My Life’s Message: Abuse vs God’s Love (2 Timothy 3)

In this post, I am going to tackle the difficult subject of the differences between abusive love and God’s love. Typically I open up with the scripture I am using and we will get to it further down, but I think today you need to know that I am just as broken as anyone else. This post hits close to my heart and I hope it will speak to yours as well, Dear Reader.  I will be sharing the testimony of a past marriage to give you an idea of what an abusive relations ship can look like. For me it was a marriage, but the idea of abusive love transcends into friendships and even work relationships. We will also be looking at the warning Paul gives us in regards to the company we keep.

If you haven’t read about how Christ saved my life as a teenager I will give you a quick recap. I was caught in an abusive relationship that led to my seeking drugs, alcohol and when that didn’t numb the pain any longer I turned to suicide to end the suffering. If not for one friend who taught me the love of Christ over abusive love, I would have never seen the next morning or know the hope I have now. That miracle was only the beginning of God delivering me from evil that would plague my life and try to destroy the lives of my children. See I was ransomed thru salvation, but life had left a hefty scar and I ended up seeking validation on my own without God at the very front of my dating life.

I was in college when I met a man who was a few years older than me. Wouldn’t you know it we hit it off and very quickly stared dating: I had on those love blinders where the person I was infatuated with was perfect and no one could convince me otherwise. Why would they be able to when he said all the nice phrases I thought a man should? He showered me with gifts and was always patient when we disagreed. The one thing that should have been a red flag was that the conversations always came back to sex. We had dated three months when I finally gave into the pressure and said yes to giving my body to him. I wanted him to love me and I wanted to be deserving of another person to know my past and say that it was alright that I was molested because they would love you anyway. Unfortunately this man held that love and desire for ransom. I was only good enough if we had sex, and he had other sinister plans. I found out that I was pregnant after six months of dating, and I would find out five years later that he had sabotaged my protection to trap me with him because I was catching on to how he was. My blinders had begun to dissolve and it became apparent that he hadn’t accepted Christ and I wouldn’t marry a non-Christian. It was simply something I wouldn’t budge on and when I confronted him with it he ‘Came to repentance’ and was baptized.

After many months of pressure from my family and his I reluctantly agreed to marry him. Something didn’t sit right with me about him, God Himself told me in a prayer not to marry him, but I gave into the pressure and fear of being a single mother. He did become a Christian after all, so maybe that meant God had changed His mind? We dated for Six moths before we got married. I will give this advice until I die: Wait at least a year or more before you decide who you will partner yourself with for the rest of your life. People can pretend to be anyone but it is harder to keep up pretenses for that long.

A week after we were married things began to change in his attitude to me. I went from his bride to the woman who would be his slave forever. He worked, played video games, went out with friends, and had all the freedom he wanted. I wasn’t allowed to make friends, had to beg to see my family, was without a vehicle when I needed to go to appointments, was not allowed to have any money or buy anything besides groceries and baby items. I also was not allowed to have a say in what happened to my body, and so whenever he wanted sex I never got to say no. The first time I tried ended up in disaster as I was bruised, bloody and left to cry alone listening to him play video games in the next room like nothing was wrong. We only ate what he wanted, went where he wanted, and when he wanted another child I had no say in that either. He stopped going to church and when I asked him why, he said he lied about becoming a Christian so I would marry him. He was that manipulative.

I had devised a plan though of joining the Navy, and when the timing was right I would take my two daughters, leave him and there wouldn’t be much he could do. I told him about a meeting I had set up with a recruiter and told him I was going whether I showed up bruised or not. He relented and left because he was angry and I couldn’t go anywhere without a car, but I would try to get a ride later since I had a week before the appointment. He was rather calm about it for that week and had given me space which wasn’t normal but it was a welcome change. As I was about to call my mom to fill her in on my plan and get a ride to the appointment when he came up to the porch and shoved enlistment papers in my face. He had taken my dream of a military career and enlisted in the Air Force. We couldn’t both serve, so he got that honor instead. He was a vindictive man who wouldn’t let me have a dream beyond the four walls of our house. After he finished basic and training we moved 1,500 miles to Minot AFB ND.

The next couple years we would fight and argue over everything. He hated me and refused to take us to church or anything that took him away from his computer and gaming systems. I only had friends when he was deployed because he hated for anyone to have my time. The one bit of time he did allow me was to go to counseling for the abuse I went thru as a teen, but when I came home the girls would be an emotional mess or hurt. His response was always, ‘I told you not to leave them here with me. I am incapable of caring for kids.’

My oldest daughter was wild to the bone and my second oldest was three but had signs of Autism. She hardly spoke, never played with other kids, always lined up her toys and screamed when there was too much noise or action happening. She said only 14 words in total, was in occupational therapy three times a week, my husband was deployed and my youngest son was ten months old, so to say I was trying was an understatement. We were on a Skype call when my daughter that only spoke a little refused to talk to her dad, and when I asked why the answer she gave would change our lives forever. She described that he had been molesting her and her sister. I turned off the video and opened a chat to confront him with the information, and he typed a full confession right then and there. I took that confession to my neighbor who called his higher ups. He was arrested and we went from having a good sized house, nice cars, little bills and what the world would call a great life to living with my family in under a month. In May of 2012 my ex husband had his day in court where he was found guilty of several crimes against children. He is currently serving a life sentence at Ft. Leavenworth Penitentiary in KS with no possibility of parole. The years after that would be a journey of learning to trust in God all over again. God brought us to my current husband who led us to church and has loved us like we were always his. You better believe that the year long dating rule applied to him, too.

This is what it looked like for me to live thru an abusive marriage and I shared all of this to get into the lesson of God’s Love vs Abusive Love because if I can leave you with knowledge that would spare you from that snare, then I have done my job. We will be in 2 Timothy 3 and as you turn there I want to describe to you what red flags to look for when in a relationship. What is Abusive love exactly?

 

Abusive love:

* Holds love for ransom. Examples: I will only love you if you spend all your time with me. I will only love you if you leave your friends for me, steal for me, buy me things, do drugs with me, drink with me.

*Is self serving.

*Causes you to question your morals or worse go against them.

*Takes your attention away from God

*Lies to us and calls us unworthy of being treated like a decent human being.

*Gives impossible standards to see us fail and then mock us for

*Destroys or passions, dreams and gifts out of jealousy

*Does not respect personal boundaries and rushes decisions

*Seeks to see us suffer

 

The bible warns us about such people   Read 2 Tim 3: 1-8

 ‘But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, slanderous, without self control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of Godliness, but denying it’s power. AVOID such people. For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at the knowledge of the truth. Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses so these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith. But they will not get very far for their folly will be plain to all, as was that of those two men.’

 

That is a very to the point example in the bible calling out what kind of person to avoid in a relationship. People who are like the description given by Paul are cunning and can hide their true colors until they no longer need to. After that they think they have you. I can tell you from experience it is not worth staying with someone like this. Paul says to AVOID THESE PEOPLE just like God told me not to marry my ex husband. I paid the price and my children suffered dearly at the hands of an evil and abusive man. But there is God’s love which is what we should be seeking from those we date and potentially marry, to our friends and close relationships.

 

If that is the negative example then what does God’s love look like?

God’s Love:

  • Loves us outside and apart from our sins. I believe there is not a person who has gone to hell that God did not love. If my ex were to have true repentance and really come to Christ I would gladly celebrate with him in heaven. It would be unwise for me to seek him out on this world but I do pray for his salvation.
  • God’s Love calls us worthy of Jesus’s Sacrifice John 3:16
  • Says we deserve peace, Joy, love and hope!
  • Guides us out of trials and tribulations. God did not love me less because I made the wrong choice in who I married first, he had enough grace to love me thru it, deliver me from it and to bless me out of it.
  • God gives us His word to guide us away from evil and into heaven to be with Him forever! Accepting Jesus as our savior if how we secure our place in heaven; but living and lining ourselves up with the Word of God is the map to our callings in God.
  • God seeks us out to redemption and beauty. He wants us to live our very best and to be able to be blessed along the way. He also puts us in the place of stewardship over what he has already blessed us with.

If 2 Tim 3:1-8 is a guide of who to avoid then 1 Corinthians 13: 4-7 is a guide on what to seek out when you are looking at a love.

‘Love is patient, love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist in it’s own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, Hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends….’

John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

The other question I get often is why would God allow such horrible things happen to us, and I think Paul answers that very well back in 2 Tim 3:10-17. He had been in prison and rejected by people for Jesus’s sake, but he was wise enough to see God using his suffering for good in his own life.

“You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my precautions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra—which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. Indeed all who desire to live a Godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from your childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation thru faith in Christ Jesus. All scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”

In this scripture Paul is saying that despite being persecuted for his walk and preaching of Jesus as the Savior, God always delivered him. Knowing the enemy sought out to silence him thru a martyrs death shouldn’t discourage us because in reality they set him free to walk eternally by God’s side. Before his death Paul became a very influential man in the early church and reached several for Christ along the way.

Scripture in and of itself is so important when you are walking thru those deep dark valleys. I had given up little pieces of myself and my faith for the sake of being married and having the American dream; in all reality I was just afraid to be alone. Being alone was a terrifying thought to me as I saw all these idols being stripped away by my ex husband’s folly being found out. I was afraid of being alone to raise three kids and that first step of turning him in was easy, but the next step of being a single mom with no home was so hard. The third night after not eating or sleeping and going on pure adrenaline I sat down after the kids were asleep on the stairs and I didn’t feel anything at all. I had called all my family, preschool teachers to bring them up to speed, and moving companies to rent a truck. I just didn’t have the strength to breathe in that moment. As I sat there in this nothingness, a hymn from my teen years started rolling around in the back of my head, ‘Whispering Hope’. As it played in my mind, I was remembering all the stories I had read in the bible of peoples lives who were in ruin and God delivered them. I remembered Paul in the prison praising God in spite of his circumstance and the walls falling down around them.

It was almost like scripture came flooding back into the void and God was using His Word to take my hand and gently urge me up. He was holding my hand and saying, “this is not over, remember all the promises I have for you, all the good I have coming for you that is just on the other side of this valley. You just can’t stay here and admit defeat, you are my daughter and you are worthy of all my blessings, but I need you to pick up your feet and take another step. Keep moving toward me Child and I will restore you.”

We like to give into insecurity that robs of us our callings, by thinking that we are not important to God because we are not heroes whose lives are written down in history. I have news for you: God loves you just as much as Abraham, Moses, David, Joseph, Lazarus, Mary Magdalene, John, Peter, Thomas, Timothy and Paul. God ransomed you with the gift of His Son on the cross and that makes you just as valid in the story of God on this world as anyone. God loves you so much that He wants to be with you in Heaven for all eternity.

Even though I want you to stay clear of someone who would abuse you and cause you harm, if you are like me and you have already been thru something like this I want you to know that God can bring your from it, thru it and above it. If I had not gone thru the hardship of an abusive marriage, I wouldn’t understand the danger there and I would not be able to speak about something I had not lived thru. God took that time of my life and has used it to equip me with the calling to help lead others from abuse. Maybe you know all to well what that is like and are still there. You can reach out to someone who you know is a follower of Christ. They will want to help you, and there may even be people who have told you they will help before; I believe the invitation of help would still stand. You need to take God’s hand in faith and let Him guide that first scary step. If you have suffered and are out of a situation like this but don’t know God’s love or salvation thru Jesus, you reach out to a pastor and I’m sure they will be happy to speak with you about that decision, again with no judgment. There are people out there who love you and we want the best possible life for you. Living in step with God is how you get freedom to love and be loved unconditionally.

I pray you take these steps to heart, Dear Reader. I pray that God protect you on your journey out of that cycle as much as He has for our family.

I Will Fight WITH You!

2 Chronicles 20:13-21

Meanwhile all Judah stood before the Lord, with their wives, and their children. And the spirit of the Lord came upon Jahaziel the son of Zechariah, son of Benaiah, son of Jeiel, son of Mattaniah, a Levite of the sons of Asaph, in the midst of the assembly. And he said, “Listen all of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem and King Jehoshaphat: Thus says the Lord to you, ‘Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s. Tomorrow go down against them. Behold they will come up by the ascent of Ziz. You will find them at the end of the valley, east of the wilderness of Jeruel. You will not need to fight this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem.’ Be not afraid and do not be dismayed. Tomorrow go out against them, and the Lord will be with you.”

Then Jehoshaphat bowed his head with his face to the ground, and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem fell down before the Lord. And the Levites, Kohathites and the Korahites, stood up to praise the Lord, God of Israel, with a very loud voice.

And they rose early in the morning and went out into the wilderness of Tekoa. And when they went out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, “Hear me, Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem! Believe in the Lord your God, and you will be established; believe his prophets, and you will succeed. And when he had taken counsel with the people, he appointed those who were to sing to the Lord and praise him in holy attire, as they went before the army, and say, “Give thanks to the Lord, for his steadfast love endures forever.”

And when they began to sing and praise, the Lord set an ambush against the men of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah, so they were routed. For the men of Ammon and Moab rose against the inhabitants of Mount Seir, devoting them to destruction, and when they had made an end of the inhabitants of Seir, they all helped destroy one another.

There are many battles that we face in life for God, but today I want to speak to one that has the biggest influence in those that are already believers: How to fight with your spouse. I say fight ‘with’ because it is important to acknowledge that we shouldn’t fight the person that makes up the other half of our marriage, but we should fight against the sin that has snuck in and set up camp in their heart while we were not watching. This is something I see all too often with marriages that fail: one spouse decided that the other is 100% wrong, they are the guilty party, they are the one who should be sorry, they aren’t doing their part, they are being unfaithful, they aren’t leading the family spiritually, they aren’t doing what we feel like they should do…. How often do we start out a bad thought against our spouse with a confession of what we have done wrong before launching an all out attack on the person we love most?

God gave us our spouse to love and strengthen us against the enemy. Regardless of if they have sinned, they are never the enemy and when there is a problem in marriage it is never 100% the other person’s fault. You are one flesh bonded before God and the body shouldn’t fight itself. So how should we resolve conflict with the one who can cut us deepest? Just as Jehoshaphat took steps in the battle he was facing, we must take steps to even prepare ourselves to fight against the enemy that dwells in our spouses.

Step 1: Cleanse Yourself

You can not go into a spiritual battle with God if you are not clean. Ask God for forgiveness of your own sins first. Are you angry? Lay it in His hands. Are you wrestling with Pride, Spite, Resentment, Hate, Unforgiveness, or Jealousy? Give it over to God and do not pick it back up again. You may have to go into this battle confessing how you wronged the other person before you get them to listen. The enemy can not throw a sin in your face that was turned over securely into God’s hand. He can try but remember that God has that covered by the blood of Christ. Do not go into this battle field without prayer! Pray for yourself, pray for your spouse, and pray for your home that God protect you.

Remember the words of Jahaziel because the first thing he told Judah and Jerusalem was: Thus says the Lord to you. ‘Do not be afraid or dismayed at this great horde for the battle is not yours but God’s.’

If you go into a spiritual battle for your spouse knowing that you are cleansed and that they enemy can not hold those sins over you, then you have nothing to fear from the accusations that he may fling at you. You have nothing to fear from thoughts that dwell in insecurity if you have handed those insecurities over to God. You don’t have to fear your spouse not loving you when you are fighting from a perspective of battling on God’s behalf for their heart. To have this peace in yourself is to win half the battle because you have reduced the enemies arsenal tremendously.

Step 2: Put on your armor:

Judah and Jerusalem went out to face their enemies even after knowing that God would fight the battle. Why? Well because they knew that they still needed to show up for God. They had to go out there in faith that what was prophesied would come to pass. They had to physically go and praise God’s sovereignty to their enemies. God has set you in your marriage to be all that your spouse needs and sometimes they need you to come to the front and fight for them. They need to see they are worth fighting for and that God’s love is real.

They need to see Jesus in you and here is where things get messy. It is every bit easy to yell at each other and your spouse may feel attacked if you call out a sin.  Remember again that your enemy is the sin in them not the person themselves. Even though the scripture above is from the old testament, we still have a duty to respond like Christ even if the enemy is causing them to rage. The enemy sees a strong marriage as a severe threat and seeks to destroy your home! Marriages that desolve cause ripples are capable of drowning family members, children and friends in their wake.  Sin isn’t going to give up a stronghold without a fight and it will do whatever it takes to make you stumble and fall all the while whispering in the ear of the one you love that you are a fake. They may believe it, so never repay venom with venom. The best approach would be one that mirrors Jesus….answer them with the compassion, grace and forgiveness that is extended to you. If you need to bring them to Christ then come prepared with the Word of God, if they need to come to a place of conviction then prepare to show then in the Word what God’s perspective is on the matter. Always be prepared to remind them that they are loved unconditionally by God and by you, so you are not attacking them but leading them back to mercy.

Step 3: Leaving that Front is Not an Option

When Judah and Jerusalem went out to the front to fight they had the promise from God thru a prophet. Can you imagine going into a battle in today’s world armed with a promise and praise? You’d be wise to believe that it still happens everyday. When we get married, we make vows and promises to one another that shouldn’t be broken. God is witness to our promises of ’till death do we part’, and only in the instance of adultery were we given permission to go. If you are being abused or there is molestation happening in your marriage, then yes you should get away and prosecution should be brought to the offender. There are just some sins you should flee from. Outside of abuse, you had better pray about the decision to leave long and hard. Imagine if you were hurting and your spouse walked away from you. Would you see unconditional love in them? Don’t you dare leave your spouse to fight the enemy on their own because once you walk away, there is a longer path to forgiveness and healing should you decide you were wrong to do so. Trust is hard to piece back together after it is shattered.

Now sometimes we go into the battle and expect that one fight to be the end of it. No dear reader, you may have to defend your spouse against the enemy several times while they are healing from the battle that was waged inside their heart. Patience will go along way. Cling to God and teach they to cling to him as well, but do not leave them on that battle field.

Step 4: Forgiveness

So why would I use a battle that God won for Judah and Jerusalem as an illustration on fighting with your spouse? Simply because God went before them and fought the battle by causing the enemy to attack itself. You can bring your spouse all the way to alter but only Jesus, God and the Holy Spirit can bring them to heartfelt conviction. It may take a hundred times of leading them to that place for them to make that decision, and as painful as it may seem you can not make them repent on your own will. What you can do it offer them forgiveness in the meantime. If you did wrong at one point in your marriage then ask them for forgiveness and be the example. If they keep stumbling then forgive them and show them the gift of salvation that lives in you. You can not have sincere prayer on their behalf if you are unwilling to forgive them yourself.

Marriage isn’t easy by any means but it can be such a powerful tool for God to further His kingdom. When one of you falls you both suffer, and if the enemy can cause that union to self-destruct he will do everything he can. Hopefully this will shed some light on how to fight the enemy in your love, while guiding their heart thru the battlefield. If you are going thru a spiritual battle for your marriage I pray God give you the strength to stand firm in his promises.

What Do You Worship?

Lately my heart has been skipping beats and so I decided it was time for this Momma Goose to head into the doctor’s office to talk with him. I have a BMI of 48 which wasn’t a shocker to me. I have a scale so I do know I need to lose more weight besides the 30 lbs I dropped last year on my own. Things have stalled and I have been stuck at 235 lbs. Add a heart condition into the mix that is made worse by my weight and you can see the urgency was justified on my doctor’s part for me to lose a healthy amount.  With not a clue what I will look like at 135 lbs I am a little nervous, but I am more concerned with holding off heart surgery. There is the big back story and you know I have to make everything into a bigger picture question and so I am curious that if ‘we are what we eat’…. are we also what we worship?

If you were to ask Christians what worship is you would get different versions of the same answer: To praise God for all He is. That isn’t wrong by any means, but if we look at worship in a simple light it is the act of proclaiming that God is higher than ourselves. Anything that we consider important enough to take up our time can be something we worship but they are called idols. Idols can be anything from the golden calf in Exodus 32 to simply what keeps our focus from God.

Have we ever been so distracted by a comment before a service that we lose sight of the sermon being preached? Have we been caught off guard by a change being made to the way it has always been that we dwell on tradition over God? Have we been so worried about our appearance that we get anxious instead of finding peace with God? Do we hold grudges to the point that our drive home from church is filled with hurt feelings and rage over a person yet we cannot recall the sermon? Was worshipping God impossible because something was not perfect with the worship set? Do we not respect those put in a position of authority over us because our preferences blind us to the good that God is doing through them? Does the pressure of what waits when we walk out the door after service overwhelm us to the point that we keep ourselves from being consumed by God? Are we so ready to be with our family for events that we are impatient with the length of service?

Gossiping, Tradition, Anxiety, Unforgiveness, Pride, Preference, Family, and Fear are only a few names of idols. ANYTHING that we allow to distract our focus from God is an idol that needs to be destroyed in our hearts. 

Exodus 20:1-3 And God spoke these words saying, I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.

 It doesn’t get any clearer than that. Then how do we get so easily distracted in church? Simply put we let our pride rule over us, and pride is a tool of the devil to divide us. Satan knows we are weaker when we are isolated but we are not dumb enough to be willingly led astray by a dark shadowy figure. However, if he whispers into our ears about things that are against our pride then he just has to light the match and watch us explode.  The most important thing to remember if we fall into this snare is that we also serve a just and loving God. He will not tolerate being second in our lives but he will honor true repentance.

True repentance isn’t telling ourselves that we just shouldn’t do that anymore and leaving it at that either. It’s knowing that we have sinned and are the cause of being separated from God and the promise of heaven. That isn’t something to take lightly. Sin isn’t categorized on a scale from one to ten, so all sin is enough to keep us from glory. One angry outburst or smug comment is all that stands between us and hell. Our decision to let any of the idols mentioned above rule over us instead of seeking God over our own desires is what keeps us from experiencing God.  Repentance is a heartfelt cry of knowing you have done horribly wrong. It is seeking God’s forgiveness over all other things, and then making our selves aware of that snare so we never fall into it again. Repentance takes discipline and time but it is very worth it to be used to our fullest potential in our servitude.

With spring having arrived the feeling of change is heavy in the air, so I encourage you to do a little soul searching. We are cleaning spiritual house this month. Are you being blessed by the presence of God when you gather in church or are you standing in your own way with your foot caught in a snare of idols? I want you to start by asking yourself:

What do I worship?

If the answer is something that keeps your focus off God then I would advise you to repent and seek counsel. Find someone who will keep you accountable and partner with them. Until next time, God Bless!

The Frozen State

It is a new year and like most of us out there I am trying to figure out what I can change about myself for the better. My heart is quick to remind me that my weight loss goals still need to be met, and those hundred pounds aren’t going to go anywhere if I don’t change my exercise habits. I have the goal and a healthy deadline of 18 months. I know what I need to do to get moving and I have all the tools I need, but I am stuck in a frozen state. That is the moment right before I take a big step towards something positive but I can’t get past my fear and doubt to start. That moment when fear drowns out the encouraging voice of God can be devastating.

This is a dangerous place to be for Christians because the enemy stalks us here robbing us of all that God has to offer. The voice inside our heads that tells us we can’t live the life God calls us to live is the devil. That sly creature of destruction is the master of doubt and sometimes he can be hard to drown out. When we feel unworthy of God’s love it is a lie planted there and it blooms because we water it inside our minds. When Israel got to the promised land after crossing the red sea they sent in spies to check it out, and the spies gave such a negative report that the Israelites were afraid to claim what was already theirs. All except for two spies named Caleb and Joshua. They spoke out against those who were afraid and doubted God.

Numbers 14:6-10 ESV ‘And Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes and said to all the congregation of the people of Israel, “The land, which we passed through to spy it out, is an exceedingly good land. If the Lord delights in us, he will bring us into this land and give it to us, a land that flows with milk and honey. Only do not rebel against the Lord, And do not fear the people of the land, for they are bread for us. Their protection is removed from them, and the LORD is with us; do not fear them.” Then all the congregation said to stone them with stones. But the glory of the LORD appeared at the tent of meeting to all the people of Israel. And the LORD said to Moses, “How long will this people despise me? And how long will they not believe in me, in spite of all the signs that I have done among them? I will strike them with the pestilence and disinherit them, and I will make of you a nation greater and mightier than they.” 14:22-24 none of the men who have seen my glory and my signs that I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and yet have put me to the test these ten times and have not obeyed my voice, shall see the land that I swore to give to their fathers. And none of those who despised me shall see it. But my servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit and has followed me fully, I will bring into the land into which he went, and his descendants shall possess it.’

The Israelites bought into their own doubts that God couldn’t protect them from their enemies and they became discouraged to the point that they sinned against God. They thought that God led them all that way just to let them down, and during the meeting the negative report given by the spies spread like wild fire to the other Israelites. These were a people who had seen God perform miracle after miracle and still gave into their own self doubt.

They had their own idea of what was possible and couldn’t believe that God was greater than their expectations. They couldn’t see God as a limitless and amazing shepherd that would lead them every step of the way. It is so important that we watch how we speak to others because we can encourage like Caleb, or we can tear each other down with our own doubts. If we see someone who is willing to serve in our churches how do we respond? We should say, ‘yes absolutely! Let me disciple you and help you get a great start.’ Do we doubt their abilities because we know their past, or do we discriminate because of their standing with others? Do we see someone doing good for God, but gossip about them behind their backs because they did something different than how we would of?  If our answer is yes to the last two questions then we need to pause and take a look at our own hearts. We need to pray that God take away our doubt so we can extend encouraging faith. If we are the one handing out self justified ‘reality checks’, we need to make sure that we aren’t the ones acting out of line with God. Living in unjustified suspicion of people’s motives only leads to us doing the devil’s work for him. Think about the moment that the spies began to share their fears with the large group. All the devil had to do was plant that seed of fear and doubt. From there it grew into a vine that choked out the gift of the promised land to those who bought into the lie that God would forsake them.

It may seem harsh the way that God dealt with those who believed the spies, but we are no good as Christians if we give into doubt. When we live in fear we are living for the enemy and not standing firm in our faith. Would we want to love someone who constantly doubted our ability to protect and lead? I would say not. In the end God did keep his word to the nation of Israel. After Moses and all the other men who saw the signs in Egypt had died, Joshua (who was the other spy with Caleb) was tasked with taking the promised land. He not only led the people in, but was victorious and lived to see the land divided between the twelve tribes. Remember that this leader was almost stoned to death by the fathers of the children he led. Instead God rewarded his faith tenfold. He lived to see God keep his promise to Israel.

‘And the LORD gave them rest on every side just as he had sworn to their fathers. Not one of all their enemies had withstood them, for the LORD had given all their enemies into their hands. Not one word of all the good promises that the LORD had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass.’ Joshua 21:44-45 ESV

So what is it that holds us back in our faith? Do we limit God to fit inside of our own faith instead of growing our faith to match him? I have been guilty of saying, ‘but God you don’t understand’. In all reality it is I who don’t understand God. We are often guilty of living inside our comfort zones, and we want to fit God in that zone with us. We serve a limitless and all powerful God who has compassion enough to grant us free will. He doesn’t want a following of mindless slaves, but rather he calls out through forgiveness and mercy to find disciples who choose to follow him. The real question is, how well are we doing this following? Do we follow when it is easy or when we need to hold up our standing with others? Do we follow and cling to God when things are tough and our dreams are dashed? In those moments when our dream is broken we need pause to grieve and then ask God where he would have us go from there. Grief serve the purpose of healing. We are not meant to live in our grief anymore than we are supposed to live in doubt of each other.

God is calling us to step out of the shadows even if we think it is in a small way. I felt God leading me to blog and it has enabled me to reach people on the other side of the globe. God may be calling us to extend a hand of encouragement to someone. We live in such a broken world that a simple act of building someone up may be the reason they choose to live one more day over suicide. We may never see the impact of our actions, but we must have faith that God will use what he is asking us to do for his good. We just have to recognize fear and doubt as the tools of the enemy and choose faith over all.

2 Corinthians 10:4-5 ESV For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.

I am going to get very real here with you and walk through the steps of taking my fear captive about losing weight. Maybe you can apply these steps to something that has you frozen in your faith too:

  1. What is the thought? I don’t want to work out and get smaller
  2. What is the fear? I am afraid to be skinny because I am afraid to be pretty.
  3. Why is this your fear? I am afraid to be attractive because I was assaulted and was told it was because I was pretty. I don’t want to put that thought into anyone else’s mind because I may be an easy target if I am smaller.
  4. What does your fear say to God? (this one is a really hard question, so don’t get discouraged if you need a minute here) My fear of being attractive, or smaller says that I doubt God’s ability to protect me. I am saying no to a longer and healthier life spent serving God and leading my kids, in exchange for a false security that my weight keeps me safe from another assault. I am believing a lie over the truth that God loves me and doesn’t want to see harm come to me.
  5. What is truth here?   If I lost the weight I would be healthier and possibly live a longer life. If I were assaulted again, God is still sovereign and He knows His plan for me. Any harm that comes to me is meant to shape me into a stronger Christian. Trading my health for a comfort Zone is not how God wants me to live.
  6. Can you find that truth in Scripture? Psalms 23:4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff comfort me. Matthew 10:26-31 So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the dark I say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your father. But even the hairs on your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are more valuable than many sparrows.
  7. What do you think needs to change about your thought? I need to strive to live healthy and trust God to protect me. I need to be a good steward of the blessing he has for me, by taking care of my body.

Remember that we are in charge of how fear and doubt affect our walk with God. We shouldn’t give into the enemy when he brings these snares against us, but we should live with the wisdom that God has promised good to us. We should overcome our enemy by living in truth. As always, God Bless!

The Plate Juggler

If you have been following this blog long then you realize that being a wife and mother of four is what I have been assigned to in my life. I love my husband and each one of my Duckies dearly, so I want to give them everything they need. That means that like most moms I take on several roles in the house and on the farm, and sometimes it feels like I have a million things to keep track of. Recently one of us in the house has been given a new and pretty hard trial to face that effects all of us in a way, but to respect privacy I won’t go any farther into the details. I was having a conversation with God yesterday after a particularly hard day about holding it all together during hard times, and I got the image of being a plate juggler. I am going to share with you how this image played out in the hopes that its reminder gives you peace if you are going through a trial.
I am a plate juggler in our big top circus, and a pretty skilled one at that. To give you an idea of the different plates I have to keep in the air at one time I am going to list them. People may have different ones, but I am sure that everyone has plates. I have the following:

1. Christianity plate
2. Husband plate
3. Ducky 1 plate
4. Ducky 2 plate
5. Ducky 3 plate
6. Ducky 4 plate
7. Church duties plate
8. Blogging plate
9. Teaching plate
10. Biblical counsel plate
11. Horses plate
12. Dog plate
13. Chicken coop plate
14. Grocery plate
15. Cooking plate
16. Cleaning plate
17. Laundry plate
18. Fencing plate
19. Barn siding Plate
20. Kids’ school plate
21. Girl scout plate
22. Boy scout plate
23. Hunting plate
24. Exercise plate
25. Eating right plate
26. Me time plate
27. Trials plate

So there are 27 beautifully crafted plates all being juggled at one time, and each one getting only a small amount of attention in the short time it is in my hand. These plates are very fragile but have wonderful paintings on each one depicting what the plate represents. 27 plates is no ordinary feat even for skilled jugglers. The last plate on the list is the trial plate, and while I know that this plate is coming sometimes I forget to watch for it. If it gets tossed in at the wrong time it can chip and crack the other plates because I have to focus my attention to catching it and not dropping the other plates. Now the question is what happens when I notice a crack in my plates that needs mending? I can’t just stop juggling or they all come crashing down.

Enter the Expectations plate. This one is either tossed in by me or by others, but it can do a bit of damage while I juggle. This plate shines with what I wanted to have. For example, I wanted to have some of these plates done so I can put them down and lighten my load, but I am behind. Not just behind but waaaaaaaay behind on my farm projects that require more than two hands. This plate reminds me constantly of my tight schedule and what I still have left to do. It is best friends with the Suggestions plate.
The Suggestions plate is beautifully written in its text, but it is so full of writing that I can’t read through it as it leaves my hands and comes back around. I find it impossible to sort through all the sentences etched across its face, as it is mostly jumbled up phrases and wishes that aren’t directly tied to anything. There is even scripture on it, but it isn’t in the right context so it is confusing. This plate can be tossed in by well meaning people, but often it is ill timed when it enters into the mix. There are several ways to go about getting the jobs done of some of my plates, but wading through all the suggestions keeps me planning and never doing. The expectations plate and the suggestions plate work together to introduce a very stealthy friend… the Negativity plate.
This Negativity plate whispers at me to remind me that I don’t measure up to the way someone else would do things. It hisses that since I didn’t listen to that one person’s suggestion that they are mad at me, and that scripture is sacred no matter the context being right or wrong. It lashes out at me before I can question the lies with, “why haven’t you done this yet? That plate has a crack in it. Are you every going to fix that crack? Don’t you know it is just going to get bigger if you don’t fix it? Are you even smart enough to use the right glue? You will have to drop some plates to fix it, but that plate is more important than your family plates. You have an audience now, so don’t let them see you drop that plate. You know what, just drop that Church plate and no one will need to know. It can be our little secret because your family doesn’t need that plate as much as they need the other plates.”
Can I recognize that voice that is interrogating me? That voice that casts doubt on my act is none other than the devil. The last three plates that were tossed at me were orchestrated by him. All the distractions from those last three plates are meant to keep me juggling forever. Why? Simply put he isn’t after the chicken coop plate, but he knows I am going to get tired of juggling. If I give out from exhaustion I will drop the plates he is really after: my Christianity, Husband and Ducky plates. He hates God and me being a follower of Christ so much that as soon as these plates hit the ground he will swoop in to scatter the shards as far as he can.
There is a second part to this act. Across the ring is a dining room hutch that has been amazingly hand crafted by the master carpenter himself. The hutch is big enough for all my plates to find a resting spot on it, and it has a work bench to mend my cracked plates that have been clinking together. This carpenter is holding out a huge plate in front of him that is to be a landing pad called a Burden plate, and he is waiting for me to throw my plates to him. It may seem impossible, but I know the Burden plate will not break any of my plates that I hold dear. It will however have devastating effects on the devils plates and none of them will survive the impact.
The Carpenter is waiting and asking me to trust him with the plates I have. It isn’t easy for me to let go of control but my arms are burning and I am worn out. That pesky Negativity plate is screaming as loud as it can, “YOU CAN JUGGLE THEM BETTER! Don’t be a quitter! We can do this forever, wouldn’t that be so nice? Aren’t you comfortable here with your control? YOU KNOW YOUR PLATES WILL BREAK! It isn’t possible to throw a plate at another plate and it not shatter! Use your head! DON”T YOU KNOW ANYTHING?!”
There is a truth that drowns out that evil plate. This carpenter named Jesus already knows what it is like to have several plates. He knows what suffering is like, and he knows there is a better way than to juggle until I die. I just have to trust him and believe that my plates mean as much to him as anyone else. No matter what lies the devil’s plates yell I know I can trust him. So in the final moments of my act as juggler I throw them all in Jesus’ direction. I watch in anticipation as they leave my hands and head to his Burden plate.
The Burden plate is large enough that all of my plates land softly on it, but the devil’s plates fall through and shatter on the ground. The screaming has stopped now and all is quiet and at peace. Jesus places my plates gently on the wooden shelves and gets to the ones that are cracked and worn. He examines each of them carefully before opening up a repair kit. I ask him what kind of glue he will use and he says, “None. You will have to trust me.”
He turns his attention back to the work bench as he gently mends my plates with care. A man who took on the worlds sins is here fixing my problems with the best care as if they were his own. I watch quietly until he turns back around and motions for me to come over. My heart is in my throat as I come over to see his work. To my surprise, he didn’t use glue but melted down gold to fill the cracks so the plates are more beautiful than when they were in my hands. Each one of them is now a work of art shimmering in the big top lights. Cheers and rejoicing erupt from all around us. I turn to see the audience on their feet and when I turn back around Jesus is walking away. I catch up to him and ask, “How can I repay you for that? I couldn’t have fixed them like this, they are beautiful now.”
His answer was scripture found in Matthew 11:28-30 ESV
‘Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentile and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’
I will still have a yoke to carry but I won’t carry it alone. My plates didn’t disappear but I can take them down to polish them one by one in faith that they will get done in God’s timing. I can use His guidance to drown out the distractions and do what is right. I can and will find rest in moments when things are tested because Jesus promised life everlasting and rest.
So now I ask you dear reader what will you do? Will you juggle forever believing you know best, or will you cast your cares on Jesus and trust in him through all things?

Heart Cry of a Hypocrite

Matthew 7:5 ESV You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

If you know me then you know where I will be on Sunday morning. You know I am overextended trying to be Jesus to all in the sanctuary, but setting my cross down on the way out the door. My actions on Monday speak louder than the bible verse that is written on my tee shirt, and I only practice what is preached at me when I am in the comfort zone of my pew.

I act like I am better than you because of my location on the weekends, but the truth is I am terrified of my own brokenness. I have become jaded to the design of sanctification being the process of learning from my failure. Even though I know to give my mistakes up to God, it goes against all I have been taught by this world. How much more comforting would it be if I could get myself into heaven because trust is just hard for me? Trust is seen as weakness and how dare I have a crack in my own pedestal while I tear yours down. I should be more focused on allowing myself to be torn apart by God so I can be brought back up to a place of servitude. Instead of admitting my pride for the sake of humility I pound my chest proclaiming my own deeds like a Pharisee in new robes.

You and I both want to be good people, but I chose a different way than following man so I say. I fear my example of self over serving has led many astray. Somewhere along that path I forgot that when I lean on myself and not Jesus I will stumble and bring dishonor to God. I never ‘got this’ but I have a savior who has had this since the fall of man.

I am easy to be appalled by someone teaching false doctrine, and holding it over them instead of correcting them gently. I let people speak for me instead of recognizing the power of my God given voice preaching the gospel. I forgot that God gave power to my testimony. I forgot to see people with compassion, love and forgiveness before they even asked. Have I really forgotten how hopeless and terrible the world can be without Jesus that I didn’t think about how another may respond differently than I to the news that they are truly loved?

I should never have seen anyone as my enemy, but I should have loved them as my brother. I should be more focused on how Jesus can bring our trials into tribulations when we accept Him as our Savior instead of how I felt about anyone’s sins. Would I have dared to cast the first stone before him on that day? Am I so consumed by my own selfishness that I am blinded to the fact that he sees the rocks I throw now? If I take the place as judge then I fall as far as my unforgiveness will take me.

Today is the day I say NO MORE! I may be forgiven, but I have lost my way in the fog of my own pride. This I cannot allow to continue! Kneeling at the foot of the cross I will take my stand. Embracing the bloodied, rough and marred moment that our Jesus became the only way to get to heaven because I wouldn’t have made it under the law! The Resurrection renewing my hope in a world darkened by the fall of man! May the Gospel be my reminder that life was never meant to be a list of the valleys we trudge thru, but a celebration of the heights God has brought us.

Life, no matter how tragic, is a proclamation of who we can become when we accept Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross as truth. His resurrection laid the foundation of how my own soul can be transformed to match His teachings.  At this altar I choose to take being a disciple as the vow it was meant to be instead of the glossed over title it has become. Until I draw my last breath I will choose to see the world through the eyes of the one who saw my mess and gave me forgiveness. Let me repent of my fear to be seen as broken made whole by mercy. Today I lay down my comfort zone as I pick my cross back up. May my life reflect Jesus, and may my life be set ablaze to be of servitude to another’s soul!

What Christian Hip-Hop Has Taught Me About Congregational Worship

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Photo by Matt Botsford on Unsplash

1 Oh sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth! 2 Sing to the LORD, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day. 3 Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples! – Psalm 96:1-3 (ESV)

The passage above is the missions statement of the worship pastor. We are to lead and encourage our people in congregational singing and as we sing with thanksgiving and praise we are to “bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples!” The lyrics we sing carry a message about God. They teach our people about who God is and what He has done. Therefore, what we sing matters. The songs we choose to sing should point us to a holy, infinite and majestic God who is worthy of our praise.

As a worship pastor, I am constantly looking and listening for songs (old and new) that are singable, theologically rich, and that will deepen my congregation’s understanding and relationship with God. These songs will help me accomplish this missions statement in the best way possible. I am also constantly looking for new inspiration that will help me to accomplish this missions statement. Recently, I have found great inspiration from Christian Hip-Hop.

If you want to hear theologically rich lyrics (theology is the study and teaching of God. The more rich the lyrics, the more deep the teaching), sound exegesis (or interpretation) of biblical passages, deep thoughts that will make you ponder the excellencies of our God, even the direct quotation of Scripture itself, listen to Christian Hip-Hop. To use the language from our passage, our missions statement: If you want to hear people bless his name, tell of salvation from day to day, declare his glory among the nations and his marvelous works among the people, listen to Christian Hip-Hop. If you need inspiration or need to be encouraged through music, listen to Christian Hip-Hop.

Particularly, I have found great inspiration and encouragement through Christian Hip-Hop artist, Shai Linne. Of the Christian Hip-Hop scene, Shai is probably the least known but one of the most theologically sound and doctrinally rich. Listening to even just one of Shai’s songs is like listening to a pastor’s full-length, Sunday morning sermon. The amount of Scripture and theological richness and depth packed into his lyrics would put most pastors and song writers to shame.

Listening to Shai’s songs, pushes me to find songs that are theologically rich. His use of Scripture in and around his songs pushes me to quote more Scripture within the worship set. Whether it’s explaining with Scripture why we are singing this song, or proclaiming Scripture over the congregation during an instrumental break, or closing out with a responsive reading from Scripture, I want to use the power of God’s Word to point us to Him. I want to take a cue from my brother in Christ and sing songs that are packed with Scripture and theological richness. Below is one of Shai’s latest songs, “Immutable,” which teaches us about the unchanging nature of our God.

To be clear, this is not Shai’s own doing. This is the power of God working through Shai’s ministry to encourage and push me in my own ministry. Even though Christian Hip-Hop is not a part of the culture of my church, even though we do not sing Christian Hip-Hop songs, God is using Shai’s ministry to encourage, broaden, and deepen my own ministry. Inspiration and encouragement will come in many forms, with God being the Chief Orchestrator of all of it.  God is inspiring me to fulfill the missions statement above with Christian Hip-Hop.

So, to review, what have I learned from Christian Hip-Hop…

  • Incorporate Scripture – Reading scripture before, during, or after songs is a great way to point the affection of our hearts to Christ and encourage our people. After all, what better way to increase the “punch” and depth of our services than with God’s own Words.
  • Inspiration and encouragement come in many different forms – We, as worship pastors, should be pushing ourselves outside of our comfort zones. Listen to music styles you may never do in your church or that you may not even like. God uses all things for the good of His own purposes (Romans 8:28) so He can use different music styles to inspire and encourage you.
  • What We Sing Matters – What Shai raps about matters. He chooses his words carefully. As said above, listening to just one of Shai’s songs is like listening to a pastor’s full-length, Sunday morning sermon. In the same way, I want to find the songs that are rich in theological and doctrinal content and teach those to our congregation. If we sing theologically weak songs, guess what? Our congregation will be weak theologically. If we sing theologically and doctrinally rich songs, guess what? Our congregation will grow. As they grow in their understanding and relationship with the Lord, they will grow theologically and doctrinally rich.

My prayer for worship pastors is that we would not be concerned with the amount of people in our sanctuaries on Sunday mornings, that we wound not be concerned with doing the latest songs, that we would not be concerned with lights, fog machines, sound, or entertainment. My prayer is that we would sing songs that are theologically and doctrinally sound. That we, as worship pastors, would seek to draw our people closer to God with the direct quotation of Scripture within our worship sets.  And that we would be spending time in the Word and in prayer, growing close to God ourselves, that we might minister to our people and to our family out of the overflow of our relationship with God.

All Glory Be to Christ.

Jeff

Jeffrey Johnson is the worship pastor at Franklin Crossroads Baptist Church located in Cecilia, KY.

The Sin of Perfectionism

There is a problem in our churches that needs to be brought to light. It isn’t a new issue by any means, but it is getting worse with every new app designed to present us as picture perfect. We use filter after filter to go about documenting our day because no one should know that our kids get dirty. We crop photos to hide the mess of toys to the left of our toddler. (Even I am guilty of that one). Do you have blemishes on your face? That’s okay there’s about a hundred make up apps to hide behind. What happens when we get so accustomed to filters and covering up our dirty spots that we become numb to our sins? How many times have we stood up during an invitation and thought, ‘Well yeah I sinned, but who needs to know about it? No point in losing face by going down front.’
1 Samuel 16:4-7 ESV ‘Samuel did what the Lord commanded and came to Bethlehem. The elders of the city came to meet him trembling and said, “Do you come peaceably?” And he said, “Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the LORD. Consecrate yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice”. And he consecrated Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice. When they came he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is before him.” But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the lord looks on the heart.’
In that passage God sent Samuel to anoint the next king of his people. We find out later that he was sent for David, and that David was not the most impressive looking person when stacked up to the others. However, God didn’t care about his looks as much as his heart. God knows when we sin, and even in the vastness of the technology we have, there is no new smart phone that can wash it away. Jesus is the only way. Asking forgiveness for sins we commit AFTER salvation is key! We can omit our deepest sins from our favorite social media sites, but God knows all the thoughts we have and the condition of our heart.
Perfectionism is also toxic to the church and hinders our spiritual growth. If we get caught up in every little thing someone does wrong instead of showing compassion and forgiveness to each other then we are in for a wakeup call on judgment day. When be become hyper critical of others we rob ourselves. How can we see the blessing of another person if we refuse to look past their flaws? We are servants and not judges. The fact is that we are to be humble and humbleness demands acknowledging our flaws so we can work on being better Christians. Not finding fault with one another, not holding a person’s mistakes over their head for years, and not coming down on someone because we are better than them at something. God gives us all strengths and weaknesses, and where we may succeed in one area someone else succeeds in another. This blending of talents is what balances out the congregation and keeps us relatable. Where I may be good at hanging fencing and horrible at hosting a party, another may not be knowledgeable in fencing and a wonderful host.
We want to wear our accomplishments as a merit badge and a standard, but we refuse to see where we lack. As a result, people who come into our churches and are already down on themselves are greeted with haughty pre-judgments and impossible standards. The most useless Christian is one that is un-relatable and can’t make a connection with people to witness about Christ. If Church is just a fashion show on Sunday then we have missed the point and should readdress where we stand with God.
Matthew Chapter 7 starts with a warning on passing judgments against others: “Judge not lest you be judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, “let me take the speck out of your eye, when there is a log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you can see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”
Sometimes we take this way out of context. It does say at the end that we must take the log out of our own eye, and then we can see clearly to take the speck put of our brother’s eye. It doesn’t mean take care of our sins so that we can go list off someone else’s. The meaning I take away from this is simply to take care of my sins through repentance, learn to be a better servant of the Lord and how to witness, tell them of the Gospel, and then when they come to repentance GOD can help deal with their sin.
If my brother is already a Christian and sinning there are guidelines in Matthew 18:15-17 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church, let him be to you as a gentile and a tax collector.”
. The above verses state to tell him his fault because he has to know where he went wrong. It does not say to bludgeon him over the head with his fault. We have several examples of how Jesus reached out to the gentile and dined with tax collectors, and he dealt with them with compassion as he taught them. Jesus was the ultimate example of perfection in human form and yet he loved all people enough to reach out to them through their imperfections. He reached out to the lepers, the exiled, and the afflicted. To hang on to perfectionism is to try to replace Jesus with ourselves, and replace God’s judgment with our own. Both of these are sins and both of them can damn us. Coming from a compassionate and humble heart is the only way to please God. Dealing with people in a loving and understanding manner is the best way to reach out to the lost. So let’s examine our own hearts this week and make sure that we are living up to God’s standards instead of our own. Let’s strive to be useful and not a hindrance.

Rainy Day Blessing

Psalm 103:1-4 ESV

Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits. Who forgives all your iniquities; who heals all your diseases; who redeems your life from destruction; who crowns you with loving kindness and tender mercies.

Blessings come in all shapes and sizes. They can be perfectly times miracles, lessons learned with unanswered prayers, and sometimes they can seem so small in the moment that we do not recognize them until later. This weekend I get to experience a blessing. My two oldest duckies are going to camp out and I get to come with them.

It is also supposed to rain all weekend and that could prove interesting. Most people think of soaked tents, sleeping bags and bogged down spirits when rain and camping are mentioned. As the rain itself is a blessing from God to the forest floor, my heart will be filled with joy. No seriously it will and I will tell you why.

When these duckies were very little I was blind to a great evil that had come against them. I will not name anyone because I chose to forgive that person, and I only mention the evil to shed light on the wonderful power of God’s mercy. If you choose to look at the situation from a statistical standpoint my little duckies may not have lived thru that evil. When my eyes were opened to what was going on, proper legal steps taken, and the healing process for them began I was told over and over how lucky they were to have lived.

We have sat in counseling offices and helped piece our hearts back together. I have watched peace replace chaos in their lives and normalcy return to them. I have seen my husband take them into his heart and love them as his own. There is no step before dad in our book. I have had the joy of watching other people love them just for being themselves. It has taken years to get to this place.

This weekend they will be playing with friends, completing activities, and toughing it out in the woods in the rain. I have the blessing of getting to watch them make those memories with a heart full of joy. My blessing is in the fact that God has allowed them to thrive, and that they get to jump in the puddles.

No matter the circumstance you are in this week I invite you to focus on your blessings with me. No matter how small they may seem, count them and rejoice in our sovereign God.

The Second Day

Most of us who are Christian know the gospel. We know it from the birth, to Jesus working miracles, teaching parables, to his death and resurrection. We know that Jesus told his desciples of his up coming betrayal, that he would die, but he also told them he would come back and bring them happiness.

John 16:22 ESV

So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.

Our faith hinges on the joy found in the resurrection. It is what sets Jesus apart, and without it we have no hope of eternal life. On the Eve of Easter Sunday I can’t help but wonder what the desciples must have been going thru on the second day.

They had just seen their leader, who they gave up everything to follow, killed by the high priests in Jerusalem. Not just killed but sentenced to death by an angry mob and publicly tourtured. They saw Jesus betrayed, rejected for Barabas, sentenced to death, beaten beyond recongnition, treated like a criminal, paraded thru town, nailed to a cross, and mocked thru the whole ordeal. I am sure the shock of everything that happened was still fresh in their minds. They saw evil men rally together the hearts of the unbelievers.

Peter was probably still ashamed of denying Jesus to the crowd. Mary’s cries of anguish for her child were still probably haunting their minds. The cries from the crowd mocking Jesus still echoing as they tried to process what had happened. The crowds were proud of themselves so much that they beat their chests as a sign of victory as they walked away from Jesus’ body on the cross. Their pride blinded them from the truth, and the desciples heart break drowned out the words Jesus had spoken earlier about joy.

John 20:19 says that when Jesus came to find them on the day of the resurrection they had the doors locked in fear of the Jews. I can understand thier fears because Jesus was proclaimed the son of God, and the crowds had no fear in killing him. They probably thought they were next on the list. I can’t say I wouldn’t be jumping at everything and leaving my door open.

It is easy to read the last few chapters of John and say that the disciples were acting silly, but we are reading that with the knowledge that Jesus rose. They hadn’t experienced that hope yet. Even though Jesus gave them a spoiler before the cross, those words were being snuffed out by the reality of the pain they felt at loosing him.

They were seeing life through the reality of what they had seen. That reality said evil had won. That reality said that Jesus had died. That reality said Jesus’ body was still sealed in the tomb.

Jesus shattered that reality when he rose from the grave, but it still took a while for the desciples to shift their view. Mary Magdalene found the tomb empty that day, but mistakenly asked Jesus where they had taken his body thinking he was a gardener. She didn’t realize that it was even Jesus until he said her name. She couldn’t believe it was Jesus and not the gardener because she had to transition into believing the impossible.

Jesus was still willing to help the desciples shift their thinking that extra bit. He showed them his hands and his side, so they would believe it was really him. Jesus sought after Thomas’ heart to be filled with the joy of the resurrection, even after he doubted the other disciples. Jesus allowed him to touch his wounds in his hands and his side.

John 20:29 ESV

Jesus said to him, “have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

The death of Jesus on the cross brought unimaginable horror, the second day brought shock and fear, but the third day sparked the new reality that hope conquered everything.

What day do we linger on in our walks with Christ? Do we get distracted by the tragedies of the world, or do we show the world a different reality of hope? Tomorrow we celebrate the miracle of Christ having risen from the tomb. We will also be celebrating with family and friends who may not have made the decision to accept Jesus as their Savior. I pray that we be their proof of hope with an attitude of joy. Not just for tomorrow but in every day we spend outside the doors of our churches. Amen.

(Photo sourced from http://www.live-pure.org)