Monday, December 19, 2016

Where There Is Obedience There Is Peace

Last night my family and I watched one of the Star Wars movies.  There was a scene in the movie where a young boy was following behind his master when suddenly there was danger about to overcome him.  His master shouted, "Anakin, drop!".  And the boy went instantly to his knees and was saved.   This scene is an excellent example of immediate compliance.  The negative consequences that would have arisen if the young boy had disobeyed or even delayed his obedience can be readily understood.  I loved it.

Paul and I have been parenting for twenty(+) years.  It's a good start, but we'd both admit that we have no claim to infallibility.  One thing we've done that we do not regret is to teach our children to comply immediately.  This happens very early in our children's lives.  And though they are not perfect, most of the time our children obey right away.  This world is simply too dangerous to allow a child to ask, "Why?"  before they comply with a command.  We both have great parents who were careful to teach this to us.  In fact, I can clearly remember my mother-in-law telling my first little one, "Slowness to obey is the same thing as disobedience.  Be quick to obey!".

Through the years we've been complimented about our children.  We've even heard people say, "How do you get your children to listen to you like that?"  There is no question about it, teaching our children to immediately obey has helped to make our children and our home very peaceful and enjoyable.  I feel the same could be the case within the church.  Just think of how peace and mutual edification would be the "normal" in a church that took Matt.22:36-39 seriously...Love the Lord and Love your neighbor.  Obedience is not legalism, it's Love.

Those who insist that their sin is not sin may either be unaware or perhaps too proud to ask for forgiveness.  They'd rather deny the need than be humble.  You can see it in our culture today, people seem to have a higher priority on their own personal "reality" than they do on acknowledging God's reality.  This becomes especially evident when a person like this is confronted with their sin.  Rather than apologizing for their sin and seeking restoration, they become vicious toward the one who called it out.  Pastors and ministry leaders are unfortunately quite vulnerable to such attacks, but this deflection tactic is not exclusively something that affects the one who fills the pulpit.  It can happen to anyone who dares to love deeply enough to be the iron that sharpens.

The last post I put up was titled "Something To Offer".  It is about forgiveness and the divorcing culture in which we currently live, where rather than being humbly restored to each other people tend to choose separation.  Satan's goal to divide and conquer is certainly working.  But Jesus said, "Be one as I and the Father are one."  This sounds like the opposite of our culture.  Jesus also said, "Be holy as I am holy" and He prayed, "Sanctify them(us) by Your Truth".

To be sanctified is to be set apart as holy.  We as a church are to be set apart unto God as holy, different from our sin loving, divorcing culture.  We are not to let pride rule us.  We as believers are given the power and the authority to overcome sin and be set free from it.  Through accountability and exhortation we help each other choose to do what is right and reject doing what is wrong.  Unfortunately we are all sinners.  This means that there will be people who sin against each other in the church.  And there will be those brave enough and loving enough to confront that sin.  If bitterness is too deep to accept correction graciously, we as holy and sanctified people may just have to love deeper while we wait for the wounded pride of another believer to settle, because love bears all, hopes for all, endures all and it never fails.

My parents and Paul's parents raised us with the expectation of immediate compliance.  We have done the same with our own children.  Maybe this is a reason why our children respond differently than the way others say their children do.  We know that our children will sin, but we don't want to just ignore it.  Our goal is to embrace truth and grace and mercy in our home.  We do not shy away from teaching obedience to God's word just to spare our children or ourselves conflict with each other.  Instead, we teach that God's desire is obedience and our own desire is the same.  We teach that when we do the wrong thing we will be held accountable and when we humble ourselves there is always mercy in the name of Christ.

The same should be true within our churches.  Pastors and elders alike should not shy away from teaching obedience to the truth just to spare their congregants from conflict.  Conflict will always arise when there is sin.  Though it requires carrying a heavy cross, my prayer is much like that of Jesus...that God's children would be sanctified, distinct from the rest of the world.  My prayer is that the unsaved would take notice and say to themselves, "These people are different.  They look different, they live differently and they love differently."  My prayer is that God's people would not be resigned or content to blend in with this world, but would enjoy the peace and freedom that comes from living in obedience to God's word.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Something To Offer

I have found myself asking the question lately, "Where can I find joy when there are so many non-joyful situations that continually assail believers?"  This question becomes even more earnest when the source of conflict in our lives is another individual.

Forgiving others is not an option for someone who desires to be forgiven.  I think I've mentioned that a few times throughout my years of writing.  Jesus said, "Forgive so that your heavenly Father can forgive you."  But forgiveness as I've learned does not always have the added perk of immediate restoration and joy attached to it.  It's a difficult and humbling endeavor to strive for restoration with another sin scarred individual.  And it is becoming more and more evident the longer I live that not many people are willing to love so deeply and be committed so faithfully to living out God's love.  It seems all too often that people would prefer to slink away with their records of wrongs rather than humble themselves so as to be restored to another.  The phrase "Fade to black" is running through my head right now.  Only it isn't a pleasant feeling when the story that is fading to black is a relationship that is falling apart.  It is ever so painful no matter what the cause.  But that is what happens when pride slips in and rules the hearts of men.  They cling to their wounded pride and coddle their hurt feelings licking their wounds till they grow to love the taste of them.  In the name of irreconcilable differences people frequently sacrifice the ones closest to them.   It's a shameful blood lust that has taken down many marriages and friendships throughout the span of time.  It is a viciously pervasive form of un-forgiveness, designed to kill our love for one another and eventually destroy our souls.

When a believer is faced with a situation where someone will not be restored to him/her what consolation is there? How can we live joyfully when there is such a lack of charity in the world?  I have yet to find a fully satisfactory answer to that.  But I do find nuggets of gold every so often that keep me believing that joy does not have to be so illusive just because there are unyielded souls that have a tendency to wound with proficiency.

One thing that I take comfort in is the fact that the Word of God is able to divide even between the soul and spirit of a man.  He sees me.  All of me....and He remains with me in spite of what He sees.  Though the love of most is growing cold, He sees me.  Though our current culture is a culture of divorce He sees me and remains faithful.

Sadly my life has seen an abundance of this divorcing culture.  I'm not just talking about husbands and wives I've known.  I'm also including friendships that have been lost, church members that have either abandoned the faith or forsaken our small gathering, and even family members who have disowned one another to varying degrees.  No matter what the case has been, I can see clearly that pride and unyielding hearts are the catalysts of disunity.  In all these circumstances, false assumptions and a lack of humility are what set that ball rolling in the direction of irreconcilable differences.  In my opinion there shouldn't be such a thing as "irreconcilable differences".  Instead of clinging to the right to feel wronged, it would be better to cling to the love God tells us to have for another.  Because as His word tells us, "Love covers over a multitude of sins".  Love.

As individuals we can not force others to live or love like they are supposed to.  I would say that it has been a tough enough job just getting my own heart to love like I am supposed to.  I know full well that I have insufficient love of my own to give.  But God, who sees me, continues to give me His love in spite of my failures.  In that I find joy- because I now have Something to offer.


Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Are You Really Struggling?

Hebrews 12:3-4
"Consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.  In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted unto the point of shedding your blood."

In the last few years I have found that shopping on line for Christmas gifts is enjoyable and almost non stressful.  But this morning, while shopping on eBay I came across sexual images twice!  I was not happy.

Sometimes you just have to look away.  That's what we teach our children.  When the wicked and misguided in our world push images that ought not to be gazed upon, we need to look away...bounce the eyes.  Those who have overcome porn addictions or the temptation to commit adultery know that a lingering eye can very easily lead a person (and often their family) to their own demise.  The same is true for the things upon which we allow our minds to dwell.   My husband has often said, "What ever dog you feed will grow the strongest".  And he is right.  If a person feeds the sinful lust of the eye, that lust will only continue to grow.

Throughout the years I have had many conversations with people who are "struggling" in one way or another.  Of those whose struggle is with sin I've found that not everyone who is "struggling" is necessarily fighting against sin.  Rather than wrestling with it, they seem more captivated by it, like a twisted version of the classic "damsel in distress".   It puts an image in my head something along the lines of the cover of a Harlequin Romance novel, where a scantily clad couple is standing on the edge of a cliff, wind blowing in their hair and the man, standing behind the woman has his muscular arms firmly around her voluptuous figure, pawing at her in the throes of passion.  The man represents temptation and the woman is the one who supposedly struggles.  She isn't fighting at all- she's enjoying herself.  Yeah, that seems more like the "struggle" going on with some people regarding their sin.

One of my brothers used to wrestle in high school.  He was actually pretty good.  When I think back to those days I remember the sweat, the straining of muscles and the overall exhaustion that would ensue from the intense struggle of each trying to over power the other.  Did you catch that?  Each opponent tried to overpower the other.  I've learned that this is not so much the case with some people who say they are "struggling" with sin.  Their  desire to overpower sinful self seems in all actuality non existent.

I once tried to help a woman who came to me needing comfort and aide during a difficult time her family was going through.  After months of help, prayer, deep heart felt talks, encouragement and godly advice I became aware of the fact that this woman was in no way seeking restoration with her husband but instead was actively trying to rekindle a relationship with a man with whom she'd previously had an affair.  For all this woman's talk of "struggling" she was not actually struggling at all.  She was trying everything in her power to play the part of the innocent, trying to maintain her Christian image, painting herself out to look like a victim, when in all actuality she was the instigator of her marriage trouble. She had let her eye, and her mind dwell upon another man.  On the day the situation became clear I confronted her on her sin.  And just like Proverbs says regarding the adulteress she licked her lips and literally insisted she had done nothing wrong.  In that moment, I excused her from my help and counsel and handed her over to her willful way.  It was one of the saddest things I've ever had to do.  To this day, I am unaware of her repentance.

I've shared this story with very few people.  I suppose because it grieves me so deeply.  I know there are some out there who would scoff at my testimony regarding my response to this fallen woman.  There are likely some who would say it would have been better for me to "love her through it".  I can assure you all, my love for her runs deep still to this day.  But I will not love merely with words and tongue.  Actions and Truth are just as important.  I could not and will not give tacit approval to someone who is seeking out things God has forbidden, nor will I allow myself to be in a position to facilitate such things.   I don't believe God has called any Christian to do that.  The whole counsel of scripture actually leads me to believe the opposite should happen.

Sometimes you just have to look the other way.  We are told that each man is tempted when by his own evil desire he is dragged away and enticed.  Satan will continue to put sinful delights in front of our eyes, hoping our evil desires will be aroused.  It can come in obvious ways like seeing a pornographic picture online and sometimes it might be more of a subtle temptation such as the temptation to keep silent about something you know is extreme folly, that threatens to ruin an entire family and make a mockery of The Faith in the eyes of those watching.  It doesn't matter if you are the one being tempted to commit adultery or if you are the one being tempted to forgo God's wisdom in an effort to love your friend through her rebellion.  Both are equally dangerous and disastrous to our lives.

If you are one who is struggling with sin, I encourage you to grab hold of your opponent and strive for all you are worth to overpower it.  Sweat, strain your muscles and exhaust yourself in your resistance of wickedness.  Don't be satisfied to play the victim.  You have been given the victory if you want it.  From bouncing the eyes to flat out running away from sin each of us needs to strive for what is right, not in the eyes of man, but in the eyes of God.


Sunday, November 27, 2016


Well, it happened. I personally met someone who reads my blog. And I didn't even have to travel to China, Russia or France. Ha! Truth be told, given the vague stats blogger offers, I wasn't sure more than two Americans ever read my blog aside from my own family. In the grand scheme of things I know it isn't a big deal. But the truth of it is, I was strangely blessed by meeting this woman even though I don't even know if she liked my writing. When I was on Facebook it was much easier to measure the reach of each post. Feedback, for better or worse was more readily given and though occasionally it wasn't positive, there were also many times people took the time to let me know how God was using me to bless them, encourage them and build them up. I don't regret leaving Facebook, but I do miss that.

I know I haven't written in a long while. Life sometimes just has a way of taking over. But aside from that, I've also been feeling very quiet in my spirit. It's been a time for me to listen rather than to speak. And it's been good for me. During my silence I have often been filled with various scripture verses that come to mind in the form of prayer.

-"Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Oh Lord my Rock and my Redeemer"

-"Where there are many words, sin is not absent"

-"Always be ready to give an answer for the hope that is within you"

-"Set a guard over my mouth, Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips"

-"Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us"

These scriptures and others have been governing my thoughts as world politics have been raging on, horrific evils have been committed and the love of many continues to grow cold. It's been tempting at times to publicly comment on what is happening in our world. But I think most often my heart has been driven to prayer.

I would have my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ know that God has not forsaken us. He is not blind, nor is He deaf. And most assuredly, nothing is outside of His control. As we wait for His will to be done on earth as it is in Heaven, I want to encourage each of you to continue to put your faith in Him. Do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God. Love Truth and obey it. And allow yourself the simple joys of the moment by moment grace that He gives you. Though more and more people reject what God has said is true, I want to remind you that nothing can separate you from the love of God. Though people who once worshipped with us have changed their minds and given themselves over to new and unholy opinions, you need not fear nor fret. God's got this.

Have faith and stay true to His commands; Love the Lord Your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength; And Love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus said His yoke is easy and His burden is light. Believe it and live each day like you do. And remember that God's mercy is new each morning. Peace be to you all.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Take Words With You

This morning as I was drinking my coffee and reading the bible I looked over at my four youngest children who were eating their breakfast in silence.  Usually on Saturday morning I let them sleep in and then watch a cartoon.  It's a tradition that stretches back to my own childhood when cartoons only aired on network television on Saturday mornings.  Today I woke them earlier than usual.  I wondered if they would be ornery but they weren't.  They were just quiet.  They had no words.  I looked down at the passage I was reading again.  

"Take words with you and return to the Lord.  Say to him; 'forgive all our sins and receive us graciously, that we may offer the fruit of our lips'".  Hosea 14:2. 

I think about my children frequently throughout the day.  My main concern is their faith and walk with God.  So this morning I took the opportunity of their silence to invade their thoughts and direct them to Jesus.  I asked them, "When do you worship?".  Amidst the chewing and dazed looks there was a glimmer of thought behind their eyes.  Even Camon, who is seven, looked instantly curious.  But no one could really answer.  I suspected this.  I didn't really expect them to be any different than I was as a child.    

My husband is a pastor so this may sound scandalous to some when I admit that I don't always feel like I'm worshipping at Church.  I learn.  I pray.  I repent.  But worship...that's harder to define.  When I asked my children if they worship at church they did the thing with their eyes where they look like a cartoon character for a know the one; the side-to-side, deer caught in the headlights look.  They seemed momentarily uncomfortable when I asked if they worshipped during service or if they pretty much just endured the experience until the last "amen".  They all pretty much agreed that it was the latter.  I thought as much.  It was just the same for me.  I'm glad they owned to it.  It doesn't do anyone any good to candy coat the truth.  It is what it is.  I'd rather have them admit to me the truth than feel like they have to pretend. 

In Hosea 14 the people of Israel are told to "take words" with them.  It goes on to encourage repentance and surrender to God, looking to Him as the source of goodness and blessing and it finishes off with the words, 

"Who is wise? He will realize these things.  Who is discerning?  He will understand them.  The ways of the Lord are right; the righteous walk in them, but the rebellious stumble in them." 

I can model a righteous life for my children and teach them scripture, encouraging them to hide it in their hearts so they do not sin against God.  But I feel like modeling worship is difficult.  It's so personal that modeling it might actually turn out to be nothing more than a show.  But being thankful and teaching them to surrender with thankfulness I can do.  Being thankful is a crucial part of worship. I can teach them to be repentant because worship does not happen without repentance and humility.  I can also teach them how to "take words with them and return to the Lord".  Helping my children to know who God is and notice how benevolent He is gives them the tools to formulate their own words of thanks and repentance.  I could try to put words in their mouths but their worship would not be authentic.  No, I want them to have the ability to take their own words with them when they return to God.  I want them to be able to see for themselves how good He is to them.  I want them to see that He fills their lungs with breath.  He gives them bodies that function properly.  He gives them beauty, strength, food, shelter, clothes. He meets all their needs.  God says in Hosea,

"I am like a green pine tree; your fruitfulness comes from me."

What do we have that we have not been given?  Not one thing.  Our ability to blink...comes from God.  Our ability to sleep and wake up...God's gift.  We think, walk, talk, swallow, breath, hear, see, enjoy taste....every good and perfect gift comes from God!  This and so much more I can teach my children to see.  In doing so, if they are wise, it will be inevitable that they will "take words with them when they return to the Lord".  God wants to hear our humbled hearts praise and thank Him!  Whether we sit in a pew or on our front porch drinking our coffee if we are humble before God, repentant for our sin and filled with thanksgiving we will find what it means to worship Him and songs of praise will come.  I believe that when we bring this attitude with us as we gather in church, our worship does rise before God as one voice.  May God give us all the grace to see that quietly enduring 'till the last "amen" does not have to be our Sunday morning church experience.  

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

A Portion Of The Story

Like many of you, I like a good story.  I like romance and intrigue, suspense and believable dialog, just for starters.  But, aside from my fictional interests, I have a greater passion for Truth.  Which brings me to scripture.  Unlike other books, the Christian bible seems to have endless layers.  It's content spans throughout all time, even to that which has not been.  No earthly author has yet to write a book that is it's equal.  

How is it that I can read a passage and feel like I know it, only to one day read it again and discover something new?  This phenomenon is humbling for me.  God through the years has condescended to teach my slow-to-comprehend mind, allowing me the time to let a passage simmer until suddenly my eyes are opened.  If you could see the party that takes place in my spirit when this happens you would put on a hat and celebrate with me.  But the amazing thing is, He allows me to revisit the same passage later on and He shows me more!

Knowing this helps me to listen to a sermon in peace even when the pastor takes it in a direction that might be different than I would have gone, because I know that what a Godly pastor shares in any given sermon is just a portion of the story.  

Some of you know that my husband became a pastor about four years ago after having taught in the public school system for seventeen years.  It was a big leap for us.  And I confess it was a VERY big leap for me.  I've never really been a fan of church and I've always had a difficult time with sermons.  The reason is that I wanted sermons to be tidy, wrapped up, inclusive of all pertinent details so as not to give way to misunderstanding should any young or non believer be listening.  My compulsion to round out the theology of every sermon was exhausting and rather than feeling blessed by the pastor's knowledge I felt like I'd been in a battle every time I went to church.   But the fact is, sermons are just a portion of the story!  It's such a great story that it takes time to do it justice in it's telling and not everything can be covered in it's entirety in every sermon.  So we lay the foundation of faith and build on Christ...not forgetting Christ as we build.    

It's true that I have an easier time listening to my pastor husband.  It's likely because I can grill him after the service. (Ha!)  Knowing that this particular pastor is approachable and that I won't be labeled a rebellious woman for questioning his sermon sure does afford me a measure of confidence.  But what about everyone else?  There may be some who have a difficult time listening to my Paul as he takes a passage of scripture and draws out things God has shown him.  I have a lot of grace for those who struggle in this way because I can relate very well.  

What I can offer to those who deal with these matters is a reminder;  My Paul, or any other pastor can only share a portion of the story during one sermon....or even several.  The bible being as deep as it is can not be summed up or laid out in tidy fashion so as to satisfy every listening ear.  Unlike Paul Harvey, who gives "The Rest of the Story", my Paul is only capable of giving a portion of the story.  My prayer is that we will continue to listen and receive God's word with patience, allowing for Him to teach us through men like my Paul, who most often speak with fear and trembling, knowing Whom they represent.  

Friday, January 15, 2016

The Practice of Powerless Love

Some make the claim that our human empathy for others is the result of our evolution.  In fact, just yesterday someone I know excused evil by making the assertion that we are really nothing more than animals.  Of course I don't believe that.  I believe that mankind was created by God with a proper sense of right and wrong, good and evil and kindness and empathy.  With the Law of God written upon our hearts and His Love as the pattern for our own love, I do not wonder where humanity's basic ability to show compassion comes from.  But in spite of mankind's out workings of this basic compassion, there is a powerlessness about it, an insufficiency that is felt by everyone but understood by few.  It lacks eternal worth. 

I'll be honest, I don't have much hope for our world.  We are on a downward spiral that will not be interrupted by any sudden "evolution" of the hearts of men.  Now it's likely that if you are an Atheist reading this post you are thinking, "How sad.  What a negative perspective".  But if you are a Christian who knows what Jesus said about the end times you are likely nodding your head knowing that He said it would be as it was in the days of Noah.  
In the days of Noah,
" The LORD saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time." Genesis 6:5

It's been an interest of mine to search this verse out because I find it intriguing that the thoughts and inclinations of the human hearts were ONLY evil ALL the time.  That means that the love that the mothers and fathers had for their children and vice versa was considered evil.  That means that the love a man had for his wife was also considered evil.  And good works anyone at that time did, such as bringing someone a meal, having a kind encouraging word for someone who was grieving etc. was EVIL.  There were no good intentions, in spite of man's natural and basic motivation to love.  How can this be?  How could their love have been so powerless?  

I hope by the time you are done reading my words you will see that I'm not being cynical but that I am a believer in what Jesus said.  I believe we are getting closer and closer to the last days and one of the most convincing evidences to me is the increasing practice of powerless love, even by those in the Church.  

Powerless love is the poorest reflection of God's love there is.  What makes it powerless is man's tendency to deny God and leave Him out of it's practice.  In the same spirit Paul referred to the "form of godliness" of those who live in the end times.  

2 Timothy 3:1-5 says,
"…But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come.  For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these.…"

What makes a man's godliness worthless is the same thing that makes a man's love powerless.  When Christ is denied or left out of the equation our works are nothing more than worthless chaffe that will be burned away.  

Now don't get me wrong.  I am not faulting non-Christian people for their humanitarian efforts.  They are to be commended for at least responding to God's will in it's most basic form.  But the sad reality that I am addressing today is that many of those in the Church, who know God's love and power offer nothing more than the same basic love that the godless have to offer, because they are afraid or too timid to step out in faith and share the Truth of what they know.  Their encouragement to those who grieve or to those who grapple with sin or to those facing difficult challenges in life amounts to nothing more than powerless love simply because they refuse to couple their good works with the Truth of God's word and their confession of Faith.  They refuse to acknowledge God.   Christian artists, authors, missionaries, philanthropists, public figures, many people likely intending to have a positive effect on those around them in reality, are deluding themselves.  Because of their denial or refusal to step out in faith and acknowledge Christ, their efforts are nothing more significant than the basic love the World has to offer, nothing more significant than wood, hay or straw.  And when God's revealing fire burns these powerless offerings of love away, there is nothing to show for all that wasted effort.  No souls saved, because they never combined their knowledge of the Truth with their good works and kind words.  

Love is not meant to be powerless.  It only becomes powerless (and evil) when Christ is denied and replaced with good humanitarian intentions.  The World is the only one resigned to such feeble offerings, not God's children.  Let your love be filled with the power of Christ.  Let your works, your counsel and your benevolence be rooted in Christ's love and say so.  Because it is Jesus that gives everything it's worth.