Sunday, November 15, 2015

Be Careful Little Eyes What You See

"Purity is a direction- not a line." is a statement I heard as a teenager from Joshua Harris, and little did I know its impact on me even almost 20 years later. I say this statement to those who say, "well, as long as I don't do this", or, "as long as I don't do that". And as someone that once walked away from the Lord, I know this statement to be way truer than most realize. 

Though that line is often shared in regards to one's virginity or "physical purity" (that is another topic for another day), I want to apply this line to our every day lives. King David wrote,"I will walk with integrity of heart within my house; I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless... I will know nothing of evil." (Psalm 101:2b,3a,4b) How many of us can say this? Harder yet, how many of us want to say this?

For some reason, I have always sensed that the majority of believers have a sin (or more than one) that they are prone to fight and struggle with. One of my particular sins is this: laziness. And for years I became that person who worked, went home, watched movies, went to bed and repeated that cycle. Now, what I am NOT saying is this: that movies are evil and from Satan and that a single adult who has no family to take care of is sinning if they go home and do nothing but watch movies. However, what I AM saying is that, for me, I was creating a habit of avoidance and creating a habit of laziness. 

About a year or so after I repented and turned back to the Lord, I was faced with the realization of two things: the addiction to tv and movies and the lack of discipline in my time with the Lord. Is it of coincidence that I saw those two realities at the same time? I think not. 

Psalm 106:36 says, "They served their idols, which became a snare to them." I think most believers often believe that idols are either, a.) handmade wooden/metal statues or b.) a negative feeling, object or pursuit. But [most of the time]: they are not. An idol is anything that you deem more important than God. Which while it seems like that would be easy to see and define in your own life is not actually that easy. Let me help you with one simple question: Who or what do you spend most of your day thinking about and pursuing? (Now, let me clarify, if you are married, then yes, you better spend some of your day thinking about your spouse and/or family.)

Dietrich Bonhoffer said, "Satan does not fill us with hatred of God but with forgetfulness of God." So this is where I found myself: that my in my addiction to tv and movies- I had forgotten about God. I did not hate Him (heck! I just turned my life around!), but I had found myself filling my "life" with "so much" that I did not spend time with Him. Mark 9:43-48 tells us, "...if your hand causes you to sin: cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands and go to hell." Whelp. So I did something radical: I 'vowed' to stop watching tv and movies throughout the week. Now listen, I know that many of you are thinking, "Whatever lady. I'm not addicted to tv or movies or to anything for that matter. I can stop any of it at any time." Then you, my friend, are who I'm talking to. DO IT. 

For myself, I had found that I couldn't go another day without finding out how the next episode or series finale ended. I couldn't wait for so and so to get together with so and so. I was so caught up in the intense drama that it almost made me feel like I was involved in it myself. [Dear Grey's Anatomy watchers: seriously. How. many. dramas. can one. person. go. through?! I had to stop after the plane crash!]  Or, do you find yourself secretly loving the love/sex scenes in shows and movies? I am not one who personally struggles with pornography, but I can tell you that those scenes in no way shape or form help me in my loneliness of being single or in my pursuit of becoming holy. [And if you, dear friend, are one who does struggle with the sin of pornography, RUN. James 4:7 says to "Resist the devil and he will flee."] Maybe none of these tv/movies are your thing: maybe it's sports. If your team doesn't win, does it affect your attitude for the rest of the day or the days following? Do you refuse to spend time with friends or family if it interferes with a game? What if you can't watch it or record it: does it affect you inwardly? 

My follow-up question for you after answering the above is this:

Are you as upset in missing your time with the Lord each day as you are in missing that tv show/movie/sports game?

Now hear me, dear brother/sister: I am NOT saying that you enjoying tv/movies/sports every night after work is wrong or sinful. I do believe that relaxation is important in processing life. However, I think too often we as believers are more upset about what happens on our tvs than what happens in the real world. Do you get more upset in watching a movie than you do in watching the News every day? Is watching a sunset for you boring? Are you too tired to have a conversation with your spouse or kid than you are in watching something on tv?

Oh that we would be like the Psalmist in Psalm 119:36-38! "Incline my heart to Your testimonies, and not to selfish gain! TURN MY EYES FROM LOOKING AT WORTHLESS THINGS; and give me life in Your ways. Conform to Your servant Your promise , that You may be feared."

"Jesus Christ, who went through hell for you, can give you the power you need to overcome the worst kind of condition in your life." Charles Swindoll, David

For those who are thinking I'm far from perfect: YOU ARE RIGHT! Laziness is still a tremendous, on-going battle of mine. It's been about two years now of my no tv/movies throughout the week, and it has made a HUGE difference in my life. I read more, I watch more sermons... but it doesn't mean that I don't have my times of "too much" on the weekends. (Dang those Hallmark Movies!) In fact, God recently has convicted me of my indulgence on the weekends... but I am ever thankful for a God who covers His grace over my sin -- and shame. 

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Dear Christians: Stop Being Surprised

I actually really try to not write controversial things. Political or religious... but in the last few years as more and more people connect on Social Media and get more and more bold, I've noticed a trend that I just can not take any more:

Christians being surprised by the world offending them.

So let's do some studying together, shall we? (And by that I mean, we won't even come close to studying all that Scripture teaches us about "the World vs. 'Us'".)

John 15:19 "If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own, but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore THE WORLD HATES YOU." (emphasis mine)

So by looking at this literally: Do we hate the world? Or does it hate us? And then after pondering that for a few moments, ask yourself this: this was written more than 2000 years ago: why are you surprised? Let's keep studying.

John 17:15-17 "I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world.... Sanctify them in the truth, Your word is truth."

The moment that you repented and accepted Christ as your Saviour: Did you die (or get raptured) and go straight to heaven? No, of course not! God has work for you to do! Second question: Who's the evil one? Is it Starbucks? (Gosh: let them have beautiful design-freeish cups, will you?!) Obama? Companies that fund LGBTQ agendas? NO. The evil one is Satan. (And I could not find a solid answer as to how many times he is mentioned in Scripture, but I'm going to say hundreds. Whether it was him as the serpent in Genesis, or him as Lucifer or him as our adversary, etc.) Third question: How does one become sanctified (purified)? Well, how does gold or silver become purified? Fire, and then more fire. And how does it tell us we become pure? In His truth- His word. (And the various trials we go through (James 1:2-4).

Let's keep going. So, we "got saved" (excuse the Christian lingo): We realize we don't go to heaven right away, He wants us here to ....?

John 17: 23 "I in them (believers) and You in Me (the Father and Jesus) that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that You sent me and loved them (the World)..."

So there's a lot in that: but really quick: God is triune. God the Father sent God the Son (Jesus) (and later sent the Spirit at Pentecost) so that what: That the world may know that the Father sent Jesus because He love[s] the World. Before you say, "WHAT?".. may I remind you of John 3:16, "For God so loved the World..." And, believe it or not, dear brother and sister: You were once of the world. [In fact, the other point in the verse alone is that the unity of believers is what is supposed to draw the world to us, but that'll be another blog and study for another day.]

The last Scripture to study is this: THE FOUR GOSPELS. And I am not being facetious. If you look at Jesus' interactions with people you will see this: Gentleness and severe Rebuking. Who was He gentle with? Those who needed Him- and wanted Him. But who did He rebuke severely? THE RELIGIOUS LEADERS. The day that He cleared the temple (Luke 19): Did he yell at those bringing money and animals to sacrifice? No. He yelled at the RELIGIOUS LEADERS. And why? Because they were supposed to be teaching the truth but told lies instead. Did He rebuke the woman caught in adultery (John 8) or did He rebuke those were condemning her? The ones condemning her. Even deeper, as He was dying on the cross, what did He say? "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do." (Luke 23:34)

So, after studying even just these few verses: Who are you more like? The religious leaders, who were pious and condemning? Or perhaps you pray to be more like the woman with the alabaster box in Matthew 26 (and Mark 14 and John 12) who knew the cost of what Jesus did for her and so she tried to show her love and service to Him by pouring perfume (that cost her about a years' wages) over His head and feet?

Do you know the cost of what Jesus did for us? Of what He willingly suffered, died and rose again for for us? Because I would like to think that if we truly knew the depths of our sin that He covered and washed away and if we truly knew the depths of His love for us: then we wouldn't be condemning people...

We would be loving them.

"I do not care how long you have been a Christian, you are nothing but a sinner saved by the grace of God." D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Oh that we would be like David in Psalm 35 as he describes the intensity he felt for his enemies (that were trying to kill him, by the way- not taking Christmas out of Holiday Greetings)....

But I, when they were sick-I wore sackcloth; I afflicted myself with fasting; 
I prayed with head bowed on my chest. I went about as though I grieved for my friend or my brother, as one who laments his mother. I bowed down in mourning." Psam 35:13,14

This is in no way, shape or form an exhaustive study on this "subject". There are literally dozens to hundreds of more verses to study and learn from. I also do not believe that this means to not evangelize or to not share hard truth in love, and to not call sin SIN when we need to. However, we as believers are not going to save the World: Jesus is. America is not heaven. In fact, America is over-privileged and has become a health and wealth gospel-focused Country, which is NOT BIBLICAL. This world will only get worse and worse (environmentally, politically and spiritually) until Jesus returns. (Unless, of course, you are an Amillenialist, in which case, that could be a blog post for another time. ;) )

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Reality of Mountain Tops

The reality of Mountain Tops is this:
You can not live there.

I love to worship God. I love to worship Him when it's just me (and my coffee)... I love to worship Him with friends... in corporate worship at church. (Yes, we also [can] worship God in our work, talents and giving [time and finances] and enjoy those times as well. But for the purpose of this blog, "worship" will be in reference to prayer, reflection and/or singing of praise to God.)

This past weekend I attended the Simply Worship conference in Lexington, MA.  ( This conference is designed to encourage and refresh worship leaders and teams throughout New England. A one day conference to meet others- learn new skills or tricks of the trade- and to corporately worship the Almighty God without the pressure of key changes or  "what's next" mentality. (That is, of course, unless you're on one of the leading teams, in that case... it becomes an exciting reality to think that every. person. in that room is there because they WANT to grow closer to the Lord!)

Okay, as I was saying.
After attending these conferences, my heart aches. No, my soul aches. Throughout the day, the prayer of "Even so, Come!" never ceases to come from lips. In the congregation I'm able to soak in the presence of God in a way in which is very rare in the other 364 days of the year. There is no "fighting tooth and nail" to get people to raise their hands to God or sing. In fact, as much as I love singing and leading others to praise God: I very rarely sing... I just sit or stand back and listen to the hundreds of voices around me... all expressing praise and adoration to the same God I love, know and am so thankful for. At about 5:30 pm on those Saturdays though, the reality of the real world kicks in....Of leading worship the next day....Of work and the exhaustion and stress it causes. The "where will the money for this months bills" kicks in. The loneliness kicks in.

This year (sickness aside) was no different. And as I have driven around the last few days while listening to the 10,000 Fathers (Aaron Keyes, Founder: they were at the conference as well) most recent album, "Invitation"... I'm tearing up, just asking God, "Why couldn't You have come back that day?" And today, today God whispered, "Because you were not made to live on the mountain tops." 

In his book, "The Heavenly Man", Brother Yun answers the question, "If you could say one thing to Western Christians, what would you say?" He answers, "That you like to stay too long on your mountaintop experiences. But life can not be lived there.... It is in the valleys." Even now, think about what a mountaintop view brings you: breathtaking beauty of all that is around you. But look immediately around you: there is no life. No vegetation. The wind is often too strong - the air is often too cold and thin for life to exist. Now think of the valley: Luscious. Green. Life. Vegetation. Flowers.

Maybe we need to change our perspective of what valleys are. Valleys are where growth happen. Those daily moments with Him and His word. Those daily moments of praying without ceasing (1 Thess.5:17) when you forgot to put the water in for the coffee... when we're stuck in traffic (can I get an Amen from the Bostonians?)... when our kids (be it students or yours) are on our last nerve.

Maybe it's in those moments that He is closer to us than we think or feel- because we're not acknowledging that He's there. Maybe we don't see Him at work in us or around us because our eyes are focused on that school bell, that bill payment, that moment we put the kids to bed, that meeting that is giving us ulcers to think about, that moment that we can finally put our head on the pillow.

Maybe it's time that we acknowledge that as much as mountaintop views and moments are beautiful, refreshing and even needed- we can't live there. And instead of trying to reclaim those moments or praying for the next mountaintop, we prayed this:

"Open up our eyes to see You in the ordinary
we don't want to miss You anymore.
Open up every eye to see every day, everything is
burning with the glory of the Lord." (Aaron Keyes)

Sunday, October 18, 2015

The Pretty vs. Ugly Faith

In my Timehop today was a post in which I had written a quote from my best friend, Bethany, that she shared when speaking at a conference for Teen Girls ( ... "Sometimes faith looks like dancing.. and sometimes faith looks like white-knuckles trying to hold on. Either way is faith."

Did you see the movie War Room? That movie was a game changer for me... but how quickly I forget what I learned! Remember the scene in the beginning... when Miss Clara tells Elizabeth, "the thief is out to kill and destroy... and you're letting him!" That moment hit so hard I almost lost my breath. 

But four weeks after seeing that movie, and YEARS of knowing and quoting that verse (John 10:10): I forget it. Just in the past two months I've: had to take out my first loan. I've had my heart broken. Lost my breath when looking at my bank account. Discovered I have a dairy allergy. Learned of friends getting divorced. Discovered that a friend was walking away from God. Battling the worst season of seasonal depression I've had yet. Should I go on? 

Don't get me wrong... not every moment am I crying. Not every moment am I wanting to crawl into a hole and not come out again. (Though, I have had those moments.) And today was a day chalk full of reminders that we have a mighty, sovereign and all-loving God. No, almost more than that: I know and have THAT God in me and around me. 

The first reminder today was in the song, "the Great I Am", by New Life Worship. Then secondly, during a conversation with friends regarding that song and I was explaining why that song speaks to me so deeply. It's realizing that the God who raises the dead, gives visions and performs miracles in closed and restricted countries is the same God I know, serve and love. [Disclaimer: I KNOW that God can (and does) those miracles here in America and Canada as well, but let's face it.. we don't believe that He does. Plus, with every home owning more than one Bible: why should He have to perform those miracles to and for us?] I digress, so back to the song: 

"The mountains shake before Him, the demons run and flee
at the mention of His name, King of Majesty.
There is no power in hell, or any who can stand
before the power and presence of the Great I Am."

James 2:19 tells us that even the demons believe in God- [but] they shudder. 
Do we?

The third reminder I had was tonight, while washing dishes and prepping my meals for the week. In fact, I'm really glad my life is not on a reality show like poor Truman in "the Truman Show"... You would have seen me in my 10x's too big for me pajamas in a messy kitchen with tears streaming down my face while my Pandora Natalie Grant station played song. after. song that ministered in such a divine and intimate way that at some points, all I could do was stand there with soapy (or raw ground turkey) hands lifted towards God, asking Him to not only forgive me: but to wash me anew. 

And then I remembered, the thief and enemy of our souls is out to kill, steal and destroy. Sure, I'm about 99.999% sure that Satan himself could care less about me. So I'm sure he's left the "destroying of my soul" to some scummy, putrid demon who's mad that he didn't get promoted last month. (Ha!) But, what if we as believers started truly remembering that we don't "wrestle against flesh and blood, but against..... the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places."? (Ephesians 6:12) 

What would happen if we stopped living to put that extra money into a nice house renovation and prayed to ask God who (or what) to give that money to? What would happen if, instead of watching that 60 minute tv show that you just couldn't live without we spent reading Scripture or a book to help us know God better? (Bunny trail rant, but seriously Jesus-loving-people: I see you and hear you get more passionate about Grey's Anatomy and Sports than you do about God... So I'll call you out on that: THAT IS YOUR IDOL. Whatever we get more passionate about than we do God is our idol. End rant.) What if instead of just scrolling through Facebook and Instagram and Twitter mindlessly, we prayed an honest prayer for each person that pops up in our mini-feed as we scroll? What if we set reminders on our phones not to just pay the bills- but to pray for people through out our day? Could we perhaps be like those [handful of] men in (Acts 17:6) that turned the world upside down? 

So my faith- and your faith... maybe it looks like dancing or, more than likely, it looks like white-knuckles... but rest in this tonight: 

It's Faith. 

May we be like the father of the demon possessed child who cried out, "[Lord] I believe! Help my unbelief!" (Mark 9:24)


For those who are curious, here are some books that have helped to open my eyes to God, the world and Faith in the last several years:

Radical, by David Platt
The Heavenly Man, Brother Yun
This Present Darkness, Frank Peretti
Piercing the Darkness, Frank Peretti
Love Does, Bob Goff
Ragamuffin Gospel, Brennan Manning
Interrupted, Jen Hatmaker

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Moments Matter.

Proverbs 27:1 "Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring."

While (re)reading Brennan Manning's, Ragamuffin's Gospel, I came across this quote from Erma Bombeck, from her column entitled, "If I Had My Life to Live Over Again". She says,

"I would have invited friends over to dinner even if the carpet was stained and the sofa faded. I would have sat on the lawn with my children and not worried about grass stains. I would never have bought anything just because it was practical, wouldn't show soil or was guaranteed to last a lifetime. When my child kissed me impetuously, I would never have said, 'Later. Now get washed up for dinner.' There would have been more I love yous, more I'm sorrys, but mostly, given another shot at life, I would seize every minute, look at it and really see it, live it, and never give it back."

Isn't that amazing? 

Now let us live this way.
Starting now. 

When the kids won't stay in bed. 
When your toddler is throwing food on the floor. 
When all your roommate wants to do is jump around.
When you feel a compliment on your lips.
When you close your eyes tonight: 

Ask God to show you how to be in these moments.