Unqualified For This

I sat and stared at a blank Word document. I thought to myself, “what if I am not qualified to share my words with the world?” “What if there is someone else out there who is more skilled in writing?” I wondered. Doubts began to creep into my head as I watched the blinking cursor, the ever-present reminder that time was ticking away. I had a few choices: abandon my calling out of fear, muster up my own strength, or submit my feelings of inadequacy to God. Maybe you’ve been in a similar boat. In relationships, work, ministry, daily life, we may not feel qualified for the calling God has put on our life.

Here are three reasons you can step out even when you don’t feel qualified:

1.     Your calling is not based on your confidence in the assignment.

In our lives, it is normal to do and try things that you think you will be good at. No one signs up to try something new if they think they will fail. When you know your strengths and weaknesses, you are likely to align your life with things that utilize your strengths. It is human nature to fear the unknown and uncharted territories in our lives. When I first started wrestling with the desire to lead a lifegroup, I did not step fully into the assignment because I thought I would fail. I remember telling the lifegroup minister I would take a season to see what lifegroup was like before committing to lead one. He looked me in the eyes and said, “Yes, by your own strength, you will fail. If you keep your eyes all-sufficient power of God, He will equip you for the calling He has on your life.” Using the passage in Matthew 14: 22-33, he showed me how Peter was able to walk on the water with Jesus until the moment he started to doubt God’s presence:

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.
But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out,
“Lord, save me!”
Immediately Jesus reached out His hand and caught him.
“You of little faith,” He said,
“Why did you doubt?”

The moment Peter looked at the strength of the wind and away from the strength of Jesus, he began to sink. Minister Henry T. Blackaby said, “The reality is that the Lord never calls the qualified; He qualifies the called.” As we relinquish the need to be confident in our calling, we release control to the God who qualifies the called.

2.     God will humble us deeply in order to use us greatly.

In our life, we are either walking in pride or in humility. When we walk in humility and have a proper view of ourselves in relation to God, we experience peace. James 4:6 says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Almost the very moment we think we’ve got it all figured out, God will humble us to show us that we need Him. Consider the pattern of King Nebuchadnezzar: feel pride, experience consequence, repent to God, repeat. In Daniel 4, King Nebuchadnezzar is having a dream about a tree, which was a prophecy of upcoming pride, consequence, and repentance. Despite Daniel’s interpretation of the dream, Nebuchadnezzar did not repent of his pride. How often do we have to be brought to a place of humility and repentance, despite warning from the Word and fellow believers? How thankful we should be for God’s continual patience and the pursuit of us, in spite of our pride!

3.     Your calling shows how great God is.

God is in the business of not doing things the way the world expects Him to. Rather than looking for the strongest, most eloquent, wise beings to spread His message, He chooses to use the weak and feeble first. This is not to say that God does not use the educated or charismatic people to spread His message. However, I think that wherever God can choose a weak person to glorify His name, He is found to be strong. God does not follow the ways of the world. In fact, 1 Corinthians 1:27-29 ESV says,

But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise;
God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong;
God chose what is low and despised in the world,
Even things that are not,
To bring to nothing things that are,
So that no human being might boast in the presence of God.

I’m finding God uses those uncomfortable areas (we might even call them weaknesses) to call us out of reliance on ourselves. If we were already qualified, we would get the glory; if in Him we are qualified, the Lord gets the glory.

Whether you are currently at a place of feeling unqualified or have ever felt this way, don’t lose hope. The God who calls us to something that seems impossible will equip us to follow His calling. As we become humble before the Lord, He will be the strength that we need. We need only to keep our eyes upon God, the One who empowers those He calls.

Purity Does Not Begin or End with a Ring

Purity. This word may leave bitterness in your mouth. Much of the teaching about purity is misarticulated or misunderstood. Confusion about purity has led many believers to believe that their pursuit of purity begins with the receiving of a purity ring and ends with the acceptance of a wedding ring. The goal of most teaching on purity is the pledge of sexual abstinence. Once married, many believers believe they can leave their “single struggle” behind. As a believer, we are committed to a lifelong pursuit of purity that is not contingent upon a ring.

Before we get into this, I want to say that I have a purity ring. As such, I am not anti-purity ring or anti-True Love Waits. I am one of the teenagers who was given a purity ring in my adolescence by my parents. While I’m not ashamed of the ring, I realize that wearing it does not give me any added status in God’s eyes. The ring also does not help me pursue purity, in and of itself. “Why do you still wear it then?” you may rightfully wonder. I wear it as a reminder to honor God with my life as a form of worship. The ring is a reminder of my commitment to honor God with all of my life, not just my sexuality.

Nevertheless, I think there are some important misconceptions that need to be addressed in regards to purity rings and their purpose. Whether you have, have had, or never had a purity ring or signed a purity pledge, I think it is beneficial to address some misconceptions about purity.

Here are some reasons purity does not begin or end with a ring:

1.     Virginity is not the ultimate goal of purity.

True Love Waits, the brainchild of LifeWay, was a nationwide campaign to encourage teenagers to abstain from sex until they entered marriage. This movement in combination with purity culture led to virginity commitment cards, “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” book studies and purity rings. The emphasis was put on saving yourself for your marriage partner, without additional information on how to do it. This movement was not entirely meaningless; in fact, teaching young adolescents to value their sexuality is important. However, for many, it served as the only teaching on purity. If this is the beginning and end of the conversation, something has to change.

2.     Purity is not a one and done pledge.

One of the main problems with the idea of purity beginning when you slip on a ring is that the ring is not magical. There is nothing that the ring can do to keep you from giving yourself up sexually before marriage. The ring is a symbol of your commitment to pursuing God’s design for your sexuality. In “Sex and the Single Girl,” Dr. Juli Slattery about sexuality says, “Broken sexuality is expressed by single and married women when their sexual choices don’t match their spiritual commitment to follow the Lord.” Dr. Juli’s statement brings to life the lifelong journey of purity within singleness and marriage. The (purity, engagement, marriage) ring is a mark of your decision to follow God’s design for the rest of your life, not just for a season.

3.     Purity is not a female issue.

Due to the popularity of the purity ring, it is easy to get confused into believing purity is a predominantly female issue. Not as many males committed to getting a purity ring, unless you were the Jonas Brothers. As such, many girls felt it was their duty to slip on the ring in an attempt to fulfill their female duty and image. Instead of it being a promise between the young adolescent female and God, it became a measuring stick to use to decide who was holiest.  Philippians 4:8 says, 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 such things.” Whether or not a male or female decides to put on a purity ring, our thoughts are to be honored in the sight of the Lord.

4.     Purity is not a promise for yourself and others.

At youth events in the early 2000’s, many young adolescents signed pledges to remain pure. In a response to peer pressure, young girls and boys signed their name to a slip, without really knowing what they were pledging. Similarly, some adolescents accepted the ring in response to parents’ adamant requests. In both of these cases, young adolescents did not begin their commitment with a desire to honor God. At the end of the day, “man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7 ESV). The Lord is the only one who truly knows if your thought life honors Him. A commitment to purity will not hold up during trying times if it is upheld by a desire to please others. God who can truly help you pursue purity is the One who should motivate your commitment.  

5.     Purity looks different than the world sees. 

Throughout the years, I have received many responses about my choice to wear a purity ring. As it is on my ring finger, many people are curious and ask about it. Some see the ring as a challenge. Others have seen the ring as a deterrent for unwarranted attention from males. Still, others see the ring as an outdated limiting rule. What these responses miss is that a ring will not change one thing if your heart is not pursuing purity. The decision to commit to honoring God with your life always precedes any commitment through jewelry, pledges, or otherwise.

6.     Purity is not a single people struggle.

      The effort to convince young people to keep their bodies undefiled before marriage were well-meaning; however, the overemphasis on purity as keeping sex for marriage led many young adolescents to believe that once married, they no longer had to pursue purity. In an attempt to preserve marriage, the movement actually turned purity into a single person’s issue. While not yet married myself, I have had to look to married counterparts to be retaught how purity is a lifelong pursuit. Things that they had struggled with as a single don’t disappear into the abyss when they got married, I’ve been told. 

I don’t have all the answers about purity. I still have many questions about the “how” of purity. The things I hope you leave with are a better understanding of the “why” and the “what” of purity. I hope you leave with a desire to learn more about God’s design for sexuality and for surrender in all areas of your life. I hope you are encouraged to allow God to be Lord of your life in all spaces.

Aligning Our Aspirations with God’s Word

When you think of the word “aspiration”, you may interchange it with the word “dream”; an aspiration can feel like a desire that is far-off and improbable. Instead of unlikely to happen, think of an aspiration as a pre-meditated aim that can direct how we act, speak, and live. An aspiration is a target to help get us to our goal of becoming more like God. The key to a meaningful aspiration is to decide what the target is before given the opportunity to walk it out. Aspirations are most helpful when inspired by Biblical truth. When we aspire to be who God wants us to be, we can more clearly make God-honoring decisions.

I’ve come up with a few aspirations for my life and included scriptures that inspired them. I wanted to share a few I came up with so you can also try out this exercise. I believe that making a list of aspirations based on His Word will give you a clear focus on your life.

1.     I will put my trust in you by reminding myself how You’ve been faithful.
“And those who know Your name put their trust in You, for You, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You.” Psalm 9:10
2.     I will seek your face in the morning.
“ As for me, I shall behold Your face in righteousness; When I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness.” Psalm 17:15
3.     I will seek Your counsel first, before all others.
I bless the Lord who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me.” Psalm 16:7
4.     I will not gossip but will speak life with my tongue.
“O Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on Your holy hill? He who walks blamelessly and does what is right and speaks truth in his heart; who does not slander with his tongue…” Psalm 15:1-3
5.     I will communicate with God about areas that cause me to stumble into sin.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7
6.     I will seek prayer before pity. My prayers will be expectant.
“Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer; from the end of the Earth I call to you when my heart is faint.” Psalm 61:1-2
7.     I will pursue community even when I don’t feel like it, it hurts, or I am uncomfortable with it.
“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17
8.     I will faithfully take the next step you have for me, even when I don’t know where it will take me.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2
9.     I will give thanks to God for what He has blessed me with.
“Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever.” 1 Chronicles 16:34
10. I will accept your sacrifice on the cross, in exchange for my sins. I will not try to earn the gracious gift You gave through works.
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

This list of aspirations is not exhaustive, but it has really helped me clarify who God wants me to be. When faced with a choice to follow my way or His Word, I can remember the aspiration I am aiming for. I don’t hit the target every time, by any means. However, this exercise has given me a way to remind myself of what thoughts God wants for me.

As you are praying and reading His Word, write down a list of things He keeps reminding you to do or verses that continue to come to your mind. Once you have a solid list, meditate on these aspirations as you go through your day. Pray that God will make His aspirations your aspirations.

Question: Are there any aspirations you already have? Are there any aspirations that I listed that you also would like to work towards? 

Unqualified For This

I sat and stared at a blank Word document. I thought to myself, “what if I am not qualified to share my words with the world?” “What ...