What does it mean to take up my cross?

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? – Matthew 16:24-26

People write entire books on this, but for this post, I’m going to keep it short and simple. (Matthew 16:24-26)

What is the cross? 
It was an instrument to kill the flesh. 

Jesus is saying to anyone that desires to follow Him, they should deny self (not focus on loving self) and kill the flesh (not gratify with fleeting, earthly pleasure)

When we deny our flesh, we live by the Spirit.

Jesus says over and over again “If you love me, you will obey me.” We obey what we love.

Jesus is the designer of life. He knows the best way to live it for human flourishing.

Could you imagine taking a boat and putting it on a road? Sure you could sit or even live in it, but it will cause accidents. The boat will never be what it could have been on the water. The boat was not designed for the road.

When we bow down to our flesh, we are not living the life we could have had in the spirit – so much better and closer to God.

We live in a time where loving self is our god. It’s an OBSESSION. It also often leads to depression and anxiety (hence why those statistics have progressively gone up).

“What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?”

Jesus offers something so much better than self-love, earthly pleasure, or earthly success. He offers Himself.

He offers freedom, true identity, value, purpose, meaning in this life, hope, comfort, and peace. He alone offers all the things we look for in this world (and never truly find).

Everything on earth will waste away. Everything new and exciting gets old and boring. But He offers a salvation that will live forever. 

For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. – Matthew 16:25

Single-minded: Boasting in the Cross of Christ

“The opposite of wasting your life is to live by a single soul-satisfying passion for the supremacy of God in all things.” – John Piper

Is this you today? Did you wake up with a passion and zeal for the Lord? How about striving for His glory and being satisfied in Him in whatever He has brought you today? 

As Christians, we will have very set apart lives. Our interests will look vastly different than the interests in our culture. We don’t value the same things or hold to the same hopes or have the same desires.

Ladies, we don’t boast in our bodies, diet plans, workout routines, being a super mom, climbing the corporate ladder, obtaining rewards or degrees, nice nails/hair, having nice possessions, or even how good of a Christian we can be. 

Those things may happen or be given to you as little gifts from the Lord, but we know all of that is fleeting and does not even come close to the value of the cross of Christ.

He is our true boasting. The goodness and the graces of Him in our ordinary day is worth shouting from the mountain tops! 

And in turn, when we recognize that nothing in this world is worth boasting for apart from Him, the world will not really find us all too appealing either. 

We won’t look the same, think the same, use the same words. We won’t be entertained by the same things. We won’t laugh at the same jokes, watch the same shows, listen to the same music. We will be women who belong to the Lord – vastly different, but more loving and giving towards others than this world knows what to do with. 

So when we boast, let us brag about how sweet our Savior is.

When our children do something awesome, or boyfriend gives us a gift, or when we lose 20 pounds – bring glory to God for those things.

But know that even the best of moments on earth will never compare to the best (and worst) moment 2000 years ago – the only thing really worth boasting about – when Jesus laid down His life for you and for me.

“Thy will for my life”: Betty Scott Stam

A prayer by Betty Scott Stam showed up in my “memories” tab on Facebook a few days ago. You may have never heard of her, but I remember being in “awe” when I first read this prayer and heard her story as a newbie Christian. However, now that I’ve been walking with the Lord for almost 10 years (still kinda a newbie 😜), the weight of how she lived weighs even more. 

“Lord, I give up my own plans and purposes, all my own desires, hopes, and ambitions, and I accept Thy will for my life. I give up myself, my life, my all, utterly to Thee, to be Thine forever. I hand over to Thy keeping all of my friendships; all the people whom I love are to take second place in my heart. Fill me now and seal me with Thy Spirit. Work out Thy whole will in my life at any cost, for to me to live is Christ. Amen.” – Betty Scott Stam

Betty met her husband (John Stam) at Moody Bible Institute while they both studied to be Chinese missionaries. They crossed paths again in China while they worked with the same organization (China Inland Mission) and were married on October 25, 1933 (the same date as Matt and I🥰). Eleven months later their daughter, Helen Priscilla was born. Their days consisted of spreading the Gospel to nearby villages while holding meetings and services at night. This kind of work in China was known to be fairly dangerous. The Communist Chinese government looked at a practice of religion to be a threat to their rule. It was (and still is in many parts) illegal.

I think about how Betty could have done literally anything with her life. She was beautiful, smart, and had the world at her disposal. She could have easily had a nice, quiet life with a husband, children, and a white picket fence. But as you can tell from the heart of her prayer, she had an undivided devotion to Jesus Christ. She understood how brief this life is and how urgent sharing the truth of Christ was to a dying world. She loved Him. She submitted her dreams, goals, and comfortable life to the cross of Christ -“…I give up myself…to be Thine forever.”

“For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Matthew 16:25

Friend, could you imagine? As Christians, we often say “I love God” and “Jesus is my Savior”… But to what cost? How do we live our days? What consumes our thoughts? 

“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” Galatians 2:20

Three months after the birth of their daughter, their small town was overtaken by Communist soldiers and they were arrested on December 6, 1934. 

After spending a night in the local prison, John and Betty were forced to walk 12 miles with the soldiers to another town. They stopped for the night to rest. Betty prepared for the worst and pinned two $5 bills to Helen Priscilla and extra clothes swaddled around her. The next morning, Betty hid the baby in a sleeping bag and left her in the abandoned home they stayed in. The soldiers took them down the streets of Miaoshou where people watched and whispered. A shopkeeper came out of the crowds and asked the Communist soldiers not to kill the Stams. They invaded his home and found a Bible and a book of hymns; he was killed. After marching a little while longer, the soldiers told John to stop and kneel to the ground. People not far off continued watching and whispering in fear. And seconds later, the sound of a sharp sword was drawn. John Cornelius Stam, 29, beheaded. Betty watched her husband die before her eyes, kneeled next to his body, and took her last breath.  Elisabeth Alden “Betty” Stam, 28, beheaded. Both killed for spreading Christianity throughout villages and China.

As I write these words, tears stream down my face. What a love for Christ Jesus to give up their young lives for the sake of the gospel. I think about how they only got to experience the sweet gift of marriage for a year and parenthood for three months. Betty knew the reality of what the Holy Spirit living inside of her meant (bringing the Kingdom of God wherever she went). She knew what was on the line – souls destined for hell.

Not everyone will be a missionary overseas. But if you call yourself a Christian, you are called into missions. Wherever you are, in whatever time period you live – your life is meant to draw others into a relationship with Jesus Christ. I once heard someone say something along the lines of “If you actually believe Jesus is real and Christianity is true, then the most evil thing you could possibly do to someone is to not tell them the Truth.”

Let us not waste any more time scrolling for hours on social media or watching Netflix. Let us tell and show our friends, children, neighbors, parents, social media friends – the Truth: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” Romans 3:23. BUT  “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 

Am I listening to false teachers?

In 1 Thessalonians 2, Paul gives examples of what he was and was not doing when teaching the gospel of Jesus. He said these things so the church of Thessalonica could see a contrast in true teaching and false teaching. 

Similarly today, we have many individuals who may claim to know Christ, but the words they share and the life they live are off. As women who trust in the truth of the gospel, we are called to know what that truth actually is and when we are being misled. When hearing teaching of the Word…

—Does he/she teach on scripture? Or do they fit scripture around their own message?
—Are you being entertained more than learning the Bible? 
—Do you have to open your Bible? 
During a weekend church services, are you learning how to make your life better or learning about the life of Jesus?
Does the teacher make the Bible verse about you? (i.e. are you David in the story of David and Goliath?) **Spoiler alert: You are not David
—Are you feeling a sense of self-motivation instead of relying on the strength of God?
—Do you admire him/her more than the truth they are sharing?
Do they emphasize “experiencing God” over knowing God through his Word?

Ask the Holy Spirit for discernment (Psalm 119:66) and wisdom (James 1:5). God gives generously to all without reproach!