We need to do something

believe
Hi there! Me again. It’s been 3 months since my last blog. I am ashamed of that but I’m back and starting again. I think I have had lots of thoughts and ideas for posts in the last three months, but I haven’t allowed myself to sit long enough and make them happen. But then today, something that I said to Brian after lunch kind of collided with a few things that Pastor David spoke about in his sermon this morning and I knew I needed to explore them here.

Brian’s dad, Dennie Suman, is battling cancer. He has been for a few years, but about a year ago it was “under control” and he was on monthly “maintenance” treatments. Recently it has begun growing again, and now the doctors are finding new tumors. He is rapidly losing weight and honestly, things do not look good. It’s sad to watch. Brian was moved to go spend some time with his daddy and really ask him where he stood with the Lord. He was able to pray with Dennie, and invited him to church today. I’ll admit I was a little surprised when I turned the corner this morning and found he and Pat (his longtime “girlfriend”) in the lobby. I had feared that he would just be too tired to get up and out the door for church – but he made it! I did my best not to let the shock of his sunken face and dramatic weight loss show on my face. I was thrilled they were there to worship with us.

Pastor David continued his series entitled “Who We Are” and spoke of how the world views us as Christians. Are we a people who would walk to the other side of the road and right past someone in need? Or do we stop and help people out of their ditches and love on them and let them see Jesus in us. (Okay…there was much more to his sermon – this is what really  resonated with me). Are we, as Christians, telling people what they need or are we showing people Jesus in our actions and in our lives?

So – here is where these two parts of my world came together today. After having lunch and a tearful, tough goodbye to Dennie and Pat, Brian and I quietly came home – both kind of fighting tears (he may not admit that). I told him that I just feel helpless and that we need to do something for his dad and Pat. Maybe I could cook some dinners, maybe we could go do yard work or clean their house. Whatever!?!? I just felt like we needed to DO something. But why? Of course any or all of those things would be nice things to do – and I’m sure they would be appreciated and helpful to them. But those things were really about me. Why did I feel the need to just do and do and do? I guess because I don’t know what else there is…If I could run out and find a cure for this horrible disease, I would certainly do that. But I don’t know what else to do! And then I was reminded of this morning’s sermon…maybe I don’t need to necessarily DO….maybe I need to show. Perhaps what Dennie and Pat need the most right now is to be shown the love of Jesus. Maybe they need to see Him in the midst of our prayers and tears. Should we be showing them our belief that if it’s God’s will that he will heal Dennie. Can we show them God’s love for them through us in a prayer-filled visit?

As these words flow through me to this screen, I’m thinking – well isn’t helping them with daily chores a way of showing them Jesus? Can’t we be the hands and feet of Jesus through small acts of service? Yes – those are ways of showing love – but what if what they need is more than simple chores done around their house! To me that is showing – and doing out of love. But I think that sometimes there is more. Can we show them our faith through this storm by not wavering and by leaning in to God through these scary times? We can show them our worship and praise to a God whom we KNOW is bigger than any of this on earth. I believe that if we really need to DO something for them at this point, it should be by SHOWing them that we believe in our heavenly father and will follow him and trust in him to make all things good, so that he may be glorified.

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Saved and Called

holyHoly – consecrated or set aside for sacred use; standing apart from sin and evil; characteristic of God

This post has been on my mind and in my heart for a very long time. I have just had the hardest time focusing my thoughts and words so that it all didn’t come out like a bunch of stream of consciousness ramblings. (Which it will most likely be anyway). The subject of holiness has become very important to me over the last year of my walk with the Lord. From what I see of some people around me, it is their priority as well. But to others – it seems to be just one of those “churchy” words…and that makes me sad. In 2 Timothy 1:9, Paul says, “But join with me in the suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy life.” (emphasis mine). We all know – and truly appreciate – the God saved us part. We willingly accept that free, undeserved gift. But in the SAME breath, it says that he called us to a holy life. Saved us AND called us to a holy life. Yes, the gift of salvation was free, and nothing we can do can pay for it…but God calls us to be holy. And because of our love and devotion to him – that should be the life we want! All throughout scripture we are instructed to live holy lives. We are told that without holiness, no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14). We are to live holy lives, NOT impure lives.(I Thessalonians 4:7). We are told to offer ourselves as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God (Romans12:1). In my opinion – and my limited understanding of the word – it is NOT a choice. We cannot go on living the way we used to live – chasing our sinful desires – and be covered by the umbrella of grace. Now, I know that we ALL will stumble and fall and sin and need that grace…for the rest of our human lives. So, I am NOT for a minute saying that God expects perfection out of us and if we can’t be perfect we should just give up. I know that we are constantly begin transformed and renewed. The process of sanctification is just that – a process. But I can honestly say that I have seen and known people who knowingly choose to live the way THEY want to live – and then just say – “I’m covered by grace!” Again – I’m not a Bible scholar – but something tells me that this is not God’s picture of holiness. I heard a pastor the other day comparing the desire to live a holy life for God to the desire to please and love on your spouse. The longer you are married, and the more deeply you fall in love with that person, the more you desire to show your love for them by doing things that please them. So should our love with and for God be. The longer we walk with Him, the more we should love him and WANT to please him. The Bible says our lives should be holy and pleasing to God. So, it doesn’t mean we have to be perfect. We don’t have to worry about if we are good enough. God knows our hearts and he will see our desire to be holy and he will give us the strength we need to be holy. In his book “Jesus is …” Judah Smith says it (much better than I am doing) like this…”When we stop being insecure about our performance and instead trust in Jesus finished work, we are free to live a new kind of holiness. It’s a holiness that is internally motivated, a holiness powered by love, not guilt.” So, IF our hearts are truly seeking and desiring to live for God, then he will help us. Sadly, many hearts are using the idea of radical grace to dismiss to call to be holy. I know that grieves God and as believers it should bring sorrow to our hearts as well. Jesus did an amazing work for us. He was sacrificed, not so that we could use his name to cover our sinful lives and desires – but so that we could become holy citizens in his kingdom. “He suffered and died outside the city gates to make his people holy by means of his own blood.” (Hebrews 13:12). My intent through this post is not to come off as some “holier-than-thou” Pharisee, casting judgment on those around me….not at all. But honestly, my heart breaks for what I see out of some of my very own “brothers and sisters” in Christ. Sin should make us truly sorrowful – NOT because we get caught – but because God loved us so much, even while we were sinners, to send his son to die for us. It should be our desire – our greatest desire – to live a holy life for such an amazing act of love like that. “Christ made us right with God; he made us pure and holy, and he freed us from our sin.” (I Corinthians 1:30). As we strive to be holy, it is NOT to earn our salvation, that was already paid for. It is really (this is my humble opinion) to live lives that show our adoration and love for our heavenly Father.

“Our fight against sin is noble and good, but make no mistake; we are not fighting to become righteous. We are already righteous. We are simply learning to live outwardly like the people we are inwardly.” Judah Smith

Help us Father to live holy lives, to be ever so grateful for your mercy and grace, and to never forget the sacrifice you made for us through your son. Let us never misuse or abuse your grace to chase our own sinful desires, but rather let us walk humbly in your love and seek to be true conquerors through you.

Being Second

Selfishness (noun): Placing concern with oneself or one’s own interests above the well-being of others.

This is a post that I has been building inside of me for a very long time. I have been thinking about this word, and seeing the effects of it in so many different ways over the last few months, that I know that God is trying to show me something. As Christians, we are called to die to ourselves. Period. There is no second, “easier” option if we want to live for Christ. There is no watered-down way to follow Jesus. We die to ourselves. We give up placing concern with our wants, needs, and desires above – or at the cost of – others. Brian and I have four teenagers. If anybody witnesses selfishness on a daily basis, we do. Teenagers (mostly for just lack of maturity – God please let them outgrow it) are selfish by nature. They are really only concerned with their wants and needs. (Mostly their wants). Around our house – the majority of “conflict” or issues that arise are all borne out of someone being more concerned with themselves than with others. As we have grown as a couple and as a family – we have really come to understand that selfishness can tear people apart if gone unchecked. The more I live my life trying to walk with God and become more Christ-like, the more I see that MANY of the things that cause people to stumble – and the majority of sins in our world all come down to selfishness. People want what they want regardless of who else it may hurt or destroy. People do what THEY want to do – even when knowing it is wrong – because they think only about their own pleasure or fulfillment. We know that the right thing to do would be this option – but the easier thing to do is the selfish option. I’m NOT perfect. I know that I am a selfish person. WE ALL ARE. But here’s the thing…as Christ followers, we are commanded to deny ourselves. That means sometimes we don’t get what we want. That means sacrifice. That may mean pain. But if we want to follow him, it is no longer about US! Christ is our example. Christ showed us how to live for others – how to love others – in the extreme example of sacrifice when he gave his life for us. Not the easy option, not the “feel-good” option. But rather, a pure act of SELFLESSNESS. Jesus gave us everything, including his life. Jesus is our pattern and example. This earthly life is not about us. We are here only by the grace of God. We have hope because of the selfless act of God sending his son to take away our sin. We should do nothing less than show ourselves to be selfless in this life. In small ways, how can we become less about ourselves and more about God and others? How can we shift our focus from our own sinful desires to the love of God and the joy in living for him? Living for ourselves is NOT an option. Selfishness will eventually destroy us, our homes, and our lives. We must learn (and it is a process!) to deny ourselves (not about what we want anymore) and pick up the cross and follow Jesus.

Life to everything, Light to everyone

“For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than any two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires” ~Hebrews 4:12

I am going to try and not come off too “preachy” in this post, but I can’t make any promises. I feel so strongly about this topic that it will be hard for me not to “should” on you. I apologize, in advance if…wait – no, I don’t apologize. I am not sorry for being passionate about this topic. I was raised in the church. My daddy is a preacher. I have always owned a Bible. (Back in the day – it was straight up KJV…but now I own several different translations.) Since I found my own relationship with Christ I feel like I’m pretty good. (Kind of funny since it doesn’t really matter how good I am in God eyes, I don’t have to earn his love – but that’s another post.) I have listened to countless sermons that have to do with the Word of God and how it is his guidebook for us. It is divinely inspired. It has story after story that help us see how to live our lives. I even recently came to understand that some books of the Bible are prescriptive, while others are descriptive. (Thank you Matt Chandler for that lesson). But the biggest thing that I can say about the Bible, about this living document that speaks to us, is that is really “works” best if we spend time in it…DAILY. Notice, I did not just say it works if we “read” it daily. Or if we memorize verses from it daily. We have to spend time in it. Read, listen, pray, re-read, accept new ways to understand things we thought we already had figured out. Reading our Bibles should NOT feel like a chore that we have to check off our To-Do list every day so that we will make God happy. Spending time in God’s word is something we GET to do – with our heavenly Father. And if we really clear our minds and our hearts and set aside time to dive into it, it is amazing the things that God reveals to us. I can honestly say that since I began devoting time every day to dwell in the scriptures, my life has drastically changed. I’m not talking changed like some of the false-teachers (Uh-hmm – Joel Osteen) claim – like I will get a new house or my dream job because of what I do for God). I’m talking about real, inside, to the depths of my soul changed. Like, I can feel the Spirit moving and guiding me through the passages as I read and ponder them. Each day when I open up the word, it is precious time spent with the Lord, and each day I gain wisdom and understanding of how much He loves me. I am his beloved. So much so that he left me a living word to guide me and reassure me, and inspire me, and correct me, and speak to me, and teach me, and to give me hope! I have read verses over and over – and then one day – one of those same verses will take on new life for me – based on what God wants me to hear. If you are a Christian and you are not spending time in the word (not just checking off your daily reading plan) you are missing out on ALL that God has for you. I passionately urge you to pray about it and try and read the Bible with the idea that you are listening for the Spirit to speak through the pages. There is so much to be learned from this gift from God. I have been thinking about this blog for a few weeks now and have just now gotten around to putting my thoughts out here. In the meantime, I just heard a sermon three days ago about this very subject (that was my “nudge” to go ahead and post this). In the sermon the Pastor used the illustration of when Jesus was in the desert and the devil was tempting him. Now, this is a relatable story – even if you don’t think it is at first glance. We ALL face temptation every day of our lives. Some days it’s every hour of our lives. How did Jesus face his temptation? He drew upon his knowledge of the scripture to combat the evil. Each time he told the devil, “It is written…” One thing I never thought about – Jesus reading scripture. He learned from the teachers in the temple. He read and studied and memorized scripture. So – if Jesus did it – read his scriptures – shouldn’t that be a pretty good example for us?!? The other take away here is that we should respond to temptation like Jesus did…”It is written…” And if we are not spending time in the word – how do we even know WHAT is written. How often do you hear someone throw out a quote of some kind and claim its in the Bible? Do WE know what is written? When we face temptation do we use this powerful tool we have been given to run it off? I speak so passionately about this because I have seen the transformation in my own heart – from spending time with God in his word. I have seen it change my husband as he spends more and more time in the word. We are told in 1 John “But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in Him.”  We have to be IN the word in order to OBEY the word. This book gives light and life to me in my everyday walk with God. It is God’s wisdom and his love given to us.

The Word gave life to everything that was created , and his life brought light to everyone.” ~John 1:4

My word for 2014

perspectiveI do not make New Year’s resolutions. I am horrible at them. They are expectations that I rarely (never) meet – which just leaves me feeling bad (worse) about myself. It only took me about 35 years to figure this out. Since coming to the realization that resolutions are not my thing, Brian and I decided to resolve to “be better” by focusing our lives and efforts on a particular word for the entire year. That exercise proved to be very rewarding and actually kept us focused on a goal without leaving us feeling like failures after a few months (and by months I mean days). This year the word I chose is PERSPECTIVE. I wrote a blog this past summer about that word and when it came time to choose a word for the whole year – it really made sense to me. I recently heard a sermon by one of my new favorite pastors to listen to (Matt Chandler) in which the pastor basically called out those of us who compare ourselves to others. (Yes, I was one of the “us”). How many of us can justify our selfish actions, our hateful words, or our sinful behavior by comparing ourselves to someone who happens to be “worse” than us. Well of course I’m going to look like a champ if I compare myself to someone whose behavior is apparently “worse”. But that certainly doesn’t make me into the person God wants me to be – just because I’m not “as bad” as someone else. It can work the opposite way as well. We can compare ourselves to someone who seemingly has it all together and has a perfect wonderful life with perfect kids, no problems, beautiful home (do you see where I’m going with this)…and feel really bad about ourselves. It can wreak havoc on us. Our peace and contentment really come when we have a healthy perspective on things. And as believers, our peace and contentment comes from our savior. How does Jesus see us? What would his perspective be? If we begin to view life through His lens, how does it change our perspective on things? This word has come to mean so much to me as I meet people and learn about myself. There is no way to wallow in my problems when I am worshipping next to a recovering heroin addict. That’s perspective. I can’t possibly continue to worry about finances and budget when I have friends who are currently homeless. I believe that Jesus’ perspective on “sinners” in His time was revolutionary. He didn’t see the woman at the well the way the Pharisees would have seen her. He saw her through the perspective of love…not condemnation. As I embark on another year as a grateful believer in Jesus Christ, a wife, a mom, a teacher, and a woman, I know that IF I am able to keep things in perspective – not MY way, but God’s way – I know that I will be blessed and that God will open my eyes to see some beautiful things in 2014.

Neither do I

I recently heard a sermon about a story from the Bible that I had heard many times before…but for some reason I saw the story in a new light. Maybe I am more in tune with the spirit speaking to me, maybe it’s that I’m further along in my walk with God, or maybe it was the way in which the story was presented in this particular sermon. Maybe it was all three. I love that the word of God is a living book full of wisdom that comes to us in different seasons as the Holy Spirit sees that we need them. It’s exciting to me to sit down and study and see a fresh meaning in something I’ve read over and over. The story was from the book of John…the story of the woman who had been caught -in the act caught- in adultery. The Pharisees dragged the woman, naked, to the temple, into a large crowd. Caught in the act…dragged away…into a large crowd of people. I can’t even imagine the fear and shame that this woman felt. And I’m sorry, but where was the man? Why was he not included in this public judgment. She wasn’t alone in her adultery. Am I right? So the Pharisees make yet another lousy attempt to “trick” Jesus with one of their questions. John 8:5 says, “The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?” You would think that these guys would learn that Jesus always had an answer. But before he spoke, he bent down and started writing in the dust with his finger. How had I missed this detail so many times before? What was he writing? What was this poor, scared woman thinking as he was doodling in the dirt? The preacher in this sermon I was listening to suggested that perhaps he was writing all of things that these men had done in their past. That makes sense, right? I mean Jesus would know. Like he was almost saying “Alright, boys, if you want to go there we can…but here’s what I know about you…” I love the way Jesus dealt with these guys. Finally he stands up and says “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone.” John 8:7 I would like to think that at this point he’s looking at them, then kind of looking back to what he’d written in the dirt, the looking at them again, almost daring them to challenge him. (I do not claim to be a theologian- just my take on it). As he stoops back down to write some more, the woman’s accusers starting leaving the scene, one by one until they were all gone. And then Jesus looked at her and asked “Didn’t any of your accusers condemn you? Neither do I! Go and sin no more.” Neither do I. Imagine what it would be like to hear Jesus say those words to you. Neither do I. I have been spending time with a very special group of ladies. They are such a blessing to me, and I learn so much from them as we all struggle through our own issues. The one common theme lately is that we are all afraid of what other people think. None of us like the feeling of being judged. I think that’s why these words of Jesus’ are so powerful to me at this point in life. Jesus teaches a powerful lesson to someone who seemingly “deserves” to be judged….that he does NOT condemn her. His love covers her weakness and his love is all that she needed in that moment. We need to learn from this that no one on this earth is blameless and without sin, therefore no one can condemn us. And neither does Jesus. He died so that we can live righteously. Romans 8:1 says “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.” In that moment, this woman found out that she belonged to Christ. We belong to him. That’s such an amazing but sometimes difficult fact. We (and yes, I’m talking to me mostly) need to remember that we belong to him – when we feel the judgment of others – we are his. Their judgments do not matter. “The one” who was without sin in this story…the one who he said to throw the first stone…that one was him. He was “the one” without sin…but did he throw it? Did he condemn her? Did he judge her? He is all that matters.

Being human

There are a lot of things that are hard about being human. Life is messy. Sometimes it’s hard. And at times it just sucks. I think that the hardest thing about being human is emotions. Emotions are powerful! They can be debilitating. Sometimes they can’t be contained. Now before I go any further I will acknowledge that there are plenty of good, positive emotions that arty the same attributes as the bad ones. For example, pure joy can overflow and cause tears of happiness. But there are also plenty of “negative” emotions that are just as strong, if not stronger. One of these is anger. It can be ugly. It will control the mind and the tongue, causing thoughts and words that are not truly reflective of the person speaking them. Sadness, hurt, pain and loneliness kind of all wrap up into one big pile of messiness that can weigh down and smother ones spirit. I think that one of the hardest feelings I have dealing with is when someone I love is experiencing sadness or pain. This feeling should really have a name of its own. I have learned how to cope with (perhaps not in the best way) my own emotions…but for me to watch someone I love suffer through anger or sadness is nearly overwhelming. But the flip side is even sweeter too. The joy of watching someone you love be at peace and filled with their own joy is amazing (sorry that word is so overused). So I’m not really sure what my point is (if there is one at all) Exocet that I am truly fascinated with the ability to feel things the way we do as humans. It makes me wonder how Jesus dealt with his array of emotions while he was human. The Bible talks about his anger. And sorrow. And grief. And yet we know he never once sinned even as he dealt with those emotions. I’m fascinated by his mind and his thoughts. And it brings me comfort to know that since he did walk the earth as a human that he felt the same things I do. He understand my prayers when I ask for help dealing with my human emotions.