A Day of Grief and Incurable Pain

Have you ever done something you knew was wrong? Of course you have. You are human. Yesterday I was taught a rather harsh life lesson from God that had I known was going to be so harsh I would have never done what I did. But then, that’s how it goes, right? This is sort of long as it recounts a rather intense snapshot of my day so please bear with me.

I’m one of those people who have problems with authority. So much so that I have to verbally confirm whenever I can that if I place myself under someone’s authority then I fully understand that God will judge that person on how well they lead me and I will be judged on how well I obey the person leading whether that person is right or wrong. When we place ourselves under leadership we hope and pray that they will lead us correctly, but in the end there will be some things that they do wrong. Interestingly, we will not be responsible for their leading, just our obeying.

So, after multiple conversations about this with several people in my life recently, it happened. I lead someone wrong. Mostly in my life I am a follower when it comes to anything spiritual, however in one very specific area, God has allowed me a major form of leadership for a short time: I am a mom to a bright little boy named Jacob. Here is what happened.

Two days ago Jacob got an upset stomach, some sort of bug, and I found him in his room rather upset. We chatted about it and he said it was going away. I asked him if he prayed about it and he told me yes, that he told God he would not play a certain video game all day tomorrow if God would make his tummy feel better. ***TEACHING MOMENT*** bannered across my head. I told him that is a bad place to put God. God is not a genie in a bottle waiting to be bargained with. He is GOD. We got on a great conversation about how big God is and how potentially bad it is to get in the habit of bargaining with the Almighty Creator of the Universe. He got it. He began to cry. He began to pray for forgiveness. We talked some more and I was able to tell him it is OK, he did not know, and God knew I would be here to teach him the right way. It was a great teaching moment. I shared with him that God not only loves Jacob but that he LIKES him too. God knows we are dust and knows we need His patience.

Fast forward to Jacob coming home from school the next afternoon and he instantly asked if he could go back on his vow and please could he play his video game. I told him absolutely not. Flash forward 2 hours later and now I am trying to get work done and he is in typical “bored out of his mind because he can’t do what he wants” mode. I have an appointment that should only last 30 minutes so I tell him, OK, go ahead and play the video game. I will allow it. BIG MISTAKE. He plays it. I get my work done. After 30 minutes I take him to the pool. We talk. I ask him how he felt playing his game. He said, not great. I told him that is his conscience bearing witness against him. He says, yes, but I am the one at fault. Remember, I told you this is a story about my “bright” son Jacob. He is often the one teaching me the lesson. I ask him how it is that I am at fault. He said simply, “Because you are my mom and you said I could play.”

NAILED IT! He was right. I can’t remember but I like to think I said I was sorry but honestly I don’t think I did. We went on with our evening. He went to bed and I decided to do something to help my ear problems. Needless to say what I did was stupid, but based on how I have done this in the past, the outcome this time was not normal. I was given a heaping serving of pain like I have never felt. Worse than childbirth and I did that without any pain killers, fully natural. That was hard. This was about 10 times harder. I felt like someone was sticking knives, literal knives into my skull and slightly turning them. The reason this pain was so bad was because there was no relief. It lasted for 4.5 hours with me crying so loud I’m surprised my neighbors did not call the cops. At the 4.5 hour mark, I was able to stop crying in agony and the pain sort of subsided but only in that I could sit still clenching my teeth for another 1.5 hours at which point I finally fell asleep for 1 hour sitting upright only to be woken up by the pain for another hour, although the last hour was a dull manageable pain.

A lot goes on when you are in that much writhing pain without any relief. I have never EVER gone through anything like that. To say I got a good look at my sin is an understatement. About 2 hours in (mind you I am used to this pain because I have sinusitis really bad but I know it will pass in 10 minutes) I start to realize God is trying to teach me something bigger here. What? When you are in that much pain it is hard to think about anything else. So I turn on my audio Bible and listen. I listen to two back to back days of Bible reading: Isaiah 13-18. And there it is. A small part of a verse tucked in Isaiah 17:11. “…in a day of grief and incurable pain.”

My mind went to all those people in my life who will potentially end up on the other side of eternity gnashing their teeth. Writhing in incurable pain. Such grief as they have ever known. Forever and ever. What a picture. What incredible sorrow I felt. Then my mind raced to Jesus. 6 hours! SIX. LONG. HOURS. He endured pain on the cross. Not just any pain. The worst kind of pain. Something I am sure my pain compared not. It was then that I did the math. I knew, just KNEW God was going to make this thing last for 6 hours. I can’t tell you how I knew but I did. I was humbled to say the least. My mind became clear and I knew what I had done wrong. YOU, my dear reader, know what I did wrong. I was given one leadership job: my son. And I failed. I broke Jacob’s vow to God. I had caused one of the least of these to sin. I deserved every ounce of pain plus more. I was horrified. I took my licks. I woke Jacob up in the morning and apologized. I learned my lesson. I was a bad steward of the “talent” God had given me. Jacob is one of my “talents” and my job is to grow him. My selfish world got in the way of upholding something I tried to teach him was of the utmost importance: God. Then I tossed God aside for just a second. For what? For a stupid worldly appointment. For a worldly peace and quite so I could get my work done.

Needless to say, my world has shifted. I will have a very hard conversation with Jacob today after school. I will have a very hard conversation with my husband today. It is the hard things in life that help us grow. I hope to never have to endure the kind of pain I experienced last night but I also would never trade the experience for anything. The lessons I learned were priceless. I became resolved to endure whatever I need to for the sake of growth and the sake of loving and following Jesus. Nothing else matters. He matters. I resolve to stop messing around and be a better mom, a better wife, a better friend, a better servant, a better slave to Christ.

Got Truth?

1 John 1:8 ESV
If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

The insidiousness of self deception is tricky. On the one hand we look to the obvious route of flattery and self-love. The idea that a human knows in his or her heart that they are wrong in their thinking but choose to deceive themselves. I don’t think this is what John meant when he wrote 1 John 1:8. Of course we all sin. We were born in sin. We all have a sin nature. His readers knew and understood this probably way better than we do today. Today, people really do think they are better. This year, ABC News reported that 83% of Americans consider themselves Christian. A 2009 Barna poll found that 40% of American “Christians” feel that Satan is just a symbol of evil and not an actual being. That same poll found that 22% of them believed Jesus sinned while on earth. A 2013 Barna poll found that 51% of all people who identify themselves as Christian live less like Jesus and more like a Pharisee considering themselves to be self-righteous. If over half of all Christians, or at least those who call themselves Christians feel that they somehow have the ability to work their way to Heaven and overall have a general high view of themselves as being self-righteous, then, Houston, we have a problem.

There is a systemic issue in our “Christian” American society that states “I am better than my neighbor.” Very few people would consider themselves a “worm.” Our high view of ourselves has pushed out our own ability to even see that we have deceived ourselves. That is why Satan, who is real by the way, has artfully woven into our hearts the deception of our own sin and is laughing all the way to his fiery bank where he is successfully depositing soul after soul of deceived people. The deception is real and the consequences are real. Pray right now that you would not be deceived. Swap out your lofty view of yourself and trade it in for a new and improved high view of God. Beg God to reveal himself to you. Plead with him to breathe life into you that is unmistakably Truth. Ask Him that the blinders be ripped from your eyes and the stoppers removed from your ears. Recognize that you are a sinner. Recognize that we are ALL sinners. It is who we are, not what we do. Our unrighteous actions are an outpouring of our very nature.

Consider this simple question: There are three figures in the room. On the far right is Jesus. On the far left is Hitler. In the middle is anyone from history that you feel was the greatest human who ever lived such as Paul or Mother Theresa, or Ghandi. Take your pick and then in your mind place that person closer to Jesus or closer to Hitler. Got it? Are they in position? Now do the same with yourself. Where would everyone be in the lineup? Closer to Hitler or closer to Jesus? This little “test” is done again and again in seminary schools across the nation. Guess where most students place Paul or any of the historical “good” figures? Closer to Jesus. Where did you place yourself? Probably closer to Jesus but not as close as the example figures. If that is how you answered, I can assure you that you and every other person who answered that way is dead wrong. Every single person should be firmly planted right next to Hitler. Not close to him, not sort of in the middle, but right next to him. This is where our warped sense of self comes into play. You may be wondering why? How absurd? The simple answer is because Jesus is GOD and the rest of us are sinners. We have no business thinking we are any better than any other human. We are ALL sinners. Of course we will be judged based on the fruit of our life in light of bringing God glory, however the simple notion that I am somehow better than others is a very slippery slope of deception. Get right with God. Study who He is. Change your view of Him. Raise it as high as you can think and then raise it again and again. You can never go high enough. I pray that the Truth is in you and that you have not deceived yourself. The blessing of having hope that is built on confident assurance is something easily missed but oh so precious when you get it. Get hope. Get truth. Get God.

Son of Thunder Strikes Again

1 John 1:7 ESV
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

Verse 7 is in contrast to verse 6 however it is different than we might expect. In verse 6 John writes, “If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.” In verse 7, instead of saying “If we walk in the light, we have truth and fellowship with God” John states we have fellowship with one another referencing back to verse 3 where he is clear we have fellowship with each other because we have intimate fellowship with the Father and the Son. Do not put off being involved in your local church. Do not just be a pew warmer. If you died today, would you be missed at your church? If the answer is no, you have some work to do. There are three things you should be involved at your church: corporate worship (going to church on Sunday), small group study, like a men’s or women’s bible study or small fellowship group, as well as a service area, such as serving in the kids ministry, or being a greeter, or even serving in cleaning the bathrooms, the list is endless for service, but also remember that every need is not a calling. Find the area that best suits you and the gifts God has given you, but definitely be committed to your church.

John does not mince words and he is clear in how we should live and conduct our lives. He is calling out those who “claim Christ” yet do not live in the light. Light is often a symbol in all cultures as purity, knowledge, good, righteousness, and joy. Do you conduct your life in light of light? Do you consider yourself saved yet live a life in contrast to light? Do you feel you are a pretty good person and feel that you do, in fact, walk in light yet are a slave the things of this world? Things like your work, your kids, your hobbies, your material possessions, or your desire for a bigger house. Does the darkness have a foothold on you through your cellphone, your iPad, the internet, binge TV watching, sports, or any other distraction that is taking you away from living a life full of light? Don’t get me wrong. These things in and of themselves are not bad. It is when we consider or desire them too strongly in our lives or when we desire them over being the hands and feet of God. Desire the things of God. Desire fellowship with His children. Learn. Grow. Desire that your joy will be complete. Consider the sacrifice made on your behalf. You are no longer your own. Act like it. Live like it. Live in the light.

Are You Actually Kidding Yourself Straight to Hell?

1 John 1:6 ESV
If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.

Fellowship was a word not used by the secular writers of the day. It meant to have intimacy with God. This was a foreign concept to both the Jews and those of other religions. But Christians understood the gospel meant that they now have access to the Father through the Son. The literal and figurative veil was torn at the death and sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The resurrection and the following receiving of the Holy Spirit guaranteed and sealed their fellowship. The Holy Spirit is our internal guide. He is our Truth. Our True North. We might “say” we are intimate with Jesus. We might even go so far as to “say” we love Him and think He loves us back. The give-away that this warped sense of reality is, in fact, not true is when someone who claims Christ as the one they follow also practices unrighteousness.

The word here in Greek is περιπατέω which is transliterated as peripateō which means to walk, however the Hebrews used this word to mean the conduct of one’s life. I realize that we often speak of ourselves or others as having lost their way. But John is clear when he says if someone says they are a Christian but the conduct of their life is counter to God’s word, then they are not a Christian. At. All. I will say it again, as I have said in multiple other posts: Satan has had thousands of years to perfect the art of deception, and you better believe he is excellent at his craft. Don’t believe the lie he is telling you. Start looking at your life through Truth. Through what the Bible has to say. Please do not lie to yourself thinking you are better than the next person. What are you holding on to? While you may be a “good person” what does that actually mean? I want to give you some solid examples rather than leave this up to interpretation. Here is a very short list of typical claimed-as-non-sin “sins” people commit in entitled America who call themselves Christians but are actually not.

You are sleeping with your girlfriend or boyfriend. (I am going to expand on this first one just a bit so you can see what I mean). You have somehow justified this law as either antiquated or you are engaged or in the eyes of God you are already married.

I remember having a long conversation with an older man in my neighborhood who identified so strongly with Jesus and was extremely involved in his church. He was divorced with kids and was dating another woman from his church who was also divorced with kids. Somehow in the conversation he mentioned three things. 1. They are living together. 2. Yes, they are sleeping together but they said vows to each other so in the eyes of God they are married. 3. They are not getting along so he thinks he is going to break up with her soon. WHAT??? I could have just let it alone but I called him out on his obvious erroneous thought process. He has believed so many lies and was living one HUGE lie after another. He sort of ho-hum agreed with my rebuke and I never saw him again.

Another person in my life believes it is OK that they are sleeping together because they are getting marred and have also stated some sort of private vows. Not only is that unbiblical on several levels, it is also an issue because they were sleeping together LONG before they ever even started to talk about getting married. She agrees to disagree with me.

A friend of mine believes the man she is marrying will “come around”. She says he promised to come to church with her and she is hopeful he will get saved soon. She also says that she can walk down the isle, say her vows, and then ask God to forgive her for going against His word by becoming unequally yoked. How are all these lies are becoming truths? Satan is just that good. She is no longer speaking to me.

You call yourself a “cussin’ Christian”
What does THAT mean? Well, you say bad words. Often. Or perhaps you use the Lord’s Name in vain and really don’t think much of it. Sorry, you are living a lie.

You chase money. You tell yourself it is not money that is bad, it is the LOVE of money. While yes, that is true, it is still a lie. If you are chasing money and using that line to back up your idol, then again you are living a lie.

You are a prayer warrior. Your gift is not evangelism. You leave that to people who are gifted at talking to strangers or who are gifted at sharing the gospel with others. Usually that gift is for pastors and people in full-time ministry. Again, a HUGE lie. We ALL are commissioned to spread the gospel. ALL.

You consider yourself a normal Christian but you have friends who are Jesus Freaks. You reserve that name for the really intense Christians in your life but that is not you at all. You fit in. Your way of witnessing to others is by not being crazy, because who is really going to respond to that anyway, right? LIE!! Being a Jesus Freak does not mean being out of your mind crazy, it means living a life that is counter to how the world lives. Living based on the Bible. Yes, that would most likely put you in the Jesus Freak category, but not in the, stand-on-the-street-corner-holding-an-end-of-the-world-sign crazy. Make sense?

You attend church, you read your Bible as often as you can, maybe a few times a week, maybe every day if you remember. You go on short term missions, or you tithe or give offering to the church. You made a profession of faith when you were 13, you got baptized and you are from a Christian church. I realize not all of this describes you, but some of it may. Christianity is not a checklist. While you may do all these things, they do not, in and of themselves, make you a Christian. Check your growth. Check your fruit. This lie is one of the BIGGEST there is.

2 Corinthians 13:5 ESV
Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?-unless indeed you fail to meet the test!

Secret Societies Cloaked in Rituals

1 John 1:5 ESV
This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.

In 1 John 1:5, John refers to light and darkness. God is light and there is no darkness in Him at all. Historically, there are two meanings for light and dark: the intellectual and the moral. Intellectually light is truth and darkness is falsehood. Morally light is purity and darkness is sin. God is perfection through and through. John is challenging the heretics of the day who met in secret societies cloaked in rituals and secret veiled initiation rights. For them to claim they knew God was ridiculous because God IS light and he would not be found in the literal dark rituals of the heretics.

This is interesting for today’s modern society where so much is applauded that is shrouded in darkness and secrecy. It is easier to live in the darkness too. What is truth these days? Truth has become lies and lies have become truth. How do we, as Christians discern the difference?

I grew up in a church where the leadership team looked the other way when confronted with bold-faced sin. There was no accountability and sin was shrouded in secrecy. This was a supposedly bible teaching Baptist church. After I left for college, one person after another fell into scandal. BIG scandal. It was like watching flies drop. It was horrific really. It was sad and heartbreaking. How does that much scandal happen in the church? Secrecy. Sin. Darkness.

We all sin, but it is the fact of making sin a practice that is the difference. Making a habit of sin is what John will expand upon in 1 John 3:6. If you practice sin continually John, without hesitation, calls us out as not being a Christian. We will stumble. But with the Holy Spirit in us, it is extremely hard, impossible really, to make a practice of sin.

My dear, dear reader. I implore you, on behalf of Jesus, to be reconciled to God. (2 Cor. 5:20) Don’t get caught up in a “feel good” church. Please. Don’t do it. Read Matthew 5-7. Read John 6. What does it say in John 6:66? Jesus was not preaching to the masses. He was preaching to the called. He was not trying to sell anyone anything. He was speaking truth.

Truth is hard. Get yourself into a church that is not afraid to preach the truth. If you are attending a “self-help” topical feel good sermon preaching church, get out! Run! Find a church that will speak the truth to you. Find a community that has leaders like John. I look at John and think what a great thing to be under his leadership. That is what I look for in leaders. Truth. Hard truth. Truth that is full of light and no darkness at all.

That irritating kid in the front row

1 John 1:4 ESV
And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

John’s readers understood that the joy in which he was speaking would only be complete upon reaching heaven. Knowing that an interweaving of fellowship with the Father and the Son as well as the community of believers would ultimately culminate in a complete and full joy. The word for complete is plēroō which means full or to fulfill God’s will.

The letter of 1 John is written so that we might gain and obtain the ultimate goal of final joy through salvation and eternal fellowship with God.

This is why I love 1 John so much: it clearly either confirms or convicts the reader as to his or her eternal standing. There is nothing left open for discussion. It is a black and white imploring of John’s closest friends and in turn us to make sure our joy will be complete.

My desire is to do the will of God. I know I mess up a lot, but I am learning. I am striving toward growth even when others around me seem to try to slow me down. I feel like I am in a constant battle just to learn and grow. Since when in our society and even in our churches did it become difficult for the student to learn? Why is there such apathy and a need for people to conform to a certain standard or set of unspoken rules to fall in line?

I have always been a system-buster but since my salvation I have been, as much as it has been possible, submissive to my leadership. Where I seem to get myself into trouble is when there is no real reason behind people wanting me to slow down my learning process. I want to grow, but in the process I often rub people the wrong way. I go full-throttle and most people cannot or will not put up with my pace.

To that end I get in trouble. A lot. I am like that irritating kid in the front row asking “why?” every two seconds. I don’t mean to be irritating. I honestly am wanting to know. I remember my parents thinking I would for sure become a lawyer because there was never ever, and I mean NEVER EVER an end to my endless string of questions. I was incessant and quite frankly irritating. However, it is how God made me. I have been asked by people to placate myself and to learn to have a stronger filter. I get frustrated and sad. I wonder if Paul, after his conversion felt the same way. People constantly trying to tell him to cool his jets.

I like to ask people which person in the Bible they relate to the most. So often people will answer Doubting Thomas or Foot in Mouth Peter. For me, it is Paul. I have this crushing, gut-wrenching, insatiable desire to uphold God’s honor. I want to proclaim Jesus everywhere I can.

I have realized that I am often throwing pearls to swine so I have cooled it on certain platforms however I find that the older generations don’t get me. Even though I am about 2 decades outside of the true social media generation, I feel like I connect to them most because here, on the internet, is where I live.

I am a writer. I am a teacher. I am a leader. It is who God made me. I am a questioner. I am a student. I am a seeker. It is who God made me. How do I change that in a world who gets irritated by me? I don’t know. All I know is that I want my joy to be complete and I want to hear “well done, good and faithful servant.”

I am certain I will get dinged on a bunch of things. As a teacher we are assured of that. I am sure my writing offends people and that my theology is off at times. We only see in part. I do the best I can with what the Spirit and my reasonable and Berean-like Bible study habits lend me. I pray. I ask for wisdom and discernment multiple times a day. I ask for more faith and more of the Holy Spirit every day too.

God knows my heart. But man is often fumbled by me. How do I manage in the fellowship of man? I must love them. I must find a way to humble myself and somehow not push so hard. I need to learn this as I fear I will be welcomed no where. How do I humbly learn when those who try to teach me are teaching me in a way I do not understand? How do I grow in maturity when I am told to sit in the corner without knowing what I did wrong? I want to learn. I want to grow.

I am the parent of one such child. An exact “learning” replica of myself. It took me several years of parenting him to even realize this. Now I know how to teach him in the way he will learn. People are just not able to do that with each other and if they are it may take years and years, perhaps decades. Is there an answer to this?

As a teacher I know that there are so many different ways in which people learn. How do I learn in the way that I can learn when people just don’t want to help me? My heart aches because I tend to get myself stuck out on an island of misunderstanding and mutual frustration. It is awful. Dreadful. Painful. Lonely. What is the answer?

It is so obvious that I almost missed it. I almost missed its simplicity. I almost continued down the path of “It’s not me, it’s them.” The answer then is not in man, but in myself. The answer is to change myself. Learn to learn differently. Learn to be my own best advocate in my learning process. Share with my leaders how I learn so they can better teach me. SO BOTH OUR JOY MAY BE COMPLETE!

Lord, help me to communicate well. Help me to be loving in my responses. Help me to be humble and allow me to learn and grow for a complete and full joy that only You have for me through fellowship with you and with my community.

Broken Beyond Healing

1 John 1:3 ESV
that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.

The word for proclaim is apaggello which also gives weight to the fact that John was commissioned by Jesus to testify. Koinonia is the Greek word for fellowship. It is specifically a word used for Christians. We have fellowship with each other only because we have fellowship with the Father AND the Son. John makes this distinction clear because his readers were dealing with heretics of their age that were stating Jesus the man was not the Christ. John is being clear that our fellowship as believers stems from our fellowship and intimacy with the Father and the Son.

Coming from actual on-the-scene eyewitnesses, we as believers can join in with the fellowship of the church and the blessed fellowship with the Father and Son.

This is so real to me as I have gotten tossed around by the world this week. Fellowship with Jesus and the Father is such a huge blessing however it is more so when done in the community of believers. I fear too many people today are lacking in this area. They church hop like they coffee shop hot. In fact, people are more attached to their favorite coffee shop than they are to their church. The fickle behavior of church goers state, “If I don’t feel good at my church, I’m out.” I get it. Family is hard. Being guided and reproved is hard. But as Proverbs 9:8b states, “reprove a wise man, and he will love you.” Too many of us are wise in our own eyes. We are unwilling to listen to criticism. We are stubborn to the point of breaking. Proverbs 29:1 states, “He who is often reproved, yet stiffens his neck, will suddenly be broken beyond healing.”

I don’t want to be broken beyond healing. Lord, help me to learn and grow even when it is hard. Help me to be moldable even by men. Show me respect and teach me love for those who correct me and are responsible for me. Give me leadership that leads well. Give me leadership that teaches and reproves me the way I need to be reproved and help me to be humble in my education which is my sanctification which is my life. You are everything and I will take all you have to offer in any means necessary to bring about the greatest growth and maturity in Christ.

The HUGE Lie about Christianity

There is a HUGE lie that is going around in regard to the picture people are painting about Christianity. “Come to Jesus, and you will find rest!” “Let Jesus into your heart because He loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life!” (skip to the bold to understand why I am writing about this.)

These benefits sound amazing right!? Well, truth be told, and you know I love me some truth pills, all of that could not be further from the truth. In fact, it is the exact opposite! Jesus GUARANTEED we would have troubles in our earthly life if we chose to follow Him. I will concede, however that those statements above about finding rest, and there being a wonderful plan for your life are 100% true and 100% taken out of context. Your rest will happen in eternity. Yes, there is great peace in trusting in Jesus and knowing our final destination, however actual physical rest here on this Earth was never promised. Yes, He does have a wonderful plan for you, but it won’t be what you think of as wonderful. You won’t get the perfect job, marry the perfect person, and have a perfect life. As a Christian, that just won’t happen. Sure there will be times of great joy in this life. Be sure that God not only loves you, He also LIKES you. He will give good things to you. He will shower love on you. HOWEVER, He wants you to GROW! You will not grow unless you suffer and experience hardships. There are over 100 verses in the Bible that talk about hardships and suffering specifically for God’s children. At the end I have listed a few to give you an example.

But get this! Not only are there hardships and sufferings that God allows and sanctions in your life to help you grow, degree by degree, but there is another, quite infuriating hardship that we must endure. If you are a sideline Christian, you most likely will not experience this. If, however, you are an “all-in” fully sold out for Jesus kind of person, then you better bet you will experience this and if you don’t you should worry and question why you are not.

WARNING: This may be upsetting.
If you are a sideline Christian, I am going to challenge you to figure out what that means. Sideline Christians typically consider themselves sort of lukewarm. They may call themselves “Cafeteria Christians” or “Carnal Christians” or my favorite, “Cussin’ Christian.” My heart breaks for you if that is you. There is no room for this type of Christianity ANYWHERE in the Bible. If you consider yourself a sideline Christian, consider with all your being your actual salvation. Really study this and figure this one out. You may not be a Christian. Please read my testimony to see what I am talking about. I considered myself to be a “Cafeteria Christian.” While I did not use that phrase, when someone described it, it made perfect sense. I cherry picked all the stuff in the Bible I liked. The stuff I did not understand or felt was antiquated (really just meant for people back then, and couldn’t possibly mean for me, such as women not being able to be pastors) all this “stuff” I literally shoved out of my self-created religion.

So, where am I going with this? The closer you are to the Target, the more you will get hit. By whom? Satan and his henchmen. The Target: Jesus. All those fallen angels are wildly upset with the fact that their fate is sealed. Their one and ONLY goal is to get people messed up. They have a very skilled two-pronged approach.

    1. Get people to THINK they are Christians when they actually are not. (see Matthew 7:21-23 ESV) No really, LOOK IT UP, this may be describing you!
    2. Get the actual Christians so distracted with trial after trial, persecution after persecution, that they will not be as effective witnesses and therefore less people will come to Christ and obtain the very thing they are no longer able to get: eternal salvation.

I am writing this today because in June of this year I decided to go to a different church with my husband that was more his pace. After an entire summer being away from my church and not really involved in the new church at the request of my husband I can tell you not only was it the worst spiritual growth I have had over a 3 month period, but it was also the easiest from the spiritual battle perspective. No major trials, no major suffering, after a full, and I mean FULL 2 years of major trials, one after another every 2-3 weeks something new hitting me hard. It was exhausting, but I was also ON FIRE. I was witnessing to everyone, serving in any capacity I could, I was growing, and thriving in Christ but being beaten up literally by the world. 

I even questioned why I was getting off so easy this summer. I was nervous at the fact that God was being so silent in my life. I knew in the pit of my stomach it was because I was not as close to the Target as I am when I am at my old church. The spiritual battle is palpable at that church. I even started getting nervous about the possibility of going back because I knew I would be starting the battle again. I would be growing more and Satan does not like that, so I am sure I have some new henchmen assigned just to me. Then, on Sunday, I declared to two of my friends that I am coming back to my church since my husband has not been coming with me to the new church as promised and I never want to force him to do anything. That is not my style. Monday morning I start a potentially life-saving Periscope daily broadcast going through 1 John, one of the most convicting books in the Bible and then later that morning, I get hit with some major tax news that put me into a tail spin. Tuesday, today, my son got punched in the eye and sent to the principal’s office (soooo not like Jacob AT ALL) and I got hit with a lawsuit for imagery infringement (those of you who know me, know I am a big contender for image usage rights, but this one was an honest mistake and I am now facing legal action.) Needless to say, here we go again. Pile it on! In this life, as a sold out servant of Christ, you better believe I am going to be bombarded with distractions and suffering from Satan’s minions. But I will COUNT IT ALL JOY! I know I must endure. I must learn. I must grow. And soon, YES, very SOON, I am going to see Him face to face and for that I hold my hope close to my chest. For THAT my hope is secure.

If you find that your life is pretty easy and things tend to always go your way, I would re-evaluate where you are with your salvation and your relationship with Jesus. We are all on different paths and all have varying degrees of faith and ways in which He teaches and leads us. I look around at my friends who clearly are not Christians based simply on their lifestyles, yet they claim Christianity. Guess what? They have it pretty good. Their life is not spiritually attacked and they may be blessed in ways you and I will never be. Just remember, this may be the best they ever have it. I really REALLY want you to take time this year and evaluate your life. Evaluate your sanctification. Do a fruit audit. Get right with the living God. He may come back way sooner than we all expect!

For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, (Philippians 1:29 ESV)

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4 ESV)

More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5:3-5 ESV)

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.(Romans 8:18 ESV)

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. (1 Peter 4:12-13 ESV)

Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, (2 Timothy 3:12 ESV)

The Little Indian Boy and the Feathers

1 John 1:2 ESV
the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us-

This verse is on the heals of verse 1 stating “the word of life”, the life John is talking about is Jesus. Reference back to John 1:1 ESV “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

When Jesus spoke, the people never heard anything like what he was saying. As CS Lewis says Jesus was either a lunatic, a liar, or Lord. The claims Jesus made were HUGE. He claimed not to be a good teacher, He claimed to be God! John testifies as a reputable reporter that Jesus IS eternal life. John was not some crazy man on the street corner holding a sign that says “The end is near!” He was well respected. Remember, John saw Jesus glorified on the Mount of Transfiguration. He was an eyewitness.

Jesus revealed to John that He was God. John not only testifies the reality and truth of this fact but also he proclaims it. The term proclaim can also be translated as to show. He did not just tell of Jesus, but he showed people a life transformed by Jesus. Actions always speak louder then words. Who we are and how we live will make a greater impact.

Be a true and clear witness to the gospel of Jesus through your words and your actions.

I see myself girded up to live out a life worthy of being called an ambassador of Christ at 8:00am and then by 8:01am I somehow mess it up. It is a constant struggle to keep my mind focused on actions AND words. To align my actions with my words is one of the hardest things to do.

There is a story of an Indian Chief and a little boy sitting high on a cliff overlooking a ravine with a river down below. The little boy wanted to learn how to gain more wisdom. So the chief gave him a handful of tiny feathers and said to throw them up into the air over a cliff. The boy did so and watched as the wind lifted them up into the sky, some floated all the way across the ravine to the other side, some down into the river, some floated back over their head and onto the land, while others lifted far up and out of sight. The chief said to the boy, “Now go and retrieve every single feather and bring it back.” The boy laughed because he knew that was impossible. So it is with our words. Once we let them go, we can never get them back.

Lord, help me to be a great ambassador for you. Help me to continually check my actions and my words that they line up with bringing you more glory. Help me to testify and proclaim that you are who you say you are. Help me to be a good student and not only learn your lessons but apply them every moment of every day until you call me home in glory!

From One Degree of Glory to Another

1 John 1:1 ESV
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life-

This is one of the few books in the New Testament that does not contain a salutation with the Author’s name. These letters are personal, so personal in fact, that the author knew the recipients very well, well enough to refer to them as his dear children. Looking at how we communicate even today, it makes sense that he would not have said who it was from because they KNEW who it was from. Such a personal note would not have needed a greeting. Knowing this we need to read this from that perspective of love and importance. Also, know John was super old. Most likely in his 80s when he wrote this. This is significant in that he never gave up. Ever.

In the opening of his letter, John is keeping the perspective solely on Jesus. He is reminding them that Jesus is the gospel. From the beginning. He heard, touched, gazed upon Jesus with his own eyes. The word of life is Jesus and John is being clear that he was an eyewitness to it all.

Jesus has always been. He was here in the flesh fully and wholly. He came that he might give us the words of eternal life.

I can only imagine what it must have been like for John, being one of the main guys in Jesus’ gang to be the last living apostle and having such vivid memories of Jesus. I wonder at his deep desire to be with Jesus again. What a glorious homecoming that must have been.

All that aside, I must remember that these men NEVER faltered. People do not live for a lie and they certainly do not die for a lie. They were strong til the end. Like Thomas who doubted, we never even get to see Him in this life yet we have faith. We are being transformed from one degree to another.

2 Corinthians 3:18 ESV
[18] And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord,are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

What an honor it is to be a part of something bigger; something way beyond my scope. Thank you Lord for choosing me. Thank you for giving me your Holy Spirit to help me and guide me. Thank you for the example of these men who stayed strong. Who never gave up. Who fought hard. Who loved you with every ounce of their being until their dying breath. May I be bold and courageous. Please, I ask for three things: more of your Holy Spirit to guide me, more faith to give me courage, and more wisdom to do Your will and not my own.