Who is in Control?

Who is in conrtolThere is a constant war that takes place inside me. It most likely takes place in you also. At times the war is very evident, it shows in our actions and attitudes that the war in raging inside. Other times it’s less noticeable and almost seems  we’ve won the war.

The war is control. The players are God and self. Self wants it’s own way. It wants to know the next step in life. Self wants to control. God also wants control. He wants to be the final authority in our lives. He wants us to live by faith and trust His will.

Sometimes it’s hard to clearly see who is in control. We think we are allowing God to lead but in reality it is self. We get really good at playing the game so that it appears we are walking by faith, but it’s all a ruse. And before we know it we are in an all out war for control.

Self or God, who is in control? How can we be sure? Ephesians 4 helps us understand how to do a self check to be sure we are walking a life of surrender to God and not a life controlled by self.

Here are 5 things that will be evident in my life if God is in control and not self.

  1. Unity. (1-10) You will have a desire to live in unity with other believers. You will guard the unity of Christ’s Church.
  2. Discipleship. (11-16)You will live a life that desires to teach and train fellow believers ,using your gifts from God, in order to help them grow up in Christ. You will have a deep desire to see other believers to grow  and mature in their faith.
  3. Holiness. (17-24)You will no longer live the life you did before Christ. There will be clear evidence in your life that you are becoming more and more like Christ and the things of the world no longer hold you in bondage.
  4. Fight Sin. (25-29) You will not longer desire to sin but will fight daily to eradicate it from your life. When you do sin it will grieve you and you’ll seek reconciliation quickly.
  5. Seek Forgiveness. (30-32) You will make your relationship with God a priority and will seek forgiveness quickly. There will be a spirit of kindness, love and forgiveness about you. You will quickly seek forgiveness when there has been an offense against God and others.

Of course there are many other things that could be listed, but this list from Ephesians four covers much. Bottom line is that if God is in control there will be evidence of a life lived in the “new nature”. You will desire to be obedient to His word regardless of the cost. You will surrender your will completely to the will of God. The “old nature” is evident when we live a life of self-centeredness, pride, and are defensive and self-gratifying.

Who is in control of you life today? What about tomorrow? Next week? This is a check list we need to constantly hold up to see how we are doing. It’s all too easy to slip into a life of thinking and living for self and not God.

Oh Father I need help to live a life filled with the Spirit. My flesh, my desires can not be denied apart from You. If I am not constantly surrendering my life, my desires to you then my flesh is more than willing to take over. Forgive me Father for living those moments in the flesh when unity has been sacrificed and sin has taken over. Help me to forgive and to ask my brothers and sisters who I have offended to forgive me. Help me to guard the unity of Your church. Show me those places I could use my gifts to help Your people grow. Show me those areas I need to grow up and help me be teachable in those places that I need to change and grow. Thank you for Your patience and that you never give up. Amen

Called to Live and Preach Christ

There is a quote that has often bothered me. It just didn’t sit right in my heart. The quote is often attributed to Francis of Assisi and says “Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.”

Quite honestly it just doesn’t make sense to me.  I mean if my neighbor sees me living my life in service to others and being a good neighbor, loving those I homelessmeet, all he will think is that I’m a nice person. He doesn’t  come to know the content of the gospel  simply by watching me live my life.

Shouldn’t  I also speak the gospel so that he will know?

So, I sat down to do some research on the quote. I wanted to know the context of the quote. Maybe the context had been distorted over the years. Interestingly enough what I found was that Francis of Assisi never said it. Read more here.

Mark Galli of Christianity Today says this about the quote, “First, no biography written within the first 200 years of his death contains the saying. It’s not likely that a pithy quote like this would have been missed by his earliest disciples. Second, in his day, Francis was known as much for his preaching as for his lifestyle.”1

I love what Jeremy Carr writes about the quote on his blog One Thing, “ While it commends us to live out the Gospel through our life, it falls short of what it means to preach the Gospel and it actually makes no sense at all. I recently heard D. A. Carson comment that it would be like telling a news reporter to “Give the news and if necessary use words.” After all Gospel means good news. News is something you tell people.”

Some might say who cares who said it, after all it’s still a good statement. Maybe,  but I wouldn’t want someone to say I said something when I didn’t, or take something I said and misquote it. Would you?  I imagine not. So it is import to understand that Francis of Assisi did not say this.

But is it a good quote regardless of who said it? I really struggle with that in light of what scripture says. God’s word is very clear that we are to live out the gospel and we are to preach the gospel.

We live the gospel when we love one another. What if the body of Christ so loved one another that they actually did 1 Thess 5:11-13 and encouraged, built up, showed appreciation, encouraged the fainthearted, helped the weak, was patient, and sought what was good for one another. Wouldn’t that speak volumes to the world if they saw the church living out the gospel in such a way? So yes,  we absolutely must live out the gospel before the world.

We are also told to preach the gospel. Jesus tells the disciple to “go preach the gospel.” (Mark 16:15) and Paul says “for woe is me if I do not preach the gospel.” (1 Cor 9:16) In fact as I searched scripture (but did not do an in-depth study) it seems that the New Testament writers often preached the gospel to those outside of the body. They did not leave it up to the idea that “if I just live right before them they will know I am a believer”. No they PREACHED Jesus! (2 Cor 10:16; Rom 15:20; Mark 15:15)

A quick look at 1 John 3:18 “Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.” John is telling us that if we speak love only with words and no actions it is not love. When taking the gospel to a dark world we need to both live and preach the gospel. It’s not one or the other. We are called to live and love as Jesus did. He IS our example.

My dear beloved, Jesus both lived and spoke the gospel. His life both showed and spoke the love of the Father. We should go and do likewise.

1 http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2009/mayweb-only/120-42.0.html

When A Heart Weeps

TearMy heart is heavy. Broken. On days like today I wish my heart didn’t feel so much. I wish it didn’t hurt so deeply. The pain, at times, is unbearable.

There is One who weeps with me when my heart weeps.

My heart aches for the mother whose child has lived the first year of his life broken. He has spent more time in the hospital than at home. She holds him tight not knowing how many more days she has with him. Her heart weeps.

There is One who weeps with her.

A family torn apart. A father leaves. Another family, another marriage falls through the cracks of the church community. No one seems to notice.

There is One who sees. One who weeps.

A discouraged woman sits in the pew. She is considering suicide. She wonders if anyone would miss her. Does anyone see her tears, her pain, her loneliness.

There is One who not only sees but feels her tears as her heart weeps.

A man comes and sits in church Sunday after Sunday looking for answers. He is in bondage. He wants to believe that he can be free. He wants to believe he is loved. No one reaches out to him. No one takes the time to know him.

There is One who knows Him. One who loves Him.

I look around my community and see those who are dying a spiritual death. I see those who need a hug, an encouraging word. I see that woman whose marriage is failing. The mother who cries each night for her wayward child. I see the one who wonders where God’s people are in the midst of suffering.

Why aren’t we being the hands and feet of the One who has called us to Preach the Gospel. My heart weeps for I know I should do more. I know I can do more. But I struggle, for I am only one and a weak one at that.

My heart weeps. It is broken for the brokenness I see in my community. There is One is weeps with me. He has promised that He will be with me. He will be my strength, my Rock, my Counselor.

My heart weeps for I know I can not help them all, I am only one. But there is One who whispers to my heart, “minister to the ones I send you, it is enough.”

I will go. I will do the work of weeping with those who weep for I know there is One who also weeps with us.

The Battle of Hiding and Transparency

The last few days I have been wondering why am I so content to hide. In fact I prefer to hide. It’s my safe place, my default. The truth is there are many who prefer to hide also. We’ve been hiding for a long time, ever since Eve tasted the forbidden fruit. 

Maybe as women, we will always revert back to hiding. But it’s not what we were made to do. Christ came to set us free from guilt and shame. He came so that we could freely be who He created us to be. So why do we hide?

Hide - Copy (2)We hide because we are afraid. We have been wounded by others. People have sinned against us and we have sinned as well. We think that if we hide we will be safe, that somehow we will be protected. But protected from what? Another rejection? The betrayal of a friend or family member? Suffering? Pain?

We hide because we are afraid that others will see who we really are. We fear that they will see that at times we can be weak and frail. That we struggle and that sometimes we are even “needy”. Why do we feel that we must wear this mask of perfection and strength?

We feel  judged, shame and fear …so we hide.

In Staci Eldredge’s book titled Captivating she says “We become good at hiding. We hide behind our makeup. We hide behind our humor. We hide with angry silences and punishing with drawls. We hide our truest selves and offer only what we believe is wanted, what is safe.We act in self-protected ways and refuse to offer what we truly see, believe, and know. We have spoken in the past and been met with blank stares and mocking guffaws. We will not do it again.” No truer words have been spoken. So often we do only offer what we think others want to know about us and we hold back the truest forms of ourselves.

I too have a real tendency to hide, to try and protect myself against more hurt or possible judgment. I believe though, that God has been calling me to be more transparent. God wants me to be honest, open and real. He wants me to be sensitive to the needs of others, to be available, trustworthy and most of all- to be a grace giver.

But I’ve tried this before. I have found that sometimes people just aren’t comfortable with our “confessions”. They are not truly open to accept the messiness in our lives. They will judge, misunderstand and your relationship may never be the same.

If I would become a grace giver to all those I meet would that not make others feel that they could be real with me? If I began to openly share my heart with those around me, regardless of what others thought, wouldn’t those around me do the same?

So what shall we do? First we need to understand that there is a balance between hiding and revealing too much. Second we must discern between those who are able to hear our weaknesses, struggles and sin with grace and those who can not.

So when and how often do we share our burden? What parts do we share? It’s kind of like getting a physical wound. If we injure our selves and begin to bleed we don’t just go around bleeding all over everyone. We bandage it up so that the healing process can begin. Sometimes the wound is too big for us to wrap ourselves and we need help, so we go to someone capable of helping. Once it’s begun to heal, we do not pick at it so that it bleeds, thus starting the process all over. No, we allow it to heal. While healing there are those who will ask about our wound so we willingly share-but only when asked. We do not run around shouting “Look at my wound!”

Our emotional wounds or life struggles are similar. When we are going through something we know those we can talk to, those who are safe and trustworthy, who will help in the healing process. So we go to them and allow them to help “bandage” us up. We do not run around shouting “my life is awful-woe is me” to anyone who will listen. One reason we do not do this is because they may not be able to understand the depth of your struggle. They may not be able to handle your burden.

On the other hand if someone notices that we are struggling and ask us about it, we certainly should share with them instead of saying “oh everything is fine.” But, again, we do not want to walk around “bleeding” all over them. We can be be open, honest and willing to share when God gives us the opportunity to do so without going into great details or making huge confessions that other may not be able to handle due to their spiritual maturity or lack of.

I am finding, especially as an “older” woman and/or a leader that women want to know about my struggles and how I walked through them. They want to know they are not alone in their struggles. They need to see the power of the gospel being lived out in the life of another. So I need to be more willing to share when asked. I need to allow others into my life, so they can ask questions. I need to be honest enough to share the work God has done in me in order to bring glory to His name.

One generation shall praise your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts. They shall eagerly utter the memory of your abundant goodness, and will shout joyfully of your righteousness.  PS 145:4, 7 NASB

Father, help me to be a grace giver. Help me to willingly open up my heart and my life so that you alone might be glorified.

A Christmas Longing

Christmas has been hard this year for me. Deep inside there is an ache, a longing. I remember childhood Christmas’s past filled with lots of family, laughter and love. While we didn’t really have any particular family traditions my mother always tried to make the day about family no matter what was going on or how hard 2013-12-10 09.36.20the season of life was. It’s been 27 years since my mom, sister and brother have been together for Christmas and over 10 years since I’ve spent Christmas together with my mom and sister. I miss them all.

So while my heart may be sad it is also filled with so much joy of the season.

I am blessed that I can spend time with my boys and their family. I can love on my grandchildren and make precious memories with them. I am filled with a heart of joy for my husbands family whom I love deeply. Who still gather at Christmas time to share, laugh and love. They may be my ‘married into family” but in so many ways they are so much more than that. God blessed me far beyond anything I could dream for when he gave me my husband and a family who cherishes one another and has a deep faith in God our Father.

Most of all I reflect on the true meaning of why we celebrate the season. It’s the celebration of a precious baby boy who came to earth so that I might understand my need for God the Father.

I am grateful for a God who loved me so much that He sent His only Son in the form of a baby to earth so that I might know Him. Jesus came to earth in the form of flesh so that we might know His Father in heaven. Jesus came so that we might understand the love of the Father. He came so that we would see out need of a relationship with our Creator God. He came so that He could pay the cost of my sin. He came so that my sins would be forgiven.

So yes, there is a longing in my heart this Christmas for family, for the ideal Christmas celebrations, for traditions but I am reminded of an even greater longing inside the heart of every man, woman, and child. The longing for purpose, for love, for the God who created them.

I am reminded that there are many who will spend this season alone. There will be many who will find the emptiness to be too much and try to end the pain anyway they can. There will be many who will be hungry, cold and without the warmth of any type of celebration.

All this remembering and thinking makes me wonder if I’ve missed the meaning of Christmas all together. What have I done this season to reach out? How have I helped relieve the pain of aloneness? What have I done to show the love of Christ?

If I have missed the meaning of why Christ came and what my response should be what will I do about it now? What will I do tomorrow? Next week? Next year? It’s never too late to share the story of Christmas. It’s never too late to reach out and tell others about the baby that came to save the world.

It’s never too late to show the love of God who came to die for my sins and yours.

Merry Christmas my friends. May we share the joy of Christ’s birth all year long!

 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid ; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people ; 11 for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 1″This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”  And suddenly there appeared with the angel multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.” Luke 2:10-14

Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you,unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 1 Cor 15:1-5

5 Things You Should Know About Sexual Abuse

I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and as I have walked the journey of healing I have realized that there are those God called to walk with me. They entered into my suffering, my pain and helped me in the healing process. I had the help of both Biblical Counseling and friends, it truly took a community.

But there are others who tried to help, they tried to say the right things, but often added more pain. It’s not their fault. They didn’t understand. They didn’t know. I hope to shed some insight for those of you that God might be calling to walk with someone trying to journey through the healing process.

1. While the physical pain may no longer be there, we are experiencing much mental and spiritual pain. The physical pain of the abuse may be long gone but it’s important to understand that they still hurt. You may not see outward signs of hurt but the pain that is experienced deep within is real.  Most people have some stress reactions after a trauma but if an adult is still suffering from night terrors, depression, if they have trouble feeling emotions, and avoids things that remind them of the abuse then  they may be dealing with PTSD.

When someone is abused sexually it affects them in ways we don’t often understand. God created sex to be beautiful, to be enjoyed. Sex is to be between a husband and wife, through this intimate act they become one, they entered into a covenant. It was created to be deeply intimate so when it’s violent it tears they soul in a way that is ugly, and leaves deep scars.

2. Understand the experiences of every survivor is different. Just because you have a friend that was abused and seemingly has no issues or was healed easily doesn’t mean all survivors will be the same. The after affects of abuse will be different for the one that may have been molested once compared to one that was raped over and over for years. Both have been violated but the one who has been abused chronically will have much deeper issues and may take much longer to heal.

3. Our view of God is often seen through the lens of abuse. Seeing the truth about God is hard. It was very hard for me as I tried to reconcile a God who loves me and is everywhere to a God I saw that was just standing by doing nothing while the abuse happened. Many pray, and pray for it to stop, but God does not seem to hear. Yes we are believing lies, but it’s what we know and without being taught a right view of God we see God through the pain of abuse.

Plus when you are abused by a father figure you grow up believing that God is like your abuser. Our view of God is twisted and grossly out of focus. Even if we believe that God is good and loving it not believed personally. Meaning that God may be good and love others, but He is not good to me.

4. We need to see God’s love in and through you. Maybe you have walked along side someone already and you have spoke truth. They seem to understand  who God is in their head but it’s not getting to the heart. The truth doesn’t seem to be changing them.  There is a disconnect. Please be patient, keep loving them and speaking truth. But really embrace that He loved me was hard. It was hard until it was modeled before me. God used my husband and a few dear friends to show me the power of love. They modeled God’s love.

Survivors need to see Jesus with flesh on. So often we want to just speak truth, but we need to demonstrate love too. A survivor may have never been loved unconditionally. Love could mean pain, taking, and selfishness so it’s important that we see it modeled.

5. We need to see and understand the cross as it relates to our abuse. I can tell you from personal experience that this will come later in the healing process. While it is crucial to our healing process this is very hard. It’s hard truth to grasp. I remember when my counselor gave me the book When Gods Weeps to read, I almost threw it away. I didn’t want to read it. I didn’t want to hear it. I didn’t want to understand God’s sovereignty. But I persevered and at the end of the book I still didn’t like it but I was better able to try to reason through it. Later I ask him why he didn’t give me the book earlier since it was so helpful. He responded by saying I wasn’t ready for it. It’s true I wouldn’t have been. So we must be careful at what point in the healing and at what point we are in the relationship we offer difficult truth.

Tread slowly and take your lead from the survivor. You can push, but gently and with love, lots of love. They must get to the point that they can wrestle with the truth of the cross because it’s there they are able to truly reconcile the truth of their abuse and a God who loves them and hates evil. It’s at the cross where we will see that the evil done to us is covered with the blood of  Jesus. It’s at the cross we see the holiness of God and we struggle to understand why God let it happen.

We need to be allowed to struggle at the cross. It’s at the cross we will deal with our own sins. We see that we are great sinners. It’s where we will deal with being sinned against. It’s at the cross we see evil and what it cost Jesus. It’s at the cross we find the infinite love of God. We find forgiveness. Forgiveness for our own sins and the sins of our abusers.

As a reminder, if you are walking with someone who is a survivor just be Jesus with skin on. Love them and keep loving them. Don’t give up on them. It’s not easy, I know it’s not. At times I was fearful that my friends would give up on me if I didn’t “get it” right away, but they never did, they just kept loving me. They showed me Jesus. They loved me with the love of Jesus.