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I love receiving little gifts. (Who doesn’t?) I love the feeling that someone thought enough of me to give me something.

Sunday was one of those moments. I sat down in church, (a little late from a line at the restroom), and someone leaned over to me to tell me that there was a bag in the foyer with my name on it. I was surprised because I wasn’t expecting anything. And when the service was over, and I made my decent out of the sanctuary, I found the bag on the table. Naturally I had to open it immediately. Inside was quite possibly the best t-shirt I’ve ever seen, and so perfect for me! It was a picture of a cup of coffee with the words “I Own You” above it. I laughed, showed it to a few friends also in the foyer and tried to figure out who it was from. (I’m still trying to figure that out, as they signed it with an alias.) I showed it to my husband when I got home, who agreed it was perfect for me.

And then later it hit me: I do love my coffee; (Duh!) but is that what I want to be most remembered for? It sure does seem like anyone who knows me, knows my coffee obsession. At almost every gift-giving holiday, I receive something java related. People post coffee memes to my social media wall, or tag me when they discuss the beverage. My boss has a cup waiting on me every morning he arrives before I do. Even my pastor brings it up during sermons… (*cough, cough*). Even my blog ministry revolves around the enchanted beverage. Coffee is a significant part of my life, and something I wholeheartedly look forward to every morning when I awake…

But, shouldn’t that be Jesus? Shouldn’t the first thing I think about; the thing that gets me most motivated to crawl out of bed in the morning be Jesus? When people think of me, shouldn’t they immediately think of my love for Jesus, not coffee?

I’m not saying I don’t love Jesus, or that I don’t look forward to my alone time with Him each morning. But which motivates me first? Some days it’s a total toss-up. (And that’s obviously something I need to fix). What about you? What obsession ‘owns’ you? If you had a t-shirt- what would your ‘picture’ be of? I’m not saying you can’t enjoy things in this life. He created us for enjoyment. (Ecclesiastes 2:24) He gives us many blessings and gifts to assist with our enjoyment. But we must be cognizant of the true ‘object’ of our affection, and seek to please Him above pleasing ourselves. (Matthew 6:10)

I will wear my shirt, don’t get me wrong. And I will continue drinking my coffee. (Duh!) But I will strive to fix that fact that everyone who knows me thinks that coffee is my first love. It’s not; Jesus is. (Song of Solomon 7:10)  
PS: Here's my awesome shirt :)

Shallow Depth

I’ve been doing a different kind of study than I typically do. Or at least I’m getting a different kind of result. I study my Bible almost daily. (I refer to it daily, but some days I just don’t dive into it as an actual study, I only read…) When I actually study it, the Word speaks to me in different ways. Most often, literally. Sometimes, figuratively. And sometimes, not at all. Those times frustrate me, but make me realize that I am completely missing a point; and more often than not; an important point. (Read the Parable of the Four Soils in Matthew 13- we have to have ‘ears to hear’…) This is when my studying digs much deeper. And this is when I draw closer to Jesus.

You see, when I’m having a hard time understanding a verse, a story, or a message, then I know I need to really dig into it. Everything in the Bible has a purpose; it’s just not always an obvious purpose. And lately, I’ve been diving into some topics more than just a Book/Chapter study. For instance, I was challenged on an issue with a fellow Christian regarding a topic that differentiates our denominations. In order to understand his view and defend mine, I had to dive into multiple verses and research some historical background. Then with the controversies lately of our fellow Christians in the news, I wanted to understand why or how they could take the stance they took, and what action I would take if I were in their shoes. I have to admit, I am really enjoying this type of study. And it is consuming me with more information than I ever thought I needed or cared to know. (And through my latest blogs, you can probably see that they haven’t been my typical entries…) To me, this type of study brings the relevance of Scripture to the forefront of defense. I’ve stated it in the past, but for reiteration: you have to understand why you believe what you believe. You have to be able to defend your faith and your Jesus to others. (But note, that does not mean you have to always be on the defense.)

The gist of the Four Soils is that people who listen and want to really know Scripture understand what is written. The four types of soils represent different responses to God’s message. People respond differently because they are in different states of willingness. Those that want to continue to live their lives, don’t hear it and subsequently don’t really believe it. (Matthew 13:13) If you are truly seeking His Word, then you will understand what It says. (Matthew 13:12) But besides our understanding, we are responsible to use the knowledge we are given through it. When we stay in His Word, we not only can help others understand, but as pointed out earlier, help ourselves understand our beliefs. To have this understanding will be the only true defense of false teachings. It’s so easy to want to believe the easy way; the bountiful blessings, the peace, the easy life. But we know that that is not how this life will be while we are on this earth; (John 16:33); therefore we need to be prepared.

And being prepared means being able to differentiate between those that are trying to teach, and those that are trying to stir the pot (so to speak). And it helps us to understand that our being able to keep our mouths closed during controversy is helping to stop the spreading of false teachings. For instance, going back to a former blog, why do we insist on arguing our denominational differences? (Particularly when all that really matters is Jesus Christ. If He’s Who others preach to love, then let it go at that.) (John 14:6) We argue about details on how to worship, what to wear, who can teach, etc.; yet we miss the point that through all this discrepancy and disagreement, non-believers are even more confused at our so-called beliefs and have greater doubt. Religious speculation and theological arguments will only sidetrack us from the central message of the Bible. They may seem like valid, or even harmless debates, but they take our time away from actually doing His work. (1 Timothy 1:4) (Again, I am not saying we shouldn’t speak on topics that are strictly forbidden (ie: homosexuality, adultery, etc.), but that we should watch our arguments over some of the vague discrepancies (as stated above). (And I am not saying that having a healthy conversation or debate amongst a few is wrong; quite the contrary; it’s a great way to understand your own beliefs and a great introduction to a deeper fellowship with Jesus. (I can attest to that!))

I guess what I am truly trying to convey is that we’ve got to dig deeper into the Bible and It’s Message. Yes, It’s about our salvation through Jesus, but there’s so much more than that. We can be go with the shallow ‘faith’ that Jesus Is, Was and Is yet to come, but we don’t have to stop there… The answers, explanations and truths are there. We only have to dig a little deeper; and be receptive to what we find. (Matthew 13:23)

Lest we Judge

With all that is going on in the news lately, particularly with Christians making headlines, I feel compelled to speak out. Forgive me if this is not the type of blog you’re wanting today…

I’m not asking you to take sides on a heated subject or headline. What I’m asking is that you stop and think about them first before speaking. When Christians make the front page over controversial topics, we need to be ready to defend our faith; if needed. What I mean is: we need to know why we believe what we believe. (2 Timothy 4:2) And be ready to explain it. And also know when to keep it to ourselves.

Regardless of which side you’re on when it comes to the debate in Kentucky, the baking battles, or the famous family facing backlash, remember that they are Christians; just like you; imperfect, in desperate need of prayer and God’s continued Grace. They are constantly criticized for their actions. Non-Christians are hovering waiting for us Christians to screw up and pounce the second we do, assuming that proves our Jesus doesn’t exist. But we Christians know better. We know that we will have problems in this world (John 16:33), we can’t escape them because of our human nature and imperfections; but they don’t understand it. Therefore, you can’t blame them for the verbal attacks when we mess up. But us? We should know better.

I’m not going to lie, I get angry when I read articles written by Christians, attacking other Christians on their actions. Who are we to judge? And how do we even think we know the hearts of them and what is truly fueling their actions? (Matthew 7:3-5) I clearly understand why Jesus flipped the tables in the Temple, and I wish I had my own tables to flip when I go on the internet and see fellow Christians slamming our brothers and sisters. [I’m not saying we shouldn’t talk to a fellow Christian that is sinning—in private, on a personal basis, offering prayer and help where they need it (Matthew 18:15)—this is about casting judgment on those we don’t know, but feel compelled to throw our opinion out there about how they aren’t being a ‘good’ Christian like ‘you’.] Why? Why do we feel the need to defend our faith, when we aren’t the ones that started the controversy? You are not to judge if you don’t want to be judged (Matthew 7:2). Furthermore, you don’t know the whole situation and story. (And if you think you’re getting it from the media, that’s a whole other blog…) You certainly shouldn’t pass judgment based on appearances. (Proverbs 18:13; John 7:24) You shouldn’t pass judgment on someone’s mistakes, when you make your own. (Romans 2:1) You shouldn’t pass judgment assuming your opinion is correct over their stance. Be humble (and quiet). (Luke 18:9, 14; James 4:6) The (should be obvious) thing is—we aren’t part of the story to be able to cast judgment. You risk spreading gossip and false statements. (Proverbs 19:5) Bottom line—we shouldn’t be slandering anyone, especially our brothers in Christ. (Titus 3:2)

Christians attacking other Christians are more to blame for the continued hatred on our faith than non-Christians attacks. If we can't love each other, (1 John 4:19-21) and accept that we each only account for our actions to Christ Himself, then we don't understand Jesus' Love and have no chance at loving others. (John 13:34) We need to quit attacking each other, and quit defending our faith for others actions. Live your life to please God, and the heck with everyone else- Christian and non- this competition with each other and this hatred is a disgrace to His salvation, mercy and grace. We clearly don't understand Whom we represent and are to honor. All we're doing is proving to others that we truly DON'T have His love in our hearts.

Maybe if we all just stopped and thought about the headlines, we’d recognize what they all are: tabloid. Maybe you wouldn’t react the same way that they are. But does that mean they are wrong? Does that mean their actions are dishonoring to Jesus? Does it mean that they represent the rest of us? No. If you’re asked, then tell your side, without being hateful and degrading to your ‘brother’. If you’re not asked, then don’t speak out. It’s pretty simple. Non-believers are going to believe what they want, and many are chomping at the bit to smear us whenever and wherever they can. Shake it off. You don’t answer to them; and you certainly don’t answer for anyone’s actions other than your own. The only way to win over a non-believer is to win them over with love. Instead of telling others how you wouldn’t act that way; show them. Spread the love; swallow the hate. Too many people are waiting for Christians to fail and to prove our religion is a fake. Stand up for your fellow believers; have their back. And most importantly, pray for them. (Colossians 1:9) [Can you imagine how much they are being tested and hated during their controversy? Would you want one of your ‘mistakes’ or ‘decisions’ thrust out in the public for all to weigh in on?]

Life Out There

Life. I get so caught up in mine that I forget there is so much out there beyond me…

It hit me this weekend, while browsing through my social media that I noticed the lives of my friends. In one weekend, there was a wedding, a divorce, a birth, a death, celebrations, sad announcements… the list goes on. And I was humbled once again at the reminder that this world doesn’t revolve around me. And the even greater reminder that God is Omnipotent and I am, not.  (Jeremiah 10:12)

I have a hard enough time keeping track of my own life, daily tasks and chores, let alone my friends’ lives—and yet God has it all under control. Some of the events in my newsfeed surprised me, but none of them surprised God. (Isaiah 55:8) He is using each event to His Will, according to His Plan. (Jeremiah 29:11,  Romans 8:28) (I get stressed just trying to plan dinner…).

I guess what I’m trying to say is that there is so much out ‘there’ than us, and it’s about time we start realizing it, and take action in it. (1 Timothy 1:16-18) We’ve got to get out of our own little world, and see the big world around us. I’m not going to pretend this idea doesn’t put additional stress in my life, without any action. The mere thought of adding something to my already hectic, life-draining schedule freaks me out some. But this isn’t a comfy, cozy life we’re supposed to be living. We’re supposed to step up and step out for Jesus! Get up off that couch, and out into the world. (Matthew 5:14-16)

Maybe you’re supposed to be volunteering at a shelter, or your church… Maybe you’re supposed to be visiting the sick and needy… Maybe you’re supposed to be writing a check equivalent to your car payment to a ministry… (Matthew 6:3-4)

Or… (Because we’re not all called to a ‘large scale’ ministry…)

Maybe you’re supposed to be helping your friend (or better yet, non-friend) on a household project… Maybe you’re supposed to be cooking for and/or visiting your elderly, lonely neighbor… Maybe you’re supposed to be writing a check equivalent to your take out coffee bill to your church… (Proverbs 21:26)

We all have something we can give. Some of us have more available time, than others. Some of us have more available money than others. We find the time to do what we really want to do; and we somehow find the money to buy what we really want to buy… So it’s about time we start sacrificing a little of one or both to God’s Kingdom. (2 Corinthians 9:6-8; Philippians 2:4; James 2:14-23)