The Start Experiment: Choosing Destruction Over God’s Perfect Plan

In my “One Year Bible” the Old Testament passage today was from 2 Chronicles 25. It has been fascinating reading about all of the past kings of Israel and Judah and how they followed (or didn’t follow) God’s leading. In today’s passage, the king was following God but encountered fear when presented with a message from the Lord that required significant sacrifice.

For context, at this time, the nation of Israel was not following the Lord but the nation of Judah was. King Amaziah of Judah was building up his army so that he would be prepared when battle arose (which it often did). He surveyed his available troops and found that he didn’t have quite as many as he wanted to have; so, he hired men from Israel to join his troops and paid them 7,500 pounds of silver in exchange. That’s quite an investment.

After this, the Lord sent a messenger to King Amaziah to warn him to not bring in troops from Israel and said that if he added those troops he would surely fail in battle, no matter how well he fought. Essentially, the Lord said to not have anything to do with Israel because He knew what was best in the long run for King Amaziah and Judah.

v.8 If you let them go with your troops into battle, you will be defeated by the enemy no matter how well you fight. God will overthrow you, for he has the power to help you or to trip you up.

This brings us to the verse that struck me this morning:

v.9 Amaziah asked the man of God, “But what about all that silver I paid to hire the army of Israel?”

The man of God replied, “The Lord is able to give you much more than this!” 

Let’s sum this up. Amaziah hears from the Lord that if he continues with his plan he will be destroyed by the Lord Himself. His first thought is about the money that he invested and what he will lose if he follows what the Lord is telling him to do, not on the fact that the Lord is saving his life and the lives of his troops from certain destruction! God knew the hearts of the people of Israel and knew that it would be worse for them to infiltrate the army of Judah and spread their influence than to just destroy them all. So he has two choices: be destroyed and waste your investment, or be saved and waste your investment.

From our perspective this seems so ridiculous. We look at Amaziah and think, “What a moron! Be grateful!” But, if we think about this in simpler terms, we realize that we all do this. We convince ourselves that we “need” whatever our temptation may be and we don’t want to give it up because the sacrifice seems to be too great.

For King Amaziah, it was manpower and money. For me, it is sugar. I love ice cream. I love chocolate. I have a sweet tooth that is genetic. When faced with facts like a family history of diabetes, being overweight, knowledge that the longer I wait to reform my lifestyle the harder it will be, it seems like it should be as simple as deciding not to drink alcohol was (due to family history of alcoholism)…but it isn’t.

If I take the verses above and put them into my context, here’s how they would read:

If you keep allowing sugar and unhealthy eating be part of your life, you will be defeated by your desires no matter how well you fight. 

Lesa asked the man of God, “But what about all that I am going to miss out on? I will be giving up so much!”

The man of God replied, “The Lord is able to give you much more than this!” 

In the moment, when presented with ice cream on a hot day, or chocolate everywhere I go in Hershey, it is so hard to remember the greater gift that lies ahead if I will just submit to a healthy lifestyle: weight loss and self-confidence, a longer life (in theory) because of my body being healthier, being a better example to our future children about what is really important in life, and most importantly, honoring God with the body He has given to me and keeping it holy and set-apart… Instead, all I can think about is what I am giving up in the moment. When that is my focus, it is easy to cave into the justifications like “You only live once!” or “Just this once, it won’t happen again” and eat that ice cream instead of exercising self-control.

Giving up refined sugar is hard. It is everywhere. But that can’t be an excuse for me to give in to temptation. There ARE ways to avoid it, even though it feels like I’m making a huge sacrifice. Fear tries to tell me that this is just too uncomfortable, that it isn’t worth it, that I can wait until tomorrow to start this…but the Voice of Truth says that the God I serve is greater than any of these things that my brain (and the world) tells me are desirable and worthy of my attention.

The New Testament passage today was from Romans 12, and this passage fit perfectly with the one above:

v.2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s Will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

Bottom line: Don’t be afraid to give up something that will cause destruction in the end just because of what you have invested in it, or because of how uncomfortable it will be in the moment to let it go. God is greater than anything you are struggling with and He can give us FAR better things in exchange if we will just follow Him! 

 

Thoughts on dating, marriage, and purity…

She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life. –Proverbs 31:12

This is to my single friends, hopefully as an encouragement…

I am married…it’s still hard to believe! For years I wondered whether or not I would ever get married, whether or not that was truly God’s plan for my life. From early on, I had decided to let God write my love story, because I learned the hard way that Satan likes to use boys to hurt girls emotionally (and vice-a-versa, of course), and I am still dealing with some of those scars today. I rarely “dated” boys as a result of my experiences and my decision to let God be in control, and was truly content for a majority of my college career—until all my friends started getting married.

As I attended wedding after wedding, and as I watched my closest friends move into a new phase of life (one that I deeply desired), I made a decision to follow and trust Him instead of worrying and stressing—figuring that He knows me better than I know myself, and knowing that life is better when we do things His way. I read in Proverbs 31:12 that the woman described brought good and not harm to her husband ALL the days of her life—which means even before she knew him! What a challenge that verse presents…but I decided to do my best to achieve that goal.

I kept one secret from Brennan until we were 10 days away from getting married, but it was for a good reason. In 2002, while on a porch in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, I began writing letters to my future husband in a little journal, not knowing that he was so close to me! I wrote with the intent of giving it to him right before the wedding. This journal contains great memories and many special notes, including one entry on July 14th (five days before we officially started dating) that simply said that I knew I was going to marry him—because I did! I kept a timeline and notes about our relationship, things that we will laugh about in the future and will want to remember for years.

I gave that journal to Brennan the day before I left for California (for our wedding), and was SO excited for him to read my prayers for him, for us, and all the other treasures those letters contain. Eight years of praying for him, writing to him, most of which before I even knew his name.  Eight years of wondering, of searching, of aching for the love that I now know.

Writing those letters helped me maintain my focus on purity and on “not settling” for any guy that came along. Sure, I wondered every time I met a new guy, “could this be him?” But none really seemed right. And, honestly, God really protected me all those years, because it was rare for a guy to express interest in me. My focus remained solid: I sought to know the Lord, to keep myself pure, and to serve Him wherever He led.

When God led me to move to Pennsylvania from sunny Southern California, so many people asked me if it was for a guy. I honestly was able to say no…but, of course, a hope existed in my heart that I would meet my “Prince Charming” and finally find true love.  I moved, began to build friendships, went on a few blind dates (most of which were laughably terrible), and found an incredible church. It was in this church that I began to find my “place” in Pennsylvania—as this is my mission field. This is where God called me in 2002 and 2003 to serve, and this is where He called me in 2008 to live. I started a singles’ ministry at my church, as it was truly needed (the irony is that I met my husband one week before the class started). That same month, I became part of a team that would plant a church in Harrisburg that fall. God was clearly using my talents and abilities for His purposes and glory, and I was so content!

I began to realize that my singleness all those years was never a mistake—I was able to devote so much time to serving the Lord without distraction, including the ability to lead a month-long mission trip to New Orleans and fully devote myself to our mission there. Had I been in a relationship, those things would have been much more difficult. God had specific plans for me through all my years of singleness, and I don’t regret a single moment!

Now, about 500 days after meeting Brennan, I am married…I am beyond happy to have someone with whom I can serve the Lord just as passionately as before, but now I have a teammate…a partner…someone to support and to be supported by…and I love it. But, had I not obeyed the Lord in faith, where would I be today? Had he not obeyed and trusted the Lord, where would he be today?

For those who are single and longing for marriage, please consider what I have to say (especially teenagers/college-aged friends): Keep yourself pure! Don’t give into temptation to satisfy your desires, and don’t let the world influence you. I know it’s tough, but the fact that Brennan and I remained completely pure has brought an incredible dimension to our marriage already! We don’t have the baggage that comes from past physical relationships, which gives us such a sense of freedom with each other. Even as our wedding approached, we refused to give into the temptation to not go home at night, knowing that it would make marriage even sweeter because we no longer have to say “goodnight” and depart.

God has very good reasons for the “rules” that He makes—especially for purity until marriage. Don’t give up a piece of your heart to someone who isn’t your husband/wife!  You can never get it back, and it will always haunt you. And, really, is it worth the future pain and heartache for today’s desire?

In my opinion, this goes for modesty, too. I truly believe that modesty is not outdated, and it is not “prudish”. It is a way to show respect for your future husband before you even know him! He is the only one who deserves to see your body, and you are showing love to him “all of your days”by being modest in how you dress (Proverbs 31:12—“She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.”).  I don’t believe that you can go too far in bringing respect to your future husband NOW, even when you don’t know who he is. I believe this glorifies God, as well, as you honor His guidelines.

As someone who has lived out what she now says, I pray that you will obey the Lord and remain completely pure for your husband. It is truly the best gift that you can ever give to him, and he deserves your BEST.

To watch TV or not to watch TV?

As I have been pondering what living a holy life means for me personally, one thing that the Lord encouraged me to do was to fast from secular entertainment (music, TV, and movies)…

Today is the “last day” of my fast (which I know that I have not announced on here that I was even doing that…that was intentional, since Jesus tells us to not advertise our fasting)…

I have not watched TV in a month, and have only watched one movie (and that was with my youth group)…and you know what I have discovered? I really haven’t missed it!

I am going to pray some more about the next course of action; however, I believe that I will probably pay just enough attention to what is going on to be able to relate to the youth with which I work, so that I am not “out of touch,” but that I will not watch TV/movies much at all.

It’s just not worth my time, honestly. An occasional movie will be enjoyable, but really, I have noticed just how much more time I have had! So much more time for reading, reflecting, praying, spending time with friends and family…THOSE are the important things in life to me. I know that movies are an art-form, and that most are meaningful…but, I just don’t really know that I want to consume my time with that form of entertainment! I’d much rather spend 30 minutes conversing with my roommates than watching a sitcom on television.

To clarify: This does NOT mean that I look down upon those who do choose to watch these things! AT ALL! This is a personal conviction, and I honestly don’t care what others do with their time. I just wanted to make that clear–if you watch TV, that’s totally fine! 🙂 I know that some may take offense at this post, or think that I am making a jab at others–but honestly, I am not doing any such thing!

I think that I will follow the wisdom in Psalm 119:37–

“Turn my eyes away from worthless things;

preserve my life according to your word.”

And Psalm 101:2a-3b

“I will be careful to lead a blameless life…I will set before my eyes

no vile thing.”

Life leads us on interesting journeys, and I anxiously await

discovering where the Lord will next lead me!