Thoughts from March 2003
Tough month.

March 29, 2003 - uncertain certainty
(1 Kings 17) Give God your first & best AND your last & all.

All of that takes faith. God persistently desires for us to take steps of faith to trust Him - to do things that make us feel insecure - i.e. where we're unable to produce a favorable outcome because it's out of our hands & control. But it's not that God longs for us to live this anxious life of uncertainty. He wants us to trust Him without a doubt. Yes, live lives of dependence on Him because of knowing with certainty that He is reliable because He has proven Himself to us time and again.

In other words, the details of our lives may be uncertain but we don't have to feel insecure because God is certain.

Lord, you have proven yourself to me. I can live in the uncertain certainty of your provision as I offer myself to you - my first and best and my last and all.

March 27, 2003 - sex
Most girls have the same basic longings. Some are tough and won't admit this to you, but an overwhelming majority have admitted a very similar longing. We as girls, long to be held and wanted. We desire to feel safe and protected. We long for intimacy, closeness and significance. And we will take it in whatever form that is offered to us - even if it's imperfect. We will grapple at it, hoping that sometime, in some off-chance way, maybe just maybe it'll fill our deepest needs. That's why we are willing to have sex with our boyfriends. It's because we think we can gain these things from submitting to the act. We press into the thrill of being shown that someone really wants us... even while knowing in the back of our minds that this particular thing is not what we really want.

Something I want to tell the girls: No guy will ever satisfy your deepest needs. And you will never satisfy his. The only One who can come in and seep through all the pores of your soul, permeate the very depths of your heart and penetrate the core of your being; the only One who will let you become unravelled and hold you and knit you back together and never leave your side; the only One who will cover the perpetual draft that's chilling your bones and whisper all the words of love that you have always longed to hear -- is Jesus.

Don't succumb to the lie that your boyfriend will satisfy you.

You have more to offer men than your body. Your worth comes not from what you can do, what you can make, what you can say (if you could only say it just right), what you wear, how gracefully or sexy you're able to present yourself or even how flirtatious or witty you can be. It comes from the simple fact that you are created by the God of the Universe. You are significant to Him - just because you are.

Don't succumb to the lie that you will have worth if some guy wants your body.

If you have given yourself away, you can begin again. Jesus offers a second chance. This is not a cliche. He's forgiven you for the sin (the actual trespass), the guilt (the negative feelings you have before God) and the shame (the negative feelings you feel before others). 1 Jn 1:9, Acts 3:19, Ps 32:1-5, Ps 34:5. If you turn to Him, confess your sins and renounce them (abandon ownership of those acts!)(Prov 28:13), you will be forgiven. You will be redeemed (converted into something of value). You will be a new creation (2 Cor 5:17). Do you know what that means? It means that THAT past is not your past any more. You can walk with the dignity of someone righteous and blameless in God's eyes, no longer in bondage by the shame of the past.

Don't succumb to the lie that Jesus can't redeem you. You are not a lost cause.

Something I want to tell the guys: Don't take advantage of girls. Point them to Jesus. Protect their fragile hearts.

Please write me, if you have questions.

March 26, 2003 - unstoppable
More often than not, Scripture comes at me like an unstoppable flood sweeping through the doors of a cottage. No other words from any text - no matter how beautiful or eloquent the elucidation - are able to finger through my heartstrings, wrap around my innards and awaken my insides like God's Word. Recently, I've taken to listening to the New Testament on CD. As these words of life drift into my ears straight to my heart, I find that I am overwhelmed with the challenges from Jesus. It's not only the hard commands which challenge, but also the sky-reaching (over-reaching!) promises which challenge me the most.

Lk 11:9-10 - "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; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. "

All I have to do is ask? All I have to do is seek? All I have to do is open the door? I'm impressed by these promises. I can't believe that I really can just take hold of them - and they will be mine. They will come true... and I CAN overcome all the fear-battles which I've been going through. If Jesus said it, it's really going to happen. It's not just filler, not lines fed to Him by a teller-prompter so He'd get more votes as the Messiah. His Words are true! Shocking.

March 25, 2003 - needing His presence
Ex 33:1-6 - very struck by how intensely the Israelites understood their need for God's presence. They knew they would not be able to make it without God. They knew that if God would go with them, then everything would be all good. This idea is matched in Ps 27... and echoed in all the verses in the Bible where God says "do not fear" and immediately follows with the reason "for I am with you." I mean check this out: Josh 1:9, Is 41:10, Gen 26:24, Gen 28:15, Is 43:5, Jer 1:8, Jer 42:11, Mt 28:19-20. The key to fighting fear seems to be taking hold of the reality that God is with you. God is with you. God is with me. So we have nothing to fear.

As I see it, the only way to take hold of this reality is by understanding who God is that His presence would disperse all fear... Who are you, Lord, that your presence pushes, pierces, pummels, pounds and puts out flimsy, flittery, flashy, fightless fears? Confront, overwhelm and overcome me with the Truth of you. And help me live fearlessly in harmony with that truth.

March 20, 2003 - Yes, Jesus is Lord
Jesus is Lord. Jesus is Lord. Yes, Jesus is Lord!! I believe in Him. I believe His promises. Yes, I pray. I follow His ways. I love Him. I do what He wants me to do. His way is good. His way is great. He loves people. He is loving toward all He has made (Ps 145:17). Stop being suspicious. Stop doubting. Stop being skeptical. He loves you. He has great plans for you. His promises are good for all eternity. He always keeps His promises (Ps 145:13). He answers prayers. Prayer is not futile. So pray! Follow Him. He is good.

things i want to exclaim to my suspicious coworkers.

March 19, 2003 - it depends on how you look at it
as i look forward to the next few months and year, i see that i've got nothing to hold to, cling on, depend on, lean on.

i've got nothing... and yet, and yet...i've got everything because i've got God.

March 19, 2003 - a pdf
Press into the Pain.

March 18, 2003 - commanded to be missionaries (thoughts from Perspectives class)
Not every Christian is an "evangelist", but every Christian is called upon to evangelize. Wherever we are.

Christians who evangelize aren't necessarily missionaries. Missionaries are those who CROSS CULTURES in order to share the Good News. They go to a culture different from their own.

74% of Christians go on missions to places where there is already a ripple-effect of the Gospel moving. And yet there are millions of people who don't even have one witness. MILLIONS.

You don't need to wait to be "called" in order to have a "legitimate" reason to cross cultures to share the gospel. Why wait for a call when Jesus has already given us the command? Matthew 28:18-20.

READ THE BIBLE. It's pretty obvious what God's passion is. The question is, are we willing to align our hearts with the heart of God... and then act on it?

Lord, please don't let fear paralyze me. Please don't let obstacles overcome me. Please don't let doubts and insecurities overtake me. Lord God, I know all You want is a willing heart. Please take me. Move my hands and feet to walk across the seeming void. I know there is solid Rock beneath. And it's You.

March 17, 2003 - faith or foolishness?
How do you know whether the next step you make is a huge step of faith or a huge step of foolishness? I told my parents on Saturday night that I'm planning to quit my job and go to China to teach English for two months. Guess what they thought it was? Certainly not faith. They are stressed because they fear the worse for me in the fall. What will I go back to? Nothing. The economy is awful. How will I find another job? Where will I live? How will I pay rent? Didn't I just buy a car? It's definitely foolishness. I admit it. I am a fool.

But how does God see this? If He wants me to go and not plan my Fall because He will do it, then it is faith. So should I just not even think about the fall and not even consider all the practical questions? Is it faith or foolishness that I don't know where I'm going to stay with no income to fall back on? God said that He will give me food. He will give me a home - for even the sparrow has a home (Ps 84, 103, 111, 145). So what have I to fear?

My parents will not back me up. And they may never back me up. I may leave one day "for good" to answer the call and never see them again, and I won't even have the hope of eternity to look forward to seeing their faces again. The realization of this last night made me weep uncontrollably. I am making a choice of separation from them. This choice separates me from them -- and it's Biblical. Today I feel grief. I am a willing fool. I have chosen to be foolish for that greater Vision - and today, it hurts.

March 13, 2003 - trust & apprehension
it's possible to trust God but still feel apprehension. these days i am very certain of God. i'm certain of His character, certain of His faithfulness, certain of His love. i'm certain that i am safe in His hands. but honestly, i do feel a soft wave of fear in the undercurrent. it's not paralyzing, but just human. and i persist on telling people of the apprehension because i want everyone to understand that i do have fears. i am not strong or bold or courageous in and of myself. whoever really is? i have fears, my friend. but despite them, i will obey. despite my fears, i trust God.

i'm apprehensive about telling my parents that i'm planning on going overseas this summer. which daughter of nonbelieving parents wouldn't be? in fact, which child of any parent wouldn't be? this is not going to be an easy conversation. it'll be sorta like riding my bike uphill in a blasted rainstorm. so even though i know in the end it'll be all right, God will get me to the top of the hill... it doesn't mean that i have to like the resistance or the bone-chilling water pelting me. i just don't look forward to the pelting. and that is honestly how i feel. do we as christians need to believe that trusting God means also that we must hush up about our apprehension? does trusting in God mean that i can't dread something? i don't think so.

i don't think so because i do trust God. i know that this will be another one of those moments where my God isn't just a side-dish religion that my parents can relegate to the category of "no big deal." they can't just push it aside and not think about it at all. it's intersecting with their lives again, and they are going to have to make some conclusions about it. why does mary ann care about this God so much? what makes Him so worth it that she would give up everything we came here in order for her to have?

there's something about sacrifice that defines worth. the more you're willing to sacrifice for something, the more value the thing that is being sacrificed for is considered to have. God will force my parents to re-evaluate what they think about Christ. my obedience will force them. i know also that when we obey God, He will take care of all the rest. He will take care of their hearts, their worries, their fears. and they'll have to let Him take care of it, because they can't reach as far as china...

March 12, 2003 - disciplined
Heb 12:5-11. I've never understood this passage about God's discipline to us until last night.

I've been working for the CSH for 4 years now. Wow, four years!! The last 2 years working full time as a combination Staff Research Associate as well as an Administrative Assistant to our P.I. has been to say the least, CHALLENGING!! From the time I accepted this job 2 years ago until now, I have always disliked it entirely. I knew from the start that I was being taken somewhere that my natural talents and loves would not be exercised. Sure I'd get to organize, and being a J on the Myers-Briggs means I like to organize. But being an NF, I am not-so-much task-oriented as people-oriented, so staring at the computer screen, pages of statistics and scientific journal articles all day long has made me bored, antsy and bleary-eyed more oft than not. And though there would be mornings where I felt like getting up and going into work would be like staring down the barrel of a gun, I've gotten up every morning and gone. Early on, God gave me Psalm 16:5-6. He's assigned me my portion and my cup and the boundaries lines fall for me in pleasant places. Though I have not believed this every moment of my 40-hour work weeks, I believe that God's Truths are always true no matter how I feel, and so I sought to obey.

Last Friday I walked into my boss' office and told him I was leaving for a short term missions' trip this summer and that I'm not planning to come back. I had committed to him and to God to work here for two years, and my term is over. I am now set free!!

Last night I began to realize what has happened to me these last two years. I have learned the discipline of being obedient to God. I've learned how to persevere and be faithful to a commitment simply because I have been called to do so by God and because I committed - for that reason and no other reason at all. Usually, in our lives, when we don't want to do something, we just quit. But for me, in this situation, I knew quitting was not an option. Though there certainly were bad, bad days which made me feel discouraged, crushed, tired and frustrated, deep down, the only thing I wanted to do was to be obedient to God, to do what He wanted me to do, to be at the center of His will. So I kept on going.

The result? My prayer last night: Thanks, Lord, for sustaining me through 2 years at my job, for teaching me so many lessons, for asking me to persevere. I learned a lot by just that discipline of submitting to you with all my heart, of working hard and happily in a place you called me to even though I didn't want to be there 3/4 of the time. Thank you for the discipline. Thanks for asking me to stay. Thanks for helping me through. Thanks for the valuable lessons and skills I learned from my obedience, my time there. It was so hard but so worth it to follow you there. Thank you for teaching me so much about the working world and your heart, your presence and your reality in its midst. A gratefulness in my heart overflows and overwhelms. You have proven yourself to me once again.

March 11, 2003 - let's have a barbecue
1 Kings 19:19-21.

For the life of me, I will never forget the example Elisha set. He knew God was calling him to give up his life to follow Him. So what does he do? He goes back and puts all his stuff in storage, makes sure he'll have a job to come back to just in case following God didn't work out and takes his whole family with him... -- or does he?? No! No, he totally doesn't do that. He goes back, throws his plowing equipment into a pile and sets fire to it. He BURNS it! And in case you don't catch the portent of this, Elisha's plowing equipment has been his livelihood for all his life; it has been his job and security; it has brought food to the table and kept a roof over his head. But he burns it. And then he slaughters his oxen and roasts them -- Elisha's having a barbecue! This is one of my favorite party scenes in the Bible. Elisha is throwing a going-away party for himself and has invited all his family and friends. In essence, he's saying, "Good bye, I'm leaving and I'm not coming back." He's not securing a back-up plan for himself, no Plan B. He's following God and not planning to turn back.

The moral to the story? Step out in faith and NEVER leave a back door open!

This is my principle for living. I'm going to burn all my bridges and follow God. No back doors, no back up plan. No turning back. Yes, I'm going to have a barbecue!!

March 7, 2003 - quotes from Marilyn Laszlo from WCC
"Qualifications for being a missionary: passion and knowing God. He just needs a vessel!"

"Follow your dreams. Stop going to the job you hate. Follow your passion. What has God put on your heart?"

"If you're at the center of God's will, there is peace, no fear."

What has God put on my heart? People. The answer is people. God has put people on my heart.

Today I proclaim publicly that I am going to quit my job and follow my dreams. I don't know where I will end up, but it's probably the best decision I've made in a long time. I don't just feel at peace about it. I am EXCITED. I feel like I'm being set free for the first time in 2 years!! Here we go, God. And thanks.

March 6, 2003 - a room with no doors
how would you feel if you were in a room with no doors? scary thought. the thing i learned last night is that as Christians, we will never be in a room with no doors. there is always a way out. there is always hope. there is always a way. because God is in it. along with Is 41:10, i offer you an old Nav favorite 1 Cor 10:13. isn't it a wonderful thought? when you feel scared, panicky and stuck, just remember the statement that God will never put you in a room with no doors.

March 6, 2003 - He will be there
I heard a message the other day that God desires for us to explore the deeper issues. We're afraid to do so because we're afraid of what it means to be unravelled. But if we don't go deeper, then we will be easily swayed in any direction all the time. The secret to going deeper is being solidly anchored in Him, knowing His character, knowing He will be there with you. We fear things because we think we are alone & isolated, we step out in faith when we know He is with us. He will go with us in the deeper issues; in fact, He will go with us everywhere He leads us (yes, this is true whether we're talking about the pain of the past, the shame of your sins, the coworker next door, the homeless man down the street or to the ends of the earth!). Don't be afraid, He is with you. (Isaiah 49:10). As you press into the pain, it's good to have friends to walk with you in it, but ultimately, there's a lot of the going you'll have to go at with just Him. So you must believe that 1. God will be with you and 2. God is enough.

I've chosen to keep going deeper because I believe that He will go with me. He'll be right there with me. He'll stand in the pain. That's why I keep going into those dark places when I notice that He's leading me there; I know that He'll be there and I know that as I go with Him, He'll set me free. Lotsa the stuff I've been pressing into lately has been really overwhelmingly difficult. Painful, yes! But the victory has been incredible. It far outweighs the momentary pain.

March 5, 2003 - honestly, i
feel a strong sense of brokenness these days. feel really desperate for His presence, for His reality to hold me up, sustain me, pierce through all that i am and fill up all that i am not. i am not now who i was a few months ago. dragged through some rocky paths, it's been a rough road. from my physical tiredness to my sinfulness to my fears, all have risen up to the surface, claiming attention, clamoring to be mastered. and as i contemplate these things, finding myself losing my cool and flinging paper across the room, breaking down and sobbing uncontrollably... realizing that as i stood next to a cliff, needing to step out, that when it really came down to it, i am not able to really trust God. and that broken reality has brought me to tears. i want to trust Him for the next step in my life, but sometimes it's just so much easier to live by sight than by faith, so much easier to be so crazy and insistent about planning every moment of my life, feeling safe and in control. but that is not the better way. i know it's not. but i guess we could say, the battle is on. He's going to win though - of that I'm certain.

and, honestly, i don't think i have ever loved Jesus as much as i do now. i have never loved Him more. nor have i ever understood redemption as i do now.

03-03-03 - thank you
Thank You, Lord Jesus, for Your redeeming love -- without which I would not be able to stand. I am humbled by Your love.

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Mary Ann Nguyen. All Rights Reserved.