Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas

Wrapping paper thrown away, floors swept and vacuumed, food put up, dishes washed, family back at their own homes, and now the house is quiet with just me, my parents, and George Bailey. As my heart settles and my thoughts consider the day, I have a myriad of emotions. Christmas Day is over. But December 25th is merely one day that reminds us of what we should consider, and consider often. 

One day Christ will return and dwell with us. He will end our sadness, defeat all evil, and fulfill our deepest longings. Just as the Israelites wait, we wait as a Church- with anticipation and hope. As I looked at this globe on my parents tree today, I was reminded of what scripture says that will be like. In Revelation 7, John is given a beautiful vision.  

"Behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, 'Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!'"

What an incredible day that will be! As I look back on this year, I'm grateful for and humbled by the friendships I've made around the world. I've seen tiny little glimpses of what the marriage supper with the Lamb will be like (Revelation 19), as we all, with one voice, shout His praises. My family extends beyond the Nicewander and Nelson name, and I'm forever grateful. 

Life is so much more than what we see in front of our face. It's bigger than our small little worlds. God is working and moving globally, for His glory and for the salvation of men and women from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation. There is no greater story to be a part of than the story of God reclaiming the lost for Himself. 

As you conclude your Christmas, remember the nations. Remember your brothers and sisters who are experiencing persecution and loss. Remember the refugees who are here, feeling lonely and isolated. Remember the unreached people groups who fill up Asia, Africa, and other parts of the world. Remember the call placed on us, the church, to proclaim liberty to the captives, good news to the poor, comfort for those who mourn (Isaiah 61). 

Merry Christmas family, near and far! 

Monday, November 23, 2015

Fellowship of the Believers

I've always been drawn to Acts 2:42-47. In those 6 short verses this beautiful unity and community is put on display. Men and women are whole-heartily devoted to the gospel, serving one another, living communally, praising God. I long for this today; and I believe we CAN have it.

Over the next two months, we (as the people of God) have an incredibly unique opportunity to live those verses out with one another- and those who don't know Christ. While the holiday season is full of laughter, joy, and cheer- it also holds stark reminders of grief, pain, loneliness, and loss.
  • Missionaries are some of the most forgotten about during the Thanksgiving/Christmas season. Just because they've followed the Lord in a very specific call, it does not mean it's without sacrifice and loss. It's hard. Despite the Lord's grace, strength, and provision, the loneliness and sadness is real. Get the email addresses of missionaries you or your church supports. Email them (check their time zone!) several times the next few weeks. Skype them! It's not too late to put a Christmas card in the mail! They love that you're praying for them, but they want to hear from you; they want to hear about your families and pray for you too. Remember them.
  • Any time there has been a death in the family (whether that's the loss of a child due to miscarriage or a grandmother of 95 years old) the pain is felt in a different way during the holidays. One of the greatest gifts you can give to friends or family who are experiencing this is your presence and your love. Hear their stories. Cry with them. Put Romans 12:15 into practice. I have several friends who have lost one or both of their parents; holidays for them are very difficult. Open your home. Make your family their family. Love selflessly and without reserve.
  • Singleness and infertility create unique struggles during the holidays that you don't understand unless you've been there. There's a very real grief and loss over something that you never actually had; and trying to articulate that is confusing. In your celebration of love with your spouse and children, remember (and be tender towards) those who desire that very thing but don't have it. That void is going to feel very real during this season. Remind them of the family, friendship, and love found in the body of Christ; remind them of the One who does fill any and every void, with His hope, love, and joy.
  • The fact that refugees are all around us right now is of no surprise. It's not just with the Syrian refugee crisis that this has begun; it's been before that. Realize they are the "least of these," as are the orphans, widows, homeless in your cities. In your communities, search for ways you can give of your time and resources, and serve them this holiday season. Just as you've been given an abundance, give to them. They are hurting, lonely, scared, hungry, grieving, sad, and at times, feel hopeless. Share the love of Christ with them, and give them a reason to hope.
These are just a few ways to put into practice the entire reason we, as followers of Christ, say we celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas. We are thankful because of what we've been given. We have been given the greatest gift in the atoning work of Jesus. We celebrate His birth because it meant the Savior, God the Son, had come; the Savior who would live a sinless life, to die a tragic death, to raise triumphantly from the grave, to sit next to God the Father in heaven, where He rules and reigns until the day He returns. For those of us who are His people, we were given the Holy Spirit to help us as we wait. It's the Spirit in us that enables us to look at holiday traditions and make them mean something. So, let's do that. Let's make this year mean something; let's look beyond ourselves and our circumstances- and look to others. Love as He loved, give as He gave, serve as He served.

Christmas means Jesus came down and got involved in suffering. He hears your cries.
-Tim Keller-

Saturday, September 12, 2015

A Greater Gospel

This weekend I had the opportunity to participate in a two day seminar over the Biblical Narrative and the Christian story. It was amazing, in so many ways. Dr. Barry Jones (who is a professor at DTS- if you're ever a student there, take his classes!) led the seminar- and he had so much wisdom to share with us. At one point when discussing the creation narrative, we got into a pretty hefty discussion on sexuality and God's design. It was good, right, and really just beautiful. God created sex, and it is good. When experienced within the bounds He's given us, it is so good and is meant to be enjoyed and celebrated.

I've spent a lot of today thinking over all of it; meditating on the truth he shared, considering my place in it, dwelling on truths in Scripture, and figuring out where to go from there. There's always a tendency in singles to hear talks like that and want to just shut down, turn it off, and numb yourself to the reality that what's being offered is not something you can partake in. I get it; I've been there. But that's not the right response, and I'll keep arguing to that end.

One thing Dr. Jones mentioned, that I whole-heartily agree and believe, is that the Bible never elevates marriage as the highest calling. Let me say it again; The Bible never elevates marriage as the highest calling.

Without quite knowing where that belief came from, we believe it. As a young teenager, I remember telling people that I was confident I would either die young or be married, but there was no way I could "handle" singleness. I didn't believe I was equipped for it, nor had the strength to endure it. I looked at marriage as this beautiful vessel of understanding the gospel. And it is! But the gospel does not equate marriage. It is not the only avenue of understanding the gospel or experiencing the beauty of love, pursuit, intimacy, and community. The gospel does not equate marriage, the gospel is not marriage, the gospel is not void without marriage- the gospel stands alone as the gospel.

The word gospel means "good news." We all believe in a gospel, whether it's the true gospel or not. If you're single, you may believe the gospel of the goodness of marriage; the gospel that sexual union is beautiful and exciting and awesome. That is your hope, your greatest desire; that's what you dream of and are anxious for. If you're married, you may believe in the gospel of having a peaceful, perfect, and passionate marriage, of family, the right career, the Instagram life that is good and right and beautiful. That is your hope. But the thing is, there is a greater gospel. And it's in the word and work of the Triune God.

The gospel is that God the Father provided a way of redemption through the sending of His son, Jesus Christ. The gospel is that through the death and resurrection of Jesus, through Jesus bearing the wrath of the Father on our behalf, we are adopted and called children of God. The gospel is that Jesus ascended into heaven, but left a Helper, God the Holy Spirit, to indwell us and teach us how to look like Him. That is the gospel. That is the good news. The Triune God has entered into our sin wrecked world and is continually reconciling us to Himself.

That is the gospel. Being married doesn't mean you get a superior gospel. Being able to have sex doesn't mean you have a deeper and more intimate understanding of the union of Christ and the church. It just doesn't. Marriage is not better. Singleness is not better. GOD is better. He is best.

Submitting my desire for marriage and suppressing my physical appetite for sexual intimacy have been the most sanctifying and difficult acts of obedience in my life. I'm not writing this saying I've always had this strong and firm belief that the gospel is the gospel, regardless of where you are. I've struggled, I've doubted, I've wrestled, I've accused God, I've wept, I've yelled, I've disbelieved. ("I believe, Lord, help my unbelief!" Mark 9:24)- I've felt hopeless, isolated, unheard, and alone. I just told my roommate that I may be writing this today, but crying in two days because I'm lonely and feel like I'm unworthy of pursuit.

But it's there, in the deepest yearnings and disappointments, that I've met with the Triune God in the deepest, most intimate of ways, that marriage doesn't hold a candle to. There is a very real possibility that I may never experience the joys of a marriage covenant under God, which means I may never know the sexual intimacy of that covenant consummation. But the thing is... my happiness, and your happiness, that's not the point.

God's glory is the point. His renown is the point. The new heavens and earth colliding in the radiance and power of Christ's return is the point. God once again dwelling among His people is the point. All peoples, ethne, nations, tongues hearing the good news is the point.

There is a greater gospel that goes beyond the temporary. It goes beyond the pain and loneliness of singleness. It goes beyond the yearnings and cravings for a food that is not ours to take. It goes beyond the insecurities and fears in marriage. It goes beyond the unmet expectations and the disappointments. There is a greater gospel that goes beyond this life.

  • There is a greater gospel that points to the fullness of the Triune God. (Ephesians 3:14-21)
  • There is a greater gospel that celebrates in our weaknesses, because that's when He's strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)
  • There is a greater gospel that rejoices in our sufferings, knowing that the glory to be revealed is not worth comparing to the temporal. (Romans 8:18)
  • There is a greater gospel that enables us to live our lives for His glory, not our own. (Psalm 115:1, 2 Corinthians 10:31)
  • There is a greater gospel that so radically changes our hearts that we look to the future with hope, knowing that we will one day stand face to face with Him, because He will be dwelling among us, and it's then and there that we will know fullness of joy, intimacy, love, companionship, hope, freedom, and life. (Revelation 21-22)

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

He's Just Not that Into You

The movie, He's Just Not that Into You, has been on my mind lately. It's a funny one. I think any woman, single or married, can watch that movie and "get" it. They can easily relate to one of the characters and, in embarrassment or shame, think "oh my gosh, I've done that!" or "oh crap, that's me..." It seems silly and irrelevant because it's a just a movie but inwardly, something else, something deeper, is happening.

After the first time I saw it, about 6 years ago, I left just feeling a deep sense of shame. I didn't believe I was worthy of pursuit or attractive because of the basics of my personality. The fact that the girls I went with declared "you are so Gigi!" (one of the crazy ones...) didn't help much. I was mortified, embarrassed, and began to believe that my overly hopeful heart and ridiculous actions somehow had the power to dictate my love life, or lack thereof. I began to believe the lies that I had screwed up God's entire plan for me and that I was destined to be "stuck in singleness" (which, side note, is not a stick!) for the rest of my life. There are a lot of things (a few I've touched on here) that are wrong with that mentality, and I think they are things each one of us, as single women, are prone to. (Side note, as a word of encouragement, the Lord is faithful to sanctify and grow. As the years have passed, these thoughts and tendencies are less and less frequent and my joy in Him runs so deep and is truly overflowing. He is the greatest gift; nothing and no one comes close to comparing- press into Him and allow Him to do a work on your heart.)



1. We tend to forget Who actually does rule and reign. And it's not us.

We think of ourselves too highly- and too often. We allow our minds to wonder off into so many crazy places, believing that the things we say and the things we do determine the course of our lives. When we do this, we are essentially believing that we are the highest authority and we have the power to control not only our lives, but those around us. How terrifying would it be if this were actually true? God, in His incredible grace, does not allow humanity to take His place.

In these moments of weakness and sin, fear and doubt, it's good for me to remember the One who has always been and will always be. God was never created- He is the Alpha and Omega, beginning and end. He sees all things, knows all things, and is everywhere, all the time. That means I'm in His vision. He sees me. He is daily aware of me. Not only am I, and all the intricate details of my life, in His vision, but He's the author of my life. He is in control. Psalm 139 reminds me that before there were even any days of my life, He already knew them. Matthew 10 reminds me that the very hairs of my head are numbered. He sees when every sparrow falls, and how much more of a value am I than them? I, who am made in the image of the Creator, my Father, am incredibly and deeply valuable to Him. I am so valuable to Him that He will not give me the reigns of my life. He loves me too much to do that. And He, the God of all wisdom, knowledge, power, and might- wouldn't He know the right course of my life? And all of this...in spite of me... I can't mess it up. And He is after His greatest glory! And He is glorified through me, and through you! That's crazy.


O LORD, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me. But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me. O Israel, hope in the LORD from this time forth and forevermore.
Psalm 131

No need to worry about the failures to be exposed today. They have all been covered by the blood of Jesus. No need to be discouraged by the "could haves" or "what ifs." All your "coulds" and "ifs" are controlled by your Sovereign Savior. No need to think for a moment that you're beyond hope. Your hope doesn't rest on your power, but on your Savior's amazing grace.
Paul Tripp

Rest assured, your sin, weakness, and failure do not have the power to thwart God's unstoppable redemptive plan.
Paul Tripp

2. Our actions do have consequences, but God never looks at our sin and choose to withhold because He's fed up with us. Nor does He sit around waiting for us to "get our act together" before He blesses us. His gifts are NOT dependent upon our actions, but His character.

Self-righteousness is not only the belief that our right actions should somehow merit His favor, but that our wrong actions should bring about His frustration and anger. He is kind, patient, and merciful. He disciplines out of His great love for us, not out of impatience or a desire to see us suffer. That is incredible. Praise God that by His grace He sanctifies us and leads us to true joy. There is nothing that I can do to make God love me any more or any less. It's because He is good that He loves me. At my "best", I am undeserving, yet He loves me. At my worst, I am undeserving, yet He loves me.

Just like that silly movie, there are actions that we partake in (as men and women, single and married) that have consequences. There are patterns that are unholy and ungodly- that are unattractive, unfeminine, unmasculine, and not what the Lord wants for us. But never once does He look at our sin and choose not to love us anymore. He doesn't regret saving us, even when we fail Him. Never once does He look at me and think "That Rebekah...wow. When will she get her act together? I'm just ready to give up on her. I'm fed up with her struggle, so those gifts I give my children- they're off the table!" - the enemy whispers these lies (call them what they are!) in my head, and as a daughter of the King, I renounce them. I choose to trust God's perfect plan, and I choose to rest in His love and in His promises, not on my ability or my charm. I choose to wait for the Savior's return with hope and expectation. I choose to know Him and commune with Him, knowing that joy and hope is ultimately found in Him. (not in a husband or children or health or the perfect job or a stout bank account)

If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!
Matthew 7:11

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.
James 1:17

When I understand that everything happening to me is to make me more Christlike, it resolves a great deal of anxiety.
AW Tozer

3. You are never "stuck in" singleness, but intentionally and providentially placed there, for HIS glory and for your good.

If you're single, chances are you've been encouraged to view singleness as a "gift." That isn't an original concept, but one that Paul spoke of in 1 Corinthians 7. It's interesting if you do a word study on "gift." In Paul's writings, he referred to a "gift" as the ability to encourage and build others up. He is not speaking of the gift you open Christmas morning that entirely excites you and brings a great deal of ecstasy. Believe me, I don't wake up every morning bouncing off the walls because I slept alone or didn't have anyone to share coffee with in the morning. This "gift" is so much deeper than that. Tim Keller has some good things to say about this in his book Meaning of Marriage (this is a shameless plug- just go buy it!)

The "gift-ness" of being single for Paul lay in the freedom it gave him to concentrate on ministry in ways that a married man could not. Paul may very well, then, have experienced what we today would call an "emotional struggle" with singleness. He might have wanted to be married. He not only found an ability to live a life of service to God and others in that situation, he discovered (and capitalized on) the unique features of single life (such as time flexibility) to minister with very great effectiveness.
Tim Keller

This life is so much bigger than us. We were created to live for God. We were created to know Him and make Him known. The glory of the gospel is that we get God- and that's good, that's profound, that's life. You were created in His image and in His likeness- for Him. The depth of your personality and your character is for Him. Whether you're extroverted or introverted- male or female - single or married- melancholy or sanguine- athletic or poetic- life of the party or the wall flower- you were created that way for His glory. Use it. Take your eyes off of yourself, learn to walk in humility, and grow to love others more than you love yourself. Use your singleness to bless others and to encourage the body of Christ. Use the uniqueness of your situation to further the Kingdom of God. Use your femininity and your masculinity for His glory.

He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward Him and find Him. Yet He is actually not far from each one of us.
Acts 17:26-27

You were created to live for something vastly bigger than you and only grace can make you willing and able. You were hardwired to live for God, so even though you may not be aware of it, every good or bad thing you do today has verticality to it. Remember that every physical, situational, relational glory you'll experience today is meant to point you to the glory of God.
Paul Tripp

4. His perfect love truly does cast away all fear.

Read the following Scripture, and rest. Let your heart be at ease and sit - peacefully - under His love and in His care. He knows you in a deep way that is too profound to put into words. Rest.

I sought the LORD, and He answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to Him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.
Psalm 34:4-5

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes I will help you; I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.
Isaiah 41:10

Nevertheless, I am continually with you. You hold my right hand. You guide me with Your counsel and afterward You will receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is nothing on earth I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but You, O LORD, are the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
Psalm 73:23-26

The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
Psalm 27:1

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because He first loved us.
1 John 4:18-19

It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; He will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.
Deuteronomy 31:8

For You have been my help, and in the shadow of Your wings I will sing for joy. My soul clings to You; Your right hand upholds me.
Psalm 63:7-8

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

30 and Never Been Kissed

The concept of "radical" celibacy is something that Hollywood is both fascinated by and eager to take a jab at. We have shows like 19 Kids and Counting and The Virgin Diaries that esteem courtship and not kissing until the wedding day as the highest of honors and greatest of accomplishments. Then we have movies like Never Been Kissed and The 40 Year Old Virgin... The answer for those is to, "stop being a dork, get laid, and you're happy!" It's a less than fulfilling message, and at best, slightly entertaining.


All cards on the table. I am that dork.


I reached 30 last year and realized I made it through two full decades with no love for these lips; and not entirely by my choosing. That stirs up a myriad of emotions; primarily being curiosity and awe at the Lord's purpose and plan for my life.

At a young age, the Lord gave me a heart for purity and a unique perspective of love, sex, and romance. Second to God's grace, a lot of that has to do with the truths my parents instilled in me. But, at the end of the day, a kid can choose to listen to authority or run from it. Something very deep in me (in hindsight, I see as the working of the Holy Spirit), yearned to heed the voice of the Lord and follow the path of obedience in the realm of sexuality. Even at a young age, I knew that His way was best. I wanted that.

I made a commitment to Him at the young, tender age of 13. I committed to guard my purity (of mind, body, and heart), to withhold from indulging in my fleshly appetites until marriage, and to view sex as a gift to be opened in His timing. That day I shut that door, locked it, gave the key to the Lord, and begged that He would protect me and preserve me- and in His timing- give that key to my husband. Over the past 17 years the Lord has, by His grace, preserved me and given me the strength to stand by that promise. (sometimes barely making it, other times only obeying out of legalism, and still other times kicking and screaming and pouting- praise God that HE sustains me, not myself)

Having worked with youth for 12 years, this is a popular topic. I've written and taught Bible Studies on purity, I've shared my story with hundreds of students, I've wept alongside girls who struggled deeply with shame, I've met with parents who didn't know how to ask their daughter if she had an STD, I've ministered to girls who felt overlooked and unlovely,  I've counseled girls who had pregnancy scares... As I've entered into these spaces, I've been given really awesome opportunities to share truth and proclaim Christ. We live in a culture where an unbiblical view of sexuality screams so much louder than the view that God has graciously given us in the Scriptures. It is so easy to get wrapped up into that, and forget the beauty of what we're called to. Here are 10 little tidbits (of so so many) that I've gotten to share along the way. I hope this is a bit helpful and encouraging!

  1. Sex IS a gift
    - I won't harp on this, because we've all heard it. God created it- not just for procreation, but for pleasure. He created it for the purpose of being enjoyed in marriage. He doesn't give rules and regulations because He's some killjoy, but because He knows that's best. He created us and thought up sex after all. He knows where it works best. He knows where true enjoyment of it is found.

  2. Purity is so much more than withholding from the physical act of sex
    - You can be a virgin until the day you die at 70 years old, but that doesn't make you pure. Purity starts in the heart and mind. Multiple times in the New Testament Jesus refers to the 7th commandment (You shall not commit adultery) as including looking at a man or woman in lust. Purity begins in the heart, goes to the mind, continues to your eyes, and makes its way through your entire physical body. Fantasizing, day-dreaming, staring, pornography, self-pleasure, etc... are all forms of sexual immorality. When people hear just the tip of my story, they'll often say, "you are just SO pure- it's awesome!"- and I'm quick to say, "you don't know what my heart is prone to and you don't see into my mind." But Christ does. And it's wicked and depraved when left to itself. Praise be to God that His blood covers my sin.
    - He's not interested in our perfect, righteous actions. He's interested in our hearts- He's interested in our hearts being wholly submitted to Him, loving Him, following Him. When we do submit to Him and follow Him, we are called to obey Him. We are called to pursue holiness and Christ-likeness. That's where a true, deep, real purity comes in.

  3. It is not old-fashioned to abstain from certain physical affection
    - Being in high school, choosing not to date, and being the only one of my friends who had never been kissed; you can imagine the jokes directed to me. (even being home-schooled/ shout out!) That didn't surprise me. You expect that in high school. What did surprise me was going to a Christian college, then graduating, and being mocked for my convictions. I struggled quite a bit with that. All around me were friends making out with random guys, "going too far" on first dates, and giving their virginity away because their boyfriend professed his love.  I remember being 20/21 years old and just feeling crushed and confused. I was given the name, "Second Virgin Mary" by several people- I took it in stride, but it made me question a lot.
    - "Is this too far fetched?"- "Are these convictions crazy?" - "Is it worth being so different that even Christians are mocking me?"- "Do I love You enough, Lord, to pursue this?" - "Are you really better and is Your way really best?" - "Am I doing this because I love you or because I want recognition?" - "What's the point?"
    - Heeding the Holy Spirit's convictions and walking in purity is not ridiculous or old-fashioned. It's obedient.

  4. On the flip side, abstaining from certain physical affection doesn't make you better
    - Enough said. I wasn't awesome. I'm not awesome. And neither are you. GOD is faithful and gracious and good. It's HIS grace (given to both the self-righteous older brother and debaucherous younger brother) that makes you better. That makes you clean. That makes you whole.

  5. You don't pursue purity so your spouse will appreciate you more. You pursue purity because God is a loving Father, and He told you to. It's to the praise of His glorious grace
    - For so many years, I failed here. I held tightly to my purity because I wanted my husband to love and appreciate me more. The older I got, the more it became about him, not the Lord. I envisioned this perfect marriage because I was willing to say no all those years of hormonal cravings. I had an incredibly misplaced desire that further revealed the wickedness and idolatry in my own heart.
    - Pursue purity because you are His. If you profess faith in Christ, you are God's son or daughter. You were purchased by the blood of Jesus. You were bought with the price of His life. Therefore...honor Him with your body. Your body is, first and foremost, the Lord's, to be handled and used in a way that is honoring and glorifying to Him. You pursue sexual purity because you are presenting yourself to Him. A secondary (and temporary) gift is that of one to your (future) spouse. They are not primary. Christ is.

  6.  You can choose to say no to your flesh and yes to the Lord
    - It is possible, and I'm proof of that.
    - Can you believe I was foolish enough at a certain time in my life that I literally prayed, "God, can I just be like everyone else? Can I just not care and sleep with guys and then experience Your grace and share it with others?" He was patient and gracious to say no to that prayer. He had other ideas in mind for me. Every time I was in a position that would compromise my purity, I made the conscious choice to obey Him, regardless of how difficult it was.
    - With maturity came the increasing desire to obey the Lord. I held on tightly to promises in Scripture that proved He was for me and His strength and grace was sufficient. Check out 1 Corinthians 10:13, Hebrews 4:14-16, 1 Thessalonians 4:3-13, Ephesians 5:1-21.
    - I could teach an hour long Bible study on this, but knowing and studying Scripture is key to walking in obedience and holiness. The Word is your sword. It's how you fight battle. Be prepared and ready for battle. You cannot approach sexual purity with laziness or apathy. You have to be willing to fight and fight with ferocity.

  7. Pursuing purity is exhausting and at times, really really difficult
    - I've said this for years, and I'll say it now; I think sexual immorality is one of the enemy's favorite playgrounds. He loves taking ownership of it and whispering lies to you and I about what sex is and isn't; how important immediate gratification is and isn't, etc...
    - Saying no to sex is like fasting from food. If you've ever fasted, you know that after the second skipped meal, your tummy is pretty much a constant rumble. You can already taste the meal that's going to happen. Try fasting for 30 years. I have willingly chosen to say no to physical yearnings that are not inherently sinful; and are, in fact, given by the Lord. That can be a pretty hard pill to swallow at times. If He created me as a sexual being, why isn't He giving me an outlet to live that out?
    - Some days are a lot harder than others. It's really challenging when you're young and your body is doing all sorts of crazy things. Remember that it's God who created you. He knows. And He wouldn't call you to something that is impossible. Trust Him in that.
    - So yes, it's hard. But...

  8. Pursuing purity is incredibly rewarding
    - ...It's so good.
    - 2 Corinthians 3:18 says that the more you behold the Lord, the more you are transformed into His likeness. As I've pursued the Lord as His daughter the past 21 years, I've continually been redeemed, sanctified, and transformed into His likeness. And I will continue to be until the day that I stand face to face with Him. It's in the difficulties, the struggles, the frustrations that I've come face to face with who God is- and I've been given glimpses of His incredible glory. I've seen Him pursue me and give me strength and grace I didn't know was possible. And it's Him and His strength that has shone in my weakness.


    Nothing makes God look as beautiful as when we, who have tasted his goodness, would use our lives to testify that we will forego any momentary joy in order to taste more of Him.
    Fabienne Harford

  9. You are NEVER outside the reach of His grace
    - Statistically, 1 in every 3 teenagers has lost their virginity by the age of 17. That number just increases with age. So, chances are high that you are one of those. But He gives more grace. As you read and study Scripture, you'll see that you - and I- are in good company. Some of the greatest and godliest men and women in Scripture struggled, and royally failed, when it came to walking in obedience to the Lord in this regard. But His grace is sufficient. The atoning work of Christ on the cross was for your sin and my sin. You are not, ever, outside of His reach.
    - In studying Scripture, you see the Lord's heart for women who were stuck in sexual sin. He welcomes the prostitute, the adulterous, the wayward. And what does He say: "Come to Me..." He says, "I don't condemn you, go and sin no more." The kindness of the Lord leads you to repentance, and it's His gentleness, love, and grace that will redeem you.


    Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.
    Isaiah 1:18

  10. All of this is meant to point to something greater
    - CS Lewis says, "When no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world."
    - If you are in Christ, your greatest purpose in life isn't sexual fulfillment or marriage or love. It's to know Him and love Him. Those of you who are married, you know that your marriage is meant to be a shadow of Christ's love for us. Those of us who are still waiting, our waiting is meant to be a shadow of our waiting for the ultimate marriage feast.

If you are like me, never been kissed and dateless every Friday night...
There is no shame.
You are His.
If you've given your kisses away and sit in the regret of past mistakes...
There is no shame.
You are His.

Jesus is our Redeemer. He grants grace in the moment. He purifies, redeems, forgives, atones for, cleans, makes new. He is worthy. He is good.


PSALM
103 Bless the Lord, O my soul,
    and all that is within me,
    bless his holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity,
    who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit,
    who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good
    so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.

The Lord works righteousness
    and justice for all who are oppressed.
He made known his ways to Moses,
    his acts to the people of Israel.
The Lord is merciful and gracious,
    slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always chide,
    nor will he keep his anger forever.
10 He does not deal with us according to our sins,
    nor repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
    so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
    so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
13 As a father shows compassion to his children,
    so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.
14 For he knows our frame;[a]
    he remembers that we are dust.

15 As for man, his days are like grass;
    he flourishes like a flower of the field;
16 for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
    and its place knows it no more.
17 But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him,
    and his righteousness to children's children,
18 to those who keep his covenant
    and remember to do his commandments.
19 The Lord has established his throne in the heavens,
    and his kingdom rules over all.

20 Bless the Lord, O you his angels,
    you mighty ones who do his word,
    obeying the voice of his word!
21 Bless the Lord, all his hosts,
    his ministers, who do his will!
22 Bless the Lord, all his works,
    in all places of his dominion.
Bless the Lord, O my soul!

Monday, June 8, 2015

Summer 2015!

Hello friends!

I know that many of you have kept up with my travels and the various trips I have the joy of leading with my job. I wanted to give an overview of my 2015 summer trip season! At the end of June, I will be mailing out newsletters of my June trips; and at the beginning of August, I will be mailing out newsletters of my July trips. If you would like to be added to my newsletter, please let me know! In the meantime, enjoy!


Ecuador: June 11-17
  • Our team is leaving this Thursday morning. We are going with a group of 22 from The Village Church Flower Mound highschool group. There are graduating seniors on this trip that I've known since they were in 5th or 6th grade. It's a huge joy for me to be able to co-lead this trip and watch those students share the love of Christ. Since going to Ecuador in March, I have kept in close touch with many sweet friends I met there. I truly cannot wait to hug them and catch up, face to face! Technology is a blessing when there's a country divide, but nothing beats human to human contact. I am so looking forward to it!
  • Please be in prayer for us over the next week. Pray the Lord would receive all the glory. Pray He would save men and women, boys and girls. Pray these students would be bold in proclaiming His hope and walk in obedience to the call He's placed on them to be His representatives to the lost. Pray for those on NEXT staff (Ron, Jake, myself, and one of our interns, Eli). Thank you so much!

Costa Rica: June 20-26
  • I have a quick turn around between these two trips. Pray I will rest well, get lots of sleep, and be physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually ready to hit the ground running quickly after!
  • This trip we are taking 30 from the Stonebriar Community Church youth choir, 10 from Faith Christian School, and 3 staff from Golf Fellowship. I'm so excited about the groups going and seeing how the Lord meshes us together to be voices of His truth. Pray, first and foremost, for God to be glorified! Pray for salvation for Costa Ricans, for bold testimonies for our students, and for rest and strength for NEXT Staff (Wes, Shawn, myself, and one of our interns, Hanna).

Romania: July 6-15
  • Just as with Ecuador, I can't wait to see my sweet friends from Romania that I met on my trip last May. It's been over a year, and I couldn't be more excited to see them!  I'm so happy because I've been given a break out of our schedule to spend time with a young woman I got to share Jesus with last May. I get to meet her family, continue sharing the love of Christ with her, and just be able to talk, face to face. She will also be joining our team on the field, which is such an awesome opportunity.
  • This trip will be made up of 13 from FBC N. Augusta, SC, 7 individuals from the Dallas area, and our staff (Wes, Jenn, myself, and one of our interns, Hanna). Pray as you pray for other trips- for God's glory and renown, for the Lord to break through the darkness with His marvelous light! Pray for rest for participants also- this is a trip with long flights and long days. Pray for the strength of the Lord to persevere!

Kenya: July 20-30
  • I love that my summer is ending on this trip. I've always dreamed of going to Africa; and going as a voice of the gospel of truth. We will be working with an unreached people group who are primarily Muslim. Pray even now against the workers of darkness. Pray for dreams and visions from the Lord to come to these men and women, so that when we share with them, there is fertile soil! Pray the Lord would do a mighty work on the coast of Kenya!
  • This trip is made up of 13 college/adult participants all over Texas (the majority in the DFW area), and NEXT Staff (Ron, myself, and one of our interns, Eli). I have friends on this trip myself, so I cannot wait to spend the week ministering alongside them. Pray God would be glorified mightily! And just like with Romania, pray for rest with long flights, crazy travel days, and exhausting schedules! Pray He would mightily use us!

We fly back from Kenya the early evening of the 30th, and I go home and I catch a 6am flight the next morning to be in a dear friends' wedding in Georgia. Please pray against sickness for me. When I'm exhausted, my body breaks down. I want to fully enjoy that weekend of celebrating their love and standing up to support my friend, without the distractions of sickness or weariness. Pray I'm able to tap into the inner child and have a crazy amount of fun, affection, energy :)

Thank you, everyone, for your love, care, support, encouragement, and prayers on my behalf. I know that you are not only praying for me, but are praying for the hundreds we will be sharing Jesus with this summer. Your prayers are being used by the Lord- and not one of them is wasted. So, from the bottom of my heart, thank you. I'm truly humbled to minister alongside you and grateful for the various roles you've each played, and continue to play, in my life.

Have a joy-filled summer! If you have any specific prayer needs throughout the summer, please reach out. I'll have spotty WiFi in each location, but will be able to check in occasionally! Please know that I love you!

I have been crucified with Christ. It is not longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.
Galatians 2:20

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith- that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and may share His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
Philippians 3:7-10

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Perspective

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.
Colossians 3:1-4
This is really hard.

As children of God, we are called to take every thought captive to obey Christ (2 Corinthians 10), to be transformed by the renewal of our minds (Romans 12), to seek first His kingdom (Matthew 6), and as the above passage says, to seek the things that are above, where Christ is. As children of God, we are called to have a perspective that is not like that of the worlds'; but one that is eternal and God-centered.

And it really is just hard. It's hard because every fiber of our fleshly being fights this. We don't want to submit our thoughts to the Lord. It's easier to succumb to our temptations and give in to indwelling sin; it's easier to give into thoughts of lust, fear, idolatry, abandonment, laziness, anger, apathy, loneliness, rage, insecurity. Our flesh doesn't want our minds to be renewed because it hurts. It forces us to come face to face with our sin and our pride and see how desperately we need help because we can't do it alone. We don't want to seek His kingdom first, because it's really comfortable to reside in our own kingdoms. It's easy to make our own plans and hold onto the tight grip of control that we believe we have over our lives. We don't want to seek the things that are above, because that means we have to say goodbye to what's here. It means we have to open up our clinched fists and let go of what we hold dear.

I'm continually learning this right now. This past year has been a year of the Lord tenderly, lovingly, and patiently prying my hands loose of what I hold dear. He's brought me into the center of deep fears and insecurities, and it's there that He's reminding me that He is near. He is good. He is love.

Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her...
Hosea 2:14

He's allowed me to feel deep and real sadness and hurt, and it's there that He's reminded me, and is daily reminding me, of His kindness and love. He's bringing about so much change in my life that it's really overwhelming some days, and it's there that He's reminding me that He's sufficient and unchanging and wise and peace. It's there that's He's reminding me to keep my eyes fixed on Him, the author and perfecter of my faith. (Hebrews 12). It's there that He's teaching me how to order my thoughts in a holy, eternal, God-centered way.

Life is so much more than my whirling mind and up and down emotions that I feel on any given day. It's so much more than any temporal pleasure I experience or long to experience. It's so much more than the dream job or loving husband or first home or paid off car or masters degree or home full of kids or well sculpted body. In and of themselves, those things aren't bad, but when they're void of an eternal perspective, all they do is end in futility. When I begin to not only realize, but believe, the purpose of my life is to bring recognition and glory to God, it changes my perspective.  

You were created to live for something vastly bigger than you and only grace can make you willing and able. You were hardwired to live for God, so even though you may not be aware of it, every good or bad thing you do today has verticality to it. Remember that every physical, situational, relational gory you'll experience today is meant to point you to the glory of God.
Paul Tripp

As Colossians 3 says, my life is hidden with Christ in God. He's called me into His grand and beautiful story of redemption. How small my wrestles and struggles are in comparison to the future glory that awaits me. How great is the need to share the gospel and the hope found in Jesus, because one day He is returning and making all things new- and in light of that, today is the day of salvation! How vital and important it is to walk in obedience with a transformed mind and an eternal perspective. Oh, to truly understand and believe what this means. 

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen, but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others.... 
For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and He died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for Him who for their sake died and was raised...
Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making His appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.
2 Corinthians 4-5

Friday, January 30, 2015

Whenever my heart condemns me...

I don't know about you, but I oftentimes feel the frustration and angst Paul felt in Romans 7.

For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate... For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep doing...
Romans 7:15, 18-19

As I read that passage, I enter into that wrestle between what my flesh desires vs. what the Holy Spirit presses me to do- what I know is wrong vs. what I know is obedient. It's a very hard and very real wrestle, one that only believers truly understand because the good vs. evil battle in the spiritual realm is exponentially magnified for those who confess and believe in Christ Jesus.

I was in my kitchen earlier today, leaning over the counter and just overwhelmed with the urge to slap or kick myself for the foolishness of sin that I keep seeking after. It's so easy and so comfortable for me to slip into patterns of idolatry and manipulation, as I try to control the outcome of my life in the way that I want it. I cry before the Lord, day in and day out, that where I am in life isn't exactly where I want to be. I cry the words, "I believe, Lord, help my unbelief!"

I sat in that condemnation and that frustration for a while. We've all been there. Those moments of panic; "Lord, will it always be like this?" Or the times of discouragement; "God- I've followed you for 21 years; why is the struggle still so prevalent?" The enemy loves these moments because he sees it as weakening the bride of Christ. I love that the Lord always has an answer of truth for the lies I believe.

As I was sitting in that shame, the Lord gently and lovingly spoke the words of 1 John 3 over me.

Whenever our hearts condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and He knows everything. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God.
1 John 3:20-21

I have felt the condemnation of my heart left and right as of late- in the mysterious realm of love and romance, I feel like a complete and utter failure. In the area of courage and strength of heart, the daily dose of tears goes to remind me that those are character traits I haven't mastered. In the hidden parts of my heart, the battle with pride and idolatry is real, and I often feel so discouraged that I will never be who I want to be. As I read what it means to love the Lord, I come to the realization that I don't love Him with the intimacy and depth that I long to. The list goes on and on. 

In each of those moments, the Lord has been to quick and sweet to remind me of my identity. 

I am chosen
I am adopted
I am redeemed
I am loved
I am His

There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.
Romans 8:1

I'm not condemned, but I'm free. It's for freedom that Christ has set me free. I know this in my head, but it doesn't always connect to my heart. Those kitchen moments happen in my car, in my room, in my office. They happen for you too. In those times of guilt and shame- when your deceptive heart tells you how much you've failed, how far you have to go, how unworthy and unloveable you are, how prone to sin and wondering you are- there is the voice of Jesus Christ, reminding you of who you are in Him, reminding you of what He's done for you, reminding you of the joy, forgiveness, love, and hope He offers; that sure and steadfast anchor for your soul.

God is greater than my heart. He's greater than your heart, friend. And regardless the condition of your heart and the wrestle in your spirit, He knows, He forgives, He redeems, and for His children, He has promised the greatest of goods and the deepest of joys. He can be trusted.



Monday, January 5, 2015

In the hands of our Redeemer...

God does not waste anything.


That's been a phrase I've heard a lot over the past few months. I'm not sure if it's because it's been said more often than usual, or because I've been more aware and grasping for that truth. Regardless of the reasons, the Lord has been faithful and He's continually reminded me of His sovereign and loving hand.


Joel 2:25-26 says, "I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust have eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which I sent among you. You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the LORD your God, who has dealt wondrously with you. And my people shall never again be put to shame."


When we take a good look at our lives, we all have things we wish were different. Feelings of guilt and shame flood you when you recall the years of walking in pervasive sexual sin; the twinge of regret is strong when you come face to face with the reality that you loved and lost; deep pain makes it difficult to breathe when you have flashbacks of the mother you lost to cancer or the infant who never made it to childhood; over-analyzing over missed opportunities or unfulfilled expectations can create a deep angst in you that makes sleep an impossible feat. There are things in life that, when look at through human lenses, don't make sense.

But we have a Redeemer.

Jesus Christ restores. Despite our sin, struggle, hurt, pain, frustration, disappointment, angst, He chose to come so that humanity would be restored. He chose to face suffering so we would know there is One who understands. He chose to take on the wrath of God so we, His children, would never full face that. He chose to humble Himself to humanity because of His great love for us.

The hope He offers reaches far beyond our circumstances. In the midst of our circumstances, Jesus is a better word, a better name. Our lives are not wasted; even the days and months and years that are filled with the "why's". They aren't wasted. They will be restored. They will be redeemed.

That is His promise.


The hurt that broke your heart
And left you trembling in the dark
Feeling lost and alone
Will tell you hope's a lie
But what if every tear you cry
will seed the ground where joy will grow

And nothing is wasted
Nothing is wasted
In the hands of our Redeemer
Nothing is wasted

It's from the deepest wounds
That beauty finds a place to bloom
And you will before the end
That every broken piece 
Is gathered in the heart of Jesus
And what's lost will be found again

And nothing is wasted
Nothing is wasted
In the hands of our Redeemer
Nothing is wasted

From the ruins, from the ashes
Beauty will rise
From the wreckage, from the darkness
Glory will shine

-Jason Gray- "Nothing is Wasted"