Faith

God Can Work Through Anyone

Do you really believe God is in control?

I know, we all SAY that we believe that, but do we really? If the past election season is any indication, the answer to that would have to be a resounding no.

I am 44 years old, and I have never seen so many people descend into hysteria and ugly behavior like I did during and after the 2016 election. Sure, I’d seen people upset before about the outcome of an election, and let’s face it, there have been some pretty ugly presidential campaigns in the past where feelings ran high.

When Anxiety is Contagious

But 2016 was different. I found myself becoming fearful and anxious. There was a feeling of desperation that seemed to hang over everyone like some awful spiritual smog.

I found myself coming again and again to Psalms 146.

I wish now, I had been reading through the stories of the kings. During this time, the nation of Israel had split, with two of the 12 tribes becoming Judah and the rest becoming Israel. There was no love lost between the now split kingdom, and they often fought each other, spilling blood and destroying the land which God had given them all.

The leadership under which the people found themselves was lacking, too. Judah had a few good kings, but while many started out well, they tended not to end well for a variety of reasons. (You can read about King Joash, King Amaziah and King Uzziah to find out more).

A Kingdom Without Hope

Israel’s track record wasn’t any better and was actually much worse. All their kings seemed to have the phrase “he did evil in the sight of the Lord” after their introductions to the throne.

Things seemed pretty grim and the hope that anything would change seemed dim. The glory days of King David and King Solomon seemed very distant. I’m sure a lot of the Jewish people wondered where God was, and even more of them had lost sight of God all together. They were too busy bowing down to false idols.

But tucked into 2 Kings 14 between the stories of two of Judah’s kings, Amaziah and Uzziah, we find a nugget of hope and evidence that despite the bad leadership and the people’s sinful ways, God was still on the throne and still sovereign.

God Steps Into the Void

In 2 Kings 14:23, it says, “In the fifteenth year of Amaziah the son of Joash king of Judah, Jeroboam, the son of Joash king of Israel (2 different Joashes here) became king in Samaria and reigned forty-one years.”

Jeroboam was no different than his predecessors and has the same tag line after his intro  – that he did evil in the sight of the Lord. And yet, the following verses are not about his destruction or the further destruction of Israel. Check out what it says instead.

“He restored the border of Israel from the entrance of Hamath as far as the Sea of the Arabah, according the word of the Lord, the God of Israel, which He spoke through Hiss ervant Jonah the son of Amittai, the prophet, who was of Gath-hepher. For the Lord saw the affliction of Israel which was very bitter for there was neither bond or free now was there any helper for Israel. The Lord did not say that He would blot out the name of Israel from under the heavens, but He saved them by the hand of Jeroboam the son of Joash.” 2 Kings 15:25-27

While I’m sure God would have preferred to work through a king that followed Him, He had promised not to wipe out Israel. The Israelites were doing a good job of trying to wipe themselves out, but God was still in control. While things seemed hopeless and the king seemed less than ideal, God still used Jeroboam to accomplish His purposes.

In Proverbs 21:1 it says, “The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the LordHe turns it wherever He wishes.”

God is Bigger Than Circumstances

No matter what circumstances look like and no matter what human has attained apparent control, no person can thwart the will of God. As believers, we can trust in God’s sovereignty and His goodness. No matter how much evidence seems to point to the contrary, God can use anyone to do His will  – even the unwilling or the wicked.

I don’t know about you, but that truth eases a lot of my anxiety. While life can feel out of control, God is always in control.

How about you? Have you been feeling anxious or helpless at the state of current affairs? Take heart because there is no safer place than in the palm of God’s hand.

When It’s Better To Be Broken

Admitting You Can’t Do It Is Actually a Good Thing

Have you ever had a task thrust into your lap and you felt totally unprepared? Maybe you have a child born with a disability you weren’t expecting. Maybe it was a ministry God called you to and you were wondering what He was thinking. Maybe it’s just life and feeling totally overwhelmed by the everyday. Whatever the cause, we have all had moments when we feel that there is just no way that we can do what is being asked of us. We feel our human brokenness keenly.

While nobody really likes feeling unable or broken, it’s actually a really good place to be in. Why would I say that? Well, it is when we are in this humbled position that we turn to the One who can help. Without our self-sufficiency and pride to get in the way, we leave God with an open door to step into our lives.

Because that’s the thing – we need God every day even when we think we’ve got it under control. 

A Young King Who Felt Unable

The last few weeks, I’ve been sharing some lessons we can all learn from the kings of Israel and Judah. You can read about King Joash and the importance of making your faith your own HERE, and you can read about King Amaziah and the importance of wholehearted devotion to God HERE.

Today, we are going to look at King Amaziah’s son, Uzziah. You can find his story in 2 Chronicles 26 and a more abbreviated version in 2 Kings 15:1-6. Don’t let the name change confuse you – Uzziah is called in 2 Chronicles, but he is referred to as Azariah in the version in 2 Kings.

Uzziah was only 16 years old when he became king, and he inherited the throne because his father was assassinated.  While a 16 year old in Biblical times  was much more of an adult than a 16 year old today, I’m sure Uzziah was overwhelmed with the task of becoming king. Uzziah was probably fearful, as well, since both his father and grandfather had been assassinated. Based on his own experiences, stepping onto the throne didn’t seem like the path to longevity.

God Came to a Young King’s Aid

Yet, here he was, king of a kingdom, so Uzziah did the only thing he could. He sought God.

He did right in the sight of the Lord according to all that his father Amaziah had done. He continued to seek God in the days of Zechariah, who had an understanding through the vision of God; and as long as he sought the Lord, God prospered him.” 2 Chronicles 26:4-5

God prospered King Uzziah and gave him victory in his battles. It says that God helped Uzziah against the Philistines (a long time enemy of the Israelites), the Arabians and the Meunites. Even the Ammonites gave him tribute.

God Did More Than Expected

In verse 8, it says, “his fame extended to the border of Egypt, for he become very strong.”

Not only did Uzziah conquer in battle, but he also built up the cities in his kingdom and God blessed him  with abundant livestock, fertile fields, and vineyards.

“He built towers in the wilderness and hewed many cisterns, for he had much livestock, both in the lowland and in the plain. he also had plowmen and vinedressers in the hill country and the fertile fields, for he loved the soil. 2 Chronicles 26:10

His army was one which everyone in the surrounding countryside admired and feared. They weren’t just fierce fighters either. His army had the best of gear, too, and he had skilled inventors who developed “engines of war.”

In verse 15, it says, “Hence his fame spread afar, for he was marvelously helped until he was strong.”

Uzziah realized he could not rule a kingdom alone, so he sought God, and God helped him.

A King Who Forgot Where His Success Came From

Unfortunately, once Uzziah became strong and well-known, he forgot where all that help came from.

“But when he became strong, his heart was so proud that he acted corruptly, and he was unfaithful to the Lord his God…” 2 Chronicles 26:16a

Instead of being thankful and remembering how he had gotten to this point in his life, Uzziah became puffed up with pride. He started to believe his own press. You’ll notice it says he acted corruptly and the result was that he was unfaithful to God. The reason for both those things was a proud heart. That pride became his downfall. 

Uzziah got to the point where he felt he was above God’s rules, and so he went in to burn incense in the temple. This was a big no-no. Only consecrated priests were supposed to burn incense to God.

A King Who Once Sought God, Now Runs

When he was confronted by a contingent of priests, instead of repenting, Uzziah became enraged. He had gotten so proud and full of his own importance, Uzziah didn’t even realize the danger he was in. That is, until he looked down at the hand holding the censer and saw that it was covered in leprosy.

“Azariah, the chief priest and all the priests looked at him, and he behold, he was leprous on his forehead; and they hurried him out of there, and he himself also hastened to get out because the Lord had smitten him.” 2 Chronicles 26:20

What a complete turn around – where once Uzziah had sought the Lord, now he was running from Him. All because of the pride that had corrupted his heart.

Uzziah’s rule started out the right way – a young man, overwhelmed by the burden of ruling a kingdom, sought God’s help. God helped him, but instead of being grateful, Uzziah started to believe his wealth and strength were through his own efforts and cleverness.

The Pitfalls of Pride

Proverbs 16:18 says, “Pride goes before destruction; and a haughty spirit before stumbling.” Pride is something that can so easily creep into our lives. It’s tentacles can wrap themselves around our hearts without our hardly realizing it. Like Uzziah, even God’s gifts can get twisted into something that turn our hearts away from Him and toward our own agendas and plans.

Uzziah had it all – prosperity, renown, and military strength. In his success, Uzziah seemed untouchable. Yet, all of that couldn’t save him when he turned from God, the very One who had brought him to such a place of achievement.

In the end, Uzziah’s pride cost him, not just his health and his leadership role. but also separated him from God.  

“King Uzziah was a leper to the day of his death; and he lived in a separate house, being a leper, for he was cut off from the house of the Lord.” 2 Chronicles 26:21

The sad thing is, this didn’t have to be Uzziah’s fate. He could have chosen to humble himself, rather than continue in his pride.

“Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time.”  I Peter 5:6

Rather than forcing God to humble us, let’s take the time to examine our own hearts and humble ourselves. The results are usually a lot less painful.

How about you – have their been areas where pride has crept into your life? Is that staunch self-sufficiency more about your pride? Do you insist on always being the helper and not the helped? Are you struggling with overwhelm because you are trusting your own understanding rather than leaning on God’s?

When Growth is Messy

I woke up this morning to the rumble of thunder and a nagging headache – a sure sign that the day would be dreary.

As I dodged raindrops running out to the car to take my youngest to school this morning, I shivered. It was supposed to be the first day of spring, yet it was cold, damp and dreary.  Definitely not what I think of when I hear the word spring.

The truth is, though, even though I’d like to think of spring as tulips and daffodils shyly opening their petals and gentle sunshine, that’s usually not what it is like here in Northwest Ohio. March, which heralds the start of spring, is a notoriously ugly month, weather-wise.

The grass is brown and soggy. Usually, you can find small clumps of grey, dirty snow which hasn’t quite disappeared yet, the pristine white sparkle long gone.

My backyard becomes a soupy mess of mud and the melting snow reveals all those times I didn’t get the yard pooper-scoopered.

Everything looks brown and wet and muddy and ugly, but something is going on that we can’t see just yet.

Before we can get to the trees budding out and the flowers opening their petals and the gentle sunlight, there needs to be rain and mud.

In the midst of all the messiness, growth is taking place. 

Growth, whether in nature or in our own lives, is messy and often not very pretty. I know, I want growth to fit neatly into my planner. I want to capture it in a perfect Instagram picture with just the right filter, but that isn’t the truth of things, is it?

Instead, on the surface of our lives is the mess, We find ourselves walking through the mud puddles of difficulty. We feel like we can’t find the light and everything is brown and rainy and dreary.

We can’t see what God is doing beneath the surface. We can’t see the root growth that needs to happen before the time of blooming.

 

But, if we can just pull on our rain boots and persevere through all the mud and messiness, we’ll see that growth. One day, the rain will stop, and we’ll see green shoots poking out of the still damp earth. Beautiful buds will appear that couldn’t have blossomed without the root growth that took place before.

How about you? Are you walking through a particularly messy or muddy time in your life? Does it seem like rain will be in your spiritual forecast forever? Take heart! God is doing the deep root growth in your life. The season of blooming is coming!

The Importance of Being Wholehearted

I stared at the words on my screen, horrified by what I was reading. Suddenly, I snapped back into reality, closing out the screen. I felt like I needed a scrub brush for the inside of my brain.

Bookbub sends me emails about free e-books, and I had opened a sample of one of those books to check it out before I downloaded it. I really love fantasy stories – particularly ones that take a new twist on fairy tales or legends, and this book was supposed to be a new take on Alice in Wonderland. Based on the obvious romance cover and word descriptions, I thought I better check out the sample before downloading it just to be on the safe side. After all, I didn’t want anything too racy in my reading queue. Unfortunately, I could never unsee what I had just read. Bleck!

A Little Compromise

During my college years and into my early 20s, I used to read romance novels. You know, the ones with that guy from I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter on the cover. I jokingly referred to them as brain candy because, after reading the difficult books required in my college classes,  being able to read something that required no thought was a relief. But like any candy, what I was reading wasn’t really good for me.

A few years after I graduated from college, God challenged me to read only Christian fiction for a year. Like a cleanse or detox, not reading those books for a year opened my eyes to just how much was in them that, as a believer, I shouldn’t be reading.

For the most part, I’ve avoided racy romances since then, recognizing that wasn’t what I should be putting in my mind and heart. So, when this yucky stuff came up in that sample, I found myself whining to God about it. I pointed out I was trying to be careful with what I was reading and I definitely hadn’t gone looking for that type of book!

In the midst of my whine-fest, God gently pointed out that if I was being wholehearted in my obedience, I wouldn’t have even checked out that sample.

See, I love a good story, and there are still a few romance authors who tell a great story with an intriguing plot and intelligent, funny heroines. I told myself that I would just skip over the racy parts. I was an adult. I could handle it. But by allowing compromise in this one area, I had opened myself up to the absolute garbage that had popped up on my sample screen.

When We Don’t Start With a Whole Heart

In the Bible, during the time of the kings, this not following God with a whole heart was also a problem. It led to all kinds of unhappy endings.

We talked about Joash and his inability to follow God when he no longer had his mentor with him. (You can read about him HERE). His son Amaziah also started out well, but in 2 Chronicles 25:2, it says, “He did right in the sight of the Lord, yet not with a whole heart.”

That lack of wholehearted devotion to God got Amaziah in a whole heap of trouble. He started out doing well. While he put to death the assassins who killed his father, he did NOT kill their children. This was actually following the Law of Moses. Score one for Amaziah.

He then went out and battled Edom and won very convincingly. Score 2 for Amaziah.

However, in the process of defeating Edom and taking the spoils of war, Amaziah also brought home a few idols. Maybe he thought they were worth something, or maybe he convinced himself they demonstrated fine craftsmanship. Whatever the reason, he brought the idols into his home and ended up bowing down to them.

After his big victory and then turning his eyes from God to powerless idols, Amaziah started to get a bit full of himself. He set his sights on Israel this time. During this time, the Israelites had split into two kingdoms: Judah and Israel. The king of Israel at that time, King Jehoash, told Amaziah to be happy with the victories over Edom, enjoy his glory, and go home.

In 2 Kings 14:11, it says, “But Amaziah would not listen.”

Not Being Wholehearted Leads To Unhappy Endings

Because Amaziah had started worshiping false idols, God allowed him to be defeated. He ended up getting captured and the temple was ransacked.

Amaziah lived 15 years after this stunning defeat. He ended up losing his life just as his father did – by assassins who chased him down.

“From the time that Amaziah turned away from  following the Lord, they conspired against him in Jerusalem, and he fled to Lachish; but they sent after him to Lachish and killed him there.” 2 Chronicles 25:27

A Lesson We Can Learn

I find the stories of the kings to be fascinating and frustrating. Why in the world would you turn to a false god (ones that often required horrible things like child sacrifice) when you had the power of the Almighty God on your side? It seems so silly.

But then I look at my own life. I see the areas where I am not wholehearted. I see the areas where I allow other things to become more important than God in my life.

Idols are not just statues made of precious metals or wood or stone. Idols are anything that push God from the number one place in our hearts.

When I am not wholehearted, it opens me up to things I wouldn’t have even encountered if my obedience had been complete and not compromised.

Are there areas of your life where you aren’t wholehearted? The story of Amaziah shows us that it’s worth checking the state of our hearts.

WHO IS YOUR FAITH REALLY IN?

When my grandmother passed away when I was pregnant with my first son, I knew I was in trouble. See, my grandmother was one of those people who didn’t just say she was praying for you. She actually did.

Not that I wasn’t blessed with others who prayed for me (specifically, my parents), but she was a prayer warrior. Maybe you have one of those in your own life – that person who goes to battle daily on her knees.

A Tough Beginning

Joash had someone he relied on too – to guide him, to direct him, to point him in the right direction.

You can find the story of Joah in 2 Kings 11-12 (here he is called Jehoash) and also in 2 Chronicles 22:10 – 24:26. Unfortunately for Joash, his grandmother wasn’t like mine. In fact, once her own son was dead, Athaliah decided to kill off all her grandchildren so she could have the throne. I know – nice right?

A quick thinking aunt saved Joash by hiding he and his nurse in a bedroom. She then sneaked him into the temple where Athaliah wouldn’t find him.

It’s at this point that Joash comes under the guardianship of his mentor, the priest Jehoiada. Jehoiada did more than just watch over little Joash. When the little boy turned seven, Jehoiada organized a coup and overthrows Queen Athaliah and the army captains put her to death.

When he turned 7 years old, little Joash became king when the priest, Jehoiada, organizes a coup and overthrows Queen Athalia by putting her to death. He then sets Joash on the throne as the rightful heir and king.

 

Life as King

Spending his formative years in the tabernacle had a profound influence on Joash, and he and the priest Jehoiada had a close bond. Once Joash became king, he was obviously too young to really rule at the age of 7, so Jehoiada was right there to advise him and guide him. Joehoiada even procured two wives for Joash when the boy king came of age.

One of the things Joash was remembered for was restoring the Temple. During previous reigns of his own father and his less than loving grandmother, the house of the Lord had been vandalized. Sacred objects had been used for profane purposes. So, Joash decided to gather the priests and Levites back together and restore the temple.

I’ve this part of the story before, and I have read the stories of the kings of Israel and Judah. Yet, I missed these words that appear in both 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles.

“Joash did what was right int he sight of the Lord all the days of Jehoiada the priest.” 2 Chronicles 24:2

“Jehoash did right int he sight of the Lord all his days in which Jehoiada the priest instructed him.” 2 Kings 12:2

Did you notice it too? Joash did the right thing as long as Jehoiada was around to instruct him. Maybe it’s because my son is college-aged, or maybe it’s because God continues to show me and teach me and grow my faith even at the age of 44, but it hit me that while mentors and discipleship is important, our faith shouldn’t be wrapped up in a person – no matter how wonderful that person is.

Leaning Too Hard

Joash became a king at the age of 7. Nobody would argue that he needed some help, guidance and instruction. But apparently, Joash continued to lean on Jehoiada for his faith, his knowledge and knowing what was the right thing to do.

Maybe Jehoiada was also culpable. Maybe he got so used to being Joash’s guide and helper, he didn’t realize he was crippling the young king.

This lesson can be applied in so many different ways – as a parent, as a mentor, as a spiritual leader.

Personally, I am seeing it large and upclose in my role as a parent. It is so easy to keep stepping in and guiding when we should be stepping back and taking our hands off the wheel. You think that it will get easier once your child graduates from high school, but those early adult years can be some of the most challenging – mostly because you have to stay silent when you want to speak and you have to be still when you want to intervene.

Joash’s story shows us the importance of allowing that child, that mentee, that person you are discipling to step up and out. While Joash’s story began well, it doesn’t end well.

In 2 Chronicles 24:17, it says, “But after the death of Jehoiada the officials of Judah came and bowed down to the king, and the king listened to them.”

In the void that Jehoiada’s death left, Joash turned to other counselors – ones that weren’t quite so wise. Sadly, in verse 18, it says, “They abandoned the house of the Lord, the God of their fathers, and served the Asherim and the idols so the wrath came upon Judah and Jersualem for this their great guilt.”

Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada, was a prophet and God sent him with a message about how displeased God was with Joash’s behavior. In a truly tragic irony, Joash had Zechariah stoned.

Jehoiada offered Joash sanctuary and made him a king. In turn, Jehoiada’s son, Zechariah got no mercy from the king whom his father saved.

“Thus Joash the king did not remember the kindness which his father Jehoiada had shown him but murdered his son.” 2 Chronicles 24:22

Joash appeared like a good, strong king, but when his prop, Jehoiada, died, it became obvious that the wisdom and strength he had weren’t really his own. He had placed his trust in a mortal man, and in the end, it ruined him.

Is there a relationship where you need to step back? Or maybe, you are on the other side of the equation, and you are leaning too heavily on a parent, a mentor, a friend when you should be leaning on God. It’s time to stop relying on a person and start relying on Someone who will never leave you, never forsake you, and always has the right answers.

When You Want to Quit

I am so excited and honored that Amelia Rhodes asked me to guest post on her blog this week (go visit!!). She recently published the book, Pray A to Z: A Practical Guide to Pray for Your Community. It is all about prayer and praying for others. Sometimes, the needs of the world around us can seem overwhelming, so I love that this book showcases a very practical way to intercede for others.

However, her readers told her they were unsure of how to pray for things they had never experienced. One of those things was the devastating effects of suicide. Since I’ve shared publicly about my journey through grieving my brother who took his life in July 2015, she reached out to ask me to share my story. I was more than willing to do that.

The thing is, though, I had planned to kind of re-haul this blog. I wanted to make it easier for you to find things other than the most recent posts. I’ve been offering the same little printable to readers who sign up on my email list, but I really wanted to offer something of more substance that my readers might find more useful. I had planned on working on those things in the month of January, but then sickness hit our house.

Once we were all mostly back on our feet, suddenly it was the end of the quarter at school. I not only had to get things wrapped up for one quarter, but I had to prep the following quarter, too.  I also had a fairly large newsletter due, and I had an article that was due.

All these things needed to be done in about a week’s time, and  I was feeling all kinds of frustrated and overwhelmed.

And behind – always behind!

The other morning, it just all seemed like too much. I was in my prayer time, and I just started crying, telling God I just couldn’t do ALL. THE. THINGS. I asked God if he REALLY wanted me to be more purposeful and intentional with this blog while also writing children’s books and teaching middle schoolers English and keeping up my household and nurturing my relationships because it just seemed like too much. Impossible.

As I prayed about this (okay, whined a bit too, if I’m honest), my eyes fell on my open Bible. I’ve been reading Chip Ingram’s book, The Real God and meditating on the Scriptures in each chapter. So, I had my Bible open to Galatians 5:16, 17, and I had been reading about the flesh and the spirit – totally different topic.

As I waited for God to respond to my pleas, my eyes were drawn across the page to Galatians 6:9, and I started crying all over again.

God reminded me that all He was asking me to do was to be faithful – to faithfully use the time I had set aside for my writing and let Him worry about the results.

He reminded me of my word for this year – CONTEND. 

The thing is by nature, I’m not much of a fighter. It’s easier to give up when things get a overwhelming and difficult. That’s what I wanted to do this morning – to let it go. To make excuses and justify giving up because it wasn’t like I didn’t have a job and a home and family to take care of. It all seemed TOO HARD, and kind of impossible.

But God doesn’t call us to do the impossible in one big swoop. He calls us to being faithful in the small, daily steps of obedience. Those small steps eventually add up to a much bigger whole than we can imagine when we are in the trenches of the everyday.

Sometimes, it’s so easy to forget that my job is just to do the work.

Have you been feeling overwhelmed lately? What small step can you take today to continue on the path God has called you to? I’d love to hear about it!

Life Never Goes As Planned

Best Laid Plans

I had this really great post all written out about my word for the year- CONTEND. I was going to tell you all about how I ordered my first set of Power Sheets (you can find them HERE) and how helpful they were in pinpointing some lies and a few deep-seated fears I was carrying around. Fears like the idea that maybe success would end up being too hard to keep and lies like financial success was somehow wrong or selfish or would make me less spiritual.

I also wrote about how I found my word through using another resource – Arabah Joy’s Grace Goals, a 5-day, Scripturally-based study on setting goals (you can find that HERE). I wrote about how the verse Deuteronomy 2:24 hit me like a mac truck and my word for the year was tucked into the text.

I wrote about how Moses was instructing the Israelites right before they went in to claim the Promised Land. I had all kinds of great points about how claiming the Promised Land wasn’t easy, and the Israelites had to fight or contend for the blessing God promised them.

I even found this picture that I loved to make my word of the year graphic. (I’m still planning on printing it out and hanging it somewhere near my writing area). I had this great statement of faith of how I was going to contend for my promised land and live out all that God had for me.

 

 

And then I got sick.

For almost 2 weeks, I dragged myself around, barely able to do the basics. I took 2+ hour naps almost every day. The goals and dreams I had carefully prayed over and written down with colorful markers were set aside.

It’s halfway through January, and instead of feeling on top of my game, I feel behind. The train of New Year’s resolutions has pulled out of the station, and I’m still on the platform without a ticket.

I am now feeling much better, and I was determined to tackle some things during this long holiday weekend (we have Martin Luther King Day off on Monday), but once again my plans got derailed. As I sit typing this, my oldest son is lying in the recliner after along day of puking. I think I have washed my hands approximately 518 times in my efforts NOT to catch the plague that has entered my house.

Instead of celebrating my mom’s birthday tonight,  I have a hot date with a gallon of bleach and some plastic gloves.

This was NOT what I envisioned when I sat down with my pretty Power Sheets and colorful markers. I expected to be on my way to achieving my goals, gloves on, knocking down the obstacles that were foolish enough to step into my way.

Reality bites, doesn’t it? 

I can feel my resolve falter and waver. I can feel the doubts and excuses creeping in. The enemy is whispering in my ear. Why not give up? It’s just too hard. You’ve failed already.

My gloves are lying in the corner, gathering dust.

Already – and it’s not even February yet.

Here’s the thing, though, when you choose to fight, you’re going to get knocked down. A real contender, though, gets back up again.  

Getting Back Up Again

Although it feels like I’m behind, there is nothing to stop me from getting back up and taking the next step forward.  As Lara Casey is fond of saying, “There is nothing magical about January 1.”

So, I’m going to pick up those gloves (after I thoroughly disinfect them, of course), and I’m going to start where I am.

How about you? Did your new year start the way you had planned or did life get in the way? I’d love to hear about it!

Blessings, Rosanne

The Church IS You

I was teaching Sunday school the other week. I’m doing a series on women in the Bible, and this week, I was looking at the woman who annointed Jesus with the perfume in Luke 7:36-48. Whenever I teach, I try to pull out things we can apply to our own lives. One of the things that stood out to me in this story was that the woman, who is described in verse 37 as “a woman in the city who was a sinner,” went into a Pharisee’s house where she was probably NOT welcome.

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The word sinner in this context indicates someone who lived a habitual life of sin. The common belief was that this woman was a prostitute, but it also possible that she was in debt or married to a tax collector as those were also considered a life style of sin. Whatever her particular habitual sin was, it was very clear that Simon the Pharisee was NOT happy to see her, especially as she brazenly interrupts a meal.

Like Simon’s home, sometimes, our churches are not places where sinners feel welcome. Instead, we put on our plastic smiles and pull out our spiritual responses. This atmosphere of spiritual having it all together doesn’t always invite people who feel broken and messy.

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As I shared this lesson what I thought we could take from this story, a lady in my class said that maybe it was because people didn’t think they could find Jesus in our churches. Her comment resonated with me, and I nodded my head in agreement.

Then I heard God’s soft voice in my ear, “You ARE the church.”

It is all too easy for me to point my finger at the collective Church and point out its inefficiencies and where it is weak and where it needs improvement. It’s easy for me to feel self-righteous and superior because I see the flaws in the Church as a body.

But here’s the deal,  if people don’t see Jesus in my church, then that means, they aren’t seeing Jesus in me. 

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Yeah – ouch! What draws people to church is not usually the church itself, but the people they know that attend that church. If a lost person is searching, and they see in you Jesus shining through, then they might then seek Jesus in the place where you worship.

Do I think the Church in America is perfect? No.

Do I think we, as a corporate body could do better? Yes.

Do I think that individual churches have a personality and culture? Yes.

But, the failure of the Church as a whole is a result of the failure as Christians as individuals. It’s not up to our pastors or church staff to reach out to the lost. It’s not up to the Sunday School Superintendent to love our co-workers or neighbors.

It’s up to us!

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As the Church is often described as a body, let me use this analogy. If I ate really crappy food, only drank soda and never exercised, could I then blame my body when it can’t run a marathon? That would be crazy right?

We are meant to work as one unit. We each have a gift, a calling and a mission field (yes, even if that means you never leave the neighborhood you were born in!).

While I totally get what that member of my Sunday school class was trying to say and even agreed with her, I also found myself once again convicted about how I spend my every day life and asking the question, How am I drawing those around me to Jesus?

I’d love to hear how you live out the Great Commission in your daily life! Please feel free to share so we can all learn from each other!

Blessings, Rosanne

 

Turns Out, Jon Acuff is Pretty Profound

I love reading Jon Acuff. Maybe it’s because we are of a similar age, but I totally get his humor. It’s very rarely that I read something of his that I don’t laugh – usually loudly. I recently read one of his posts on anger, and instead of laughing, I found it very profound. You can read it HERE.

One of his main points is that when you are angry, you have two options: blame others or fix it.

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I don’t know about you, but there has been a lot of anger lately with the election and the aftermath of said election. To be honest, some of the anger has made me angry. (I know – kind of weird right?)

Personally, I don’t believe anger is wrong in and of itself. It’s okay to be angry – it’s what we do with that anger that can be an issue.

A few years ago, I was studying the life of Moses. I’ve always found the story in Numbers 20 to be puzzling. If you aren’t familiar, the Israelites are wandering in the wilderness and find themselves waterless. This isn’t a small problem since finding water for that many people could be challenging. However, God had ALWAYS provided, yet every time the Israelites find themselves looking at a lack, they immediately start to complain and express their desire to return to Egypt (i.e. return to bondage). Moses has had to put up with this group of people whining, complaining and in some cases, seeking to stone him for decades now. It makes my job of teaching middle schoolers seem like a cake walk in comparison.

In Numbers 20, once again the people are complaining, but this time, Moses has just experienced the loss of his sister Miriam. He is grieving and vulnerable. So, when God asks him to speak to this rock so water can come from it, Moses is too angry to speak. Instead he strikes the rock. Because of this disobedience, Moses is barred from entering the Promised Land.

Does that seem as unfair to you as it does to me?

I mean, I can find so many justifications for Moses’s disobedience. Sure, he sinned, but didn’t he have a good excuse? Who wouldn’t get angry with that bunch of whiners? Who wouldn’t have been angry with their ridiculous declarations that they were better off in Egypt where they were being worked to death? Wasn’t it better he struck the rock with his staff rather than one of the aforementioned complainers?

But here’s the deal – Moses sinned. Other people’s disobedience/behavior might have been the cause but it wasn’t an excuse. 

When I look at the aftermath of one of the weirdest election cycles in history, I have to say that Jon Acuff offers some profound answers for people on both sides of the political divide, and it echoes this lesson we see in Numbers 20.

Anger is not a sinful emotion in and of itself, but it is also not an excuse to sin.

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No matter who you voted for – Trump, Hillary or neither; whatever reason you are angry – your person didn’t get in and you feel the apocalyse is at our door OR you look at all the rioting/protesting and it just seems like sour grapes –  we all still have two options: blame other people or fix it.

The thing is only one of those options leaves us feeling hopeful and empowered. (hint, it isn’t blaming others). The problem with blaming others is that it leaves us in the position of being helpless.

No matter how much you want to, you can’t change people – not their thoughts, their beliefs, their convictions or their actions. You especially can’t change those things by calling people names and telling them how to think and feel.

Instead of blaming others for the mess we find ourselves in as a country (because whether your guy won or not, nobody can deny that the divide in our country is long, deep and festering), how about instead, we do what we can to facilitate healing.

That looks like listening.

That looks like not stereotyping people who think/feel differently than you do.

That looks like being kind.

That looks like giving people the freedom to feel what they feel.

That looks like not assuming to know what’s in another person’s brain.

That looks like returning evil with good.

That looks like praying – even for the people or groups that upset or make you angry.

Instead of striking the rock in our anger, let’s allow our anger to drive us toward solutions.

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Blessings, Rosanne

God Fills Me With What is Good

Today is Thanksgiving! I wasn’t going to blog today because, well, it’s Thanksgiving. But, as I was having my quiet time with God, I found this verse, and wow! Have you ever read a verse and you feel like God put it there just for you, just for this season?

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That’s what it was like as I read and studied Psalms 107:9 this morning, and I knew I had to share it with all of you. I love Psalms 107 because it is such a picture of God’s patience and goodness to us. If you read it, you can see how the psalmist is praising God that He rescued His people after they strayed from God – again.

I don’t know about you, but I, despite my best intentions, stray from God’s side, too. No matter how many times I’ve seen how foolish it is, like the Israelites, it is all too easy to allow idols to take up residence in my heart with their false offers of fulfillment. I often wonder why, when I know better, that is. I think Psalms 107:9 gives a key insight to that question.

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Being the Bible nerd that I am, I decided to look up the key words in that verse, and I was surprised to find that the Hebrew word for thirsty, shaqaq, actually means, “to run, run about, rush, run to and fro, be eager or greedy.”

I know, right? It totally gives a new insight into this verse. If you look at the root of this word, it has this connotation of being desperate for something, to run and rush about looking desperately for something you crave or long for.

When I look at our world today, I see a lot of shaqaq going on. There are so many thirsty souls that are desperate for something they can’t seem to find no matter how much running to and fro they do.

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Yet, that verse also tells us the answer to the problem. It tells us how to find fulfillment for our great need. GOD is the one that fills us with the good stuff. All that other stuff we go rushing after – the impossible expectations, the successes, the wealth, the love – we will never, ever find it in the world around us. Instead, ALL of what we desperately need and crave is found in the person of Jesus.

That word fill is also an interesting word because it can mean the more obvious, “filled to abundance,” but it can also mean, “to be armed.” Isn’t it interesting that the good God fills us with actually arms us?

Centuries after this psalm was penned, Paul shares the same idea. In Ephesians 3:19, it says, “and to know the love of Christ, which surpasses all knowledge, so that you may be filled up with all the fullness of God.”

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Again, the words filled up and fullness have this idea of liberal abundance. God doesn’t partially fill us up. He isn’t stingy with His goodness. He fills our souls liberally, IF we will come to Him to be filled.

As we enter the Christmas season and think about celebrating Jesus’ birth, these verses mean all the more to me. Because Jesus came as a baby, because He was willing to be crucified for my sins, I CAN find satisfaction for my thirsty soul. I don’t have to shaqaq. Instead, I can be filled with all the fullness of God.

I can’t think of anything to be more thankful for on Thanksgiving Day. Can you?

This year, I want to slow down and really savor the idea of Immanuel – God with us. In an effort to do that, I created the 28 Days Advent Journal: Savor the Season. It’s available on Amazon and Createspace, and I’d love it if you joined me in going through it this Christmas season.

But even if you don’t, I hope that you will allow the God of the Universe to fill you up with all of His fullness, so your soul’s thirst will be quenched and you won’t be left to shaqaq!

Blessings, Rosanne

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