Doing as Jesus Did

After Jesus washed the disciples’ feet in the Upper Room, He told them “I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again… that where I am, there ye may be also.” Thomas heard these words and asked Jesus how they would know where to find Him if they didn’t know the way, to which Jesus responded, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”

Poor Thomas. He wanted instructions. Thomas wanted directions, a list, a plan.

Thomas sounds a lot like me. I need black and white. I need an instruction manual and detailed to-do lists. If Jesus tells me to do something, I want a step by step process of exactly how I need to do it. Because I know my flesh is strong, and without clear instructions, I know I can’t do it. My heart wants Jesus to sit down next to it and say, “Betsy, when this situation occurs, make sure you follow plan #189, and here’s the script of exactly what to say when someone treats you unfairly. Don’t forget to study the map directions to a happy and successful life. Oh, and here’s your checklist of good deeds for this week.” But despite mine and Thomas’s pleas, Jesus doesn’t say any of these things. He simply says, “I am the way.”

Instead of sitting down next to me and giving me rules, Jesus comes and dwells within me and gives me love. He tells me not to follow a law or a set of guidelines, but instead to do as He did, love like He loved, serve as He served, pray like He prayed and treat people like He treated people. Jesus doesn’t command me to act out this specific lifestyle over here or there, and do this many acts of service a day.

He simply calls me to do as He did.

And you may be screaming internally: How am I supposed to always act like Jesus in every situation? How do I know what to do and say, how to respond to hatred, how to serve others, and how to love people the way they need? And not only do I not always know what to do, but I’m not always strong enough to actually do it. People are mean and life is hard and my sinful nature seems like it’s raging at times, so how do I do it? How. How. How.

And my heart screams back to yours: I feel you.

I feel weak and inadequate and unprepared to do this life the way God calls me to. I feel like I’m failing and lost and running around in circles trying to be that “good Christian” that others and God expect me to be. I want to follow Jesus with my whole heart, touch lives, be a light, and serve God. But how can I, when I feel totally inadequate and incapable?

Because we are lost and unprepared, we want our checklist and our instruction manuals. We don’t want to try to do it on our own, because we know we can’t. It would just be so much easier to have a rule book to go by.

But here’s the thing: you and I are not actually doing this alone.

Instead of sitting down next to you and giving you

This is why your relationship with God is so vital. He doesn’t just throw you out there into the world and tell you to go copy Jesus. No, he dwells within you and moves you to love, serve, pray, act, and believe. You are not moved to act by being given rules and restrictions. You are moved to act by Love Himself. This movement inside of you compels you to act out of God’s love and not because of a rule book. You move others to into joy and love and life because God has put those things in you Himself.

Jesus puts this movement within you- a purpose to create life and love and relationships; a purpose to uplift, comfort, and rejoice; a movement to move others to be moved by Christ as well. The way you live – the things you say, the way you treat others, the thoughts you think and the way you love – is not because of a rule book or a set of laws. This movement is not dictated by rules, checklists, or detailed directions. This movement is a relationship with Christ compelling you to follow in His footsteps.  The way you live comes from Love Himself making a home in your soul and moving you to do as He did.

So now the question is: How do I keep my relationship strong enough? And first, remember this– in your weakness, God is strong. He never leaves you no matter how far you fall away. And second- you are who you spend time with. If you want to look like Jesus, you need to spend time with Him.

The Christian life is not a set of laws. Once Jesus came to Earth, lived and died, and tore the veil between God and men, He made a relationship with Him accessible. God doesn’t call us to act out of obligation, He calls us to act out of love. Truly living like Christ and doing as He did means living out of genuine love, not out of laws and instructions. When you spend time with Jesus, you will strengthen your relationship with Him. When you strengthen your relationship with Him, you will feel Christ’s love move within you. When Jesus moves within you, you will move others towards Him.

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on Christ the solid rock I stand

The wise man builds his house upon the rock, and the winds and flood came, and the house did not fall.

The foolish man builds his house upon the sand, and the winds and flood came, and the house fell.

“and great was the fall of it”

-Matthew 6:24-27

on christ the solid rock

My house/hope is currently built on sand. When rain comes and winds blow, my house set on its shaky foundation becomes unstable and crumbles. And when my foundation is shaky: my faith wavers, my joy is consumed, I give in to the pressures of the world around me, and I embrace Satan’s lies instead of God’s T R U T H.

Lies. That’s the biggest one for me. I give into the lies that say that this situation over here will never get better, or this particular insecurity over here is all people think about me. I let in the lies that say that I’m not good enough to be usable, that broken hearts cannot be repaired, and no more forgiveness is available; I start believing that she’s too far gone, he’s never going to get better, God doesn’t answer prayers anymore, or at least He no longer hears mine.

When my house is built on sinking sand instead of solid rock, I let in the lie that God is not God and His truth is not true.

In these verses, Jesus tells us that those who hear His truth but does not embrace it is like the man (woman) who builds his house on the sand.

The man will listen to his friends and he’ll start believing he has to be or act a certain way to be accepted by others.

The woman will watch TV or scroll through Instagram and believe she has to look a certain way to be loved.

The man will listen to the teachings of society and begin to believe that his life is all about him- his wants, his happiness, his success- and he’ll destroy his relationships.

The woman will go to college and be told that her religion is a fantasy, and that her God is not alive, and she’ll begin to question her faith.

When your house/hope is built on shaky sands and not solid rock, everyday occurrences can push you farther and farther away from God and your relationship with Him.

Holding onto the truths presented to us in the Bible is hard, y’all. It goes against everything that our culture is constantly shouting at us. It gets so confusing listening to the world. The things that it tries to convince you of are totally contradicting.

I’ve been really struggling with this. You’re not supposed to offend anyone, you’re not supposed to judge anyone, let people do what they want without any consequences. You don’t call someone the wrong gender, you never tell them the way they live their life is wrong, don’t ever mention religion or even anything close to a true moral code. Let me just tell y’all, combining these ideas with the truths in God’s word is impossible. I’ve been trying to do this. I’ve been trying to filter God’s word through what the world is telling me to believe.

And then the thought just kind of came to me: Why am I doing this? Why I am trying to supplement God’s word with other teachings that I know are not the truth? Why am I letting in all these other lies, too?

Why do I let myself believe that I have to look a certain way to be lovable or useful in God’s kingdom, that I need others’ approval in order to be worthy, that I can do or say whatever I want and not receive the consequences?

On the other hand, why do I let myself believe that there’s not enough grace for me? Why do I let the lie into my heart that there is no more forgiveness available?

There are two different directions (probably more) that you can fall to if you are not completely grounded in God’s word. You can either give into the teachings of the world, saying that anything and everything is okay, or you can give into the enemy’s lies that you’re too far gone, unreachable, unworthy, and unlovable. Sometimes (like me) you might fall in both directions.

But for those who build their house on solid ground, Jesus says they are the ones who listen to His words, and hold on to them. They have a firm grasp on what God’s truth is, and they are so firmly grounded in His word that there is no room for the enemy’s lies to wiggle into their heart.

I felt a huge burden fall from my shoulders when I finally realized: there’s no reason for me to do this. I don’t have to try to fit in all these lies with what God’s word is saying. This might seem like a weird place to be at, but this is where you end up if you are not firmly grounded in what you know is true. If you don’t let God’s word sink deep into every aspect of your life and your heart, the world will get in. It’ll turn into a struggle between what your culture is teaching you and what God’s word is teaching you.

When you build your house on solid rock, you don’t talk like the world, look like the world, and you are not swayed by the “philosophies” of the culture around you.

You don’t have to look anywhere else for acceptance and love, because God’s immeasurable and unconditional love is enough for you. You don’t have to look anywhere else for guidance or teaching, because the truth you find in God’s word is totally and completely sufficient for everything you could ever need.

The rain will descend, the floods will come, and the winds will beat on your house, but standing on a firm foundation it will not fall, it will not crumble.

Because your hope is built on nothing less than the blood of Christ and His righteousness.

“On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand”

 

Dear Girls who feel “Less Than”

Soooo today was bad. Mainly because I’m an emotionally driven person and too many little things turn into a big thing and also because I’m in desperate need of some sunny days and vitamin D to get my serotonin kicking again (lol seasonal affective disorder).

Another reason is that my mind is hardcore falling for the comparison game. It just seems like everyone around me is thriving, having a big fun time being successful, getting married and already pursuing their careers, and I’m just kinda…here. Eating “paninis” that I make with our 20 year old waffle maker and watching Grey’s Anatomy on Netflix. As I look around at everyone around me (which is code for: stalk people on Facebook and Instagram) I get more and more and more dissatisfied with things about my life.

less than

“I should go to gym more like she does” (I try SO HARD Y’ALL but ya girl loves to sleep)

“She takes a selfie with no make-up and looks great, maybe I should stop wearing make-up” (this happened a couple weeks ago and I’m still confused with myself)

“They already moved out and live on their own- I still live upstairs in my parent’s house, so I need to find a way to move out”

Just as an additional example: there’s no way I can verify this, but I’m POSITIVE all y’all are making straight A’s with your 4.0’s- and I just made a 65 on a midterm.

So, basically I compare literally everything about myself with literally everything about someone else. And it damages my heart. It makes me feel totally unworthy, incapable, and just less than.

And if I had to guess, some of you reading this feel the exact same way. You look at the lives of those around you, and you cannot believe the ways that God is using them and there’s no way you can believe that God can use you too. You see the ways that others are thriving, and it’s impossible to imagine that you can thrive like that too.

Sweet girl, let me just tell you, those are lies funneled into your heart by the enemy. He plants them there, waiting for you to crumble, so He can pull you away from the truths that you believe in: the truths that tell you that God created you for a purpose. You know deep in your soul that God can use you, but when you feel less than, it is so hard to hold on that truth.

Well there’s a man named Gideon that we read about in the Old Testament and he felt the same way. Gideon was an Israelite that we find in the book of Judges. The Israelites rebelled against God (again), and God allowed a group of people called the Midianites to overtake and oppress them.

An angel soon appeared to Gideon calling him a “mighty man of valour” (Judges 6:12), and tells him that Gideon will be the one to deliver the Israelites out of the hand of the Midianites. Gideon responds by saying that his family is poor, and he is the least of his father’s household. How could he believe that the Lord would use him in such mighty ways? God assures Gideon that He is with him, and Gideon will definitely, for sure defeat the Midianites.

And you know what God did? Exactly what he promised. He gave Gideon the power to defeat the army of the Midianites, whose number was as great as the number of grasshoppers in the field, and delivered the Israelites from their oppression.

God used Gideon in mighty and powerful ways, despite the circumstances that Gideon was in. Gideon thought he was poor, unusable, and unworthy. Yet God rose him up with an army a fraction of the size of the Midianites, and he saved his people.

Don’t ever think that your current circumstances are too far gone for God to reach you. Don’t allow yourself to be so wrapped up in your current situation that you are blinded from the presence of the Lord in your life. God works in ways that the world does not expect. Just because you’re “not measuring up” in the sight of the world, doesn’t mean that God looks at you that way too. God doesn’t look for someone in a healthy financial situation, with a high social status, stellar reputation, or a wealth of material things. God looks for a willing heart.

“But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence.” – 1 Corinthians 1:27-31

We don’t have to be strong enough, good enough, wealthy enough, successful enough, or smart enough. Our lives don’t have to look like the life of that girl down the street or the girl in our Monday class. God can (and will) use you and me right where we are, in our own circumstances, and within our own time frame.

Live each day in the joy of expectation. Instead of grumbling about your life, walk through each day expecting God to use you. Because He can, and He will. He’s just looking for a willing heart.

So next time I come to class, and that girl talks about her plans after graduation and the group of people behind me is talking about the A’s they made on our quizzes, I will not allow the little comparison lies to creep into my heart (and you shouldn’t either). I will remind myself that my life does not have to look like theirs, and God will work through my life in any way He sees fit, despite my circumstances. And I will find joy in that (and you should too).

 

 

when you don’t feel accepted

When I was in high school, I lived nearly every day in terror over wondering what the people around me thought about me. Y’all, I mean it was severe. I let the imaginary opinions of others dictate literally everything about me- what I wore, what I said (or didn’t say), who I talked to (or didn’t talk to), things I did, activities I was involved in, etc.… I was in constant fear over saying the wrong thing, making a stupid mistake, being awkward, or appearing to be a certain way and looking back at those days now, I feel TOTALLY ridiculous. Who I am today is not anything close to who I was in high school, and I feel like the main reason for that is because I was too afraid to be who I really was and do and say the things I wanted to. My need for acceptance totally dictated my identity.

when-you-dont-feel-accepted

I watch the people around me (and strangers via the internet) hate, judge, ridicule, and reject each other and it seems like all of those actions are a result of our need for acceptance. We need attention. We need to feel accepted. We need to feel like someone out there notices us and sees what we’re doing and cares about it. If someone is getting more attention, others get jealous. If someone is different from everyone else, they are rejected. If someone has a different view or belief than us, we feel threatened and get angry. Our own need to be accepted causes us to do the exact same things to others that we fear they’ll do to us.

For some, this desire leads them to doing things they shouldn’t be doing with people they shouldn’t be with.

For some, this desire creates a selfish and jealous heart.

For some, this desire is quenched with the use of social media.

In my own case, this desire gave me a heavy heart. Seeking acceptance from the people around me only led me to feeling even less accepted.

Whatever the case is, the need to be accepted, cared for, and just simply noticed leads to a heart-breaking life.

Chasing attention from the world will never leave you satisfied. There will always be someone to live up to, someone better than you, receiving more attention than you, or just doing life better than you are. You’ll always need to do more, say more, or be more to get the attention and acceptance that you want.

Hey y’all, you will never ever be accepted by the world. Why should you want to be? Why should you want to be accepted by the same people who reject the One who lives and reigns in your hearts?

“If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you” John 15:18

Jesus himself has chosen you specifically out of the world, to stand apart, to be light and salt and love and joy- not to look like the world. Jesus didn’t set you apart so you could look and act like the very same people who hate him. No, friends- He chose you to stand above, and to stand out.

This fact alone- that He set you apart- is real proof that you will never be accepted by the world.

It’s even further proof that you will never NEED to be accepted by the world.

You are already noticed. You are already accepted. The world may make you feel rejected, but you ARE known and loved and cared for. You were chosen by God himself “to be holy and without blame before Him in love” (Ephesians 1:4).

This world is not your permanent home. Acceptance and attention from the people here will give you a temporary ego boost, but it will never create lasting joy. If you want lasting joy, cling to the worth and identity you already have in Christ- not in your strengths, not in your material things, not in your athletic ability, not in your talent, artistic ability, number on the scale, grades, popularity, or whatever. You can very easily find acceptance from the world with stuff like that- but when you seek acceptance through temporary, worldly things, it will not last. You will always need more.

Acceptance in Christ is satisfying. It is real and lasting. It won’t ever break your heart.

You know why?

Because it’s not based on you. It’s not founded in anything you’ve done, will do, or ever could do. Your worth is found in Christ alone. And He never changes, you can for sure count on that. Your identity found in Him will never, ever change, because He will never, ever change.

You don’t need acceptance from the world, you need acceptance from God. And you already had that- long before you were even born. That acceptance was established that day on the cross, and in that you have hope- knowing that you are always noticed, always loved, and always cared for.

 

to the girl who feels lost, and like God is silent

Dear girl who feels lost,

First of all, I know. I know the feeling. Maybe you’re a junior/senior in high school and you are being bombarded with questions of where you’re going to college, what you’re going to major in, whether or not you’ll continue to play sports, dance, cheer, join a sorority, or whatever other questions they like to throw at you (because don’t you know, at 18 years of age, you’re supposed to already have all this figured out??). Maybe you’re a freshman/sophomore in college (or junior/senior) and you still haven’t declared a major or found anything that really sounds appealing to pursue for the rest of your life.

Maybe you’re the “always a bridesmaid, never a bride” and all your friends are married or about to be, and you don’t even have a boyfriend. You may be at a crossroads about to make some major decision, or you didn’t get into the program that you needed to, so now you have to completely rearrange your plan. Maybe the man you were supposed to marry didn’t come through for you, and now your life seems to be at a stand-still.

And you’re sitting there, crying at God, pleading for Him to give you some divine revelation about what the heck you are supposed to be doing with your life, and: silence.

Why isn’t He talking? Everyone else has gotten “their plan” from Him, why hasn’t He given you yours yet?

I have read many, many blog posts and devotions about determining God’s will. I have wrestled with this concept and I have sat there in the same spot as you and asked why, why, why? Why isn’t God telling me anything? But it seems like the more and more you try to figure out how to figure it out, the more and more lost you feel. Does God have a specific person in mind for you? Does He have a chosen career path for you? How do you know? How does God communicate His purpose for our lives to us?

Dear friend, let me tell you something that may seem discouraging at first glance: God may or may not come to you and tell you specifically and explicitly exactly what He wants you to do, what career to pursue, who to marry, where to take a job, where to join a church, how many kids to have or whatever else you could possibly be worrying about.

God’s set of instructions to us are found in a book called…

wait for it…

The Holy Bible.

*applause and cheers*

It is completely within God’s power, and at times within His pleasure, to come to us individually and give us more specific instructions. For example, if you are called to be a pastor, or missionary, or some other form of ministry. Those kinds of things are specific duties for specific people called by God. But, for the most the part, I believe that we should not expect God to do that. God can absolutely do it, and He does sometimes. But in addition to that possibility, we already have unquestionably all the guidance and instruction we need per the Holy Bible.

Hint: that’s why God gave the Bible to His children in the first place.

The Bible is given by inspiration of God, and is a good and perfect reference for teaching, correcting, rebuking, and instructing. And by all those things we receive through the Bible, we can make better decisions about our life, and we will be better equipped to be servants of the Lord. (Find this in 2 Timothy 3:16-17)

I was told one time to not think of God’s will as a singular pathway that I am restricted to. I should view God’s will as a large passageway with many various pathways inside of it. They all lead to different lives, but at the same time, they all work within God’s will.

The Bible does NOT tell me: Betsy, you need to marry John Smith.

The Bible tells me: Betsy, marry someone who is a man of God; someone that is faithful and loving, patient, humble, and gentle. Someone that will be a leader and provider to your family and someone who seeks after God.

The Bible does NOT tell me: Betsy, you need to be an English teacher.

The Bible does tell me: Betsy, use the skills and abilities God has given you to bring honor and glory to His name.

If whatever you choose to do in life can be used to demonstrate God’s grace and glory through the skills and talents He’s given you, I sincerely believe that thing can totally be within God’s will for your life.

I suggest reading from the beginning of chapter 1, but Ephesians 1:11-12 says, “In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.

When God made us His children, the purpose He established in us was to live “to the praise of His glory”. Our main goal while we live here on Earth is to praise God through any and everything we do. God’s ultimate will for your life is to praise Him. So, I have to believe that anything you do that can be used to praise Him, is acceptable in His will.

That thought is soooooo comforting, isn’t it? You are not bound to one specific person, career, etc… If you were, what would the consequences be if you chose wrong? How scary would it be to live like that?

That’s how a lot of us live. We try so hard to complicate God’s will. We want some divine revelation from God Himself. And honestly, dear friends, that is somewhat of an arrogant wish- that we should expect God to give us a “better” explanation than the thoroughly perfect instruction guide already provided for us.

It’s kinda like God’s thinking: ok, I’ve already given you this detailed instruction guide filled to the brim with perfectly applicable wisdom and knowledge, what more do you need??

How to Make Sure a Decision is Within God’s Will:

1. It is cohesive with teachings found in the Bible.

The End

If you feel led to something or someone, and a part of that something or someone is at odds with things you find in God’s Word, you can be 100% sure that this something or someone is not in God’s will for you. Sin will never be a part of God’s purpose for your life.

So to you who feel lost, determining God’s will for your life should not be an anxiety-inducing thought. There was a time in my life where I would sit for days and wrestle with figuring out what God is calling me to do. And each time the wrestling began, it was like, alright here we go again, bring on the stress and exhaustion. Did I think to look to the Bible? No. But I don’t believe it should be that way. Seeking God’s will should be comforting and encouraging. Mainly, because His will for you is perfect and good, and living according to our complete instruction manual makes for a godly and joyful life.

God allows you freedom to make decisions. And the most comforting thing about it is, those decisions are automatically going to be within God’s purpose for your life as long as they let you live “to the praise of His glory”.

I am in no way limiting God. He can open doors for you, He can provide opportunities, He can bring people in and out of your life, and He can place a desire on your heart, guide the course of your days, or send you a divine revelation however and whenever He chooses. But in general, if you find yourself at a point where you are afraid of making the wrong decision, or afraid to go in a direction that is outside God’s will, refer back to our good and perfect instruction guide. Everything you need to know about what decisions to make and how to live are already provided to you. It’s not as complicated as you think. You have the freedom to choose. (read: you have the freedom to choose!!)

Love,

someone who knows exactly how you feel

 

2016 has been a disaster

This is the current joke running through the Internet right now- that 2016 has been a disaster. Thank God this year is over, let’s hope 2017 is better. People of the world have seemingly automatically agreed that this entire calendar year has just been catastrophic for the general human population. I realize that this year has held challenges- political decisions, the media, court rulings, riots, police shootings, terrorism, several well-loved celebrities passing away, and not to mention the presidential election that nearly tore our country apart.

Yet despite all this, I cannot latch on to the claim that “2016 has been a disaster for me”. I have laughed, I have loved, I have hugged, held, and been shown miraculous grace to have even lived another 365 days. That’s far from disaster.

We’ve absolutely had major issues this year, not only in our country but across the world. People are angry, and bitter and self-centered. Politicians are dishonest. Foreign terrors are real. Our country is incredibly divided in every way. From my point of view, the values of our society are quickly spiraling downward.

However, my life in 2016- or any other year for that matter- is far from disaster. I have a family that loves me. I have a roof over my head. I’ve formed new relationships and sustained old ones.

I’ve spent another 365 days with God watching over me and Jesus by my side.

I’ve lived through 365 opportunities to praise God for His love and mercy.

365 opportunities to spread love.

365 opportunities to live in joy.

I didn’t succeed everyday- there were several days I wasn’t praising God and I wasn’t living in joy.

But I still had the opportunity. That alone is enough to be thankful for. That alone is worthy of praise. The fact that I was even given another year to live is more than what I deserve.

The problems in the world will not define the happiness of my life.

The government officials elected, the court rulings, the opinions of the media and whatever else do not determine whether or not I am I living a happy, successful life.

Your happy, successful life is determined by what you do with what God has given you- whether it seems like a little or a lot. It’s defined by what you do with the people he placed in your life, the opportunities, the challenges, and even material blessings. The success of your life cannot be determined by things you cannot control. Whether or not 2016 was a success cannot be determined by what the world was doing around you, instead it should be defined by what God was doing within you. Do not throw away an entire year because things happen that are outside your control. This life we live on Earth has so many challenges, but because we live under God’s grace and love, it also has so many gifts.

With that being said, enter 2017 with the same outlook. You are about to embark on a 365 day journey filled with opportunities and people that can be part of God’s plan for you. You are about to be given another year to praise God and to live under his miraculous mercy and grace. You are about to receive more chances to grow into the child of God that you were designed to be. There will be struggles, and things will happen that you wish you could change, but don’t be surprised when you face heartache and disappointment. That’s to be expected, because we live in a broken world. But don’t discredit the blessings you receive because you’re too focused on the brokenness that you can’t control. Contentment in your life doesn’t come from outside circumstances, it comes from the peace and joy God has placed in your heart.

You have no idea what blessings and opportunities will unfold in 2017. And no matter what trials and struggles you find in this year, God can carry you farther.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

The workings of God within your heart are infinitely more important than the workings of heartache in the world.

 

let Earth receive her King

The way Jesus came to earth is important- He came in the most humble way possible. A baby. In a horse’s stable. To a virgin mother.

The One that was going to be the Savior of the whole world, the One that prophets had been speaking about for hundreds of years, the One that our whole faith and gospel is built around, had finally arrived. I can imagine all of Earth silently rejoicing, as she welcomed the Savior of the world. I can imagine the angels singing, because Jesus had finally arrived to proclaim to God’s creation the majesty and wonder of the One who created it.

He didn’t come with thunder and lightning, he didn’t split the sky and descend down on his wings, he didn’t burst through the clouds with fire. He was born to a scared, young mother next to the horses in a manger, because nobody would give them a place to stay. He was rejected from the moment He got here until the moment He left. That’s important. In this story, that foreshadows the type of life that He will live- a life of humility, a life of a servant.

Let us embody this humility. Let us embrace this demonstration of love for humankind.

He was rejected, but he did not neglect the needs of others.

He was humiliated, but he remained humble.

He was treated like a criminal, even though he committed no crime.

The One that the Earth rejoiced to receive, left the Earth in the most painful and hateful manner. And he did that for you. He did that for me. Where is our compassion like that? Where is our humility and understanding when we’ve been wronged? Where is our love that gives way to that kind of sacrifice?

How arrogant it is that we seem to believe that we deserve more than what Jesus had. He came into this world with nothing- no Earthly home, no resting place. He was hated, beaten, laughed at, and charged with crimes he did not commit. And despite all this, He was the most loving, kind, humble, and selfless being that ever walked the Earth. Yet we are so hateful when it comes to those unlike us- we neglect those who have less than us, we reject relationships with “sinners”, and we shun people who don’t embrace our faith.

Christmas celebrates the birth of a Savior who was loving, forgiving, understanding, and humble. We, as Christians, claim to celebrate the birth of Someone who was self-sacrificing, a healer, a helper, and a friend to sinners.

So many Christians today are so unkind to others who don’t embrace our beliefs, and that’s completely the opposite of what our faith was founded on. As it comes closer to Christmas, this becomes even more evident. Christians cannot justifiably run through the streets shouting the “reason for the season” and forcing other people to embrace that, if they, themselves don’t strive to be like the One they are celebrating.  So many rant and rave about “taking Christ out of Christmas”, when for the majority of the year prior, it appeared as though they had taken Christ out of their life. You cannot try to persuade others to celebrate the true meaning of Christmas, if you do not live out the true meaning of Christmas yourself for the rest of the year.

Our goal should be to embody His love and grace. Striving to be like Jesus is a form of worship.

It is recognition that He is good and holy and worthy to be praised. It’s a form of respect to who He is. Christians cannot claim to celebrate His birth if they do not respect who He is- if they do not strive to be more like Him. Christmas becomes entangled with wish lists and wrapping paper, stress, gifts to give and parties to attend. You worry about decorating, about going to see family and friends, maybe possibly planning long road trips to go see them. We stress about what to get people and whether we’re getting them enough or not…

Let’s not forget that we are celebrating the birth of a King, who the Earth rejoiced to receive- and our goal while we remain on this Earth is to become more and more like Him. I enjoy everything about Christmas- the lights, the decorating, parties, seeing friends and family, giving and receiving gifts. There is absolutely nothing wrong with all of those things. Let’s just remember that this season that we’re in celebrates the birth of a man who lived His life being merciful, forgiving, comforting, selfless, and loving. And let’s also remember to live our lives in the same way.

I Haven’t “Made It”

“I feel sorry for you, because you don’t know how to act”

“Maybe that’s why you’re such a good liar”

Those are the words that spilled from my little 5th grade mouth one day. I remember after saying those things, world seemed to pause for about .10 seconds. Where did that come from? I remember thinking. At the time, I was proud of myself for coming up with such a witty comeback during this ultra-dramatic, elementary school girl fight in the middle of the lunch room chaos. I somehow managed to break through my shy personality for the first time, and I felt like I was finally standing up for myself. Even though I was somewhat impressed with my moment of boldness, I couldn’t help but also feel a little guilty. I didn’t know that such strong and harsh language could come out of me like that.

never-ending-struggle-with-sin

Now 10 years later, I still have those moments. And they come much more frequently.

A lot of the time, I like to think that I’m doing pretty well. You know, I try to treat others nicely. I do selfless things for others every once in a while. I’ve been reading more “Christian living” books. I go to church on Sundays and bible study on Wednesday nights. I listen to worship music just as much as, if not more than, secular music. I even made a prayer journal.

I’m doing pretty good, right?

Maybe I’ve “made it”.

But every now then (maybe, actually more than that), words will tumble from my mouth like bombs, butchering relationships and cutting people down. Thoughts run through my mind like a runaway train that eventually wreck my soul and shatter my joy and compassion for others. Hateful words bubble up out of a deep place inside me that I forgot existed. My mouth says things or my mind thinks things that my heart was too slow to filter out.

And I’m literally amazed that there is still a place inside me where those thoughts and attitudes reside. I surprise myself by the hateful thoughts I still have inside me and the hurtful words I still allow to fall out of my mouth.

I can’t possibly believe those things, right? How can something so sinful and damaging still be inside me? I thought I was doing pretty well. I was doing all the “right” things, so how can my heart still be such a wreck?

Those hurtful words and sinful thoughts- surely I don’t truly think that way deep down?

But I do.

Those thoughts and attitudes wouldn’t ever come to surface if they were not rooted somewhere deep inside me. And those thoughts and attitudes are rooted deep somewhere inside you, too. You may be better at controlling them than I am, but they’re there. They are rooted in all of us. This is a common struggle with all of humanity throughout all the ages of time, and Paul describes it this way:

“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.” (Romans 7:15-20 NIV)

You see, you and I are not alone in this battle.

One of the most challenging things about this is that you’re aware of it. You tell yourself you’ll do better. So when you do slip up, make that mistake, have a nasty attitude, or utter those hateful words, you think: Oh gosh, that was bad. I need to do something about that. I’ll do better next time.

And yet it happens over and over and over again.

Whether it’s manifested in your thoughts, words, or actions:

Pride overtakes your compassion.

Jealously drowns out your humility.

Insecurity steals your honesty.

And greed overtakes your integrity.

I often ask myself how it’s possible that such hate and malice can spring from the same mouth that also speaks joy and love.

“Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be. Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh.” (James 3:10 KJV)

I used to have this idea that at some point in time, I’ll “make it”. I used to imagine that I’ll reach this point when I won’t really have to struggle with sin the way I do now. And yet, that cannot be farther than the truth. We’ll never reach a point in life where we’ve “made it”.

This battle with sin seems like a never ending struggle.

But it is not an eternal struggle.

If you ever think that you’ve “made it”, that you’re doing alright, and that you don’t really struggle with sin too badly anymore- that’s perfect evidence that you haven’t “made it” at all. That’s evidence that you need God’s grace and forgiveness just as much as you always have.

You cannot overcome sin on your own. You’ll never reach a point when you no longer have to fight against the sinful nature in your heart. It’ll always be there. However, Paul tells us that where sin abounds, grace much more abounds (Romans 5:20). Thankfully, we’re given insurmountable amounts of grace while we live here on Earth. God is overflowing with enough mercy and forgiveness to carry us farther than the days of our life.

A life struggling with sin requires lots of humility. It requires the ability to accept the fact that you will never “make it”. You must be willing to ask for forgiveness. A lot. Not only from God, but from those around you as well. You must be humble enough to recognize your need for God. You must be willing to ask God for strength to do the right thing, wisdom to know what His will is, and forgiveness when you fail. Thankfully, God has an endless supply of all of these things readily available to you when you need them.

The God that has prepared an eternal home for you, who knows you more intimately than anyone else, and who gave His only Son as a sacrifice for you is the God that reigns in your heart. And the God that reigns in your heart is infinitely more powerful than the sin that dwells within you. Remember, you are not a slave to sin. We are all going to have to struggle with sin for as long as we live in this world, but sin will never be so powerful as to enslave us. You’ve been redeemed– you have a Savior that gave his life so that you don’t have to be imprisoned by this sinful nature. You may get tangled in sin, but you’ll never be ensnared by it. It will never have the power to defeat the grace and love that God has woven deeply into your heart.

“You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4 NIV)

Despite the depths of our sin, and no matter how many times we fail, God has enough grace and compassion to carry us into eternity.

This battle with sin seems like a never ending struggle.

But it is not an eternal struggle.

 

how do we “get to” God?

Let me begin this post by saying, whether this is the first time you’ve been here or you are a regular visitor, I value your time. I deeply appreciate every pair of eyes that read across my words, because these words come straight from my heart, and the thought that anyone would take time to read them brings tears to my eyes. I pray that I would only share thoughts that are uplifting and encouraging to you, because I can imagine that is exactly what you are searching for.

So with that, here’s my thoughts today….

The topic of this post is somewhat fragile ground for me to tread on: How do we as humans “get to” God?

In other words, what do we have to do to reach Heaven?

This is somewhat scary for me to write about because Christians are so divided on the topic of salvation. It causes lots of tension and animosity between different groups and denominations, because salvation is the end goal of our faith and life. Deciding what to believe about salvation is more than a life or death situation, it’s an eternal life or death situation. Which is why I’m somewhat compelled to share the truth that I believe to have.

Please understand that I’m writing this with complete sincerity and humility. If you have any questions or even arguments, please leave a comment or shoot me an e-mail. I would love to chat 🙂

How do we get to God?

Is there a way for humans to actively move towards God?

Yes, actually.

John 6:44 says “no man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him”

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This verse tells me that a man can come to Jesus, but only if God draws him first. God must pull a person towards Him, because a person cannot come to him of his own will. A human being in their natural state – a sinner- has nothing within them that wants to draw near to God. How do I know that?

Because Romans 3:10-12 says “there is none righteous, no not one: there is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.”

Also, Ephesians 2:1 tells me that I am dead in sin. To be dead in sin means that you have no desire nor ability to desire spiritual things. All you have inside you is your sinful nature. Each human’s natural state of living is “dead in sin” until God intervenes. This sinful nature is referred to as the “natural man” in this verse:

“But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” 1 Corinthians 2:14

This verse states that we as natural worldly humans have nothing inside us that desires to seek God. We only begin to seek God and have faith until God takes action. Do you know what dead people can do? Nothing. Dead people cannot make themselves come alive, only Jesus can bring the dead to life. So if I’m naturally dead in sin, and if there is nothing within me that desires to seek God, nor has the ability to seek God, how did I end up where I am today: seeking and following after Christ?

I didn’t do it.

I had nothing to do with the transformation that took me from dead in sin to alive in Christ.

If you keep reading chapter 2, you find in verse 8 that you are “saved by grace through faith” and not faith that you created yourself, faith that was given to you by God. Keep reading on into verse 9 and you find that no part of this salvation “process” had anything to do with your actions.

Nothing you said, no good deed you did, no action, and no profession of belief has any part in securing your home in Heaven.

Your place in Heaven was secured by the fact that God chose to love you. God chose to reach down and pull you out of eternal wrath.

Ephesians 1:3-4 says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love…”

God decided long before you were born, and long before the world was created, to love you and to give you a home in Heaven. He didn’t do it because of anything you did, or anything He knew that you were going to do, but simply because that is the true definition of love. True love is making sacrifices for those who can do nothing for you. That is the perfect picture of love, and Christ illustrated that for us on the cross.

Think about this: why would God leave it up to our actions to confirm our salvation? How could He give us sinful, clueless, creatures the power to choose between Heaven or Hell? I cannot let myself believe that God sent His son to die for our sins, to pay the price for our salvation, and then somehow still put another requirement on us to officially become “saved”. That just does not make sense in my head.

You know the Fruits of the Spirit? Love, joy peace, patience, goodness, etc… (Gal. 5:22) They are called “Fruits of the Spirit” because you only have those traits inside you if the Holy Spirit dwells inside you. And I don’t think it’s Biblical to say that God would allow someone to go to hell even though they have the Holy Spirit inside them. So these Fruits of the Spirit must be evidence that you have Jesus and the love of God in your heart, and God would not, could not send someone He loves to hell.

Let’s work out that thought a little deeper: God would not send someone He loves to hell.

We know that God’s love is everlasting, and that nothing can separate us from the love of God.

“The Lord hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.” Jeremiah 31:3

“For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39

So if God loves everyone, and some people still end up in hell, then either God loves them in Hell (which is not Biblical because Hell is eternal separation from God) or that God’s love actually isn’t everlasting. Since I know that neither of those options are found in the Bible, I have to believe that if a person is in Hell, God never loved them to begin with.

Following that train of logic, I have to believe that all the people that God loves are without a doubt going to have a secure place in Heaven. And God doesn’t choose who He loves based on actions or words. He chooses who He loves according to His own good pleasure and will. However, that absolutely doesn’t mean that God loves a very select few people. You can see in Revelation 7:9 that Heaven holds “a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues”.

This collection of somewhat scattered thoughts is not complete in itself. My intention is not to convince anyone that the way they may believe is wrong, or that the way I believe is right. My only intention is to propose some ideas that hopefully convince you to dig a little deeper into God’s word and decide for yourself what to believe. Salvation is such a tricky subject, and I think it’s important to remember that no matter what beliefs you hold or what church you go to, we all have the same goal: to seek truth and to serve God as best we can. So instead of judging and looking down on each other, let’s build up and encourage one another. I am so completely open to comments, questions, and arguments (as long as you’re nice about it :-)), so feel free to leave a comment or even email me if you want to talk deeper.

 

 

the view from above

I have spent the last week exploring the South West of America. We saw a lot of dirt and not a lot of trees, beautiful mountains larger than life, a small band of 13 faithful Christians holding their church service in a conference room of the YMCA, a glitzy city called Vegas packed to the brim with LOTS of people, a stretch of 106 miles in Utah with no towns, rest stops, or even gas stations, and one of God’s many miraculous wonders called the Grand Canyon.

It was the farthest away I’ve ever been from my small Alabama town and probably one of the greatest things I’ve ever experienced.

the-view-from-above

From the top of the Gateway Arch, you can see the order of everything. You can see the way the roads connect and overlap one another and the thought that was put into planning each pathway. You can see the layout of St. Louis and the planning that went into its organization. You can see the paths that tiny looking people are walking and what their destinations will be.

From the top of the Las Vegas High Roller, you can see the city lights go on for miles and miles until they finally fade out into the surrounding desert. You can determine the beginning and end of the city.

From the top of the Grand Canyon, you can see the dips and ridges and valleys. You can see the pattern of the rocks and the layers upon layers of sediment that it took to create the height of the gorge. You can see the years and years it took to carve the canyon into what it is today.

Here on the ground, life can get spinny. You know?

There are people everywhere walking around you with all different opinions, backgrounds, culture, family systems, and beliefs and values. They argue and complain and condescend and discourage. There are deadlines and meetings and events and parties and people to please and standards to meet. There are decisions to make and success to create and a reputation to uphold and friends and family to care for.

And everything just sorta twirls around you all the time and you don’t ever think you’ll get a break because life is so demanding and just moves way too fast…

But from up above, it’s different.

It’s calm. Peaceful.

You can’t hear the noise below. You can’t hear the complaints and demands of people or the cars whizzing by or the booming parties drawing you in or the buzz of the due dates and events drowning your planner. You can’t hear the clock ticking the time away or the pressures and demands of life crying your name.

Everything has order and purpose.

We just can’t see that from the ground.

Which is why I’m glad that Someone is up above, without the noise and confusion, who can see the order and purpose in my life.

In fact- not only sees it- but arranges it.

While I’m down here running around clueless trying to go, go, go and do, do, do- He’s up there planning the beginning and ending of my story, and taking care of me all the steps of the way through.

This is why I can give my complete trust fully over to Him, because He does have a purpose and a plan. It’s a beautiful and immensely comforting thought to me that God watches over my life the same way as I looked over the streets of St. Louis- seeing the order and the plan.

The city is doing some major construction around the park surrounding the Arch. It took us a long time to figure out where we were going and how to make our way through all the construction zone mess. It didn’t look like it was going to be anything spectacular- there was fencing up everywhere and piles of dirt and bricks and machinery. There were sections of pathways that lead to nowhere and pipes sticking out of the ground. It just looked like a big mess and I thought how are they ever going to finish this, much less make it look appealing?

Once we got inside and traveled to the top of the Arch, I could see it. I could see how the pathways would eventually all connect and what each section of the park was going to hold- where different ponds, structures, flower beds and trees were going to be placed. Walking through it on the ground, none of it made sense- but looking down from the sky, I could see the layout of this grand design.

Which is exactly how God sees your life- orderly, planned out, and purposeful.

I don’t know what your life looks like right now- whether it’s messy and confusing, or maybe you’re looking down several different pathways and don’t know which to choose. Maybe you feel like you’re at a crossroads, maybe a big change is coming or maybe you feel as if your life is on hold. Maybe you’re looking at your current situation and you have no earthly idea how it could possibly work out.

Whatever the case may be, rest in the fact that your loving, all knowing, Father is looking down at your life at this very moment, and He can see the purpose, plan, and most importantly, the beauty in everything. Trust in His unwavering providence and grace in your life. Trust that He will guide you through the mess- so that you will eventually see the purpose and beauty and also the honor and glory of God through it all.