my response to “We All Have Sexual Baggage”

Yesterday, Relevant Magazine contributor Natalie Floyd shared an article called “We All Have Sexual Baggage.” The article addresses an idea that many young Christians have grown up being taught: that having pre-marital sex leaves you as a permanently damaged commodity less worthy and capable of a happy marriage. Although I do agree that pre-marital sex is detrimental to our relationship with Christ and our livelihood, I don’t believe that that abstaining or engaging will either leave us as either perfectly pure and whole OR destroyed and desolate. Sex is bad for us if done at the wrong time, but so are so many other things. Many sins that we commit are as simple as doing the right thing at the wrong time.

In the article, Floyd said many great things, but one in particular that I believe is so important. She states, “The truth is, we’ve all got something in our hearts that probably needs to be addressed. We all have an issue, a hang up or an expectation that could stifle our personal growth or prevent us from entering into a relationship like marriage as a healthy and whole person.” I love this quote because she is correct. She goes on to share that there are many physical virgins who haven’t had intercourse but who have other sexual issues that can be real problems in marriage. Some people may not have as many sexual issues but possess many other issues that can prevent us from enjoying and growing in marriage the way that God desires. I believe that there must be more attention on these issues so that future heartache is avoided. After all, I’m sure that Christian marriages fall apart over more than sexual baggage. There are personality conflicts, money issues, a lack of respect or love shown, infidelity and so many more issues that should be addressed on the heart level. 

More than anything, I am thankful that Floyd’s article shared the fact that there is grace for times when we fall. There are so many people who live in the prison of their own guilt. They hold on to their sins, refusing to hand them over to a sovereign who paid the price for them over 2000 years ago. Romans 8:1 says, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”  The world and long-time Christians alike need to understand that there is love, grace, forgiveness and hope for those who feel burdened down by their own life’s baggage. Jesus is the one who lightens our load, removes our burdens and sets us on the path to “go and sin no more.” So if you find yourself in that place, please remember that you are never too broken or too damaged simply because God restores. He is well qualified in redemption, restoration and doing a new thing. 🙂 

If you get a moment, please check out Floyd’s article and share your thoughts on it in the Comments section below.

God Moves In A Mysterious Way

In my current phase of life, certain hymns have become a mainstay in my music library. This hymn, God Moves In A Mysterious Way, has helped me to be able to accept the things that God is doing and allowing even when they made absolutely no sense to me. When speaking to my wonderful adopted big sis Dee earlier this week, we talked about much higher God’s ways and thoughts are than ours. His thinking is on a level that we can’t even imagine. This song is a beautiful reminder to me that what I see right now isn’t the end and that God truly moves in a mysterious way. The hymn was written by William Cowper in 1774. Here is a short passage about his life from CyberHymnal.org.

Cow­per oft­en strug­gled with de­press­ion and doubt. One night he de­cid­ed to com­mit su­i­cide by drown­ing him­self. He called a cab and told the driv­er to take him to the Thames Riv­er. How­ev­er, thick fog came down and pre­vent­ed them from find­ing the riv­er (ano­ther ver­sion of the story has the driv­er get­ting lost de­liber­ate­ly). After driv­ing around lost for a while, the cab­by fin­al­ly stopped and let Cow­per out. To Cowper’s sur­prise, he found him­self on his own door­step: God had sent the fog to keep him from kill­ing him­self. Even in our black­est mo­ments, God watch­es over us.

And the song he so beautifully penned…

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs
And works His sovereign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.

Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.

Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” – John 13:7 ESV

When God Takes Away…

 Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshiped. And he said:

‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
And naked shall I return there.
The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord.’ – Job 1:20-21 NKJV

If you live long enough, there will be a point where God takes away something that you really love and enjoy. This could be a job, a position, a relationship, a dream or even a long time friendship. Just the thought of this can be scary, but there is no way around it. Regardless of how much you love God, things you don’t like will happen. And when loss occurs, it is very easy to become confused and sad.

I can talk about this because I was in this place just over a year ago. I was 22, one year away from college graduation, in what I thought would be my last relationship ever and loving life. But shortly after the one year point, God revealed to us that He wanted our relationship to end. When it happened, I was quietly devastated. I had never experienced being so attached to something and then having it removed from under me. But now that I look back at the situation, I realize that God was working in every single detail.

I want to share some of what I learned from my experience with loss and how to make it through that season.

1. God is sovereign. If He allowed it, there is a great reason for it.

Trusting God is not always easy. It can be downright painful. Seeing something that you loved leave is hard, but there is a point that we have to get to as believers where we decide to trust Him regardless of how we feel. Your faith in God’s plan for you cannot be controlled by your emotions. If it is, you’ll be fickle and you’ll never stand firm. We have to understand that if God allows something to happen, He knew that you could handle it. Nothing that happens to us catches Him off guard, so you have to know that you know that you know that you know that He will help you through it, that He is good and that He is for you.

2. It may not have aligned with His purpose for your life.

There are some ventures and undertakings that we jump into that may benefit us for a time, but that may not align with God’s long-term purpose and vision for our lives. We get comfortable in places when God is trying to move us to where He needs us to be. Maybe God removed it because it wouldn’t have allowed you to reach your fullest potential for Him.

3. He may be saving your from future issues or hurt.

Anytime I think about loss, I remember a testimony a church member shared once. He was serving in the military in Kuwait, and he had been praying that he would be able to return to his family soon. When the day for his scheduled return came, his officers pushed it back and told him that he wouldn’t be leaving yet. He was sad and really disappointed that he wouldn’t be back home when he thought he would be. But shortly thereafter, he was awakened with news that the plane that he wanted to be on had gone down and that people had lost their lives. Sometimes, God is literally blocking issues, pain, hurt or further loss from us by saying “no” right now.

4. He may be removing an idol from you to get closer to you.

I have learned a lot about idols through this experience, so much so that I blogged about it. I’ve realized that God hates them. He will smash them into a billion pieces if you place them where He should be. When I look back, I realize that I had placed the relationship on the altar of my praise, where God should have been. I spent most of my free time with the guy and made no personal time for loving God. The time that I had prior to the relationship quickly vanished. Although I would have said that I was living for God and many people regarded me as an outspoken Christian, God was not the object of my affections. I would have never said that I worshiped my relationship, but my actions said it for me. God is a jealous God. He will not allow us to hold onto those things that keep us from Him, because He loves us that much.

And through all of this, there is hope…

If this speaks to something that you have gone through or if you are currently going through it now, there is hope for you. My best friend Jeida shared something so great with me once. She said, “when we experience loss, we have a choice to make. We can either fill the hole that it left with more things (friends, people, stuff, etc), or we can choose to fill it with Jesus.” When I had to make this choice, I was blessed to have a God-loving friend by my side to help me make the right decision. It was during this time that Jeida would spend hours on the phone with me talking about Jesus, picking me up to go to church and small group Bible studies with her, and she would pray for me when I became sad. Her presence in my life was instrumental to my healing process. That brings me to my first piece of advice for those who are dealing with loss…

1. Surround yourself with a community of God-loving, praying, compassionate and transparent people…

God never meant for us to struggle through issues alone. Galatians 6:2 NKJV says, Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” God created us to be relational people who thrive when in community. We need each other. When you suffer loss, reach out to 2 or 3 people that you can trust who will pour into you, keep your eyes stayed on Christ and just love you sacrificially. The healing process starts when you share what you’re going through. Holding things in doesn’t help. Don’t let pride or shame keep you from getting the support you need. If no one comes to mind, pray and ask God to show you who can support you. If you still have no one, please message me and I will personally pray with you. I mean this.

2. Don’t be ashamed of yourself for crying or feeling down.

Healing from loss usually doesn’t happen overnight. You will experience a wide range of emotions and feelings, but if you give those feelings to God, in time you will be okay. Know that crying or having bad feelings doesn’t mean you don’t trust God, it just means that He is still making you new.

3. Pray, read the word and journal like a madwoman (or madman) and declare God’s promises daily.

Like Jeida said, when you have a void in your life, you have to fill it with something. If you fill it with the knowledge of the love of Christ, His promises, grace, mercy and everything else that is Him, you will receive joy and peace. I poured out my heart to God through prayer and writing in my journal everyday. Some days, I wrote through tears, but I felt relieved as I shared these feelings with my journal and even now when I look back on them, I can see where God has brought me from. What a beautiful sight. Also, declare the promises of God every time you get a chance. When I was going through my toughest days, I repeated certain scriptures and reminders daily. Some of my favorites were:

God is working everything out for my good and for His glory. (this became my motto)

For the Lord God is a sun and shield; The Lord will give grace and glory;
no good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly. – Psalm 84:11 NKJV

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. – Psalm 34:18 NIV

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. – Psalm 46:1 NIV

 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. – 1 Peter 5:7 NIV

 And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. – Galatians 6:9 KJV

You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You. – Isaiah 26:3 NKJV

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. – Romans 8:28 NIV

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 8:38-39 ESV

Write these on your mirrors, put them on flash cards, hang them up around your room or do whatever you have to do to be reminded constantly of God’s truth concerning you.

4. Don’t jump into anything else to keep yourself distracted or try to open a door that God has closed.

A huge mistake that many people make, especially after a relationship ends, is jumping into another one to fill that void. They find another person to consume their time, share their broken heart with and try to find solace there. This is so dangerous, both for them and the person whose heart they are involving. After loss, healing must take place. If we pursue another relationship before God’s appointed time, we risk further damaging ourselves and hurting another person. Love protects and it preserves. Do not bring someone else into your life until you are emotionally available and God leads you to do so. Lastly, don’t try to open a door that God closed even if you don’t understand why He did it. Obedience doesn’t require explanations or understanding. In His time, He will reveal things to you and you will be thankful that you obeyed Him. Obedience wins.

5. Renew your mind daily. (Romans 12:2, Ephesians 4:23)

There will be days that you wake up with the memory of what is now gone. It can consume your thoughts, but if you can daily submit your thoughts and your mind to God, you can keep those thoughts at bay and keep your mind stayed on Him. Renew your mind daily with the knowledge of Christ.

More than anything else, keep in mind that God’s love for you is unending. His goal is not to hurt you; it is to save you. Your happiness matters to Him but your salvation and growth matter more. And just like Job, God may take something away, but He will always make it worth your while. This doesn’t always mean that you get a better home or job, but it may just mean that He connects with you deeper. God didn’t give me a new relationship, but I have been brought into a deeper place with Him. He gave me more of what I needed to grow and if loss is what it took to get here, I’d go through it all again.

I pray that this blesses you!

Now the Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning… – Job 42:12 NKJV

jclu

Just Do It: Lessons from Jonah

Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.” But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish. So he paid the fare and went on board, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the Lord. -Jonah 1:1-3 ESV

Hello friends. I hope that you’re all doing well. I’ve spent some time studying the book of Jonah this past week and I wanted to share some of the lessons I learned from his story.

Lesson 1: Running from God’s call is a waste of time…

In the first chapter of the book, God clearly tells the prophet Jonah that He wants him to go to Ninevah and tell the people to turn from their wicked ways. The Bible doesn’t even say Jonah thought about it, wrestled with it or anything. It simply says that he immediately decided that He was going the other way. And as much as I hate to admit it, I have a lot in common with Jonah. I knew that I was a gifted teacher and mentor when I was barely a teenager, however, I ran from that calling to pursue a career path with more money. Not only did my running from my calling cause me to waste time, it also caused me to waste money! When God says “go,” we should move then. Not in a week, a year or when we feel the time is right. Abraham moved without knowing where he was going so we have no excuse. And, generally when God has to wait on you to finally do what He told you to do, it’s more complicated the second time around. Be obedient first!

Lesson 2: The crowd can’t save you and your disobedience puts others in danger.

When Jonah decided that he was going to Tarshish instead of Ninevah, he hopped on a boat in Joppa with other people obviously thinking that God wouldn’t find him or deal with him in the presence of others. Was he wrong! God is like that parent who will come in class and beat your butt up in front of your classmates for acting out lol. Not only did God get Jonah’s attention with the storm He sent, but everyone else on the boat became frightened in the process. We can’t run from God’s call by blending in with people who aren’t saved, called and/or being disobedient too. It won’t work! God knows where we are all the time and He’ll deal with us wherever He feel good and ready. If we just happen to be with our friends when He decides to get our attention, we can only pray that He has mercy.

Lesson 3: Prayer is always the right move.

Often times when we are in bad situations, we think that we can’t go to God in prayer. I can imagine that Jonah probably had that “I can’t pray now” feeling once he realized that his own disobedience had gotten him into the belly of the whale. But that feeling comes from satan. When we feel unworthy to reach out to Him, it’s usually when we need Him the most. The entire book of Jonah turned around after Jonah prayed to God from the belly of the whale. When in doubt, pray. When feeling ashamed, pray. When completely clueless as to how to get out of a horrible situation, pray. Paul & Silas were in jail and Daniel was in a lion’s den but God showed up. ALWAYS pray!

Lesson 4: God will lead us in witnessing…

When Jonah was in Ninevah, he preached a simple message. “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.” I know that at times, I over think witnessing. I think I have to explain everything immediately, know the answer to every question and always be a perfect shining light for Christ. It is good to be knowledgeable about the things of God and be a good witness, but know that God will give you the words to say for the people He wants you to reach. It may not be complicated, long or drawn out. It could simply mean telling someone that you care about them or that you love them. It could mean giving a homeless person a few dollars to get a meal. It could mean praying for someone during a tough time in their life. God knows how every person can be reached and the Holy Spirit will lead us in reaching them.

Lesson 5: Salvation isn’t selective…

In the last chapter of Jonah, it’s clear that Jonah isn’t happy that God has mercy on the people of Ninevah and he actually tells God he’d like to die. When I first read this, I didn’t understand why Jonah would be mad. Some commentaries say that as many as 120,000 people repented and turned to God as a result of Jonah’s ministry. Any pastor that lead 120,000 souls to Christ in 2012 would be well-known and revered. But after further research, I learned that the people of the Assyrian empire including Ninevah, were enemies of the Israelites. They were also best known for their torture and killing of the people they captured. I found that they would capture men, impale them on stakes and lean them over the fortress walls to show that they had been there. Another account says that they would carve people’s skin off and pile them up, then completely cover the area with blood. Another speaks of taking 3,000 men and carving them alive. Removing their arms, ears, noses, gouging out their eyes and hanging their heads from trees. They also burned children to death with no regret.

It’s quite clear that these were dangerous, unGodly people. Since we can’t really relate to these actions so well, let’s translate this to our culture. How many of us are willing to witness to people we consider dangerous, that live in “bad” neighborhoods or projects and who maybe sell drugs or tote guns? What about prison ministries? If God tells us to make disciples of all people, why is it that the people in the “bad” neighborhoods around some of our beautifully decorated churches don’t know who Jesus is? Is the gospel not for these people too? Or maybe we just don’t want these kinds of people saved because then they’d be our church’s “problem.” No matter what the reason is, it’s wrong. Fear isn’t a good excuse. If we run or purposely avoid witnessing to anyone, we are just like Jonah. I’ll be the first to say I’ve done this. I go to a huge school and have missed many opportunities to share Christ. BUT, I’m praying everyday that He continues to open doors for me to witness and helps me to witness with my life.

Reading Jonah gave me a lot to think about and reflect on and I hope that this blog post does the same for you! If you want to discuss any of the points, feel free to comment!

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