The Turtle and the Fish: A Metaphor Of Faith

A woman runs a forested trail near her home. It seems a miracle, given that leading up to that point, everything in her wanted to stay on the couch and mourn the loss of her vision of what her family would be like.

“The Bible is wrong about a lot of things,” says her bright-eyed 6 year old, kind of sadly. The very same sentence that came out of her father’s mouth the day before, as the three of them left the library, where there happened to be a grand exhibit about evolution. Thanks for that, Library.

That one little sentence had sent her down a whirlwind path of despair as she saw her future morphing into something very different than she had hoped or pictured for marriage, for her children, for their legacy. The man of faith she married had evolved into a man of intense doubt to the point of criticism and cynicism, and now those attitudes faced her whenever a discussion was sparked when their beliefs clashed. Because she believed what he found to be a great lie.

And now to hear her daughter, of barely six years old, affected by it…

It was too much to bear.

She contemplated going for a run. Clear her mind. Focus on the rhythm of her footfalls instead of the hurt in her heart. Something inside her, even though she was physically feeling the hopelessness overwhelming her, told her, “Go now.” And she listened.

About a quarter mile into her run, the thoughts, doubts, fears, swirled in her head and combined with the lack of fire and depth she’d been battling in her faith for months, until it bubbled up from her soul and overflowed in tears, making it difficult to breathe. She new she’d have to slow to a walk or she’d pass out.

There weren’t many on the trail that day, and she was thankful for it as she walked the trail quietly sobbing over the reality that was crushing in on top of her.

She loved nature. It had always been a comfort to her. Always helped her to set her perspective straight. She hoped this would be one of those times, but doubt in God and His goodness left her feeling rather hopeless in that area as well.

A dock approached on the left hand side, overlooking a small clear pond. She loved to look at water. It was one of her favorite things on Earth. So, naturally, she stopped for a look.

She leaned comfortably against the wooden railing and started taking in the view of this beautiful scene. Still teary, but managing deep breaths of fresh air.

The water was beautiful, clear, with a thick bed of seaweed and murk on the bottom, but beautiful none the less. The sun was shining directly onto the water, illuminating all that was in it. She could so clearly see fish swimming above the seaweed, bubbles rising from the plant life and all that lived in it. It was peaceful.

Then her eyes landed on the creature that rocked her world and radically threw it into perspective. From the moment she laid eyes on it, the scales fell away from her eyes and she saw.

The small turtle, sturdy, tough, protected, sat atop a lone log in the middle of the pond. There was only a narrow patch of it untouched by water, and there he sat. Atop the narrow path, when all others where taking to the water, the wide path. He, the lone turtle, sat directly in the light and warmth of the sun. No, he was doing more than sitting in the sun. He was bathing in the sun. Basking in the sun. On stable, solid ground that the log provided.

Confidence radiated in it’s posture. Neck extended. Head up. Aware of his surroundings. It had a presence. He was exactly where he needed to be. He did not doubt the path he was on just because he was the only one on it.

In her mind as she watched this turtle, pathways started to form in her brain. Tying her to this turtle. And God spoke to her.

The path is narrow. Few find it. We’re living in a world of doubt, but that doesn’t mean you become a fish. That you give in and let your doubts and fears pull you into the water with everybody else. We are called to be vastly different. We are the chosen ones. We have the privilege of remaining on the solid ground that is Jesus if we chose. Who put that log there? Who carves out the narrow paths for our feet? Who longs for us to bask in the light for all to see? Who wants us to share that light with those in the dark?

It was in that moment, that she realized she had to have faith. The faith that was beyond understanding. The faith to continue to pray for her husband, for her daughter, for her future children, for their legacy. The faith to live for Jesus first and foremost. To make bold moves. To share the stories. To disciple. To let those around her chose their path, sure, but for her to show them how wonderful it was to be on the path that is narrow.

With tears of hope and joy on her cheeks at the revelation, she climbed out of the water to join the turtle on the log.

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What To Do When Your Spouse Doesn’t Believe

cropped-img_7845.jpgEthan and I decided to get baptized together just before marriage. It was Ethan’s idea and I was elated. He even wrote a testimony to share when it was our turn to get in the pool. It was beautiful. He talked about how we were committed to building our marriage on the rock and foundation of Jesus. It is still a joyful and precious moment in my mind.

But Ethan has really struggled in his faith for the last few years. He has such a passionate heart for justice, and in a world full of the suffering of the innocent and helpless, it makes him really question and even doubt God’s love and control simultaneously. For him, it is hard to make those two things reconcile with the world we live in. He also believes that science has started to point away from the existence of God, which makes him question further.

At first, seeing him pull away from God made me do the same, because I was praying that God would speak so clearly to him, that the scales would be removed from his eyes, that he would get revelation from the Lord for the answers to the things he couldn’t figure out or peace about the things God doesn’t want to reveal to him… but it doesn’t always happen immediately or in the time frame we think is best.

It’s God’s plan. We’ve gotta trust it.

So here are some things we can do for our spouses as they wrestle with their faith:

PRAY FOR THEM. Knew that was coming, huh? It is imperative that we do this!!! These prayers may not be answered right away, but we must persevere. Do they need a better group of friends? Pray for it! Do they need a mentor? Pray for it! Do they need to hear God’s voice? Pray for it! We also need to pray against the enemy for them, as they probably aren’t doing that for themselves. You can be fighting spiritually for them, on their behalf, helping them along the journey, as it is, ultimately, the enemy trying to keep them from joining with Christ to fulfill their God-given purpose and bring glory to His kingdom. Think “War Room” (if you haven’t seen it, it is worth renting and even purchasing – this movie is powerful). Tell the enemy he can’t have your husband. Pray against any spiritual attacks against your husband that God brings to your mind. Get your sword out and keep it bloody!!!

“Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up…(The Parable of the Persistent Widow)…’And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will He keep putting them off? I tell you, He will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?'” – Luke 18:1,7-8

“Then Jesus said to them, ‘Suppose you have a friend, an you go to him at midnight and say, “Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.” And suppose the one inside answers, “Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.” I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need. So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” – Luke 11:5-10

“The seventy-two returned with joy and said, ‘Lord, event the demons submit to us in Your name.’ He replied, ‘I saw satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample of snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.'” Luke 10:17-20

“‘Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.'” – Ephesians 6:10-12

See also Ephesians 1:15-23 – this really parallels how I feel praying for Ethan. This is a great place to start if you like to pray scripture!

DO NOT LET YOUR FAITH WALK SUFFER IN ANY WAY. IN FACT, KICK IT UP A NOTCH. When Ethan started to really doubt, I started to feel awkward about talking to him about God stuff and doing God stuff with him and around him, so I toned it down substantially. But then I realized that my faith walk is my own, as is his. We can play a part in each others, but with Jesus, it’s a relationship, and the only way to have a relationship with somebody is to personally pursue them, to spend time with them, to put in the effort yourselfMy relationship with Christ is mine to own, and mine alone, as is Ethan’s. That’s when I decided I would continue to pursue Christ openly, and that changed everything. I ask Ethan to pray with me when I feel led, I share my cool God stories with him, I ask him to read the Word with me when I feel led to, I talk to him about my faith, even struggles with my faith, I talk to him about his faith, I tell him I’m praying for him, I ask him if I can pray over him when God prompts me… You have to decide to be obedient to Christ first and foremost. You have to live out the command to love God first and others second. 

“Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested Him with this question: ‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’ Jesus replied: ‘”Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” all the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.'” – Matthew 22:34-40

ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER THAN WORDS – BE AN EXAMPLE OF CHRIST AND WALK THE WALK. There is nothing more inspiring than watching somebody you know truly live out their faith and seeing God’s transformation in them. Show them that your faith isn’t just words, that it is a life choice – something more than just a belief, something that is worth living for. Something that is real, tangible, and powerful. As you pursue Jesus each day, you will learn more about Him and He will continue to renew your mind to be more like His. Serve as Jesus serves. Forgive as Jesus forgives. Ask forgiveness in humility when you do wrong. Pursue joy and peace in the Lord. Be obedient. Take leaps of faith.

“Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do no believe the word, they may be won over without words but by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. Your beauty should not come from outward adornment… Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” – 1 Peter 3: 1-6

“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, ‘You have faith; I have deeds.’ Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. You believe that there is one God. Good! Event the demons believe that – and shudder. You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.” – James 2: 14-22

RESPECT THE JOURNEY GOD HAS THEM ON. God is not surprised by their unbelief. He made them. He knows them (Psalm 139). He knows the struggle in their hearts. He can handle the questions. He can even handle the anger. They are on their own journey, a journey God knew would be their path. We have to surrender our spouses over to the Lord and trust Him. Worrying and stressing about it will not convert your spouse, but exhaust and frustrate you both. All we need to do is be obedient to God’s nudges and love them through it. Appreciate their journey and where they are at in it.

YOU PROBABLY WON’T WIN YOUR SPOUSE OVER BY DEBATING/ARGUING. You want to keep the door open on communication about faith. Arguing is actually a way the enemy can get in to shut it, making it you against your spouse, as opposed to you walking alongside your spouse. If any of you have taken the 16 Personalities test, check this out: my husband got “The Debator” and I got “The Defender,” (according to this test, we are each other’s exact opposite in personality types). Can you imagine a heated debate between us about the most important thing in the universe? Not. Pretty. And not productive. These impassioned debates-turned-arguments created a big rift in the faith part of our relationship. I was so focused on winning him back, winning those debates, getting my points across, that I lost focus on just loving him through his questions, doubts, and fears, which again, goes back to the previous point – appreciate the journey God has them on. God kept telling me, over and over, “I don’t need you to defend Me.” But it took me forever to believe it and realize that He just wants me to continue to show him compassion. To be a good listener. And to be a good listener to Him in those situations, so He can tell me when to speak, what to say, or when to only listen.

“Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them: ‘Any kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and a house divided against itself will fall.'” – Luke 11:17

REMEMBER THAT THEY ARE A CHILD OF GOD. Whose are they first and foremost? God’s. And through God, how should we see them? As a potential brother or sister in Christ. How does God see them? As worthy of unconditional love and grace. We should not stop loving them or divorce them (see 1 Corinthians 7: 12-16) because they doubt or struggle or have turned their backs on God entirely, we must be an example of Christ to them and show them unconditional love. God loved us before we believed in Him, we should love our spouses whether they believe or not. This was a game changer for me, and I was finally able to let go of the idea that I had to have a Christian husband, which had really become an idol to me. I started to look at Ethan as a child of God – somebody God imagined and masterfully created for a purpose (Ephesians 1:11-12), somebody God was willing to die for. I saw him completely differently. I stopped focusing on “flaws,” which are really just wounds surfacing or differences in our preferences, pasts, and personalities, and I started focusing on his gifts and strengths. I started to see the beauty of God’s creation that is Ethan. I started to really appreciate his character. And because of this renewed perspective of my husband, grace flows much more easily, and I’m getting that much closer to learning what it looks like to love unconditionally. It’s about choosing to love them sacrificially and in spite of their short-comings. This unconditional love, I’ve found, is an essential piece to the joyful and successful marriage puzzle.

“‘A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.'” – John 13:34

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son…” – John 3:16

So, brothers and sisters, let’s continue to fight for our spouses, to love them in the middle of the mighty battle over their hearts and souls. Have a tender heart and a tough hide. Seek first the kingdom of God and He will guide you through the battlefield. The enemy cannot have our spouses or our marriages, in Jesus’ name!!!

Keep it simple.

It all began in the shower.

Scrubbing away at my 5 day layer of grease in my hair one night, processing through the day, planning for tomorrow, la la la, scrub scrub scrub.

“Pray for your husband.” The thought just pops into my mind.

“Oh yeah, okay. That’s super important. I should block out some time one night this week, sit down with my journal and Bible, and write out a prayer letter. That’ll be awesome… I really should make a War Room… I really should make praying for my husband part of my daily routine in general…”

Then it occurred to me.

No.

I don’t need to make it an eloquent event, I need to pray for my husband. Right here, right now. Doesn’t need to be a half hour of my time and undivided attention. I will pray for him as I shower. As the Lord told me.

That’s when I realized I was over-complicating a lot of things, and consequently putting them off because I don’t have time for an over-complicated, elaborate new routine.

I realized I was being disobedient because I had an expectation of myself that was not of God.

Here’s another example.

The Lord told me to start teaching my daughter about the promises of God.

“Cool! I’ll start gathering scripture, preparing which promise to talk about which day. Maybe sit down together after school to go over some scripture together! That’ll be sah-weeeet!!”

Wait, no.

That’s very complicated and I don’t have time to prepare curriculum for these conversations with my daughter.

That’s when I just started having authentic, real conversations with my daughter in the car, on the way to wherever it was we had to be. She started reminding me, “Remember you were going to teach me something about Jesus every day?” That’s when I knew she was getting hungry. And that’s because the Spirit must have been speaking through me and into her. God didn’t need me to prepare some great speech or Bible study. He just wanted me to be obedient and trust that He would move.

So, lesson learned. Don’t over-complicate. Keep it simple. Don’t put an unrealistic expectation on part of your spiritual walk or else you may never even be able to start.

Thanking the Lord for this revelation He gave to me, and thrilled that one more lie has been revealed and pruned from my life!!!

Learning My True Identity In Christ by Rick Warren

I’m going through a bit of a Rick Warren binge. He is an incredible speaker. I love listening to his messages while washing the dishes, driving in the car, cleaning… God has really been speaking to me through his messages.

I have never thought about an identity through Christ in the way that he describes it. He qualifies and quantifies it. He explains this idea through tangible examples.

My revelation during this message:

While I was listening to this message for myself, God spoke into my heart not about my value, worth, and identity in Christ – but that of my husband. We have been going through some tough times in our marriage lately, and the enemy has been filling my head with all sorts of doubts, fears, and insecurities as well as criticisms of my husband. There was a growing rift between us as we started to pull further and further away out of mistrust and disappointment in each other.

When I listened to this message, God was quantifying my husbands worth verbally to me. He was telling me just how valuable he is to Him. He was telling me that he was worth dying on the cross for, that he is valuable because he is a child of God, who created him thoughtfully and purposefully. He did not create him to be anybody but who he is. He did not create him to be anywhere but where he is in his faith walk. God is not surprised, God understands how He created him, He did so intentionally and for an awesome reason. All I have to do is trust that He is working and value, honor, uplift, and show my husband the unconditional love he deserves. He is a brother in Christ first and foremost. And that really changes my view of him and silences those criticisms.

I love the part where he talks about unconditional love. Ethan and I used to say to each other all the time, “I love you because (fill in the blank).” But it’s in these times, while we are going through periods of change and evolution of character that we need unconditional love. We need to receive it and we need to give it. To say, “I love you. Period.” Love is a choice, and love is also a feeling. I think we are capable of unconditionally loving (in our imperfect, human way) when we first choose to love somebody in spite of themselves, and after that choice is made, the feeling of love ensues.

Making it my goal to continue to see others through this lens when my flesh wants to say otherwise. There is a greater purpose for everybody, there is an awesome Creator at the root of everybody, and they are loved unconditionally by the One we try to reflect.

Where the Insecurities Hide

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Over the Thanksgiving break, I was able to go up north and visit my mother’s side of the family. Some of these folks I haven’t seen in person since I was ten years old, and our contact has been limited to Facebook updates. Some of these people also are very openly critical of and even oppose Christianity. And by oppose, I mean strongly oppose. From making a mockery of it to taking every opposing political stance in hopes of limiting it… They have everything to lose if Christianity were true, so it cannot and will not be true in their book.

I was so nervous while I was there. Like bologna-ring-pit-stain nervous. I felt like I had something major to prove the entire time I was there. That I’m funny. That I’m down to earth. That I’m wise and also book smart. That I’m clever. That I’m humble. That I care about the lives of others. That I am kind and compassionate. That I’m beautiful. That I’m a good mom, despite my age. That I’m making a difference. That I’m a person worth knowing and talking to.

So.

Much.

PRESSURE!

I felt pressure to show them that a Christian is a real person worth knowing. I felt pressure to be living proof that Jesus is more than a religious belief, but a fulfilling relationship that gives purpose, meaning, joy, and peace that surpasses all understanding.

Important side note: my face had broken out severely, and no amount of makeup could cover it up.

Well, when I finally left, I felt entirely defeated. I felt like not only had I not represented the Lord like I’d hoped due to my overwhelming nerves, but I also wasn’t physically beautiful, so I didn’t have that going for me either. No matter how much time I tried to cover up those pesky flaws, both big and small, I couldn’t. I felt self-conscious the entire time. Inside and out.

Huh… Inside and out…

Inside…

I had this realization on the 4 hour drive home once my daughter had fallen into a peaceful sleep in the back seat and I had real time to process.

I realized that I’ve been focusing a lot on my physical appearance lately. Before the skin breakout, I was watching makeup tutorials and putting more and more time into my morning routine, and less and less time into the Word until it dwindled down to none. After the breakout I spent more time fixing the flaws on the face rather than examining the ones in my heart. I spent more time gazing into the mirror than gazing at the Lord.

So with my physical beauty out of the picture, I felt insecure in every way. I had no confidence in my flesh to hide behind, which revealed an insecure heart.

When I do not spend enough time seeking the Lord, I lose touch with who I am because my true identity comes through Him. Without Him, I start to look to the left or right or into a mirror to find myself. When I lose touch with Him, I also lose touch with myself.

At the end of the day, no matter how much time, effort, or money you spend on your physical appearance, if you do not know who you are at the core of your being, you will feel insecure.

Putting effort into your appearance is not wrong, it is simply celebrating God’s beautiful creation in my book, and even being creative ourselves! It’s when our priorities shift from our identity in Christ to our physical bodies that gets us into trouble.

Beauty fades with time, but who we are should not. Physical beauty is not guaranteed, but our identity and worth, which is determined by the Lord, is constant. It is in the beauty of our hearts that our testimony holds power and truth. No amount of physical beauty can portray the love of Christ. No amount of physical beauty can lead a person to healing, or freedom from addiction, or joy even in hardship, but Christ sure can. And that love of Christ is the most beautiful gift we can give to people.

UPDATE:

The night I wrote this, I got into bed at about 12:04am. I wanted to read the Word so badly but my husband was ready to sleep. So I dimmed my phone and went into my Bible Gateway app and I couldn’t believe what the verse of the day was.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

– John 15:5

It spoke deep to my heart. I read the rest of the chapter and the next few chapters after that and the Lord revealed Himself in so many ways. He convicted me, opened my eyes, and reconnected me to my identity in Him. It amazes me that the Lord loves us enough to pursue us, even when we have strayed for the thousandth time. He is faithful, gracious, and merciful.

Question: Suicidal and I Just Hate Myself

An amazing response to an authentic cry for help. Please read the article below by J.S. Park if you struggle with suicide, depression, or self harm.

When that broken record starts to play in your head (“I hate myself” I’m so stupid” “I don’t deserve happiness” “I’m so ugly” OR “you’re so ugly” “you’re so messed up” “you’re not worth saving”) try speaking the Word OUT LOUD. Stand on the truth of the Word. Find scripture that directly combats the lies you struggle with most and put satan in his place! It’s awkward at first, but that’s one way Jesus handled it (in the desert), so this is how we can fight too.

Love this video of Joyce Meyer – “How do you talk back to the devil?”

J.S. Park

Anonymous asked:

There are times where I just want to die, sometimes I just want to hurt myself, sometimes I curse myself, sometimes I cannot look straight in the mirror because I hate how i look, sometimes I call myself names so that I would never feel good about myself. I am a Christian and I tried so hard to tell this to my churchmates but no one really cared.

Dear beloved friend,

I totally applaud your bravery and honesty in writing this. As much as you might not hear this right now, please know you are loved, we care about you, and many of us have struggled with the same exact self-doubts. You are NOT alone, and I will pray for you. I am praying for you now and I did before writing this.

To feel this way does NOT make you a bad person. You have a worth…

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