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Wrestling with the Lord // The past year

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Are you angry or wrestling with the Lord? Why?

Have you ever just been angry?  And I don’t mean like a normal mad – a combination of hurt, frustrated, and just confused to the point where you feel like you don’t know how to resolve something?  Ya see, normally … normally, I take out all of my frustrations via writing.  But for over a YEAR, I have not been able to do so. 

I have fought and wrestled with the Lord as to why I could not write and what was going on in my heart that I needed to change.  I had a lot of unresolved forgiveness that I was working to let go of.  If you know me, it’s incredibly hard for me to let go of something without working it out, talking it out.  I need to understand things.

Without going into too much detail, I was angry over a situation that occurred so much so that I eventually was just angry with God and started simply not going to church at all.

I started with being angry at others … but I let it grow into something that it wasn’t. Something that it shouldn’t have been in my heart. I was resentful and incredibly hurt. And then I got so angry with God that I allowed myself to push him away in the process.

I truly and honestly believe that God needed to just “Shut me up” while my heart was so hard towards others.  While my initial anger was justified, I should not have allowed that to turn that into a resentment towards God and towards others. (Not justifying the situation – I am no longer bitter and angry about it).

This verse has been constantly running through my head, because I have always promised myself that I would never become a hypocrite and do or say things that I expected others not to do.

“You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye”(Matthew 7:5 NIV).

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While this may seem out of place (it’s not, I write what I need to then edit), ministry always has been priority in my life.  While I’m not in a season of my life where I’m not constantly “doing” ministry (3-4) days a week, sometimes I have to remember that no matter where I am, no matter what I’m doing … I’m doing ministry. Whether I’m doing it well or doing it poorly, I’m speaking into people about what I believe Jesus says about them and about myself.  And if I choose not to do that well, they may not hear it from anyone else.

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 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8 NIV) 

I know this post was all over the place, but I’m still even now processing the emotions of this.

See ya soon!

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Explain this to me…

This post has been a long time coming.  (And I mean years.)

The last year has been a year of Jesus really working on my heart when it comes to loving people regardless of who they are. First, let me give you some background, though.

After getting engaged last June, I started trying to figure out who would be in my bridal party.  In the process of picking my bridesmaids, I almost didn’t pick one of my best friends and cousin who I run this blog with.  Why?  Because I was worried about what other people would think about Ryan being a “bridesmaid” (a title he’s okay with) and not a “groomsman.”

Can I gently explain something to you?  It doesn’t matter how feel about Ryan being transgender.  It doesn’t matter how you feel about it.

Here’s what matters:

  • We’re not to judge anyone else.

Judge not, that you be not judged.  For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:1-3 ESV)

  • That we treat everyone in the LGBTQ community with love and respect.  Because, guess what, church?  They’re not getting it.  I see it all the time.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34 ESV)

  • Realize that although someone may identify as LGBTQ, that doesn’t mean they’re necessarily acting on it.  (Do I have to say that?)
  • Stop ostracizing them!
  • If someone tells you they’re LGBTQ, don’t tell them they’re wrong.  (Seriously?) Understand that there’s a difference between an educated, biblical discussion about the matter and a rude, ignorant one that’s going to ruin your relationship with them.

So, if anyone has a problem with one of my bridesmaids wearing pants… that’s your issue, not mine.  Because Ryan will be in my wedding party along with the rest of my bridesmaids.  

Disclaimer  By no means am I supporting or affirming same sex marriage or relationships.  However, I have heard enough stories on my own (and my circle isn’t that big!) of the church flat out rejecting people that have admitted they were LGBTQ. ***

So, why is this post titled, explain this to me?

As someone whose heart breaks for those who many churches leave behind and just tend to forget and overlook (not all churches, please do not think I’m saying all churches here).  The churches that do exceedingly well here, please keep doing what you’re doing!  You’re doing amazing work fulfilling the Great Commission.  While the church as a whole has made strides when it comes to helping others in need and becoming more diversified.  Why can we not allow our brothers and sisters who identify as LGBTQ to serve and be a part of the body of believers? It still amazes me and irritates me.

Check out these previous posts!

Take Me to Church … Literally

Yeah, I Wanna Get Married Young (Original Post)

Dating Someone Who Doesn’t Love Jesus

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Christian Relationship Goals (Part 1)

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This girl with (essentially) no relationship experience has decided that she’s going to start writing about Christian relationships as part of this blog.  Partly because, why not?  Partly because I think if the topic is avoided then Christian girls and guys are going to just pick the first person that comes along and think they were made for each other.  (Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that can’t happen but it generally doesn’t, sorry.)

So in case you haven’t been paying attention, which I’m sure you have, our culture (and I’m not just going to blame the media, it’s everywhere) likes to portray relationships as disposable.  And I’m not even necessarily talking just about romantic relationships; the general disregard for one another that people have in friendships, family relationships and romantic relationships never ceases to amaze me.

Culture says it’s okay to just up and leave when you’re simply done with a relationship, culture says it’s okay to be prideful and boast about your relationship. (#RelationshipGoals) Culture says that it’s okay to be mean-spirited.  That’s what culture does, but here’s what Scripture says:

“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13 NIV).

 

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching (Hebrews 10:24-25 NIV).”

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:23 NIV).

I think one of the biggest things we need to do for each other as Christians is to encourage one another to grow.  And that doesn’t necessarily just mean spiritually.  Growth in every healthy area of our lives demonstrates growth in our faith when our faith is the most important area of our lives.

So let’s look back over those verses together, one at a time and lay out some ground work for what we should really be looking for in a Christian relationship.

“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13).

#1: Love

I think this is kind of a no-brainer, but if you don’t love the person you’re with and believe that you could have a future with them (aka you want the same things)—ditch them. Now, that might seem like I’m going back on what I just said and also seem a little harsh, but I’m talking about a dating relationship here, not marriage.  So you’re still in the place where you’re figuring out how you feel about this person and if you have a future together.  Now if it’s like week one of dating and you don’t absolutely love them I’m not saying to break up with them, but if you’re a few years into dating someone and you really don’t know yet if you could have a future with them or not you might have an issue.

#2: Willingness to Sacrifice

This one kind of speaks for itself in that as Christians we should be willing to sacrifice for others in general, so when it comes to a romantic relationship this is no different.

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching (Hebrews 10:24-25 NIV).”

#3: Church Attendance –Meeting Together

I’m going to say something that you might not like, but you need to understand it. You’re not going to find a perfect church.  That’s because in the walls of a church you’re going to find a lot of broken, hurting people that are there because they need Jesus’ love and forgiveness just as much as you do.  We have to come to a point where we have a healthy view of the church as both the body and the bride of Christ, and for the purposes of this post the metaphor of the bride is most helpful. Jesus loves His bride, just as every girl hopes that her future husband will love her.  And if you’re a girl, wouldn’t you hope that your future groom would defend you if someone said they didn’t like  you?  What about if you’re a guy, imagine someone coming to you on your wedding day and saying they hated your bride. Seriously, what would you do? Jesus’ love for His bride is deep and He would not tolerate hatred or even distaste towards her.  So go to church… 😉

Check back next week for Part 2! Until then, check out these other posts!

Waiting on God’s Timing

Come to Me.

One Nation Under God

 

 

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The Second Greatest

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This is a sponsored post that contains affiliate links.  

“Love your neighbor as yourself, as long as they love you equally in return, vote the same way you do, dress according to your standards, and meet the ethical code that you believe you think they should.”

Where in the Bible does it say that? Nowhere.  But that’s how a lot of erm, “Christians” act, isn’t it? So what does the Bible say?

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30-31

To give you some context, this is Jesus responding to a question of what the most important commandment was.  This question was coming from the religious leaders, who were known not by their intimate relationship with the Lord, but by their outward acts and Jesus exposed their hypocrisy. So, I have a suspicion that this question wasn’t aimed to ask “What can I do to grow in my walk with the Lord?” but “What can I do to make myself look better to men?”

Now something strange happened, the religious leader responded positively to what Jesus said:

“‘Well said, teacher,’ the man replied. ‘You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.’ Mark 12:32-33

We don’t often see teachers of the law in the New Testament that Jesus comes into contact with that just simply get it.

Our lives aren’t about what we do.  They’re about how we are loved and how we love God and others. They’re about serving the needs of our communities, our churches, our families, and reaching out when we can out of love. If we don’t start loving, we’ll never see a change.

What change do we need to see?  Jesus commanded us to love no matter how we are treated in return.  He didn’t say if someone else doesn’t love you, it’s okay to hate them. He didn’t say if someone else has different beliefs it’s okay to hate them. He didn’t say if someone else is on the opposite side of the political spectrum, it’s okay to hate them. He didn’t say under any circumstances that it is okay to hate anyone else.  Jesus commanded us to love each other as ourselves and that is not dependent on someone else’s action, beliefs, or identity.

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The Christ-Like Response to the LGBTQ Community

Taken by Peter Baker from https://www.flickr.com/photos/wrathdelivery/4592987200/in/photolist-7ZSg5u-bPN3Tn-bPN9u8-bPMNfc-bASW33-bPMfA8-ykNBZ-ffH4gf-bPN71D-bPN8Bx-bPMSB8-bATgxj-bASRg3-bASqZu-bPN2iH-bASMdy-bATsZ3-bPM53V-bPMhdK-bPMMpx-bATpMS-bPN35B-bAT6Vb-bPNarv-bPMUqM-bPMRLz-bATmKd-bATePq-bASDj5-bPMq9n-bASJUj-bASSfw-bPMJV4-bPMy8M-91gLe7-bPMLyn-bPMu3g-bPMCvi-bASNgo-brfato-91gVRQ-bASPf7-9nVGv-7mBSUW-7r7iCW-ffGQGU-8QMtJy-dVzkEr-6SznFn-aPMjdZ under https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/ license.
Taken by Peter Baker from Flickr under Creative Commons license.

This is a sponsored post that contains affiliate links.  

Before I say anything other than this short intro, we are going to start just with Bible verses that we will later use for main points:

  • “For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” Galatians 5:14
  • “There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you–who are you to judge your neighbor?” James 4:12 NIV
  • “When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, ‘Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.’ Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ ‘No one, sir’ she said. ‘Then neither do I condemn you,’ Jesus declared. ‘Go now and leave your life of sin.'” John 8:7-11 NIV
  • “Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” 1 Corinthians 6:9-11

So what should we take from these verses?

  • “For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” Galatians 5:14

Followers of Christ should be loving.  What does that look like?

  • “Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 NIV

We are not to only love certain people based upon who they are, whether it be their sexuality, their race, their religion, whatever it may be.  We love across these “borders.” Jesus did.  That’s the only reason that I am able to have a relationship with my creator.  I have sinned and fallen short of God’s glorious standard and therefore deserve death as a result.  That’s what I deserve..

  • “There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you–who are you to judge your neighbor?” James 4:12 NIV

But Jesus came to earth and died on a cross so that you and I can have a relationship with God.  God is the only One who has a right to judge anyone that is not in Christ.

  • “When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, ‘Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.’ Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ ‘No one, sir’ she said. ‘Then neither do I condemn you,’ Jesus declared. ‘Go now and leave your life of sin.'” John 8:7-11 NIV

Jesus essentially looks around and says “Last time I checked you’re just as messed up if not more messed up than she is.  What right do you have to have stones in your hands?” How dare we think about telling anyone else how sinful their life is before dealing with the sin in our own lives?

So we can’t judge anyone, does that mean that homosexuality is not a sin?

  • “Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” 1 Corinthians 6:9-11

No, that’s not what it means. It means that because we are sinful human beings, we do not have the authority to judge others. It means that Christians shouldn’t ever be “against” another person.  You can be against something that someone did/does without being against them.  Yes, it is completely and totally possible.  The Gospel is for everyone.  

“Brothers and sisters in Christ should hold each other accountable for sin.

“Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently.  But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.  Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:1-2

As well as reaching out beyond the church walls, it is important to build each other up within.  Christians must hold each other accountable with every sin, including homosexuality.

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Slaves to Unforgiveness (Part 1)

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Taken by Akuppa John Wigham: Link to Site

 

Disclosure: In order to fund this blog, this post contains affiliate links.  That means that if you make a purchase using a link in this post, I may make a portion of the profit from that purchase.    

I think it’s funny how God likes to use my own words against me in a “haha, not funny” kind of way.  I’m writing a devotional right now, so I’m going through and editing it and  came to a portion when I discussed forgiveness. I felt like I was getting a smack in the face.  From myself.

 

“A man is a slave to whatever has mastered him.” 2 Peter 2:19 NIV

There is a particular situation that I will not actually go into the details with that I let get into my head way further than I knew it could go.  I played out situations in my head with this person that I thought could happen that I knew would never happen because I thought they were mad at me or would turn the tables on me, when in all reality it was solely a one-way street.  I was the only slave.  I’m pretty sure they don’t have a clue that I’m upset with them, and what I wasn’t getting until now was, it doesn’t matter.

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.  Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walking in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Ephesians 4:32-5:2 NIV

As followers of Christ, we are called to strive to live as Jesus did.  This means forgiving others.  When we hold on to unforgiveness, we’re not truly loving.  We’re not acting as Christ would.

“A new command I give you: Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.” John 13:34 NIV

So, this whole time I just wanted to be heard.  To be listened to.

I had to come to the realization that I wasn’t going to change them.  I had to change my expectations for them.  Because in all reality, they weren’t fair.  I don’t get to expect people to act the same way I expect myself to act.  Nor do I get to expect people to be mind readers.

What did Jesus say about forgiveness? You forgive people over and over if they sin against you (Matthew 18:21-22).  He didn’t say just if they only offend you a little bit, or once you’ve relished in your anger a little bit, then forgive them. There were no conditions. Just like there are no conditions to our forgiveness.

Part 2 will be up tomorrow! 🙂

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What Working in Retail Taught Me

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Taken by Kevin Carden.  Direct link to photo on lightstock.

“Honey, appreciate having a healthy body while you still do.”  *Cringes*

I heard this on numerous occasions while working in retail, and I believe one other time outside of working.  Here’s the thing: my body might look healthy, but on the inside there’s a lot going on that’s not particularly good.  At the time, I was taking three different seizure medicines (only two now!) as well as other medicines to balance the negative effects of the seizure medicines.  In two days I’ll celebrate 10 months seizure free and thinking about that I’m actually getting choked up because of the ride that those 10 months have been.  However, the fact that at 18 years old I literally do not have a memory because of medicine terrifies me.  What does that mean for my future?  What does that mean for the business that I want to start?  I wish I could just get something done once in a while instead of side effects of medicine interfering.  So..

“You know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.  And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm, and steadfast.” 1 Peter 5:9-10 NLT

The main thing that working in retail taught me was not to assume anything about anyone.  Those people were wrong in assuming that my young, healthy looking body treats me well.  Oh, do I wish that it did.   They were well-intentioned, too.  But that didn’t mean that it was okay.  We have to approach every situation and every person with open ears and open hearts instead of with our assumptions of their situations, because every person has a story.

Even though this honestly hurt, it helped me to be able to see that I needed to be able to say “You don’t know what that person is going through”and ask why someone is acting the way that they are before responding. 1 Peter 5:9-10 promises that we will be restored from suffering, and we can rejoice in that truth together.   I’ll leave you with this:

“We love each other because he loved us first.” 1 John 4:19 NLT

It is natural for Christians living in true relationship with God to love others, because they have experienced the love of God.  It’s not something that should be painful, it might not be easy but as God molds us into the people that He wants us to be we will show others love more and more naturally.

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The Holiday I’ve Never Understood

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I can’t be the only one who hasn’t thought that calling the Friday before Easter “good” made any sense whatsoever, can I?

Nothing inherently good comes to mind of the events that happened on “Good Friday.”  Let’s take a look at the events of the day, shall we?

Judas was a close friend of Jesus had already betrayed Jesus.  What does he do on “Good Friday?”

“Very early in the morning…Judas threw the silver coins down in the Temple and went out and hanged himself.”  Matthew 27:1,5 NLT

He began to feel remorse for his sin and, unfortunately, he took his life because of it.

The night before, Peter vows to Jesus that he will not betray him.  But..

“Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard.  A servant girl came over and said to him, ‘You were one of those with Jesus the Galilean.’ But Peter denied it in front of everyone.  ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about’ he said.  Later, out by the gate, another servant girl noticed him and said to those standing around, ‘This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.’ Again Peter denied it, this time with an oath, ‘I don’t even know the man.’ he said. A little later some of the other bystanders came over to Peter and said ‘You must be one of them; we can tell by your Galilean accent.’ Peter swore, ‘A curse on me if I’m lying- I don’t know the man!’And immediately the rooster crowed.'” Matthew 26:69-74 NLT

Both Judas and Peter are focused on in their betrayals of Jesus.  But it is clear that each of the disciples betrayed Jesus between the Last Supper and Jesus’ trial:

“‘Tonight all of you will desert me.  For the Scriptures say, God will strike the Shepherd and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.'” Matthew 26:31 NLT

Why did we need accounts of both Judas and Peter, though?  Judas was an example of allowing sin to overcome our lives.  Peter was an example of allowing grace to overcome our lives.  We need to see both to be able to choose.  Still, on “Good Friday”  it wasn’t good.  We can see the outcome now, but that particular day Jesus was betrayed by His followers when He needed them them the most.

Jesus is then put on trial where the crowd is given the option to free him or a murderer and they free the murderer.  They mock him, spit on him, whip him then take him to be crucified.

Here’s where we make our turn from what I’d call worst Friday ever to maybe what we should call “Best Friday Ever.”  Because of three words:

“‘It is finished!’ Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” John 19:30 NLT

He’s saying “Done.  Complete.  You don’t have to wait until Sunday to know that I’ve already finished the job.”  The disciples walked with Jesus, talked with Jesus, ate with Jesus, watched Him work miracles and all of a sudden Saturday came around and somehow those words fell on deaf ears, though.  They knew his promises, they knew that He was coming back.

Jesus went through the suffering of Good Friday to say three words that have changed my life and the lives of countless others.  Jesus carried out Luke 19:10 on Good Friday.

“For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.” NLT

It was so much more than just a “Good Friday” because in just three words, Jesus made it clear that we had the option to have a different destiny.  He provided the sacrifice necessary to atone for all of our sins.

Go check out my post about “Silent Saturday”