Challenging Narratives

Ephesians 2:8 “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” NASV

My husband had a conversation with someone dear to us that has inspired me to work through some thoughts I’ve kind of held on to for awhile now. I say kind of, because I’ve shared them with him but no one else.

I want to talk about grace– actually– point out a lack of the narrative of grace.

Grace is the difference between Christianity and every other religious belief.

Grace is humbling. Grace removes our efforts from the act of Salvation.

Grace should be easy to demonstrate and practice, a relaxation of criticism and fault-finding. But, in reality, grace is tough.

Grace removes blame. Grace replaces pride and self importance.

Grace removes accusations of other Christians.

We have many, many, many excuses for why it’s not first and foremost in our mindset, actions and view of others.

We look at what others do and we jump to some pretty strong conclusions about them and the condition of their soul, because of their choices that we don’t agree with.

We judge the container of their soul and think we’re in the right.

Only Jesus Saves.

Not doing the “right” “approved” things.

Not going to every church service possible and exhausting ourselves while not being ministered to or admitting what our needs are.

Not having a perfect house.

Not only reading “accepted” books or playing “accepted” games.

We don’t lose our Salvation by watching movies or shows that have garbage in them.

Our part in the Salvation process is confessing with our mouth that Jesus is Lord and Savior, and believing in our heart that He died on the cross, was buried in a borrowed tomb, rose again on the third day, and He ascended into Heaven to wait for the time to return to rule and reign on earth for 1000 years. And then– go out and share the Gospel of peace and grace.

That is our part.

Jesus makes the changes to the desires of our hearts.

He is continuously perfecting us until His return.

Allow me to clarify: I’m not talking about outright sin. Some things are not in our best interest. Some things are stumbling blocks and we know what we need to avoid in order to have the best relationship with Jesus that we can– like we should also do with others.

Before every Christian there is a measure of grace.

Christians should be so full of grace that it coats every word and deed we do.

So– why isn’t the main narrative grace?

Which narrative will you fall for? Accuser of the brethren, or grace?

I want to choose grace.

How about you?

Loved Of God, Called By God

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28 NASV

As a child until young adulthood, I didn’t expect anything good to happen for me. When it did, I would brace myself for it to be ripped away from me, because then I wouldn’t feel disappointment– because I just “knew” *I* didn’t deserve good things like everyone else did.

I carried that belief with me until I made the decision to stop just letting things happen *to* me.

I had been rejected, abused, trash-talked and the butt of family member’s and some “friendsjokes my whole life. I was convinced I was stupid, good for nothing– worthless– because I was told I was by people I thought knew me best. I thought I had to believe them.

Someone even told me they wished I had never been born. Everyday it was confirmed that I “was just in the way.”

Inner wounds and scars are tricky things. People react with compassion and understanding to outer wounds and scars, but fail to recognize that some behaviors are more than likely the evidence of inner wounds, of deep scars only God Himself can see and heal.

And He does heal them.

This is what Romans 8:28 reminds me everytime I hear it. For me, it’s deeply personal.

It’s evidence of God reaching out for me– to me– because I’m not in the way of His plans and purposes– I am a part of them.

He took my life, and He repurposed it. He refashioned it, reshaped it into something He can use. He has taken all of my bads and made them into part of His continuous story within my life.

He takes all of the bad, and uses it to help others know that He is Jehovah Rapha– The Lord Who heals.

I used to worry that people said things to me because that was how God saw me, but the more I learn His Word, the more I can see He has always had compassion for me, has always accepted me. He carefully made me, and where abuse and rejection had trounced and marred me– He picked me up, reshaped me around all of those circumstances, and He reminds me that if those bad things hadn’t happened, I could never understand the depth of His love for me, and His forgiveness towards me. He helped me forgive those who have acted with selfish ambitions– with little or no concern for how it has affected me.

I still have “people trust” issues.

What I no longer have is God trust issues. He has proven Himself reliable.

Worship– What Exactly Is It?

We’ve all been there:

Cue music:

Oh, I love this song! I wonder if my hair looks ok? Did I brush my teeth? Oooh, my voice sounds so good today, I’ll sing louder!

How much thought do we give to God, really? Everytime? Do we pay attention to the words we sing?

Are we really worshiping God through music and singing?

As a worshiper, these are things that have been stirring up contemplation in my own heart lately.

The Bible tells us to worship Him in spirit and in truth. It tells us to exhort one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs and sing to God with gratitude.

I looked at 71 Bible verses about worship, and out of all of those verses about 10 mention singing.

Not one mentions music.

Am I saying worshiping God with music is bad? Absolutely not– I believe it is genius!

But, what I am saying is– worship and praise are not music. They can be done with music, with singing, but music is not the definition.

I wonder how God sees what we do in our churches we call His house? Does it really honor Him? Does He approve? Does He even like it?

Or, does He see that really, we are doing it for ourselves, at least, sometimes, and only think it satisfies God?

Or, maybe we are missing that whole worhip Him in spirit and in truth, completely.

How do we worship God in spirit and in truth? What would that look like to God? Do we even try to worship Him outside of the music sets and practice times?

What does worship mean?

What does praise mean?

I do believe we all come to a point in our walk with Jesus where these questions burn into our spirit. We think we know, but–

Do we really?

May God grant us understanding, a willingness to learn, along with eyes and ears to hear and see what we might not already, clearly.

Don’t stop the music and singing. Let’s just do a heart and understanding check to see if we are missing something.

Awoken

Have you ever told the truth, then had to try to prove you were telling the truth, about something that no one wanted to believe?

I have.

Have you ever been called a liar by people who knew you were telling the truth, to others who did not? And the others not only believed you were lying, they punished and rejected you because of it?

I have.

Have you ever had your character slandered, purposefully, just to protect the actions of someone else?

I have.

I know, beyond any shadow of doubt, with a passionate fire in my bones– I know President Trump has been put into that situation a million times worse than I experienced.

I hated being put in that position.

I despise with every fiber of my being what is being done to President Trump’s character and his family.

I’m not talking about his past life of bad decisions and unChristian choices.

I’m talking about now. How he has stepped up to do what no other President has ever done, by listening to the concerns of people, like myself, who have been shut down and ignored for years, decades– for some of us our entire years of understanding.

I am deeply grieved that so many will not simply take a step back and see what is actually happening. The slander of the media, the political attacks from all sides against President Trump and his family.

I am even more grieved that Christians cannot accept or recognize where God is working through the actions of this President and his administration.

People are being set free– in record numbers– from human trafficking.

Most of those people are children and women– the two groups the opposing party claims to “champion”.

I had to write this, because I am so deeply troubled by a lack of compassion and ability to see God through the smoke and mirrors people opposing this man and his prayerful, praying choices are constantly tainted and painted with.

Please– wake up. Ask God what the truth is, because He will show you.

I may not have accurate knowledge of everything– and I don’t– but I firmly believe at the heart of President Trump is a man who simply wants to fix what Americans cannot fix, for Americans.

He has the vision God gave to our Founding Fathers.

If you truly trust God, you will learn through His Spirit that you can trust President Trump.

He needs our prayers and our support.

Regardless of your belief about him, as Christians we all need to be praying, unbiased, that God’s Will and Purposes be accomplished through him and his administration, and for his and their continued protection.

Pray that those mountains of obstacles be removed from the path God wants President Trump to plow through.

Don’t pray for him to fail– that is not God’s Will.

God is blessing our Nation through President Trump– like He blessed mankind through imperfect King David and his bloodline.

Please– ask God to show you the truth in all that is happening.

“Call unto me and I will answer you and I will show you great and marvelous things you do not know.” Jeremiah 33:3

As Christians, all of us need to seek Him for the truth. Because if we don’t– we may be allowing ourselves to get caught up in a snare of lies and deception. And that’s on all sides of the political spectrum! God wants us to dwell in the truth— at all times. Not in our opinions or our fears that we may be wrong if we decide to believe what others say.

I was telling the truth.

Others chose to believe I was lying.

I was defensless.

I was punished and rejected.

I recognize the fruit of this pattern happening now with President Trump.

My spirit bears witness with his.

Trump deserves to be treated with Grace by every Christian.

I hope you will seek God with all you have, surrendering your opinions and your prejudices, and let God wash your understanding with the truth.

Because– He will.

Home

Home- Chris Tomlin

As a kid, when my Grandma yelled “Kids! Dinner!”, I stopped what I was doing, dropped everything, turned towards her voice and house, and raced home as fast as my legs would move me.

Before that, I was so involved in whatever I was doing or playing like “ice cream truck” with my tricycle upside down and the pedals spinning, (not sure how exactly that made it an ice cream truck, but– it was the best game to play!), or burying m&m’s and pennies hoping for very special trees to grow quickly– nothing else mattered!

Important things, right?

As I Watched the video linked above, I had this mental picture of Jesus in the distance, and then of me just freed from wrist shackles– throwing off the weight of the world that ties me to this place, taking off at a full dead-on run, pushing my legs hard to get to Jesus.

All those things I’ve been focused on asking for God to bring His Kingdom here on earth– Jesus is His Kingdom.

Jesus is His promise.

There is no one else I want to be as close to as possible, besides my husband– and even he takes a backseat to my Jesus. My Rescuer. My Holy Hero.

There is some ugliness in the world that is not going to let the healing, transformative Light and Life of Jesus into it. Ever. It will burn in that lake of fire with the enemy of God and our souls.

I want to be as close to Jesus as I possibly can be. Here on earth, in Heaven. Everywhere.

This song has reminded my spirit. There is nothing more important than closeness with Jesus.

Nothing.

No matter where I am, when I am close with Jesus– I am Home.

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4 NASB

His rod and staff can only comfort me when I am close to Him. This Psalm is a picture of walking close to Jesus.

Believer’s Meeting

9:00 am, Sunday morning eyes close, hearts open– cue the perfect opening song, chosen because it’s upbeat, uplifting, and it gets the blood pumping. Energy surges. Those who practice loudly in their cars are ready to join in corporate Praise and Worship of Jesus, right?

Except, “I” and “me” are used far more often than His name.

It’s all about You, Jesus and how much You have done for me, how much I have been changed, how much You love me, how You’ve made a way for me…”

Song one finishes. Cue songs 2 and 3, in similar keys and subject so they can flow into each other smoothly. Hearts and minds are focused on all Jesus has done for “me“.

Cue song 4 for the offering, something catchy and convicting to encourage Believers to give to God freely…

Song 5 helps transition right into the sermon, getting hearts and minds prepared to receive the Word of the Lord and the Preacher’s sermon.

The sermon is deep, convicting, full of Truth and equipping Believers to make it through another week until it can all start over again.

A closing song extending the sermon message, inviting people to let down their personal guard so they can receive personal ministry to help them overcome the things holding them back, keeping them from fully embracing Jesus, God’s healing and deliverance…

And… we’re done.

It’s a set, a church service proven to be a smooth and embraceable formula that the majority of American Church models follow now.

What’s the fruit? Happy people, a love for deep, powerful music, a new determined focus to meet the challenges and difficulties of a week focused around “me”.

Mid-week, there used to be Wednesday night Believer’s Meetings to help get us past the dragging down of our spirits, and re-focus in putting Jesus first and foremost in hearts and minds. It seems many churches have instead poured their entire focus on that Sunday morning gathering. Which is fine, Wednesday night sometimes just adds into another thing that keeps us busy and exhausted.

Which songs in church help equip Believers in how to treat others? How many prepare Believers for interacting with those hurting, abused, or abusive outside of the Church bubble?

What church service songs encourage us to help rescue others from the spiritual muck and mire that acts like quicksand, holding and pulling people farther from freedom through Jesus.

We hear the words “help the dying and lost” so often, we’ve gotten numb to their meaning and impact.

The world that has not embraced the Salvation, Grace and Mercy of God through Jesus– it’s not a friendly, warm place. There are people who hate Christians, hate everything about God. Are we ever prepared to walk in the empowerment of God to not only deal with people that hate us, but also show them Jesus?

We lack transformative power, most often, because I believe we are stuck in a “me me me” rut.

Me filters everything– how does this song minister to me? How does this affect me?

All fingers are pointed at me. I’ve recently been confronted with my own boundaries of keeping the ugliness of the world out of my perception and eyesight-hearing range.

Choosing what I allow my understanding to be exposed to is a luxury.

The hurting, lost and spiritually dying don’t have that luxury. They don’t have Jesus, the necessity for us all, to protect them, to shield them, to deliver them from the cold, dark world of animosity towards all God has created– which includes them.

I had forgotten where I had come from. But– God reminded me. How can I not go back and help others ? Did Jesus rescue me so that I could become cold-hearted towards others who need Him to rescue them as well?

Jesus told us to go, share the Good News with the world that hates Him, and by proxy– hates us. Share the Good News that they don’t have to serve hatred any longer, they can have His free gift of Eternal Salvation. Before meeting Jesus, after allowing Jesus to give freedom is like night and day. It’s like shackles and freedom, caged and free, oppressed and… free.

Free.

No price.

No bondage.

No entrapment.

Free.

Mind-blowing, am I right? The human mind cannot even fathom what that means, and so many reject it because it sounds far-fetched and unbelievable.

We need God to empower us to demonstrate that reality of Jesus.

Where does the neat and tidy American church service infuse that empowerment?

We will never find that power on our own, within ourselves, to reach out to a torture victim. Because they do exist– in America.

How can we help rescue someone’s mind who has been trapped in human slavery– because, again, that exists inside of America.

Jesus left Heaven to be born as a human to walk with us, so He could rescue us– heart, mind and soul. Not just our soul. Not just physical and heart healing.

Our minds.

Our emotions.

He came to set the captives free.

Where are we most held captive?

In our minds.

How can we ever be ready to help people get free from the ugly hatred of the world if we stay focused on “what Jesus has done for me? Those trapped don’t care what He has done for me. They need Him to help them, and they need us to stand in the gap while He sets them free.

“For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.” John 3:17 (NASB)

“So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:36

Wound’s Protector— The Scar

I’ve mentioned a few times that I have scars on my scalp from a “friendly” domesticated adolescent cougar “playing” with my head as his chew toy. I’m thinking about that today because they hurt. Kinda bad.

So that got me to thinking– if my physical scars hurt so badly at times, what about those deep emotional scars? Sure I’ve gone through all those rituals of forgiveness, repentance for my part in some things, and trust in God for healing. And He has healed me– so much! (I’ve even felt Him heal my esophagus as I praised Him through singing– what an amazing, warm, wonderful feeling that was!) I wouldn’t be married again if God had not done major surgery on my mind and my heart. We just celebrated 20 awe-inspiring years!

Those of us operating in the American mindset think we have everything all figured out. We put things in neatly labeled boxes, organized by category, decorated prettily with descriptions, definitions and diagnosis.

But what if we’re wrong?

What if we take a box out of the organized line-up, sort through it and realize it really isn’t the way we believed it to be?

What if emotional pain is not always as explained? What if it’s the manifestation of pain from emotional scarring?

The tough thing about emotional scars is no one can see them. Only the person who lived the experience can feel and remember.

Incidentally– that’s exactly the experience of Christianity. Only the person who has experienced Divine interactions can feel them and experience their reality. That does not invalidate that person or experience, just like it does not invalidate one who has emotional scars. The experiences did happen, they did have an impact on the person they happened to. Jesus did Save the Christian, His actions and the Holy Spirit interactions continuously impact the Believer, though it’s deeply personal.

Do emotions exist? Do memories represent past experiences? Does pain from emotional wounds and scars ever manifest in our reactions, responses, emotions and beliefs?

I think maybe the “professionals” are really just guessing– and maybe they have guessed wrong in some things.

Maybe we look at mental health the wrong way. I don’t think PHD’s have all the answers because I don’t think they have been asking the right questions– many times they are just masking the symptoms, not getting to the core and root of what they diagnose– not looking for a healing solution.

Only God has all the answers, only God knows all things, sees all things and understands the “why” of all things. He has promised in His Word that we can call all to Him and He will answer us– He’ll show us great things we don’t know. Do we believe that?

I think I do. Sometimes. When we step away from the bindings of what has been explained to us with human understanding, and seek Divine understanding, God will show us, Jesus sent us the Holy Spirit to teach us, to comfort us, to empower us.

How much of that have we stepped out in faith to embrace?

We cling to our diagnosis, definitions and descriptions as though those have life for us. The One Who holds all knowledge is life. My desire is to cling to Him.

I fall short.

Do my emotional scars manifest sadness through their pain? Anger? A desire to be comforted? A lack of trust in others?

I honestly think maybe they do. Maybe that’s part of their intended function as God has designed them to protect where we once were wounded.