Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Why So Much Evil?

I have struggled with what to say since hearing about the shooting at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. I have literally felt numb. Heartbroken. Grasping at what to say, if anything, that wouldn't sound trite. I have wept as I've seen friends posting things on social media that seem to blame God. Why would He allow this? If He is good, why doesn't He stop it? Why do Christians just say they will "pray"? These are all fair questions.
 
Before I give my thoughts on this, I want you to know something very important. Just because we don't understand why God is allowing things, just because we don't think He's being fair....that doesn't mean we cannot know His heart. He reveals His heart throughout the Scriptures. I may not understand His hand, but I can always understand His heart. Once you really know God's heart, you don't blame Him. You go to Him and ask Him for understanding. That's what I have been doing these past three days.

Just like light, good exists. Darkness is the absence of light. Evil is the absence of good. God is Good, God is Light and in Him is no darkness at all. (1 John 1:5) We have been pushing God away in America for years now. He allows us to choose to do this. And when we push the Light away, we are left with darkness. The choices we make as a result of our free will are delivering dire and sickening consequences. That's what evil does. Hear me clear: this is not His will for us. His will is that no one should perish. His will is that all of us would turn to Him. (2 Peter 3:9)

God is not allowing evil to exist for any other reason than the fact that His heart is for all of us to turn to Him. If He extracted evil (and He very well could), He would have to extract the lot of us. It's clear that we are all sinners and fall very short of God's standard of righteousness. (Romans 3:23)
Some evil is way harder to swallow than other evil in our eyes. In His eyes, evil is evil. Sin is sin. It separates us from Him and His heart grieves about that so much. He hates sin so much that He sent His Son to die for us, in our place, taking the payment for our sin, so our sin"would not be counted against us". (Romans 3:21-26, 2 Corinthians 5:18-20) When we recognize and admit that we have evil and sin in our hearts, go to God for forgiveness and receive this unimaginable gift of salvation, when God sees us, He sees us as righteous. Not because of what we have done, but because of what He has done for us. (Romans 10:9, see this article on GotQuestions.org)

If you hate evil, if you hate darkness, I want to let you know that you are loved and God is pursuing your heart. He hates it, too. The evil that happens in this world is a reflection of life without Him, and if you are tired of living that life - a new life is waiting for you. As a believer, I still suffer injustice, I still grieve, I still have to live in this world that pushes God away, but I don't have to look at every single thing as hopeless. Because I know God is good. God is Light - and in Him is no darkness at all. He helps me through the questions, He gives me peace that passes understanding and He helps me make sense of things that seem to make no sense. And when I can't seem to make sense of it, I know I can trust Him - because I know Him.

So yeah, we've had some horribly bad news recently; but I'm here to testify that there is also very, very Good News. And I believe, with all of my heart, that those precious souls who were taken on Sunday were met by Him instantly. They are now in His presence, free of this evil and complete in Him. Their suffering was not in vain. 

I'm not trying to simplify this. I know it's complicated and extremely difficult. I don't have all the answers...but I know the One who knows everything and I know He is good. That gives me tremendous peace.

Pray, friends. Pray like you've never prayed before.  I'm so weary of hearing people say that prayer is a cop out, because it's absolutely not. If you could see the battles raging in the spirit realm, you would know that our loved ones and friends who pray are fighting a tremendous battle. Join with them. And trust me, God hears. He sees, and He is faithful.

Evil will not have the final word.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Wrestling with God

This has been a hard year for me, I guess you could say it was a year of wrestling with God. After pulling back from my speaking ministry for a couple of years to focus on a business that ended up failing, I would be lying if I didn't admit that I began to question if God might be mad at me for giving up a thriving speaking ministry for a business that He knew would never even survive! Lies flooded my mind that convinced me that I had blown it. Surely, God had moved on. He would probably never allow me to speak again.

Fast forward to this past weekend.  I spoke at a ladies retreat for Mount Pisgah Church. I shared four
Mount Pisgah Church Ladies Retreat 9/15-17 2017
sessions throughout the weekend. The retreat committee asked me to be their speaker last year - long before my business failed and long before these lies began to flood my mind.

As the months and weeks led up to the retreat, I felt really overwhelmed. I even considered calling the retreat coordinator and letting her know I didn't think I was the right one for the job. I felt unqualified. I'm ashamed to admit that there was actually a fear in my mind that God wouldn't show up. What if He didn't show up? I knew I couldn't do this without Him!

Whatever lies came to my mind prior to the retreat, I made a conscious choice not to believe them. I believed His Word instead. The lies still came (daily!) but every time a lie would come, I would fight it with truth. As I prayed last week before the retreat, I was being honest with how unworthy I felt to be someone to share with these ladies. God spoke to my heart: "I led them to you, so you would lead them to Me. Just show up."

He had a plan and He would be faithful to complete it...

It wasn't about me, it was about Him...

Even when I didn't believe it, I prayed He would help my unbelief...

He reminded me that He loved those ladies so much...there was no way He wasn't going to show up.

He also reminded me that He loved me so much...and He was not mad at me.

So, I went.

Shaking, trembling....fighting my unbelief with Truth from God's Word. 

And He showed up. Big time. Maybe more than ever before, because guess what? I was completely surrendered to Him, knowing that in my own strength, this whole thing would fail. I was completely dependent on Him. Where I am weak, He is strong.

He isn't finished with me yet.  I just wrestled with God, and though I may walk away with a limp to remind me that it's not about me, I will never regret or resent this past year.

Because it confirmed my call.

Thank you, Lord.




Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Total Eclipse!

There is so much excitement here in my little town of Travelers Rest, as we will be in the direct path
of the total eclipse coming up on Monday, August 21. It's going to be a monumental, and historical day. I've never seen a total eclipse and honestly, I think it's pretty amazing that it is coming (literally) directly to my front door in SC!

As I've thought about the eclipse and have read what to expect, I must admit a little anxiety has crept in. Just a little. I mean, it's weird. It will assault my senses and confuse my "normal" for a few minutes. Darkness in the middle of the day - and plunging temperatures almost immediately (we can drop 10-20 degrees in seconds) are kinda freaky sounding to me. Birds go quiet - dogs go crazy. I guess you could say I'm fascinated, but a little freaked out.

Light is so comforting. It's warm. It's inviting, it allows things to grow - to flourish. It is revealing (hello, fitting room lights) and it's also a bit un-nerving if you are in a dark room and someone flicks on the LED light. But the light will be gone. And as excited as we all are (and I know we are!) about experiencing this phenomenon, I really think it's going to be alarming in some ways.

I wonder if an eclipse could be a tool that God uses to reveal to our hearts what the world would be like without the sun. Or perhaps The Son? Even for a few seconds. On the day of the crucifixion, the sun went dark for three whole hours! Can you imagine?

As you read the account of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ in Luke 23:44, the Bible says, "By this time it was about noon and darkness fell across the whole land until three o'clock. the light from the sun was gone. And suddenly, the curtain in the sanctuary was torn down the middle. The Jesus shouted, "Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands!" And with those words He breathed His last."

Science claims it was not an eclipse (based on the calendar & the moon), but the Greek word that Luke used when He wrote this scripture was Eklipontos - a participle of the verb ekleipō - which means “fail/leave off/cease.” Whether it was an eclipse or not, it was definitely a Divine Darkness God sent to reveal to the world that in killing His Son, they would lose it's Light. Darkness would ensue.  After all, Jesus said, "I am the Light of the world. If you follow me, you won't have to walk in darkness, because you will have the Light that leads to life." John 9:5, He said, "While I am in the world, I am the Light of the world."

Jesus also claimed in John 3:19-21 says, "God's Light came into the world, but people loved darkness more than the Light, for their actions were evil. All who do evil hate the Light and refuse to go near it for fear that their sins will be exposed. But those who do what is right come to the Light so others can see that they are doing what God wants."

Let's be honest here. We are pushing the Son out of our world. We hate the Light because it exposes us and reveals our true hearts.  Every day we read how we are pushing God out of our schools, our families, our governments and even our churches, folks. If we lose our Light, we will live in complete darkness. How can we not see this? Has the darkness appealed more to us than the Light? Do we realize what we are choosing? God is not going to force Himself on a country or a world (or a heart) that doesn't invite Him in. CS Lewis said it best: “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, "Thy will be done," and those to whom God says, in the end, "Thy will be done." 

I am going to spend some time while enveloped in the darkness of the eclipse thanking God for the Light of Jesus that He willingly sent to this dark, cold world. Hope. Forgiveness. Redemption. The Light that gives us sight and offers light and love to every heart who will invite Him! 

And even for a few minutes or seconds, when the world is dark and cold, may we all be reminded that "Once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light! For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true." (Ephesians 5:8-9)

Monday, May 22, 2017

"Help..."

I'll warn you, I'm about to get real here. It won't impress you at all and it might actually tempt you to judge me, but that's between you and God. (smile)

I've usually been a "good Christian girl" who wakes up early and has a set quiet time with God - reading and studying scripture, praying and just being still. However, the past few weeks or so, I wake up for my quiet time and end up getting distracted. I check my messages on my phone, open my
computer and catch up with people on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. I post things from my personal page, from my business that is closing, the new job I'm starting and the fundraiser I was organizing. But my Bible lays there - unopened - unread - unused. It got easier, honestly, to just ignore it and get on with my busy day. After all, I have so much to do! But yesterday, things changed.

Though it seemed easier to ignore after awhile, I must tell you something - I have felt every tinge of sadness and grieving in my spirit throughout the day as I have put other things before God. I couldn't shake it and it wouldn't go away, no matter how much I promised not to ignore Him the next morning (and then failed to deliver). I was beginning to feel like I was drowning in a weird way. I felt like I needed Him to save me from myself, but I didn't know how He would ever get through to me.

I got up yesterday, got distracted and then as I was about to get up off the couch to start my day, I realized I had done it again. I had ignored God. I told myself, "You are NOT getting up until you spend some time with Him." But I felt so torn because I had such a big day planned. I whispered, "Help." and then reached for my journal that has some words that would be from Jesus (and Scriptures to accompany and affirm the words) on one side of the page, with the other side being lines I can journal on. I opened it up to yesterday's page and wouldn't you know....God was there. It was so amazing. Here's the first part of what I read on the page:
"What are the triggers that pull you away from Me?
What temptation can yank you from My arms?
What can fling you so easily into the abyss, and then as I wait and reach for you, I hear your small voice, "Help." and I am there."
Are you kidding me? Did He just say that? He heard me whisper, "Help." and immediately, He was there. I read the rest of the page through tears and journaled for the first time in weeks. It was awesome. I asked God to continue to help me, because clearly I didn't have the discipline in my own strength. He is helping me already.

This morning, I woke up at 4:30am - way too early if you ask me - but, it was Him. I know it was. My heart began to race and the first words that came to my heart were, "Yes, Lord". So I woke up, grabbed a cup of coffee and spent way more time with God than I had in a long time. I can tell you, my day has been amazing. I don't feel tired. I don't feel defeated and I don't feel my spirit grieving anymore.

If you are struggling to put God first today, why not whisper to Him, "Help." He will be there. He will help you - He only waits for you to ask.

"You will seek Me and you will find Me when you seek me with your whole heart." - Jeremiah 29:13

"My heart has heard you say, "Come and talk with me." And my heart responds "Lord, I am coming."  -Psalms 27:8


Sunday, April 16, 2017

Hold On

Hopelessness.
Despair.
Doubt.

There’s no question in my mind that the disciples must have felt these
emotions as they watched Jesus being brutally crucified. What was going on? They gave up everything to follow this man and believed He was the Son of God – the promised Messiah!

Just days earlier, the people of Jerusalem lined the streets while shouting, "Hosanna!" with palm branches and shouts of joy as Jesus made His triumphant entry. But now, there He was, dying a humiliating and horrifying death on the cross. Some of those same people who had earlier hailed Him were now cursing Him and spitting on Him. Some were, along with the disciples, weeping over Him as they still had hope He might be their salvation, their King.

The disciples could not understand at that moment that all was well. They could not understand that the plan was going just as God designed from the beginning of time. At that moment, things looked so dark and discouraging to them…. but resurrection was coming.

Hope was around the corner. If only they had a glimpse of that coming glory!

Friends, if life seems hopeless, overwhelming or confusing, please hold on.

There must always be a death for a resurrection to come.

Death of a dream, death of a relationship, death of a habit that you feel you can never break or even death of our foolish pride – these are types of deaths we all experience in our lives every day.

If only we could have a glimpse of the coming glory! If only we could know that things will get better!

Maybe we cannot understand at those moments that all is well, that things are going just as God designed from the beginning of time. Things may look dark, difficult and discouraging…but resurrection is coming.

Yes, things looked hopeless the day Jesus took His last breath.
But resurrection came. 
And resurrection is coming for you, too.

Hold on.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

What if?

This is a note to my friends who follow Jesus. I have had so much on my heart lately that I haven't even known what to say, how to speak, how much to share, how much not to share. It's a weird season for someone who loves communication! I think many of you are right there with me, though. This may take a few minutes, so do me a favor and pray before you read on and don't rush through it. Also, when you see a scripture, don't skip over it thinking you already know it (smile).

Friends, hear my heart when I ask you....

What if, in our desire to help "change the world", we are only making things worse?

What if what we are trying to do actually goes against God's perfect plan for us in such a time as this?

What if it's true that people don't change because someone else imposes morality on them, or because of rules or laws? 

We already know from personal experience that people change when hearts change. And how can hearts change if the focus is always on the outward behavior? Galatians 2:21 says, "I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die." And yet, we focus only on the law when we try to change people from the outside, in.

Of course, my heart's desire would be if the laws of the land lined up with the laws of God! What a beautiful day it will be when that happens! Let's keep in mind though, that even WE cannot keep all those laws perfectly. We know that will not happen completely until Christ returns. In the meantime, I am concerned that our focus is more on law and behavior modification than it is our most important calling of all - to love God and love othersJesus said in John 13:34, "So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.Just as He loved us. That means, in spite of sin. That means, in a broken and deceived state. That means no matter what - unconditional love. 

God knew that people would be most open to His ways and His gospel not through controversy, but through unity and love. He tells us in 1 Timothy 2:8, "In every place of worship, I want men to pray with holy hands lifted up to God, free from anger and controversy." 2 Timothy 2:23-24 reminds us, "Again I say, don’t get involved in foolish, ignorant arguments that only start fights.  A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people."

Remember in Romans 2:4? That verse says, "Don't you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Can't you see that His kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?" Are we being kind or are we being condescending? Are we tolerating others or demanding that they change and be more like us? Are we patiently praying for and trusting God for their salvation? Are we pointing fingers at others but ignoring the thing that matters most? By the way, the thing that matters most? Love. 
  
Personally, I'm too aware of my own sin to throw judgment on anyone (Matthew 7:2 makes it clear that the judgment I give to others is the measuring stick that I am judged by...no thanks). Even Jesus didn't come to judge, but He came to save the world from their sin. (John 3:17) That includes me and you.

However, as children of God who have accepted Christ as our Lord and Savior, we now have God's Spirit, which gives us the ability and desire to obey His Word. Ezekiel 36:26-27 says, "And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations."

Don't miss this: He put His Spirit in us so that we can follow His decrees and be careful to obey His regulations. That means, before this happened, we were unable to do this. People who have not accepted Christ are literally incapable of obeying God's laws that we want to impose on them. It's almost like we are trying to get them to obey our Father, but they don't live in our household. It's crazy to think that when we focus on something they cannot understand or accept, that we could change their hearts. No, only He can change a heart.

Billy Graham said it best when he said,  
"It is the Holy Spirit's job to convict, God's job to judge and my job to love."

Galatians 2:16 says, "We know that a person is made right with God by faith in Jesus Christ, not by obeying the law. And we have believed in Jesus Christ, so that we might be made right with God because of our faith in Christ, not because we have obeyed the law. For not one will ever be made right with God by obeying the law."  No, actually, people are made right with God and then (and only then) are capable of obeying the law. (On a side note - take a few moments to read all of Galatians 2 if you can - woo baby!!)
  
Oh, my friends. I am not saying that we lay down and accept things the way they are.  I am
saying just the opposite. But what if getting up and doing something looks different that we thought? What if doing something means we stop being so angry about what is going on around us and started taking inventory of our own hearts? Are we loving people or shoving people? Are we listening or do we just want them to shut up and hear us? Are we showing God's kindness in our lives?  

What if, in the pursuit of holiness and justice, we realized that our hearts are in desperate need of healing, too? 

What if, instead of arguing and shouting, we remember that nobody is ultimately accountable to us, but to God

What if, even though we really thought we were right about something, we realized in humility and admitted that we could be wrong? 

How can we show others His kindness today so that when that day inevitably comes for them, they will hear, "Well done, my good and faithful servant."? 

So what now?!

Here are some practical, Biblical things we can do to show God's kindness and love to others. Once you read through them, if you have any other scriptures you want to share in the comments, please do!

Colossians 3:12-15 "Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other's faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in perfect peace. And always be thankful."  

Colossians 4:5-6 "Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive, so that you will have the right response for everyone."

1 Peter 3:13-17 "Now, who will want to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you suffer for doing what is right, God will reward you for it. So don’t worry or be afraid of their threats. Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it. But do this in a gentle and respectful way.  Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ.  Remember, it is better to suffer for doing good, if that is what God wants, than to suffer for doing wrong!"


Thursday, September 8, 2016

Learning to Wait

Whatever we need in today’s world of convenience can be had within minutes, if not seconds. We definitely live in the age of instant gratification.
Need to talk to someone? Pick up the phone. No need for wires anymore. No cords. No dials. 
Need something to eat? Fast food. Microwaves. Boxed, prepared dinners. No need to wait. (We won't get into how unhealthy this can be...that's another blog!)
Want to get caught up on the news? Turn on the TV. Or the computer. Within seconds, you’re all caught up.
Folks, we are losing our ability to wait. And it’s killing us spiritually.
Let’s think for a moment…
Noah waited 120 years from the moment he started to build the ark to the moment God brought the first rain drop.
The Israelites waited 430 years in captivity to the Egyptian nation before God rose Moses up to lead them out of their slavery.
There was no word from God for 400 years until Jesus Christ finally came and fulfilled all of the Old Testament prophecies as the Messiah.
That’s a lot of waiting. 
A lot of years. Centuries, in fact! We can miss the years and years of waiting as we quickly turn the pages of our Bibles in these stories. But don’t you just wonder what those times of waiting must have been like? Clearly, the promise was not forgotten and there was always a remnant of faithful believers who stayed focused on the promise, while living in what seemed to be silence. But I believe there were many who began to doubt.
Are you waiting on something? I know the struggle of waiting. 
Waiting on a phone call from a doctor with a biopsy result. 
Waiting for a word about whether or not I was being offered a job. 
Waiting on an update from family about a sick loved one.
Waiting on God to handle a situation where I saw injustice. 
I’m still waiting on some loved ones to trust in Jesus Christ.
Some things we wait for are serious and some are just the fulfillment of a dream. Sometimes we’re waiting for God to act when we’ve seen and experienced terrible injustice. 
We often have to wait on God. I’m beginning to realize that in that wait, God is allowing us to be tested. He is growing our faith. He is preparing hearts around us and He’s preparing our own heart, too. He is lining up His perfect timing. 
Sometimes He even gives us an answer we do not want to accept after we wait - but we can trust He is protecting us and lining up His plan in the midst of our heartbreak. God is good. Our disappointments and times of waiting do not change that fact.
The Psalms and Proverbs have beautiful scriptures on how we can wait:
Wait honestly:
I am exhausted from crying for help; my throat is parched. My eyes are swollen with weeping, waiting for my God to help me. Psalm 69:3
Wait quietly:
I wait quietly before God, for my victory comes from Him. Psalm 62:1
Wait hopefully:
I am worn out waiting for your rescue, but I have put my hope in your word. Psalm 119:81
Wait patiently:
I waited patiently for the LORD to help me, and He turned to me and heard my cry. Psalm 40:1
Wait courageously:
Wait patiently for the LORD. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord. Psalm 27:14
Wait expectantly:
Listen to my voice in the morning, LORD. Each morning I bring my requests to you and wait expectantly. Psalm 5:30
Whatever you are waiting for, I want to encourage you to keep believing and use this time of waiting to draw near to God, to learn to trust Him in new ways, asking Him to prepare your heart for the answer. Wait honestly, expressing your feelings to God during those times of weariness. Wait quietly, not complaining to anyone who will listen. Wait hopefully, knowing God hears and God has a plan. Wait patiently, trusting God’s timing is perfect (and usually not the same as ours!). Wait courageously, not fearfully or doubting. Wait expectantly, knowing God is working and He hears you. 
Yes, you can have instant gratification when it comes to waiting on God. But not in the way you might think. You see, it depends on where you choose to place your focus. If you are focusing on what you’re waiting for, you will be disappointed and will not have that instant gratification you’ve probably come to expect in today’s world. 
But if your focus is on God and knowing Him in a deeper way, you will be fully satisfied - instantly - as you seek His face, His purposes and His will. 
Come to think of it, that may just be what you’ve actually been waiting for all along.
Isaiah 30:18 So the Lord must wait for you to come to Him so He can show you His love and compassion. For the Lord is a faithful God. Blessed are those who wait for His help.


Sunday, August 21, 2016

Is God On Our Side?

When we were talking with the press prior to playing Survivor in China, I was approached by a reporter who was a little cynical about my faith in God.  He mockingly asked me "So...since you're the 'Christian' of the group, does that mean God is on your side?" (then he snickered)  I thought for a moment and then said, "Sir, God is on everyone's side.  I just happen to be on His."  He nodded, the smile left his face and then he said "I hope you do really well, but I don't think you will.  This is a tough game for a girl like you."

As I reflect on that conversation, I must say that I remember thinking he was probably right.  I knew God was on my side.  It didn't mean I would win the million dollars, be the best Survivor player ever or that everyone would love me. God's ways often do not line up with the world's ways. His definition of success is way different. God was not interested in having me "win" or be "successful" in the world's eyes.  He was more concerned with my character and helping me become more like His Son.  I don't have to impress Him, I just have to trust Him.

I did have an amazing, challenging, difficult, beautiful and painful experience in China. It changed my life in so many ways, I've lost count. He gave me opportunities to share His truth, play a game I wanted to play for many years and to this day He still uses that experience to grow me, shape me and challenge me. I'm pretty sure He will continue to use it the rest of my life. I was voted out third, but God was on my side. And He was by my side, too.

He still is.

I listened to the song, "You Are On Our Side" by Bethany Dillon over and over again prior to the game starting and it really spoke to my heart, so I'm sharing it with you below. I am pretty sure it had a lot to do with my quick, heart-felt response I gave to that reporter. It was a song God placed in my heart for "such a time as this".

God loves you, too.  He's on your side.  No matter what you've done.  He loves the widow, the poor, the thief, the whore, the sinner, the saint, the rich....all of us.  The question is not "Is God on my side?"  But rather..."Am I on His?" He is captured by us.  Will we be captured by Him?


Sunday, July 24, 2016

How to Conquer Evil Without Weapons

There's no denying that there is a lot of evil in the world. We see it all over the place and frankly, it can get downright discouraging. But what if there was something we could do to fight the evil without lifting a weapon? Without shouting and screaming or pointing fingers? Without being angry and bitter?

Romans 12:21 says, "Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good."  Among all the fighting, warring, name calling and demoralizing that we are doing  with each other in the world, the Book of Wisdom, God's Word, tells us there is a better way to fight evil. We are to "do good". 

Don't know where to start? Here are some ideas to get you thinking:

  • Students need tutors.
  • Shut-ins need visitors.
  • Sick people need someone to pick up their medicine or take them to appointments.
  • Demoralized people need someone to listen.
  • Pastors & their spouse need encouragement.
  • Ministries need volunteers.
  • Church nurseries, Sunday school and youth groups are desperate for workers who will keep their commitments.
  • Hungry people need food.
  • Unloved people need love.
  • Everyone needs a spiritual mentor.
  • Discouraged people need prayer and support.
  • Elderly friends need rides to run errands and company.
  • Teenagers need guidance & love.
  • Missionaries need financial support, letters of encouragement & care packages.
  • Service Men & Women could use a care package or a letter of encouragement.
  • Everyone needs prayer.
I could go on...and on. But you can clearly see that there's plenty that you can do to fight the evil in this world without weapons, being angry, bitter or demoralizing. God's ways are always best. Pick something on this list or ask Him to show you how you can overcome evil in this world with good - right in your own community!

And watch how He begins to change the world - one good deed at a time.

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. Galatians 6:9

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Religious Rehab

I used to cringe when I saw people with tattoos.  I confess it made me uncomfortable.  I was told that the only people who got tattoos were people who went to prison. When someone would say a "bad word" I would shake my head in dismay.  Drinking alcohol made you a sinner, dancing was for the ungodly and if you wore jeans or shorts of any kind, you were not a real "Christian lady".

In middle school, I was in an extremely legalistic and religious church and from an early age I was told that behavior modification was a big, huge deal and that if you didn't have the right behavior you were to be shunned or avoided.  So I acted accordingly.

Then I rebelled.

I would still pretend to be a "good Christian girl" on Sundays and at youth group activities, but I began making choices that did not line up with the expectation of my church when I wasn't there. I felt like everything I did was judged and I honestly couldn't measure up. Eventually, by the time I reached college, I ran from church.  All the rules were weighing me down.  Religion without relationship always equals rebellion.  All the judgment was making me cynical.  Something was missing and I knew it. I had it backwards. I was trying to change from the outside in, but God wanted to change me from the inside out.

Ezekiel 36:26 tells us that God wants to give us a new heart.  He wants to remove our old, stony, stubborn heart and replace it with a "heart of flesh".  He will put His Spirit in us so that we can obey.  This tells me something huge.  If His Spirit is not in us, we will not obey.  I mean, we can pretend to change.  We can't really obey from our heart though.  We just have an outward behavior modification program of sorts.  It will never last.  If our hearts don't change, our behavior may change on the outside, but all that religion on the inside will eventually lead to rebellion.

In 2003, I gave my heart to Christ and He replaced it with a new heart.  This one wants to obey.  This one doesn't want to judge, shun or wag my finger at anyone.  This one loves deeply.  This one is super-natural and it's Christ in me - the Hope of Glory! This heart knows that an outward appearance of "godliness" doesn't always mean that person is "holier" than another. God is not as concerned with our outward behavior as He is with our heart condition.  If we have pristine behavior, but our heart is still made of stone, God is not impressed.  If we have a new heart of flesh, given to us by Christ, but our behavior is still a work in progress, God is pleased.  It goes against all we think we know!

What's worse?  Someone with tattoos who is still addicted to alcohol but loves his neighbor as himself and pursues Jesus or the one who has a "clean life" and is told to love his neighbor as himself and doesn't?  We usually shun those who do the latter, but isn't it a sin to overlook the addicted and afflicted?  It's so sad to me how we often reject those who are changed more on the inside than they really look on the outside yet, but we open our arms to the ones who are cleaned up on the outside, but are loveless, gossiping and judgmental.  Which one do you suppose Jesus would approve of? (If you still aren't sure you know the answer, read this.)

I do believe God is still working that false religion out of my heart, though.  It's like "religious rehab" of sorts.  Every day I realize I'm still stuck in some of my old thought patterns.  It's a little different now, though.  Now, I find I'm pretty judgmental toward the religious folks. The ones who are still shutting people out.  The ones who are turning people away because of how they look or what they do.  But my being judgmental toward the "judgmental" isn't good, either.  They are only doing what they have been taught to do and they really think they are doing what is right. They are misguided.

Oh, Lord, help me.

There's quite a few of us who have been so "religionized" that we've lost sight of what really matters.  Jesus came to save the broken and the lost, not the ones who think they have it all together.  Even though my new heart does not want to do the same old habits of judging, finger wagging and being cynical, I still do them sometimes.  But it grieves my heart.  And I want to change.  Because Christ has changed me from the inside out, I realize He is constantly changing my heart for people and I want to do things that please Him. He has changed me (and continues to change me) from the inside out.

We all need Jesus.  We are all messed up in some way.  We all have sins we are dealing with.  Are we so worried about being "God's Gestapos" and pointing out the sins of others than we are not allowing Him to show us our own sin?

Oh, Lord, help us all.

You may think you can condemn such people, but you are just as bad, and you have no excuse! When you say they are wicked and should be punished, you are condemning yourself, for you who judge others do these very same things...Since you judge others for doing these things, why do you think you can avoid God's judgment when you do the very same things? Don't you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to do you? Can't you see that His kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?  (Romans 2:1, 3-4)

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