Visions From Above

All I could see was a hand reaching out of the impenetrable darkness. The people that were with me all stood around looking at the hand, but no one seemed inclined to reach for it. None of us were really sure what to do. All of the sudden, I was looking beneath the darkness that the hand was reaching from. I could make out a vague form, but didn’t know who it was. This person was holding on to some sort of light source, but was covering it so that none of it could shine to reveal who was beneath the darkness…

This was a vision I had after asking God to speak to me. I felt strongly that He wanted me to share this with my small group from church and so I obeyed his commands. Even though it has been a week after I shared this particular vision, it has still been on my mind when I have asked God if there is anything He wants to speak to me. Specifically, when I asked him what I should write about for this blog, that vision came to mind once again. So, I am writing about it. I hope God uses it to speak to one or many of you.

I would not consider prophecy to be one of my key spiritual gifts. If you were to ask me what my spiritual gifts are, I would tell you words of wisdom and that I am a shepherd. My go to has never been healing, visions, or anything that people might consider “out of the ordinary”.

Something my pastor said a while ago changed my ability to be used by God in ways I would have never thought possible. He told us that the spiritual gifts were something to be desired by all. Well, I suppose that Paul originally said that in 1 Corinthians, but I actually began to understand it after the words my pastor spoke. Paul really meant what he said: everyone should desire and ask for the gift of prophecy. And most would say that visions of the kind that I got fall under that category.

I think the key to receiving this vision is simple. I asked. I don’t think it is my strength, but I do believe that I should always be willing to allow God to use me in this way. I should be willing to build up and edify the body of believers around me. I don’t know if this is something God will make me strong in, but I do know that if I never try, if I never step out in faith, if I never make myself available, I will never prophecy.

Paul says, “Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing?…But eagerly desire the greater gifts.” I think in that series of rhetorical questions the answer is “no” to all of them. But it doesn’t mean we can’t be used in ways that we aren’t comfortable with. If we are to eagerly desire these gifts, wouldn’t you think that there would be some benefit? Would God tell us to desire something that is completely unattainable? I don’t think so.

This means that not only should I continue to ask God to speak to me in visions for prophesying, but I should be asking God to use me in the other greater gifts as well. And the ones I listed aren’t even all of them! This doesn’t leave me feeling overwhelmed and helpless, but rather expectant and joyous!

We each have our part in the body of Christ. We each have our strength and our place, but sometimes God needs us to step out and desire something greater. Sometimes He needs us to fill in where others might be unwilling. Sometimes we may be used to do things greater than we could ever comprehend.

I am willing. Are you?

P.S. My husband told me I was stepping into a hornet’s nest by posting this. We shall see…

Images II

I recently talked about the importance of choosing the images that you focus on during sex with your husband. Translation for those who are single: don’t focus on any images now that you would not want in your mind then.

But that is not why I am writing this follow-up post. In my last point, I talked about how it is difficult to visualize my husband and I while we are having sex.

Some might point out that it makes sense and it would be difficult, you can’t see yourselves! Well, as you all know, this is the day and age of technology that makes all of your wildest dreams come true!

You could record or take sexy pictures to help you get turned on easily enough. And really, there is nothing wrong with this. But my husband and I won’t be doing this. Why?

Don’t get me wrong. We like to have a visual aspect of our experiences together, but we get that through other means that are not permanent.

The trap that I see lying in wait is this: placing our desires into something that is not only inanimate, but an image of who we once were sets us up for dissatisfaction in the future.

You both will gain and lose weight as the years go by. You both will become more wrinkled, less flexible, and the list could go on, but I really don’t want to depress you. If you allow yourself to focus on a younger version or a “better” version of yourself, you will struggle with feelings of discontent and longing for what once was. Perhaps you are that person who is completely confident in how you look and this is not a problem, but I know I am not that person and I believe there are many others who would feel the same.

I don’t want to give myself any more reasons to doubt my husband’s love for me and the desire he has for who I am now. He is satisfied with me. And I choose to believe him, even after gaining a few pounds and becoming less toned than I was in the beginning. I choose to believe him.

But if I were to find him looking at the pictures I could have given him at the beginning of our marriage more often than he looked at the body I have currently, I know that would affect me negatively. What would I do? Force him to throw them away? Allow him to continue, lowering my confidence along the way?

Instead, we chose to avoid that unpleasant decision making. We chose to be delighted in each other’s bodies as they are. Through the consistencies and changes of life, through joys and tragedies, we will learn to love and desire what is true in one another. I, for one, am excited to take this journey with my husband.

Communication is the Key

I had some feedback on a recent post that got me thinking about how masturbation has affected my marriage.

I won’t lie to you, my past struggles haven’t damaged my marriage significantly. In fact, I would go so far as to say that I was able to explain the things that I like more easily to my husband. To put it bluntly, we have a great sex life.

But I don’t think the real reason for our great sex life is because of my experiences with masturbation.

A friend told me a few weeks before she got married that she had never masturbated. I wasn’t too surprised, but did wonder how that would change their sex life. Apparently, not much at all. According to her and her husband, they have a fantastic sex life and it was great from day one. If masturbation was the key to having a great sex life, then how could this be the case?

Communication will drastically change a woman’s ability to enjoy a sexual experience with another person. If you communicate well, things typically go well. If there is miscommunication or a lack thereof, things come to a screeching halt.

Masturbation cannot fix a person’s inability to communicate. In fact, it will probably cause you to enjoy your own touch more than your husband’s. Let’s face it, masturbation is easier than communicating to a man that doesn’t always understand the female mind.

This friend of mine probably didn’t know much about her body and how it worked sexually, but before she got married and started having sex, she asked questions; lots of questions. She became informed and she learned how to communicate well with her spouse. If you can’t communicate, it doesn’t matter how much you masturbate as a woman, you probably won’t enjoy sex like you could.

I hear it said a lot that masturbation is necessary for people to explore their sexuality and to be ready to have a sexual partner. It just isn’t true. Putting aside what you believe about how right or wrong it is, masturbation is not a necessity for a woman to have a good sex life. However, good communication skills are.

As a married, Christian woman, I will be completely honest: although masturbation didn’t ruin my marriage or even cause many issues, it could have. My husband didn’t know exactly how I would like things from the very beginning. Sex has always been good because of communication, but it has gotten better as time goes by because he knows me, not because I know me. Like everything else in marriage, sex is better when you’re both being selfless, not selfish.

A Moment of Realization

I think most Christians would say there was some kind of moment in their life that they realized there was so much more. The moment that the focus became more about Jesus than about themselves.

My moment was terrifying.

I grew up in a Christian home. I really do believe that I loved Jesus and had a childlike faith, but I wasn’t very outspoken or dedicated for the majority of my childhood and high school years.

It wasn’t until my junior or senior year that I really started to peruse God’s word and try to dissect what it meant for my life. I came across Matthew 25:31-46, what I have concluded to be one of the most eye-opening chapters in the Bible.

To sum up the passage, Jesus is sitting on his throne at the end and separating the people into “sheep and goats”. The sheep are the ones who fed, clothed, inviting in, and visited Jesus in prison. When the sheep ask Jesus when they did all these things he tells them that when they did this for the least, they did it for Him. The goats were the opposite. They refused to help the least and are sentenced to eternal punishment.

Many of us live our lives for ourselves and think we are fine. But according to Jesus in this passage, that is not even close to reality. So many of us are really goats, walking through this life thinking that we have our ticket to heaven and we are set for life. When the time comes, Jesus will look at us with no hint of recognition in his merciful eyes.

I began to really think about it. I wasn’t fearful for my own skin, but I was realizing that most of my brothers (family members) could be considered a goat. I know I have no right to judge, but based on the lack of fruit and lack of concern for the words of Jesus I couldn’t keep lying to myself. I was fearful for their souls. Family, people who you grew up with and hold dear, are the ones who can really open your eyes to reality. I feel like Jesus gave me a heart for the lost in that moment. And it was heart-breaking.

I found myself crying out for their souls and realizing the light that Jesus gave me was not really for me, but for those that I knew needed Him as well. That was the moment that I stopped hiding my light and began to find out how to shine it as brightly as I could. That was the moment that I started to heed the words of Jesus.

What are some of your moments? I would really like to hear them.

Some Things are Better Left Unsaid

You may believe there’s nothing wrong with what you are doing, but keep it between yourself and God. Blessed are those who don’t feel guilty for doing something they have decided is right.  But if you have doubts about whether or not you should eat something, you are sinning if you go ahead and do it. For you are not following your convictions. If you do anything you believe is not right, you are sinning.

–          Romans 14:22-23

I come back to these verses often. Recently, I have written about how it can be discouraging to read so many Christian women telling people like me that we are wrong and should just get over ourselves and masturbate. I think this is why I like these verses so much.

If you are one of those women and you have no guilt for what you are doing and find it to be right, then blessed are you. But I am not one of those women, and to hear someone try to convince me that I really could do what I know is wrong is troubling. I think that is why Paul says here to keep it between you and God.

From my viewpoint and from reading scripture, there is nothing wrong with me explaining my thoughts on why masturbation isn’t a good thing. If women are already confident that they are doing right, then my words should just brush right off of them and they can continue. Someone who enjoys the pleasures of masturbation will most likely go on as they please if they don’t agree.

However, if you take the other end of that spectrum the story changes a bit. If a woman tells me or someone like my friend in my previous post that we are silly and really could masturbate without any repercussions, we are more likely to want it to be true.

Why? Because masturbation feels good! Orgasms are amazing! And if it is something you have already experienced and decided that it was wrong, the struggle and temptation is a very real thing. It is much easier to persuade someone to do what they know is wrong than to do what is right.

So why don’t we just accept the fact that there is nothing wrong with it and get over it? Because we know in our hearts that everything is wrong with it. We have wrestled with it and come to the conclusion that it is not for us. The doubts are already there, and we know we would be sinning if we do it anyways in the hopes that our doubts are wrong. We would not be following our convictions.

I don’t think there is anything wrong with people who believe masturbation is not sinful. But it is those who try to persuade young believers that they should indulge in this practice that discourage me.

 “Wrong does not cease to be wrong because the majority share in it”

–          Leo Tolstoy

Your Heart Is a Storage Unit

I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. (Psalms 119:11 ESV)

Sometimes I think we forget the importance of storing up God’s word in our hearts. Growing up in the church I think a lot of Christians become tired of memorizing scripture. They have been told to do it all their lives and it is impossible for most normal people to memorize and retain the entire Bible.

Not to mention the fact that there are so many different versions and if you don’t choose the version you will stick with for the rest of your life you will just have to re-memorize it in another one.

But there lies the problem. Memorizing and storing up are not necessarily equivalent. Just because you have an entire chapter of Philippians memorized, doesn’t mean you have actually stored it up. You could know it perfectly word for word, and it still means absolutely nothing in your life.

Other versions of this particular verse in Psalm 119 say “hidden” instead of stored. Either way it is something that is thought to be of value. There is no value in memorizing the entire Bible. The value lies in how it transforms us.

I still like to memorize. I am a perfectionist, what can I say. But I have to continually remind myself of the purpose behind it. I want to pray scripture over myself. I want to have God’s word readily available to speak truth into the lives of those around me. I don’t want to show off how much I know. In an instant, I could lose my memory or become disabled in some way preventing me from retaining information. I am constantly praying that God would really help me to store it in my heart and not just my brain.

I see the way this storing up affects others lives. My grandmother is getting old and losing her short term memory. She gets confused easily and doesn’t even remember what happened just a few hours before. But she still knows her Savior and she knows how to tell people about Him. She is the sweetest person and makes friends out of perfect strangers wherever she goes. She may even still have Scripture memorized, but her impact is not due to what her brain can retain.

It is due to her sweet spirit; her gentleness and her way of listening to those who need to unload their sorrows. She is unselfish in every way, and always wants to do everything she can to further God’s Kingdom. Only the Word of God can do that in a person’s heart.

The most important part of this verse is that storing up God’s Word gives us the ability to not sin against Him. That should be our desire. We were made to bring Him glory. And if we sin, we cannot accomplish this. Jesus is good and our Savior regardless, but while on this earth our desire should be to become people who are continually glorifying Him!

The only way to do that is to not sin against Him. And the only way to stop sinning is by storing up His Word.

What’s in a testimony?

What is your testimony?

As a Christian, you may have had several people ask you this. But what does it really mean to share your testimony?

I could tell you something along these lines, “Well, I don’t have much of a testimony. I grew up in church and never got into too much trouble. I did struggle with porn and masturbation throughout the majority of my childhood, but God has set me free from that.”

I would have a pretty boring testimony, and there is something about it that bothers me.

It bothers me because there are others who have gone through much more in their lives; involved in drugs, alcohol, sex, and just living a life of destruction. Their testimony seems a whole lot more interesting. They have had all kinds of horrible things happen and look at how far they have come.

In comparison, my own testimony is bland and uninteresting. In the past I have almost been embarrassed to share with anyone how pleasant my life had been thus far.

This mindset is wrong. The only reason I or anyone else might be thinking that our testimony isn’t worthy is because we are focused on the wrong person. Instead of focusing on Jesus and sharing what He has done, we are focusing on ourselves. We want to impress people with how messed up our lives used to be and if we don’t have a terrible story to tell we are embarrassed or even embellish our own stories to make them more interesting.

What is the true purpose of a testimony? To bear witness to something. Something greater than all of our own stories and messy lives. To bear witness to the beauty of a God who would send his Son to live among us and die for us. A savior who would take on our sin, conquer death, and rise again to be with us for eternity.

The Bible makes it clear to me what I should focus on concerning my own testimony.

“Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his heart. Anyone who does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because he has not believed the testimony God has given about his Son.  And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.” 1 John 5:10-11

Everyone may have a different story, but we all have the same testimony to share. None of us have a boring or unimportant testimony. If Jesus has touched our lives, what we have to share is just as important as the rest.

I shouldn’t try to make my past worse than it was and neither should someone else dumb theirs down. If we are giving Jesus all the glory and pointing to Him as the one who saved us from it all, each of us will have something to offer.