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Let Logic or Faith lead?

Written By Aliyah Lauren Jacobs, South Africa

My chest is tight, my palms are sweaty, I can barely hold back my tears. I’m an emotional mess. I’m undone in this place of prayer. I struggle to find the words I need—but I know He knows.

Nine months ago, I was given a vision by God to create, steward, and lead. This unraveled into an opportunity to recreate the stories of 13 extraordinary women in a photo essay that would finally culminate in an exhibition in an art gallery in Cape Town, South Africa.

Let me explain. I love reading history books, and this love of history and ancient times has led me to research and teach about women in the Bible for over eight years. But biblical stories are just one end of the spectrum. In this present season, God impressed on my heart a desire to shine the spotlight on 13 women from history.

My goal was to teach others about the role these women played as leaders, visionaries, and pioneers in their areas of influence. The world’s first computer programmer was a woman named Ada Lovelace, she was one of the first woman I had to showcase. Then came Hypatia, an astronomer and teacher who was killed for her intelligence and strength. Hannah More was a warrior of the pen, fighting to end slavery alongside her friend William Wilberforce, Rhoda from Acts chapter 12 is featured in this exhibition, as a picture of faith in the prayers you pray. I posed as Anna Comnena, the world’s first female historian and two of my favourite female leaders Hatshepsut the Egyptian Pharoah and Boudica, the Iceni queen, are striking examples of women who ruled. These were just some of the women I felt the world needs to know about.

At first, things seemed to be proceeding well. God provided the photographer, the models, and a theatre store that gave me a good discount when they heard about the vision of my project. The location for our photoshoot was perfect, like something out of an old film, filled to the brim with props and old settings. God provided faithfully every step—until the provision dried up and I entered the desert.

I rented the venue, sold tickets, and organized the opening event for this photo journey—yet certain doors seemed to stay shut. Less than three weeks before the opening of the exhibition, I still didn’t have the finances to get the photos onto canvas. None of the sponsors who had promised finances had delivered on their word.

The needs continued to pile up: payment for the speakers who would minister at the opening event, food for the guests, money for the art gallery. I bore the burden on my shoulders, until my faith began to wear thin. That’s when I broke down in prayer. I was stressed, a broken mess, wrestling between logic and faith.

As I sat on the floor weeping, a tiny voice of reason spoke into my conscience. If I didn’t have the money and the other doors weren’t opening, it was time to give up, return the ticket money and move on. It was the logical thing to do. It was also a way out of my emotional mess. Had I reached out to a family member or friend and had they seen my tear stained face and red eyes, they would have expressed concern and told me it was okay if I could not pull this exhibition off.

Yet, I knew this decision would run contrary to what I believed. I heard another voice. Go ontake the pictures in, prepare the flyers and keep going. I was tired but God’s words stirred tiny embers inside my soul.

It was a long hard week, pushing through and not getting any breakthroughs. Time was running out; there were still no finances, no open doors. Yet, the spark within nudged me to rest in God and let it be. The voice to quit never rose up again.

As I waited, I meditated on Joshua and the Israelites who stood armed on the border of a land they had never seen before (Joshua 6). It was a land they knew nothing about, but had been promised to them by the Almighty. They were armed with physical weapons, but more than that, faith in the voice of God, against giants. I was inspired by the Israelites blind faith. They had never seen this “promised land” before, they did not know what it looked like or what they would encounter once they entered the borders of Canaan. They also would have to fight hard to receive the land they believed was destined to be theirs, yet they went forward. They crossed over, with weapons of faith in God’s Voice of promise.

As the long hard week drew to a close, God restored me with hope. A school for at risk teens reached out and asked if their girls could come to the exhibition. Empowering young women is my passion and when this request came through, I was overwhelmed with joy.

Also, this opened an opportunity to raise funds to bless these children to attend the exhibition, receive free gifts and food. Soon enough, a discount was offered by a local print shop and then one morning, a donation came in to our ministry. The amount was enough to print every one of the canvases I was still waiting to print! The exhibition opened on the 11th of March and will run until the end of the month. Somehow, I managed to pay the speakers, my father paid for the food for the guests and it turned out to be a blessed opening event.

Attending to faith and allowing it to build the logic of my life, has led me in my weaknesses. It has also enabled me to be a witness to miracles and to draw closer to God in intimacy. In fact, the more I heed His Voice and live in obedience to Him, the louder His Voice becomes to me. I’ve also come to realize that if God has spoken something, then what He has spoken is logic—the logic I will hold on to with trust and faith.

God’s voice should be the vehicle to overcome doubt, no matter what.

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I’m An Extrovert and I’m Embarrassed by It

Written By Janel Breitenstein, USA

Is anyone else out there guilty of subtly rigging your own personality assessment?

You know what I’m talking about. It’s the exercise where you carefully pencil in circles that should illuminate more of how you’re designed as an individual.

I know, I know. It sounds kind of dumb when I say it out loud. In fact, if you had asked me, I would have totally denied it. I would have said, “I’m trying to make this thing express me accurately.”

It probably sounds immature (because it is) to mute certain aspects of my personality. But I didn’t want to succumb to stereotypes. I wanted to be more balanced. I didn’t want to, well, turn out like that person who drove me batty once upon a time, or that person I didn’t respect.

To be more specific, I was embarrassed (and still am) by being described as an extrovert; lacking attention to detail; and feeling rather than thinking. I mean, who wants to be known as an irrational, in-your-face, over-enthusiastic fountain of emotion who can’t match her own socks?

Perhaps my embarrassment was aided by others’ response to my unvarnished expression of personality in earlier years. Whenever I spoke, out flew the product of a mouth in fast-forward and a brain in rewind.

But though my extroversion got me putting on elaborate mild-mannered disguises, God, of course, had His reasons. I distinctly remember an epiphany I had while doing my third or fourth personality test some years ago before we hauled our family to Africa for missions.

Shortly after I had carefully engineered every little gray circle with my pencil, only to discover that I was still “incredibly enthusiastic”, someone pointed out that nearly the whole African continent thrived on talking and talking—and that flexibility was the key to survival. A straightforward, uninhibited show of compassion would also go a long way.

Wait. Did someone say it would be helpful to be friendly, conversational, empathetic, and willing to be flexible on details? Well, have I got a show for you!

Turns out that God’s knowledgeable design of me might not have been so inconvenient or random after all. Perhaps in my longing to be someone different, I was actually articulating a profound lack of faith.

A couple of mornings ago, I was recalling Acts 13:22, which mentions a particular king, musician, poet, dreamer, and creative planner. His feelings got him into trouble, like mine do. But still, God says this man “served the purpose of God in his own generation” and calls him a man after his own heart. (I wonder if David ever had trouble matching his socks.)

The reality is, I’m made in the image of God—whether I choose to embrace His deliberate, carefully-considered crafting or not. Granted, He’s not to blame for those times I overwhelm others with my friendliness, fail to plan well for my family, or emote all over the place without self-control.

My weaknesses aren’t an excuse to mute the way God has made me, but rather to let His Holy Spirit make me fully . . . me (Ephesians 2:10). It’s much like my hope that as God transforms Africa, it won’t become more Westernized, but more African, and take on the highest, unadulterated form of this stunning culture in expressing His face and image. God flourishes in the fullness of our distinction not so that we can make more of ourselves, but more of Him.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
(Psalm 139:14)

 

This article was originally published on the writer’s blog here. This version has been edited by YMI.

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Why won’t God give me a boyfriend?

Written By Debra Wong, Malaysia

I have a confession to make: I turn 25 this year, and I have never been in a relationship. It’s not just because I haven’t met the right person; it’s also because no one has ever pursued me before.

While most girls were befriending guys in high school and college, I was socially awkward. To me then, guys were different; they were “aliens” whom I was too afraid to talk to.

Thankfully, I came around in my earlier 20s, and have since opened up and gotten to know several quality friends. However, it still stings that I’m late to the relationship party that all my peers seem to be a part of.

Every time a friend or family member starts dating, I cry on the inside and quickly become overcome with bitterness, self-hate, and ultimately, anger towards God because I’m not in  a relationship like everyone else.

What’s a bitter single girl to do?

Why, God?

One particular day, while I was upset over yet another friend becoming “Facebook official”, I sat down and talked to God. Clenching my fists, I muttered through gritted teeth: Why, God? Why can’t I achieve a relationship like everyone else my age? It’s bad enough that I don’t have many friends. Now you’re going to let me look like a loser that no guy ever wanted to date?

It was during that bitter rant that God opened my eyes to three truths that I realized I needed to deal with.

 

1. I wanted a relationship for the wrong reasons.

To me, life comprised a series of boxes that I needed to check off in order to feel like I had lived it well. Do well in school? Check. Get a good job? Check.

Get a relationship? Not checked.

By checking off boxes, I wanted to prove to everyone around me that I had “arrived”, that I was finally an adult. See, I can snag myself a boyfriend just like you! He thinks the world of me! Just look at my arm candy!

However, this is not God’s design for marriage, and by extension, the relationships that lead to it. In the Bible, husbands and wives are called to sacrificial love and respect, to put the needs of the other above their own (Ephesians 5:21-33).

While a dating relationship is not yet a marriage relationship, I was certainly not looking to encourage and build up another person. Instead of seeing a boyfriend as God would see him―a child of the King, made in His image (Genesis 1:27), I simply wanted a boyfriend to validate my own worth. All in all, I was being selfish.

I am now learning to rest in the fact that God sees me. When time and again I long for someone to notice me, I remind myself that God does not just see me for who I am right now―He sees my future potential and will finish the good work He began in me (Philippians 1:6). If marriage is in God’s plan for me, at the right time He will open the eyes of the right guy to “see” me too.

 

2. God’s plans for me are good―whether or not they involve a spouse.

Doubting God’s goodness was the root of the very first sin recorded in the Bible. When Satan asked Eve, “Did God really say . . . ?” a seed of doubt was planted, and Eve believed that God was withholding something good from her. He wasn’t―but she fell for it anyway.

I needed to be careful that I wasn’t swinging from the statement, “God is good” to the question, “Is God good?” One change, big difference. Although my limited experience had caused me to doubt, it does not change the fact that God is sovereign and that His plans for my life are infinitely better than my own (Romans 8:28).

It can be hard to believe that God’s plans for my love life are good when no prospects lie on the horizon and when other girls seemingly have it easier. But when I doubt what the future holds, I meditate instead on how intimately God knows me, loves me, and holds me in His arms.

 

3. It is not good for me to be alone.

When God gave Adam the task of naming all the animals, He realized that none of them were suitable partners for Adam. So God took a rib out of Adam, fashioned a woman from it, and brought her to his side as a human partner (Genesis 2:22).

Though I have yet to find a suitable life partner, God has given me an extended family―His people. By serving and interacting with fellow believers, I get to give and experience relationship.

When I wallow in self-pity, God’s family invites me into their lives, to worship Him, and live out the Gospel together. When I invest my time in the lives of other people, I don’t spend as much time dwelling on my singleness.

Investing in other relationships helps me even when the lights go out and I’m alone in my room. That’s when the timely words of fellow brothers and sisters come to mind and build me up in the midst of my disappointments. Truly, no man is an island!

 

Do I still mope about my singleness? Sure, the temptation to doubt is strong. However, trusting God is a choice that I can make daily, and I rest in the knowledge that God has great plans for my life, with or without a boyfriend.

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When (Not) to Follow Your Feelings

Written By Debra Valley, USA

As Christians striving to walk in the footsteps of Jesus, we will encounter instances that require us to battle our flesh. It could be moments where we have to deliberately choose to act against our emotions, such as choosing to forgive a person who has hurt us, being kind to someone who has been unkind to us, or refusing to let our anger lead us to violence.

More often than not, the struggle is tough. Though we know that our feelings are categorically wrong and acting on them may even lead us to take actions contrary to God’s will, we may find ourselves trying to justify our emotions.

A few years back, I found myself in such a situation. Yes, it was all about a boy. A boy I fell in love with, a boy that made me consider choosing this mister over the Master. I can almost see you shaking your head in disapproval. It seems as though there are far too many accounts of good Christian girls being “led astray” by their unbelieving boyfriends. But I am grateful for those stories, because they served as words of caution in my time of need.

I met him at work, and as they say, there was instant chemistry. I was attracted to him, not just to his looks, but to his character. He was funny, kind, thoughtful, hardworking, generous, and intelligent. Soon enough, I developed feelings for him. But there was one problem: he was an atheist and hated Christianity.

Every time he praised my work ethic or my generosity, I would tell him it wasn’t me—it was Christ in me. But he would have none of it; he called it “religious jargon”. He insisted that the good in me was because I was a decent person, not because of God. I tried to invite him to church but he would always reject the invitation, saying that religious people were “brainwashed and naïve”. He never gave the reason behind his dislike for God—or any religion for that matter. It was just one subject he would refuse to discuss, and soon enough I stopped asking. I just trusted (and still trust today) that God would reach his heart someday.

Though I knew fully well that the Bible instructs Christians not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers (2 Corinthians 6:14), my mind had all the “right” arguments. Like missionary dating, for instance. I thought that as long as I prayed for him and kept living out a good Christian witness, he would come to realize that it was Christ in me. My heart told me that I could change him. After all, how do we bring others to Christ if we don’t befriend them?

But my mind reminded me that it is only God who can change the heart, not man (Ezekiel 36:26). All I could do was to continue to bear witness through my life. Ultimately, it was his choice to make about whom he would serve.

With this realization, I knew that getting myself involved with someone who had fundamentally different standards and beliefs from me would only lead to heartache in the future. Through praying for him and praying for God’s will to be done in my life, I began to seriously consider some pertinent questions: What did I want from the relationship? He had already told me he didn’t believe in waiting till marriage for sex, so would I compromise my faith for him? Could I continue to withstand the pressure? Did I want to get married? Would our children be nurtured in a Christian background? Would we tithe? Would we be engaged in our local church? Would we base our values on God’s word? Would Christ be a part of our home? Would we allow ourselves to be led by the Spirit of God?

The answer was obvious. It was a clear no.

So I prayed for grace to control my feelings. It was difficult avoiding him at work, but God gave me the grace to gradually steer my thoughts to only that of friendship. I did this by focusing more on the work itself, and developing closer ties with the other ladies at work. I took the opportunity to move to the opposite end of the office from him and restricted our conversations to strictly professional matters.

Was the decision to part with someone I fancied but didn’t share my faith difficult? Yes. Did I regret doing it? Absolutely not. I do not regret my decision because I knew all things work for good to those that love God (Romans 8:28). I also knew that God wanted to protect me from a relationship that could lead to harm in the future.

So while reining in my feelings hurt during that period, I believe that the experience strengthened my faith. Now, I am less prone to let my feelings wander beyond control, such as at times when I feel angry or resentful, or when I’m tempted to misplace my love and loyalty. Though it is not easy overcoming my own emotions, I know that God will not allow me to be tempted beyond what I can handle (1 Corinthians 10:13). I have learned to wait on God and to guard my heart with all diligence (Proverbs 4:23). I have also learned to fully trust God and wait on His leading before making any decision in life (Proverbs 3:5-6).