Monday, July 28, 2014

Here's Hoping you DON'T Get What you Deserve

Every few years it seems like pop culture generates a new phrase. Most of the time I find these to be obnoxious but not harmful. Just a little annoying. Remember in the early 2000s when the answer to anything was Whatzzzzup. More recently we've been blessed with gems such as YOLO and You mad bro? The second of which I do not understand yet a year ago at a concert I saw at least 6 shirts with that on it.

However, I've been noticing a trend. Whether it's on the comments of a news article or the personal rants of a status update, there have been numerous outpourings of this phrase.  If you've ever uttered this phrase, you are not alone. This has been something I've thought numerous times, until last night. When God all but yelled at me at the reality of what I was implying.

"I hope you get what's coming to you", "one day God will give you what you deserve", or "you'll get yours".  Have you thought these things about someone? I have. More than once. If I'm especially upset I've even taken comfort in fact that God will judge people who have wronged me.

However last night I was struck with what the true implications of those phrases are. These phrases are basically saying, "I hope God unleashes His full judgement on you". What is God's full judgement and punishment? Eternity completely separated from the Creator of the Universe because of sin. Godly retribution is to turn His back on people that do not know Him.

I do not wish God's judgment on my life. I've read the Old Testament, I know Israel's history and God's anger towards them. The thought of even an iota of that judgement makes me quake. I deserve His judgement, but I have escaped it. I accepted Christ as my Savior and now I will never have to spend eternity separated from the Lord. Yet, I'm basically wishing that the Lord will not forgive people who have wronged me. To wish for them to never know the Lord and what He has in store for them. For that one mistake against me to be the deciding factor for their eternity.

If you read through the prophets in the Old Testament, you will see where the Lord consistently calls a warning to his people. However, before or after the warning, God calls His people to redemption. REPENT AND TURN FROM YOUR WAYS. God does not want to send people to hell. If He did, wouldn't it have been easier for Him to judge Cain when he killed Abel? Instead, God marked Cain so no one would kill him, to give him time to repent and turn towards God. If God wanted to unleash wrath upon us, why send His Son to die a brutal harsh death, experiencing the abandonment of God, so we could be forgiven? I don't know about you, but to me that sounds like drastic measures to give us a second chance.

Now that I have reevaluated that phrase I've begun to realize how truly hateful the implications are. Do I honestly wish that a former friend would spend eternity separate from God because we had a fight two years ago? Do I truly wish that hateful boss would go the rest of his life without learning of the redemptive powers of Christ? Am I really sitting at home hoping that family member I'm on the outs with will never experience God's love and fellowship? 

The truth is Christ died for me the same He died for you. The white lie I told a bill collector was on the weight of His shoulders when God turned His back from Christ. The curse you yelled while driving to work was the same as the crowd shouting "crucify him". The murderer on death row was the reason Christ wore a crown of thorns. Howver, thankfully that's not the end of the story. Our eternities were the reason He arose and conquered death. I deserve it as much as you do, because NO ONE DESERVES IT. It is a free gift.

However, to wish that someone gets what's coming to them is to wish they never receive that gift. I should be so much more concerned with showing who Christ is, than to be wrapped up in personal vendettas. Because the truth is, we all deserve to be separated from Christ. The idea that someone might wish me to spend eternity in darkness is heart breaking.

I pray this might encourage you. That you would see how truly painful and damaging words can be. I hope this breaks your heart for the people that we've wished this upon. If together we consciously started changing our mindset towards sinners,  how many people would come to know Christ's forgiveness through us? I encourage you to have an eternal mindset that will carry on into your relationships. To let the next transgression slide off of your back. To give second, third, and fourth chances. Because we serve a God of second chances, and I don't know about you, but I want to be as much like Him as possible.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

What's Behind Your Couch

I don't know if you have had the pleasure of experiencing the insanity of an 18 month old, but it is unlike anything I've ever seen before. My son has one particular hobby that takes place before anything else. Pushing toys off the back of the couch. It seems a little mundane to me, but hey, I guess that's like going to six flags for this kid. Sometimes I swear he plays with things he knows I'll take away and put on the back of the couch, just so he can shove it in that crack between the wall and the couch.

Every time he does that I cringe a little. Then I get frustrated because it's not like I can pull that couch out while he's awake. I tell myself, oh I'll get it when he goes to bed. However,  I get swept away in that glorious feeling of knowing I can eat my Hershey bar without dirty hands begging for it.

Well last night, I realized all of my hair brushes were missing. I mean all!  No combs, no picks, no teasing brushes, nada. I even desperately was looking for a baby brush to help with my bangs, but those, too, were missing. I had no other choice than to slide the couch back in search of a hair taming device.

Let me tell y'all,  it was BAD! I mean, the instant shame and revolt and dread and fear at what I would find, was overwhelming! I feel ashamed just to tell you some of the things I found. However I will let you use your imagination. I have an 18 month old obsessed with brushes, spoons, and q-tips, a husband,a chef who enjoys a pb&j tortilla like it's a delicacy,  and I eat more Hershey bars than I'm comfortable admitting. Insert imagination here.

It was so bad I almost took a picture. But I could not bear the idea of there being evidence of this shameful part of my home. Even if I never showed anyone the picture, I'd know it was there. And that was too much!

It got me to thinking, though, how much that is like life. How many things do we keep pushing off behind the couch? How many sins, secrets, and confessions are hidden under things so that no one can see them? How fearful are we of pulling those protective layers off, seeing the damage, and admitting we need help to fix it?

I spend a lot of my time on Sunday mornings fixing my hair, doing my makeup, picking out an outfit. Getting Kevin and Kolton ready. Trying to appear in a good mood. I want to look put together. I don't want anyone to think about me the things I think about me. I don't want to appear frazzled. I wanted a husband and a child, so at church you say how thankful you are and what a blessing life is.

So we only show people the clean side of our couch. I keep the same front up at church that I show to strangers. But that is not how it is supposed to be. 1 Thessalonians 5:11a says, "Let us encourages one another and build each other up".

How can we build each other up, if we do not know where that person is struggling?  Where I need encouragement changes from day to day, sometimes minute to minute. There are times I need to hear,  "my house was a wreck when my children were this age, too" but tomorrow I might need to hear "it's okay that it was too crazy to on makeup this morning, you look beautiful without it".

At church and around our close Christian friends, it's time we allow them to build us up. To do that, we have to pull the couch back, show the mess, ask for help, and not be ashamed. Everyone has something that they are hiding from visitors. And that's fine, but we don't need to hide them from everyone. The Savior of the World wants to let you know, he's not ashamed of what you are. But, he does offer redemption,  hope, fresh starts, and grace.

Every time I look at my freshly cleaned couch area (for this week at least) I'm going let that be a reminder. A visual aide of the things Christ has available for me! The way He could build me up and clean things out if I just would not be afraid to move the couch.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Where are Your Gifts Used?

What if you sang really well? What if your voice was pitch perfect, smooth, and when you opened your mouth it was if the clouds rolled back and the heavens parted just to shine a light on your voice? Most people sing, even if it's just in the shower, but few people have a voice that is show stopping. How I would give for a voice like that.

But what if you had a voice like that, but you only sang at your home when no one else was around. The only people hearing your beautiful gift, were you and God.

That's okay though, right? This is a gift from God and I'm turning my gift around to sing praises to Him,  so I know I'm glorifying Him. He gave me this gift of song, so I know my voice is pleasing to Him.

There is truth in that. The Lord loves to see us use the gifts He has given to us, that's why they're called gifts! But how sad to know that when you stay at home, you miss fellowship with other believers, and when you allow other people to do what you have been called to do, you miss out on the rich blessings the Lord has for you. By keeping your gift to yourself, you have told God what He is allowed to do in your life. You are limiting His hand in your life.

1 Corinthians 12 describes how the Spirit distributes gifts and how we are all working together with a heavenly perspective. I encourage you to read it, to learn how important it is to share the gifts God has given us.

In the privacy of our own home, far from the judgemental eyes of people around us is where we feel most comfortable to give back to God what He has given us. But that is not our calling. Our blessings come from when we push past our comfort zones and give all we have to Him.

To me a perfect example of this is when you were in school and had to do group projects. Ideally, everyone had a role to play. They would do everything asked on the correct time frame and no person would have to do more than her partners. However,  reality was always different. You would have one person, say an artist, who wouldn't do their part. So the person who was going to do the research volunteers to do the art work. They aren't good at it, they are a bundle of nerves until the project is turned in. But, they are willing to help, and knows the person who is the artist isn't going to do their job. So they do what is necessary. It isn't bad, but it's not the best. It get the job done, but isn't the most professional work done.

If the church was a group project, which member would you want to be? Most people would say, I'd rather be the person who does both jobs. My viewpoint is slightly different. I'd rather a church that worked ideally. Where we all came together, worked within our gifts, pushed boundaries, and pushed each other forward. I want to feel confident in what I'm doing. If my gift is my voice,  I want to find someone who can play the piano and someone who is great with adolescents and let's start a youth choir.

Everyone has their gifts and they can be used in unexpected ways. BUT, they can never be used in an unexpected ways if you do not push yourself to use it in a public setting. If the only place you allow your gifts to be seen is alone in your home, that means some one in your church is doing a "make do" job in the area you really could excel in. You are telling God, I appreciate what you have given me, but I will decide how it is used.

Instead, pray on your gifts. Ask God to show you new ways to step outside of that comfort zone. How much more fulfilling could your life be if you allowed God to point you in the directions your gifts should take you? How many more rewards could you have in heaven, if you lived with that perspective every day?

I will leave you with one of my favorite quotes. A thought that keeps me moving when I feel like God is pushing me towards something I'm unsure of. Erma Bombeck said, "When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left. That I could say, I have nothing left, I used it all.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Encouragement in Discipline

I remember when I was in 9th grade, I was sitting in the backseat of my Honey's (my grandma) car. We pulled up to a store and she asked if I wanted some gum from inside. Without even thinking I said the worse thing I could have ever said to her. I said "yea". The moment the words were out of my mouth, I immediately regretted my choice and tried to say, "I'm sorry, I meant yes ma'am". But I was too late, her arm stretched into that back seat to pop my mouth before I could open it to rectify the situation. I knew I had messed up and I desperately wanted to fix it because I did not want her disappointed in me.

I learned a few things from this situation. I learned that discipline is not just for the fun of it. When you love someone and are helping form their future, you want to point out the wrong behaviors and correct them when possible. As parents or teachers, we correct behaviors on a regular basis.

If we care enough to do that, how much more does God want that for us? Hebrews 12:7 tells us that God disciplines us because He loves us. Not every bad thing that happens to us is discipline but there is a cause and effect that directly results from sins. If you speed, you get pulled over and get a ticket. If you are sexually inpure, there are various issues that could arise there. If you are not a good steward of your money, bills go into collections.

Sometimes, though, I see people that I know are not doing the right thing, yet things seem to work out for them. Some people live outside of God's word, yet never seem to come across any real consequences. Hebrews 12:8 tells us that God only disciplines His own. He loves us enough to want all the rewards of living a righteous life. If you are His, discipline is a way of seeing God's love in your life.

This brings up the question, though, are you habitually living in a sin? Is God disciplining you?  If not, you may need to examine. Sometimes God gives us space to learn from our mistakes. However there is a chance that you are not His and need to evaluate that relationship.

Hebrews 12 goes on to tell us in verses 12 and 13 that the way we handle discipline can be an encouragement to those around us. That our strength and willingness to move from our sin can in turn give weaker Christians the strength to move past their sins as well.

I encourage you to search your heart. Ask the Lord to show you the issues that are in your life. To handle His discipline with strength and gratitude. When you handle yourself in this manner, just think of the lives that you could be an encouragement to! What an amazing thought and promise from our Lord.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

It's Time to Discuss Hobby Lobby

This week marks a huge victory for religious freedom. I'm sure by now you know a little something about the Hobby Lobby suit against Obamacare. Just a quick break down if you do not know what is going on exactly, or if you've seen contradicting stories and are confused. Basically Obamacare requires businesses to not only pay for birth control but for two brands of the morning after pill. Hobby Lobby has no problem paying for birth control, it's the morning after pills that an issue. Because the morning after pill can be seen as abortion.

I'm not here to debate when a fetus is a fetus. That's not the point of this, although personally I believe life is at conception and do believe that morning after pills do not value the sanctity of life.

All of this is besides the point. The thing that shocked me this week was reading about the people protesting Hobby Lobby. First, I find it odd that the people who are up in arms about this ruling are not employees of Hobby Lobby. They are not being affected. Secondly, so many facts are being misconstrued. Hobby Lobby has no problem paying for birth control. They do not wait to pay for morning after pills and IUDs. Most Hobby Lobby employees are in favor of their religious beliefs. They have Sundays off for family time, and their minimum wage is over $9!

However we live in a world today that just longs to be upset about something. If the Hobby Lobby ruling would have been differently, no doubt the next day we would have been dealing with another Christian who is ruining the world by standing up for their beliefs.

Some of the protesters had some wonderful things to say on their picket signs. My favorite said "You're the boss at my job, not in my bedroom". I know that was supposed to be anti-Hobby Lobby. However I completely agree with them. Women today want to scream strength, equality,  and independence. And I agree! It is your bosses job to handle things at work. But it is your job to handle things in the bedroom.

If you are independent enough to have sex and forget a condom, then you are independent enough to buy a plan-b if you are so inclined. It should not fall on your boss to make sure that you do not get pregnant if you are not ready for a baby! If you are strong enough to have casual sex with no regards to the sanctity of life, then you are strong enough to use your money at a drug store.

It is not societies job to allow women to have all of the sexual encounters they want without consequences. If a company is paying for birth control, everything extra you need is just that, extra!

Feminists have fought so hard to have "control" when it comes to sex. But Hobby Lobby is a perfect example of only wanting the illusion of control, because they are still expecting someone to pay for their life eliminating medication. If you truly want control, take it into your own hands. Do not attack a Christian corporation because they stand against it. If you are for it, don't work for Hobby Lobby. Find a company that will supply morning after pills. Or, better yet, be a truly empowered woman, take control, and handle it yourself!

The Lord has given us this life to live for His glory. I am so thankful to see large businesses standing up for what they believe is right. Setting an example for those of us who may need a little courage to stand strong to our beliefs. Hobby Lobby taught me this week that it's okay to disagree with the world. It's also okay to challenge the world, show them what i believe, and stand by it regardless of the results of that challenge. For that, I am more grateful than I realized before i started writing this! They taught me it is okay to stick to my guns and not apologize for following to path the Lord has laid out for me.

Searching out "These Women"

I've made some very poor decisions in my life. Some I purposefully went against what I knew was right. Some, on the other hand, were mistakes of ignorance. Times I thought I was doing right, but did not find out until later how wrong I really was.
One of these mistakes is with friendships. I can honestly say I was a freshman in college before I found the Biblical definition of a friend. That person that matches everything they tell you in church that you should find in friends. However my eyes still were not open. I thought Leslie was a dying breed. An endangered species. Something to be treasured above all other relationships but to look for another friend like her would be foolish.
So what did I do? I kept up other relationships. Some were toxic, some were not, they just weren't what I needed. I knew how to be a good friend, I'd bend over backwards for anyone I knew. It kept seeming like I was being used over and over again though.
After a very bad time in my friendships, I lost all faith. The person I thought was my best friend was so toxic, she would harass me and turn on me for the slightest indiscretion in her mind. I spent years tip toeing around her to not have that feeling. I felt so inferior. She had no problem telling me what a horrible and selfish person I was. I was beaten down, lonely, and beginning to believe that I was the worst friend possible.
Soon after I hit rock bottom in that relationship, something amazing happened. At church I opened up to a girl in my Sunday school about how toxic this relationship was. Suddenly she became a strong influence in my life. We started dating our husbands at the same time, we survived multiple changes in our lives, and we were so blessed to have our babies at the same time! God truly is good. She opened my eyes to the fact that good, Godly, and encouraging friends like Leslie were not one in a million! Instead they are there waiting for other rich, meaningful friendships.
Since I learned my lesson and began searching out Godly women to share my friendship, God has blessed me so richly. He has put amazing women in my path. At one point I believed the majority of friendships were only for a season. That people came in and out of you life. However since I let go of toxic relationships and started seeking out what God wanted for me, I have made more lifelong friends than I thought possible. These women in my life I love so dearly. I trust them enough to let them in on personal struggles and never once have they used that information against me. I've raised Kolton with their children, found role models for my marriage. I've also began taking more value in myself as a friend.
God created us to be social beings. We have a very innate longing to be around people. We want to let people in and share our thoughts and dreams and problems with other people. However,  I encourage you to be careful. Not everyone is looking for the things you are. Guard your heart. Look for friends in the right places. Don't believe the lies the enemy whispers in your ear. You do deserve good friends. There are plenty of women out there that hold your ideals and want to be the kind of friend you desire. The Lord wants you to have the encouragement and support that comes from women like these! Don't settle for less! And for all of "these women" I'm my life, I'm more thankful than you will ever know for the difference you've made in me!