Spiritual Immaturity

But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? ~ 1 Corinthians 3:1-3, ESV

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The Church is no stranger to jealousy and dissension, but as Paul points out in 1 Corinthians 3, it’s actually a sign of spiritual immaturity. He repeats his comment about following certain teachers, from chapter 1, but this time makes it a point to say that no matter who we follow, the foundation of what we believe must be Christ; and each teacher and pastor simply builds upon that foundation. It’s God who provides the growth. In other words, we each have a part to play within the body of Christ, but it’s God who really does the work. We are all equally important and equipped by Him to complete the tasks He’s assigned to us; no one’s role is bigger or better than another, just different, and all have the same goal: to preach Christ crucified.

Paul goes on to say, in 1 Corinthians 3:12-15, that our works (faith in action) will one day be tested by fire. These verses make me think of the story of the three little pigs. You know how you have one pig that builds a house of straw; one, a house of sticks; and another, a house of bricks; and only the house of bricks is left standing? Why is that? I believe it was because two of the pigs refused to put in any real effort, or thought, into what they were building: a home that would stand the test of time. I think as believers we can fall into this same line of thinking. We may serve, but with the wrong mindset. Our purpose should be to build the Church–to add to the kingdom–but sometimes we feel the task we’ve been issued is too small or insignificant, or we just do it to check it off a list, instead of focusing on the big picture. According to this passage our salvation isn’t necessarily at stake, but apparently another heavenly reward will be denied. I can’t help but wonder what that might be. What might we miss out on, because our hearts and minds weren’t fully in line with God’s heart?

Again, our goal as believers is to worship the one true God with our lives; and if we truly believe in the message of the gospel, we can’t help but share it with the people around us. And that is God’s heart! That all would come to Him and be saved! When jealousy and strife enter the church, they do more to tear down the Church, than to build it up. So, let us allow the Holy Spirit to continue His work in us and ask that He help us see the bigger picture, and the greater goal we’re working towards. Finally, let us stop worrying about who has a bigger or better role in the plan of God, because what matters most is the attitude of our heart as we shower the love of God on our neighbors and point them towards Christ.

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Just Speak

I read 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 aloud, to my baby a few days ago. She refused to nap when I wanted to read the Word, but I’m kind of glad she did. Because once I read it aloud, I began to dissect it aloud, as well–lol, as though my 6-week-old would understand. Basically, Paul was saying that he didn’t come to the church at Corinth prepared with a fancy speech or message. He simply came with the Gospel Truth: Christ died for our sins.

And what was impressed upon me, was he was scared when he spoke; but he allowed God to speak through him, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Paul wasn’t worried about having all the right words, because he was trusting that the Holy Spirit, in His infinite wisdom, knew precisely what He was doing.

Paul continues in 1 Corinthians 2:6-16, to describe the wisdom of God, which we who believe in the Lord, have been given through the Holy Spirit. It’s only through the Spirit of God, that lives in us, that we can read the Word and understand the heart of the Father; because the Holy Spirit and the Father are One. An unbeliever cannot comprehend the things of God, because the Spirit of God doesn’t live within him and make things clear to him. In other words, things are hidden to the unbeliever, in the same the way the parables of Jesus–found in Matthew, Mark, and Luke–were hidden to the crowd. But remember, Jesus revealed the meanings of the parables to His closest disciples; as the Holy Spirit does with us. The Spirit gives us insight and discernment, not of this world; therefore, those of this natural world cannot judge us for acting in accordance with the Holy Spirit.

So, what have I gathered from these verses? That we should just open up our mouths and declare the gospel of Jesus Christ. We shouldn’t be worried about sounding foolish, or not having practiced our speech; because the Spirit is going to use us and reveal the Truth to those whose hearts are ready. And we shouldn’t be discouraged by those who would judge or ridicule us for our beliefs, because they lack understanding of spiritual things.

Christ: The Wisdom and Power of God

As I read 1 Corinthians 1:18-31 last week, a number of things crossed my mind. First, “…the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God,” is a good reminder that the idea of God sending His Son to die for our sins seems foolish to those who have no relationship with Christ. But to those of us who believe, we recognize the importance of this decision and its life-giving impact on our souls.

To unbelievers it seems simply unbelievable that God would love the world so much that He would give up something as precious as His one and only Son for us. It’s unbelievable to them, because they cannot imagine doing it themselves, and struggle to understand when they see others actually love in a similar manner. In fact, sacrifice, forgiveness and reconciliation are often such foreign concepts to the unbeliever, that when it occurs they simply can’t accept it; they think there must be some ulterior motive behind the act.

Secondly, “God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God,” (vs 27-29). We see this as evidenced in Jesus; a Savior, born into the world as a lowly babe in a stable. He didn’t come from a wealthy or influential family, but He was the power and wisdom of God personified.

I also can’t help but think of others considered insignificant, meek, or simple…ordinary people like you and I, that God uses to exemplify His glory. For example, remember when God chose Gideon to save Israel, and the angel spoke to him, “the Lord is with you, O mighty man of valor” (Judges 6:11, ESV)? And after having been told that God would help him lead Israel from the hand of their enemy, how did Gideon reply? He said, “Please, Lord, how can I save Israel? Behold, my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house,” (Judges 6:15, ESV, emphasis added). If you want to know how this story ends you should read Judges 6-8; but I can tell you, God uses Gideon.

Again, God uses the weak and foolish things of this world to shame the wise and strong. And He continues to do so today! So often we respond to the callings God places on our lives in a similar manner: who am I? I’m just a _____. BUT GOD is telling us it’s not on us, it’s through HIM.

I always say, “It’s not about perfection, it’s about obedience.” This stems from my personal experiences with perfectionism, which, in the past, have kept me from walking in obedience. I believed the lie, that if I couldn’t do something perfectly, I shouldn’t do it at all. However, God isn’t calling us to be perfect, He just wants us to act in obedience and allow Him to shape and perfect that which is beyond our ability.

Lastly, I note that God chooses to use the foolish, weak, low and despised for a reason. Because if He chose the wise, the strong, powerful, and well-loved they would be tempted to boast in, and of themselves; and God wants us to recognize His power and authority. Now, I do believe that people of power and influence can be used by God if they walk humbly before Him (Proverbs 18:12, 22:4, 27:2; James 4:6, 10; Luke 14:11; Romans 12:3; Philippians 2:3-4). Unfortunately, it’s more common for those of power and influence to downplay the role of God in their lives, because they’re afraid to lose the very power and influence God gave them. But they were given for a purpose, and when we don’t use the gifts God gives, we run the risk of losing them.

Division in the (Early) Church

I began this post at the end of my second pregnancy, and I’ve been pretty distracted since then; about a month ago I gave birth to another little girl, my little “Bug.” She was overdue by 6 days and I was an emotional wreck, as I waited for her arrival, lol.

Before then, however, I did a study on the book of John, and have since then moved on to the epistles–Paul’s letters to the early churches. The epistles are so interesting, and although, I’ve been running on very little sleep, and struggle to remain focused I figured writing would help me organize my scattered thoughts. One of the things I always enjoy about the epistles, is how Paul addressed the early Church as they struggled with many of the same things we struggle with today.

For instance, the epistles cover division (and unity), immortality, and idolatry within the Church; forgiving those who don’t deserve it, reconciliation, and generosity; salvation through grace; faith as evidenced through works; gifts of the Spirit; and so much more. They really are powerful, Spirit-filled little books of the Bible, that shouldn’t be ignored.

Today, we’ll take a quick look at 1 Corinthians 1:10-17, in which, Paul wrote to the church at Corinth about division in the church. Apparently, people were divided over teachers of the gospel. Think of it this way, they favored some teachers over others, and argued over who was the better teacher. Does this sound familiar?

Paul had to remind them that they weren’t following him, but Christ! He basically says, “Y’all weren’t baptized in my name! And you certainly aren’t saved by my words; for it’s the power of the cross that saves!”

Today’s believers often fall into this same trap. We may follow a preacher or teacher (or even, church denomination) at the expense of unity. This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t be discerning when it comes to teachers and preachers of the Word; because, obviously, if a teaching is unbiblical we shouldn’t be accepting of it. However, more often than not, the differences between pastors/teachers we follow are more about preferences, like teaching styles and traditions, than biblical foundations. (I actually shared a post on this way back in 2012, which you can find here.)

Do you know, there are some who are willing to cross denomination lines and attend churches that they didn’t grow up in, or consider themselves to be members of? For some of you, that may be sacrilegious! But if we are all Spirit-filled believers and followers of the Word, this should be the norm. After all, we’re all One body, whose head is Christ; and only once we understand this and move together in the spirit of unity, will we make a real difference in our communities.

Needs vs Wants

This post has been a long time coming. I always start it, but then don’t know where to go from there. If you’ve been following for any length of time, you know that we live a debt-free lifestyle, based on Dave Ramsey’s teachings. And we’re currently on baby step 3–saving our 3-6 month emergency fund–while awaiting the birth of our second-born.

We haven’t done too much this summer since we’ve been really trying to save our emergency fund before baby number 2 arrives, but we did drive to South Carolina to see family for Memorial Day weekend, spent some afternoons by the community pool, and entertained some family in our home. We also taught our second Financial Peace class at our church, which we just wrapped up at the end of July. I’m 9 months pregnant and pretty content to be home with my family, but as I scroll through my social media news feeds, I can certainly understand why someone would feel differently.

This summer I’ve watched friends, family, and even strangers, travel all over; purchase new vehicles and homes; and decorate, plan, & organize all the things. And there’s nothing wrong with these, as long as we save, pay cash/debit for them, and aren’t sacrificing our needs for them. So, lets talk about what our needs are. Dave Ramsey calls them the 4 walls:

  1. Housing (Rent/Mortgage)
  2. Utilities (Water, electric, gas, phone, etc.)
  3. Transportation (taxes, car insurance, gas, oil)
  4. Food (groceries)

The 4 walls are especially helpful when we’re struggling to make ends meet, living paycheck to paycheck, or have a loss of job; we always take care of our household first. These are the items we budget for before we spend money on anything else. There are the occasional exceptions, such as school uniforms and/or supplies, or an outfit for a job interview; but these aren’t going to occur very often.

Now, what are some things that are not considered necessities?

  • Eating out
  • Cable
  • The latest cell phone
  • Coffee from a coffeehouse
  • Vacations
  • New clothes/accessories
  • High-end makeup
  • New vehicles
  • Tickets (movies, theater, sports, concerts)
  • New home decor/furniture
  • Extracurricular activities for the kiddos

We could obviously go on and on. But these are all extras and if we’re in a real financial bind, they can, and should, be cut from the budget. It doesn’t have to be for always; just until we have more breathing room in our budget.

Additional income, an emergency fund, and a plan in place can make a world of difference. If you don’t have a plan in place, you’ll always be flying by the seat of your pants, wondering where all your hard-earned money went, and why you can never get ahead. If you want to know more about our plan, check out my other posts on finances, budgeting, and dumping debt.

WedWorship – Hope Has a Name

Sunday morning, as I made breakfast for my family before church, River Valley Worship’s “Hope Has a Name” began playing, and I realized I really love this song and it deserved to be shared with ya’ll.

The lyrics are simple, but so powerful and I can’t help but be filled with hope and joy as I sing (and shout) “Hope has a name, His name is Jesus” and “My Savior’s cross has set this sinner free!”

There is a song, I know it well
A melody that’s never failed
On mountains high, in valleys low
My soul will rest, my confidence, in You alone
Chorus: Hope has a name, His name is Jesus
My Savior’s cross has set this sinner free
Hope has a name, His name is Jesus
Oh, Christ be praised, I have victory
There is a light, salvation’s flame
Christ undefeated, trampled the grave
See now the cross, be lifted high
The light has come, the light has won, behold the Christ

Chorus
There’ll be a day my hope complete
Now home in glory, Your face I’ll see
My pain no more, my fear will cease
I bow my life, I fix my eyes, on Christ my King
I bow my life, I fix my eyes, on Christ my King
Chorus

“Momming” in the Early Years

Being a mom during the early years is SO hard. Whether you’re a stay-at-home or work-from-home mom, whose only time away from your child(ren) is when they’re sleeping; or a mom working outside the home, who doesn’t get to spend nearly as much time with your child(ren) as you’d like, doesn’t matter. Raising little ones is mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually draining.

It’d be so easy as a busy mom to let my exhaustion get the best of me, and use it as an excuse to be lazy in my walk with Christ, but I can’t. And neither should you! As moms of littles we miss a lot of church. When we give birth we stay home for the first few weeks; we may miss service to nurse/feed our babies; and later, when our children are sick, we end up staying home with them so they don’t infect other children. We often end up either serving in the nursery, or getting stuck in there with our own clingy child. We may miss out on bible studies, women’s events, prayer meetings, outreach opportunities–the list goes on–and we often end up feeling distant from God.

Honestly, it can be incredibly discouraging. However, this is exactly the reason why we must fight, scrape for, and cling to the moments we can get alone with our heavenly Father. We need His strength and encouragement, we need His Words of Truth to teach and discipline us, and His peace to rule our hearts on a daily basis. This means we must make Him a priority in our lives, even if it means getting up early to study the Word before our children get up; giving up a hour of evening television so we can pray; or holding off on a household task, so we can finish a Bible study or book we’ve been working on.

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Don’t give up momma! You’re not alone. You’re not insignificant. You have purpose. We are children of God, doing exactly what He designed us for. And in each season He develops us further into what He desires us to be. While we love our children immensely, our lives should not revolve around them, nor should they keep us from seeking the Lord, during any season.

There are ways for us to use our time more wisely…As a nursing mom, I found myself scrolling through social media a lot while feeding, so I added a bible app to my phone, that way I could read Scripture, instead. As a mom of a toddler, I find getting up before my little one, is the best time for me to spend time with the Lord. I’m most alert, focused, and less rushed in the morning. (During her afternoon nap is my second option–of course, it’s not as predictable, since she’s been fighting her naps, lately.) Since I’m currently pregnant with my second, I’ve been mulling over more options besides my bible app, such as podcasts, and online bible studies. Is it a sacrifice? Absolutely; but it’s worth it!

What I don’t want any of us to fall into the trap of believing, is the lie that we’re “just” moms. This is a time for us to continue learning and growing, and allowing God to use us, both inside and outside our homes. One of the most well-known passages of Scripture regarding women and motherhood can be found in Proverbs 31:10-31.

It’s easy to read this passage and get caught up in all the woman does for her family; however, the most important verse is 31, which states, “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.” We can be as productive and successful as anybody in this world, but it’s our relationship with Christ that sets us apart. He is what matters most. He determines our steps, guides us and gives us understanding. He teaches us patience and gives us wisdom in dealing with our household, our finances, our husband, children, and every other decision and relationship in our lives. But we must stay connected to our source of Life; the True vine.

If we find that our lives are too busy to make time to meet with God, we may need to take a step back, re-prioritize, and cut some things from our lives; because if something else comes before our relationship with Christ, then we’ve made it an idol in our lives.

Lastly, I’ve been finishing up a study by Lysa TerKeurst, “Finding I AM,” and one of my (many) takeaways was that God can use what little we have to do something significant for the cause of the Kingdom. We may not be able to do everything we want to during this season, but we can do something. And we shouldn’t let anything, including unmet expectations, or unanswered prayers, prevent us from seeing what God has placed right in front of our noses. It may be a challenging time to use every talent God has given us, but it may be the perfect time to allow God to use us in small ways, right where we are. I know it’s cliché, but bloom where you’re planted ladies! But, I reiterate, we cannot pour, we cannot serve, we cannot do anything, apart from God.

Make Him your priority.

I AM the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. ~ John 15:5, ESV