatest problem is sin and to find freedom and healing in Christ.
When God Interrupts Your Plans
It’s hard to see all the little frustrating events and interruptions in our day as divinely placed opportunities to grow in grace, but they are. And seeing them as such helps us take our eyes off ourselves and put them on Christ, who cares more about our transformation than about our daily comfort. Rather than giving us a life of ease, he interrupts our lives with grace and shows us what we need most of all: himself.
No, I Wouldn't Trade Away My Mental Illness
God didn’t put us on this Earth to have a comfortable life. He wants us to fight injustice and care for those struggling whether through direct ministry, advocacy or words of encouragement. Jesus wants us to align ourselves with those who suffer, and it is often easier to do this if we have experienced suffering ourselves. He wants us to rely on Him and trust that God will bring us out of situations that were difficult, but which helped shape us into being more like Christ.
Ask Pastor John: Is Pain Punishment for My Sin?
So, I say again: There is an infinite difference between the painful things that come into our lives and discipline us — designed for our good that we may share God’s holiness as loved children — and that terrible experience of pure retribution where we simply bear what we deserve and experience God’s justice forever. It is called hell.
This is a stunning example of God’s disciplinary judgment that goes so far as to bring about the death of his child ["his child" refers to a Christian here]. And that death is the disciplinary effect of sin in the child’s life because it keeps him from going to hell. It says, “that we may not be condemned along with the world.” That is why he took us out. Amazing.

So, Jesse, there is an infinite and precious difference between God’s retributive justice in punishment and God’s purifying discipline in our pain. And that difference does not lie in the origin, the human origin of the pain — whether good or evil. It lies in the purpose and the design of God in our suffering.
Hope for the Unhappy Christian
It’s true that God is not giving you what you deserve. We deserve God’s wrath, yet daily we receive new mercies. How can sickness, suffering, and other tragedies be considered mercy? By realizing that every morning we don’t wake up in hell is an example of God’s mercy toward us. Even when we’re feeling our worst, God is showing us more mercy than we deserve. There is no calamity or tragedy that we can face that is worse than the holy wrath of God.
Does The Bible Teach God Will Not Give Us More Than We Can Handle?
Many Christians have often wondered why they are going through a trial or a test, but the Bible teaches us that God does not allow anything to enter our life that isn’t good for us, even using the evil done against us for our own good (Gen 50:20). ... If we understand that trials are intended to help us, we can “Count it all joy.”
God Has a Purpose in Your Disappointment
God’s kingdom operates very differently than a wishing well. In His detailed plan, deferred hopes do so much more than collect pond scum. Each rejection, every heartache, all the missed opportunities are invested. They are sown like seeds that will have their time to bring forth fruit. The fruit may be as simple as time spent with Jesus while you walked through a healing process. Perhaps it will look like a tender heart that is a comfort to others, having experienced loss. Or maybe it will be a thicker skin that’s ready to take on what life has in store.

No ache will be wasted. It all has a purpose. If you feel like you’ve been hit with one disappointment after another, know this: God is going to cash all that in one day.
Oh and by the way, without God, you totally suck:

What Does It Mean That God Will Glorify Me? And How?
We aren’t intrinsically beautiful. We are intrinsically abhorrent in our rebellion against God.
Avalon "Can't Live A day" (lyrics)
I couldn't face my life tomorrow
Without your hope in my heart I know
I can't live a day without You
Lord, there's no night and there's no morning
Without Your loving arms to hold me
You're the heartbeat of all I do
I can't live a day without You
Bebo Norman "Nothing Without You" (lyrics)
And all my soul needs is all Your love
To cover me, so all the world will see
That I have nothing without You

Take my body and build it up
May it be broken as an offering of love
For I have nothing
I have nothing without You
Does The Prodigal Son Parable Mean Christians Can Be Prodigals?
None of us deserve to be called the children of God, but “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8).
This is Why He Came and Died
And He knew that you and I, covered with sin, could never stand before God, our all-holy Father, without His—Jesus—supreme sacrifice.
"Breathe" (lyrics)
And I
I'm desperate for you
And I
I'm lost without you.
The Neediness You Need to Be Strong
Not only are all our victories losses without faith, but all our virtues are vices without faith because Paul said, “Whatever is not from faith is sin” (Romans 14:23). All our victories are losses and all our virtues are vices if there’s no faith.
Sin, Society And The Restraining Of Evil
In my own personal experience from sharing the gospel, most people consider themselves to be good people. Like most that hear and reject the gospel they see no need for a Savior because they do not see the evil in themselves or see themselves as being sinners. By considering themselves to be a good person they are ignorant of the offenses that reek as a stench in the nostrils of a holy God, so unless the Holy Spirit imparts to the sinner the understanding that they are miserable, wretched sinners who deserve the wrath of God, they cannot possible come[.]
The Christianity I used to believe was an anti-human ideology which equated godliness with a suppression of ourselves, our emotions, our individuality. Our happiness doesn't matter- at best, it's a byproduct of obeying God. We can't make our own choices- we have to figure out what "God's plan" is and do that. Everything we have- including the deepest parts of our own identity- belongs to God, who could destroy it at any moment and we're not allowed to feel any negative emotions. If we do, we are sinful and "selfish."


Christians Are Supposed To Feel Bad Over Not Reading the Bible Enough (and Here Are the Receipts)