Bondage-it's not what you think!

My laptop is on the fritz.  Perhaps because my son accidentally knocked it over and it fell on the floor.  Maybe due to it's age (I have had it 3+ years and it is a refurb).  What I can tell you is that during this past week I have come to realize that I may have a small computer addiction.

I found myself frequently reaching for my laptop during downtime so I could just browse through Facebook to see what was going on.  It didn't happen just once or twice - but several times throughout the day.  I was forced to stop and examine just how much time I spend on mindless social media interactions.....and I am ashamed to admit that it is more time than I am comfortable with.

The irony is that my husband and I decided to limit the screen time for our children.  We were concerned that they would spend so much time on a computer or game screen that they would miss real world experiences.  And somehow I missed the lesson and became the example.

During my Bible readings this week God really drove this point home with the verse from 2 Peter chapter 2.  It says:

for by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage (verse 19)
God whispered to my heart that sometimes our enemy disguises himself in order to overcome us.  In my case, I was being overcome with a false sense of camaraderie with others.  Now don't get me wrong, Facebook and other social media tools can be a wonderful communication tool (thanks so much to those of you who are following us!) and way to keep in touch.  My problem was a result of too much of a good thing becoming a bad thing.  ANYTHING that pulls us away from God becomes a bad thing, and screen time was not only pulling me away from God, but was pulling me away from the things God had laid on my heart to do.

I was getting up in the morning and rather than opening my Bible I was opening my Facebook app.  I would be on the computer planning for the upcoming home school year and then get sidetracked when I "quickly" checked my Facebook.  I would log in to Pinterest to pull up a recipe and find myself browsing other pins instead.  And the next thing I would know my husband was home, my kids were hungry and I hadn't managed to turn on the stove.  I would pull out my knitting needles to create an item to donate to my favorite charity only to find myself on my favorite pattern site browsing endlessly for that perfect pattern....that I never managed to get started on before the sun went down.

The good news is that bondage can be a good thing too - in the right circumstances.  It is just a matter of who or what you allow to control you.  The thing is, about 15 years ago I willingly submitted control of my life to Jesus.  Over the last 15 years I have had to stop and examine myself to see where I had given that control to something or someone else instead several times.  It reminds me of Paul who said, "I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate". (Romans 7:15)  I don't want to be brought into bondage by anything or anyone other than Jesus.  But that requires me to daily submit and draw close to God.  Fortunately, when I do that He promises to draw close to me as well.  (James 4:8)

So, for now, it's bye-bye screen time as I refocus.

Healing- In His Time

There come moments in our lives that we wonder if God is going to heal us of our ailments. At some point or another, we will all face this uncertainty; whether it’s a broken heart, infertility, loss, cancer… We will question the point of the pain (whether it’s physical , emotional or mental- there will be pain) (John 16:33).
(2 Corinthians 12:8-10): “8Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. 9Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 10That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong. My Bible’s commentary additionally details (and particularly hits me.) (Tyndale’s Life Application Study Bible, NLT) “Three times Paul prayed for healing and did not receive it. He received, however, things far greater because he received greater grace from God, a stronger character, humility and an ability to empathize with others. In addition, it benefited those around him as they saw God at work in his life. God, according to His sovereign plan, doesn’t heal some believers of their physical ailments. We don’t know why some are spared and others aren’t. God chooses according to His divine purposes. Our task is to pray, to believe and to trust. Paul is living proof that holy living and courageous faith do not ensure instant physical healing. When we pray for healing, we must trust our bodies to God’s care. We must recognize that nothing separates us from His love (Romans 8:35-39) and that our spiritual condition is always more important than our physical condition. Although God did not remove Paul’s affliction, He promised to demonstrate His power in Paul. The fact that God’s power is displayed in our weaknesses should give us courage and hope. As we recognize our limitations, we will depend more on God for our effectiveness rather than on our own energy, effort or talent. Our limitations not only help develop Christian character but also deepen our worship, because in admitting them, we affirm God’s strength. When we are strong in abilities or resources, we are tempted to do God’s work on our own, and that can lead to pride. When we are weak, allowing God to fill us with His power, then we are stronger than we could ever be on our own. God does not intend for us to be weak, passive or ineffective—life provides enough hindrances and setbacks without us creating them. When those obstacles come, we must depend on God. Only his power will make us effective for him and will help us do work that has lasting value.”
I don’t mean for this to sound hopeless or morbid, that God isn’t going to heal you or save you from your suffering. (Nothing is beyond His control and power). But what resonated with me is that, maybe He’s not healing you because His plan for you is to use you to help others find Him through your pain. Your courage and strength and faith throughout the situation will grow you closer to Him. In your positivity others can draw strength from you in their moments of weakness. But also, maybe He’s not worried about your physical ailment right now, but focusing on your spiritual ailments (we all have them). Maybe He’s made you weak in body, to make you strong in His Body. We are all children of God, and He wants all of us to come home to Him. Maybe He’s helping guide you and strengthen you spiritually because He loves you that much. He wants you home with Him (whenever that may be).
The uncertainty, the helplessness and even anger you may be holding onto as you face your situation as it seems to be beating you will pass. However, I can’t stress the light you have to show through it. You don’t know who you’re reaching and who you’re teaching about Jesus through your faith and trust. Hold onto that. God can heal you; if it’s His will. (And I pray that it is). But if it’s not, whatever time you have left, or regardless of how difficult things continue to get; grow closer to Him, and draw others with you. All we have in this world is Jesus. And too many people don’t understand, don’t know or don’t care about Him; regardless of how much He loves them. You can help show them.
Maybe through this temporary weakness, God is showing you how much He loves you; at least a little glimmer (because I don’t think any of us truly understand the depth and magnitude of that love until we meet Him). Never give up hope. Jesus will take your pain; and He will heal you. When is the only uncertainty.
May you see God’s blessings in your struggles and feel His (eventual) healing.

Summer Cleaning

I can’t believe that summer is basically half over. I don’t know where the time has gone, but I feel so far behind on summer chores. My plants/flowerbeds look awful because I haven’t been able to keep up with the weeding and feeding. (Not to mention that I am lacking potted and hanging basket plants that I just never bought.) I haven’t cleaned my windows, pressure washed the house and deck, or had my annual yard sale (or even begun to gather items to put in said sale). I have a long list of projects that need to be completed this summer that (obviously) haven’t been started. (two new retaining walls need built in my flower beds, my brick block decking needs fixed, as water has damaged it and unleveled it, my porch posts need sanded, patched and painted, a tree needs cut down, a bush needs pulled out…and the list goes on. The only thing I can say is accomplished is that today I finally cleaned all of my porch railings. They’re the vinyl railings that look great and don’t rot, but they show dirt and mildew and scratches easily. Typically I clean them the first sign of warm weather. And honestly, it took a lot to talk myself into cleaning them now because I feel like summer is almost over, so why bother.

I’m so thankful that I did, though. They look wonderful, and make me feel like I might be able to enjoy summer after all. (Seems ridiculous, I know, but I truly feel like this summer has been a waste.) And if I dive into it a bit more, I’m so thankful that Jesus doesn’t just let me stay unclean. (Psalm 51:7, Ezekiel 36:25) As a Christian, I tend to look okay from far away. I look clean and durable, but once you get closer you can see that I’m a mess and scratches. From a distance, I seem to be holding up my faith quite well. I go to church, study my Bible, and talk about Jesus when I see a chance to include Him. However, with a deeper inspection, one can see that I skip church sometimes, don’t open my Bible some days, and more often than not, don’t discuss Jesus.

I, like my porch rails, need cleaned; unfortunately, more frequently than annually. Thankfully, Jesus wipes me down with the linens He was buried in, (Luke 24:12, John 19:40, John 20:5-7) and washes me spotless. And just like my porch rails, I sparkle for a while. I attend church more regularly, read more frequently and share the gospel more steadily. And that’s when the durability of my faith shines. When I’m spending more time with other believers, staying in His Word and sharing His Good News, I am resilient. He’s the same with you. If you take the time and allow Him to work with and on you, you, too will shine like new. (Isaiah 64:6, Romans 3:22-24) And He will make the effort more than worth your while. (Hebrews 11:6)

Bound Together

Fear not, be glad and rejoice. For the LORD will do great things.” Joel 2:21 

I don’t know about you, but for me these last several weeks have been hard.  Social media has blown up with opinions on both sides of the "Love Wins" issue, and some harsh words have flown - both from those who support and oppose the decision.  I have at times been very disappointed with the Christian community during all of this.  You see, sometimes it is easy to forget that our enemy isn't flesh and blood, but against the spiritual forces of evil.  (Ephesians 6:12)  Sometimes it is easier to take a stand against those who are held captive to sin rather than against the one who holds them captive....after all, those caught in sin are easier to see and confront.

I have been trying to remember this when others talk to me about my opinions on the subject, but honestly it is difficult to answer.  I worry, am I going to say the right things? Am I going to honor God in my actions? Is this what I am supposed to be doing or saying? It can be overwhelming at times.

 Joel prophesied to a nation that hungered for God, even if they didn’t know it. The times were dark and the enemy was near.  Yet Joel reminded them of just how much they needed to say “yes” to Him, that God had not turned His back on them. I feel like we are standing in a similar place. We stand in a world that hungers for all that God offers - love, acceptance, compassion - and yet they often do not understand or even know that it is being offered to them.  They face an enemy that they can not defeat alone and don't realize that they don't have to.

We, as followers of Jesus,  need to remember who is in control.  We need to take to heart the words of Joel.  He tells us that we must return to God with all of our heart (Joel 2:12).  He encourages us to trust in the Lord, because He can and will do great things.  This word “great” in Hebrew is gadal which can also be translated as "to cause to grow". Gesenius’s Lexicon defines it as “to twist together, to bind together.” I find that comforting. The Lord will cause us to grow, bound together with Him. I don’t know about you, but I want to grow bound to Him, and I want to help others to grow that way too!

So perhaps we need to stop lamenting the law and start reaching out and sharing how love really wins, through a relationship with Jesus.  Maybe it is time to stop pointing a finger of condemnation and instead extend our arms in love.  That doesn't mean accept their sin, but it does mean that we realize that God loves them just as much as He loves us - despite ALL of OUR sins.  It is through love that we can lead others to be grafted into God's family.  It is through love that we can grow.  And it is through love that we can be bound together as His people.  THAT is how love truly wins.

"This We'll Defend"...

Some days I have a hard time understanding what my purpose is. So many people around me seem to have their stuff together, and I’m just hanging out…wondering where I fit in to God’s Plan.

I hear stories about people who receive this ‘calling’ from God. They’re given a very direct order on the role He wants them to do. But what about those of us that don’t hear that direction? What is our purpose? Are we to do nothing? How does that help?

I want to be more for God; I pray for His help to grow me, teach me and guide me where I can do the most work for Him. And sometimes, I feel like a strategic operative; others, a tactical nuisance. I’m not going to lie, I want to hear Jesus tell me “well done, good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25:21, 23) But does that mean that my work for Him has to be big? I’m struggling with that idea lately. Maybe it’s my plans that are big, and His plans are much scaled back for me. Maybe I can’t handle the pressure, the capacity, or the recognition and praise. Something is holding God back from using me in a larger scale. Am I disappointed? Absolutely! But, and here’s where I’m learning a bit, I’m not discouraged. God has a complete plan for me. (Jeremiah 29:11) He knows best. (Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 55:9) There’s a reason I’m not the frontrunner. There’s a reason I’m more behind-the-scenes. (Ephesians 2:10) Maybe it is because I struggle with my pride, and wanting praise. Maybe it’s because I’m better at assisting than leading. Maybe it’s because of a reason I am not in the need to know right now…

It reminds me of the children’s song “I’m in the Lord’s Army”: “I may never march in the infantry, Ride in the cavalry, Shoot the artillery, I may never fly o'er the enemy, But I'm in the Lord's army! Yes Sir!”

The point being, it doesn’t matter what my job is in God’s Plan; His army; it only matters that I do the task(s) He’s given me to the best of my ability, all for His Glory; not questioning His Authority. (Proverbs 3:5-6) Maybe I’m not the one that will be leading the battle, firing the defenses, flying the rescue…maybe I’m the one that will prepare the leader’s tools, loading the weapons, or pack the parachutes… (Luke 4:18-19) Maybe my rank is forever to be ‘Private’, as in low man on the totem pole, and ‘private’ as in not to be known. (Ephesians 1:11)

It doesn’t matter what rank I’m given; it only matters about the job that I do; for Whom I do it. It’s not about me at all; it’s about Him. It’s His battle. It’s His Win to be had. (Exodus 15:3) “This We’ll Defend.”