Evil and goodness: The cry for revenge

Feelings.  We women have a plethora of feelings.  Our feelings can drive us in all sorts of crazy directions.  Sometimes when we are dealing with hurt, it is incredibly hard to rein those feelings in and look for truth at the heart of a situation.
Every second of every day, evil is at work.  Not a minute passes by that evil is not attempting to trip us up or get us tangled in the mess that feelings can bring.  When we are hurting, human nature cries for revenge.  We want payback.  We want to see someone get what is coming to them.  Those feelings can drive us to do evil things.  That is where truth steps in and we let go of feelings.

Romans 12:21 says that we are “not to be overcome by evil but to overcome evil with good.”  Not particularly the thing in which we want to do when we are hurting.  It is much easier to lash out. It feels good to get those feelings out.  In that moment anyway.  Later when conviction sets in, we realize what we have said or done to hurt another and begin feeling worse. Suddenly our troubles have grown.  We have created quite the mess.

There is a reason why we are told to overcome evil with good.  There is a reason why we are told in Ephesians to be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. (4:32)  When we walk a life professing to follow Jesus, we are to promote peace, kindness, love and forgiveness.  When someone has wronged us, we are  to turn the other cheek.  We are to follow the example set for us by Jesus.  If we want forgiveness from God then we must offer forgiveness to others. Personally, it frustrates me.  It is hard when my family is constantly being hurt. Truthfully, I am tired of being bullied.  I am tired of people who use their power to abuse others.  However, I follow an awesome God.  He sent His Son to give up His life for me and so I choose to be a reflection of His Son.  I choose to forgive and do good. I choose to overcome evil with good and God blesses when we choose good.  

So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith.

Galatians 6:9-10

A man, a fish and a second chance: What happens when we run?

Do you believe in second chances?  What about the Creator of Universe giving second chances? Arguments go both ways but for me, I am a die hard believer in the fact that God does give second chances.  In fact, I am living breathing proof that He is the giver of second chances.

Whether you grew up in church you are probably familiar with the story about a man named Jonah and his encounter with a large fish.  You may not know the details but you’re familiar with the points.  Let me give you a quick synopsis.  

  • Jonah was a prophet chosen by God to speak on His behalf
  • Jonah was told by God to travel to Nineveh and deliver a message that He would destroy the city.  Nineveh was a wicked place and the fiercest enemy of Jonah’s people.
  • Jonah boards a ship and “runs” in the opposite direction towards Tarshish.  A city as far to the west as any Israelite had ever traveled.
  • The ship encounters a horrible storm in which the lives of the sailors on the ship are threatened.  The sailors ask Jonah to call out to his God and ask for favor.
  • Jonah admits to the sailors that the storm is his fault as he is running away from God  and volunteers to be thrown overboard in order to save them.
  • The sailors are terrified to throw one of God’s people overboard and attempt to row back to shore but fail.  They finally throw Jonah off the ship.
  • Jonah does not die but instead is swallowed by a large fish and stays there for three days and three nights.  
  • While in the belly of the fish, Jonah cries out to God and thanks Him for saving him from  being swallowed up by the sea.  Jonah has a change of heart and chooses to obey God’s command to go to Nineveh. The fish “spits” Jonah out right back where he started.
  • God comes to Jonah a second time.  Back to the place he first started and God gives Jonah the exact same message: Go to Nineveh and give them my message.
  • Having learned his lesson the hard way, Jonah travels to Nineveh.

Wow.  Quite the story.  Hard to accept? A man being swallowed by a fish?  Maybe.  But I consider it to be true.  I also believe it to be a beautiful story of second chances.  An amazing story of God’s grace and redemption.  

How often do we hear God’s voice and walk in the opposite direction due to fear or pride?  I know I have on more than one occasion.  I have allowed fear to take the reins and lead me down into the belly of the fish. A place where I felt all hope was lost until I cried out to God to save me.  And He has.

It is easy to get lost in this crazy world.  There are so many wrong turns we can take, each leading us down a winding path of chaos and destruction but there is also a pathway leading out.  Residence in the belly of a fish does not have to last forever.

Nineteen years ago I was married for the first time.  I made a choice for myself.  I thought it was the right choice.  I thought I was doing the right thing.  Do you see the “I” in each of those statements? The “I” was my downfall.  For as much as I wanted to be doing the right thing, I was  far from it.  At twenty, I had been living in the belly of the fish for many years.  Unlike Jonah, I was unaware because my relationship with Jesus was distant.  I knew Him and “followed” Him the way in which I understood, but it was not with the entirety of my life.  I lacked the understanding of giving Him complete control and surrendering everything to Him.  Choices and all.  At the time, my understanding of God’s will was lacking.  

When I got married, I married believing it was forever.  Divorce was not an option and did not exist in my vocabulary.  Even knowing I was not where God wanted me, I recognized I had to endure the consequences of my choice. And so I forged ahead and accepted the path I had chosen.

One of the greatest discoveries for me in my thirty nine years of existence is this: When we are a follower of Jesus yet choose to go our own way without Him, we will fail.  No matter how hard we try, how much work we put into the fight, if we go at it alone, we will not succeed.  God cannot fix what is broken if we will not release it to Him.  

We also cannot force someone else to “be fixed” or to choose Jesus.  It is unfortunate and sad when Jesus is not in the picture because all hell breaks loose. Things falls apart and when you are left hanging by a thread, sometimes you have to let go and trust.

That was me.  Sitting in the belly of the fish crying out to God asking for clarity and direction.  I wanted to be rescued.  I desired to be right where He wanted me.

What a revelation when you realize that God allows things to happen in order for you to find Him.  He shakes us up to expose what is truly in our heart. He allows us to make our own choices.  We are not His puppets.  We choose whether to go left or right completely on our own.  If we choose wrong, we face the music.  We fight through the consequences.  We get swallowed up by the fish and God waits.  

Then through our tears and repentance, He rescues.  He picks us up and sets our feet right back where we were before we took that wrong turn and says, “Let’s do this again. But this time, let’s do it My way.”

Think of Jonah. He ran in the opposite direction.  God chose him to deliver this great message that would save a people group and he ran. His disobedience led to consequences that involved spending three dreadful days in the smelly darkness of a fish. However it led to a heart that softened to God’s purpose for his life.  For Jonah, the fish was the provision that saved his life and led to a complete redo.  Back to square one. The opportunity to say yes a second time.  WOW!  A second attempt to be used by the Creator of the Universe.  To be a part of His story.  

For me, my redo became me saying “I do” a second time.  The opportunity to find love and to experience marriage the way in which He designed.  To love like I have never known.  To be loved in a way that I cannot put into words.  To walk each day with my best friend as we share God’s love with those in our life.  He has given me a purpose and message to share His love and grace while offering hope to those who have none.  To continue telling His story of second chances.

Second chances are real.  God DOES give second chances when we choose to trust His hand and His leading.  He does not give up on us when we’re ready to give on ourselves.  He extends His grace and pours Himself into us making us usable.  Our mess can become His message if we say yes!


Being right and loving: Does it pay to be right all the time?

I’m frustrated. Not angry, frustrated.  I’m frustrated with negativity and critical people. The constant disrespect toward others because of differences in beliefs (ie: the celebration of Halloween,  The Noah movie, Harry Potter, evolution, the rapture, secular music being of the devil, worship music is evil, and so on)  truly hurts my heart. I do not understand how we, who profess to follow Jesus, can be so nasty and hateful to others.   I read over and over as people express an opinion on a topic or belief and are ripped apart or mocked by other “believers.”  That type of behavior bewilders me. Just because someone disagrees with your views does not make it right for you to disrespect, humiliate or hurt someone else especially over a difference of opinion.  How in the world is mockery and belittling of another human life a reflection of Jesus?  

As followers of Christ we will not always agree with or share the opinions of others. The realization that each person is accountable to God on their own means we are to individually seek after truth by spending time in Truth. Not rely on someone to find it for us.  Each individual is responsible for allowing the Holy Spirit to work in their life and reveal truth because the Holy Spirit resides in every believer. We each have a story that has impacted what we believe. It is not up to us as individuals to decide what opinion or belief is right or wrong for another person. We are imperfect people and because of our imperfection will not always be right.   In the end,  it is not our responsibility to force our opinion, belief, or conviction on someone else.    There is only one Holy Spirit.  We can plant the seed or voice our opinion but should do so with love. Allow God to work in the lives of others just as He works in our own.

So for those who voice their opinions as gospel truth and ridicule or humiliate someone with a different view, stop.  There is only one God and He alone holds all the answers to our most pressing questions.  It is by faith alone we trust Him and walk with Him. That is why it is called faith.   Faith means trusting when we do not have the answers to every question out there.  Faith is what drives us to seek God more fully allowing Him to reveal Truth in our lives which allows Him to direct our path. Faith is what fuels our love of God and in turn should guide us to love others.

Our responsibility while here is to love Jesus with our whole heart and share Him with others.  We cannot accomplish that if we are too busy pushing people away with our unchristlike behavior.  We are to live by example.  It should be seen in word and in deed.  Who listens to those that mocks others?  Who wants what that person has?  That is the furthest thing from Jesus.  So let’s get it together.  Let’s show respect for one another. Let’s love one another. We all need work.  No one is perfect.   A display of love and grace instead of negativity just might be what is needed to lead someone over to your own way of thinking.  Maybe 🙂

Those with knowledge know when to be quiet,
and those with understanding know how to remain calm.

Proverbs 17:27

Have you seen a person who is wise in his own sight?
Know that there is more hope for a fool than for him.

Proverbs 26:12

You shall love-”Love the Eternal One your God with everything you have:  all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind – and love your neighbor as yourself.

Luke 10:27

Knowledge or Intimacy: Which will you choose?

It is possible to know all about doctrine and yet not know Jesus.  The soul is in danger when the knowledge of the doctrine out steps intimate touch with Jesus….Have I a personal history with Jesus Christ?  The one sign of discipleship is intimate connection with Him, a knowledge of Jesus Christ which nothing can shake.

Oswald Chambers

So I opened my fortune cookie and smiled as I saw the printed words on the tiny slip of paper.  How true the words that jumped off the paper.

We want to have a testimony, but we don’t want the test.

How many people want to be able to tell a really good story full of drama and intrigue but do not want to have to be the one who actually lives it out?  I really believe that no one wants to have to go through a hellish experience?   We want a butterflies and rainbows kind of life.  Well guess what?  A butterflies and rainbows kind of life is a wasted life.

I was laughing at myself on my way home from car pool this morning as James 1 popped into my head.

Don’t run from tests and hardships, brothers and sisters.  As difficult as they are you will ultimately find joy in them; if you embrace them your faith will blossom under pressure and teach you true patience as you endure.  And true patience brought on by endurance will equip you to complete the long journey and cross the finish line-mature, complete and wanting nothing.

James 1:2-4

I remember the naive young woman asking God to give her hardships so she could “endure, know patience and discover God in a big way.”  I cannot help but laugh at myself.  You know that whole hindsight is 20/20 thing?  If I had only known what was coming…I wouldn’t have changed a thing.  I have an incredible testimony!  I walked through hell and came out on the other side with something no one will ever be able to take away from me.  EVER.  

I wake up every day thankful for every moment of what I endured in my past.   However what I have in Christ was not given to me because I endured my past. The endurance taught me patience and how to wait on God’s timing. The endurance grew my faith beyond measure.  The intimacy I know sprung forth out of discovering Him in a way I had never known Him.   Not through knowledge but through relationship. In my deepest moments of despair and loneliness, He was the only thing left.  He was the only One who could rescue me.  He became my everything. That is how I came to know real joy and true intimacy with Jesus. I cannot explain to you the fullness of what I have because the joy of knowing Christ in this way is more than what can be written with words.

Trials, struggles, heartache, gut wrenching pain, sorrow and all those other things that can crush and break us bring about extreme change in our lives if we fight through them the right way.  They can actually bring triumphant joy!!  I am not talking happiness.  Happiness brought about by a good life, a great marriage, having a family, a beautiful home and so forth, I am talking about joy that can only come from knowing true contentment in Christ Jesus.  It is a joy that is found when we know Him in an intimate and personal way and He alone satisfies our every desire.  Not just something written or talked about but instead lived out on a daily basis because we know Him.  We have experienced Him and He radiates through our lives and we glow!  His joy is contagious! Sadly though a life can be lived without ever knowing Him in that way.  

We can all talk a good talk but it is not until we are desperate for Jesus that we truly understand the need for His grace and love.  So embrace your trials. Embrace your struggles. Give Him the sin that keeps you bound in chains and embrace the grace and joy He offers to you.  Endure it and watch your faith blossom!  Endure it and gain true patience that will allow you to trudge on through the hurdles of life as you wait on Him.   Hold Fast to Him and allow Him to walk you through it all. Allow Him to rescue you! It will not only change your heart but He will change your life too!!  Your life will be made new!


“As I settled myself down into the deep cushions of the soft couch, the room felt stuffy and smelled of a floral scent.  It felt safe enough for the time being.  I was there to listen, there to share, there to receive counsel and hopefully there to find healing.  As I heard his voice chills ran down my spine as he replayed his version of the story out loud.  I trembled as I replayed the hurt.  I did not even know this person anymore.  Many things I had once believed had been removed as the realization set in that the many years of my life had been nothing more than mountains of lies.  Wrapping my head around a story that made no sense quickly left me feeling confused and uncertain of my surroundings.  I wanted to jump up from the comfort of the couch that seemed to engulf me and run to the door but then a voice from across the room grabbed my attention and brought me back into the moment.  The voice wanted to know my thoughts,  I tried to speak but I could not breathe.  I did not realize the amount of my tears until I had to make my mouth form words.  What words were there left to say anyway?  It just did not seem to matter anymore because truthfully I no longer knew what was real and what was a lie.  Then I heard the man across the room speak.  His eyes locked on the person at the other end of the couch as he said, “you have completely broken her spirit.  You have crushed and destroyed her.”  Those words pierced into my heart like a dagger.  I knew they were true but I had tried so hard to be strong.  I did not want to be broken and most definitely did not want to be crushed.  How could I allow someone to do that to me?  How did it get this far out of control.  Where was God?  Why was He not there to protect my heart?  It needed protecting.  Then that voice from across the room spoke again.  As I looked up his eyes were locked on mine as he said,  “though you are broken now, you will be ok.  No matter what happens next, you will be ok.”  What?  My thoughts poured out like a faucet running full stream.  I had no clue what he was talking about because nothing in my life felt ok and I was confident nothing ever would again.”

It brings a smile to my heart as I look at all that God has blessed my life with over the last two years.  He has been so good to me.  So often Joel 2:25 will play through my mind. “I will compensate you for the years the locusts have eaten.”  Such a remarkable reminder that God restores to us what we have lost through the valleys, the struggles, the chastising.  

Over the past couple of months I have been participating in a study on the book of Hosea.  As my pastor’s wife has led us through this remarkable journey of God’s redeeming love I have been impacted greatly by its truth and relevance in my own life.  I have witnessed and experienced the unmistakable beauty and amazement  of the redeeming love of God and I am constantly overwhelmed by it.  I once was broken and crushed too but not any longer.

So far one of the most significant teachings through this study came from the week we studied Hosea 5:1-6:3.  My pastor’s wife shared Deuteronomy 32:39 with us which says,

“Look now; I myself am He! There is no other god but Me! I am the one who kills and gives life; I am the one who wounds and heals; no one can be rescued from my powerful hand!”

What a powerful verse.  Especially the words, “I am the one who wounds and heals.”  She explained that the Hebrew word for wound means to crush, smash, shatter or wound severely while the Hebrew word for heal means to make whole, to repair thoroughly.  She summed it up by saying that God wanted to wound in order to heal.  Wow! That is a lot in a few short words.  Because you were not there to hear the entire teaching let me explain that we are discussing Israel’s defiance of God.  They have turned their back on Him and chosen to go their own way, do their own thing.  It is such a relatable topic because every believer struggles with taking control of their life and wanting to do their own thing.  Or at least I know I do.  With that said, God allows us to take the road we choose, often the wrong road leaving us to suffer the consequences.  When we choose that road, we find ourselves in deep water oftentimes drowning from the weight of our bad choices (sometimes because of the bad choices of others) and are severely wounded.  God allows us to take those roads, face those consequences, enduring the discipline so that we can be made whole and find true healing in Him.  He allows us to suffer so that we will find our way back to Him.  Is that not remarkable?  We can turn away, choose other things and yet He will go out of His way to grab our attention, confront us and draw us back into His arms!  I am overwhelmed by His goodness yet again!

As we ended that lesson, my pastor’s wife said something that resonated so deeply within me because of the incredible truth.  She said, “Eventually the pain gives way to rain that refreshes and makes fruitful.”  That is me.  I never thought the pain would end.  I did not believe I would ever be “ok” again.  The pain felt never ending.  But it did.  God allowed the wounds that cut so deep into my heart to break me into a million pieces in order for me to become so desperate for Him that I had to depend solely on Him to heal me completely.  And He did.  And not only did He heal me but He restored to me not just everything that had been taken through the pain but He gave me back even more.  More love, more grace, more knowledge and understanding of who He is, a longing to be more like Him and more of Him to share with others.

Scripture tells us that God does not waste our pain because He wants us to share our journey with others so that others may discover His healing and redeeming love as well. As I have found healing it has become my greatest joy to share what He has done for me so that others will know His redeeming love!

“He (God) comforts us in our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.”

2 Corinthians 1:4


I wore the scarlet letter “D” around my neck for several years.  Divorce. It was not a word I ever expected to find attached to my name. In fact, had you asked me in my younger years if I believed I would ever wear the title of divorcee you would have received a loud resounding no.  I would never be one of “those” people. That would have honestly been my answer.  Truly.  Well look at me now.

After sixteen years of marriage and five beautiful children, I found myself at the end of my marriage.  I found myself a single mom of five with no job.  After fifteen years of being a devoted stay at home mom, I had to figure out how to provide for six people on my own.  My identity as wife had been stripped away and was now a thing of my past.  The scarlet letter “D” hung so large and disgusting around my neck that is began to define me. With each marital status box check marked divorced, I sank lower and lower into a lesser version of myself. I began to lose even more of myself than I already had in many years of an unhealthy marriage. When I was young, I wanted so badly to “get it right.”  I was determined to do all the things God wanted me to do and to go all the great places He wanted me to go.  I had great plans for the plans God had for my life. That was the problem.  They were my great plans and somewhere along the way, it all went wrong.

Finding oneself within a community of Christians is incredibly difficult after divorce.  To find healing and restoration within a church can be even more difficult.  Throughout the process of my divorce I went to church.  I wanted comfort and direction. I needed guidance. But what happened was more times than I can count I left feeling discouraged and hurt from simple comments about “divorced people.”  The feelings of inadequacy grew into a pile that covered me with such weight that I could not breath at times.  As I would slowly attempt to dig my way out of the rubble and just begin to see some light someone else was there to add more weight to my pile, reminding me that divorce was a sin and that it disqualified me from God’s blessing.  The cycle continued. The digging, climbing and clearing of the horror and humiliation by those well meaning Christians in my life. A never ending cycle of pain.

It took a great work of God to get me through it all.  It took enormous amounts of time emerged in His book searching for His answers and not the opinions of others.  You see I had to come to the realization that we all have regrets.  We all deal with shame and guilt.  We all have sinned. We all continuously sin. It is an ongoing act for everyone.

For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.  
Romans 3:23

Because of our sin, we all deserve death.  No one person is better than another.  

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 6:23

Suddenly it was like a light bulb went off in my head as I began to truly grasp that no one was sinless.  That was huge for me because somewhere in my mind I had created a lie that said there were those who walked the earth that did not sin.  What a lie I found myself believing. It left me feeling like I would never be good enough.  Then I discovered a “But God.”

But God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.  Romans 5:8

Let me tell you the significance of But God, in my life.  I want to share it with you because it is huge and it is freeing.  You see on my own I cannot live this life perfectly.  Nothing I do on my own will succeed if I do not allow God room to work.  This would be where But God comes in and changes everything. Example: I may feel that I have ruined my life because I am divorced but God showed His great love for me by sending Christ to die for me while I was still a sinner. (Romans 5:8) You see when we see a But God in scripture it signals a change or a clarification in what follows next. It signals a change in our life or a chance to challenge and grow our faith.  When God enters the picture of our lives,  He makes all the difference in the world because He changes everything and His mercy makes it new. It begins to change your perspective on things. That’s what happened to me. I realized that nothing I could do nor anyone else would ever be good enough to gain God’s approval, His love or His grace.  We are all nothing but disgusting sinners who need saving. But God gave us Jesus and it is by the blood of Jesus that God’s see me as righteous and no longer disgusting. So now  I shut out the world and I listen to what God has to say about me.

I am a child of God
But to all who believed Him and accepted Him, He gave the right to become the children of God.
John 1:12

I am chosen, holy and blameless before God

Even before He made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in His eyes.
Ephesians 1:4

I am righteous and holy

Put on your new nature, created to be like God-truly righteous and holy.
Ephesians 4:24

I am redeemed and forgiven by the grace of Jesus Christ

He is so rich in kindness and grace that He purchased our freedom with the blood of His Son and forgave our sins.
Ephesians 1:7

My past happened.  It is done. I cannot change what has happened.  I cannot go back and make things different.  I could choose to continue to beat myself up and carry the burden of my past forever but that would just be stupid.  That would be like living in a prison forever.  When it all comes down to it, we all have a past, we all have sin and we all deserve death BUT GOD gave us Jesus.  Thank God and His amazing grace that because of the work Jesus did on the cross, He remembers our sin no more!  He has taken it and thrown it as far as the east is from the west.  He has redeemed the messes and restored the broken.  He has freed me from my past and He has freed you from your past too.  

He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.
Psalm 103:12

But the Lord will redeem those who serve Him.  No one who takes refuge in Him will be condemned.

Psalm 34:22

So Christ has truly set us free.  Now make sure you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law.

Galatians 5:1

There are days when the past creeps in and I find myself suffering with feelings of guilt and shame. Satan wants nothing more than for us to suffer with those feelings.  He wants us to be so paralyzed by our past regrets and choices that we cannot move forward because his mission is to steal, kill and destroy the abundant life that Jesus came to give us.  (John 10:10)  We have to remember that we are free! We cannot enjoy the life God has for us if we allow ourselves to wallow in guilt and shame.  So we must combat those lies of Satan with the Truth of God’s word.

Jesus said to the people who believed in Him, “you are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings.  And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32

That is it!  The truth sets us free!  The past has happened but I will make the choice not to allow it to impact my future.  The choice is up to us. We can choose to either wear those chains of guilt and shame or throw them off and allow God to redeem our past and use it for His glory!!

My scarlet is letter is a “D,” but perhaps you have a different letter hanging around your neck. Truth be told I have many scarlet letters that I could wear. So do you.  Maybe it is an “A” for adultery or addiction.  Maybe it is a “G” for gossip or greed.  Maybe it is a “P” for pornography or pride.  An “I” for insecurity or “J” for judgmental attitude.
Regardless of your sin, regardless of the guilt, God is your only true answer and real source of freedom.

I am divorced but I am no longer defined by my scarlet letter of shame.  Instead, I choose to see myself as whole, forgiven and loved.  I choose to wear the title of Child of the One true King!  I choose to be free!

Grace Deficient

So imagine being told that someone has no desire to meet your spouse. Because of preconceived notions and judgements formulated in their own mind, they do not want to meet one of the most important people in your life. The one person in your life who has taught and demonstrated God’s love to you more than anyone else and they don’t want to know them. That was the dilemma I was facing. That was my heartache. But God quickly turned that dilemma into a great lesson. 

You see, over the course of a messy divorce, I learned a lot about people. I also learned even more about God and His unending love and amazing grace for His children. For those who would refuse to accept someone they have never even met based solely on assumptions and judgements and cast them aside leads me to believe that they may have a grace deficiency. 

 I have come to realize that when you struggle with any kind of sin, there will be those who stand on the sidelines casting their stones in your direction. They will point fingers, talk, and make their judgements yet stand confused as they cannot quite make sense as to how it is that Jesus is working through your mess of a life. I don’t mean that to come across arrogant. Instead quite the opposite. I am a sinner who feels unworthy of being used by God. I have failed on so many occasions but my Jesus did something amazing for me. He paid an amazing price for my life so that my life could be used for His Father’s glory. 

Imagine standing in a room full of people. You are there with your struggles and sin trying to make sense of a life gone wrong. Around the room are those who turn up their noses and point fingers making assumptions of every wrong decision you have made. Suddenly you look and there He is. There is Jesus. You suddenly become confused. Why? Because He is standing next to you. You don’t understand. You see, all those in the room pointing their fingers are the ones who have lived such good lives. They do all the right things. They say the right things. Why is He standing with you? Then He looks at you and speaks.

 “Healthy people don’t need a doctor-sick people do.” 
Then He adds,
 “Now go and learn the meaning of this scripture: I want you to show mercy not offer sacrifices. For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.” 
 Matthew 9:12-13 

 There it is. In a nutshell. He is there with you because you get it. You know you are a sinner and you know you need His grace.

Sometimes it is hard for those who have lived such a “blameless” life to understand how it is that those who have messed up so bad in life can be used by God but that scripture makes it abundantly clear. You see, Jesus takes our greatest failures and our deepest regrets and biggest heartaches and He uses them to do amazing things. When we turn it all over to Him, seek His forgiveness in true repentance, He restores us. But not only that He makes us shine brighter than we ever did before. Why? Because we get it.  We recognize that we are frail, weak and sinful. We realize that before we did not get it. We were being held in bondage by rules and regulations that were keeping us from walking with Him so intimately. We now understand what it means to fall flat on our face and have the Creator of the Universe pick us up and say, “My child I love you.” We have been through so much and gotten it wrong so many times that turning down our noses at another is not possible. Instead we see a world full of people just like us. People who are hurting and broken, longing to be rescued. And that is exactly what He does. He rescues. He pulls us out of the miry clay and He begins to mold and fashion us into something so beautiful. But the incredible thing is that we are not just beautiful, but we are usable too. Because we have been beaten and bruised by the ugliness of the world, we’re easier to shape into His likeness. It is easier to mold us into His image because we yearn to be like Him. We desire to be transformed. We want Him. We long to share Him and everything He has done and given to us. We can’t get enough. We look at the world and see what He sees: The hurt, the lonely, the struggling, the abandoned, the beaten, the betrayed, the orphaned, and our hearts overflow with love for them. We see the world with His eyes and our hearts flow with compassion, mercy and grace for those who need hope, who need Him just like we did. And so, He uses us. He is using my husband. He is using me. He is using our marriage. Because of His grace we are being used to bring His Father glory and show His Father’s love to those who need rescuing. 

 As Christians, this isn’t new information. Throughout scripture that is always where you found Jesus. With the sinners, the downtrodden and the lost. He was with the ones who needed rescuing and He avoided the ones who “followed” the rules because they had no place for Him in their lives. That was the mission of Jesus. That should be our mission. Not to turn up our noses at those who stumble and fall but instead to offer them the grace, mercy and love that Jesus offered to us. Why? Because that is what Jesus would do!

My Mom, my Hero

In my time working for a bank, one thing I saw my fair share of was the ugliness that can surface between family members at the death of a loved one.  I witnessed it repeatedly.  People fighting over money and position. Who would decide what to do with the money still left in a savings account or who was in charge of making the plans?  It was unbearable to witness but hurting people hurt people. It is just a fact of life. 

Not long ago my family encountered its own source of drama when there was a death within our family.  I will not bore you with the details, as I am sure you have experienced your own and my ordeal will seem no different.  However, I want to share with you a little about my mom and what I saw rise up out of the tragedy of it all.

It is not unusual to have drama within a family.  I know very well with five children of my own, each with different personalities, that when you put them all in the same room there will be arguing or differences of opinion.  The same can be said for my mother and her siblings.  I have witnessed it time and again, but this time I witnessed my mother rise above the ugliness and while doing so making a huge statement/impact to my children, my siblings and myself.

Events occurred, plans were made, and things were said without taking into consideration the plans or feelings of others involved. Anger arose within me as once again, self-centeredness triumphed and my mom was left hurt again.  My blood boiled and as I spoke with my siblings, I was ready to lead the charge to make it all stop.  I am tired of watching my mom hurt. Then I watched my mom.

Admittedly, I sometimes see her silence as weakness.  I do not understand why she allows so many people to trample her or at least that is how I see it.  Then today I was reading the book In the Grip of Grace yet again and came across this,

“Of all the lessons we can draw from this verse (John 17:20-21), don’t miss the most important: Unity matters to God. The Father does not want his kids to squabble.  Disunity disturbs him. Why? Because “all people will know that you are my followers if you love each other” (John 13:35).  Unity creates belief.  How will the world believe that Jesus was sent by God? Not if we agree with each other.  Not if we solve every controversy.  Not if we are unanimous on each vote.  Not if we never make a doctrinal error.  But if we love one another.

Unity creates belief.  Disunity fosters disbelief. Who wants to board a ship of bickering sailors?  Life on the ocean may be rough, but at least the waves don’t call us names.

All people will know that you are my followers if you love each other.” Stop and think about this verse for a minute. Could it be that unity is the key to reaching the world for Christ?

If unity is the key to evangelism, shouldn’t it have precedence in my prayers? Shouldn’t we, as Paul said, “make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Eph 4:3)?  If unity matters to God, then shouldn’t unity matter to us? If unity is a priority in heaven, then shouldn’t’ it be a priority on earth?

Nowhere, by the way, are we told to build unity.  We are told simply to keep unity.  From God’s perspective there is but “one flock and one shepherd” (John 10:16) Unity does not need to be created; it simply needs to be protected.”

In the Grip of Grace- Max Lucado 

This left me thinking, how often do we find ourselves divided within our own family?  Differences of opinion or convictions can create quite the argument if allowed. It is the power plays and one-upmanship where the division commonly occurs.  

Where jealousy and selfishness are, there will be confusion and every kind of evil.
James 3:16

Do you know where your fights and arguments come from?  They come from the selfish desires that wage war within you.
James 4:1

This kind of behavior even happened with the disciples as they argued for position in the presence of Jesus (Mark 9:33-37). Peter thought he was better than the other disciples were because he walked on water.  John claimed top spot, as he was the “favorite” of Jesus.  Craziness. 

Jesus had a response for his quarreling followers and for us as well.

Whoever accepts a child like this in my name accepts me. And whoever accepts me accepts the One who sent me.
Mark 9:37

Wow.  Jesus used the word accept four times in that single verse leading me to believe this is something He felt quite strongly about and we should listen.  What should that say to each of us? The answer to an argument. Acceptance.  The first step in unity.  Acceptance.  It was not agreement or negotiation but instead the first and only answer was and is acceptance. 

There it was.  My mom’s “weakness” is not weakness but instead her strength.  She believes in unity. She believes in doing what needs to be done to keep the peace, which usually means conceding.  She also believes that we cannot change others and so we must accept them, flaws and all.  Ugh. That stinks.  You know what that means?  Many hurt feelings.  Being made to feel as if you do not matter.  What I am learning though is that her example makes me a better follower of Christ.  Jesus always put the needs of others before Himself.  He accepted people flaws and all. He offered them grace.  It is not always an easy thing to do but it is the right thing to do and because of it, He blesses us. 

Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that no one can criticize you.  Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people.  Hold firmly to the word of life; then on the day of Christ’s return, I will be proud that I did not run the race in vain and that my work was not useless.
Philippians 2:14-16

Over the years, I have witnessed my mom offer great amounts of grace to those who have caused her great amounts of tears.  She is not perfect by any stretch of the imagination but she does strive to live a life of integrity.  Out of a family full of Pastors, Deacons and Sunday school teachers, she has taught me more than any other has.  She lives a life of acceptance and strives to create unity within our family.  She chooses to love and with that people know that she follows Jesus (John 13:35). She “makes every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Eph 4:3) as she puts aside her own wants and desires.  She loves the unlovable, offers grace to the undeserving and strives for unity at the cost of her own feelings.  That is the legacy that my mom will leave for her children and grandchildren some day. 

With that, I leave you with the words of my ever so wise younger sister,

“I’d rather be ministered to by people who’ve seen the pits of despair of this little thing we like to call life.  If one can come out swinging after tragedy/suffering of any kind, then all the more impact they’ll have on others. Also I find, those who have dealt with the “dark side” of life tend to be more forgiving, more compassionate and more open.  And all those make for the best types of Christians in my humble opinion.”

I think we would both agree, that is our mom 🙂

Lost Heros Found

Where the grace of God is missed, bitterness is born. But where the grace of God is embraced, forgiveness flourishes.
-Max Lucado

Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God.  Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many.

Hebrews 12:15

I had just left from a wonderful morning of worship and was heading home when the words, “every person in my life who I ever thought were great influences in my life ended up being a joke” came from my mouth.  I was feeling disappointed and angry.  My pastor had been speaking on how we each influence the world and asked us to think about those in our life who had been a great influence to us.  Every name that passed through my mind brought about feelings of hurt.  Suddenly my life felt like a joke.

Fortunately, for me, I have a husband who knows how to stay quiet when I have these moments.  He does not encourage my negative thoughts by adding insult to injury but instead just listens.  He knows I need to talk it all out and allow God to work  it out for me.

As I sat in the car with tears in my eyes, the thick black ooze of bitterness came pouring out of my heart.  I could feel the anger for each of these people rise to the surface.  I was a little caught off guard.  I really thought I had dealt with these deep nasty feelings.  Apparently, I had not. 

This week God has truly been working on me in this area.  I asked for His help and He has answered.  Monday as I was writing He led me to a book I have not read in quite some time.  Max Lucado’s In the Grip of Grace.   I came across this passage,

“Let me be very clear.  Hatred will sour your outlook and break your back.  The load of bitterness is simply too heavy.  Your knees will buckle under the strain, and your heart will break beneath the weight.  The mountain before you is steep enough without the heaviness of hatred on your back.  The wisest choice-the only choice-is for you to drop the anger.  You will never be called upon to give anyone more grace than God has already given you.”

OUCH! Wow!  Profound. My toes are a little sore. This means forgiveness. Not exactly what I wanted to hear.

In my head, I responded with “But, Max, that’s not fair!  These people do not deserve grace.  They do not deserve mercy.  They do not deserve my forgiveness.”

I continued reading,

“I’m not saying [they] he [are] is.  But are you?”

Ouch again!  His words continued jumping off the page at me.

“Besides what choice do you have?  Hatred?  The alternative is not appealing.  Look what happens when we refuse to forgive, “The master was very angry and put the servant in prison to be punished until he could pay for everything he owed” (Matt. 18:34).

Unforgiving servants always end up in prison. Prisons of anger, guilt and depression.  God doesn’t have to put us in jail; we create our own.  “Some men stay healthy till the day they die…others have no happiness at all; they live and die with bitter hearts” (Job 21:23-25 TEV).

I started rolling all that around in my head. It was a lot.  I recognize the heaviness he is writing about and I know I want it gone.  I began to think more about grace.  God does not just offer me grace but He offers it to everyone.  Not only that but He expects me to offer the same grace He offers me, to others.  All others.

As I was reading the words in the book over again, God brought this passage to mind.

No one is righteous- not even one.No one is truly wise; no one is seeking God.All have turned away; all have become useless.No one does good, not a single one.
Romans 3:10-11

This passage led me down a different road. My perspective began to change.  Not everyone gets it right all the time.  No one walks every second of life in the will of God.  No one.  Why?  Because no one does good…all the time.  It is just not possible.  So what does that mean?  It means we cannot put people on pedestals.  I cannot put people on pedestals.  Let me just say that I stink at this.  I have a tendency to place people that I look up to on these beautifully decorated pedestals.  I paint them as perfect and sinless.  Then I focus my attention on wanting to be like them because I see them as being the epitome of “Christ likeness.”  Ugh.  Sinful.  My intentions are good.  Honestly they are.  The problem is that this expectation is unfair.  It is not possible. Why?  Because none of us are Jesus.  No matter how hard we try, there is no way we will ever actually be Jesus.  We can reflect Him.  We can act like Him but we will never be perfect and sinless.  My issue is that of putting the wrong person(s) on the pedestal.  It should be Jesus.  My attention should be focused on Him because He is the One who will never fall off that pedestal.   He is the only One who will never let me down.

It is so simple now that I have thought it all through.  So much time wasted placing unrealistic expectations on people who will ultimately fall. Huge amounts of my time wasted with feelings of bitterness and anger.  It is time to let it all go.  It is time to release that huge weight that has been holding me back. It is time to acknowledge that the people who I once considered influences in my life are not a joke.  I know, how nice of me 🙂 Seriously though the time they spent being a part of my life and what they did teach me was not a waste of time.  It is time to acknowledge that all those things I learned from them did in fact help to encourage and grow my faith.  It is time to forgive the hurt caused by the toppling over of the pedestal for which I had placed each of them.  Just as God offers me grace, I now choose to do the same.  

Hiding behind the don't judge nonsense…Please!!??

I was scrolling through Twitter when the picture to the left popped up in my feed along with the caption “There is a BIG difference between judging/criticizing and pouring forth the straight testimony.  It’s time we be honest and stop hiding behind the “DON”T JUDGE” nonsense.”  My shoulders slumped and my heart sank.  The arrogance of posting such a statement. Why do people post the things they do?  Is it a lack of understanding scripture?  Of grace? It is hard to understand the whys especially when it is posted by someone you know. In my frustration, I opened my Bible and began searching for answers and what God had to say.  The rest of this posting is where my time with Him led.   

For all have turned away; all have become useless. No one does good, not a single one.
Romans 3:12

For the sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over many.  But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ.Romans 5:17 

My first question while searching became: Where does that kind of attitude come from? Is it a lack of understanding grace? I know it is a word they talk about and are aware of the meaning but it seems that they do not know how to extend or accept it.  My search then led me to my journal where I had penned this quote by Chuck Swindoll in which he refers to this kind of attitude as un-Christlike.  “Grace killers are notorious for a judgmental attitude.  It is perhaps the single most un-Christlike characteristic in evangelical circles today.” This led me to the book of Matthew where Jesus referred to them as white washed tombs.

“What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees?  Hypocrites!  For you are like white washed tombs-beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity.”     Matthew 23:27

I realize that the world out there is full of “Christians” who will judge and criticize those around them. They finger point and gossip all the while ignoring the incredibly large sequoia tree hanging from their own eye (Matt. 7:3-5). I guess what I am learning is simply this; avoid those that would be quick to point out your sin while ignoring their own. Avoid those that have developed alternatives to God’s grace. Those who opt for a list of dos and don’ts or leave no room for gray areas or who have developed judgmental attitudes toward those who will not follow their plans or opinions.  Why? Because those types of attitudes are un-Christlike.
There is an excellent book written by Max Lucado titled In the Grip of Grace, which touches on this as well.  I have read it several times and this particular passage gets me every time.

In Romans 1 Paul confronts the hedonists.  In chapter 2 he deals with another group, the judgmental moralists: those who, “pass judgment on someone else” (2:1 NIV).  Somewhere between the escort service and the church service there is the person who “points[his] finger at others” (2:1 MSG).

 “Therefore you have no excuse, O man, whoever you are, when you judge another; for in passing judgment upon him you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things.” (RSV 2:1) 

Who is this person?  Is could be anyone (“O man, whoever you are”) who filters God’s grace through his own opinion.  Anyone who dilutes God’s mercy with his own prejudice.  He is the prodigal son’s elder brother who wouldn’t attend the party (see Luke 15:11-32).  He is the ten-hour worker, upset because the one-hour worker got the same wage (see Matt. 20:1-16). He is the fault- finding brother obsessed by his brother’s sins and oblivious to his own.     

Max Lucado~  In the Grip of Grace

I love his straightforwardness.  He calls it like it is because at one time or another we have all done the same thing.  We have all compared our faults, our sins to that of another person. We have all made judgment calls against someone without all the necessary facts. He says,
The easiest way to justify the mistakes in my house is to find worse ones in my neighbor’s house. 
-Max Lucado
The great thing about God is that this scam does not work. Comparing ourselves and withholding grace to another is wrong and we are accountable for our judgmental attitude. Here is what Paul says in Romans 2:2-4 (MSG)

But if you think that leaves you on high ground where you can point your finger at others, think again.  Every time you criticize someone, you condemn yourself.  It takes one to know one.  Judgmental criticism of others is a well-known way of escaping detection of your own crimes and misdemeanors.  God isn’t so easily diverted.  He sees right through all the smoke screens and holds you to what you’ve done.  You didn’t think, did you, that just by pointing your finger at others you would distract God from coming down on you hard?  Or did you think that just because He’s such a nice God he’d let you off the hook?  Better think this one through from the beginning.  God is kind, but he’s not soft.  In kindness He takes us firmly by the hand and leads us into a radical life change.

When the Holy Spirit lives within us, He touches those tender places in our heart revealing to us our sin when we begin to drift or turn away from God.  He leads us to repentance.  He also leads the right person to speak “forth the straight testimony.”   He sends someone who will speak truth, oftentimes-hard truth but one who will do so with great amounts of love and grace.  Someone who understands and has experienced His love and grace. Someone who has left judgement by the wayside and sees themselves just as unworthy of God’s grace.
Be wary of those who claim to choose integrity yet live a life that is critical and judgmental.  They are wolves in sheep’s clothing.  

Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves.  You can identify them by their fruit, by the way they act.  Can you pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles?  A good tree produces good fruit, a bad tree produces bad fruit.  A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit.  So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.”
Matthew 7:15-20

They are proclaiming a gospel that leaves little room for the amazing work Christ did upon the cross for everyone!

We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ.  And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are.Romans 3:22