The pieces of this messy walk

scattered pieces of a messy walk way... that's what my life appears to be sometimes...

scattered pieces of a messy walk way… that’s what my life appears to be sometimes…

Today I feel drawn to write again.

It’s been a while since I’ve been here putting pen to paper (so-to-speak), and it’s been due to a number of reasons, most of which I won’t get into today simply because of the monotony of them. But it seems like blogging and writing in general follow the usual pendulum that is my life: desperately seeking and craving consistency, but following a God who continually leads me by The Spirit, who doesn’t usually allow mundane routines to take hold of my life, even when I think I’d like them to.

I think it’s due to a craving for control. Women? Can you relate? I say women, but really it is a very human thing to want control: of people, of timing, of situations: of money… it’s a natural desire.

I look at some people in my life, who I am sad to say are not saved, and their life seems to be so consistent. They get up at the same time each morning, they work out (everyday without fail!), they go to work, they get work done, they come home, make dinner (everyday without fail!), and they watch their usual tv shows, and then they go to bed at the same time every night. They have their schedule to count on. It will always be the same.

I want that for myself sometimes, at least, I convince myself that I want it. I want to wake up each morning at exactly the same time, have an hour of quiet time without fail, get to work with everything prepared, use each of my prep periods wisely, have a lunch and bible study without interruption, work out for a hour at the gym at exactly 3:30-4:30, come home and prepare dinner for Dennis and myself, eat it, go to bible study, or spend time doing whatever it is I’d like to do, then go to bed at exactly 9:30pm and do it all over again the next day. Consistent work out, consistent bible study and prayer time, consistent work, consistent meals, consistent bed times, consistent wake ups. Consistency. I convince myself I want this so badly.

First of all, I know I cannot compare my life following Jesus to those that aren’t. The Bible is clear about comparing ourselves to others and longing for lives that do not leave room for His presence.

Second of all, I know that if I had that consistent routine that I think I want, I would become bored with it and feel that my life is meaningless (which it would be).

My life following Christ is messy, and I want to learn to be proud to say it. I have periods of time when my job and the kids I teach are so needy and important, that I don’t have time to make incredible dinners. Sometimes I go through a canned soup and crock pot chicken season. I have periods of time when my night owl husband needs me up late too, and I wake up later than planned so I have to listen to my “pray-as-you-go” podcast in replacement of my worship time. Sometimes I go through a season where my prayers are jotted down on post-it notes and not elegantly arranged in my beautiful journal that sits on my desk. Sometimes I’m all ready to go to the gym, but a little child knocks on my door and needs an apple and some Bible time, so I sacrifice the toned muscles I think I need for some quality time with God and His little children. Sometimes I feel I’m so emotional and messed up that I can’t even think about writing in this blog, and so I get out of the habit and months go by and comments go unread and suddenly I forget how to do this…

And I sometimes think to myself, God is consistent! He never changes! So why does my life seem so messy and unpredictable?! Why is everything up in the air and pieced together into weeks that don’t align and schedules that never stay the same? Am I just uncommitted? Do I have a lack of discipline? What’s wrong with me?

Then I realize that while the people, emotions, levels of energy, jobs, conversations, and all other earthly things in my life are completely inconsistent, it makes it so that all I have to lean on is The Lord. He is the one constant thing I can cling to in this life. My craving for consistency is really my deep desire to know Him. According to Malachi 3:6, “For I am the LORD, I do not change; Therefore you are not consumed…”. What a beautiful picture. God’s consistency does prevent me from being consumed by my own business and “productivity” turned monotony.

Hebrews 13:8 says that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. My life as a Christian and my walk with Christ is messy, yet He is not. My life as a Christian is not on a plateau; it’s an upward climb with tests and trials and bumps along the way. It’s not stagnant or stuck in a rut, but always moving and always flowing forward as Christ is.

My life as a Christian and my walk with Christ means that I can sacrifice my need to control my schedule and my time in order to live by the seemingly random promptings of the Holy Spirit. Because, although they may seem random, I know that God knows what He is doing, and this life I’m living according to Christ, is exactly the path which He wants me on.

So today…. The Spirit has called me to write. I’m not sure why or for what purpose, as I’m sure people have realized that I am far from consistent with this blog, but nevertheless, God has called me back.

It’s good to be where God calls. Even if it seems random and unplanned. The consistency and stability I crave is found in my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

James 1:17 “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning”.

What happens when we die, and does it even matter?

musingsRegardless of who you are, how old you are, or how you lived your life, you eventually will die.

Encouraged? I thought you would be.

Many people have contemplated about what happens to us after we die. Many are Christian, many are not. It seems all humans have an idea about how things should or should not be after we leave this world.

This, of course, brings about many questions: Will we be married in heaven? Is there a Purgatory? Who controls where we go? Do we have the same body when we leave this earth? Do we stay dead until the Savior comes back? Will we work in heaven? Is there really a hell?

The Bible says a bit about what will happen to us when we die, and what heaven looks like, but truly, it is very convoluted to the point that many have vastly different interpretations on what goes on in the afterlife.

And for once, I’m not here to discuss what the Bible says about this matter.

Today I want to ask you all an important question:

Does what heaven looks like really matter?

Jesus commands us to bring his Kingdom here on Earth. So why are we all obsessed with what heaven looks like or what will happen to us when we die?

To me, if one is concerned about the afterlife, it means one of a few things:

  • One: that person is clearly unsure of their salvation.
  • Two: that person does not trust that God is good enough to have fulfilled His promise to prepare a place for them.
  • Three: that person does not see a purpose in this life on Earth.

Now let me address all of these:

  • One: if you truly believe that Jesus is the Christ, the divine Son of God who is part of the trinity that is the whole God, then you are saved. You don’t need to worry about your salvation.
  • Two: if you believe that God is good, then you don’t need to worry about what heaven looks like. Simply trust that God will make a place for you that is better than you could ever hope to imagine, then move on.
  • Three: you were created to bring Christ to the world. This is why Jesus died for you: to bring His divine Kingdom to this world and make it a reality by living righteously and with great faith. This is an important mission that you need to not wish away into non existence or unimportance.

So, to sum it up, I’ll use Jesus Christ’s own precious words to us in Matthew 6: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear… Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?…But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

And in my own precious words: Stop focusing on the afterlife when Jesus has given you the gift of life to live NOW. Talking of and arguing over what happens after death is pointless and insights controversy that is unnecessary, and rather distracts from bringing the Kingdom here in this life.

We need to trust God. If He wanted us to know exactly what was going to happen to us when we die, He would have provided more details. My guess is that he probably wants us to have faith in His promises:

 “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” (John 14:3)

You’ll be where Jesus is. ‘Nuff said?

Yeah, I think so.

Sunday Scriptures: Why Adam’s Rib?

Sunday Scripture

It was a normal Saturday morning: I was making the coffee and boiling the eggs for breakfast. The kitten was wining about not having any milk to drink and I was still rubbing the sleep out of my eyes enough to be forgetful of her. Steam screamed from the orange bauble-kettle and I turned off the burner to scoop Folgers into the French press, sprinkling the pile of dark grounds with a dash of orangy-brown cinnamon and pouring the steaming water up to the brim. After pealing the eggs and dousing them in black pepper, I sat down, opened up my Bible, and began to read. Not soon after taking my first bite of yolk-soaked toast, I was hit with this mind-shattering verse:

“For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.” 1 Corinthians 11:8-9

Now ladies, how do we feel about this?

As a newlywed, I have been learning quite a lot about my role as a wife, and let me tell you, it has not been an easy route; nor, I imagine, will it continue to be for quite some time. And perhaps it might have been a bit harder at first because of this fact: Men were not created for women. They were not created to serve them, respect them, love them, provide for them, or make them feel beautiful. They just weren’t. If they were, Adam would have been the second human, created to serve his wife Eve.

Instead, Eve was created for her man. She was to be his “help meet”. Meaning, she was a gift to Adam because she was completely designed to give him his every need. She was made from him and for him to be a helper, an encourager, a lover, and a team mate.

You all know the way it went, right? Eve was actually created from Adam’s rib. She actually was made from him. She is that much a part of him, and now, even though a wife is not cut from her husband’s side, she is still to come along side him (very much like a rib), and help him in the calling God has on his life.

Now, at first I thought that this meant women were below men, unequal and inferior to men. And to be honest, I had a little bit of a hard time swallowing this. Who of us ladies wouldn’t?

But this is not the case.

We were designed to be our husband’s help meet. So, we were created by God with a special man in mind for us. And when God created that man, he had us in mind as that man’s special helper. We were created, not to serve all men, but to serve and help and love and reverence one man: our husband.

Cover of "Adam's Rib"

Some of you may think: “Well Claire, this still seems like women get the short end of the stick!”

But it’s not true. We have the privilege of serving our husbands because, just like the Holy Spirit serves the Father and the Son and yet is still part of who God is, so we are in our marriages.

We are one with our husband. “The two shall become one flesh”— and so we are a part of him in a sense. Our natural design already is to nurture, encourage, love, defer to, and reverence. And when we do all of those very natural things for our counter part, our other half, our partner heir in the Kingdom, we make our husbands cherish us, love us, and value us as part of himself (his rib- if you will).

When we truly understand this scripture, we might read it as this: “For the Father is of the Son, but Christ is of God. Neither is the Father created for the Holy Spirit, but rather, the Holy Spirit was created for God.”

The only way, wives, we will ever see the beauty of the way God truly designed marriage to be, is if we start thinking of it as a reflection of God.

…However, I imagine some of you were like me that morning, utterly astounded and pretty much hacking up your breakfast when you read this kind of language. So….what does it mean to you?

How have you ladies seen this verse to be true in your lives? How has God been reflected in your marriage?

Prayer Makeover: Part II

Last week I spent some time going over the rules or conditions of prayer. These five rules were not my own, they were found explicitly in the Word of God. If you remember, I used quite a few different books of the Bible to demonstrate God’s instructions about prayer.

This week, for Part II of our Prayer Makeover, I want to go into the process of prayer, and we will only be looking at one book of the Bible. So, (clears throat) please turn your books to Matthew 6, verses 5 to 8. You can go ahead and bookmark the page, because we’re going to be here for a bit…

“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.  And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”

Here Jesus tells us a few things about how we should pray…. Well, first, He actually tells us how not to pray. We can’t be doing it out in the open for all to see. Now, does this mean we can’t pray out loud before a meal with our family? Does this mean that we shouldn’t pray in our small groups and group bible studies and prayer meetings with friends? Not necessarily.

See, the hypocrites that Jesus is talking about used to get all dressed up to go out on the street corner and shout out prayers that they could have just said at home in their pajamas. But they didn’t do it to talk (much less listen) to God. They did it so that other people would look at them and think, “Oh, look at that holy person! How faithful they are! They are so righteous! I love they way they pray!”

This is why Jesus says that these people have already received their reward. They get credit for their prayers from the people that hear them (the people that the prayers are actually for). These prayers are not for God, so God does not give them a reward in heaven for their windy, wordy, empty prayers.

Jesus warns us to not be like those people, who keep babbling, thinking that they will be heard because they keep on talking and talking and talking. When they do this, Jesus, implies, their words loose meaning, but they also insult God in the process; they are treating Him as if He doesn’t already know what they need! Our God knows everything! He knows what each and every one of us needs better than even we do! 

Now, back then, as I said, these people would go out to the town square to shout prayers to the Lord. Today’s equivalent might be praising the Lord in a Facebook status, or tweeting Bible verses. It all depends on the intent. If the intent is that you really truly think God is checking his newsfeed on “the Book of Faces” (as my husband so cleverly calls it), and so you want to let him know you’re a “fan” of His, then fine! But most of the time we post and tweet those things to make sure other people see them, not to make sure God sees them …. and honestly, I’m guilty of this too… so let’s all work on this one!

I remember being in a college prayer group when I first got saved. Each time we got together, we would talk about the Word and how it was working in our lives, then we would ask for prayer requests. After that, we would do what I like to call “Popcorn-Prayer” (this is the teacher side of me coming out!). One person would start praying, then after they had finished, another person with pick it up and pray as well, and then, after some silence, another person would pray… and so on and so forth until the last person prayed and we all would say, “In Jesus’ Name, Amen!”.

I would sit there with my eyes shut, not really listening to the others, but instead I would be rehearsing my prayer! I would think about what things to say and how to phrase things, and I would review the prayer request.

Now, to be honest, I don’t think I did this in order to be praised on Earth for my holiness or beautiful prayers. I think I was actually nervous about praying in front of other people because I was a new Christian, and I really didn’t know how to pray! 

Luckily Jesus actually tells us how to do that too…

He tells us to go to our room, close the door, fall to our knees, and pray in secret. This way, our prayers are only for Him and Him alone. We are not doing it for show and our reward will be saved for us in heaven rather than being wasted here on Earth with compliments from others.

So, now we have some general guidelines about how to pray, and we have Jesus’ direct words about how not to pray. What do we do now?

Practice!

  • Take instruction from Jesus and go in your room and talk to God, listen to Him too!
  • Keep a prayer journal that you can revisit throughout the day. Write about what you’re thankful for. Write about what you’re sorry for. Write about what you need or what you know others really need. Write about how incredible God is. Write about the questions you have for God.
  • Read the Word and speak the Word. God loves to hear His Word repeated back to Him, that’s why Jesus always quotes scripture. Read the Word, memorize verses, and speak them aloud in your private prayers. God will surely speak to you through them to give them new meaning and application to your own life.
  • Work to see God everywhere! When you are constantly aware of God’s presence, it’s much easier to speak to Him and listen to Him throughout the day. You won’t have to routinely rattle off a prayer during your lunch break at work just to fit your prayer time in if you are constantly communicating with God, whether silently or aloud. And remember, communication is a two-way street!

Next post, we will still be in Matthew 6, so keep that bookmark in your Bible or internet browser! We will take our prayer time to the next level with the “model prayer”

See you soon Saints!

“I hate the world!”

How many of you are like Linus over there and totally hate someone? Okay, maybe not hate, but how many of you “severely dislike” someone in your life? It could be a co-worker, a classmate, your boss…a member of your family…

Chances are, there will be some people in your life that you won’t really like. It’s natural right? We’re all so different and sometimes those differences just get in the way….

Okay, another question: How many of you hate all people as a whole?

… Unless you’re a moody teenager or an endangered species, you probably answered “no” to this question. I mean, how can we make a generalization like that?

All people? Well, I’m a person, so no way!”

People often times love humanity and are despicable towards individual human beings. It’s easy to love everyone as a whole because it’s a generalized notion of who people are as a species or a community. It’s a whole lot harder to love our neighbors as individuals, especially if we know them really well.

But the Bible tells us that we must hate the world and love our neighbor. We are supposed to have  great contempt for humanity as a whole, but great love for the individuals who enter into our lives.

Some may object, saying “But God loved the world didn’t he? He sent it only son here!”.

Well, that’s true… which it why it’s difficult to understand why we are called to hate the world that God loves so dearly.

A look at two passages of the Apostle John reveals this intrinsic tension.  On the one hand, as the former argument references, John writes, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son” (John 3:16).  On the other hand, he tells us, “Do not love the world or anything in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in Him” (1 John 2:15).

The issue is clear. We are in the world, a world that God loves, and a world in which we have a purpose.  And yet we are not of this world (we were created by something divine, not the the mundane earth), and we should guard against falling in love with this world.

The New Testament often uses the word “world” (“kosmon” in Greek) to refer to culture, or the results of human activity and creativity.  Obviously these different uses also have different connotations:

1.) The first is neutral or maybe even a positive one:  World is seen as the created order, including the actual physical earth (Matthew 24:21), the people living on it (Matthew 4:8; John 12:19), human life (1 Timothy 6:7), and the target of the disciples’ mission (Matthew 5:14).  Though sin entered into this world by the Fall, it and its inhabitants are seen as God’s beautiful creation.

2.) The second usage has a negative connotation.  World consists of human things controlled by Satan, in open rebellion against God.  The earth and its inhabitants are seen as involved in a cosmic struggle between spiritual forces due to sin (Ephesians 6:12).  In this battle, the sinful world didn’t recognize Jesus as God when He came to this earth (John 1:10), so it, as a whole, is an evil place due to its imperfections.

Are things clearing up a little?

Now there are a few typical responses that occur when Christians read passages like those that I just referenced.

First response: opposition and separation.  

The history of Christianity is filled with examples of this response.  Early Christians rejected Greco-Roman culture, declaring it idolatrous and corrupt.  The monastic movement of the Middle Ages pushed for complete withdrawal from the world.  Many Protestant sectarian movements–the Brethren, Mennonites, Anabaptists, Quakers, and also the Millerites –also embraced this approach.

Those who choose this route, I am confident, do so with a sincere belief that they are living out the Word of God.  Their sincerity should be respected.

However, the Bible does not mandate a complete withdrawal and isolation from the world. We are created to be social beings, and it is within a society or a culture that we live, work, worship, and witness.  At most those who break away from the world simply develop a different culture or subculture.  More importantly, this response implies that sin is caused by the world, whereas the Bible teaches that sin begins within the mind.

Second response: assimilation.  

This position assumes that culture is basically good.

Stressing peace and love, cooperation and communication, this approach allows the gospel to be interpreted, understood, and embraced in a multitude of ways.  In the process, the essence of the gospel becomes compromised and suddenly we get Christ as the “great moral teacher” rather than the Lord of life and sole Savior of the world.  Thus, Christianity becomes an all-embracing humanitarianism;  there is blurred distinction between the realms of God and Satan, propped by a moralistic humanism which poses a case for universal salvation…. and we all should know that is NOT what the Bible teaches.

But how do we understand culture, community, and our commitment of faith? Where do we draw the line between the demands of society and the kingdom of God?

In order to engage critically with our surrounding world, we must balance four biblical approaches to it:

1. Separation from anything openly contrary to God’s revealed will.

2. Affirmation of everything that is compatible with God’s revelation and original plan for humanity.

3. Transformation of individual human beings to become unified with God’s principles.

4. Contribution to the surrounding culture through elements that benefit humanity and enhance life.

And in order to see the world this way, we must seek our wisdom from the Holy Spirit and God’s Word so we may allow God to guide us in our choices rather than let our own selfishness lead our worldly conquests.

Doing God’s will where we are

In Mark 5:1-20, Jesus frees a man from an evil spirit. Afterwards, the man wanted to follow him,  but Jesus told his new follower to return home–to his own culture–and share the good news with his family and friends.

Here is the key to a Christian understanding of culture: Be a follower of Jesus where you are. No matter the situation, no matter the people you are surrounded with (who you might dislike). We are called to love those individuals, even if we hate the torn-apart world that surrounds us and effects us.

As Reinhold Niebuhran American theologian and commentator on public affairs, noted: As Christians we “… are forever being challenged to abandon all things for the sake of God; and forever being sent back into the world to teach and practice all the things that have been commanded (us).”

 

How do you, as a follower of Christ, live in this world and survive in today’s sinful culture? Or am I way off? Is our culture not evil at all?  

“Get behind me Satan!”

… and I’m not just talking about the White Stripes album.

Today I was reading Matthew (if you haven’t already noticed, I’ve been reading through this book for a while now), and I was startled by the words “Get behind me Satan!” coming from Jesus’ mouth. The surprising part wasn’t so much that he said them, but rather who he said them to:

“Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering, be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, ‘God forbid it Lord! this must never happen to you!’ But he turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things’. “ Matthew 16:21-23

Yep, he says those startling words to Peter.

The weird part about all of this is in this same chapter, Peter (at the time he was ‘called’ Simon) totally impresses Jesus with his faith and understanding in his divinity that Jesus renames him to “Peter”.

At this point, Jesus has been getting all kinds of annoyed at his disciples because they just aren’t getting it!

They freak out when they don’t have enough bread even though Jesus turned five loaves and two fish into food for over five thousand men (not including the women and children). Then, when Jesus is trying to warn them not to listen to the Pharisees, they misunderstand him entirely and get paranoid that Jesus is mad at them because they didn’t pack any food (which is silly because Jesus actually tells them not to bring anything with them when traveling).

But Peter is the one who passes the test.

Jesus asks his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” And they say, “Some say John the Baptist, but other Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” Then Jesus says toe them, “But who do you say that I am?” And it’s Simon/Peter who answers, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” (Paraphrased from Matthew 16:13-16)

Jesus is elated– someone finally gets it! Quite honestly, I don’t think most of his disciples really understood this fact about Jesus’ divinity up until after his death. They knew he was special, but why would Jesus respond so enthusiastically to Peter if all his followers were also aware that he was divine?

“Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.'” Matthew 16:17-19

This description has a lot of heavy language in it. I mean look at it! Peter, first of all, gets his new name, then he’s got Jesus telling him that God himself revealed important information to him, that he’s the rock that the church will be built on, that the Devil will not prevail against said church, and that he’s going to be giving Peter the kingdom of heaven!

Talk about some heavy stuff!

So how does Jesus go from praising the heck out of Peter to then calling him “Satan” and a “stumbling block” that stands in his way?

The truth of the matter is that we all are just like Peter.

Sometimes we totally impress and excite our God…. and other times we annoy him to no end. He still has patience with us, just like Jesus does with Peter even after this last encounter (and then later when he denies him three more times), but we do have the tendency to, as Jesus puts it, “set our minds not on divine things, but on human things.”

This human vs. divine thing is kind of clutch.

Jesus tells Peter that whatever he gains and looses here on earth, he also will gain and loose in heaven. But then he also tells Peter that his mind is not focused on heaven; which is a big problem!

Paradoxically, Jesus is the perfect blending of both of these things; he is fully divine, but also fully human.

So what does all this mean?

Well, it may not be so easy to say. However, I believe this verse’s purpose is to put the fear of God back into our hearts and to get us focusing on heaven rather than earth.

Sometimes people like to paint this pretty picture of Jesus as this meek, mild, accepting person, but just from the initial passage– (the “Get behind me Satan!” passage)– you can clearly see that his man is nowhere near meek!

Jesus has a mission, and it’s a tough one, the toughest one that any man has ever faced: to take on the wrath of God and die for the world’s sins.

Jesus knows he must do this, and yeah, it looks crazy (as many times Jesus’ missions do), but he’s got to do it, and any person who says otherwise is clearly not supporting the mission of God. If you’re not for him, your against him.

We are evil. And God hates evil. And it sucks, because we have Satan working to turn us into stumbling blocks to God’s mission 24/7 and the rest of the world is not helping us out in the least.

Jesus told Peter that he came about his wisdom not by the world, but by God– divine intervention, if you will. And the same is true for us; any understanding we may have of Christ, any truly selfless act or piece of truth we receive or give comes from God.

Like Peter, we are capable of incredible good, but we also are capable and highly susceptible to disdainful evil. Even our closest, dearest friends.

If God is calling us to his mission, then anyone or anything that tempts us to stray from that divine path is a stumbling block to Jesus.

What would it be like if we reacted the way Jesus does in these situations? ….

“hey man, I know you trying to quit smoking and like, take care of your body or whatever, but you want to step out and share a smoke with me?”

“GET BEHIND ME SATAN!!!”

“…Woah, chill out dude…”

Okay, so maybe that’s a little extreme. But maybe we’re called to see things this way. Maybe we’re called to see ourselves this way.

Have you ever felt Satan at work in your life?

What are stumbling blocks in Jesus’ mission for you, and how can you recognize them when they may simply look like Peter, a concerned and protective friend?

What do you think is the balance between focusing on divine things and earthly things?

On giving up…

let it go…

You may have heard people say things like “never say never” or “never give up” (woops! I just said “never” three times!), and they might sound like very motivated and dedicated people who inspire you beyond belief.

But the truth is, there are times when “giving up” is exactly what we need to do. Giving up will make us happier, healthier, and most importantly, more like Jesus.

There are probably a hundred things we hold dear that we don’t even realize are killing us spiritually.

Here is a list of 10 of them:

1. GIVE UP YOUR NEED TO ALWAYS BE RIGHT

To some of us, the idea of being wrong is terrifying. So much so, that even when it’s clear we’ve made a human error, we’ll never admit to it. There is always a price to be paid when we don’t let this one go. It might be an honest friendship, or even a job, or it might be that we loose our family’s trust entirely. Isn’t it worth it to just let go of that need to always be right?

Through James, God tells us that we must admit when we have done wrong or are wrong: “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed”. James 5:16

Do you want to be healed?

2. GIVE UP YOUR NEED FOR CONTROL

I’ll be honest; I struggle with this one…. Proverbs 3 tells us to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.”

This means that we really don’t have any control over our own lives. We can’t even count on our own capabilities of understanding the world. We have to be willing to give up our need to always control everything that happens to us and around us. It actually takes the pressure off us if we know that things are out of our control!

The next time you feel like you’re obsessing or worrying over something that you can’t do a thing about, just breathe and know that you’re in good hands; God’s hands.

 3. GIVE UP ON BLAME

This is similar to giving up on control.

When we allow others to have power over us in their ability to make us physically do things, emotionally feels certain ways, or mentally go somewhere in our own minds, we put ourselves in a position where we may end up blaming someone else for our own situation. This is never helpful.

Even when people have done wrong to us, we must never blame them. What did Jesus say when the Jews killed him? Oh that’s right: He said, “Father forgive them, they know not what they do.” Luke 23:34.

God tells us in 1 Peter 4:12 and James 1:2-4 (sequentially), that we should not only expect hardships and persecution, but that we must be joyous in each strenuous situation:

“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.”

 “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

4. GIVE UP YOUR DEFEATING SELF-TALK

Okay, this one I’ve been struggling for a long, long time, especially in regards to my body image and a few eating disorders floating around out there. Here’s what we need to understand:

God made us in HIS beautiful, glorious, incredible, and perfect image.

And how beautiful is this?

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be”. Psalm 139:13-16

In Isaiah 64:8, we learn that God has formed us like a potter does to clay. If we made us and we are the work of his hands, then how can we critique God? Who are we to say the pot needs new handles or a different shape?

Now, if you’ve done something wrong, then it’s okay to feel convicted by your actions, but this lasts only for a time. And frankly, it’s not God’s voice that’s telling you you’re no good; it’s Satan’s.

 Who do you want to listen to?

5. GIVE UP YOUR LIMITING BELIEFS

This one is clutch for Christians.

Do not doubt what you can or cannot do, about what is possible or impossible.

Philippians 4:13 tells us that “I can do all things through Jesus Christ who strengthens me.”

There is also a ton of stuff in the bible about doubting and having little faith. If you’re doing to doubt Christ, you cannot follow God. So stop limiting your beliefs with logic or hearsay.

It may not be logical; that’s why they call it FAITH.

6. GIVE UP COMPLAINING

Ephesians 4:29 tells us to “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”

And don’t forget when James says in Chapter 5, Verse 9, “Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door.”

Then God gets a little angry in Numbers 11:1:

“And the people complained in the hearing of the Lord about their misfortunes, and when the Lord heard it, his anger was kindled, and the fire of the Lord burned among them and consumed some outlying parts of the camp.”

There are plenty of examples in the New Testament, when Jesus gets downright annoyed that his apostles are always “grumbling to themselves”. It does no good. We really are doing ourselves a disservice by complaining. When we talk about something, it gives it life, and do we really want to give life to the most annoying things in our lives?

Probably not. So just stop talking about it. Really.

7. GIVE UP THE LUXURY OF CRITICISM

I don’t even have to add to what Jesus says in Luke 6:37-42:

 “Stop judging others, and you will not be judged. Stop criticizing others, or it will all come back on you. If you forgive others, you will be forgiven. If you give, you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full measure, pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, and running over. Whatever measure you use in giving — large or small — it will be used to measure what is given back to you.” 

  “What good is it for one blind person to lead another? The first one will fall into a ditch and pull the other down also. “ 

 “And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying, ‘Friend, let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log from your own eye; then perhaps you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.”

‘Nuff said, right?

8. GIVE UP YOUR NEED TO IMPRESS OTHERS

Stop trying so hard to be something of this world just so that the world will like you. Jesus doesn’t work this way.

Jesus tells us that if we are a friend to the world, we are an enemy to him. If we are impressing those around us, our treasures are here on Earth rather than in Heaven with him.

If we receive our reward here, then no reward awaits for us after life is finished.

In short, we need to impress Christ, not other people. Other people don’t hold the key to our immediate future, or ultimate Salvation.

9. GIVE UP THE PAST

Jesus was arguably the most present person who ever lived. He did not look on past sin in anger, and he did not let his anxiety of future events change his ability to be focused on life within the present moment. In turn, God wants us also to let go of any past wounds or bitterness we hold onto. He wants us to look for his presence within our daily lives, and press on, forgetting what lies behind us.

“Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13-14

If Paul let his past failures and wounds affect his journey by hanging onto them, he would never have been the great writer and teacher that he was through Christ. He would never have pressed on, determined to overcome future battles and struggles.

Our own memories can sometimes paralyze us. If we want to be like Jesus, we have to let go of the past and be newly created by him everyday. And this happens in the moment.

10. GIVE UP ATTACHMENT

First of all, Jesus tells us that rich men rarely enter heaven, so right there you should be thinking of freeing up some space in our pocket book by giving to those in need.

He also tells his disciples not to carry anything with them when they go out to evangelize; He doesn’t want them to be attached or dependent on anything except The Lord.

Now, this is extreme, but perhaps we are called to be a little more extreme in our faith…. When we are attached to the things of this world, we are essentially creating idols, which God hates. And his hate is fierce.

Galatians 5:19-21 reads,  “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

Idolatry can also look very much like love. I have been guilty of holding those around me up on pedistals that only God deserves to be held upon. This also makes me have extremely high expectations because… well, unknowingly, I’m expecting these people to take the place of God.

If we idolize our spouses, for instance, we will also end up demonizing them because they won’t live up to our high expectations—expectations to fill places and heal wounds that only Jesus can.

When we attach ourselves to our jobs, our house, our car, our clothes or even our family members, we are placing our identity in things that have absolutely no meaning in comparison to what our identity should be placed in: Jesus.

“You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” Galatians 3:26-27

If our identity is in Christ, then nothing can alter who we are in him. Nothing can touch us!

What are some other things you need to let go of? What is God calling you to give up?

Sexy

… I knew that title would get your attention.

The truth is I have been rather disturbed by our culture’s general view of sex. It is disgusting to me that pornography is one of the biggest money-making industries out there and I have become almost paranoid about men looking at me as simply a body rather than a person.

This is partially because I need to repent of my own sins and forgive the general culture’s addictive and idolizing tendencies because truth be told, I have my own vices which I am working on. I also need to remember that Christ forgives all sins, no matter what they are.

But the issue that I seem to be coming up against is that not all people really see their sex-obsession as a problem. In fact, some people even identify themselves by their sexuality, making it so much of a part of who they are that it truly becomes an idol to them, something they define their own worth by.

I know I am guilty of this. I mean, what girl doesn’t feel flattered when a guy thinks she’s attractive? But really…. deep down, we all are searching for something more than just flattery. We’re searching for a man who can make us feel truly loved, truly appreciated, truly accepted, and truly captivating.

But there is only one man who can do that, and his name is Jesus Christ. Every other man falls short of the glory that is God, and that’s how it was meant to be. It is meant to be that way because it forces us to need God so much and to depend on Christ’s love and fulfillment so that we do not mistake another man or a sexual act or a drug or another form of pleasure as God.

Our culture really does worship sex.

It is because we as humans are designed to worship. But we have gotten confused during that path and have turned to created things rather than the creator of things.

I could go on and on, but it’s rather late, and honestly, this guy says it better.

Sex: God, gross, or gift

Please take the time to listen to Mark Driscoll teach about sex both in and outside of marriage. It has both convicted me and inspired me to truly see sex as a gift rather than a gross think, or, like many people today seem to see it as, a God.

After you listen, please take the time to answer my poll. Thanks!

In the Garden.

Image

God blessed them, and God said to them… “See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. God saw everything he had made, and indeed, it was very good…The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it… Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone, I will make him a helper as his partner”…  The rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh or my flesh; this one shall be called Woman, for out of Man this one was taken.” Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked, and they were not ashamed.

                                                                                                      –Excerpts from Genesis

Dennis and I have planted a garden outside of our home. It seems rather providential timing that we also began to read Genesis together in this new, fresh time of our lives. Genesis is the beginning story, where everything is set up and created. The creation story, as it were. I am finding simple lessons here as well as discovering the same old truths we all knew in our brains since sunday school, but knowing and hearing them be spoken in God’s own words which are written on our hearts is an entirely new experience. Perhaps I’m just feeling new about everything, but like our garden outside, I am very aware of the growth required in this transition period of time in my life. And it’s a wonderful reminder of where that strength and ability to stretch comes from, as we water seeds and read about the first humans before us.

First of all, I just want to point out that Adam and Eve were commanded by God to be Vegetarians in the Garden of Eden. (Shameless plug for veggie-eaters like myself and promoting such eating habits :-)They ate the plants of the ground and the fruit from (most of) the trees. Later God does allow people to eat animals, but it happens outside of the perfect world of the Garden when almost everything is peaceful and perfect.

However… there is that snake. God is all-powerful; nothing happens outside of his power and will, and yet he allows the snake to exist in Eden, the snake who tempts the woman and man into the first sin of the world. How and why could he allow this. It is this fact that makes me wonder if The Fall was necessary. If we were truly meant to leave Eden, and leave the perfect life of the Garden.

Perhaps our fall was tragic, but God meant it to be so, just the way he meant his Son’s death to be painful and tragic as well. In this case, Adam and Eve graduated from the Garden and into the rest of the world. But I’ll get to that in a moment.

Another thing I noticed: God puts man in the Garden to till it and keep it; he gives us work. Here and not God also gives us work. We are all meant for what God has in mind, but many make the mistake that it is one thing. I know that God called me to be an actor when I was 16 years old, and the I know he called me to drop it entirely in order to teach when I was 21. Now, who knows? God may call me to become a crossfit trainer or a mural painter. His calling changes, and we never know what we are made to do until we begin to do it, by the work of God’s hands.

In Eden, work was enjoyable. Man and Woman had dominion over all creation and were required to take care of it and keep it. This was work. After The Fall, work became less fun and enjoyable and rewarding, which leads us to now. Now, all anyone does is work, and it’s not always enjoyable. God doesn’t call us to live in perfect peace anymore. Just look at Jesus’ life. Jesus was completely perfect, and yet, people hated him and killed him. We are called to die in such a way as well. To die to ourselves.

Another thing I have noticed. Woman was created from Man. Woman was designed from the beginning to be the Man’s helper. Now, this may sound demeaning of women in some ways, to say that a woman is only meant to help a man. But help is a huge thing. The bible talks about help in a lot of different ways, but mainly in regards to God being a helper, the Holy Spirit being a helper, and as the Woman being a helper. Yet, the way I see it, if God is a helper and the Holy Spirit is a helper, then it must be a pretty big deal to be a helper to men. And men need help. That is why a husband clings to his wife when he leaves his mother and father. He needs her, in a similar way he needs God. God designed it to be this way and so it is very good.

During our first year of marriage, I have slowly become aware of the innate differences between men and women; how they think, act, organize, process, fell, and express ideas or emotions. I have also seen how this directly connects to The Fall.

To the women he said, “I will greatly increase your pangs in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children, yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” And to the man he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten of the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it’, cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread until you return to the ground, for out of the ground you were taken; you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

The man is meant to lead, but women always resist the vitally important roles as helpers and try to take control by manipulating just the way Eve did when she gave the fruit to her husband. Men are meant to lead, but they often shy away from this responsibility the way Adam did when he went along with his wife’s sin. We are cursed with these same tendencies today. Women often want to feel powerful and in control, and often this leads them to sin. Men often want to be irresponsible and childish and this often leads them to sin. We are living today with the same tendencies as the very first humans had, and it was their punishment that now we face. Women will desire after her husband, and also after his role. Women are often needy in this way and appear to be clingy and emotional beings because of this. Men are called for more work, in which they sweat and are not rewarded highly for their pain and toil.

How incredible to see where it all began. To see not only my likeness to Eve, but also to God. In Genesis, God shows all sides of himself. The vengeful wrath of God as well as the merciful, regretting, and covenant-building God. He has both qualities of man and women in him, which is why, I find, that Marriage is so beautiful.

The two shall become one flesh. Marriage is meant to be holy, I am finding. It was designed to make us more like God and encompass all of his beautiful perfect qualities, both masculine and feminine. The bible said that we were created in God’s image, both male and female, and so God (even though we call him a “He”), is also feminine in who He is. The only thing that got in the way of Adam and Eve being the perfect humans was sin, and this is true today. Sin is the only thing that drives two people away from one another. Sin is the separator.

…..

I have been deeply convicted as of late. I have not been guarding my thoughts, and so my words have become poison rather than words that encourage or build up. I noticed it when I began writing letters to my students. The Holy Spirit was working as my incredible partner to help me see each of my students in the best way possible– the way God sees them and loves them dearly. This practice was incredible. I felt like a gardener, watering each child’s heart and confidence and mind. Where even the driest, hardest, and mealiest soil laid, I could grow a plant to bear beautiful fruit, so long as I looked at each of them through the lens of Christ. Christ died for people who hated him, but he did it because he loved them dearly. Although I was not dying for my students, I know that some of them weren’t exactly fond of me, nor had they been nice, polite, or even civil to me. It would be so easy to lash out at them or even ignore them, but God gave me the patience and positivity I needed to write them words of encouragement and love.

I realized yesterday that I need to apply this same practice to my marriage and friendships. Relationships need caring and love. They need to be fed and watered and cared for just like plants in a garden do. God called us to do it with plants and animals so long ago and now he calls us to do it with our partnerships, friendships, marriages, children, families, and any relationships at all. Nine months ago I made a vow to my very best friend to see all his failings as examples of God’s incredible grace, to love him actively as I actively peruse Christ, and to strive to see him in the way God sees him, as a beautiful image of his Son. Nine months later, I have fallen so many times, in the same way Eve and Adam fell so long ago.

But I have newly inspired hope.

I know God has moved people tremendously through my hands already. Not by my own doing, but by his. I know that he can continue to do so in each relationship I have here on this Earth. In doing so, He is tending to his own Garden and making it grow in his Son and in his Truth.

I am so blessed to be a gardener on this side and anticipate when I can also do even more rewarding work in heaven.

I am:

newly inspired and driven towards God and his garden.

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I am content

First of all, my bible is getting worn out. I mean really. It’s pretty much falling apart.

Second of all, Like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be recovered, so we must die. But God does not take away life; instead he devises ways so that the banished person may not remain estranged from him. –Samuel 14:14

I have been finding that most of the important people in my life right now need to hear that. And that includes myself.

I also have been reading Philippians and have found that most people in general need to read deeply and sip on this reading:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus… whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things…I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned th secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

I have been deeply convicted. I an so easily discontented by meaningless factors: the weather, what I dreamed about, the soy milk on my cereal got soggy, I forgot to buy cooking spray, I don’t feel like going to class, I don’t have time to run today, I over slept by a half hour so now I can’t be slow this morning … stupid things.

I have been anxious. Anxious about good things. Which I know, does not make sense.

I have started to become very anxious about my internship and about Dennis’ tour which I’ll be going on…. about moving, and about running races and driving long distances. These are all things which I have worked to make a part of my life and I am baffled at my sudden resistance to their implementation into the approaching now.

How often to people do this? They begin to make things happen for themselves, then freeze up, becoming afraid of success or of their prayers to be answered. They get used to failure, boredom, and discontentedness.

Today your servant knows that he has found favor in your eyes, my lord the king, because the king has granted his servant’s request. -Samuel 14:22

These are all beautiful occurrences and happenings that should make me rejoice–NO! Correction: which I want to rejoice about! I want to get loud and celebrate!

MY FIRST CLASS IS OVER!

I’M 22!

I JUST BOUGHT A PAPER CUTTER THAT I HAVE WANTED FOR A MONTH!

DENNIS IS COMING TO VISIT TOMORROW!

I GOT A FREE CUPON FOR NOODLES AND CO!

I AM ROCKIN’ MY RED PIG TAILS!

GOD IS SO GOOD TO ME!

Life is wonderful…

I learned to be content getting sore while running 15 miles in 2 days.

I learned to be content walking home in the cold rain.

I learned to be content with dirty feet—all summer.

I learned to be MORE than content taking photos of my beautiful fiancé.

“Peace and Love all!”