The Voyage

Monday, April 27, 2015

The thoughts in my head rage like a tempest
I fear the voyage ahead and what it will bring.
The waves swell and the bow dips.
My feet become damp and I fear the rising of the water.

Then, when I can no longer stand the maddening fear,
I hear Your words: “Peace; be still.”
The waves cease and my damp feet are dry once again.

And not too far out in the distance, I see an island.
The boat rides calmly to the shore, and I put my feet in the sand.
I realize that I would have gotten here anyway,
even with the raging waves and swirling tempest.
Even if the boat had sunk, 
You would have given me the strength to swim.

 Lord, give me the strength to hold onto You when the waters get rough.
Next time, I pray I'll learn from the waves instead of fear them.


You Will Not Fall: The Hope of God's Everlasting Covenant

Sunday, April 26, 2015
“Come, all you who are thirsty. Come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy, and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare” (Isaiah 55:1-3).

                        Much of this month I’ve written about what this passage conveys. Many times I’ve asked myself, “Why spend money on what is not bread?” Why waste your soul on what cannot satisfy when you can take what will satisfy free of charge? As a human who is still attached to the flesh, I am tempted, and often I do succumb to those temptations; I do mess up, quite a lot, actually. God promises something in the next verse, though:

Give ear and come to me; listen, that you may live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my faithful love promised to David” (Isaiah 55:3).

            When God says He is going to make an everlasting covenant, He doesn’t mean an everlasting-until-you-mess-up covenant; He means a really and truly everlastingcovenant.

            There will be times when I look to the world and see “the prosperity of the wicked” (Psalm 73:3), and there will be times when my feet almost slip. But God promises in Psalm 37:23-24, “The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in Him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds Him with His hand.” We will not fall because God’s covenant is everlasting, and He is constantly holding onto us and watching out for us, like a trainer who watches her student on a balance beam.

            Take this little reminder to heart today. Let the Holy Spirit stir your heart towards him. As David says in Psalm 73:28, “As for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all Your deeds.” When you are in Christ, God is your Home.  Draw near to Him and hold on to the hope of His everlasting covenant. Know that He will never let you fall because His arms are always there to catch you.

Philippians 4:8 Challenge

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

               There are so, so many temptations in this world and, especially attending a public school, marching forward on the “straight and narrow” with eyes constantly turned to Jesus can be difficult and daunting task.

                Lately, I've talked so much about keeping our desires in heavenly places, always drawing near to God and never straying from His embrace. It’s harder than it sounds, though. In the US especially, there are so many distractions available to us. Gossip is a constant problem in not only high school, but also in the celebrity world. Humans are naturally nosy, I think, and we always think we need to know others’ business.

                You all know I've been struggling with this; I’m not going to hide my weaknesses for the sake of looking strong. And as I sat in geometry today, laughing at a cruel and inappropriate  joke made about someone, I scolded myself and beat myself up, telling myself that I would never be good enough to shine the light of Christ to others. I sat and pondered how I could somehow get myself back on track, and I realized that I, by myself, cannot. I need help. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have strayed off course in the first place. I gave up inside, not even breathing a prayer of submission and helplessness. God brought a verse to my mind, though, somewhere in the middle of talking about the arcs of circles:

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about these things” (Philippians 4:8).

                I then noticed the distractions around me: the gossip, the jokes, the bad language, and bad music. I thought I had practiced well the art of being in the world but not of it; I was confident of that area of my life. At that moment I realized, though, there are so manythings I consume myself with that are not true, noble, or right. I so often make mountains out of molehills and molehills out of mountains. My perspective lately has been completely off track. I knew I needed to focus on God more; I knew I was too consumed with worldly things, but I had no idea how to deal with it.

                Today in geometry, though, I realized I had to do something: starting right now, I am officially starting The Philippians 4:8 Challenge. ( I don’t know if that’s already a thing, and if it isn’t, I guess I just made it up.) Anything that isn’t true, noble, right, pure, lovely, or admirable, I will be “removing” from my life. If there’s a song, movie, or book that involves bad morals, I won’t be listening to it, watching it, or reading it. If someone at school makes a cruel joke about someone or talks about something inappropriate, I won’t join the fun. I’m not doing this because I think I’m better than everyone else; I’m doing this because this is what I need to do.  

                Instead, I will be focusing on what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable, not only including what Jesus has done for me, but also the selfless acts of others or a hard-earned good grade. I will try to "never tire in doing what is good" (2 Thessalonians 3:13). By doing this, I will try and point others to Christ in every way possible. Of course, this can only be done by the power of the Holy Spirit inside of me; I can in no way succeed on my own. I know there will be times when I cave, but I am hoping that I will again see that what God has for me in this life and in eternity is indeed better than what the world offers. I will draw near to Him and rest in His embrace, rejoicing in the fact that the fight for my soul has already been won.

                There is not a time limit to this challenge because it is something that I hope will go on for the rest of my life. I hope that you all can see the difference in my life as I pursue this challenge, and I hope I can be an encouragement to you in your walk with God.

                I’ll leave you with these words from Psalms chapter 73 and verse 28:

“But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge:  I will tell of all Your deeds.”

So Much Better

Sunday, April 19, 2015

        Want is a powerful feeling: it so often consumes a soul. It can be good and evil because it only reflects the attitude of a heart. If your heart is evil, your wants are evil. Sometimes, though, I desire things that aren’t bad – some of them could even be considered good – but that desire consumes me so that it becomes an idol to the One I’m supposed to desire.

            This subject has been eating me alive this weekend. I’ve desired things that have kept me from connecting with my Creator, although I’m not even sure I could put my finger on what that desire is. It’s funny though, because I was just now scrolling through Pinterest, bored out of my mind, and I found this quote:

          “God never withholds from His child that which His love and wisdom call good. God’s refusals are always merciful – ‘severe mercies’ at times but mercies all the same. God never denies us our hearts’ desires except to give us something better.”
-          Elisabeth Elliot

            Then I realized, out of all of the things that I so greatly want, even out of the greatest things I could possibly imagine, God can always, without a doubt, offer something better. He always knows what better is. In fact, He knows what best is. He know what I need to succeed in Him, and He knows what I need to give Him the most glory possible in my life. He knows what situation I should be put in so that I can not only learn something myself, but be able to encourage others because of the circumstances I’ve been through. God is completely sovereign in my life. I am His child, and I am under His care.

            This week, I also read Hebrews 11:39-40.  It reads, “These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.”

            And with that I realized that our true purpose is to be united with Christ forever and ever, but we still have a mission on earth that needs completing. God knows what we want. He knows that I would give nearly anything to move to Australia and live by a gigantic library, but He has something so much better planned. He offers life with purpose an meaning on this earth and eternal life with Him in heaven, and so many great things in between that time.

            Jesus says in John 10:10, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

            Jesus can take the smallest lives and make them meaningful. He can surround us with a church body who loves Him and strives for Him, and friends who can encourage us in our faith and be with us in our times of sorrow.

            So if you ever find yourself speaking to me and I can’t stop talking about what I want or what I believe I need, stop me, and remind me that what God has in store for me is better, and I’ll remind you of the same.

Thanks for reading,
Mary Shelley

For Girls Everywhere: Be You

Tuesday, April 7, 2015
                Who are you? At the core, where it really matters, who are you? Yes, you are your name, but that is a mere scribble on a piece of paper, just letters put together that sounded nice to whoever named you.

                What I mean is this: what’s your favorite color, your favorite song, your favorite outfit, or your favorite food? What do you like to do to pass the time? Are you musical, sporty, adventurous, or a book lover? Do you sing at the top of your lungs or quietly? Do you sing at all? What is your favorite place?

                From the beginning of time, God knew how He would make you. Psalms 139 says you are “fearfully and wonderfully made.” The very genes that you are made up of were pondered by the Creator Himself. He made you unique; He made you different. Do not think for one moment that you need to be someone else. Your personality, your situations, and your life are perfectly tailored for you (kinda like tailored trends on Twitter). God made you who you are and put you where He put you for a purpose: to give Him the maximum amount of glory possible. How boring would a world full of countless Adams and Eves be? Our diversity show how capable our Maker is.
                I’m not making this up. A few years ago, or even a few months ago, I would have turned myself completely inside out to be desirable to the world. I would have dropped out of school, died my hair, or gotten plastic surgery. I would have changed my favorite color, song, outfit, food, hobby, and anything else to just fit in. But one night last week, I bowed my head and said, “God, what do you want me to do?”

                What I found when I opened up His word to Hebrewswas amazing:

                In in chapter 10 and verse 22, I read, “Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful.” By God’s power, I drew near to Him with a sincere heart and held onto the hope that he gave me. I kept reading throughout the week, and in verse 35, I read, “So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.”

                In this context, the writer of Hebrews is talking about confidence in Christ. I found that after I drew near to God and held onto the hope He gives, I gained confidence in Him. That confidence oozed into my soul and benefited my tailored personality. And then, God told me, “Do not throw away your confidence.”

                Girls, when we are in Christ, we want to please Him, as I covered in another post. When we want to please Him, it shows in our life. Don’t throw away your confidence in your Maker. Draw near to Him with a sincere and humbled heart. Embrace who you are; not your sin, but your new creation (1 Corinthians 5:17). Do not ever for one moment doubt that how God made you is not good enough. You are His, and that is the most important thing you can ever be.

                Here is my charge to girls everywhere: sing in the shower. Be joyful. Get excited. Don’t wear something to impress someone; wear it because you like it. Don’t change your outside for the sake of others. Don’t do something that you don’t believe is right just because everyone else is doing it. Most importantly, be the same with whoever you’re with. Girls, never doubt God’s love and goodness in your life.  Hold onto the hope you profess through thick and thin. Be who you were made to be: a child of God. 

Because of Jesus

Sunday, April 5, 2015
What if Jesus hadn’t risen? What if the stone hadn’t been rolled away, if the curtain hadn’t been torn in two? What would that mean for us? Without Jesus, this world would be drastically, terribly different.

Jesus is the reason I’m writing this. Jesus is the reason I got up and went to church this morning. Jesus is the reason I memorize scripture passages. Because Jesus is inside me, I am able to operate with a forgiving heart and an open mind. Because Jesus is inside me, I smile at strangers and do my best to encourage others. Jesus is the reason I am who I am. Because Jesus did not stay dead, we have an eternal and lasting hope; we have a reason and a purpose. We have life. We know that our struggle is not in vain.

Why would Jesus look on this corrupt world with loving eyes, eyes that see each sin every human has ever committed? The very angels of heaven are in constant awe of God’s pure holiness, yet He looks on us and wants to save us. We can now not only have eternal life, but eternal life with Him.

Some don’t believe because it doesn’t make sense, and truthfully, it really doesn’t. There is not one little reason why God should want to redeem us, to life a perfect life but still be mocked, cursed, spat at, abused, and crucified – to be despised and rejected by the ones He loves. Jesus took on all past, present, and future sins upon His shoulders; His own father turned His back because of it – because of our sins. He should have turned His back on us, but instead of ripping out our story, He wrote it anew with the love He possessed, love that defines His character, by making a promise – not a vague, empty, teasing promise – a holy, true, and perfect promise.

Because of Jesus, we are alive. Because of Jesus, the God-given gifts that Christians possess are not used in vain. When we seek to glorify Jesus, we have a lasting impact. When we act in love and goodness of heart, every little thing we do is accounted for and used for God’s glory.

When the angel of the Lord said in Matthew 28:6, “[Jesus] is not here; He has risen, just as He said,” he not only communicated that Christians were given life; we also were given a purpose. Eternal, perfect, and completing love was shown to the world that day. Now, the instrument that was seen as a symbol of pure torture is the very symbol we hang around our necks all because of a promise:  A promise of love, hope, and completeness in our Savior.

The love of Jesus is not selective; it is available to everyone: from Simon Peter the fisherman to Matthew the tax collector. This is what each and every one of us was made for. Come to the cross. Bow the knee to your One True master who lavishes unending love on every living thing.

As Jesus says in Matthew 11:28, "Come to me all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."

Experience the completeness that the love of Jesus gives you. No, your life will not be perfect, but the God of the universe will forever be by your side through thick and thin. He longs to draw you to Him and to make you His. The hope He gives in eternal, an anchor for the soul  (Hebrews 6:19), and will fuel you in the deepest of waters. God’s love will act as a light, and although you won’t be able to see the end of your journey, your path will be lit, and in the midst of pain and trouble, you will know that your pain serves a purpose: to bring you closer to Jesus, the one who poured out His love for you on that dark day.

Without Jesus, my vapor-in-the-wind life would be completely meaningless. Stop searching, come to Him, and rest in His incomprehensible peace.

The True Goodness of Good Friday

Friday, April 3, 2015
I was going to do a big Good Friday post. I had so much planned, but as I tried to write, I realized something: sometimes, as much as I hate to admit it, there are no words that can be used to describe something; sometimes, something can only be experienced. So, instead of describing Jesus' terrible, agonizing death, I am going to describe an experience: my experience of Jesus' love.

Ephesians 3:18 tells us that Jesus' love is deep, wide, long, and high. How deep, wide, long, and high, though? Deep enough, wide enough, long enough, and high enough to want to die for us.
In Matthew 26, starting in verse 36, Jesus prays in Gethsemane. He's scared: the kind of scared that makes one sweat and shake. He knows that Judas Isacriot is about to betray Him. Instead of fighting, though, he tells Judas, "Do what you came to do." When the disciples try to fight for Him, he stops them. The guards start to take Him away, and His feet move along willingly. Though He is scared, The Miracle Man, The Prince of Peace, Our Savior,  marches forward, knowing what must be done. 
He goes through a series of trials and watches the people that He came to save scream, "Crucify Him!" They accept a prisoner, a thief, but reject the One Who loves them.
As Jesus hung on that old, rugged cross, He breathed the words, "It is finished," and bowed His head, accepting our guilt, shame, and sinfulness. The One who knew no sin, who humbled Himself to the form of a lowly man, who lived a perfect life, bowed His head. The curtain tore in two and our debt was paid once and for all. 
His sacrifice was great, too great to put into words. I can't describe Jesus' love, but I have experienced it. I have experienced the depth, height, length, and width of His great love. I know how big it has to be, for I rejected it. I might as well have been in the crowd that yelled, "Crucify Him!" I might as well have been Judas' betraying kiss; I might as well have been the very nails in Jesus' wrists, but He still loves me. He loves me constantly and completely. He calls me His. He lets me belong to Him after all the times I have rejected Him, after all the times I have doubted His goodness, sovereignty, and grace, and all the times that I still will, Jesus still loves me. He loves you, too, more than any boy of girl ever will and more than any romance novel could ever describe.
This, my friends, is the greatest love story of all time, a story that is meant to be carved on our very hearts. This is what we were made for: to give the maximum amount of glory to The King of the universe. 
By the way, Jesus didn't stay dead (spoiler alert). He is with us, in our hearts, guiding us. I can say with complete sincerity, "It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me" (Galations 2:20)
Little one, have courage.
Bow to the King.
Live for Him because it is so incredibly worth it.