Wrapping Up A Grace-Filled Year

 

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” –Galatians 2:20

 

There is no verse more fitting to conclude my year-long intimacy fast than Galatians 2:20. The 1,000+ words I’m about to type can’t even come close to summarizing 2011 as eloquently and simply as Galatians 2:20. Perhaps I should just stop typing now…

On second thought, you all know I’m far too long-winded to do that. ūüôā

Wow! WHAT A YEAR! What an intimate, challenging, powerful, humbling year! I cannot believe 2011 has already come to a close. It seems like we began our journey only a few days ago. But the year is set in stone. Another year of life in the books. A year we will never get back. Did you make the most of yours?

There are SO many different ways I could structure this final “Kissless ’till Next Christmas” post. And SO many words I could type. So many things I never had the time to share throughout the year. But, I figure the easiest way to summarize this fantastic journey is by answering some really common questions I got throughout the year, and since the year has ended. Ready for a little Q & A?

Q: Did you REALLY make it the WHOLE year without sharing even as much as a kiss?

A: I sure did. Absolutely. Without a doubt. Did it. Made it. Loved it! It was not an easy year, by any means. It did not come without great sacrifice, bouts of loneliness, apprehensions. At times it really hurt. At the beginning of the year I tried to rekindle a relationship (void of the physicality) with my then-boyfriend, but that wasn’t what God had asked for. He had asked for all of me. 100% of my heart. So I had to cut myself off from a wonderful man and move forward with my pledge to our King. Is that normal? Probably not. But was it worth it? Without a doubt. I am a woman who honors my commitments, and I made a commitment to God. There was nothing that was going to deter me from my promise. Satan tried, Satan failed. People tried, people failed. There was plenty that could have distracted me, but as time progressed, God revealed Himself in such beautiful ways. As time progressed, He cleansed my heart of temptation. He cleansed my heart of lustful desire. He cleansed my heart of negativity, apprehension, fatigue. He cleansed my heart of so many of the emotions and desires that young adults get caught up in. And when my heart was scrubbed clean, He filled it with so much Light! So much hope! So much joy! I would say that after the third month, reliance on a guy was the last thing on my mind. I was, and continue to be, so wrapped in such an intimate and filling relationship with our Lord, that words can’t even do justice for His sufficiency. His grace was enough.

Q. So you didn’t even date?

A. Nope! No dates for me. I feel like half of the people reading this, who have never met me, must have this crazy image in their head of a pale, lonely girl locked away in her apartment with a metal chastity belt strapped on like underwear. HAHA! Get real! Just because I wasn’t out hooking up, dating, or searching for a relationship, doesn’t mean that I wasn’t out living life like a normal woman! Throughout this year I continued to hang with friends and have fun. By tom-boy default, most of my closest friends are guys. I spent plenty of time with them! Heck, I was training with the football boys the entire year. There was no avoiding the smelly testosterone! But, contrary to popular belief, it IS absolutely possible for a girl to have normal, healthy friendships with guys. Those friendships are made even stronger and healthier when you take any chance at physicality completely off the table. I’m not naive. I know how a man’s mind works. I’m well aware that some of their thoughts likely weren’t as pure as mine. But I’m also a firm believer that men aren’t as one-tracked as society makes them out to be. And I have plenty of amazing male friends who would back me on that. Consider it field research. Women, if you want a man to treat you with respect, earn their respect. Don’t assume it will be given. Especially when you are the one teasing them with what you wear, how you act, and the games you play. It comes down to respecting each others’ hearts by being intentional in your actions, intentional in your interactions, and intentional with your words. No dates for me, but so many amazing friendships developed.

Q. Now that the fast is over, have you kissed anyone? Are you going crazy?

A. Probably the most frustrating, and most common, question that I’ve gotten since the end of 2011. *Deep breath* If, by now, you are STILL under the assumption that this year-long fast was simply and solely based around the physical component, you are so far off track. Biblically, fasting and prayer are emphasized as sacrifices to God. In denying ourselves of something, we are showing obedience and discipline to the Lord. We are trusting that He will provide for us, answer our prayers, and nourish us with what we lack. Psalms 35:13 so beautifully states, “I humbled my soul with fasting …” People fast in all different ways. Many will fast from food and drink, some will fast from activity, etc. I was simply moved to fast from intimacy. Not because I was some wild girl before, not because I wanted to cover up my past and let everybody know that I was new and changed. Absolutely not. Why would I have given up an entire year of my life just to prove a point to people? Get real. If those were my motives, I never would have made it. I was solely moved to make this sacrifice by God, alone. And I am so glad that I did. He has changed my heart, piece by piece, from the inside out. He has given me new perspective, new appreciation, and new drive. Those of little faith may assume that a fast only leads to great hunger. But a fast supplemented by the grace of Jesus Christ, leads to wisdom, refinement, perspective, and faith. His grace is so sufficient. I never hungered and never thirsted for intimacy. His love was too abundant. I stand now with arms high and heart abandoned, chained only to the love of Jesus Christ. I have not kissed a boy since my fast ended. And I am planning on saving my next kiss for a man I feel God has very purposely placed in my life, and perhaps has designed for me to marry. I don’t know that man yet, but I know he will come along on God’s timing. And I am more than willing to wait…

Q: Do you feel like you missed out on anything this year?

A: Not at all. And I say that in all honesty. The Lord assures us that if we draw near to Him, He will draw near to us. He assures us that if we honor Him with our time, our talents, our hearts, He will honor us with blessings, adornment, and comfort. That Man comes through on his Word! Ha! This has been the most unbelievable, fulfilling, overwhelming year of my life! I have lacked in nothing spiritually or emotionally or physically. He has flooded my heart with humbling grace and perfect love. He is all I need. Anything after Him is just icing on the cake. Blessings that I look forward to receiving and then distributing for His Glory and His name! Maybe I sound crazy to some, but I am being absolutely honest. And absolutely transparent. I can promise you, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that if you give a piece of yourself to the Lord, as much as you can muster, He will complete you. He will free you from the bondage of this temporary life, and reveal to you what Life in Him looks and feels like. Man, it’s amazing. And it only gets better. No matter your circumstance, your history, your background, your present…HE has a future for you! And it’s beyond your wildest dream.

Q: What did you learn through all of this?

I was so naive to think that when I began the fast, I knew exactly what God was going to do in my heart and to teach me. I thought I had it all figured out. I thought I knew what He had in store. Man, was I wrong! If I tried to list everything the Lord has revealed to me this year, I would run out of blog space! He taught me what it means to seek His face. What it means to be a Godly woman, and what that looks like. What a Godly man looks like. What it means to truly be in a Christ-centered relationship. He taught me trust, compassion, love. True love, and what that entails. He taught me dependence, unbridled faith, unashamed Life in Him. He revealed to me boldness, courage, and heart. He revealed to me what it looks like for my will to align with His. He taught me the joys of the fruits of labor done in His name. He taught me how to read the Word with clarity. He taught me how to boldly pray. How to constantly pray. How to fearlessly pray. He taught me how to love others based on the foundation of my love for Him. He taught me that He will teach me my whole life. That I will never have it fully figured out, but that it all is based in the root of love. God’s love for us, God’s love for His Son. His Son’s love for us, our love for Him. He taught me more than I can teach. He taught me Truth.

Q: What’s next?

Now that the year is over, a new year begins. And a new journey begins! It is time to live life unashamed. It is time to live life for His glory! As I take on the uncertainty and excitement of this new year, I hope you all will join me! Join me in following the steps I take in my walk with the Lord. Join me in redefining our lives based NOT around the odds and chances of the world, but based solely around God’s Odds. Devalue the doubt and live boldly!

The odds are in your favor! Do you believe?

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Christmas Alphabet

“Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call His name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.” –Matthew 1:23

A Amazing absolution! A
B beloved baby’s birth.
C Christ carefully created,
D delivered despite dearth.
E Emmanuel! Emmanuel! Ever
F faithful, freeing Father.
G God’s greatest gift graced
H heathen hands, healing
I immoral idolaters.
J Jesus! Jesus! Jesus! Justly
K kindhearted King.
L Limitless lover, life-giving leader,
M merciful Majesty!
N Nazarene, new Nazarene,
O our omnipotent offering.
P Prophecies’ pure proof, passionate Prince of Peace!
Q Quietly, quite quietly,
R rains righteous Redeemer’s reign.
S Simple Son saves sinners’ souls
T through trust, Truth truly trains.
U Unimaginable, uncontainable, unfailing
V vested voice,
W willingly walked with a wounded world
X x-tending x-cited choice. ūüôā
Y Yahweh! Yahweh! Yahweh!
Z Zest the Christmas zeal!

And know your Christmas alphabet
so you will know God’s love is real!

Merry Christmas!

“Sexual Healing”

 

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”–Matthew 11:28

 

I was blessed to stumble across this amazing piece of poetry today. In my “Kissless ‘Till Next Christmas” ministry, you have only had the opportunity to hear from my female perspective. Jeff Bethke does an amazing job of articulating my same message from a male perspective. Please take the time to listen and watch.

 

In Response to “Mo-vember”

“Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up.” –James 4:10

It’s hard to believe that it is already mid-November. ¬†Ten and a half months into my year-long intimacy fast, and I have

never felt so alive!

If you are in-touch with pop-culture, I’m sure you’re familiar with “No Shave November”–a month dedicated to raw masculine appeal. A month defined by spectacular, untouched facial hair. A month honoring the finest form of upper-lip artwork…the mustache. That curly-haired lip caterpillar is so spectacular, it redefines a month. Turning what used to be “November” into “Mo-vember”–a true honor for the studly ‘stache.

Though I’ve had a few friends joke, here and there, about the name of the month corresponding with my name, it wasn’t until recently that I paid much attention to the title–and for unique reason.

You see, this month has been marked by incredible emotion. Intense highs, stunning lows–ultimately, immeasurable blessings. ¬†The three most notable events stand at the forefront of my mind. First, the conclusion of my 16 year soccer career–a loss in the NCAA tournament that closed one of the most extensive and defining chapters of my life, and ended my college career on the LSU Soccer team. Secondly, being voted by my peers and crowned the 2011 LSU Homecoming Queen–an overwhelming introduction to the newest chapter of my life, and a humbling honor that has countless layers of significance to my heart. ¬†And lastly, winning the online fan vote for the Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award–an award with an overall winner still yet to be named, but with a message of support that floored me. Literally.

It wasn’t until just a few days ago, in the aftermath of so much intense emotion, that I was walking to class and passed a group of college co-eds. As we shuffled by on the sidewalk, I smiled and waved, and they hollered out in kind support. “Congrats Mo! What a crazy year! You deserve it all! Everybody, it’s ‘Mo-vember!'”¬†Little do they know, the things they yelled have turned my world up-side-down these past few days, and have stirred my heart to a new place.

Now before you roll your eyes, click away from the page, and dismiss me as a self-promoting narcissist, I encourage you to read on. Because the reason this phrase turned my world up-side-down, is likely not the reason you would assume.

Don’t get me wrong, the group that shouted their support–as well as all of the fantastic individuals who have written on my facebook wall, tweeted me, texted me, emailed me, and extended their love–have done so with the purest of intentions. All of your overwhelming love and encouragement and affirmation has meant more to my heart than I will ever be able to express. You have given me such joy, you have humbled me, and you have filled me with a passion that is overflowing. To all of the LSU students who voted for Homecoming, to the countless individuals who voted for the Lowe’s Award–often over and over again–, to every person, coach, player, and fan who has ever supported me through my soccer career…”Thank You” just simply isn’t enough. I don’t even know how to put into words the appreciation I have for you. The respect I have for you. The love I have for you. I wish there was a phrase so much grander than “thank you”. I wish I could hug each of you, look you in the eye, and share the passion I have for you. But I suppose I will leave it at a resounding “THANK YOU SO MUCH!” until the day I can shake your hand.

However, all of the praise and attention that has come in the past few months, and this month in particular, has truly humbled me to a new place. A place unfamiliar.

The phrase that has repeatedly echoed with the most intensity is, “What a crazy year!” I’ve heard similar dialog from others in the form of, “Wow, what coincidence that so much is happening all at once!”, and “This has been a storybook year for you.” While these comments and congratulations certainly make my blood pump and excite me, the fact of the matter is that they violently humble me. ¬†And the most humbling element of all is that I should not be surprised.

I’m sure at this point you’re thinking, “Wow, this chick has got some real ego issues.” But I promise I am getting to the point. Hang with me.

Time and time again, the Bible assures us that if we make sacrifices for God, we will be rewarded. If we draw near to God, He will draw near to us. If we humble ourselves before our King, He will lift us up.  If we place our faith in Him, He will carry us.  That we are in this world, not of it. And if we can make ourselves uncomfortable in our own lives and obey the Word, we will bear fruit.

That is what this year has been all about in my personal journey. ¬†Humbling myself to the King as best as I know how. Stepping away from my physical wants and desires and turning completely to God. ¬†It has been a hard year. It has challenged me, it has hurt at time, it has left me vulnerable, embarrassed, weak, sometimes lonely. ¬†It has taken every conscious thought of every single day to remain focused and remind myself why I am traveling through such an awkward journey. ¬†Ultimately, time and time again, it has led me to the foot of the cross–pleading for answers, and weak in my inadequacy.

And now, as the year of an indescribable journey is coming to a close, He has followed through on His Word. What? Wow! Why does that shock me? I am supposed to be a solid believer. I am supposed to know that He will do what He says He will do in His Word. ¬†I am supposed to have undoubting faith. So why do I find myself stunned at the end of this year as He lifts my spirit with such fantastic blessings? I suppose, yet again, I’m reminded why I am so human. Aren’t we all?

There is nothing coincidental about this year. Hebrews 11:6 reminds us, “Without faith, it is impossible to please God: for he that comes to God must believe that He is King, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” Read that again. He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. He rewards our efforts to know Him more. ¬†Trust me, I made a lot of mistakes along the way. I fail, daily. I sin, hourly. But when all is said and done, I find great humility in constantly seeking to know Him more. Constantly and diligently striving to give more of myself to Him, as best as I know how. At the end of the day, I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that God blesses those efforts. God smiles on those who love Him and those who use the platform He has blessed them with to glorify Him and His Kingdom.

That brings me to the next thing they hollered–the line that brings me to me knees at the foot of Christ. “You deserve it all!” What great intention so many have had in telling me that. I truly do appreciate your kind regards. ¬†And I do understand what people mean when they express this form of congratulations. ¬†But at the end of the day, I deserve nothing. We earn nothing.¬†I’m sure you are thinking, “Where is this girl about to take this? That’s a kind compliment. Why does she always have to get so deep?” Haha. I know, I know. But there is a great lesson in great success.

Great athletes, great intellects, great entrepreneurs, great missionaries, great service men and women…all great individuals share commonalities. They work incredibly hard at what they do. They invest time, energy, effort, money, and passion into their talents. ¬†They set themselves apart by their work ethic and determination, and often times they are rewarded in outstanding ways. ¬†But at the end of the day, they earned nothing. We deserve nothing. We deserve death. We are sinners and we lie and we steal and we cheat and we lust. We are totally fallible and unworthy of God’s love. ¬†BUT IN FAITH WE GAIN EVERYTHING. ¬†Because Jesus Christ died on the cross, we gain salvation! We gain hope! Because God loves us so incredibly much, He sent His own Son to die for us. Because of THAT, alone, we gain life.

Wow! What a concept to wrap your mind around. In all we do, we deserve nothing. But God loves us so much, He yearns for us to love Him and to use His blessings to glorify Him! Every success I’ve ever had is due entirely to God. My health, my soccer career, my athletic achievements. All are due to the glory of God. I would be nothing without His grace. Every accomplishment, every blessing–from the smallest in scale to the grandest in size–are all due to God and His infinite glory. I deserve nothing. We deserve nothing. But we gain everything through God.

I am nothing. But Christ Jesus inside me is everything! We ALL share the ability to host the King of all Kings in our hearts. Every single one of us. No matter your past, no matter your present–you hold an unimaginable future! Let’s be diligent, let’s be faithful. Let’s seek Him FIRST.

¬†“For the Lord takes delight in His people; He crowns the humble with salvation.” –Psalms 149:4

I want to know God more. I want to love God more. And because of that deep, active desire in my heart, God has blessed me with this mind-blowing month of “Mo-vember”. ¬†Such a silly phrase. I wish “God-vember” rhythmed¬†better. This is NOT “Mo-vember”. This is a great month of active blessing. ¬†I hope ALL who see the earthly successes in my life know that those successes are trivial to the spiritual success of knowing Christ Jesus. ¬†I hope people will yearn to love God with the same intensity they yearn to succeed. ¬†I hope people will praise our King like they praise our athletic figures, movie stars and musicians. ¬†I hope people will see, through my journey, that GOD FOLLOWS THROUGH ON HIS WORD.

It is not important what you wear, how you look, where you live, what you drive. ¬†It is not important how many championships you have won, how many trophies you have, or how popular you are. ¬†It is not important that I have broken records, been crowned Homecoming Queen, and won popular fan voting for the Lowe’s Award.

It is important that we know God. It is important that we love God. And it is important that we diligently seek Him, and give Him praise in all we do. I promise you, with every fiber in my being, that if you put God first, you will know His blessings.

“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” –James 4:8

“My King is the King of your king”

 

“My King is the King of your king”

By: Mo Isom, 2011

 

My King is the King of your king,

my King gave your king life.

My hope hopes that your hope will learn to hope,

in all that is True and Right.

 

My faith has faith that you’ll find faith,

when faith seems all but lost.

My heart has a heart for your heart and knows

your heart was bought at a cost.

 

My trust trusts that you’ll learn to trust

in a Trust that you cannot see.

My mind keeps in mind that all that’s Divine

minds only that your mind believes.

 

My dream is a dream that you’ll one¬†day dream

of an answer to dreams in your mind.

My conviction’s convicted that you’ll be convicted

that the Answer is not hard to find.

 

My life has lived life in this lifeless world,

and lived empty, lifeless and cold.

But I feel that you feel what I felt and now feel

and you yearn for a life that is whole.

 

My purpose finds purpose in showing you Purpose

of a life lived in Purpose and Grace.

My soul’s sole intention is solely to mention

The Savior whose soul Saved your place.

 

Why do I know the things I know,

and what makes me so sure?

Because I know a man who lived in this world,

and lived nothing less than pure.

 

I know a man who gave His life

so that you could be set free.

And though you owe Him nothing for it,

you owe Him everything.

 

Check the history books, check the facts and figures,

He was real, He lived and He died.

Then He rose from the dead to prove He was King

and to give you eternal life.

 

You’re now left at a crossroad with two paths to choose,

the choice here is black and white.

Pray the King of all Kings may enter your heart,

or keep living a life void of Light.

 

If you chose the first option your life’s bound to change,

you’ll come to know faith, hope and peace.

But if you choose to ignore, if you close off the door,

you’ll keep living a life incomplete.

 

When it comes the day that your days draw close,

I hope you know where your spirit will land.

But if you’re unsure, and your hearts’ still impure

take this moment to hold His scarred hand.

 

My King is the King of your king,

my King gave your king life.

My hope hopes that your hope will learn to hope,

in all that is True and Right.

 

The Life I Planned

The Life I Planned

by Beth Moore
*******
Has someone seen the life I planned?
It seems it’s been misplaced
I’ve looked in every corner
It’s lost without a trace
I’ve found one I don’t recognize
Things missing that were dear
Promises I’d hope to keep
And dreams I’d dreamed aren’t here
Faces I had planned to see
Hands I planned to hold
Now absent in the pictures
Not the way I told
Has someone seen the life I planned?
Did it get thrown away?
God took my hand from searching
Then I heard him say,
“Child, your ears have never heard
Your eyes have never seen
Eternal plans I have for you
Are more than you could dream.
“You long to walk by sight
But I’m teaching eyes to see.
I know what I am doing
‘Til then, you must believe.”
He’s done so much, I felt ashamed
To know He heard my moans
To think I’d trade in all He’s done
For plans made on my own.
I wept over His faithfulness
And how He’d proved Himself
How He’d gone beyond my dreams
And said to Him myself,
“No, my ears have never heard
My eyes have never seen
Eternal plans you have for me
Are more than I could dream.
“Yes, I long to walk by sight
But You’re teaching eyes to see
You know what You are doing
‘Til then, I must believe.”
I felt His great compassion
Mercy unrestrained
He let me mourn my losses
And showed me to my gains.
I offered Him my future
And released to Him my past
I traded in my dreams
For a plan He said would last.
I get no glimpse ahead
No certainties at all
Except the presence of the One
Who will not let me fall.
Are you also searching
For a life you planned yourself?
Have you looked in every corner?
Have you checked on every shelf?
Child, your ears have never heard
Your eyes have never seen
Eternal plans He has for you
Are more than you could dream.
Perhaps you long to walk by faith
But He’s teaching eyes to see
He knows what He is doing
Child, step out and believe.
*******
“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind
has conceived what God has prepared
for those that love Him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9
*******
God Is Love.

Somewhere Beautiful

I know I have been on a bit of a song-kick lately, but I have been stumbling across some great music that deserves a listen! I don’t know about you, but I am the type of person who can hear any song and relate it to Christ. (Well, maybe not ANY song…”Baby Got Back” just doesn’t quite translate into a good worship tune.) Nevertheless, I love to flip songs in order to praise our King! Good example: listen to “Run To You” by Lady Antebellum. Every time they say the word “baby”, replace it with “Jesus”. So awesome.

Anyways, while there are some songs that you have to really work to adjust, others are just naturally poetic ballads to our King.  I grew up in school with the McConnell siblings. While they were all in different grades than myself, their family’s talents were well-known. Prime example: Sean McConnell, the vocalist on this song. I would encourage you to look up his music. He is an amazing artist and has a fantastic heart for Christ.

I have always loved this song. It is an example of a great acoustic song that can appeal commercially, but also has a more subtle, grace-filled message. Take a listen…

Somewhere Beautiful

written by: Wade Bowen, vocals by: Sean McConnell

Looking down at the strip from my hotel room,
It must be a full moon, cause their all out tonight
All the insecure boys in their muscle cars,
Young girls in their push-up bras under neon lights,
They come here for freedom, freedom from anything
And for miles and miles down this road, you can hear them sing
With their voices, and their engines, and their pounding radios
It seems like round here, no one knows

No one knows that there’s more
Beyond these dead skies and these filthy streets
Take my hand and let me pull you
Out of the blindness of your weary soul
To somewhere beautiful
To somewhere beautiful

Is there any way to learn from what you’ve been told
Or do you really have to hold the experience
Cause you can hear me now, and come out clean
Trust me, I could spare you the consequence
I can tell by your eyes, that there ain’t no getting through
Cause you’re hell bent on doing exactly what you’ve gotta do
So welcome to a long line of sinners and saints
Is there anyone around here who ain’t

Don’t you know that there’s more
Beyond these dead skies and these filthy streets
Take my hand, and let me pull you
Out of the blindness of your weary soul
To somewhere beautiful
To somewhere beautiful

Don’t you know that there’s more
Beyond these dead skies and all these filthy streets
So take my hand, let me pull you
Out of the blindness of your weary soul
To somewhere beautiful
To somewhere beautiful
Yeah, to somewhere beautiful…

What Does It Look Like?: Godly Men (part 6)

Picking up again, let’s continue to dig into what it looks like to be a Godly man. I realize this study is taking quite a while, so I am going to begin to pick up the pace a bit. After all, I am still eager to break down what it looks like to be a Godly woman, as well as what Godly relationships should look like! There is so much, still, to cover. However, I appreciate you all continuing to follow. The feedback I have been receiving from both men and women, alike, has been so beautiful. ¬†I am humbled in your interest and so affirmed that the words decorating this blog are inspired by and blessed by God. ¬†So, if you are just joining, take a look at parts 1 through 5 of this study before you read this portion. But here goes…

“Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task. 2 Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to but one wife, temperate, self-controlled…

…respectable, hospitable…

Chivalry is dead. How many times have we heard this saying? ¬†It’s become an all-too-familiar mantra in our society. ¬†But who’s to blame? Who’s responsible for the murder? Are the men to blame…or the women? And is chivalry truly lost–or is it harbored in us all, stifled by the norms of our culture–left unlearned and uncultivated?

My opinion: I blame the women. And I blame the men. But I don’t blame them for the death of chivalry–I blame them for giving life to the silly phrase. For exacerbating the problem. ¬†For giving in rather than rising up and requiring more. Is chivalry dead–no. Is it wounded–MOST DEFINITELY. And who’s truly to blame for that–Satan. ¬†Before you dismiss me as crazy, give me a chance to explain. You may find that I support your side of the argument, after all.

Throughout this entire study of what it looks like to be a Godly man, one of the most prevalent reoccurring themes is that living for the glory of God is NOT easy. ¬†I’m not trying to fool anyone here. ¬†It’s tough stuff striving to live a righteous life. ¬†We fail a lot; both men and women alike. ¬†We are fallible, we are human. That’s our nature. ¬†Fortunately, we are saved by grace. And every time we fall, God gives us the opportunity to stand up, brush ourselves off, and start fresh with a clean slate. ¬†We can never fail too many times, His love is unconditional. ¬†He is always prepared to forgive us and always proud to love us. That’s what Jesus Christ’s sacrifice did for us.

So why, with all that said, do we not capitalize on that forgiveness and that grace? ¬†It is offered to us in¬†limitless quantity. Yet when we stumble and we fall, we settle for a life in the dirt. ¬†Is it guilt that binds us? Is it fear? Guilt and fear aren’t in God’s dictionary–so why do we allow them to be in¬†bold¬†in ours? ¬†This portion of the 1 Timothy verse addresses a man’s responsibility to be respectable and hospitable. ¬†Two terms that many may argue are framework terms to define chivalry. They are powerful requirements, they are character attributes that take work and commitment. ¬†Yet God calls us to strive for them. ¬†So why do we settle for less?–because Satan makes anything “less” SO much easier.

It’s no secret that our society’s view on manners and behavior have drastically changed over time. ¬†Men used to open doors for women. Now women kick down doors for themselves. Men used to court women patiently and lovingly. Now Vegas offers quicky-weddings and quicky-enullments in a package deal. Women used to respect themselves enough to hold on to their purity until their wedding day. Now we have middle schoolers pressured to have sex to feel accepted and popular–to “keep up” with society around them. ¬†I don’t mean to be crude–I mean to be REAL.

I’m going to be painfully direct, blunt, and straightforward here. So if you don’t want a harsh reality check then skip the next two paragraphs. ¬†This is going to call out men and women, alike–no one is safe. Men: get over yourselves and man up. For real, man up. ¬†Stop settling for what’s easy. Stop settling for what’s temporary and fast because you don’t want to put work in. ¬†You’re weak if that’s how you function through life. ¬†The quick-route requires low integrity, low discipline, and low self-esteem. ¬†I don’t care if that’s what the rest of the world praises and exaggerates. ¬†I don’t care if that’s what your friends or your teammates or your buddies are doing. ¬†Grow a set and be different. ¬†Set a better example. ¬†Stop numbing yourself and be a REAL man. There’s no more “This is fun now while I’m in college, I’ll man up later when it matters…” ¬†Man-up now. It matters NOW. You have the power to be a real leader. ¬†You have the power to inspire. You have the opportunity to experience grace and be strengthened in Christ. ¬†Stop trying so hard to control it all on your own–you’re not good at it.

Women: it’s not all the men’s fault. ¬†We are just as big of messes as they are. ¬†Stop making it easy for them. Stop settling–better DOES exist. ¬†Stop giving to the temporary and start valuing yourself. ¬†Snap out of the self-esteem issues–there are people that are much worse off than you. ¬†There are people who are truly suffering. ¬†You comparing your beauty to other women’s beauty and then giving yourself up to men in order to feel desired–it’s a tired routine. ¬†You are worth a King’s life. ¬†Start living like that carries value to you. ¬†Start living like it matters to you that Jesus Christ died for you. ¬†We are fallible humans that are easily tempted. Stop teasing men. ¬†How can we expect them to treat us with chivalry and respect and hospitality if we are tempting them and teasing them and inviting their imaginations to wander? ¬†If that’s what makes you feel better about yourself, I feel bad for you. ¬†Have some self respect. ¬†If you want more from men, there has to be a give and take. ¬†RESPECT THEM BY RESPECTING YOURSELF, FIRST.

Satan is having so much fun with our world. ¬†He is tearing it down, bit by bit, and celebrating our society’s slide towards heathenism and self-obsession. ¬†What adds fuel to his fire?–When we confirm his corruption by feeding into phrases like “Chivalry is dead.”¬†Chivalry is NOT dead.¬†¬†Nor will it ever be. ¬†They may be few and far between, but there ARE men out there who are striving to live righteous lives. ¬†There ARE men out there who are holding fast to what the Bible asks of them and who ARE respectable and hospitable…and temperate, and self-controlled, and faithful, and all of the above. ¬†Have those men lived perfect lives? NO! Have they never slipped of failed or denied Christ? Of course not! Nobody is perfect. ¬†But there are men who desire to be BETTER. ¬†I believe that with my whole heart. ¬†If you are one of those men, you have my respect. You may be different…you may stand out…you may not be accepted as easily because you make different choices than the average man. ¬†There is NOTHING wrong with that. ¬†In fact, celebrate it! Because YOU are a real man–and you will be rewarded. I can promise that because our King promises us that.

Stay encouraged, men. Fight the good fight of faith. ¬†And stay encouraged, women. ¬†The less we settle, the more it requires of men. ¬†You deserve the best, so require the best. ¬†Don’t let that self-worth waver. ¬†Men and women, if we want to improve this world, if we want to be a generation of change and righteous growth, we HAVE to require MORE from one another. ¬†We HAVE to hold one another responsible and we have to be unashamed of standing out–no matter how much scrutiny or doubt or criticism we fall under. ¬†Chivalry is very much alive because the words of the Bible are very much alive–nothing should ever shake our belief in that.

(to be continued…)

What Does It Look Like?: Godly Men (part 5)

Wow…that may have been the longest span yet that I have gone without posting. I am deeply sorry. I FINALLY have internet set up at my new place, but these past few weeks have been a whirl-wind. Now that I am settled in, you can expect more posts to start flooding in. I want to get back on a daily schedule of writing, and I have no excuse not to. I have missed you all! So let’s pick up where we left off. If you are just joining, it might help to read part 1, 2, 3, and 4 of this series before reading this portion. A continuation of 1 Timothy 3:1-7‚Ķdetailing what it looks like to be a Godly man.)

‚ÄúHere is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task.¬†2¬†Now the overseer is to be above reproach,¬†faithful to but one wife,¬†temperate…

self-controlled…

Self-control. ¬†In the past, every time I read through this verse, I subconsciously lumped together the neighboring terms, “temperate” and “self-controlled”. Afterall, from the surface definitions I knew of them, they were virtually the same term, and applied to the same principles. ¬†However, as I’ve grown in my walk, I’ve learned more about the magnitude of the written Word. ¬†The Bible does not repeat itself unnecessarily. ¬†Its pages aren’t filled with synonyms in order to add density and depth. ¬†Each word has been recorded with purpose and magnitude. My greatest growth in the Word has occurred when I have taken the time to break down verses piece-by-piece, and truly learn the complexity of the image that the words are painting. Each and every word can take on countless forms–that is the beauty in the living, breathing Word of God.

So, then, what does self-control mean with respect to how a Godly man is called to properly lead? ¬†I think the first words that typically flood our minds when we hear that term are: restraint, discipline, and words synonymous with reigning ourselves in and holding back. ¬†While there is some truth in those definitions, self-control is a much broader topic of character. When I think of self-control, the first word that comes to my mind is maturity. Think about it–from the moment we are born we are constantly, consciously and subconsciously, learning traits of self-control. ¬†For example, we start in diapers, progress to pull-ups, and eventually underwear–that is learned self-control of our bodily functions. We begin life unable to hold our own heads up, eventually learn hand-eye coordination, and work to the point of exercise, training, and complete cognitive awareness of our bodies at all times–that is learned bodily control. ¬†We begin life with emotional outbursts, progress to becoming aware of our feelings and triggers, and eventually grow to the point of being able to monitor, communicate, and alter our emotions–that is learned emotional control. ¬†We begin making incoherent sounds, progress to learning written and spoken words and structures, and eventually progress to being capable of writing novels, speaking to groups, and communicating effectively–that is learned language control.

If you look at these four examples, there are similarities amongst all of them. ¬†Primarily, there is a clear coddling period at the beginning of each cycle. ¬†There is a time where we are fully reliant on the care of others. ¬†We are unable to care for ourselves and constantly require the nurturing of another. ¬†Secondarily, there is a phase where we are learning large sums of information and making significant strides in development. ¬†This phase, too, is impacted by others. ¬†We are taught by example, experience, and interaction. ¬†The information is engrained in us by those who are further in their journey and more self-controlled. ¬†And in the final phase of each cycle, there is refinement and progress still being made, but we are largely self-controlled, aware, and matured. ¬†There is that word again–mature. ¬†As we mature, in life, we gain discernment, judgement, discipline, and wisdom. So often the term “self-control” carries a negatively slanted connotation. ¬†As if self-control specifically and independently applies to the ability to reign oneself back or inhibit oneself from doing something. ¬†But in actuality, that term applies to a well-rounded definition of maturity, development, and awareness. ¬†So how does this relate to being a Godly man? Here goes…

As believers, we begin our journey in raw form. ¬†I don’t care if you have been attending church your whole life, or if you had never heard the Word of God and experienced a miraculous “coming to Jesus” moment that changed your life radically. ¬†The moment that it “clicks”…the moment we are saved…the moment we accept Jesus Christ into our hearts…the moment we are filled with the Holy Spirit, we are in raw form. ¬†You see, there is nothing more powerful than the Holy Spirit, and there is nothing more powerful and capable than our King, but we, as humans, are weak. It goes back to the “Position .V. Condition in Christ” study that we did. ¬†We are filled, but we still wear a heavy, fleshy coat that weighs us down with things of this world. ¬†And when we are saved, we are born again; with rebirth–we are raw. ¬†In that time, we are completely and whole-heartedly, dependent on the grace of God alone. ¬†We are incapable of understanding even a hint of the magnitude of His power, and we are raw forms in His hands. ¬†But He is the most fantastic nurturer. ¬†He gives, abundantly–forgives, unceasingly–and loves, unconditionally.

As we grow in our walks, we begin to understand the tiniest hints of His grace with both our heads and our hearts.  We begin to study the Bible, learn of His Word, and change the way we live our lives.  In this time, we begin to make fantastic strides and progressions in our journey as believers.  We begin to speak with clarity and knowledge and we learn how to communicate the hope that we have with others.  We experience fellowship with other believers, we experience and witness the power of prayer, and we become increasingly aware of His presence around us and in this world.  We gain a sense of humility, discernment, conviction, and thankfulness.  This is such a fantastic period in our walks, because our eyes are truly opened, our hearts are powerfully changed, and we begin to learn that light we feel inside is starting to be noticed by others.

Then, as we progress and grow and strive for sanctification, we develop true spiritual maturity. ¬†Now, don’t be mistaken, our walks with Christ are ever-growing, ever-humbling, and ever-changing. ¬†It is not as if we reach a point where we finally “get it” all and have no progress left to make. HA! That would be an impossibility. ¬†However, as we strive towards sanctification as Godly men and Godly women, we begin to notice true maturity in our walks. ¬†This is often defined by unshakable conviction, startling humility, and pure, organic hope and joy in the Holy Spirit. Through adversity, through successes, through everything–there is an unshakable comfort. ¬†Spiritual maturity is often marked by an abundant and faithful prayer life. An absolute faith. An overwhelming desire to continue to learn and grow. ¬†We evolve into disciples. ¬†Disciples who strive to live by the Word of God in its most literal form. Disciples who love, unconditionally, and teach, effortlessly, through their actions, their faith, and their purity.

Is there a time frame to this progression? Is there a specific age where we hit these points? Are there clear, discerning characteristics? Absolutely not. ¬†No, no, and no. ¬†Many would argue, in fact, that as we learn more and age, we lose a sense of childlike faith. ¬†Faith untouched by the ways of this world. Faith unbridled by social norms. ¬†But there is a great difference between literal knowledge and understanding, and true peace in our hearts and the understanding that we will never understand it all, but we strive to know and love Him more. In fact, 1 Timothy 4:12 says, “Don‚Äôt let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity.” Spiritual maturity is not defined by age, it is defined by faith.

Self-control, in the sense of being a Godly man and a Godly leader, is defined by spiritual maturity. ¬†Not simply by the ability to restrain oneself, but by the ability to control what you can control, and rest faith in all that you cannot. ¬†The ability to lead others towards an unfaltering faith. ¬†The ability to teach others and disciple in a way that is effective and hospitable. ¬†The ability to show others the light of Christ through your actions, your words, your temperament, your decisions, and your values. ¬†The ability to exercise humility, silence self-pride, and live simply. ¬†The ability to exercise integrity and to step outside of you and live for God–whether you are comfortable in doing so or not. ¬†The ability to live for Him, and be prepared to be steered the direction He leads you. ¬†The ability to lead others with you, if need be. ¬†Self-control truly means the exact opposite of what it says–because, in a Biblical sense, self-control is death to self and unshakable life in Him.

(to be continued…)

What Does It Look Like?: Godly Men (part 4)

(Hey there! Sorry i’s been a minute, had some internet issues. But here we go!‚ĶAgain, picking up where we left off. If you are just joining, it might help to read part 1, 2, and 3 of this series before reading this portion. A continuation of 1 Timothy 3:1-7‚Ķdetailing what it looks like to be a Godly man. Women, start making a checklist ūüôā )

“Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task. 2 Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to but one wife,…

…temperate…

Temperate. What exactly does that mean? Well a dictionary would define it as exercising moderation or self-restraint. ¬†But the term really takes shape when you look at more detailed definitions: with restraint, without extravagance, in a sparing manner, without overindulgence. ¬†Umm…is it just me or do these terms go against everything our culture conditions in us? We live in a country that encourages us, from day one, to have more, more, more! It goes back to our discussion about the “American Dream”. Our society is structured around obtaining excess. Excessive money, excessive gadgets, excessive entertainment, excessive stimulation, excessive praise, excessive drink, excessive food. We glorify overindulgence. The more people have, the more they flaunt. It defines our social status. And we, as a culture, feed off of this materialism. *Sigh* It’s really twisted because it’s what we have always seen and known, which makes it even harder to break from the cycle. But, for the sake of specific example, I want to talk about food. How, you might ask, does what you eat have anything to do with how well you can lead? Well bare with me for a second, let out your annoyed groan, and hear me out.

Take a look out our nation. We are fat. Really fat–it’s no secret. A portion of that equation is due to the TYPES of foods that are produced and consumed, but an even larger portion of that is due to the AMOUNT we consume. We are flooded with advertisements, commercials, excessive fast food spots,¬†restaurants¬†on every corner, vending machines down every hall, jam-packed grocery stores. Wow, we have so much access to so much food. ¬†We are a food culture. ¬†Now think about the flip-side of things. We are encouraged to eat, eat, eat. Then we take a look around and all we see are advertisement and magazine covers with sculpted men and photo-shopped women. You’re not good enough if you’re not thin enough, or jacked enough, or lean enough. Wait a second, what? We are surrounded by this temptation to indulge and eat, but then we are flooded with this pressure to be thin and cut up. Huh? We are pulled from one extreme to the next and all we are ever left with is a feeling of¬†discontent. Where does that conflict lead us? Into sin. How? Because all of ¬†sudden we become fixated on the number on the scale and the hours in the gym. We become obsessed with calories and we become utterly consumed by guilt, envy, and self-obsession.

I’m no high and mighty preacher here. I was caught up in this sticky web of ¬†this sin once, too. If you recall from the ¬†“My Story” portion of the blog, my high school years were defined by an eating disorder. They were defined by self-obsession, self-centered focus, fatigue, and fixation. My body became my idol, rather than God. Are we not living in a culture that fosters that same distraction? If we are focused on ourselves, constantly, how can we lead effectively and glorify God in our friendships, our relationships, our jobs? If we are focused on our appearance and our confidence is defined by our personal feelings of self-worth, how can we be convicted that our worth is limitless through Christ? In snagging ourselves in this web, overindulging in so much temptation, and operating in such excess, we are not focused on God, we are focused on getting our fix.

While leading a missions trip to the Ninth Ward last year, I had the opportunity to sit down with the group of girls who had come to New Orleans with the missions team to serve. We chatted about a handful of topics, but the conversation quickly and overwhelming turned to the topic of self-esteem and self-worth. As I was listening to the girls talk and complain and nit-pick about their bodies and their appearance, I was overwhelmed with a feeling of utter shame. Not a block down the street, there were homes that STILL, years after Katrina, were stained with water lines and wasting away in their own rubble. ¬†There were kids who were running around homeless, without guidance or discipline, vandalizing and stealing so that they could simply eat a single meal that day. ¬†There was a stench that loomed through the air and a thick hum of insects and rodents that blanketed people’s yards and homes. There was a COMMUNITY that needed GOD more than any neighborhood I have ever seen, yet we, the missionaries who were there to serve and disciple and spread His love, were distracted by OURSELVES. The only topic the conversation kept pulling back towards was the topic of our own self-obsessions and feelings of inadequacy.

I sat up and interrupted the girls speaking to spill out a message that God laid so heavily on my heart that I thought I might burst: ¬†Every single time we look in the mirror and complain about what we see, what we don’t have, and what we desire, we are standing at the foot of the cross, staring up at Jesus Christ–blood pouring from his beaten and battered body, tears flowing down his scarred cheeks–and we’re staring Him in the eyes and telling Him that what He did isn’t good enough for us. In fact, we’ve got more important things to worry about. We are staring this King in the eyes and telling Him that what he has provided for us isn’t quite sufficient enough. And His sacrifices aren’t totally worth our constant and humbled praise. That WE are more important.

What? That makes me want to fall on my face in shame. I’ve done it. I do it all the time. ¬†We get SO caught up in living lives of indulgence and excess, that we distract ourselves from the simple, pure, beautiful point of it all. HIS GRACE IS SUFFICIENT FOR US. ¬†HIS SACRIFICE WAS ENOUGH.

Don’t you see? I am using the specific example of food, but this can be applied to countless components of our lives and our culture. In NOT practicing temperate behavior, we kick-start a snowball effect and we become utterly consumed in everything BUT God’s love and unyielding grace. ¬†Our consumptions and our over indulgences become our focus, albeit consciously or subconsciously. They create a ripple effect and the shock waves impact so many components of our lives. IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO LEAD EFFECTIVELY IF WE ARE FOCUSED ON OURSELVES RATHER THAN BEING FOCUSED ON GOD. Men, you are called to live temperate lives for this very reason. You are called to live moderately and with restraint and without overindulgence so that you can lead others, your wife, your family, to Christ. If you live a life of excess and indulgence, it’s like putting on a blindfold and trying to lead your family along the edge of the Grand Canyon. It’s so incredibly difficult, if not entirely impossible.

Jesus Christ lived a temperate life. There was nothing indulgent about His walk, there was nothing excessive. He wore humble clothes, He ate simple, pure food, and He defined His worth by the guidance and love of God. ¬†He never allowed great distraction in His life. By living temperately, He lived abundantly. We are called to live that way, as well. We have the power to live temperate lives–even in the midst of this bizarre society–because we are filled with the Holy Spirit. Men, in order to lead, you are called to live temperate lives. Do you have unshakable faith that His grace is sufficient? Would you be willing to run from excess? To fully trust that God will provide for you? Would you be willing to shy away from overindulgence simply to set a model for your family that simplicity is sufficient? Challenge yourself! It’s easy to read through this and “check off” that, “Phew! At least I’m not the worst at this–at least I fall somewhere in the middle. I’m safe there.” But do you? And are you? How can you minimize in your life? How can you live more temperately? What excess is distracting you from God? How can you train yourself to utilize this simple principle to become a better leader?

(to be continued…)