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.

Motherhood: The First 6 Months

Our little girl (our first child) turned 6 months a week or two ago. And although, I don’t want this blog to be solely about motherhood or parenthood, it is the season of life that I’m currently in. So, I just wanted to share some things I learned as a new momma.

  1. Being a parent is HARD.
  2. Being a mom is HARD.
  3. Being a stay-at-home-mom is HARD.

LOL. Talk about stating the obvious.

When I first began this post, I wasn’t sure where I was going to go with it, but then a friend of mine posted something on her FB wall that really resonated with me. She talked about feeling isolated as a stay-at-home-mom. I understood those feelings all too well. Then, after talking with a few working moms over the weekend, I realized it was most moms–regardless of working status–that felt this way.

While I love being home with our baby girl, some days are good and others are very challenging. Some days baby girl goes down for a 2 1/2 hour nap in her crib, while other days she won’t let me put her down. Some days she wakes up at 4 o’clock in the morning crying, for no apparent reason, and I’m wracking my brain to get her back to sleep; but other days she sleeps for 7 hours straight. We love our children, and love being able to stay home with them, but it can be lonely and exhausting.

I think it’s because, being a mom often means that our own needs are set aside for those of another. However, it’s far too easy to get caught up in this idea, and never put ourselves first. Which, I feel is a mistake. I love my baby girl, but sometimes I need time to myself. Whether that means asking the hubbs to watch baby while I go to the gym; do some grocery shopping; cook or clean; or take a nice, long, hot shower; I need some time unattached, if only for 30 minutes. (I’m going to be honest though, I know my husband doesn’t always understand this, and it’s frustrating; but I guess I need to just do a better job at explaining it to him.)

Perhaps that’s where our loneliness and exhaustion comes from…thinking we need to be able to do it all on our own. Maybe we think we’re a “bad mom” because we can’t do it all; or because we need some “me time.” We shouldn’t think this way. As I often tell baby girl, “Mommy can’t feed you, unless she feeds herself;” in other words, we can’t take care of another of we aren’t taking care of ourselves physically, mentally, and spiritually speaking.

Instead, we need to ask for help when we need it; and as believers, it’s incredibly important for us to remain in the Word and prayer, and in community with other believers (Hebrews 10:24-25).

I understand that when you have a little one–or more than one–it’s sometimes difficult to just get out of the house, forget trying to get together with others. It takes a ton of planning to get everybody up and out of the house, but it can be, and should be done.

I realized this after the first few weeks of being a STAHM. So, here are some things I’ve recently begun implementing in our home…

  • Attending a Wednesday morning women’s Bible study, so I can connect with other women. (My husband attends Saturday morning with the men.)
  • Weekly library visits.
  • Monthly visits to the children’s museum.
  • We (my husband and I) have begun getting together with different couples from church each month.
  • Planning a family outing once a month.

Lastly, I mentioned this previously, in my Learning to Appreciate the Silence post, we need to be wary of our social media usage. First off, it’s a huge time sucker; you go to check one thing and by the time you know it, 30 minutes have gone by. Furthermore, it’s so easy to get caught up with things others are doing, to feel hurt or offended when we feel we’ve been forgotten or excluded. If we weren’t watching the every move of others via social media we wouldn’t even be worried about such things. Finally, it’s way too easy to go into comparison mode, thinking that others have it better than us; or that they have everything all together; or sometimes, even worse, thinking we’re better than another mom! We forget that FB, Instagram, etc. are just the “greatest hits” reel, where we usually get to see people at their best. We don’t often get to see their struggles or insecurities–and believe me, EVERY mom has them. We’re all different and just trying to do the best we can with what God has given us.

Although, it appears that I’m trying to figure this mom thing out on my own by creating schedules and getting together with others, I must reiterate the need for spending time in prayer and the Word. Ultimately, our peace and strength comes from the Lord; and try as we might, to do it all on our own, we’ll only end up exhausted, bitter, and feeling like utter failures if we don’t rest in His presence daily. So, let’s take a lesson from David, when we’re feeling overwhelmed, and seek refuge in the shadow of the most high.

Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer; from the end of the earth I call to You when my heart is overwhelmed and weak. Lead me to the rock that is higher than I [a rock that is too high to reach without Your help]. For you have been a shelter and a refuge for me, a strong tower against the enemy. Let me dwell in Your tent forever! Let me take refuge in the shelter of Your wings! Selah ~ Psalm 61:1-4, AMP

To Err is Human…

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We all make mistakes. It’s just a part of being human. Sometimes we say the wrong thing, make the wrong choice, forget, or simply run out of time. We can’t expect to be perfect, and we can’t place unrealistic expectations on others, either (for more on this you should check out this post).

Yet, how often we feel like failures when we don’t get things right. I recently finished reading Gloria Furman’s, “Missional Motherhood,” and in it, she reminded me that we need to be careful with what we call “failure.” She states, “Things that are part of our design–our need for others in community, our physical limitations, being embodied in an ‘earthly tent,’ and our lack of knowledge–are not failures. We have no need to repent of those things, for this is the way God designed us” (Missional Motherhood, p.124).

We must beware, Furman goes on to state, because “we often [mistakenly] place worldly blunders on the same level as unholy sins” (pp. 124-125). Mistakes due to our humanity are not the same as down-right rebellion against God. Our neediness and weakness points us to Christ; it’s why He created us this way; that we would be dependent on Him. Our sin, on the other hand, draws us away from God; the bible calls it enmity (James 4:4), in which, we’re spiritually at war with Christ. Sin requires repentance.

Therefore, when we make mistakes, the only thing we can do is acknowledge it–apologize, if we hurt someone in the process–and attempt to prevent it from occurring again. I love the quote above, attributed to Alexander Pope, “To err is human; to forgive, divine,” because it takes supernatural power to forgive ourselves, or others, when mistakes are made. Whether we have to walk in humility because we messed up, or offer grace to another, because someone unintentionally hurt or disappointed us, it’s only by His Holy Spirit that we do so.

Learning to Appreciate the Silence

Silence is uncomfortable. Well, sometimes it can be. I believe it’s so, because silence gives us opportunity to think, to ask questions, to contemplate the world around us; and that makes us uncomfortable. Therefore, we tend to avoid it. Instead, we fill the air with the sounds of music, television sets, YouTube videos, or our own voices, and our mindseye with images from Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram (just to name a few). We’d rather listen to (or read, or view) insignificance than be forced to ponder anything of real importance. However, as believers, it’s often in these moments of silent contemplation that God reveals to us His greatest lessons.IMG_3503

Lately, I’ve been reading “Missional Motherhood,” by Gloria Furman. In one section of the book she talks about how God created us to be consumers of His Word. However, the devil, knowing that God designed us to be consumers, works at getting us to feast on things other than the Word: on stuff. Let’s face it, between social media and television, there’s no lack of exposure to “stuff.” Whether it’s material things, relationships, vacations, children, new recipes, organizational hacks, or makeup how-tos, there’s no shortage of “stuff” to preoccupy our time, energy, or thoughts. In fact, in our attempt to avoid silence and our own thoughts, we’ve become very good at silencing and drowning out the voice of God.

I know I’ve been guilty of this. Particularly as a new mom, it’s easier to sit in front of the television with a sleeping baby, or mindlessly scroll Facebook or Pinterest while nursing, than it has been to turn the pages of my Bible or talk with the Lord. But this needs to change. If we want our children to seek the Lord, then they need to see and hear their parents seeking the Lord. If we want them to have a heart for the lost, then they need to see our heart for the lost, His heart for the lost. If we want our children to live the Word, love the Word, and be consumers of the Word, then that’s what they need to see in us!

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. ~ James 1:22-25 (ESV)

Yet, let’s not stop there, the gospel message is something our children should both see evidence of and hear.

You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. ~ Deuteronomy 6:5-7 (ESV)

In conclusion, let’s not be afraid of the moments of silence in our lives. Let us instead, appreciate them, make more opportunities for them and use them appropriately. This year–and every year, for that matter–let’s strengthen our relationship with the Lord, let’s listen intently for His voice, and let’s teach our children to do the same.

Treat People the Way God Treats You

Don’t treat people the way they treat you. Treat people the way God treats you. ~ Dave Willis

The other day I saw a meme shared by Focus on the Family in my Facebook news feed, with the above quote. I immediately shared it, thinking “Yes! Someone else gets it!”

The truth is, we live in a society in which we measure out things like, love, grace, and respect in the measure that it’s given to us; but the Word tells us to live otherwise.

In Matthew 7:12, Jesus Himself, says “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you.” (We talked about this previously, in my R-E-S-P-E-C-T post, about a year ago.)

So, why are we revisiting this? Because we always need to be reminded, and like I said in a previous post (The Lamp of the Body), we’re called to be a peculiar people. We’re not supposed to think and act like those in the world. Is this difficult? Yes; but, again, we’re not doing it on our own, but by the power of the Spirit of God living within us. The verse we’ve been returning to again and again, in church this year, has been Zechariah 4:8: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit says the Lord. This ties right in line with what we’ve been saying here for years.

Give Grace

So, what does it mean to treat others the way that God treats us? I believe it means that we’re showing people grace, as God shows us grace. The word grace itself, is described as free and unmerited favor, meaning it’s undeserved. God doesn’t provide grace for us because we deserve it, He provides it because of Who He is. In same, we shouldn’t offer grace towards others based on merit, but because of who we are in Christ; we forgive others because we’ve been forgiven (Matthew 6:14; Ephesians 4:32).

Discipline in Love

Secondly, it means that we discipline in love, the way God lovingly disciplines His children. Proverbs 3:11-12 and Hebrews 12 talk about discipline. I think we often equate discipline with corporal punishment, but as I believe we’ve briefly discussed before–in Correction–this is more like training and teaching than anything else. Basically, we’re talking about speaking Truth, gently and lovingly, into people’s lives and letting God do the rest of the work. Again…Our job is simply to share it, not to force people to believe (for more on this check out, For All to Hear).

Treat all Equally

Third, it means we treat all equally and with respect. Jesus died for all, not just a few of us and He gives us all equal opportunity to become children of God (Romans 2:11; Galatians 3:26-29; John 1:12; John 3:16-17; Acts 10:34). James asks in chapter 2, “how can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people over others?” This could be based on financial or social status, as it was in James’ time, but it could also include race or ethnicity. The Church of our Lord, Jesus Christ is global. There will be people of all races and tongues in heaven, whether we were rich or poor, married or unmarried, U.S.-born, Middle Eastern, African, raised in the church, or became a believer in our old age; none of it is going to matter when we’re all standing before God (Revelation 7:9).

Treat Others as Better than Ourselves

Lastly, it means we treat others as better than ourselves. In Philippians 2:3-8 (NLT), Paul writes:

Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.

You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

Jesus, Himself, showed us what it looked like to pour out His life for others. Remember when Jesus washed His disciples’ feet in John 13?  He told them to use it as an example, and to wash each other’s feet as He washed theirs. Elsewhere, we’re told that we are to serve one another in love, to love our neighbor as our self, and to give to those in need, period (Leviticus 19:33-34; Galatians 5:13; Mark 10:42-45; Mark 12:31; Romans 12:20; James 1:27). And to top it all off, we’re to expect nothing in return (Luke 14:12-14).

Will this be easy? No. Will this be possible? Absolutely. But only by the power of the Holy Spirit at work in our lives. Are you up for the challenge? I know Paul was when he stated, “But I will rejoice even if I lose my life, pouring it out like a liquid offering to God, just like your faithful service is an offering to God. And I want all of you to share that joy” (Philippians 2:17).

Let’s act accordingly.

The Bridegroom

I finished up Every Woman’s Battle by Shannon Ethridge tonight, and towards the end of the book the author reveals a dream (rather a nightmare) that she had one night, which can be applied towards every believer (male or female) and I thought it needed to be shared.

A radiant bride greeted her guests with a brilliant smile as she entered the reception hall after the wedding ceremony. She gracefully moved and milled about the room, the train of her stunning white gown flowing along the floor behind her, her veil cascading down her button-adorned back.

She conversed with each guest one by one, taking the time to mingle and soak up the compliments. “You look absolutely lovely.” “Your dress is divine.” “I’ve never seen a more beautiful bride.” “What a stunning ceremony.” The lavish praises rang on and on. The bride couldn’t be more proud or more appreciative of the crowd’s adoration. She could have listened to them swoon over her all evening. As a matter of fact, she did.

But where was the groom? All the attention focused on the bride and never once did she call anyone’s attention to her husband. She didn’t even notice his absence at her side. Scanning the room, I searched for him, wondering, “Where could he be?”

I finally found him, but not where I expected him to be. The groom stood alone over in the corner of the room with his head down. As he stared at his ring, twisting the gold band that had just been placed on his finger by his bride, tears trickled down his cheeks and onto his hands. That is when I noticed the nails scars. The groom was Jesus.

He waited, but the bride never once turned her face toward her groom. She never held His hand. She never introduced the guests to Him. She operated independently of Him.

I awoke from my dream with a sick feeling in my stomach. “Lord, is this how I made you feel when I as looking for love in all the wrong places?” I wept at the thought of hurting Him so deeply.

Unfortunately, this dream illustrates exactly what is happening between God and millions of His people. He betroths Himself to us, we take His name (as “Christians”), and then we go about our lives looking for love attention, and affection from every source under the sun except from the Son of God, the Lover of our souls.

Oh, how Jesus longs for His own to acknowledge Him, to introduce Him to our friends, to withdraw to be alone with Him, to cling to Him for our identity, to gaze longingly into His eyes, to love Him with all our heart and soul.

What about you? Do you have this kind of love relationship with Christ? Do you experience the inexplicable joy of intimacy with the One who loves you with a passion far deeper, far greater than anything you could find here on earth? I know from experience that you can.

Ethridge, S. (2003). Every Woman’s Battle: Discovering God’s Plan for Sexual and Emotional Fulfillment. Colorado Springs, CO: Waterbrook Press.