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History isn't Destiny

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Genesis 50:20:

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.

So, I think we all have a voice in our head without being “crazy.” It will often bring shame and accusations to us, and most times won’t even wait for us to get to our second cup of coffee before we subconsciously agree with it. 

“You’ll never get past your past.” or “You have a ceiling because of what was done to you.” or “Your history will define you no matter who you pretend to be.” “You’re a fraud and others will eventually find out.”

This voice is one that drags us backward, because that is where we feel the most inept and shameful. We tell ourselves, “There is no way my story will be a beautiful one because of where I came from. There is no way I can build a beautiful family, because I’ll end up just like my parents, or will become what my parents said I’d become.” This is the voice of shame - and it’s effective. 

My favorite strategy has two steps. First, simple agreement. That’s right. I just agree with the voice, but maybe not for the same reason you’d think. I know I’m limited. I’ve hurt others in my past and others have hurt me. I also carry regrettable decisions as I regret things that have happened to me. My past family wasn’t perfect, and the one I’m building also isn’t perfect. But God is perfect for the imperfect. 

Take the story of Joseph in the book of Genesis. His history was ridiculous and full of limiters. Bad family. Bad luck? Bad opportunities? Nothing was perfectly laid out for Joseph. But God is perfect for the imperfect. 

So what do we do? We agree that we are not perfect. Step two, remind yourself that the Gospel is perfect for imperfect people. 

Philippians 3:13–14:

I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind & straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 

Paul wasn’t celebrating a weird selective amnesia, but a gospel forgetfulness. He didn’t ignore his history, but refused it access to define his future. His future was determined by God and his Gospel. 

Lamentations 3:22–24:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”

For you and me, when we hear the voice in our head of our lack, we can find peace in revisiting the gospel to celebrate the mercy of it all and enjoying what it has given us. We are free to forget, and free to strain forward. 

You’ll make decisions that are dumb and you’ll have regrets, and still God covers over a multitude of our worst moments with his best and most shining moment. He takes our baggage as we carry it to the cross. No longer are you defined by your past timeline. Your history is not your destiny.

 

Not Even a Hint…

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How far is too far? This is the age-old question when it comes to Christian dating. Normally, this question is answered by the metaphor of a person who should stay as far away from the edge of a cliff as possible. Then relating the edge of the cliff to having sex, a couple is encouraged to stay as far away from the edge as possible. Sometimes when this question is asked, there might be an answer about how holding hands and kissing is not in the Bible so it’s hard to know “how far is too far.” 

 However, there is a clear answer to this question that can be found in Ephesians 5:3.  “There must not be even a hint of sexual immorality.” Why? Because this is “improper for God’s holy people.” 

 So with this Biblical basis, the question changes: What causes a “hint” of sexual immorality? This also changes the answers from a cookie cutter list of do’s and don'ts to something that each person must account with their own conscience. Scriptures like 1 Samuel 16:7 and Luke 16:15 remind us that God is much more concerned with the state of the heart than behaviors. Jesus told the crowd that whoever looks at another with lust committed adultery (Matthew 5:28). As we read God’s Word, we can begin to see a theme…. The answer is not to see how much I can get away with. The answer is to strive for holiness (1 Peter 1:16). 

 So with holiness and Christ-likeness as our end goal, the goal then becomes to flee sexual sin (1 Corinthians 6:18), not to see how far one can go without sinning. Back to the original question… how far is too far? Well, if there is a hint of sexual immorality, you’ve gone too far. 

Is there a hint of sexual immorality in your thoughts? Flee temptation. You may need to quit watching a certain show or being on your computer/phone late at night, avoid a certain person or scene, or even leave a date early.

 If you’re not too sure about a hint of sexual immorality in your thoughts, what about your body? Not to be crass or crude, but men’s and women’s bodies physically prepare for sex. So, if an image or action is causing arousal to the point of blood rushing to the genitals causing an erect penis or lubricated vagina, there is more than a hint of sexual immorality. 

 So how far is too far? Draw the line BEFORE the hint of sexual immorality. For some this might mean no kissing until marriage, for some it might mean no holding hands, and for others it might mean ensuring you're not tempted to be sexually immoral due to prolonged periods of being alone together. There is no clean cut answer. This might sound extreme, but Jesus spoke very seriously of fighting sin when he said to cut off your hand if it causes you to sin (Matthew 5:30). The Bible is very serious about sin. You should take sin seriously. 

 You might be thinking, but I will miss out on so much… Is it really worth it? Yes! It is worth it… Jesus is worthy of our full surrender (Revelation 5) and He has a good design for sexuality. All the waiting, delayed gratification only leads to a better marriage, without the shame and guilt from sexual immorality in past relationships. 

So surrender to Him. Repent where repentance is needed and revel in His marvelous grace. Embrace His forgiveness, celebrate Jesus, and make war on sin!

Celebrating to the Glory of God

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When it comes to celebrations, let’s be honest, there seems to be two types of people- the people who love to celebrate- especially themselves- and the people who don’t make a big deal out of anything. To the non-celebrator, it often appears that the celebrators are self- centers and hungry for attention. To the major celebrators, it is easy to believe the non-celebrator is an Eeyore who never takes time to be thoughtful. Do you fall into one of these categories?

What if I said there was something selfish about both of these extremes? On the one hand, it is likely true that the one who is always hungry for the next celebration is seeking attention and wanting to have a fun time. It might be a little more difficult to see how the non-celebrator is also selfish, but often this is one who does not want to be thoughtful. This person might struggle to take their eyes off their self and observe another person’s growth or accomplishment.

As Believers in Christ, we can reclaim celebrations by making them Christ-centered. Now, this does not mean that every birthday party now must be a worship and prayer night, but it does mean taking time to acknowledge what God has been at work doing in a person over that year of life. And this intentionality only improves the specialness of an important day.

The Bible is full of big feasts and celebrations. That right there is enough to convince me of throwing a party. When I look at many of the feast in God’s Word, there is a theme of looking back and seeing what God has done. What if we began to do the same? I encourage you, at your next anniversary or birthday, to take time to reflect on what you have seen God at work doing. Write it down and give it to the person. How special would it be to get a list of ways you have grown in Christ-likeness over the year on your birthday? Or how sweet would a time be remembering the nearness of God during that year of your marriage. Christ-centered thoughtfulness only makes a celebration better!

Additionally, when you consider throwing, ask yourself… is something this honors God? Would the Lord smile about what you are commemorating? If so, I’d encourage you to have a party or prepare a special meal in honoring the moment. For example, gender reveal parties have become a bit of a debated topic because well… gender has become a debated topic. When we decided to have a gender reveal party, it was because we saw how society was downplaying both life inside a mama’s womb and gender. Therefore, we decided to throw a party to celebrate both of those things. From the outside looking in, it probably appeared to be nothing more than a get together of friends, but in our hearts, the entire day was worshipful. We were so thankful, not only for the life growing inside me, but also for the baby girl, made uniquely in God’s image.

So, no matter what side of the spectrum you may fall on, ask yourself what is the aim of my celebration (or lack thereof). You don’t have to throw a big party and spend a lot of money- although some situations might call for that- but just spend some time being thoughtful of the person or situation, and more importantly be thoughtful of the Lord. Celebrating one another truly helps build warm and loving families.

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