Monthly Archives: September 2012

The Beauty of His Creation

This weekend, I got to spend time enjoying the presence of God at a women’s retreat where the theme was Psalm 46:10 – Be still and know that I am God. What a perfect lesson for me to meditate on. Being still is a lot harder than it looks. The speaker left me with a plethora of thoughts and verses that I will be meditating on for a while (which I’ll be writing another blog about later).

Pine Cove in Columbus, Texas is so beautiful!! I was blown away at the presence of God I felt there. Pine Cove Crier Creek is a Chrsitian family camp. I would LOVE to one day go there with the family. The girls would have a great time and Robert would even be able to find plenty to do.

The beauty of His creation captivated me. It was in everything I saw and everything I touched. God created every single tree who’s beauty I admired. He wove together the body of a tiny lady bug who’s intricate movements captured my attention.

We serve a God who is involved in our lives. I’ve had people ask me before, “How do you know God is intimately involved in your life?”

Here is my answer – if God didn’t intimately know me and love me, then He wouldn’t know what the things are that “make me tick”. God knows that walking through the woods after a pouring rain has always been soemthing that I enjoyed doing. I love seeing nature come alive after a hard rain…nothing brings me to life like watching the world come alive!

Life is so busy sometimes that I forget to slow down and look at everything around me. I forget to stop and take in the beauty of God’s creation.

One thing that really stuck out to me was these two trees. They were originally two trees that were simply growing next to each other. Are they grew and got larger over the years, the trees grew in to one another. As time passed, the trees became part of each other. Their trunks were fused together and they had become dependent on each other. From afar, you can’t tell that there are actually two trees, it simply looks like one, but upon closer inspection you see the two seperate trees.

I think this is what marriage should be like. We start out as two individuals and as we grow togehter and love each other we become one. As time passes, we become a part of each other – each dependent on the other.

I like how it seems that one tree is wrapping itself around the other, it looks like, to protect it. Who knew I could learn so much about marraige from trees 😉

This weekend, I learned the joy of being still before God and hearing what He has to tell me. He told me so much in just the things He showed me in nature. Now the challenge is continuing to be still before Him while I get back into the busyness of my everyday life.

 

 

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Who am I: Loved in the Son

Yesterday’s sermon was a great reminder of things that I REALLY need to remember right now. I need to be within the protection of Christ to be able to do the things that God calls me to do. I may not be able to see how it could possibly get things done by my abilities and knowledge but if He calls me to do something, He will also provide a way for me to do it.

Philippians 2:13 – for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Recently, I have felt God’s call in my life. I have felt moved to do things that I wouldn’t have done before because of my severe introversion. But since I’ve hidden my life in Him (Colossians 3:3 – For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.), He has transformed my mind. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still broken, but I think I’m just more happy about it because I know I’m loved through it.

God sees me as more beautiful than anything I could ever imagine. He adopted me as His daughter because He loves me, not because of ANYTHING I have done. And because of that, He can do great things through me.

Ephesians 1:7 – In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace

Apparently, in the Greek, redemption literally means the price of freedom. The first century Jews would’ve thought back to the Exodus when they thought of redemption because God redeemed them from slavery in Egypt. But what the New Testament is pointing towards is that we still have a need for redemption even if we’re not physically in bondage to slavery. We are in bondage to sin.

We are not everything God created us to be because of our bondage. We are broken and bent and tied down by our own sin, and often times, we don’t even know it. In fact, if we think we have it all together, it’s harder to recognize our own sin and brokenness that has us in bondage.

We all sin, which means to miss the mark, and we all have trespasses, which means to deliberately do something you shouldn’t. But the glorious part about that is according to the riches of his grace. He renews up daily and one day at a time He is liberating up from our sins. In Jesus Christ, I no longer have to be a slave to my sin. I now have the power to walk away from my own evilness because of Him.

Jesus is like a protective big brother who wants to pull you out of the pit you’ve fallen in to, but once He’s gotten you out, He wants to continue to keep you safe by hiding you within Himself.

For a long time I didn’t realize that I was in bondage to my own sin, I just thought that it was other people who needed to fix their problems and then my life would be perfect. I didn’t understand how deeply my own slavery to sin was a part of my life. But I have learned A LOT over the past year and have gained wisdom and insight that I before didn’t have. I’ve learned passing the blame doesn’t make things better, it just makes me bitterer and if I want to live a peaceful life and be able to love other people I need to accept the blame for my own sin. I can’t love others very well if I am busy blaming them for my sin.

Ephesians 1:8-9 – which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ

Because we are in Him, we have all the wisdom and insight we’ll ever need. Wisdom is basic life principles and insight is everyday practical knowledge of how things work. At a foundational human level, Jesus has taught of all we need to know in life.

When I first started coming to my church and getting involved, I was terrified. I thought I didn’t belong or that I wouldn’t be accepted. I felt like I didn’t understand anything. It seemed like everyone was so happy, and I didn’t know I wasn’t. I was terrified.

When Paul uses the word mystery in this verse, he is turning the word totally upside down from what people would’ve used it for during the 1st century. Back then, mystery referred to a secret society where you have to be initiated and welcomed in to have the inside knowledge of how it worked. That kind of reminds me of like a sorority. In college, I joined a sorority. It was my sister’s sorority and I was a legacy so they had no choice but to accept me. But generally, the sisters would decide whether or not they liked a person before inviting them in. I really didn’t understand much about it and I was a bit confused in the beginning. I wasn’t really sure if I fit in. Then there was initiation and after that the secrets were revealed to me and I realized I still felt like I didn’t fit in.

I am socially awkward…yup, I’ve admitted it. It’s out in the open now. I think this just might make social engagements even more awkward now that people KNOW I’m awkward. But I’m confessing it anyway because I am loved regardless because of who I am in Jesus Christ and not because of my social awkwardness.

I have, for about as long as I can remember, been terrified of social situations, of large crowds of people, of saying the wrong thing, and/or of doing the wrong. But I think this all boils down to the fact that I’ve ALWAYS been afraid of rejection. For me, rejection has always seemed like the worst type of pain imaginable.

So often, I have felt like I wasn’t a part of the “in crowd” because I didn’t understand or know the dynamics of the group or I wasn’t the same as everyone else (similar to how I felt with the sorority). But the cool thing is that in Heaven, none of that matters. Through Jesus bloodshed on the cross, the mystery is revealed to us and God invites everyone in. God doesn’t pick and choose who he likes, like a sorority does, and He doesn’t tell anyone their too broken to get in. Instead, if we accept Jesus and have faith in Him, we are invited into a new inner circle. There’s no need for social awkwardness here (oh, how I am looking forward to that day).

There’s a security in knowing that I am accepted by God. I am still painfully introverted, however, I’ve also learned to accept that it doesn’t matter what crowds I am or am not a part of because ultimately, I am a part of God’s crowd. I’ve been educated and initiated into His inner circle.

Ephesians 1:10 – as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

Christ IS God’s plan. It is through Him that God is bringing everything together.

My pastor taught us all a cool new word yesterday that I’d never heard before: danuma. It means the resolution of all things. I like it 😉 Jesus is the danuma. He is the resolution. Every story needs to have an ending and if the ending doesn’t make any sense, the story wouldn’t be very good. God doesn’t write bad stories, so His story ends with Jesus bringing everything together in Him.

This concept of everything coming together for good seems to be showing up quite frequently for me lately. Which I am glad about because I truly need the reminder right now. It is extremely comforting for me to know everything will come together in Him and for His glory. But the truth everything is coming together in Christ should leave us in awe at wonder of Him.

Other people should be able to see Him in our lives. Before I was a Christian, I thought all those Christian people had perfect lives that were neat and put together and that they never had any problems. Boy, was I wrong!! Our lives are just as messy and broken as the lives of non-Christians, but the difference is that because of Jesus Christ, we have a hope and joy that they don’t. We always want other people to see us doing good things, but we also need to let them see us fail as well. People need to know that we’re human just like they are and that we fail too.

Bottom line of all this: there is refuge in Christ and it is only being protected in Him that will get us through whatever we’re facing. We are not perfect, in fact we are pretty far from it, but in Him, we are loved and protected and He will never leave us.


For HIS Glory

Just a few days ago, Robert and I got word that a friend of ours had taken his own life. And our Sunday school lesson this morning seemed to hit right on the pain and anger I’ve been feeling.

I don’t know all of the specifics of the incident or why he felt like that was his only option. What I do know though, is the pain that is left in the aftermath of his death. He left behind a young wife and their two young children. And my heart breaks for them. He left behind many, many friends who were like family and who loved him very much. This is a terrible tragedy that really has had me upset about God’s sovereignty. It’s one of those times where I’ve just wanted to cry out, “God, if you could’ve stopped this…why didn’t you?” But I know it’s not my place to question God (although I still do it quite often).

Through this, I have watched my husband and some of our closest friends experience pain and sadness that just seems so unnecessary. It’s a reminder that we live in a fallen world and of just how desperately we all need Jesus.

I’ve been talking with a few close friends about the things I’ve been feeling regarding the situation. I feel guilty for not loving him and his family enough and not sharing the love of Christ with them. I feel confused about why I’m hurting so much about it when I didn’t know him very well, my husband is the one who was close to him. I feel angry that this had to happen.

But I have had some wonderful, Godly friends pour many words of wisdom into my life about God’s sovereignty and love for us. One sweet friend pointed me to Psalm 56:8 – You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book. That same friend also reminded me that God has a plan for us all. God’s plan is for good. My friend’s suicide was not a part of His plan; however He was not surprised by it. He knew it would happen and His heart is breaking right along with mine. God is not emotionless, He hurts when we hurt. He doesn’t like to see His children living in such pain and chaos.

Another friend reminded that all I can do is trust God and be light and salt to those around me who are hurting, that maybe God is going to use this situation to bring everyone involved closer to Him.

Then one of the main take away points of this morning’s Sunday school lesson was that God is still sovereign and use all human action for His purpose.

Humans do stupid things, we are sinful by nature. And yet, God can still take all of those evil things that we do and use them for good, to glorify Him. Now THAT is a powerful God.

I reminded this morning of child-like faith. In discussing this lesson with my 5th and 6th grade class, their child-like innocence and adoration of God blew me away. Their simple faith and trust in Him was a gentle reminder of just how good He is.

Romans 8:28 – And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.

Ephesians 1:11 – Furthermore, because we are united with Christ, we have received an inheritance from God, for he chose us in advance, and he makes everything work out according to his plan.

I can already see how God is using this great tragedy for His glory. The pain is still there, and it will take time for it to heal. But this is one wound that I’m not going to let fester. I am giving it over to God and letting Him show me what to do with the pain and allowing Him to heal me. It will all work out for His glory, whether I can see that or not.


Loving the Unlovable

Let’s face it, we’re not very lovable. And by we, I mean the whole human race. We’re cruel, bitter, resentful, angry, hurtful, and whole other slew of adjectives that I could use to describe us. Even on our best days, we’re still pretty crummy people. Even when we think we’re pretty good, we’re not!

Isaiah 64:6 – We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall, and our sins sweep us away like the wind.

We are all sinners, I don’t care how good of a person you think you are, you’re still a sinner (I’m sorry if that sounds judgmental. I’m not judging, I’m just stating the truth). God is so perfect and holy that He can’t even be the in the presence of our ugly sinfulness. We all have days where everything is going right, we’ve done great, productive, helpful things, we’ve served others, and we feel like we’ve made a great difference in the world. And we need to remember, that even on those great days, we are still infected with sin and still not good enough to get into heaven.

Now, don’t get me wrong here. I’m not saying we’re all horrible people and there’s no hope for us so we might as well just give up now. On the contrary, what I’m saying is the exact opposite. What I’m saying is that we are sinners and without justification for our sins, we can never be right in the sight of God. That justification comes from our faith and belief in Jesus Christ.

Romans 5:1 – Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

In small group we’ve been studying 1 John and last night the passage really struck me. At first, when I read it I was thinking about how it really applied to some people in my life. But then, as we were discussing it I had a shockingly convicting realization that it applied to me as well (talk about a damaged ego and a harsh reminder of my selfishness).

1 John 2:9-11 – 9 Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. 10 Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. 11 But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

So going back to my initial statement in this post, we are not lovable. I have quite a few people in my life who I tolerate and I “love” them when I have to. But it’s not real, unconditional love. It’s an “I really don’t know what to say or how to act because I don’t want to be mean, so I’m just going to pretend” kind of love. And I’m pretty sure that kind of love is frowned upon. We can say that we know Christ all we want and we can have a lot of really good theological knowledge, but unless we love others we are just blowing smoke.

Verse 11 sacres me, the thought of becoming so desensitized to my own sin that I can’t even see where I am headed…it makes me shudder. It’s really easy to convince myself that I shouldn’t have to go out of my way or be inconvenienced by loving someone who I can’t stand and who admittedly doesn’t want much to do with me. But that’s exactly what God calls us to do…and to be honest, I wish it weren’t so dang hard!!

Matthew 5:46 – For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?

One thing that really struck me during our small group discussion last night was that it’s either love or hate. There is no grey area in this one. There are a lot of things that are not clear cut and black and white. I generally see this world as having a lot of grey area, so to acknowledge that there are things that are only black and white kind of scares me. Ultimately though, it’s pretty simple, if you are not loving someone, if you only “like” them or claim to be indifferent to them – you are hating them. If you are avoiding someone, don’t want good for someone, or want evil for someone, you are hating them.

We’re pretty unlovable, and yet God still love us unconditionally. So what’s stopping us from loving other people?

Early in my Christian walk, when I realized that I am supposed to love as Christ loved, I was really kind of offended in a way. I was angry that I was supposed to love as Christ loved because He was perfect and I am not so much, so how could I EVER be expected to love as He loved?

Galatians 2:20 – I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

I am not perfect like Him and I won’t be until He brings me home. However, it is no longer me who lives but He who lives in me. So where I once couldn’t do things like love others, I now can because of His spirit inside of me. I have the power to love people who drive me bonkers and to share Christ with people who I would really rather not. Why? Because He first loved me. I know enough about myself that I am pretty unlovable, and somehow, He loves me anyway. It’s not about me anymore, but rather about sharing His love with everyone else.

So what’s my excuse? Ultimately, I don’t have one. I am lazy and selfish…which is just another reminder of how much I need Christ.


Who am I: A Child of God

Leaving church yesterday, I couldn’t help but think: “Really? Did that just happen?” That was the perfect sermon for what I was feeling and I felt like the pastor was speaking directly to me.

One of the first things my pastor said in his sermon yesterday was, “We all have a ‘father wound,’ even if you had a good dad.” I know I have “father wound.” My dad wounded me deeply by his absence. Nearly everyone who knows me knows my story about not knowing my dad. Just before my 24th birthday I met the man. It was the first time I realized just how much his absence in my life had hurt me and how angry I was with him for not being there. But that’s not what this post is about.

What I guess I never really realized or thought about was that other people have that wound as well, whether their dad was there or not. I’m not alone in this one. We all have one thing in common: our earthly dads were not perfect and have failed us. But we also have a Heavenly Father who wants to show us that He is the perfect Father that we’ve always longed for. He is the only Father who will never fail us.

God loves us because of His love alone and not because we are lovable. Think about that one for a minute and just let that sink in. Even though I know it, when I heard that yesterday I was kind of taken aback; we need to remind ourselves of that from time to time because we ALL often fall into thinking we can earn His love.

Ephesians 1:3, 6 – Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places… to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.

We don’t bless God to win His favor, God blessed us and we bless Him in return. He loves us and praises us as His children, not because of anything we have done.

I think the idea of being loved and blessed by God, without being able to do anything to earn it, is a hard concept for us to grasp. We, so often, get it backwards, thinking that if we praise Him enough and live lives that are holy enough, if we live lives that are pleasing to Him, only then will He bless us and give us grace (I thought this way for a LONG time and had all but given up on being a “good enough” person because I knew I could never measure up).

He doesn’t love us because we are lovable; He loves us because we are His.

1 John 3:1 – See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.

It seems that I have come across this subject in a few places in the past week. It is something I think I need to really meditate on. I can’t earn God’s grace. A sweet friend told me last week of something that she had heard stated by Tim Keller (and that has been said by many others); that we can’t be joyfully obedient to God before we have experienced grace. Experiencing God’s grace gives us the desire to change and to follow Him in obedience.

We only live holy lives because of His grace. This might sound cold and close minded, but it doesn’t matter how good of a person you are, whether you are a murderer or a loving, kind person who helps other people, if you haven’t accepted Christ as your Lord and Savior and haven’t placed your faith in Him, you are not going to have eternal life in Heaven with Him.

Ephesians 1:4 – even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.

If our identity is in Christ, we are holy and blameless before God, ONLY because of Christ, not because of anything we have done on our own. He didn’t choose us because we were righteous, He chose us to make us righteous.

Before we experience grace and His transforming power in our lives, all the law can do for us is point out what sinners we are. In my experience, that’s one reason why I never thought I could ever be a Christian, because I could never as good as “those people”. I now know that “those people” are just a bad as me, the only difference is that they had experienced God’s grace in their lives. Once I experienced His grace, the Holy Spirit began transforming my life. My desires that were once hurtful and angry turned into desires to help others and do what was right. I started wanting to share the grace and love that He had given me.

I need to remember though that the change is ongoing. I will not become perfect overnight. I am a continuous work in progress and I will be until I am home with my Heavenly Father.

I think that many of us fall into the line of thinking that once we are saved, everything will be perfect. But we are wrong there. There are MANY, MANY verses that talk about suffering and that you will suffer and experience pain in this life; what’s important is how you deal with that pain. Salvation is punctiliar. It happens once by making the choice to trust in Him. However, it doesn’t end there. Just because you accepted His grace for your salvation doesn’t mean that you have to then start earning it.

We have to trust in His grace for our Salvation but we also have to trust in His grace to continue to get us through the rest of our lives. We need to trust what He says about us, that we are His children and He loves us in spite of ourselves. But at the same time, we can’t ignore that the sin is there. We need to let Him guide us through it.

You cannot heal from sin by focusing on the sin, but by acknowledging that God still loves you through it. Don’t work on your sin to get to God, but let God in and work on your sin with Him.

Whatever my problems are in life, whether they are personal, physical, spiritual, marital, emotional, etc. I need to always come back to the same point: the Gospel. I need to come back to His love for me and focus on that. From there I can learn things I didn’t know or understand that can help me; but without the basic understanding of how much He loves me, I will never be able to produce and lasting transformation.

Ephesians 1:5 – …In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,

We have all chosen rebellion, but He still chooses to adopt us as His children. He knows our past, present and future. He is in control of it. My life is about what God has done in me, it’s not really about me.

John 6:44 – No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.

It’s almost eerie to think that we don’t even have control of our own salvation. We only come to salvation in Jesus Christ to begin with if God draws us in that direction. Apparently, the word used for “draws” in this verse is the same word used to describe dragging someone off to prison. That made me literally laugh out loud a bit because I feel like that is how I came to trust in Christ. I really didn’t want to and I fought, kicking and screaming, the whole way. I questioned everything and tried to find all the reasons NOT to have faith, but God had predestined me for adoption as His child and He wasn’t letting go. And I thank Him that He didn’t.

The purpose of predestination is adoption as His children.

Sometimes, I am still shocked by the knowledge that I am His child and He loves and delights in me. As someone who, until recently, never knew the love of a father, that is the main thing that He used to draw me to Him.


There’s Safety in Vulnerability

I’ve never really been a “people person”. In fact, whatever the opposite of that is, is what I’ve always been – until recently.

You see, my past is riddled with my failure to trust people because I always saw other people as the source of my pain and suffering. There are very few people that I have ever really trusted and even fewer that haven’t broken that trust. I had built up barriers around my heart that I was determined that no one, not even my own husband, would EVER be able to get through because I wasn’t going to risk having someone break my trust again. But in not trusting people, I was also not loving them and not letting them love me.

C.S. Lewis saying in his book Four Loves, “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.” This is where my heart has been for most of my life – locked away in a casket and concealed behind so many barriers that no one could ever reach it.

Or so I thought.

God sent someone into my life who would break down those barriers by showing me His love. After years of methodical and strategical planning and lying, my heart was protected, guarded, and safe; but in minutes God’s light broke into that darkness. And I was scared.

Someone once told me, “When you’re lost, you want to be comfortable.” Unless you’ve been lost, you may not understand this statement. But it is so true. Before I knew Christ, I was lost in the darkness of my own sin, but I was comfortable. I knew where the pain was and I avoided it, I knew how to get away from things that scared me, and I knew the perfect places to hide. I was lost, but it felt safe and comfortable.

God sent a strong, merciful, and loving woman into my life and somehow she was able to break through my barriers without words. My first instinct was to run. I was scared. When His light shown into my darkness, I was forced to enter into territory of my heart that had been untouched for years and I didn’t know how to deal with it. But at the point, there was no turning back.

After years of not trusting ANYONE, I trusted her. I let the barriers come down and honesty spilled out. I was faced with the truth of my past, of my life, and of my own sin. And I didn’t feel safe anymore. I felt overwhelmed, confused, broken, and out of control. And for the first time in my life, I exposed those feelings. For the first time, I let myself be transparent. I was learning that the only way the find safety amidst the confusion and brokenness was in Him and I dove in head first!

So I listened when she spoke to me and I trusted her advice; and I actually followed her advice. I confided in her and she loved me through my pain. She showed me that I could lean on Jesus and depend on God when I couldn’t find a way to do it on my own. She prayed for me and with me. She showed me love when I thought no one could love me. She showed me that it is ok to be vulnerable and it is only in being vulnerable that I could truly experience love.

And because God sent her into my life to break down my barriers, I have been able to reveal the true me to other people. I have been able to step out of my comfort zone and into the arms of my savior. I have found safety in vulnerability.

Matthew 14:28-33 – 28 And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29 He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Just like Peter, I have heard Him call to me, stepped out of the boat, gotten scared, started sinking, and then He reached out for me. I think that passage perfectly depicts my venture into trusting Him. I want to trust Him in everything I do. I want to depend on Him and know that He will provide for me. However, I get scared and fear keeps me from fully following His will. But even when I fail and I fall, He still leans in with a gracious hand and pulls me back up.

In trudging through the “yuck” of my past I have found freedom, joy, and peace. I have become transparent with other people. I have learned how to love others and how to let others love me. I have seen, firsthand, the work of God in my life. None of this that I have done would have been remotely possible without Him.

My point in all of this is that even though hiding in the darkness feels comfortable and safe…it’s not! I’m here to tell you, from my experience, it only results in isolation and loneliness. It took A LOT of work and it meant a lot of tears and I had to face a lot of things from my past that I had promised myself that I would never think or speak about again. But it was worth it. God has gone every step with me and it’s only because He loves me enough to carry me and guide me through that I am able to say that I know what freedom is.

So now, I’m not afraid of trusting or loving people anymore. In fact, I’m more afraid of not loving enough; of not letting the love of Christ shine through me. I am now free to be transparent with others, to remove my masks and be myself. I am free to love and to be loved.

So here’s my advice: love everyone. You may be the one person that God has sent to break down someone’s barriers, that allows them to start trusting and loving Him. Also, don’t hide in the darkness. Darkness can’t thrive in light, so bring the darkness into God’s light and the darkness will flee.


The Significance of Insignificance

When you look, and I mean REALLY look at how big God is and everything He has done, it can make you feel pretty small and insignificant. And it rightfully should, I think. If we think we are useful to God and that He can do something with us, we’re useless to Him and He can’t use us. It’s only when we humble ourselves before God and admit to Him that we know we are useless without Him, that He can use us for His glory.Needle in a Haystack

Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about just how small I am in this HUGE world that we live in. There are billions of people on this earth and I am just one single person in a sea of many. It’s like the needle in a haystack analogy, and I feel like the needle. It’s hard to imagine HOW God can use me or WHY He would use me, when there are so many other, less broken, people to choose from.

In the midst of my thinking and wondering and contemplating, I came across Ephesians 2:10 – For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

This verse really caught my attention this morning. I don’t believe in coincidences; I think God sent me this verse for a very important reason. You see, I’ve really been struggling with my insignificance. I know I am just one person in this world and sometimes I forget that I really can make a difference. Sometimes I forget that God’s hands were hard at work in the making of my life. Sometimes I forget that He crafted me, like a piece of art. When I look in the mirror and see a flawed picture of what I should be, I am forgetting that when God looks at me He sees His flawless daughter; a daughter who He loves and who He created. When I accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior I gained a new identity in Him and now, when God looks at me, He doesn’t see the broken, flawed human being that I see – He sees Christ’s righteousness.

God has things planned for me; wonderful things that I am not aware of, nor can even fathom. God is using my brokenness and insignificance to bring glory to Himself by giving me the strength and courage to share that with other people. Over the last few weeks I have had a handful of people tell me how I have encouraged them, and I am always taken aback when I hear that. I always think, how could little old broken me be an encouragement to anyone? Then I am reminded by God’s Word that it is because of my brokenness that I am able to encourage others.

There’s a beautiful song that is constant reminder to of Who I belong to and how valuable I am to Him, even in my insignificance. Alexa Willis – You Are His.

My prayer for myself and for you is that we will let God work, through our brokenness, so that we can glorify Him; that we will reach out when we need help and stop suffering in silence; that we will love those around us and share our struggles; that we will depend on Him and seek only His will for our lives. But mostly, I pray that we will learn to live Ephesians 2:10 and that we will recognize that God made us His priceless work of art and He has a purpose for us. Are we willing to let Him use us? Are we willing to admit the significance of our insignificance?


A New Identity

When you wear a mask, you’re not trusting in God’s grace. When you accept Christ into your life as your Lord and Savior, you are given a new identity and no longer have any reason to wear a mask. This is what the sermon at church was about yesterday and it really encouraged me. So here I am to share my notes (all five pages) and some of my own thoughts with you.

Whether you are a Christian or skeptic and whether you are 10 years old or 100 years old, no matter where you are at in life, you’ve struggled with putting your identity in the things you’ve done and not in what has been done for you. But when we become Christians we become new creations,

2 Corinthians 5:17 – Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

You are not defined by the thing s you have done, but by what Christ has done for you. There is an awesome song that describes that: Tenth Avenue North – You Are More.

Because of Jesus death, we are given a new identity so that when God looks at us, He doesn’t see our ugly sinfulness – He sees Jesus’ righteousness. Often, we look around and see other Christians whose lives look immaculate and struggle-free. But we can’t see their hearts and we don’t know what kind of sins they are hiding. I’m only fooling myself if I think that no one else struggles the way I do.

I’m a sinner, but because of my new identity through Jesus Christ my sin isn’t standing between God and me, God has his arm around my shoulder and is walking through it with me. God is good.

So what does it mean to have a new identity – it means an authoritative identity, a noble identity, and a loved identity.

Authoritative Identity
Ephesians 1:1a – Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,

I think it is really interesting what the word ‘apostle’ really means – sent one. In the first century the word apostle was used to describe cargo that was sent with an official purpose. So Paul is an apostle, one who was sent with an official purpose, by the will of God. It’s important to note that the One sending is more important than the one being sent.

God has given you and me the same authoritative identity that Paul had. We may not be apostles in the sense that we are called the write books of the Bible, but as Christians we are still sent one “official business” to share the Good News that we are only new creations because of what Jesus Christ has done.

I think Paul’s testimony is an awesome one. He was killing Christians until God “knocked some sense into him” and showed Paul that he belonged to God. My story may not be as dramatic or as obvious as Paul’s, but I was headed in one direction with my life until God stopped me and said, “No, Jacquie. You belong to me.”

So ultimately, it comes down to a choice – will I decide to accept the authoritative identity and the powerful message He has given me and take it to make a difference in the world? Or will I choose to keep the message to myself and ignore the authority I have?

Noble Identity
Ephesians 1:1b – To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus:

Saint means holy, set apart, sanctified.

Have you ever thought of yourself as a saint? I know I never have. I always thought that saints were these holy people who were WAY better than me. But once you put your identity in Christ, you are a saint.

As a child of God, I am set apart, He has made me holy. But being holy doesn’t mean I don’t sin, it simply means that He is with me and we are walking through my sin together. It’s nice that I don’t have to go at it alone.

God wants me to do great things, that’s what He made me for. He has set me apart for a beautiful purpose. Often times though, I find myself wishing that my life was more glorious than it really is. I want to be “awesome” for God. But I have to remind myself (quite frequently) that if I think that I am of any use to God, He can’t use me. But how wonderful is it that He wants to use me anyway. Even if He is using me in ways that I don’t see or understand, He is still using me for His glory and His greater purpose.

Loved Identity
Ephesians 1:2 – Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Grace is unmerited favor and peace is reconciliation, and God gives both of those. Both of which we don’t deserve. If we believe that our identity is found only in Christ, then we should see God as our Father. God is a perfect Father and He loves in a way that we can never really comprehend.

We have an internal thought of how things should be; what shalom is like. The only reason we have that is because God planted that in us. I had a horrible dad growing up, he just wasn’t there. But how did I know that he was a crummy dad? I knew because, in my heart, I had a knowledge of what a perfect Father should be like (whether I knew that or not). God is that perfect Father. And while my dad and I are on good terms now and we have been reconciled, he’s still not perfect. God is the only perfect Father.

God loves me to a point that I can never understand. I mean, He sacrificed His Son for me…it still blows me away. I am a sinner, and yet He still loves me and gives me so much grace. Without His grace I couldn’t make it through my life. Thank God for grace!

If you don’t believe that God loves you, you’re not a Christian. So come on in. It’s nice in here. Let God love you, it’ll be the greatest thing you ever did.

 

Personally, I thought it was bit intense that an entire sermon could be created from two verses…and a powerful sermon at that. This sermon was just one of many things that really blessed and encouraged me yesterday. I was encouraged by attending the baptism for my church and watching a few of the kids from my Sunday school class get baptized. It blows me away to see these young kids making a profession of faith in front of a bunch of people. I was encouraged by the support of a few great friends whose support and prayer is priceless.

I get caught up in my old identity so much. I get stuck thinking I am not as good as my Christian friends because I am sinner, but the truth is, I only sin differently than them. We all have a new identity in Christ that removes our old identity. And yet, we all still truggle with letting our sins define who we are. That is one of the many reasons that we need each other – to remind each other where our new identity comes from.


Christian Thoughts from Alice in Wonderland

Last night Robert and I watched Alice in Wonderland (the Johnny Depp version) with some great friends and few things really stuck out to me in this movie. I know that is it not a Christian movie, but there are definitely some Christian themes going on there. But mostly, what really stuck out was a statement the White Queen made to Alice as she was deciding whether or not to fight the jabberwocky (I am really impressed that Microsoft Word recognized that as a word and told me how to spell it, HAHA).

“The choice must be yours. But when you step out to face the creature, you won’t step out alone.”

I love how this statement correlates so much to Christianity. It seems to epitomize one of the most important things I have learned over the course of the last year.

The choice must be yours; God won’t force you to follow Him.If you want to be separated from the Father, He’ll let you be separated. He won’t force His way into our lives and He won’t guilt us into loving Him. He will wait until we invite Him in before He will enter.

Romans 1:24 – Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves,

Whatever we want to put first in our lives, God will let us. Not because He wants to, but because He loves us and He wants us to choose Him amidst all the chaos of this world. Forcefully following God is like the people who followed the Red Queen in Alice in Wonderland, not because they loved her but rather because they didn’t want to die. God doesn’t want us to come to Him just to escape Hell. He wants us to come to Him in acknowledgement that we are useless without Him and that we need Him.

If we want separation from Him, He will give us that, eternally.

But when you step out to face the creature, you won’t step out alone; God will always be with us. When you have to step out into the darkness of life, God will be there to light your way.

Hebrews 13:5-6 – Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”

There are so many Bible verses that talk about how God will never leave us, but I think that is something we often forget. When we have to step out and face a creature of own, we forget that God is right there and that we aren’t stepping out alone.

Deuteronomy 31:6 – Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”

This is where I find my hope, in knowing that He is ALWAYS with me, no matter what I am doing. I may be pretty weak on my own, but with Him, I can do anything.


I’m Just a Mom

I don’t have designer clothes; half the time I can’t even make it through one day without getting something spilled on my clothes. I don’t wear makeup; what’s the point when it’ll probably just get smudged or wiped off. I don’t know how to “do my hair”; I can do a pony tail or messy bun, that’s sufficient for me. I don’t know what’s on TV, what movies are playing, what actors are famous, or who is popular at the time; however, I do know what my kid’s favorite cartoons and books are. I don’t watch TV, I don’t even have cable; but I do read a lot.

Most of my days are spent playing, cooking, cleaning, and teaching. I get to spend my days with two of the cutest little people I’ve ever encountered. Three and (almost) two are fun ages. They are so absorbent and they pick on everything. Even things I don’t want them to. They think everything is funny. They want to help me clean and cook and generally end up making a bigger mess than I started with, but it’s so fun to watch them try. They are innocent, precious, and carefree. And I couldn’t be happier than to watch them grow and mature every day.

I’ve really been struggling lately with the kind of parent I am. I love them and would give them anything that it is in my power to give them. But the most important thing I want to give them is teaching them to love Jesus. I often feel like I’ve failed. When they have a day where they won’t listen and they’re running my ragged, I just want to throw in the towel…but I don’t, I love them too deeply to consider that. God entrusted me with these two little girls; He trusts me to make the right decisions for them, to protect them, to care for them, to nurture them, to teach them, to lead them, to show the grace…the list goes on. It’s kind of intimidating in a way, to recognize that God trusts me this much, that He gave me these gifts…even after all I’ve done.

Sometimes I get caught up in what the world sees in me – I’m just a mom, I’m not cool or popular, I’m not stylish, I’m not famous, I’m not classy, I’m only kind of smart. But what my kids see when they look at me is so much more than that – I am their mom, I am the most popular person in their lives, I am famous and brilliant. They see me through eyes of dependence and innocence; the eyes of a child that have yet to be distorted by the world.

I want to protect them from everything. I never want them to hurt. But the truth is they will hurt and I’m not loving them if I don’t let them experience pain. What I need to do, as a loving parent, is teach them how to endure pain and who to turn to when they are hurting. I need to teach them that God is the only One who can heal them.

1 Peter 3:17 – For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.

I have expectations for myself in being a mom, and most of time I can’t measure up to them. But the good news is that I am the only one with these expectations. Because in reality, the only expectation God has of me is to trust Him and depend on Him. His grace alone is what gets me through and I need to share that with my kids.

So for now, I’m just a mom, and I’m okay with that.


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