Wednesday, May 27, 2015

As For Me and My House

If I had to set a goal for the rest of my life it wouldn't be to promote health, wealth and happiness. It wouldn't be to maintain a certain weight or hope my kids get A's on their  next report card. No, it would be found in the pages of Joshua in the Old Testament. My goal would be that each person of my house would serve the Lord all of their days. 

Last night I sat in fellowship and bible study with my fellas , as the understanding of Christ reflected on their faces and this unshakable moment when my almost nine year old grasped the concept that God is for us (Romans 8:31) , He listens and wants to be with us and as a family we will be spending time drawing towards God while He is near( Isaiah 55:6)  I was reminded of the verse in Joshua. "But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15b

I want that verse to be reflecting in our lives. I want people to look up our family and how we conduct our life serving Christ and ask us questions. I want to stand out and radically flip this world upside down serving Christ. And the realization hit me, how can I do all of this? By boldly and firmly proclaiming that this family will serve the Lord. 

We will serve the Lord in time of joy and sorrow. We will serve the Lord in triumph and defeat. We will serve Him when it's easy and when it's hard. We will serve him when circumstances are against us or when we walk in blessing. We will serve Him when others mock or laugh. We will serve Him when no one understands our faith.We will serve him when we feel alone or surrounded by others. We will serve in public and within the walls of our own home and heart.We will serve Him unto death. You see, we will always serve the Lord because Christ reigns in all areas of our life. I want this verse about my family. I want whomever walks into my home to know that it is the one and only Living God we serve. In our home we serve the Almighty God, El Olam, everlasting God. 

We will serve him because He is worthy and full of justice. He is Love and truth. We will serve Him, though it's not easy, because our path ,through Him, is worth it. 

What does service look like? In our current culture, servanthood is truly unheard of. It's lowly, and humbling. I think more Christians are seeking after royalty status than humility. But Christ calls us to servanthood. (Philippians 2) The goal of a Christian is that in everything we do, in all aspects of our life, we are to bring glory to God. Not ourselves, not our giftings or talents, not our own lives but Christ in our lives. Romans 14:8 "For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s."

God is our master, our provider, our teacher, our authority. We bow to Him not the things He has given us. Adonai in the singular means Master or Owner. Paul says we must die to ourselves. "I die daily." (1 Corinthians 15) That literally translates to putting God above ourselves. A death to self everyday. Our motivators should God. 

I think we get so wrapped up with promoting self, self worth, self image, self ambition that we shut out Christ in ourselves. We should reflect Him not ourselves. John 12:25-26 (NIV) "The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me."

Serving Christ, serving other people never begins with us. It always begins with Him. 

We are not forced to serve our Lord, but because of what He did for us on the cross we want to serve. How can we serve? In my life, everything I do can be given unto the Lord. " Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." (1 Corinthians 15:31) From folding laundry to mopping up milk for the hundredth time during the day. From lovingly bringing my neighbor a meal, or praying with hurting people. Every moment of our lives presents an opportunity to reflect and point back to God. Are you a bearer of light? Are your opportunities bringing glory to the Lord? Are you positively reflecting Christ to a broken world?

Are we perfect? Absolutely not. Christians are never perfect and fail all the time. We just know how much we are in need of a Savior.  Early in my walk with Christ I hurt many people by my self righteousness. I yelled verses at them, told them how wrong and in error they were. There was no love in my words just law. There was no Christ in my actions.  Though I've asked for forgiveness, the scars of what I reflected are still there. 

But God has grown me. He has shown me through his Word the life and walk of Christ. Our Lord was humble. Christ sat with the outcasts and the forsaken. Christ took on death. He served God will all of His heart. He died so that we can too. He took everything on the cross, and requires everything from us in return. 
Remember 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 says " You are not your own. You were bought with a price." 

So serving one another in love then becomes a joy. Teaching my children by my words and actions that serving one another is a high form of praise. It's what we are all called to do.  I don't want to focus on that goal weight, or the visions I have for the future. The goals I have made. No, I want to world to see what servanthood is, I want the world to know that this family, even when we stand alone, this house will serve the Lord.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

I didn't become a Christian because I saw the goodness of Christians

I didn't become a Christian because I saw the goodness of Christians. In fact, it was quite the opposite. I fled Christianity because of the failings of Christian men and women and the suffering of a family.

I grew up in a Christian home. I had a happy childhood, oblivious to hurt, running through field and forest, trying to fit in, riding my bike to and fro. I had a ticklemonster for a dad and a homemaker, lover of all things that grow for a mom. Unfortunately, when sin seeps into relationship, a marriage, a family, it taints and destroys the structure and foundation upon those within. My parents relationship, throughout my childhood, deteriorated through failings, choices, sins of adultery, alcoholism, addiction on both sides. I was 13 , pulled from school and told my parents were divorced. Final. Cold. The End. 

Divorce. It's a hard thing to process, especially for kids. But what I saw was we were all hurting and no one came to help us. My parents had help but no one counseled the kids. I had no where to turn. My parents were hurting, angry and broken. With our family foundation removed and tattered,  instead of the siblings banding together in strength, we broke apart, alone and oblivious to each others hurt. 

My hurt became my prison and I internalized all the heartache.  I looked upon my parents, the Christian community, the family members who claimed Christianity and how they had failed. I didn't want to be that. I told myself, if that was a Christian I didn't want it. You see I had forgotten something vital. Christians are still human beings capable of sin.

I'd lost identity in the divorce of my family. No one to turn to. No pastor came. No family sheltered us or told us it would be okay and that there was an end to the pain I felt. Our lives went on, just in new ways. Emptiness filled our hallways, turmoil stung the air, change hurt. Anger seeped in like a sponge. I felt cast out. To fill the void I sought the dangers of attention from boys online or at school. 

Sexual immorality soon ruled my life and I fought to find worth, grasping for straws and constantly being cast aside, never enough. I alienated loved ones and friends. I webbed together lies to hide my sin and the shame of who I was. I hid behind a mask and it consumed me. A shame so thick, I couldn't see through it. I felt too far away from God. Too dirty and stained to go to Him. I knew of God but I didn't know Jesus. I knew he had died on the cross, but I didn't know redemption and forgiveness or the power of the cross. He was a man to me, not a savior. I worked at suppressing emotions and pain and hiding my sin. In hiding, I took it out on my body and I became a self- mutilator or cutter. I'd take out the welling emotions on my body with razors or knives. 

Emotions ruled my life and governed my actions. If I felt broken I'd carve my body. Sometimes so much, I didn't want to move my arms out of pain. If I was lonely or hurting I'd seek the company of men. I had to prove to myself I was needed, desired and wanted. In reality, I was no better than a harlot. After they finished, I'd go back to nothingness. I was only a means of fulfillment, not precious or cherished. I tried to find worth in sex and men, and it left me hollow and broken. They told me this was my value.  My lies continued. I slandered people, and was a great gossiper. My word was not honorable. I talked behind friends backs, I was no friend. So I abandoned the facade of friendships and fell deeper into despair. 

I sought the comfort of alcohol and drugs, but they took my wits away and quickly I learned they were not for me. They couldn't fix my pain, only mask it. I was so absorbed with my life, I couldn't care about the lives of others. I would look upon my self so covered in filth, that I didn't recognize the girl. The chains were so heavy, my soul would scream out but the shame and fear covered me. They were great shadows and I was a slave to them.

Though someone came into my life unexpectedly, my husband. He befriended me, spoke life into a cold heart .With him there was no barrier, the truth wasn't hidden and I could bear my soul and he would listen. He showed me how love could cover wounds. How carving myself wasn't going to help. He told me I'm beautiful, not because he wanted advancement to get me to bed him, but because he meant the words. I looked into his eyes, his heart, and found love through the magnitude of kindness. 

Our relationship however was precarious. He was 10 years older than my 17. So I lied and lied well. The web continued and though I found a friend, a lover, my soul mate, my shame continued to cloud and cling. At one point, I turned from him. Unable to accept that a person like me, deserved his kindness and love. He fought for me. He wouldn't allow me to sabotage us. He had his own hurts and heartaches, his own insecurities. But together, we found need, we found ourselves in one another. We were also pregnant. Just before my 18th birthday, 2 little blue lines appeared. We were going to have a baby and the lies about us came to an abrupt halt. 

With the indispensable help of my sister, the news spread through my family. It wasn't accepted well. But on a sunny June morning, our little boy was born. My life changed. I was a wife and mother. As he grew, I witnessed the hand of God working in our lives.
I had this continued need to attend a church that taught the Bible. But I continued to push the need aside. Our home life wasn't perfect. We made many poor choices financially, alcohol addiction was a consuming part of our lives and we bounced around from family homes until at one point we were kicked out and homeless. 

Living in a bleak hotel, we were continually thankful for hot water as the room was moldy, dank and cold. My son and I practically lived in the bathtub or under the bed covers for warmth. However, even in my abandonment of God he provided.  Unexpectedly, we were approved for  a tiny little home. It wasn't much to speak of, but it was ours. It was something. In this home we welcomed our second son and in this home Christ worked hard to get our attention through our sons. I am a shy person by nature. But the immense fear I have for people erupted here. I'd have panic attacks and be unable to answer the door. The prison continued. One thing though was unfolding. We were sinners. That was obvious. We were broken people and nothing in our life could fill the voids in our hearts. No emotion, no drink or drug. No baby, person, spouse. Nothing. You see people make poor gods. You can put them upon a pedestal, idolize them, adore them but they are going to fail. Then you'll lose hope in them or ,if they are Christians, lose hope in Christianity because of their humanness. They can't fulfill you. 

Finally, the need to find out about God was so great I just told my husband we were going to go to church that Sunday. He wasn't totally open to the idea but he agreed to come along. Having no real affiliation with the Christian community, I googled local Christian churches, found one and made the decision to see. I was so afraid I asked my mom to come along for support.

My hands shook as we opened the doors to the church. My heart ached. I didn't burn up walking in, I wasn't stared at or kicked out. We walked into worship late and as the words of "Nothing but the blood" and "Majesty" filled the halls, I knew I needed God. The brokenness in my heart and soul needed healing. The shame that covered me was overwhelming. I needed Jesus Christ. The Messiah. The Savior. After church and lunch with my mom I asked my husband if we could continue to try church. He agreed because something had changed inside of him too. We were given a bible and we studied it. In August 2009, my husband and I repented of our sins, of our lives, asked for forgiveness, received it and accepted Christ as our Lord and Savior. 

You see, I didn't have to work for salvation or have all the answers. Salvation was freely given by what Christ did at the cross. He took my place. He set me free of my fear and shame. My hurt and heartache. He died for it. For me. He loved me so much, that He came to earth, chose death, for me. To give me life and purpose. I no longer saw Jesus as a man who died. No, He became my Savior, my healer of brokenness and anxiety. My salvation. My true love. My lifeline and anchor rooted in faith found in the pages of the Bible. 

Our problems didn't just magically go away. Everything wasn't fine or perfect. But we had meaning. The changes in our hearts were real. I was whole when fear and shame were normal. The void I tried to fill with sex, drugs, money, people, was made whole. God was working in me. His hand was upon my life. He found me when I was lost. He saved this wretch. He chose me. Adopted me. 

I was not a good person. My heart, actions, and lies were ugly and evidence of the evil within me. My sinful nature. But Christ redeemed me. The Bible says that even at our darkest, He loves us. Romans 5:8 "  But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." 

He promises to make beauty from ashes. (Isaiah 61:3) He has held true. We were bought at a price. ( 1 Corinthians 6:20) We are precious to the Lord. I didn't go through all the pain and hurt for no reason. Romans 8:28, " For all things work together for good, to those who love the Lord and are called to His purpose." All things. Good and bad. Painful or joyful. All things.  You see He is teaching me through those memories and moments. Refining me. Making me new. He takes what is broken and mends it. Binds up our wounds. (Psalm 147)

I am not the same person. My face may look the same but on the inside I am new. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, "  Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new."

This Jesus, He is true love. Sacrificial. Unfathomable. Now almost 6 years later, we have added two more beautiful boys. Our marriage is steeped in love for Christ and one another. But, I have made many mistakes along the way. I still fail.  Sometimes I am still paralyzed by fear. He continues to teach me.  I have been over zealous, hurtful, prideful. I've hurt my family. I've been self-righteous. Selfish. Mean spirited. I've thrown biblical stones. I've lost and gained friends. I've argued my points and caused pain and anguish. I've pleaded for forgiveness. 

I have been the exact Christian I saw growing up. I've been the human who makes mistakes. Who doesn't walk the narrow road well. One who stumbles along the way. I see now that no one is perfect except Christ. And no one should be held to that level. We can't obtain it. The longing I have, the hope I have found in Christ is unparalleled. I want to live my life for Him. Proclaiming His goodness and righteousness. Letting my life speak and my feet go. 

I am going to fail. I am going to make mistakes. That's okay. I have now the knowledge of grace and love. I now know of mercy and His mercies are new every day. (Lamentations 3:22-23) 

C.S. Lewis states, " Christianity, if false, is no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important." Either you believe or you don't. There is no middle ground. You can't believe in God the Almighty, the Living God but worship yourself or buddha. It doesn't work that way. 

Lecrae says, " If I'm wrong about God then I wasted my life. If you're wrong about God then you've wasted your eternity."  

If I could tell you just one more thing it would be this: You might not think so, you might not want to believe it, but you need Jesus.  Just like me. You need salvation. We all do. There is no eternity outside of Christ. You can't get there. You might think your good merits or being a good person will secure your destiny. Or you will just live your life the best you can and hope you make it. The only hope for eternity is found in the arms of Jesus Christ. The Bible is the living and true word of God. It is an absolute truth. It states we must have salvation through Christ alone. Jesus himself said," I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6) 

I knew I wasn't good. No idol, buddha, pagan god, amount of money, or good intention will be enough. Christ died for you. To secure your freedom. Out of God's great love for us, he sent his own son. Time is so incredibly short. It goes so fast, and we are running out of time. Don't put God off. Don't turn away Jesus. While you can seek God . Turn from your ways and into His. He is there. I've seen him restore. Mend. I heard someone say," The second greatest miracle, outside that of the Resurrection of Jesus, is the evidence in a heart that has been changed and transformed by God." I am living proof. I am not the same gal I was growing up. I am not the same girl you may have gone to school with or dated. I am not the same woman I was a few years ago. I'm not the same sister, daughter, friend. 

I am new. My heart has been transformed and made new. My life and soul have purpose. And everything in me shouts to give glory unto God. To make Him known. I beg of you to examine the ministry of Jesus. Pick up the gospel of John. If you are reading this and can't get one, I'll send you one. Read it. If you are reading this right now and know Christ is for you. Know that because of sin you have been separated from God. And the only way to bridge the separation is to repent of your sin, ask for forgiveness and  accept Jesus as Savior and Lord and follow him. If that is you, you recognize your need for a savior, your need for Jesus to change your heart and life. Please pray this out loud with me and mean it. 

"Dear Lord Jesus, I know I am a sinner. I believe You died for my sins. Right now, I turn from my sins and open the door of my heart and life. I confess You as my personal Lord and Savior. Thank You for saving me. Amen." 

If you have said these words welcome! You are SO welcomed by the body of Christ. Did you know heaven rejoices at your salvation. (Luke 15:7) Now find a church, study and apply the Word of God to your life. Draw closer to God in relationship. We attend a webcast church from the teachings of Pastor Greg Laurie. Join us there online! 

I will close with this. I knew life apart from God. I have tasted death. Spiritual death. I knew of different levels of hell and torment within my own soul. I knew brokenness. Christ changed my life. My family, my husband , my children. He healed, restored, and moved. He can do the same for. Call upon Jesus. For I will follow Christ, unto death. 

May God bless you reading this! 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The power of words

Hurt feelings are never fun... ever... Being a woman ,emotion tends to run much higher than men. Being 5 months pregnant, emotions run to astronomical proportions and seem to be so much harder to control. Right now, I tend to cry when someone uses the wrong tone with me. It takes every amount of strength to not cry when people are either intentionally or unintentionally being mean. I kind of feel like a kindergartener does on the play ground. It tends to be awful, I can only imagine my poor husband who has to comfort this mess almost on a daily basis. Bless his heart.

But today, as I sat sobbing my eyes out God leaned in. Did you know he even understands this mess I make. The hurt and pain from careless words? He understands because He created me.
 "For You formed my inward parts;
You covered me in my mother’s womb.  

I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;[b]
Marvelous are Your works,
And that my soul knows very well.

My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.

Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.
And in Your book they all were written,
The days fashioned for me,
When as yet there were none of them." Psalm 139:13-16

And in my hurt and pain, he brought me words of life. He shared His divine grace and love. He showered down acceptance and understanding. He gave comfort to a hurt spirit.
He showered wisdom. I could retaliate with my hurt, spewing anger, pain and bitterness that come out when our pride hurts and our feelings have been damage. Feeling defeated, that option sounded better. But the Holy Spirit prompted me to take a second and look. Would that accomplish anything? Would hurting or belittling the offender make the situation better?  Would anything I had to say bring glory back to Jesus? Christ is teaching me that even if I am defending my situation, even if I am right 100% it still isn't going to prove anything to anyone who doesn't want to hear the truth. Jesus presented the truth continuously, and yet men still didn't believe Him.
Words are powerful things. The Bible says in Proverbs 3 " Careful words make for a careful life; careless talk may ruin everything."  . The Lord granted me these 3 beauties who watch me for everything. Especially how I react to certain situations. Think for a moment, how many times we as parents used careless words and deeply hurt our children. How many temper tantrums and tears flow out of defense for the words used. 
We are our children's lives. They look to us for guidance, help, nurturing and love. They look up with their wide eyes to see how to behave when something goes wrong.

Today, as I sat crying, they didn't understand. They asked, and I told them someone hurt my heart that's all. Words can either build up or break down. They have the ability to speak life or death."Death and life are in the power of the tongue, And those who love it will eat its fruit.: Proverbs 18:21
Did you know the Bible considers our tongue to be vial? In James,  it talks about the power of our tongue and it's wickedness.
 "And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God.  Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh.
James 3:6-12

Here are just a few other examples the Bible gives about the evil tongue.

"They speak idly everyone with his neighbor; With flattering lips and a double heart they speak.
May the Lord cut off all flattering lips,
And the tongue that speaks proud things,Who have said,
“With our tongue we will prevail;
Our lips are our own;
Who is lord over us?” Psalm 12:2-4

"Keep your tongue from evil,
And your lips from speaking deceit." Psalm 34:13

[ Prayer for Wisdom and Forgiveness ] [ To the Chief Musician. To Jeduthun. A Psalm of David. ] I said, “I will guard my ways, Lest I sin with my tongue; I will restrain my mouth with a muzzle, While the wicked are before me.” Psalm 39:1

"You give your mouth to evil, And your tongue frames deceit." Psalm 50:19
"Your tongue devises destruction, Like a sharp razor, working deceitfully." Psalm 52:2
 "They sharpen their tongues like a serpent; The poison of asps is under their lips. Selah" Psalm 140:2
 "The mouth of the righteous brings forth wisdom, But the perverse tongue will be cut out." Proverbs 10:31

 "The tongue of the wise uses knowledge rightly, But the mouth of fools pours forth foolishness." Proverbs 15:2
There are literally pages upon pages of scripture dealing with the tongue. Children watch. They learn by watching your behavior, your reaction, your emotion. That is how they learn. Watching our character, wanting to give a godly example and telling our kiddos to be like Jesus all while having a bitter, hurt spirit makes us hypocrites. We need to walk the walk so they learn to walk in our steps.  

The band Hawk Nelson wrote a song about the power of words. I challenge you to be mindful with what you speak. In so many circumstances it is better to be silent. For silence can speak louder than any word you could ever utter.  Let Gods voice and His words echo in our speech. Let His words flow from our mouths to build and teach our children. Let our lives be the greatest tool to teach with.

"Let my words be life
Let my words be truth
I don't wanna say a word
Unless it points the world back to You." Hawk Nelson

" Oh Lord Jesus, I thank you for your comfort today. God I give all glory unto you. Lord help us be wise with our speech. Let us use words in edification and glorification to you. To build up and not put down. May be stand silent in our anger and hurt and let your love and peace flow through us instead. How good you are Heavenly Father. Thank you for all you are, all you give. -Amen"