Finding what you’re looking for

Christianity

We sat at the kitchen table sipping coffee and eating breakfast. Our daughter has been homeschooled through junior high, and our visiting friends were talking to her about starting 9th grade this fall at our public high school.

Our friend, Mark, told us the story of when he was in college. He said that his college was ranked the number three party school in the U.S. by Playboy magazine. He continued on, explaining that one night at this very school, he had a life-changing experience: He went to an outing with a friend and came to know Jesus Christ. He learned that he was in need of a Savior, and Mark has never been the same since. He later married Pam, had children, and has served as a missionary Bible translator in Nigeria for about two decades.

Mark explained to our daughter, “You will find whatever you are looking for as you enter public school. I was at a school with a nationwide reputation for partying, and I found Jesus. If you’re looking for Him and like-minded people who love Him, you’ll find it. If you’re looking for the party scene, you’ll find it. Decide ahead of time what you will look for.”

Great words of wisdom for all of us. What are you looking for?

Think about it

Christianity, fear, freedom in Christ, Jesus, joy, Multiple Sclerosis

Think about what you are thinking about. Is it worry, or fear? I heard it put this way recently: Worry is telling God that you think He can’t handle things correctly.

Fear is crippling and will consume us if not proactively fought. We must think about what we are thinking about. I am learning that peace and freedom from fear are my choice….what are you choosing to think on and meditate on? If we are not intentional, fear will be like a roller coaster that we didn’t mean to get on. It will strap us in and take us wherever it wants us to go.

We choose whether or not to get on the roller coaster of fear. If we aren’t proactive about our thoughts, they’ll take us for a ride we may not want to go on…

Check out this song by Hillsong, Forever Reign. It helps to focus my thoughts on Jesus when I am struggling with fear:

Today’s devotional from Jesus Calling addresses this beautifully:

Trust Me and don’t be afraid, for I am your Strength and Song. Do not let fear dissipate your energy. Instead invest your energy in trusting Me and singing My Song. The battle for control of your mind is fierce, and years of worry have made you vulnerable to the enemy. Therefore, you need to be vigilant in guarding your thoughts. Do not despise this weakness in yourself, since I am using it to draw you closer to Me. Your constant need for Me creates an intimacy that is well worth all the effort. You are not alone in this struggle for your mind. My Spirit living within you is ever ready to help in this striving. Ask Him to control your mind; He will bless you with Life and Peace.

Isaiah 12:2; Romans 8:6

Tired of being afraid? I am. After a few months of absolute freedom from fear, it came back fiercely lately since undergoing medical tests to diagnose some neurological issues. Fear & worry seem to be the things I struggle with the most.  The past six months have been up and down and I have struggled with fear and the unknown during lots of tests for multiple sclerosis. So far the tests are inconclusive, as MS is very difficult to diagnose or completely rule out. In the moments of peace that I experience, I have joy and peace that it really doesn’t matter whether I have MS or not…my life is not my own and it belongs to Christ who gives me life. In my worst moments, I run with my imagination and fear the unknown and worst debilitating scenarios that MS can cause. What goes on in our thoughts is our choice. You and I must choose to think on truth; if we don’t, fear and worry can take us for a ride.

What if we really believed what God says?

Christianity, freedom in Christ, love, new creation, religion

Have you believed and confessed that Jesus Christ is the Son of God? That He died for your sins and mine, that He was raised from the dead, conquering death and sin? If so, we can walk in a glorious reality. So often we don’t, though. Do you find yourself just shuffling through life, or maybe racing through it? Same old stuff, different day…it shouldn’t be so!

What if we really believed what God says? What if we not only believed it, but knew it, deep down in our soul?

If you and I believed and knew God’s lavish love for us, then we would act and feel differently.

What if we really knew and believed that we are made new when we are in Christ; how would we think and what would we spend our time doing?

What if we were truly free from caring about what others think, and only concerned ourselves with what God thinks about us?

Maybe our lives would be more compelling and maybe we’d walk in the freedom and abundant life that Jesus promised us.

The apostle Paul illustrates this in a tangible way that is challenging. Remember that before he was Paul, he was Saul of Tarsus, murderer and zealous persecutor of Christians. Imagine that there must have been times that he would reflect on some of the horrible deaths that he had been party to. Surely that would invoke guilt or shame from anyone. Instead, Paul had a radical change of heart and behavior. He went on to be a missionary and wrote a large portion of the New Testament, including many letters to other believers. What’s really mind-blowing is the way Paul describes himself in the introductions that he gives in these letters. I think if I were Paul, I probably would have started my letters awkwardly, something like this: You probably remember me, I used to be a murderer. But don’t worry, I’m not gonna try to kill you or anything, I just want to talk to you about Jesus.

Instead, it seems like Paul was able to grasp the reality that God had made him into a completely new and different person. Paul didn’t define himself by his past, as significant as it was. Check out the first few verses of Romans and how it seems that Paul knew and believed God.

Here is how Paul describes himself:

a servant of Christ Jesus,

called to be an apostle and

set apart for the gospel of God—

He goes on to describe Jesus in his introduction:

who as to his earthly life was a descendant of David

who through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.

Through him we received grace and apostleship to call all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith for his name’s sake.

Don’t you love that Paul is firm in his belief of who he is in this introduction, and then he introduces Jesus? Powerful! So I want to believe and walk in this truth, that I am a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God. If you are a believer and follower of Jesus Christ, may you believe it too!

God, help me believe you. Help me know you more.

LOL. Is there any other way?

Christianity, depression, freedom in Christ, joy, new creation

People say I have a distinct laugh. Which means it’s really obnoxious and loud. I have really tried to tone it down or make it more lady-like, but it still seems to come out as a sudden, loud, burst of unrestrained laughter. This means that my “distinct laugh” is really more of a guffaw. I also have the world’s gummiest smile. You can see most of my teeth and gums…and I just can’t help it! Yesterday in church they played a beautiful song, Restoration, by David Brymer. The lyrics are repetitive and also profound. This is what got me to thinking about my boisterous laugh.

Although I have had a real relationship with Jesus for the last fourteen years or so, I have continued to struggle with depression off and on. Sometimes I wonder if depression is even worse as a Christian. That sounds weird, but here’s why I say this: Being a Christ-follower can bring a whole new dimension of guilt. For example, when you aren’t able to pull yourself out of a dark place or season of life, you reason that Jesus is enough and if you only had enough faith in Him, you would be free from this. There’s a real tension here, because it’s true that Jesus IS enough. He is all-sufficient, He is healer and powerful to overcome death, depression, or any sickness. So what do we do with the reality that sometimes these maladies remain, in spite of the truth that we know about God and His ability to take it away or heal?

There’s not a clear-cut answer for this question, at least in my experience. All I know to do in these times is to cling to God’s truth, and cry out to Him, being honest about how I am feeling. It helps to read the Psalms aloud. They are authentic and raw, and no matter what season of life you are in, there is always a Psalm that can articulate our complex feelings. This song that was played yesterday echoes Psalm 30 and reminds me of what a joy it is that I laugh too loud and have a cheesy smile that I can’t seem to tone down. It’s because Jesus has held on to me when I have felt too weak to hold on to Him. He brings restoration and healing to our souls.

Here are the lyrics:

You bring restoration
You bring restoration
You bring restoration
to my soul

You’ve taken my pain
called me by a new name
You’ve taken my shame
and in its place, You give me joy

You take mourning and turn it into dancing
You take weeping and turn it into laughing
You take mourning and turn it into dancing
You take my sadness and turn it into joy

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
You make all things new, all things new

You’ve taken my pain

This video is about 10 minutes long, but if you only listen for a minute or two, you’ll hear the powerful lyrics that echo the greatness and power of God to bring restoration.

Not a fan

Christianity

You can’t think about Resurrection Day without thinking about the fact that when Jesus conquered death and rose from the dead, He didn’t leave us alone. He sent the Holy Spirit.

photo from christianbook.com

Not a fan- this is a great book by Kyle Idleman. He explains: Jesus doesn’t want us to be His fans. Even if we are fans with a fish on our car or if we know all of the stories and stats. He wants fully committed followers, who are willing to live for Him and die for Him. Idleman, the author, has a sarcastic wit that I LOVE. But so far, my favorite part was this little story I read yesterday, reminding us of the power of the Holy Spirit.

Idleman tells of a time that his family was moving to a different house. They packed up and moved everything except for a heavy desk he had saved for last. He pushed and grunted and pulled, struggling, but it wouldn’t budge. Finally, somehow he turned it upside down, deciding to slide it on the carpet. His four-year-old son enters the room, determined to help his dad. Idleman gave the desk a good shove, with his son underneath him, and it finally moved a little. He pushes again, and it slides a few more inches. This happens a few more times, then exasperated, his son finally says, “Dad, I’ve got it, but you’ve got to get out of my way!” He points out how much we are like his four-year-old son. Many times when we are able to accomplish something impossible for us, we don’t realize that the power of God in us, the Holy Spirit, is at work to do what we couldn’t do on our own.

It’s a great thought as we celebrate our risen Savior. He doesn’t just live, but if we are followers of His, He lives in us.

If you want your life to count

Christianity, Jesus, Uncategorized

To make your life count, you don’t have to have a high I.Q. or good looks. You don’t have to be from a good family, or good school. You just have to know a few basic things, and be gripped by them, and be willing to live and die for them.  One of the saddest realities is that many of us are not concerned with our life making a difference. Some of us only want to be liked, to have a great job, nice house, and financial security.

These strong words are from John Piper, a well-known theologian, preacher and author. He isn’t just saying this stuff for shock value. It’s true, if you want your life to count, Piper says, you just have to know a few basic things, and be gripped by them, and be willing to live and die for them. These “few basic things” are the realities that we are made for more than our life here on earth; God made us to know Him, and to make Him known to others.

Following Jesus requires more than working hard to have a fat bank account, being nice to people, or volunteering at a soup kitchen. If you want your life to count, Jesus said, you must lay down your agenda and pick up His, following Him. (paraphrase of Matthew 16:24) He laid down His life for us, now it’s my turn.

Do you want your life to count? I do. I’m going to start by surrendering my will and agenda today, and to pick up Jesus’.

Fashion and the Gospel of Jesus Christ

Uncategorized

It’s paradoxical to say that the Gospel of Jesus Christ can be proclaimed through a superficial means like fashion.

A couple of days ago we received news that it is too risky for our planned mission to West Africa to happen this spring. The tension, unrest, and terrorism that’s going on is too intense to allow visitors until things settle down. My daughter, Danielle, and I were extremely disappointed and frustrated that we cannot go right now. A string of events and conversations, along with Scripture, convinced us that we must plan this trip to work with young widows and their children, orphans, and a missionary women’s retreat.

On the heels of this huge let-down, I have received several interesting phone calls this week. Three different ladies have called about giving fashion talks. I know what you’re thinking: Come on, Christine. How can you possibly connect the Gospel and fashion? It’s been a joy for me to discover that since women love to feel pretty, we are interested in fashion; ergo, we will go to events that give us fashion tips and ideas. This sets the stage for fashion and the Gospel of Jesus Christ, two completely different things that I love talking about.

Even though we aren’t going to Africa as planned, in the next few months, I will get to bring a topic of interest to women, have fun laughing with them, and tell them the truth that we are all sinners in need of a Savior, and Jesus is that Savior who conquered death and sin for us. He wants us to lay down our lives and agendas to follow Him. We’ll get to invite these women to repent of their sin and enter into a saving relationship with an amazing and holy God. I know that sin and repentance aren’t fun subjects, but I love that God allows such a shallow vehicle as fashion to be used to proclaim His great name.

Here’s the fluffy part of this talk that women may want to check out!

10 items every woman should have in her closet:

1. White button-down shirt

Goes with jeans for everyday classic, trousers for professional look

2. Great fitting pair of jeans.

Emphasis on great-fitting. If you must cut out the size tag, then do it. Just make sure you can grab these as a foundation for an outfit.

3. Suit jacket

Does double-duty, classic worn as a suit, or as a layering piece over t-shirt and jeans

4. Suit pants/trousers

You can hang these separately in your closet, to wear trousers alone with a cardigan & blouse with flats

5. Cardigan

Layering for cuteness and practicality. Who hasn’t sweat to death outside in summer, only to come inside and feel like you’re in a meat locker?

6. Little black dress

Takes you to a ladies’ tea with your cardigan, pearls and heels goes to a wedding, funeral, or church. Wear with some snappy colored heels and a fun necklace and go out for the evening

7. Good fitting cami

I can’t say enough about this one. It hides the one accessory we don’t want showing-cleavage, and smooths out trouble areas, if you know what I mean!

8. A black t-shirt, and a white one

So versatile, change up your look with pops of color using accessories

9. Classic black skirt

Target has great ones this spring. Super easy to change up your look; wear with ballet flats and t-shirt running errands, or with heels and blouse for dressy look

10. A pretty blouse

This works with jeans, skirt, or trousers. Wear with your suit, too.

 

Here’s a fun fashion blog that gives you 30 days of outfits using 15 pieces of clothing.

http://cabicanary.com/?m=2012&w=6

The power to change a life

Christianity, Jesus, new creation, righteousness, sin, truth

Wow. I had a moment recently. Have you ever been talking with someone, and as you are saying something you think is factual, the real truth will wash over you? I was talking with my college-aged son about a heinous crime that was on trial. My son is very compassionate and insightful, and he had a much kinder perspective than me. He sympathized with the victim, but also the accused. He emphasized that the accused is a human being, a person with value and feelings….I interrupted, not surprisingly, to argue my point. Yes, the accused is a person made in God’s image. BUT, they must stand before a judge to face the consequences of any wrong-doing. I emotionally presented my case; I was so certain I was right that my fingers may have been in my ears as I talked, wanting to block out anything else he was saying.

It was then that the real truth came over me, making my face feel flushed as it went downward to my chest. I realized that I was judging someone by one of their worst acts. What if you judged me by my worst acts, my worst habits, or thoughts, or attitudes? I would certainly be convicted of being a horrible human being. You would cease to remember anything good that I have ever done, because the horror of the bad things would overshadow any good. I think I suddenly stopped talking mid-sentence, but I’m not sure. Then I told my son, “Hold on, I am having a God-moment.”

If you were to judge me by the worst things I have done and said, I would be GUILTY

I saw myself clearly for a moment. If Jesus’ blood and righteousness had not ever covered my sin, I would be toast, to put it very lightly. The power of Jesus Christ to change a life is almost indescribable. If you knew me just 15 years ago, you would certainly see that God has made me into a new creation. Not a perfect person, but definitely a NEW person. A person who thinks and acts and believes differently than the old me. And now, because of the power of Jesus to change a life, when God looks at me He doesn’t condemn me to the burning pit that I deserve. Instead,  He gives me a new heart and mind, and looks at me as righteous because of His Son’s shed blood.   Does this sound a little churchy or weird? Don’t take my word for it. Check out what Scripture says in Romans 4, concerning the righteousness of God:

This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. (emphasis mine)

Freedom from fear

fear, freedom in Christ, Jesus, mission, spirituality

For as long as I can remember, I have struggled with fear. As a believer and Christ-follower, there has been little exception. Fear of the unknown, fear of losing a loved one, fear of going to sleep, fear of what others think….the list goes on and on. Even when I was a teenager, I remember having a sudden onset of fear. Often times this heavy cloud of fear would settle over me out of nowhere, causing me such strong emotion, that I wouldn’t be able to stop crying. Since becoming a Christian 13 years ago, the fears that have plagued me have been more subtle, sometimes masquerading as concerns or worldly wisdom. Sometimes fear will come cunningly, beginning as a subtle feeling of dread that will grow when I don’t actively squash it.

Fear or dread of something bad happening. Has it plagued you?

We are planning a mission overseas later this spring. I was tentative about it at first, even fearful. I talked to my husband, Herschel about it. His advice was surprising but good. He told me that he prays nothing bad would happen. BUT, if it does, he can’t think of a better way to go, than to be obedient to God’s call on your life. This was underscored as I’ve gone through some medical tests over the past month. The results have been inconclusive so far, but the idea that I could have a debilitating disease has caused a surprising response from deep within me! Normally, medical tests like these would paralyze me with fear and dread of the unknown. I would mentally obsess on what might happen. How I might suffer, what if my family suffers, etc. Instead, something wonderful has happened.

Instead of anxiety and fear of something terrible happening, it has freed me! I decided that I can spend the next several months and years with a looming fear of a bad diagnosis. If the bad report never comes, I will have wasted precious time that I can never get back. Instead, it has pushed me to a place of freedom. Freedom to take risks and live life to the fullest!  I want my life to count. When my last breath comes, I want to leave a legacy of freedom and crazy, outrageous faith in Jesus Christ. I want there to be a string of people who have been pulled toward God because of the life I lived. I want my children to have a mom who loved Jesus with abandon. Fear could keep me from that. Comfort has been one of my biggest enemies. I am choosing to get out of my boring comfort zone with walls that have been erected by fear. I’ve decided that to be obedient to Jesus’ calling, I’m going to take His words seriously and not figuratively:

“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? Matthew 16:24-26  

Not that I will take stupid risks because I am not looking to be a martyr. I only want to live a life of freedom from fear, and full of love for my Savior. Interestingly, Jesus says almost the same thing earlier in gospel of Matthew, chapter 10. Maybe he said it twice so we’d hear it.

What would a visitor say?

commitment, Jesus, spirituality

My son, Christian, was telling me about a family that he loves to spend time with. Christian is almost 20 years old, so he really decides where he hangs out when he’s got down time. I was curious what compelled him to spend so much time at this family’s house. He told me that when he is there, he feels the presence of God in a unique way that is hard to describe. One night last week when he spent the night there, he passed through the living room several times, and each time the dad was reading the Bible. It was late in the night, Christian passes through going to the kitchen, and the dad is again reading his Bible. Early the next morning, guess what the dad is doing when Christian peeks out? Yep, reading his Bible.

The dad is a humble and strong man that is respected by our entire family. I found it interesting, the colleration of how Christian experiences peace and God’s presence in a home where God’s word is elevated and devoured as food for a starving man. I was challenged with the question: What behavior characterizes me? Would a visitor see that I’m a woman who treasures Jesus and His word, or am I always on the computer, or  ___________?