I love to give gifts to people. It’s a joy to hunt for just the “perfect” thing that I hope will bless the receiver.
It’s part of who I am, and what I do.
Years ago, when someone was praying was praying over me, they said, “You can’t “out-give” God.” From time to time, I remember that, and I ponder what it could mean.
But lately— the last few weeks— that has been swirling around in my thoughts.
This past Christmas, I was given the opportunity help a dear, dear friend get special ornaments to someone else, in a different country, to bless and minister to others.
Normally, this wouldn’t have been an issue. But— Covid caused major changes in the mailing system.
At first, someone else was supposed to get them from me, and then mail them. But— that didn’t work out.
So, with some help figuring out what to do, I was finally able to learn how to do it.
The process of figuring it out— it was frustrating! I was tempted to be annoyed, and may have given in to that a little… 😳😔
But— this friend who was asking for my help— if you knew her, you’d know what I know about her. She’s probably the most giving, sincere, kind person I’ve ever been blessed to meet.
So— I figured out the process.
Then I found out there was a deadline for getting it to my friend’s friend! Prayerfully, I got it mailed, and it arrived just in time!
All that intimidation and worry about language barriers, how to pay for it and difficulty physically for me were found to be pretty ridiculous— It was such an easy process, once I figured out what to do.
I felt happy that I got to be a tiny part in blessing others, to help share the Gospel message.
My dear, dear friend messaged me today. Her friend had passed away.
I’m sitting her marveling at how God used me to bless someone who just wanted to be a blessing to others.
Gifts that now serve as a special memory of a selfless, beautiful sister in Christ, that I never got to meet— but I will get to meet her, and rejoice with her, in Eternity one day.
This time I had no part in hunting for the “perfect” gift. This time I was just a messenger helping get the perfect gifts to another destination.
Funny how things impact us that we never expect will.
We cannot out-give God.
His purposes are as mysterious as they are fulfilling and more beautiful than simple words can ever describe.
“For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for prosperity and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.” Jeremiah 29:11-12 NASB
1 Cor 13:11-13 “When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully, just as I also have been fully known. But now faith, hope, and love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”
The struggle is real.
Effective communication is a skill we Americans have lost.
This information age has severe relational consequences.
Personality clashes are enhanced by our lack in effective communication skills.
We are all at a disadvantage.
We all behave like children, at times, insisting on getting our own way while not hearing what others have to say.
And, we avoid. Unfortunately, avoiding dealing with things — that never resolves anything.
But, head-on resolution isn’t what most feel comfortable with.
Where is that middle ground?
Many years ago, I was included in an uncomfortable confrontation about me. God’s Spirit spoke to my spirit, and told me to not let myself get pulled into it. My character was attacked, and what did I do? I let myself get pulled into it, which backed me into a corner of having to defend myself.
It was ugly.
Over the years I’ve heard God’s Spirit tell me to not get pulled into the middle of situations where I’m left having to defend myself. Situations where I instinctively want to fight back, to attack. I’ve learned to remove myself from the “line of fire”. Sonetimes I have to ask Him—How??
How do I stop myself from being dragged in?
I’ve found directly confronting issues is the most effective way to resolve conflicts.
Sadly, in some situations, no matter how I try to confront issues, the people involved react as though I’m attacking them. There seems to be no separation of issue vs personal attack, no matter how I try to explain things. And I’ll find myself, again, backed into that corner of having to defend myself.
I don’t attack people.
I wish communication was this easy thing.
When I was newly married, pregnant with my first child, I was given some wonderful, Godly advice I still strive very hard to stick to.
When in the tug-of-war of an argument, lay down my end.
As soon as I feel defensive, I know— I need to stop tugging. God never intended us to exert our own strength against one another in our relationships. Jesus should be our strength.
Sometimes laying down my end includes walking away. Sonetimes it means just waitng for the dust to settle so calm, rational resolution can happen.
Sometimes it means I don’t return fire with an argument— instead I tell my husband I love him, and I kiss him. (True story.)
Sometimes it means I have to pray through the uncomfortable inability to get resolution.
In the end, when I stand before Jesus, I want so much to be able to say I valued the relationships—the people— He has given me more than I valued appearances of being “right”.
I’d like for others to value me the same! Not to be directed by opinions of me or past mistakes, or infused by reactions to things misunderstood— with no option or ability for my clarification.
Situations throughout my life have evolved instead because the focusedvalue was placed more on a mistake or failure than on me as a person! I have a failed first marriage that exhibits that! I’ve had to block people, or shut them out of my life, because where I failed or misstepped is their valued focus. I am not. How I feel or what I am going through is not.
That weight can be crushing.
I think that’s what makes my road with Jesus so very narrow— maneuvering the snares and pitfalls Satan loads into situations where God’s instructions for us through His Word and His Spirit (as well as Jesus’ example for us) aren’t closely adhered to.
Unfortunate things happen all the time. Misunderstandings happen all the time.
Confronting issues should be the focus, I believe.
Attacking one another should not.
What would Jesus do?
How would Jesus respond?
Would He allow Himself to be backed into a corner, and just be attacked?
He removed Himself, went off by Himself. Except when it was time for Him to pay the world’s sin’s cost.
Jesus valued the relationships He built up with His disciples— His family, His friends.
He valued people.
I’ve never seen in Scripture where Jesus quickly jumped to conclusions. I’ve never seen Him react, close off listening, and just do whatever was easiest and quickest.
Oh— but I sure do that!
I am woefully deficient in behaving like Jesus. Thankfully I can talk with Him— about everything (no matter how difficult, embarrassing, self-loathing, or angering it is!!). I can resolve things, and I can walk steadier— in His strength— on my narrow road.
God’s Will is the goal— live as peacefully as possible with others.
Ultimately peace through God’s grace and Jesus’ strength, is my goal.
That peace that surpasses all of my understanding.
God turns everything around for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.
The stuff that He turns around shouldn’t be the focus, it’s what trips me up every time.
Jesus should always, at all times, be my focus.
Treating others the way Jesus treats me should always, at all times, be the focus of my intentions, at the center of my heart.
People are so important to Jesus that He died for us all!
God made Salvation as easy as possible for us. Mankind adds twists, turns and an abundance of complicated expectations.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His one, and only, Son that whoeverbelieves in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 NIV
Then mankind adds their own “twist”— you’re Saved if you demonstrate the gift of speaking in tongues. You have to prophesy. You need to speak things that are not into being as if they were. You must demonstrate unspeakable joy as though it’s continuous happiness… and on, and on, and on…
I personally believe there are people who are as clanging gongs to God, that believe they are pleasing Him.
Maturity is important in our relationship with God. I do believe we grow in maturity as we get into the meat of Scripture.
I also believe we tend to move away from the Gospel’s simplicity as we “grow up” in Christ.
Here’s the simplicity— am I included in whoeverbelieves?
What should the evidence of that be?
Galatians 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. NIV
I wonder if ministries today are how God wants them to function. It seems as though very few get right to the heart of the simplicity of God’s Gospel message.
1Peter 1:3 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”
Romans 10:9 “Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
Romans 8:11 “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.”
Acts 17:31 “Because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”
That seems pretty simple to me.
I am reminded of Mary, who sat at Jesus’ feet and hung on every word He spoke.
And yet, Martha complicated it. She tried to pull Mary away from giving her full attention and focus to Jesus. I think, even though Martha’s service was what she believed was necessary and needed— she missed the mark that day. She stepped into a performance role, whereas Mary stepped into a relationship role.
I see these two roles as often being almost in a type of war with one another.
The road is narrow for the simplicity of God’s Gospel. We seem to lose our footing the more we focus on what everyone shouts at us along the way. “You need to do this, be this way, demonstrate that, bind and loose these things…”
I simply need to believe in my heart and confess with my mouth.
Sometimes it’s wise to just drop everything we “know”, and go back to sitting at His feet, absorbing every word He has spoken.
If I could describe my life as a mash-up with how God has always been there, it would go something like the following:
Accidents, mishaps and hospital ER trips— Your protective Hand was covering me, keeping me safe from far worse.
Deepest loneliness, hurts and deep-seated rejections— You’ve always accepted me, held me close to Your heart of hearts.
You are the only One Who has trulyloved me. The only One Who has consistently been there through everything.
There in my happiest times, rejoicing with me.
With me in the sad times— comforting me in Your arms of perfect Love.
Mynorthern star, the compass of my heart…. You are the voice that calms the storm inside me Castle walls that stand around me All this time, my guardian was You It’s Always Been You Phil Wickham Who stood with me in the fire? It was You, it was always You Who pulled me out of the water? It was You, it was always You And who carried me on their shoulders? It was You, I know it’s You, You
You have never born false witness against me, have always encouraged me through Your Word and that still small voice speaking to my heart of hearts.
You have lifted me up, You have had my back. You have been my Guide to get out of the muck and the mire threatening to suffocate the life out of me, draining me of the will to fight, the will to live.
It’s Always Been You.
It’s only been You.
So Will I Hillsong United. You chased down my heart Through all of my failure and pride On a hill You created The light of the world Abandoned in darkness to die.
If the stars were made to worship so will I If the mountains bow in reverence so will I If the oceans roar Your greatness so will I For if everything exists to lift You high so will I If the wind goes where You send it so will I If the rocks cry out in silence so will I If the sum of all our praises still falls shy Then we’ll sing again a hundred billion times
The sum of my life is simply— You’re the One who never leaves the one behind.
4 Luke 15:4-7 “What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the other ninety-nine in the open pasture and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it?5 And when he has found it, he puts it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, because I have found my sheep that was lost!’ 7 I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance.
Have you ever watched someone restore a damaged painting? I find it fascinating, the level of dedication, determination and affection the one restoring it demonstrates. The knowledge of every painted stroke, the understanding of what and how— tedious work, for sure.
Have you ever heard a song that grabs your soul’s focus almost immediately?
“I was a wretch. I remember who I was. I was lost, I was blind, I was running out of time.”
I instantly remembered.
In the midst of everything I have going on in my life, everything I am struggling with, all I am endeavoring to push through and overcome, I was instantly transferred right back to that moment my soul heard Him call my name and tell me to turn and follow Him.
My life was the messiest of messes. I was being crushed against my rock-bottom.
He saw me. He reached into my soul, He called my name. My name. He knew myname.
He gently helped me to my feet. He patiently cleaned off all the smudges, He worked out all the mars in the clay of my foundation. He tended carefully, lovingly to the tears, the worn spots from the misuse, the abuse, of others who didn’t know how to properly care for me.
He looked into the depth of my soul, found all that is of value to my Creator. He applied the Blood to every detail.
He Saved me for Eternity, He rescued me with the redemptive relationship no one on earth deserves.
I haven’t deserved such Divine, Perfect attention.
He gave it to me freely, liberally— permanently.
I never have to go back. I have continuously walked forward. Sometimes I’ve crawled, and at times I have danced with Him.
My beautiful Savior.
It’s beyond just His love for me.
He sees me— all of me. He knows me better than anyone ever can.
I was often told I was “in the way” by people who’s opinion mattered deeply to me, for a significant portion of my life. I had no reason to not believe them. So, I did all I could to move out of the way, whether physically or otherwise.
I assumed everyone thought this about me. I have lived most of my life trying to not be in anyone’s way.
My foundational understanding of myself has been flawed by believing that I’m just always in the way.
I was once told by one of my pastor’s that I was in God’s way and I needed to move out of it. You have no idea how that affected how I saw God at that point.
I still don’t trust anyone to “pastor” me.
Over the years I’ve thought about this phrase, and with God’s help, I’ve begun to turn it around into a positive.
The Way is what Believers in the past have called their group. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. Jesus lives in me. I am inthe way. But– I am not in the way, as being an obstacle.
The pastor who said that to me did not see me in my time alone with God, often prone before God, surrendering my life and my choices to Him.
That pastor was wrong.
In all those years before I accepted that he was wrong, I saw everything that I did or said as being in God’s way. I had no idea how to get out of God’s way, or what that even looked like.
I never felt like I could fit in anywhere, because no matter what I was blind to somehow being in the way.
I reacted by just removing myself. I can’t be in the way if I’m not there, right?
I was then told by that same pastor that I was in sin because I wasn’t at church everytime the doors were open– I was forsaking the gathering together of the saints…
How does one ever please someone who just sees what they think you are doing wrong?
God moved me out of that pastor’s way, relocating me to another area. But that criticism stuck.
How can I possibly ever get out of God’s way when He is everywhere?
Over the years, God has revealed that He does not see that about me. He has shown me that I have, in fact, been in His way. Going out of my way to obey His word, to demonstrate grace and forgiveness, to show compassion and love– I’m trying to do things in His way.
It’s amazing how much healing and reatoration can be released when God corrects wrong thinking.
Now I know– I am exactly where I need to be– in His way.
2 COR 10:5 “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”
In our culture of Christianity, it’s become easy to sing our promises and confessions of faith.
Do we follow through? When the service is over, do we reflect on the weighty words we’ve sung in praise, adoration and promise to our God?
I can’t say, with a clear conscience, that I have.
When I sing about surrendering it all to God, and beg Him in song to “take it all”, do I really know what I’m asking of Him— what I’m giving to Him?
Lately I have been playing Animal Crossing with my kids and husband. I have this neighbor— Buck— the “neigh”bor that annoys me the most. He’s brash, loud, yells in my character’s face, and he sneezed on her. I mean— the nerve! Lol! In real life, I wouldn’t want a neighbor like that. So, I’ve been trying to get him to want to move away. I give him boots, which he always hands back, saying he doesn’t want my trash.
My point in sharing that is— God *does* want our trash. He wants the worst parts of us— the things we dislike about ourselves, the stuff we hide from everyone else.
He wants our broken hearts. He wants our ugly, horrible thoughts. He wants that anger that seemingly comes out of nowhere. He wants those feelings that cause us to do exactly what we hate…
He wants our trash.
Because then He can make us better. He can make us stronger. He can repair the broken pieces of our hearts and lives. He can calm the storm that rages in our emotions. He can help us see things clearly, without worry, fear or distortion.
But, we have to freely give them to Him. He won’t just take them. He is never forceful with us.
There is nothing like brokenness of spirit and a broken heart to open or change your view of things for previously unnoticed perceptions.
Like the words to songs. As I relived some memory lane through songs I haven’t heard since my most recent bout with brokenness, I realized I’m seeing things differently. Where before I sang them with the confidence of being enveloped by the Love of Christ, this time that same Love permeated into the chasm coated with reactionary numbness that tries to dull the pain. It caused a different reaction, a realization that now I understand more than before, and perspective that grants revelation to a new depth of understanding.
“Clothe me in white, so I won’t be ashamed…” has a deeper meaning to me now. In order for God to clothe me in white, my soul is bare before Him. He sees everything— nothing is hidden from Him. In the past I’ve known this. Now I more than know it— I experience what it really means— He sees me. He sees my deepest shame, my pain, where I have been abused and cast aside. He’s taking the outer garments I thought I had to wear that I believed covered me, but instead caused rejection of me— and He has clothed me in His acceptance. He’s thrown-out the old garments of being shamed, and He’s covered me in His forgiveness, His righteousness, His approval!! And though people may attempt to shame me— I will not be ashamed because I know Who I belong to— no matter what. The not being ashamed, that’s for me to live out. It has nothing to do with how anyone treats me or talks about me— I am not ashamed of who I am, because of Jesus.
When I sing “set a fire down in my soul, that I can’t contain, that I can’t control— I want more of You God, I need more of You God…” and I tell Him through singing that I want Him “…to pour it out…“ I understand that I need to be intentional about what I am asking Him to do— because He will give me more.
What will I do with the more that He gives to me?
When I sing about how “ I will dance, I will sing, to be mad (not angry FYI) for my King, and I will become even more undignified than this…” Baring my naked soul with unskilled dancing is the most vulnerable thing that I could do. I can boldly approach God’s throne of Grace in this manner— it should be an easy decision— casting off everything that weighs me down.
This is the way we should all be with Jesus. It’s a process we each get to face as individuals.
“…that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.” Eph. 4:22-24
The likeness of God, is Salvation through Jesus. We have the promise of eternal life with God through Christ Jesus. As we lay aside the old life and choices, we begin to understand the why’s concerning God and His Word. The why’s are important, because without that understanding, we will never be able to really lay aside our opinions that don’t line up with Scripture, or forgive the person who may actually be trying to sin against us 7×77 times daily.
I have a view. An opinion. About everything. I have a view about that opinion I have of everything— I’m right. Of course I’m right! Can’t you see that? What do you mean you look at things differently? There’s only one way to see things– my way!
I think if we’re all honest, we’ve fit that description at least at some point in our lives. The one where we measure everything against our own perspective, and toss away everything that doesn’t line up.
When I’m sitting in a movie theater, and a tall person sits in front of me, I adjust so I can look around them to see the screen, or I change seats. When I’m driving somewhere and there is road construction, I find a way around it.
When I have an opinion about something, or a judgement– a plank– I look around the log in my eye instead of directly at it. I don’t recognize it as a log, or an obstacle in my view. I accept it as part of the reality I “see”. I make excuses for it being there– “That’s just the way I am…”
God is doing something in me. It feels kind of weird, I’m seeing people different than I ever have.
Tonight I met unfiltered guy. I saw the speck in his eye. Then God showed me the log in mine.
God’s Word clearly tells us to come to Him as we are. As we are. Not “clean yourself up, behave with societal ‘normal’ behavior– you know– fit in perfectly!” Nope.
Come as you are.
____________. (fill in the blank)
“Come as you are.”
“Those who are weary will find rest.”
“Those who are hungry will be fed.”
“You who are lost will be found.”
“The hurting will find comfort.”
If God extends that to everyone, shouldn’t we as well?
God can handle it. With God working through us, so can we.
Over the past 20 years I have been moved from place to place, sometimes by God, sometimes for personal reasons.
That is why I’m writing this.
I am no one special. I have no title, no grand purpose or calling. I am like many within your flock, under your care– part of your Divine calling and purpose.
I am a member of the Body of Christ, and that means something more to me than merely being a member of a local church.
I have been given talents by God, and I strive to use them to help further His Kingdom purpose. I have been given a heart of flesh that longs to please God. I love people, I love Jesus, and I love serving God as He calls me to.
I have seen where church leadership has some blindspots. I am asking you, humbly, as one who loves God and people– please– drop all defensiveness and listen.
I believe that God has called Pastors and all church leaders to love His people as He loves His people, not to just instruct us about the Word of God. Not one of us is in the same part of the narrow road, nor have we walked with the same steps or strides. In fact, there are some who are crawling, there are some who are stopped– waiting on God to give them clear direction– direction that oftentimes comes through you.
Every Pastor wants the congregants who are running the race perfectly, with all the energy necessary to carry out the plans and purposes of the ministries churches offer. There are people who are called and able to fulfill those Pastoral dreams.
I want to tell you, many simply are not. Many are trying to work out their Salvation with fear and trembling. Some want to please church leadership, but they are burnt out by doing so. Some feel weighted down by life. Some have been crippled by life’s circumstances, and they can’t “perform” as is often necessary. These are the people you are leaving behind. These are the ones you are hurting. Some of these equate how you treat them with how God wants them to be treated– and that is breaking God’s heart.
I want to encourage you to look at every person as the individual that God has created them to be.
We are all brothers and sisters in Christ, and God has entrusted you with the loving care to help nurture and grow even the most unloveable Christian.
I believe God wants to release His healing within His Body. Hurts caused by our own family in Christ. Reconciliations. Letting go of offenses. Repentance for how we all treat one another.
I believe He wants to begin from the top of the leadership down through the entire congregation.
What does this look like? More ministries for congregants, not just opportunities to serve. Listening more carefully. Being approachable, a healthy relationship attainable outside of jumping through specific hoops to prove worthiness of your time, attention and appreciation.
Removal of any “hierarchy” mindset that in any way belittles your congregants in your eyes.
There are millions of Pastors, and every one of you is a unique individual created by God, just like all of your congregants are.
I pray you will read this, that you will seek God concerning this. Not because I am asking, but because God’s Judgment begins in the House of The Lord. We all need to be far more sensitive to God’s Spirit than we are to the opinions of ourselves and others.
God’s love is not tough, it’s full of compassion, patience and deep understanding.
🎵”I sing because I’m happy, I sing because I’m free. His eye is on the sparrow, I know He watches me.”🎵
This song is a comforting reminder– Jesus sees what no one else sees concerning me.
And then, there is the realization– Jesus sees what no one else sees concerning me… He looks over the walls I have built. He sees when I cry, when I binge eat, what I watch on tv. He sees what affects me, what bothers me, what tempts me or distracts me– what pulls me away from Him.
He watches me.
What does that look like?
I probably couldn’t identify all the ways my heart, mind and consciousness react when I think about Jesus watching me. I mean– seriously– He’s watching me.
Not in a creepy way. Not to inspire fear of harm. Not in a mocking way.
His plans aren’t to harm me, or make fun of me. He doesn’t elbow God the Father in the ribs and say, “Whoa! Did you see that?? What an idiot!”
He’s not plotting my demise. He’s not shouting at me, like I do at my tv, when He doesn’t agree with what I say or do.
He is nothing like me. I need to just let that sink in.
He doesn’t conform to my ways– no matter how good I think my ways are.
He doesn’t reject me for not doing things the way that He would.
He is full of abundant life.
If we tapped our understanding into the reality of Who He is, we would be walking in His power. Miracles would not be the exception, they would become the standard.
Peace would permeate every space our feet touched, spreading His Word.
Demons, which we’ve been convinced don’t really bother us anymore, would flee in terror because they would recognize not us– Jesus living through us.
Our bodies would be purged of all infirmities and all desire for unrighteousness. We would be transformed in our minds, in our hearts and in word and deed.
We are new creations through Christ Jesus– the problem is, we have no idea how powerful that transformation really is when we fully embrace it.
That is why Christians are persecuted. Because of the potential, transforming power of Christ surging through us, coursing through our veins, into all of the earth.
We see these movies and tv shows about people and super heroes with super powers. Jesus is more powerful than every one of them combined. And WE know Him!!! He lives inside of us!
Think about that.
If we trade in all of our earthly valuables for Him fully– what would that look like?
We have the potential to demonstrate the most powerful abilities– far more powerful than Hollywood could ever make up. Love, forgiveness, grace, mercy, healing, wisdom, compassion… Discerning where God is at work, and not falling into the critical-of-everything trap…
The thing is, I think we don’t often explore that because, really– how does that benefit us? How does it make us look cool, or appear sexy? How does it multiply our bank accounts and possessions? How does it help our reputations– seriously– who wants to leave everything, to lay down their life– for real? Does Jesus really expect us to do any of that? I mean– He knows our hearts, right?
Right. He knows our hearts. He’s known our hearts since before we were even formed within our mother’s womb.
He sees it all, He sees our hearts all the time, not just the times we want Him to.
He died for us, in our place, despite our hearts.
Our hearts should experience a massive change once we allow Him to be our Lord and our Savior. Our hearts should be redeemed by Him.
There is another aspect, though. Jesus knows because He is also human. He has both– God’s heart and a human heart. He understands our limitations from within and without.
And still, His thoughts towards each one of us outnumber the grains of sand– on every beach, every ocean floor, collected as souvenirs, combined throughout all of the earth’s history.
It’s overwhelming to think on and to appreciate the fullness of Who and all He is.
When my husband asked me to marry him, I was so excited I did cartwheels! I couldn’t wait to tell everyone, to show them my ring!
Compare that to the day I was baptized, as an adult at 22. Excited– because I was following after Jesus. In my spirit I felt the love of God as though the sunlight were shining on my face. But I didn’t do cartwheels, or run to tell everyone and show them my certificate of Baptism.
I believe each Christian denomination gets some things right.
With Charismatics, I see the passion they get at excitement with familiarity with God, as a strength. They embrace the outward expression of God answering prayers and helping in times of trouble by dancing, raising their hands, even thanking God out loud.
I believe God wants us to demonstrate unreserved excitement sometimes when He responds to our prayers. That He wants us to reach up outwardly, surrendering pride of appearance to Him. Like a child, unable to contain their joy over something they love, I think there are times He wants us to worship Him with that complete abandonment of everything that restrains us.
John 3:17– “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.”
We constantly see judgement coming from those of us who claim we belong to Him.
We have redefined judgement as love, giving ourselves excuses to do exactly what God did not send Jesus into the earth to do.
God alone is judge. We are not equal to Him, we serve Him. If He made it clear in His preserved Word for us that He didn’t send His Son here to judge the world– why do we believe that’s what He’s calling us to do?
God has bound Himself to His Word. His Word tells us to love one another.
Love does not include our well-meaning criticism. It does not look like what we define it to be, at all.
Love endures all things.
Love looks past what we opine as being flaws.
Love is gentle.
Love is kind.
Love leaves evidence of Graceeverywhere it touches.
Love is impossible without God.
I believe we can often be so focused on the speck in someone’s eye, we miss the log in our own.
Though we are individuals in Christ, God is unchanging. Just as He is bound to His Word, we are also bound to His Word– Jesus is the Word, and we have been given the written Word to help keep us grounded in Him firmly. There is a danger when we stop measuring everything against what is found in Scripture.
God has chosen love as the vehicle to give us Hope, He has chosen Jesus, His nonjudgemental Son, as the Savior of the world.
He has called us to be wise as serpents, yet gentle as doves, as we wear the sandals of peace to spread the Good News.
He has called us to fast for Him to remove unbelief.
He has told us through His Word that the battle belongs to Him, that vengeance belongs to Him. We must be so careful to make sure our actions and words are lined-up accurately with His written Word.
He speaks to His people, today. But He never strays from His written Word.
Who are we listening to?
The more complicated we make things, the more exhausted we become.
The Gospel message is simple. Always.
Luke 2:11″For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes upon Him shall have everlasting life.”
My husband doesn’t do things the way that I do. He doesn’t say things the way I say them. He doesn’t look at things the way I see them.
He doesn’t have the same Political views that I have…
When we married, we were taught through God’s Word that his body is my body, and my body is his body. In some ways that has become a kind of joke for us throughout the years.
“Honey, we have some things to do.” “Do I have to?” “Well, since your body is my body– yes.” Or, the silliness of doing something impossible– like using the restroom, lol.
Since my body is my husband’s, and vice-versa, does that mean his mind is also mine and mine is his?
Could you imagine if this were the case? If I had the ability to get him to think like me, and if I thought as he does, misunderstandings would become nonexistent!
But, the mind is such a complicated thing. The closest we could get to that is doing our best to consistently work at clear communication. Practicing listening. Sharing openly. Discussing differences.
Body ownership has been defined for us in Scripture– we become one-flesh, two halves of a whole. But our minds? As Christians, they should belong to the Lord. They have the unique ability to multi-task. While doing one thing like talking with people, we can pray, remember Scripture, Praise and Worship God at the same time.
The Bible exhorts us to pray without ceasing, because we can. We are able to do that. It takes practice, reminders, and at first a lot of attention and time. But then it becomes a habit. It happens naturally.
Our minds were made to interact with our Creator continuously.
That’s why there is so much competition for it with the world, people, even within ourselves.
We have a choice in who or what we give our minds to.
Everyday I want to choose God. Many times I fail somewhat, some days completely.
I’m a former anorexic and bulimic, reformed through Christ. This post has been a long time coming.
To look at me now you can’t tell I was near death at one point from practicing anorexia.
The Spiritual consequence is what I want to get into with this post. I don’t think I’ve ever read anything about that before.
Fasting is an important part of our growing relationship with God. When we fast unto God, we deny our flesh to set aside our physical wants and needs temporarily to focus on seeking God. We fast to repent, seek God, grow in our faith and understanding, and to actively put Him completely first. The focus is God, not our body, not the avoidance of food.
Anorexia is a tool the devil uses to corrupt that. Fasting not only becomes an obsessive practice of focus on ourselves. Opportunities open for the demonic to gain footholds in our lives, choices, beliefs, vision, perspective and practices. The devil sells us the idea we can obtain perfection.
When Jesus is our Lord and Savior, God sees us as perfect because Christ is in us.
Through the practice of Anorexia, the devil causes deformity within our spirits and our understanding. The devil clouds our vision, and converts our perception to a distorted view and belief system– the belief that our body is the enemy we need to fight against.
The Bible is clear that our battle is not against flesh and blood. We are transformed through the renewing of our minds, new creations through Christ Jesus.
Striving for perfection, we work hard for acceptance and approval of the world. But like a small kid in a game of Keep Away, or Monkey In The Middle, we never lay hold of it. The constant effort steals focus, energy, confidence– reality. The bar gets raised higher. It’s always just… out of…
God accepts and approves of us because of Jesus. We don’t have to prove our worth to Him because Jesus showed us how much He values us by dying on the cross, and rising up again. We are wanted, welcomed by God.
Jesus made it possible to have acceptance from our Creator. We can have a relationship with Perfection Himself, and He is working to make us the best version of ourselves– for His glory.
We have a choice: We can work really hard for a distorted version of perfection that’s never within reach. Or we can rest in God’s approval and meet Him in the changes He makes as He perfects us His way.
There is an unhealthy attitude. Within the Church. You may not want to hear about it. You may not want to listen. But, that will not make it go away. Confronting it will. Confronting it is the first step to healing.
And, the church needs some major healing and repairs.
So, the attitude is this: if something about a church congregation hurts, disappoints, offends, or puts you off– don’t talk about it. Don’t talk to anyone if your feelings are hurt. Don’t mention that the lesson might not be quite Scripturally accurate. Do not show your true feelings, because the attitude is– “that’s unGodly“.
But that attitude is wrong.
Jesus never said “Blessed are those who pretend everything is fine when it’s not.” No, He said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit…”
Who are the poor in spirit? It includes those who have been hurt within the Body of Christ, sometimes from the Body of Christ.
We need to pour healing into our own.
I am going to talk about it, and we all should.
Because this pretending like everything is fine, it’s not worshiping God in spirit and in truth. It’s lying.
Everything is not fine.
And, it’s not ministering to the ones who need ministry the most– those that have been hurt. Often hurt by people within their own congregation.
I have been to several churches regularly since I turned my life over to Jesus, because I move around with the military, and sometimes God just moves me on to another church.
I have been hurt. I have been devastated.
By a church split. By a Pastor I respected like he was my own dad. By a pastor’s wife I hoped would be like a mom for me. Then I wised-up. I stopped trying to fill a need I sincerely believe God wants church leaders to help fill in their congregants lives.
But, it hurts.
Because that is a realistic, honest need. Maybe not for everyone. But it is for a lot.
How many people can actually talk about this disappointment, this failure in ministering to our own?
Most won’t because they feel shamed. They feel their needs are unimportant. They don’t know who they can talk with and be real with.
They get blind-sided with remarks about lack of faith, or about not trusting God enough.
It has NOTHING to do with not trusting God or lacking faith.
It has everything to do with not making oneself vulnerable to and not trusting Church leadership. Those God has put in place to representJesus. Many times, they are the ones who are not trusted. And, by every account, they should be the most trustworthy.
The most approachable.
God made people to need other people. God uses His people as His vessels to speak through, to pour His healing through, to help draw others nearer to Him.
I know, I know, God calls humans… so human weakness and faults… I get that. But, it goes way beyond that, into a seeming hardheartedness.
Why is there such an attitude of busyness, but not a deep healing ministry for everyone who walks through the doors?
God does not want Christianity to be a religion of individuality. I don’t believe He ever meant it to be such a hands-off thing.
God’s heart is for the hurting within the Body of Christ, not just without.
Who are the hurting within the congregations? Widows. New moms. New members. People moving from different communities, states or even countries. Divorcee’s. Military spouses and kids. Singles, of all ages. Teenagers. Homeless. Those untrusting of people.
The Body of Christ often can’t see beyond Its nose.
It’s time to wake up. Judgement comes to the House of The Lord first, and I do believe this is the 11th hour– perhaps even the 11:30th hour. Do we think God will “see our hearts” and just have His Judgement pass over His Body?
Lord, please pour out Your healing in all those who are hurting, who are lonely, or who just don’t know who they can trust. Please reach out to the broken-hearted, and minister to their every need. Soften the hardened hearts towards the weak, the hurting, and the ones who don’t seem to measure up or step up under the heavy weight of human expectation.
Lord, please help Your Church to walk in Unity, as well as to walk like You did as You prepared the way for us.
Please help us to make ourselves ready, to clothes ourselves with Your love and compassion for all. Remind us of our own weaknesses that You strengthen, and help us to be encouragers and extensions of Your healing Grace. In Jesus Name, Amen– So be it.
Divorced people also hate divorce. It’s ugly. It’s destructive. It tears apart what God put together. It turns a peaceful union into a war zone.
Moses gave permission for divorce because mens hearts had hardened against their wives. A hardened heart makes way for cruelty and abuse. Moses was protecting the wives by allowing it.
As one who went through a Scriptural divorce– it sucks! It hurt!
Divorce rips apart lives, hearts and families. It destroys reputations, confidence and dreams.
Divorce is Hell on earth. It separates two people who were once bonded together by love and agreement.
Every divorce is different, it happens for different reasons. It’s a deeply personal experience that cuts through the one-flesh union down into the marrow of our spirit. If you have ever had to have a bone marrow biopsy done, then you know how much that cutting hurts the spirit of those split apart by divorce.
Divorce is more destructive and devastating than losing of a loved one to death. It’s cancer to marriage.
Going through a divorce is pain-filled dying yet still living.
Can we as the Church, the Body of Christ, just stop? Stop judging our wounded family. Stop throwing stones. Stop rejecting. Stop pouring on our salt… Just stop.
Can we just love one another?
Can we just reach out and encourage each other, especially those in our church memberships that we haven’t taken the time to really get to know?
Let’s trade rejecting for compassion. Hatefulness for love. “Tough love” for gentleness, kindness. Anger for patient listening. Judgment for hugs and healing words.
We can do this. We need to do this. We’ve got to stop wounding our wounded.
I hope to see more teaching to couples and congregations about the difficulties of marriage and the solutions God provides through His Word and through praying together. I hope to see less rejecting of divorcées, and more kind and gentle ministries offered compassionately towards them.
Come on, Church. We are better than this ugly, hate-filled rejection of those who are hurting and struggling to get the pieces of their lives together, alone.
What Would Jesus Do? What does He expect us to do in His Name?
Do you find yourself being a reactionary or responsive Christian?
I want to be responsive, but I have reactive tendencies far too often. My reflex at feeling attacked, questioned, put on the spot or called names like hypocrite used to be to jump into action and find Scripture to back up my actions, words and belief.
I fell into the false belief that my job as a Christian is to be on the defensive, to fight back with words, to defend my faith, my belief, my Savior from attacks. I thought that was what being a Christian looked like, what it meant.
I was wrong.
My job has never been to convert anyone to my beliefs.
My job is to live out my faith, while living at peace with others as much as is possible.
And, it’s not actually my job. It’s who I am.
Christian is what defines me.
Not my appearance.
Christ within me.
I am comfortable in my faith, because I am able to rest in God. I am able to trust God. Everything I am now, in this moment, is because of changes God made in me, because I am His. And He is mine.
He is Worthy to hand my complete trust to. He is Worthy to give over my plans and decisions to. He is Worthy to live for. He is Worthy to represent.
This past week I have been reminded where He has Saved me from. I remember who I was. Because of a nightmare and a school friend’s recent death, I’ve been taken back to where I’ve come from.
I needed to be reminded.
I have the loveliest peace resting in my heart, because I am comfortable in my faith.
I don’t pounce on those who say things to make me feel defensive. I don’t jump on people who mock us, hate us, and live in ways we don’t agree with. Because that doesn’t reach hearts or change minds.
I live to be a heart changer, to have God’s healing work through me. Defensive fighting doesn’t heal or help others see Who God really is.
I understand God expects me to reach up towards Him through prayer and demonstrate His higher ways. That is a tall order from God, but to whom much is given, much is expected. I have been given much experience, much forgiveness, many, many chances. Should I not give those to others, as well, where it’s appropriate?
Just over 20 years ago I walked into my church service on Mother’s Day Sunday. A divorced Airman, stationed in Japan, I assumed everyone knew my status. But a boy handed me a red carnation, my favorite flower. I started to give it back, saying I wasn’t a mom, and he told me not to worry about it. I could keep it.
As I went to find my seat, I saw a friend who was a mom. I told her I felt bad for keeping the flower, and she said, “Don’t. It’s a promise from God that you will one day become a mother.”
A few years before that day, I nearly made an appointment to have surgery so I wouldn’t have children. I had a sad, awful childhood, and I didn’t want to bring kids into this world full of such ugly hatred for innocence and vulnerability. A friend talked me out of it.
Today I have 4 children. Each one carried and formed within my body. Their lives are so different from how mine was.
The change to motherhood began in my heart, a seed desiring children was planted the day I received that carnation. I wasn’t in a relationship, but I began looking into adoption options. I pondered the future, thought of ways I could include a child. I thought I’d be a single mom. I believed I’d never find a man I could trust to be the father of my children. I refused to have children with the man who divorced me because I did not trust him.
God did a work in my heart that caught me off guard. I don’t know how or when He made the changes. I made a list of 50 things I believed I’d find in the man He would bring into my life, if He wanted me to remarry.
Months passed. I forgot about the list I had written. I was introduced to a guy, and we started walking and talking together. We went to church together. It wasn’t long before I found the forgotten list. I could check off 46 out of the 50 things, and I recognized evidence of God at work on the 4 things unchecked. A short time after, he asked me to marry him.
I said yes!
The next year and a half was a jumble of long distance, high phone bills, separation anxieties, misunderstandings, making up, praying together, wedding preparations, family frictions, and finally we were together as man and wife. During that long year and a half, God spoke to my heart about the promise of a daughter, and He gave me her name. Deborah.
I got pregnant immediately after rejoining with my new husband.
It was not an easy pregnancy. I had awful morning sickness, and a terrible rash some first time moms carrying girls got… I knew that child was fulfillment of God’s promise of a daughter. Everyone thought I was carrying a boy, but I knew she was a girl.
My water broke 30 days before she was due to be born. She was a tiny 5 pounds 8 ounces. Then she lost a full pound the first week. Our first two weeks together were the hardest I have ever endured. I was fighting to keep her alive. She slept all the time, nursed constantly. I was sore, tired, scared… I had no family nearby to get help from. There were ladies at our church that supported me and prayed for us, and I know God used them to help me continue.
When my daughter was born, my mom-hood was born as well.
I went from fighting as a survivor from my own circumstances, to loving a tiny human who was part of me and yet separate– loving her so much I could feel my heart tearing to be able to fit more love inside of it.
With each child, my heart has stretched and broken apart to fit even more love inside of it. The eye can’t see that, but I have felt every tug, pull and tear. Each child and I have our own story, our own bondings, as well as our own conflicts.
God has been incredibly good to me. He fulfilled His promise and gave me so much more! He provided me with a safe, healthy environment to raise my own children, with a man who selflessly displays so many of God’s characteristics.
I am indescribably thankful that God helped me find my way on to a different life course than I started out on.
I hate the parts of my personal story that involve my past. I don’t like who I was, I don’t like what I lived through. I abhor my reactions and choices. I despise where I had no choice or that I had no one to help me, to comfort me, or just talk with.
Yeah, I hate my past.
Maybe that’s why I haven’t been able to get my book written. I hate reliving it. I hate thinking about it. I hate how when I am in a group of people and I just want to fit into the conversation, I feel compelled to share my experiences so I can identify with others. And I hate how vulnerable and
I often feel when I tell something deeply personal.
Who really wants to hear about the horror experiences of my childhood and teens, and for what reasons do they want to hear about them?
Who cares? About me?
I loathe feeling like other people think I’m competing in storytelling. I hate how it just feels normal to me that I have gone through so many things, and then I see that look of shock on the face of someone I’ve opened up to- then I realize, my life has been anything but normal.
It’s like a thorn in my side.
The parts I don’t hate about my past are when God shines through, as a warm, magnanimous Light, as if He has given my heart the most loving hug.
Healing me, bringing completeness to my injured, abused soul.
Exposure reveals the miracles and even the heart of God throughout my life.
Hating my past has helped me to love and appreciate God. Living my life, I’ve learned there is no one more trustworthy and faithful than God.
It’s on my heart to share this, and given recent events in the Middle East, I can see that in some respects, it could be a timely message for some.
As an American, I’d say–in our modern American culture, there seems to be a strong growing trend to avoid pain and suffering. We’re a first world nation, we should expect to have comfort and some luxuries, isn’t that the mindset we have all just accepted as normal, healthy living?
We tell ourselves we deserve it.
I think this has, in some ways, weakened some of our resolve and even work ethics.
In today’s America we often expect to be well paid for a job we put minimal effort into doing well. We complain about working, about customers, about our bosses, about not getting paid enough–so little contentment with so much expectation and even an overreaching of an attitude of entitlement of money, healthcare, cell phones or the latest electronic device, of getting everything we want and having every convenience possible, with as little effort as possible.
Us moms, we often give in to the temptation of having a pain-free birth. I gave in with our 4th baby, but I felt like I had somehow cheated. I’m not saying I think that’s wrong, but it seems like it could be a symptom of pain avoidance.
My first 3 births were natural, no pain killers at all. Our second child came so quickly, there was no time to even have an IV put in.
Through childbirth, I learned how to embrace the pain of the contractions, to use that pain to know when to help my baby come out into the world. I bonded with my babies, I struggled and strove to help them. The pain wasn’t something I feared, but something I embraced, I used it to accomplish purpose.
During the labor of my 3rd baby, God spoke to me through the pain.
He told me no one could touch my soul because it’s safe with Him. No matter what happens to my body, my soul can never be touched, harmed, or stolen.
With the recent growing number of killings of Christians, this is something He has reminded me of, to share and have others meditate on.
Pain is fleeting. Salvation is Eternal. Our soul is safe when we give it to God through belief on Christ Jesus. As a result, I know deep within, I Never have to be afraid of any pain. I know that God will avenge me for anyone who hurts me, because I belong to Him.
I know that God will avenge every Christian murdered by those who have set themselves up as enemies of The Most High God. We may not see how He does it, but their souls will never have the comfort, peace, rest or safety that the souls of those they murdered will have for ALL of Eternity.
God’s judgment is coming for those who dare to touch the ones He has claimed as His own.
I have no fear, because I know Who I belong to. And, if I stumble into fearfulness, God reminds me that it’s His perfect love that casts that out. I don’t have to succumb to it, to let it take over my reactions, my emotions or my actions and words. I don’t have to let it take control, I am not helpless because I have Help.
I have read and heard quite a few interpretations of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednigo–from prosperity encouragements, to commitment, to God’s faithfulness to us. But, what I get out of that account is that no matter what–no matter the pain, no matter if God chose not to intervene or help them–No Matter What, they would remain faithful to God. Because they knew Who they belonged to. No amount of pain, or manipulation, or fear-inducing circumstances could make them turn their backs to God.
He chose to help them. I have no doubt if He hadn’t, they would have died in that furnace still completely faithful to God. Because they knew He knows the end from the beginning. He knows the reasons He does, or does not do things.
Do you know Who you belong to? Do you believe on Him so deeply, that no amount of pain or suffering will manipulate you into relenting and turning away?
We need to pray that those being killed for belonging to Him through Jesus know Who they belong to. We need to pray that God will intervene, that Jesus will return, and that this persecution will be stopped. Only the return of Jesus is going to stop it.
When we obey the command to pray for peace in Jerusalem, we are praying for Jesus to come back and intervene on behalf of those who are suffering because of His Name.
Return, Lord Jesus, return quickly!
When we Christians unite, the power of God is manifest through our agreement in prayer, through our worship of God, and that is what causes fear in our enemies. That is why they kill, because Satan knows and wants to stop God’s power from flowing through His body–The Church, The Bride of Christ.
We are part of something so much greater than we are just in ourselves.
Satan is using people who believe his lies to try to stop God from working through us. He will not succeed, we know that from The Revelation of John.
But, where 2 or 3 are gathered, He is in our midst. When we have faith, we can tell a mountain to move, and it will.
Do we ever challenge our own faith?
Paul had a thorn in his side that God chose not to remove. There is debate of what that thorn was, but what I understand is–Paul chose to continue to faithfully serve God with that thorn unremoved. He didn’t complain. He didn’t yell at God. He didn’t quit. He didn’t rebuke it.
Paul focused on God, not on the thorn.
Our faith and our commitment need to grow up. We need to put off the American part of ourselves and embrace the Eternal, like putting off our old selves to put on the new. Ephesians 4:22-32Colossians 3:1-4
We can’t, after all, take America with us, and America can’t keep our souls safe Eternally.
It’s been 2 months since my dad’s passing, wow, to the day. My timing isn’t planned, just lucky coincidence.
This picture accurately represents something unexpected for me.
My dad is smiling here. He was happy because my husband was able to visit him.
When my dad was alive, it wasn’t his smile I remembered, or his comforting shoulder hug when he walked up next to me after not having seen me for a long time. It wasn’t the twinkle of kindness and love in his eyes when he looked at me during my short visits so far and few between the passing time. It wasn’t his jokes, or the happy tone behind all he said.
The thought of my dad when he was still alive wasn’t anything warm and fuzzy. It was sadness that he was in hospital or nursing home care. It was frustration that so much of a normal relationship with him had been stolen from me because of mental illness (also PTSD misdiagnosed and neglected) and his “guinea-pig” status with the VA. It was anger that he was so unpredictable, I never knew what to expect when I was able to visit him. My mom claims he had no “filter”, what I know as practicing self-control and taming the tongue. The last time I saw him when he wasn’t being kept alive by machines breathing for him, he told my husband some really awful things, stuff he said he was confessing to concerning me. There are so many holes in my childhood memory, some of what he said I can’t even verify.
He was moved around so often by the VA that I rarely knew where he was, and he did not always have access to a phone for me to call him. My mom stopped remembering to tell me he had been moved, it became part of her normal life. And, the truth is, I often cringed at the thought of talking with him on the phone. What would I say? What would his frame of mind be?
The most surprising aspect of his passing is that all those fears and negative emotions have just sort of evaporated away. I am finally free to feel the good feelings when I think of him now. My guard can be let down, I don’t have to defend myself, or prepare for the worst. I don’t have to remind myself of the bad things.
I never once wished him dead- well, after I forgave him, that is. So, there is no guilt to deal with now. Life circumstances kept my family and I far away from him, so again, no guilt about any of that. It was out of my control.
I can let the little girl I once was think about my dad and remember what I loved most about him. No more guard, no more self-defense, no more cringing as I think of him.
I feel so blessed that this time as we transition, we are leaving an actual church home. Not just because we chose to become members and begin to lay down roots. No. There are many facets in why we stayed with this church until God, through the military, chose to move us on from the area.
There are a lot of really “good” churches. There are also, sadly, some not-so-good churches. Every church has different focuses, different ministries, and even different reasons for having been planted.
This church has felt like home. I have been free to just be myself. I have been allowed to make mistakes, to grow, to be the vessel God has molded me to be. Not everyone has been formed by God into a pitcher. Some are vases, some are bowls, some are cups… All can be poured into by God, but there are a variety of ways God redistributes what He uses through us. I have been able to serve as God has built me to serve. And, it’s not been an issue with anyone that my season just has not been one of exhausting myself getting involved with everything possible. Maybe some haven’t liked that, but I don’t feel judged or labeled, or even rejected. No one has resorted to calling me offensive names, or directing sermons at me trying to get me to change something that they completely misjudged about me. Nope. Not this time.
I love that this church is involved with several missions to quite a few international locations. They open their doors to guest speakers who share stories about God using them to help people who don’t have many opportunities to be shown hope, kindness, love or grace (Project Rescue). They embrace opportunities to reach out to hurting children in ways that don’t try to conform the child to any standard, but just to give them a chance to rest, and have fun in a safe environment (Royal Family Kids Camp). They reach out into the community to give what is needed, and make things fun and inviting (Harvest Party and Feed the Multitudes).
I’m not going to blather on all mushy-like about how perfect it’s always felt to me since we started going. It’s not perfect. It’s not fakey-polite, it’s not elevating of certain people. It’s well-balanced. And, while, of course, there are things I would personally change, the things I would not change far out-weigh anything petty.
It’s real, with real people, doing real things, with God at the heart of it all. The teaching is sound, with just the right touch of “edginess” and twists on perspective to illuminate the Word of God being alive – that double-edged sword that separates our understanding and everyday ways from God’s actual intentional purposes and plans.
That’s why I consider this my church home- because it reminds me of how things will be in our Heavenly Home. I have been satisfied here.
I’ve said goodbye to an extraordinary amount of people during my lifetime. So many, I’ve lost count. Different phases, stages, careers and places I’ve moved on from.
This past year I’ve lost 4 people near to my heart, to death: 2 sisters in Christ that I admired deeply, my dad, and my middle school music mentor who helped form the individual I’ve become.
I don’t remember how the two sisters in Christ that passed on last year dressed. I remember how they demonstrated their love for the Lord by giving Him their lives, their hopes and dreams, in service, worshiping Him in spirit and in truth. I remember seeing the reflection of God’s heart as they prayed for me and others. I remember the Hope they lived out and openly shared with people who had no idea they even needed it. I remember when I was young, how my dad made me laugh. I remember how my music mentor encouraged my creativity and helped me form a sincere love for music, how it could be fun, how we could take the notes and put them in different orders to make new melodies. I don’t remember what color shirt he wore, or if he wore sneakers or dress shoes.
It’s human nature to size people up. We value our opinions more than we value the person our opinions are about. It’s God’s nature to value what’s within each individual, the unique qualities that make us all who we are.
We’re all so much more than our outer packaging. My own life has been full of adventures, twists and turns, comedy, drama, tragedies, trials– easily missed by an outward scan of the eye.
My heart misses the people who have impacted my life over the years. My eyes miss seeing their smiles or tears of compassion. My ears miss hearing their laughter and voices.
The things we place value on in the here and now are often completely erased– rendered invalid as time passes on.
Still later he appeared to the eleven disciples as they were eating together. He rebuked them for their stubborn unbelief because they refused to believe those who had seen him after he had been raised from the dead. “And then he told them, “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone…”
Recently in the news, many rejoiced that 3 young women who had been held captive by a man for a decade, were suddenly found and freed. They were alive! Though not unharmed, and changed in ways most of us will never comprehend. They were finally allowed the freedom to return to their loved ones, robbed of a decade of memories and experiences with them.
I think we can all agree, their new freedom was good news!!! And, it was spread, far and wide.
Also, recently in the news, the government has enforced a new law that is popular with some, and unpopular with others. For years, many have been shouting the good news about free government healthcare. For others, they recognized a new bondage they have been forced to embrace.
The Gospel can come across that way. When we Christians quote the 10 Commandments of God to the world, many look at it as a new bondage. One that locks them into a box of condemnation and away from the freedom to live as they choose to. Many hear the clanging of gongs whose noise level is deafening, and it makes them run away from what they think of as a type of ancient imprisonment. It makes them strike out in anger at the ones making the noise.
Sadly, we have been ineffective messengers. We’ve caused many to equate the Good News of Jesus conquering eternal death, and being raised up from the grave, as an agreement to surrender to a bondage. One they cannot live up to, and don’t even want to try.
Do we hear how we sound?
Is what we say, and the attitude in which we say it, how we ourselves were drawn to Jesus?
When we say to someone, “You will die a forever death that will keep you eternally separated from the love of God, from the goodness of God, from God Himself”, what reaction does that invoke?
How can we communicate the Gospel message effectively?
Do we even want to communicate effectively?
See, it seems like sometimes we prejudge people and we tailor our message to fit the perception we have created with our opinion. Then, we leave God out of the message. Oh, we talk about Him, we try to thump it into people’s guilt and consciences. God is probably not in that.
Many have come to equate the Gospel message with a message of condemnation and criticism for how they are, who they are, and how they want to live.
When did Jesus ever talk to an unbeliever like that?
How many people actually ask us what they have to do to be Saved? Most often, it’s an unwilling listener who gets a barrage of what a horrible person they are.
When my husband asked me to marry him, if he had told me what a horrible person I was and how he could make me be a better person if I would marry him, I would have never spoken to him again.
That’s what we do when we walk in condemnation of the people God loves and wants to draw near to Him. They aren’t going near God with a 10 foot pole, when we approach them like that.
Are we like Jonah? Deep down inside, do we feel like they don’t deserve our loving God’s arms wrapped around their lives, or His promises fulfilled for them?
Is it really a Gospel of repelling and condemnation we are wanting to pass on, so they will instead reject the wonderful things we have been given in Christ Jesus?
Or, is it a manipulative way we embrace because of how we view our own inadequacies in sharing Jesus with a world full of hostile critics? Is it our own lack of faith in God working through us to draw others to Himself through us?
Are we willing to be vessels filled with His love and grace?
Whatever our definition of love is, I do not believe, most often, it is God’s definition of love. Where is the kindness, the gentleness, the peacefulness that God Himself demonstrates to us constantly? Is God like the slave master who whips us into submission to Him?
He is gentle, and loving, and Kind, giving us everything we need. Why is it, then, that often we take on a harsh, mean attitude, and shout about Sodom and Gomorrah, the 10 Commandments, and how the unbeliever needs to repent?
Perhaps there is a time and a place for that. But, most often – I think not.
I believe these are some hard questions we need to be asking ourselves. This is a mirror for us to look into, and do a heart and motivation check.
1 Corinthians 5:9-12 (NASB)
9 I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; 10I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world.11 But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one. 12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders?Do you not judge those who are within the church?
God has sure been stirring up a lot of things in my heart and thoughts lately.
One of the recurring issues I deal with is that I am still missing out on a father figure for my life. I understand that Scripture teaches us that God is our Heavenly Father, and He has never disappointed me.
I know it sounds ridiculous, but I am 40-something, and I still wish I could just have a normal conversation with my daddy. I have never had that. I have missed that, and struggled not to envy what others have been given.
There are so many people, of all ages, who have not had real, or healthy relationships with their parents. Where are the Godly men who will step up, and allow God to use them to replace what has been stolen from so many?
“When Jesus then saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then He said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” From that hour the disciple took her into his own household. (John 19:26-27 NASV)
He understood that those relationships are of utmost importance.
We are missing so much with our individualistic approach to Christianity. We are missing out on so much.
Our American culture has adopted this practice of Tough Love when we see others doing stuff we don’t like.
I can see how this has been helpful in some situations. Some people are hurtful towards others, and destructive forces for themselves and others. Sometimes we need some kind of kick in the pants to wake us up to difficult things.
My concern is, it seems like we often call something else “Tough Love”. When people do things that annoy, we turn our back on them. We don’t tell them what the offense is, but we ignore them in a manner that is manipulative, and honestly – mean.
I cannot see Jesus doing that with others. Not this second thing.
The second description is a form of rejection, candy-coated so we can justify our actions. It’s often the result of hearing one side of a situation through gossip. Often the person being rejected or ” Tough Loved” is the most in need of acceptance and actual Love. It is not Biblical.
Love is patient. Love is kind. Love endures all things . Love keeps No record of wrongs. Love does not rejoice in evil ( do we rejoice in turning our back on others?). Love is not jealous (does our rejection cause someone to feel jealous of others being treated better by us?). (1Cor 13)
When someone offends us, the Bible instructs us in how to deal with that. It is rare that I see that put into practice! Even by lay leaders. What most often happens is we play this manipulative game of “guess what you did wrong – no you didn’t offend me”.
We need to stop the games.
Let’s practice Tough Love on that manipulative, mean practice we use to elevate ourselves in our minds, as being better than someone else.
Let’s practice compassion by imagining ourselves in other people’s shoes, and demonstrating the very same Grace, Kindness, and Love we would hope we could expect.
I’d like to redefine Tough Love as being resilient, and sincerely loving others even more so when they are the most unloveable.
Let’s really be the Church, and effective ambassadors of Jesus. Starting right now.
Part of “revival” is repenting from Ungodly practices.
A few weeks ago, my husband prayed over me, and God revealed to him how things often are for me. A scene played in his mind of a deer going from riverbed to riverbed, finding them all dry. I cried as he shared this, in awe that God would reveal something so deeply personal with accurate detail, in such a beautiful way.
God has taken this outcast and placed me right in the middle of His Living water. Now, when I thirst, I know I can always drink from His Living water, in a riverbed that never runs dry. God’s Spirit has been the water when I have been dying of thirst, with no opportunity for the type of relationships my life has often needed in order to be nurtured and healthy.
He has held me close to Him when others have kept me at arm’s length, gave me a cold shoulder or shut me out.
God made us to need other people.
For years, I’ve had this mental picture of looking through a window I’m on the outside of. I see people enjoying each others company while listening to each other intently and celebrating life, ministering to specific needs.
It’s like watching a movie of something that has been the longing of my heart.
More and more I’m sure God has been showing me His own heart with that mental picture. I believe He wants that to be a mirror, instead of a window. A reflection of all His children included. No jealousy, no competing for favoritism or position, and no bullying. Just unconditional love, appreciating God’s handiwork in others while building one another up and spurring them on towards the prize.
Maybe, also, that’s what it will look like in Eternity.
Isaiah 55:1 “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.”
Psalm 42 NLT 1 As the deer longs for streams of water, so I long for you, O God. 2 I thirst for God, the living God. When can I go and stand before him? 3 Day and night I have only tears for food, while my enemies continually taunt me, saying, “Where is this God of yours?” 4 My heart is breaking as I remember how it used to be: I walked among the crowds of worshipers, leading a great procession to the house of God, singing for joy and giving thanks amid the sound of a great celebration! 5 Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again— my Savior and 6 my God! Now I am deeply discouraged, but I will remember you— even from distant Mount Hermon, the source of the Jordan, from the land of Mount Mizar. 7 I hear the tumult of the raging seas as your waves and surging tides sweep over me. 8 But each day the Lord pours his unfailing love upon me, and through each night I sing his songs, praying to God who gives me life. 9 “O God my rock,” I cry, “Why have you forgotten me? Why must I wander around in grief, oppressed by my enemies?” 10 Their taunts break my bones. They scoff, “Where is this God of yours?” 11 Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again— my Savior and my God!
Atunci când burniţa descurajării mă îngrozeşte, fă ca viaţa mea spirituală să înflorească.. fă să dispară ceaţa groasă care îmi învăluie fiinţa întreagă ! Fii Tu Soarele neprihănirii care să strălucească !