There are some things I just don’t like to do: I don’t like doing laundry. Or the dishes. Or cooking. Or anything domestic, really. I don’t like math. I don’t like exercise. I don’t like admitting I’m wrong. I don’t like confrontation. I don’t like turning down a warm brownie.
And because I don’t like those things, I justify not doing them. I wait until the “feeling” hits before I do them…meanwhile, everything around me gets messy.
God has been working on me in this area. In His gracious, yet firm, way, He has been pushing me out of this mess and showing me that, very often, we have to suck it up and do stuff we don’t like. Even when we don’t feel like it.
I started a weight loss Bible study (check it out – it is amazing!) about a month ago. The studies focus on God’s word – feasting on that, not looking to food to meet our needs. As I have spent even more time in God’s word than I used to, I have found that more than just weight is coming off. Some of my excuses are falling away too.
I started exercising. I hate exercising. But I realized I can hate it and still do it. I have been foolishly waiting to “want” to exercise before I did it. That will happen about the same time I “want” to sit down with Emma and do Algebra II. Never. But I do it anyway – I swim laps or walk on the elliptical machine. And I hate it. But I do it, anyway.
The “do it anyway” lesson is carrying over to housework. I’m doing a better job keeping up with the laundry and the dishes, not because I suddenly turned into a Suzy Homemaker, but because I can recognize that, while I may hate it, it still needs to be done.
Even better, this lesson is affecting my spiritual life, too – I may not feel like forgiving, but I’m going to do it anyway. I may not feel like being loving, but I’m going to do it anyway. I do not need to wait for my feelings in order to do what I know I need to do. The feelings may follow, and they may not (I seriously doubt I will EVER enjoy doing the laundry. No way). But I can do it anyway.
This is, I realize, both a life-long lesson and a minute-by-minute lesson. I have to wake up everyday choosing to “do it anyway”, whatever that “it” may be. I absolutely cannot do that on my own. But I CAN do it by abiding in the vine (Jn. 15:4), walking in the Spirit (Gal. 5:16), and feasting on God’s word.
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Phil. 4:13
I love everything 1940s – the movies, the music, the clothes…If I could travel back in time, that is the decade I’d want to return to. I would gladly exchange my straightening iron for pin curls and my skinny jeans for A-line dresses.
But it wasn’t perfect. World War II battered that decade, and the generation who lived through it lost more than just husbands, sons, daughters, and sisters – they lost the hope that one “Great War” is all we’d ever have. They learned that evil can’t be stamped out for good – one evil is wiped out, but another comes on the horizon.
Most of the people in my grandparents’ generation believed in right and wrong, good and evil. They didn’t see Hitler and argue that what he believed was all right for him. They recognized Hitler’s ideologies were sick and destructive. Men like my grandfather went over to Europe to fight against Hilter’s Nazi regime so our country could remain safe and so other countries could be rescued.
My generation, though, and the ones coming after me, hate the idea of right and wrong, good and evil. We want to believe truth is what we make it. We even see that in some Christian circles! As long as we’re not hurting anyone, we can do what we want, how we want. Truth is relative and anyone who says otherwise is close-minded (never mind that those who say that are, themselves, close-minded!).
Here’s the Truth: We don’t get to determine the Truth!
Whether we like it or not, agree with it or not, there is One Truth. That Truth is found in scripture and was given to us by a gracious God. He did not leave us without divine revelation, nor did He give each one us our own personal revelation. He created us to be in community, so he gave us His word as a community – to read, study, and learn together. He gave us teachers to understand it, preachers to challenge us in it, those with gifts of mercy and helps to show us how to live it out. We have Truth, and it is neither unclear nor unfair. It is, at times, uncomfortable.
We believers, then, have to make a choice. Are we going to believe in the One Truth and take a stand against the lies that oppose that Truth? Or are we going to allow the world to dictate what we believe?
Let us learn from the Greatest Generation – there IS right and wrong. There absolutely is Truth. We have it, we can know it, and we should share it.
Normally, this blog is for teens. But, occasionally, I feel the need to talk to the parents. This is one of those occasions…
Forgive me if I offend you with this, but Facebook is not evil. Neither is Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, or whatever else is new and up-coming in the social media world. They are not, in my opinion, the harbinger of end times or the destruction of society as we know it.
You’d think my generation would be used to new things. Come on, guys! From the time we started Kindergarten until we graduated college, we saw the introduction of cable TV, the CD, the DVD, cell phones, the personal computer, and the internet – to name a few. We know change. We’ve lived it, appreciated it, enjoyed it. Sure, there are precautions that come with new technology, evils that can be introduced through them. But there is also great good, hope, and endless possibility.
Using social media is like driving a car. It doesn’t guide us, we guide it. Like anything else in life, we should approach social media with wisdom and self-control. I wouldn’t get behind the wheel and drive 100 miles an hour or ignore the signs posted on the road. I know that, used in the wrong way, a car can be lethal. But that doesn’t mean I don’t drive! No, it just means I am cautious when I drive. I teach my daughter to be cautious, as she is learning to handle a car. I am making sure she gets enough practice on the road, with me to guide her, before she is permitted to drive on her own.
I try to do the same with social media – I check my kids’ sites, and I have other adults in their lives who check, too. They have some degree of autonomy, but if I sense they are taking advantage of that, they lose the privilege of using it. I am , in short, a parent! It’s a job that isn’t easy and one in which I fail as often as I succeed, but helping my kids learn to navigate their world in a healthy, God-honoring way is supremely important.
Social media is not going away – it will be part of our kids’ lives, just like cable and the internet is part of ours. So help them know how to use it wisely and cautiously. Teach them to “drive” on what can often be a dangerous highway. Don’t avoid what is new – learn to use it wisely and well so you can teach your kids to do the same.
More songs, poems, books, and movies have been written about love than any other subject. We love love. We long for it, hunger for it, diet for it, scheme for it.
To yearn for love is not only natural, it is Divine. God has given each of us a hunger for true love. But too many of us look to satisfy that hunger in the wrong way, with the wrong people. And we end up unhappy, hurt, and broken. That kind of love fails us, again and again.
The Apostle John is known for his themes of love. In his gospel, he refers to himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” In his letters, he tells us that God’s love is so great, our response should be to share that love with others. In his Revelation, John longs for the day when we will be able to spend eternity loving Jesus in spirit and in truth. John fully embraced the love God lavished on him, and he responded with humility and wholehearted commitment.
We will never be fully satisfied until we accept the love God has for us – unfailing, perfect love. When we look to other people to fill that God-sized hole inside us, we will always be disappointed. But when we live in the light of God’s love, we are free to love others without limits, without unrealistic expectations. We can be full of joy, even in difficult circumstances, because we know that God will never leave us or forsake us, that his love is eternal.
God has been working on me about that particular question, lately.
I know the right answer: “To glorify God.”
But do I live it out?
I start out my day with Bible reading and prayer, but then what? Does the Word of God change me? Does my time with the Creator of the Universe permeate my thoughts as I go throughout my day?
I know the answer should be “Yes. Of course!” I want that to be the answer. But the reality is that it isn’t always the answer. I can get to the end of a day and realize I have “handled” everything since my morning devos entirely on my own.
But if I really believe that I am here on this earth to glorify God, then everything I do should reflect that. Rather than thinking about what I want and what I need, I should be seeking to know how God wants to use me – not just at the start of the day, but every moment of it.
Rather than handling the events of the day – my thoughts, my family, my students – on my own, I should release them to God, ask how He wants me to think, to love, to teach.
As much as I believe and preach that the Christian life is a 24/7 prospect, I am convicted that I treat it more like a check-up – “Hey, God. We good? Got anything for me today….? Oh, that’s nice. I like it!….Okay, then. Thanks. Talk to you tomorrow.”
I am here to glorify God.
I am HERE to glorify God.
I am here to GLORIFY God.
I am here to glorify GOD.
“He must increase, but I must decrease.” John 3:30
Good Friday – the day Christians remember Christ’s work on the cross.
But what, exactly, is that cross? What does it mean? And is it really important?
I see the cross everywhere – in earrings, on necklaces, in children’s craft projects, even as decorations on flip flops and magnets on cars. None of that is bad, necessarily, but I fear that we are so accustomed to seeing the cross that we have forgotten what it actually represents, what it means. It has become merely a symbol of our faith. But it is so much more than that.
On Good Friday, Jesus was led to his execution. He was sentenced to a death so horrendous that it was reserved only for non-citizens of the Roman Empire. Not even the worst Roman citizen would have to endure this. And he was sentenced for one reason:
Because he claimed to be God.
He wasn’t killed for being a good person, for being a wise teacher, for hanging out with tax collectors and prostitutes. He was killed because the Jewish leaders of his day found his claims to deity to be blasphemous. They did not believe he was the promised Messiah. And they understood – rightly – that that is exactly who he was saying he was.
But Jesus was the Messiah. He was God in the flesh, come to earth. He lived a sinless life, qualifying him to be the only one who could pay the penalty for our sins.
Sins separate us from God. But God loves us, and he doesn’t want us separated from him. And so he sent his son to die the death that we deserve so we can have eternal life with him.
And that is what Jesus did on the cross. He didn’t just suffer excruciating physical pain, he also bore on his body the sins of the world. I can’t even begin to comprehend that.
And he did that for us. Because he loved us so much.
Today is the day we remember that death, that price that our Savior paid for us – for all who believe on him.
So while cross necklaces and magnets and decorations are highly visible this time of year, I want to be careful that I’m not forgetting what it represents, the magnitude of the work done there. The cross is more than a symbol. Because Jesus chose to go to the cross, you and I have the opportunity to choose Him, to choose eternity with Christ, to choose a life with Christ here on earth.
If you haven’t made that choice, yet, make it right now. Make this a truly Good Friday.
Listen to the words of this wonderful old hymn….so rich, so true. May it be our prayer this Resurrection Weekend.
Every year, the week before Spring Break, our school takes students on missions trips. Some groups stay local and serve in the Tampa/St. Pete area, others go to a different state, and the rest go overseas. I had the privilege of going with 20 students to Orphanage Emmanuel in Guiamaca, Honduras.
We lived in Costa Rica for a year, so I thought I was prepared for what we would see when we landed in the capital city of Tegucigalpa. I was not. Honduras is far poorer than Costa Rica – we passed a community who lives in a dump, houses made out of materials gathered on the mountains. As we drove the two hours to the orphanage, we saw village after village of literally dirt poor families striving to survive.
Then we pulled into the gate of Orphanage Emmanuel. It was like an oasis in the desert. Beautiful buildings and landscaping, pristine conditions – even drinkable water! There were greenhouses where they grow fruit and vegetables for the residents, mammoth tanks where tilapia are raised, hundreds of chickens and pigs…
Then there were the children. 500 precious souls who live at Emmanuel because they have no other home. A few are true orphans, but most are brought here because their parents do not want them, or they have been removed from their homes by the government. Many have experienced unspeakable horrors at the hands of their families.
We were there to spend time with the children – to treat them to snacks at The Store, to play soccer and paint nails and do crafts. We thought we were there to be used by God in the lives of the children. But, as we quickly learned, the real reason we were there was for God to change us.
As our group shared on our last day there, we each had learned something different. Some had been challenged by the missionaries who worked there – their testimonies were faith-filled examples of the power of God in the lives of his servants. Others were touched by individual children – their love and joy in spite of difficulties. I was moved by the children, as well, but in a different way.
Because I am able to speak some Spanish – I’m not fluent, but I can carry on conversations – I spent a lot of my week talking and listening. And, because I naturally gravitate to teen girls, I spent most of time talking and listening to them.
Here’s what I discovered: These girls have dreams and plans, they have boys they think are cute. They have music they love and movies they watch over and over again. They complain about rules being too strict and skirts being too long. They fight with other girls and some of them hate school. A handful are sure that, if they can just leave Emmanuel and get out into the “real world” – a world without rules and uniforms – their lives will be so much better. They are, in short, just like the girls I teach! They aren’t a picture on a missions poster, a sad story someone tells. They are real girls with real names and real histories and real feelings. They are the daughters of the King who understand, some far better than I, just what it means to adopted as heirs of Christ.
This picture – taken of a sweet little girl named Catarin – best explains my experience…
If I had seen this picture on a postcard or a website, I would have assumed this poor girl was forced to work. I’d imagine her as a Cinderella or Cosette with evil adults ripping away the joy of childhood and requiring her to slave away for her meals.
But here’s what I know – behind me, there was a joyful game of soccer being played by girls who had just finished their morning devotions. Catarin had prayed, sang, and reviewed her Bible verse, holding hands with her friends. Afterwards, she picked up that broom, not because she was forced to, but because she thinks it’s fun to sweep the floor. That’s her game of choice. She did that until it was time to get in line and head to school. I saw her the next day, doing the same thing. Having fun, laughing, talking, and sweeping.
My husband and my daughter were on this trip with me – each of us returned with different stories, different lessons, we each were impacted in different ways. But one thing we all agreed on – this trip was life-changing and amazing. We are so glad we went, and we would encourage everyone to do the same. s my husband told the group, education is far more than time spent in the classroom. Our “teachers” in Honduras gave us far more than we could ever give them.
In my almost-30 years as a believer, I have prayed for all kinds of things– from requests as seemingly insignificant as a parking space in the rain to literal life-and-death issues.
Right now, though, I feel like God is teaching me to take a step back from the way I’ve always prayed. In the past, I have prayed very specifically — not that praying that way is wrong. In fact, God used the answers to specific prayers to bolster my faith and encourage me that He is there, He is listening, and He cares for me.
But specific prayers can be very selfish (“Lord, give me that job, that house…”). And I can often confuse real prayer with wishes. Though I know God isn’t a genie, I treat Him like that when I am constantly bombarding Him with “I want…” and “I need…” and “Please give me…” requests. Worse - I am assuming I know what’s best, that God should listen to me and do what I say.
Right now, for example, our family is in limbo. Again. Where will Dave work next year? Where will the kids go to school? Where will we live? I want to pray specifics – “Let us stay HERE. Don’t move us again! Or if You do, move us back to where we were before. Not someplace new. Haven’t we done that enough…?”
But, lately, as those prayers have surfaced, I have sensed God saying, “Not so fast.” Rather than praying for specific – selfish – requests that I think are best for us, God is teaching me to pray something different.
He is teaching me to pray for willingness to obey His leading, for peace to trust His guidance, and for strength of character to endure whatever difficulties might lay ahead. He is showing me that my character is of far more consequence than my comfort. And, while I don’t have to like my “limbo” status, I don’t need to focus on finding a way to end it so much as I need to concentrate on what God wants me to learn through it.
Life today is quite different from life in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve would surely be shocked to see cars and planes, televisions and cell phones. They would probably be disgusted at what we eat and wear, but impressed with what we have built and invented. Despite all those differences, though, the first couple would likely recognize that, in our hearts, we are still just the same.
In Genesis chapter 3, we see that Satan’s tactic with Eve was to question God’s sovereignty. “Did God really say not to eat the fruit of the tree?” And, once he gets her questioning that, he assures her that God’s warnings (“You shall surely die”) are not true. God is, in fact, tricking Eve, Satan argues, because He doesn’t want her knowing as much as He does. Eve believes the lie and, within hours, realizes God is indeed sovereign, Satan is a liar, and her idyllic life is dead.
I’d like to believe I’m better than Eve. But I’m not. As usual, though, I see sin in the lives of others more easily than I see it in my own life. I see it when students cheat on a test or essay, or when they admit to having sex before marriage. I have seen sin destroy destroy friends’ marriages because of adultery or selfishness. I have seen sin wreck churches.
And in every case, the offender has an excuse, a reason why what he or she did really wasn’t wrong. It doesn’t matter that God says to obey authorities, students argue, that test was just too hard and my parents will kill me if I get a C, so I HAD to cheat. I know the Bible says don’t have premarital sex, but that’s impossible nowadays. The husband who left his wife? She wasn’t meeting his needs, so he “deserved” to go out and find someone who would. And on and on.
The bottom line is that we buy into the same lie Eve bought into. “Did God REALLY say…” that you need to obey authorities? save the gift of sex for marriage? remain faithful to your marriage vows? Or is God just old-fashioned? Unaware of the difficulties of 21st century life? His word is fine to slap on Instagram as a positive-thinking slogan, but when it comes to keeping us from doing what we really want to do…? No, thanks.
But friends, whether we acknowledge it or not, God’s word IS true, God IS sovereign. He allows us to choose to disobey Him, to turn from Him, to do our own thing. But, eventually, just like Eve, we will face the consequences for those decisions. Not because God hates us or wants to keep us from enjoying life, but because He is holy. And because He knows far better than we ever will what is best for us and for those around us.
So don’t fall victim to the same lie that has ensnared people for millenia. Don’t make excuses. Don’t justify your sin. Deal with it, confess it. Or, better, avoid it. Run from it! Don’t presume upon the grace of God. Don’t miss out on God’s best by trying to create your own Eden. God is God. You are not. There is great freedom in living in that reality.
“…If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31b-32
I hate when my students don’t listen. I give instructions in several different ways: talking, writing on the board, emailing, inputting on the online lesson plans, repeating…
Invariably, though, there is “that” student: the one who, after all of the instructions, raises his hand and asks, “What are we doing today?”
And, worse, he acts shocked if the plans for the day include a test or quiz. “What?” He asks, eyes wide with shock. “I didn’t know we had a test today!”
*Groans* *Pulls hair out* “Seriously?!”
I was thinking of that today, as I got frustrated – again – for being ignored – again.
And God gently reminded me that, far too often, I am “that” student.
He has told me to expect trials (James 1:2); He has warned me that I will face temptation (I Cor. 10:13). I have read these warnings more than once, heard them more than once, even experienced them more than once.
Yet, I still respond in shock when it happens. “I have to go through a trial?! That’s SO not fair. I thought you loved me!”
Does God groan and pull his hair out?
Of course not. He, thankfully, is not like me. He gently helps me through the trials, the temptations, the difficulties. When necessary, He allows me to fail or to fall when I am trying to go about life on my own strength and ignoring His clear direction. And He is always there to help me up when I realize – again – how desperately I need His help and guidance as I go through each day.
God is a Master Teacher who has left us with very clear instructions. May we all be students who listen to His voice and are well-prepared when tests come!