Today, in light of the news I will…

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The news has never been a place to run to for uplifting information. Sure, you might catch a Friday concert series or a fashion show on some of the morning news programs, but no real sustaining hope.

As I age and pay more and more attention to the current events in our country and around the world, it seems the news only gets bleaker and more troubling. It is clear our country is divided on so many levels, none the least of which are moral issues and religious professions.

The most recent news facing moral, legal, and red/blue dividing lines are the Baltimore rioting, the Duggar’s past family sins and crisis, and Bruce turned Caitlyn Jenner’s transgender transformation. Each of these issues divide our country’s people, seemingly down party lines. We live in a day of seemingly fluid measures of morality.

Caitlyn (Bruce) Jenner was applauded and even alleged to be awarded the Aurther Ash Courage Award at the ESPYS because of his act of “courage” to undergo sexual reassignment surgery. Compare this to  the latest news on the Duggar’s past family crisis (molestation within their family 12 years ago) and the lines are drawn and the hate speech is flying.

In regards to the Duggar’s, no doubt this was shocking information for all. Does it seem plank/speck? Maybe. However, did this family address the situation the best they knew how? Should the whole family’s voice in society be squelched because one of their family members acted in an immoral and illegal way? Did the offender seek forgiveness and rehabilitation/counseling?

We all have sexual sin in our pasts. That does not disqualify those who have sought forgiveness and turned from sin, the freedom of speech against proposed laws which goes against their moral and religious consciences. The LGBT community and its supporters are absolutely outraged that a family who has spoken on behalf of the evangelical community against legalization of gay marriage and against the allowance of transgender citizens the right to use the public restroom to the gender with which they identify and not to which they were assigned at birth. Some pundits have gone so far as to condemn the Duggar’s all to hell! Hate is rampant there is no question of that. Pundits are even condemning people to a place it is questionable they believe in!

I am not defending Joshua Duggar’s actions, and quite frankly, neither are he nor his family. I am simply lamenting the fact that the secular and progressive community is using this news as a war cry against evangelicals and Christians in general. It seems only those with no past sins can speak out about their religious and political beliefs. If that is the case, then the conversation has surely ended for both sides. 

We as Christians need to be careful to address the moral issues of our day with love and respect even as we speak out in favor of laws upholding the Biblical definition of marriage. Our rhetoric must not be hate-filled and neither should that of the people who stand in opposition to the teachings of the Bible. In America, we must uphold and adhere to freedom of speech even as the true Enemy seeks to shut down the message of the Gospel and the liberating mandates of God.

As we continue to respond to this culture war by the spreading of the Gospel, may we not forget that the real enemy is not someone whose political and personal practices differ from our own, but rather Satan himself. The church must speak against all sexual sin. My sexual sin may seem a backpack’s load compared to someone else’s U Haul truck, but the loads were the same weight when Christ carried our sin to the cross.

The backlash on the Duggar family and their handling of molestation within their family, compared to the awards given to Jenner for his  transgender identity is simply astonishing.  There is no war on women in America, rather, there is a war on God’s design and the celebration of God-given life in the form of male and female. 

It is clear that the further we have walked away from the Bible and the message of Jesus Christ as a nation, the worse things have gotten for our country. We are tearing ourselves and our country apart. We are a house divided on every issue by liberal versus conservative beliefs. Now more than ever we hear it is us against them.

May it not be so within our churches, nor the Body of Christ. We are not to be fooled that this is about flesh and blood, it is about evil and principalities in the unseen realms. (See Ephesians 6:12 here.) We must not throw our hands up in despair and forgo this battle.

If we are on God’s side we will come out victorious in the end. The battle of good verses evil has already been called. That statement isn’t a cliche to excuse the church to sit on its laurels and watch as the parade goes by, rather it is a rally cry to remember what is to come.

These troubles and issues do not come as a surprise for those who read God’s Word. Paul reminds Timothy that we must endure suffering and expect a battle, and then, he offers three ways to respond.

Endure suffering along with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. Soldiers don’t get tied up in the affairs of civilian life, for then they cannot please the officer who enlisted them. And athletes cannot win the prize unless they follow the rules. And hardworking farmers should be the first to enjoy the fruit of their labor. Think about what I am saying. The Lord will help you understand all these things. (2 Timothy 2:3-7)

Today, in light of all the news headlines, I must remember and abide by these three truths:

  • Know your Boss. The ultimate Boss whom I must work to please and follow His command is God and Christ Jesus. He will be the One that I ultimately answer to for my behaviors.
  • Follow the laws. We must first abide by God’s laws and then the laws of our country.
  • Work to the finish. There is no crop for the farmer to reap if he quits working. Press on!

We must keep our head up, bend the knee, and work to the finish. Everyday faithfulness to our God and our family will make a difference. Don’t give up.

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Often a Smile and Acknowledgement Goes a Long Way

Seeking the Imago Dei

I was stopped at an intersection while driving home from church a few Sunday’s ago. There, crossing under the overpass, was a man and woman walking to the nearest shopping center. Many people walk this way to get to the nearest Publix, Target, or fast food restaurant. That’s not unusual, but this couple was different. Honestly, I can’t tell you if they were a mother-son pair or a couple because I didn’t look at them long enough to gather detailed information. You see, this man and woman were physically and, by appearances, mentally disabled. Their gait was severely labored and their outward demeanor, even at a glance, was that of people who have a tough time getting by.

Instinctively, I looked away and focused my attention on the red light in front of me. I didn’t want to stare at this man and woman in an attempt not to draw attention to their obvious physical weaknesses. Looking back, I wonder if that was the right response.

Often, when I see others with visible handicaps, my first reaction is to turn away after a quick smile in order to not embarrass them. By embarrass them, I mean draw more attention to them than any other person I pass in the super market or restaurant. I inwardly assume that they have faced the mocking of peers or ignorant jests of misguided people, and I do not want to even hint at drawing on their differences. Rather, I simply acknowledge them as fellow people worth treating with dignity, respect, and assistance if I can provide any. But I wonder if, by ignoring their differences, I am ignoring something special that God wants me to see.

Please join me over at iBelieve to read the rest of this post. Join me here.

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Liberty, Freedom, and Love

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For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. 

For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.

But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed  that ye be not consumed one of another.

Galatians 5:13-15, KJV

Liberty…freedom.

These words provoke feelings of patriotism in U.S. citizens, moreover, they elicit relief and celebration in Christian brothers and sisters. For those who live in free countries their hearts can swell at the mention of liberty, but how much more so those who have been set free and liberated from sin and death for all eternity?

This week’s protests in Baltimore and surrounding major U.S. cities have evoked different responses from citizens, news correspondents, and politicians alike. One will cry oppression and the next thug. Next the two will mull over the meaning behind the words and continue to put forth his or her views and, if we are lucky, actual facts concerning the situation at hand. Meanwhile, vandalism escalates and police are told to stand down and forget their training which would provide protection to the private citizens and business owners. Gang members gather and pursue face-time as the press seeks to bring us the latest on the breaking news in Baltimore.

Liberty…freedom.

Liberty and freedom ring loudest when the citizens are self-governing their moral and ethical obligations to their neighbors from a contrite heart who knows that it bears the image of God. The Imago Dei. Further that they will give an account of all their actions to their Creator.

Our society has fallen so far off the Biblical path that we are ignorant of the fact that we are created by a Someone, for a purpose, with an eternity after death. Insteadwe have a society largely comprised of people who believe they came from nothing, are going nowhere, and are held to no one’s standards or moral code than the one they choose for themselves.

Liberty and freedom are found at the threshold of obedience and discipline, not the scattered remains of crashed windows and looted goods. 

Government funds and legislation are not the answers to the problems in Baltimore, nor across the U.S. God is the answer to the problems. Once each neighbor realizes that he or she is created by God, bear His image, is held to His standards, will be judged by His premises, and can be saved and liberated from sin by His grace, then prayerfully,  they will live for His glory and obey His commands.

Our response as Christians to all the headlines of today’s news is evangelism and disciple making. Simply put, we are to fulfill the great commission and be ambassadors of Christ in our homes, our neighborhoods, and our places of work. We are to bear the image of Christ and spread His message on all street corners of America and the world.

The inner men must be changed before the outer actions of man become civil and just. Good Christians make for good citizens and good leaders. We must love God, and love our neighbor as ourselves, live within the law, and spread the gospel to stop the biting and devouring of one another in our country.

Another pertinent matter for prayer: in June, the Supreme Court of the United States will make a ruling concerning same sex marriage. Please be in prayer for the upholding of the biblical definition of marriage. You can follow the story from a much more knowledgeable source on legal matters than myself, Dr. Russell Moore, at his website (click here).

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Parting Words: Jesus to the Pharisees

Everyone leans in to  listen to a dying man’s voice.  His last words. His reflections and final thoughts.

Christ fully knew when His time had come. He calculated every word and deed to coincide with the exact day that His crucifiction would take place. Consider, close to the Passover, and before His murder, Christ spoke seven woes to the religious men of his day. The 7 Woes are  discussed in detail here.

The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so practice and observe whatever they tell you— but not what they do. 

The greatest among you shall be your servant.  Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

~Matthew 23:2, 11-12

As we approach Easter and consider the woes to the Pharisees and scribes, we should examine ourselves to see if Christ finds the same fault in us which He found in these self-professing God-followers. (For an overview of Pharisees and scribes click here   and here.)

While they would seem to be godly, they were neither sober nor righteous. We are really, what we are inwardly. Outward motives may keep the outside clean, while the inside is filthy; but if the heart and spirit be made new, there will be newness of life; here we must begin with ourselves. The righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees was like the ornaments of a grave, or dressing up a dead body, only for show. The deceitfulness of sinners’ hearts appears in that they go down the streams of the sins of their own day, while they fancy that they should have opposed the sins of former days. (Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary at Christnotes.org,emphasis mine)

Pharisees point the finger and put the focus on the external and temporal.

Scribes are tempted to neglect the spirit of the Law while upholding the letter.

Clashing symbols both, don’t you think?

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice, mercy, and faithfulness.These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. 

 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.

Matthew 23:23,25-26

Jesus’ final words to the Pharisees, the religious people of His day, were stinging. As a lifetime member of a church and a Christian over two decades, I default to the pharisee and scribe status if I am not very intentional. Christ’s parting words to me, not only include His parting words to the disciples, but sadly to the Pharisees as well. Those who are Christian are by default religious, and therefore should heed the seven woes.

This Lenten Season, what does pursuing justice, mercy, and faithfulness look like in your life…in mine? What filth needs to be cleaned out of the inside of the cup before the decay spreads to the outer portion? How should we stoop in service to follow the example of Christ washing His disciples feet? 

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The True Love of Valentine’s Day

Valentine's

St. Valentinus of Rome, was a priest born 200 years after Christ and whose martyrdom we remember every February 14th. It seems that Valentinus disobeyed the ruling of Emperor Claudius the Cruel to cease all marriages within the Roman Empire and to worship the Roman gods.

Claudius the Cruel needed more men for battle and believed that unmarried men would make better and more willing soldiers. Valentinus knew this was against the law of God and chose to secretly marry couples under the blanket of night so that men could depart for battle having married their loves.

Valentinus’ worship of God and practices of matrimony was quickly found out and resulted in his imprisonment by Claudius the Cruel. He was beheaded on the 14th of February around 278 A.D. for his crimes of love and loyalty. Above the laws of men, Valentinus obeyed the One True God’s commandment for men and women to join together in holy matrimony.

Celebrating the faithfulness of Valentinus is an occasion that I can recognize with deep respect and gratefulness when we celebrate in truth. Like Valentinus, many people are held prisoner around the world for their faithfulness to the gospel and continue to die in the name of Christ Jesus for obedience to His commands.

The true love of Valentinus was love of God and His people. He brought men and women together under the biblical mandate: that for this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and cling to his wife. (Ephesians 5:31)

Valentinus cherished the love and obedience of God above the safety of conforming to the world’s demands. He showed true love in laying down his life for his friends. (John 15:13)  May we, if called upon to obey God above country, do the same.

This is real love–not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. 

(1 John 4:10, NLT)

I tell you the truth, everyone who acknowledges me publicly here on earth, the Son of Man will also acknowledge in the presence of God’s angels.

(Luke 12:8, NLT)

So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.

(1 John 4:16, ESV)

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7 Things to Pray for Right Now

Prayer

In this life, I most often feel like I am not measuring up. Like I have not given enough to the poor, have not kept first things first, I’ve said something I shouldn’t have,  or misused my time. Do you feel that way too?

This leads me to the topic of prayer.  Have I prayed about everything? The answer is a decisive no. I have prayed about many things, but everything is certainly not many things.

Most of the bad choices that I have made, or tend to make regularly, could be prevented with a right attitude which accompanies time spent in prayer.

Praise, confession, and petition are integral to righting my attitude between myself, God, and man.

Below are seven things that you can pray about right now that will refocus our worries, doubts, misappropriated attentions, and energies to God and His will. 

  1. Pray for wisdom.
  2. One home-front need.
  3. One news related story.
  4. One mission, pastor, or person in your church.
  5. One goal or dream.
  6. One friend.
  7. The lost and poor in your community, state, nation, or world.

When the disciples saw it, they marveled, saying, “How did the fig tree wither at once?” And Jesus answered them. “Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen. And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.”

Matthew 21:20-22, ESV

Today, let’s right our attitude when it begins to stray by taking every little thing to God in prayer. Use this list of seven areas to help you structure your prayer time with God. Also, consider reading through  these three other posts on prayer:

  • To Kneel or to Break (here)
  • Enter Here (here)
  • Of Our Crosses and Christ (here)

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What Happens When We Rest?

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“God has to knock me out to make me rest.  That’s how He gets me to slow down.” I’ve had several women say this to me while recovering from sickness.

As women, we often conceive that in order to be our best, we must be constantly about our business, a superwoman. I don’t believe we consciously understand or express this mindset, but, in our subconscious mind, we equate rest–the act of stillness, quietness, a break from usual routines, time away–with guilt and indulgence. After all, we reason, what woman has changed the world because she rested?

Join me at iBelieve today to wrestle with this idea of rest. (click here)

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Homeland: Until We’re There

Homeland Part 3

He knows our need, our weakness is no stranger,
Behold your King! Before him lowly bend!

~O’Holy Night

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. (Hebrews 4:14, ESV)

We find find ourselves waking to a world akin to the setting Christ entered into over 2,000 years ago. He came to bring peace and redeem lost mankind; even now, especially now, the Prince of Peace is needed on this earth.

The hopeful message of Christmas is that God became man and sympathizes with our weaknesses, our daily needs, and the temptations that are common to man. He is no stranger to the sting of death, separation from loved ones, betrayal, want, and the disappointment of broken relationships and broken people. Christ knows that rejoicing in darkness is impossible apart from the Light of the world; so He came to deliver the Light–Himself–for all mankind. (See John 1:9-13)

He is the Light that gives birth to the sons and the daughters of God. He is the Light that pierces the darkness with the full knowledge of how the darkness bears weight on all mankind. Jesus drew near to us so that we could draw near to the Father. How are we to press on in the meantime? How do we live until we reach our Homeland?

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.  (Hebrews 4:15, ESV)

And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. (Hebrews 6:11-12, ESV)

So, until we reach our Homeland, until we cross the threshold of time and space to Heaven and eternity, Christ sets the example for us to follow. He gives us a great cloud of witnesses (Hebrews 12) to imitate their faith and patience so we may inherit the promises of God–eternal life through Christ Jesus.

For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. Through him then let us offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. (Hebrews 13:14-16, ESV)

He knows our needs, and to our weaknesses He is no stranger. Behold our King this Christmas season and before Him lowly bend. God is with us and if He is with us and for us, then none shall stand against us.

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year,

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Homeland: Finishing Well

HomelandFinishing Well

Each year as we approach Christmas, it is with the mindset that the new year is only days behind the unwrapping of our brown paper packages tied up with string. We pause amidst the hustle and the bustle of the season and wind down before preparing for New Year’s resolutions. We might make excuses to put off until next year what we can do today. We let the diet go, the dust bunnies settle, the visits to the gym wane. We might even give up on catching up on our daily Bible reading plan thinking we have fallen too far behind.

Today, I want us to think about the importance of finishing well. We have only 15 days left in this year. It would be easy for us to close shop, so to speak, and leave whatever is undone for a to do list in the new year, but we may miss out on the blessing of finishing well. Consider:

Better is the end of a thing than its beginning, and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit. ~Ecclesiastes 7:8

In this Homeland series, we are taking to heart the model set by the greats of the faith in Hebrews 11. The cloud of witnesses considered themselves strangers and exiles on earth; speaking in such a way that they made it clear they were seeking a homeland: Heaven. The faith heroes of Hebrews 11 set the example for us to finish well. I believe this means in life in totality and in daily circumstances in general. We do not live faithful lives without first living faithful days.

Abraham was looking forward to the city that has foundations whose designer and builder is God. (Hebrews 11:10) This forward looking approach lead Abraham to make daily decisions to follow God no matter where the yeses led him. Did he blunder and bauble along the way? Most definitely! So will you and I. However, Abraham sets an example for us in that we should faithfully serve and trust God even when His promises seem slow in fulfillment or outside the time parameters that we would have chosen.

Who has God asked you to reach out to this year? What has He asked of you that you are tempted to put off until the New Year? What yes do we need to say in the last days of 2014 so that the first days of 2015 our feet are pointed in the right direction to pursue Christ and journey to our Homeland?

…let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2, ESV)

Looking to finish well,

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A Letter to My Younger Self on Adoption

John 1224

I know you will remember a time in your childhood when you wondered if you were adopted. Never mind that you look like your parents and laugh at your own jokes exactly like they both do; but, just the same, you will wonder if you were adopted and never told. You will naturally gravitate towards books about orphans.

This is the planting of a seed.

Next, you will have a desire to adopt. You will make this a topic of priority with your fiancé and subsequent husband. Being the Type A planner that you are, even a few months into trying to start a family, you will again give adoption consideration and state, “If we can’t conceive on our own we will adopt.”

This is the watering of a dream.

Two kids, and a few years later, you will read Kisses from Katie and determine that if a twenty-something woman from Tennessee can adopt and foster children on her own in a foreign country, then surely you can foster one child on the way to adoption.

This is sunlight upon fertile soil.

Next you will complete the nearly 10 months of work that it takes to train and paper-approve families to foster. It will be a never ending cycle to prove your family fit to parent a child not your own. You will complain and you will wonder why on earth it will take so much to do a good deed.

This is the breaking forth of a seed out of the dark soil into the sun. 

At last, when you thought the day would never come, you will get the call to pick up your foster son. You will go expectantly with his Thomas the Train backpack and snuggle animal from Target. Then you will meet a child who your heart will forever call son. He will be blonde and beautiful and wild and covered in spaghetti sauce and you will have many long days ahead of you.

This will be the stalk rising from the ground.

For 13 months you will labor, love, and advocate on this child’s behalf. You will sing to him, Jesus Loves Me, and do all the things a mother does. You will watch every single person around you love this little boy like he was your very own son—because in many ways he forever will be your son. You will train him in the way that he should go and pray on his behalf.

This will be the wheat ripe for harvest.  

Finally, at the end of 13 months, you will say good-bye to your little boy as he is reunited with his biological family. It will be one of the hardest and perhaps the most impactful goodbyes you will ever say.

This will be the kernel falling to the ground. 

Months will pass, tears will fall, a new normal will encompass your days, and you will wonder how you ever did it all. You will wonder: can I ever do that again? The answer will not come right away–at least not the answer you think others will expect. But in all the waiting, you will say: Loving another child changed my lifemaybe the world in some small way. Then you will tell his story, your story, so that other families may open their homes to make the difference in the life of a child.

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.

John 12:24

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