Caution! This post contains a back to school challenge!
As I was preparing for the WMU Alabama State Leaders Conference #ALEquip2019, I asked myself, “What was the one thing that helped grow my faith?”
Now, don’t get me wrong I am a believer in deep, corporate Bible study, where we deconstruct scripture and wring every bit of meaning from each word and listening to others experiences and perspectives challenges us to interact with scripture from a different point of view. I wrote about it yesterday.
BUT, there is no substitute for simply reading the Word. Jesus tells his disciples, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you,”(Jn 14:26).
How can the Spirit bring to mind words that we have not read?
How can he comfort us with rich passages of truth that have yet to become part of us?
In deep grief over our son’s death, I sat on the back porch at 1 am, crying out to God, “The darkness is overwhelming me.” The Holy Spirit brought these simple words to mind, “In the beginning God created the earth…God made the great light to rule over the day and the lesser light to rule over the night.” It was as if He spoke to me and said, “I have authority over your darkness. I am still in control. Yes, it is dark. Yes, you are hurting, but I am in control.”
The Holy Spirit supernaturally comforted my soul as I realized the implications. God rules over the darkness. He doesn’t leave us without His light, but the Spirit could not have brought to mind these words had I not read them. Had the Word not become part of my mind, soul, and strength, I would not have had the Words ready and waiting for the Spirit’s work.
Here is the challenge. I challenge you to read the Word everyday for 10 minutes. No devotionals and bible study helpers, consider those to be extra. Before you read, ask the Holy Spirit to make the Word part of your mind, soul, and strength.
My prayer for you is that the Word of God becomes the foundation of your life. May your blood flow with scripture, may your mind be protected with salvation, and may you draw your strength from the truth of God’s word.
#10minutesaDay I would start in the Old Testament. Don’t skip the hard passages, and sometimes there is even a blessing in the boring places. Don’t give up! For every difficult and boring place, there’s a Psalm or promise that will make it worthwhile, if you don’t give up!
I’ve made a commitment to read a little in the gospels every day. The other letters explain well how to live out the power of Christ’s death and resurrection power in our normal Christian lives, but nothing can substitute sitting at Jesus’ feet, observing the way he loves people regardless of the way we treat one another. As I write this Hebrews 12:1-3 comes to mind.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witness, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and 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. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.
John 8: 1-11 puts Jesus’s compassion and mercy on display and challenges us to love others so deeply that we too are willing to crouch down to the same level as those who are hurting and see through their sin into their God created, God loved soul.
Let me set the scene. Bear with me, I’ve taken a few liberties.
The early morning sun has peaked up over the trees dousing the temple complex in brilliant sun light as Jesus sits down to teach the magnitude of people who have come to hear him.
Perhaps that same sun has just broken through the curtains, waking a woman who lay still warm in the arms of her lover. She hasn’t even had time to dress herself or pin up her hair, when the Pharisees break in, grab her, and drag her into the street to face her consequences.
As they shoved her through the temple gates every head turns to stare and gape at the spectacle. Every eye is on her. There’s no stopping them as they thrust her into the middle of the multitude. Shame fills every piece of her, body and soul as the Pharisees force her to stand face to face with Jesus. Smugly they say, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such a woman. So, what do you say?”
Maybe the woman’s mind raced in a thousand different directions thinking, “Great! I’m being used as a pawn to bring condemnation to the One, the Messiah, who is healing everyone. Me! If everyone didn’t hate me before, now they certainly will. Who will save Jesus from the Pharisees? Who will save me from death by stoning?”
Slowly Jesus averts his eyes and crouches down. As he waits there he begins to write in the sand. A hush falls over the crowd, but the Pharisees won’t stop. They keep bombarding Jesus with questions.
Jesus stands and says, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” With that he squats back down and begins to write again.
People begin to murmur and jostle one another. Then one by one they all left, starting with the oldest.
There, alone, she stands in the quiet. She’s left to face Jesus alone. As he stands up, he says, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?
She said, “No one, Lord.” Perhaps her heart raced and every part of her shook with fear as she waited for her Lord’s response.
Neither do I condemn you, go, and from now on sin no more.
A few years back, I attended a Sunday School class that was as diverse a group of women one can find. The teacher was born in Nigeria. The class was filled with women from Kenya, China, southerners, un-educated, doctors, and one in a wheel chair. The Bible came alive as we shared different experiences. This story came alive for me through my friend Ashley, who was in a wheel chair. She described how she connected with Jesus’s compassion in this story. She went on to describe how people in the world of wheel chairs, know to avert their eyes as someone who is disabled gets into a vehicle. There just isn’t a pretty way to make legs that don’t work slide into a vehicle without a bit of a fight. It just isn’t pretty. Averting your eyes is a way to hand back dignity to the one in the struggle with their broken parts.
Here in this story, Jesus hands back a bit of dignity to the woman caught in adultery.
In this story, I have been every character.
I have been the woman caught in sin. Weighed down by physical, emotional, and sexual abuse crying out, “What will bring me comfort?” I’ve tried to sooth the hurts of this world my own way. I have never ministered to an alcoholic, addict, or prostitute…etc.. who wasn’t physically, emotionally, or sexually abused as a child. There are many of us walking around struggling with our broken parts that are harder to see than broken legs in wheel chairs, but we are in a fight with those broken places just the same.
I’ve been the woman standing in the middle of a church meeting as deacons pointed fingers, condemned my husband and myself, demanding the congregation to throw the first stone.
I’ve been the Pharisee condemning others sin as greater than my own. How easily do we look down on the poor and broken, thinking that they just don’t work as hard as us? The best illustration for this is by Tony Evans. Imagine, we are all trying to swim from California to Hawaii. Physically, none of us can do it, but we are all born to try. There will be some who make it a little farther than others before we die, but we will all fail to make it to Hawaii. What does it profit us to look back and condemn those who can’t swim as far as we have? But we do it!
But, the one I most want to be like is Jesus. The One, who is God, crouched down. He made himself low becoming like sinful man to save us. He’s handing us back dignity, while we are standing there with stones. He doesn’t tower over us, intimidating us into obedience. Instead, he gave his life for us, with his blood he washes us clean, with his resurrection he gives us power to live a new life, and now, he prepares a place for us to live with him forever.
Who are you?
As we face the brokenness of this world, it is easy to become weary. But, today, be encouraged that the Holy Spirit will empower us to be like Jesus. We can crouch down on the same level as those who are lost and perishing. We can hand them back dignity; the same way Christ has done for us. Let us not give up!
Here I sit in the middle of packing boxes, making decisions, and a sick two year old that wants me to only sit and hold her, I should feel overwhelmed and stressed, but the Spirit often whispers to me this truth, “I and Jesus are praying for you. You are not alone. Rest yourself in the Father’s hands.”
In this move, I experienced a radical shift in the focus of my prayers. In the beginning I started with asking, “God what is your will for my life.” My prayers centered on where we should live, what kind of house, what do I really want? Do I want to work? Do I want to stay home with Karis-Lynn? Katherine will be going to college in 3 years and Carter 2 years after that. Will we have the money? Lord, how will we pay for all this on one income?
The more I prayed, the more I realized how earthly and self-centered my prayers had become.
1 John 2:16
Sometimes, I can get swept up in the pride of my lifestyle, my wants and dreams, and my plans that my focus becomes making myself and my life more beautiful instead of focusing on the beauty of my Maker and His plans.
Many voices in our world preach that God is focused on making us more comfortable, getting us that promotion, and building up our self-esteem. However, the Holy Spirit prays for us according to the will of God (Rom. 8:27). God’s plan is to make us into the image of Christ. Sometimes that means we must be uncomfortable. We must learn to sacrifice. In order to be like Christ, we should be working to make the Father known. Our greatest challenge is to obey Jesus and…
But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you.
When I started the Thankfulness Series, January 7, I had no idea the twists and turns my life was about to take. My husband accepted the call to a new church in a different town. Although, I am so excited to make this move, our lives have been chaotic for the last few months. In the midst of preparing to sell the house, cleaning closets, reevaluating accumulated stuff, showing the house, many dinners eaten out, long drives to church, anxiety over making new friends, finding a new house… Oh! and raising 5 kids, I accidentally packed away my notes for this series. After opening a few boxes, my faithful husband, found my notes. I’m so glad that he did because during a time of uncertainty, it’s so good to be reminded that there is no darkness in Christ Jesus, the Good Shepherd.
Our history of painful relationships has taught us not to fully trust anyone, not even ourselves. We’ve all served others or said nice things or bought gifts for someone else with selfish motives. Maybe we wanted to be accepted into the right crowd, to be elevated to a place of honor, or to bolster our self-esteem. It’s almost mind-boggling to fully comprehend that in Christ there is no darkness, no deceit, no manipulation, no selfish motivations. Jesus alone is fully trust-worthy.
Lately, I’ve been meditating on Psalm 23. “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.” This scripture dove deep into my soul, beckoning me to trust my Shepherd. I consciously choose to lay down my wants, wishes, desires…etc. and receive what Christ is giving to me. The amazing part of this is that I feel less rushed, more at peace, more hopeful, and less self-conscience. My Shepherd wants to lead me to a life that brings honor and glory to the Father. Jesus warned me that this means that there will be times of suffering and persecution, various trials and testings of my faith. I’ve come to understand that this life will not look like the American Dream, but when I think about eternity, there is no comparison.
A good saying to remember is Proverbs 17:1
Many women struggle to believe God loves them for a variety of reasons. You’ve heard the statistic of sexual abuse; 1 in 4 will be sexually abused. For men the numbers are 1 in 7. Nearly 6 out of 10 sexual assaults occur in the victim’s home. 90% of sexually abused children know their abusers. If we include emotional and physical abuse the amount of the abused would be even more.
The nature of abuse strips a soul of her person-hood. The abuser makes her feel less than himself and others. For some of us our identity and value and worth get all tangled up in the lies of our abusers. We can’t see and accept the world for what it is. The danger we face is to define God’s love for us by the curse of sin that afflicts us. And, we are faced with a choice.
Do we continue to look for signs of God’s love in a world that is subject to the curse of sin? Or do we allow God to communicate His love for us through the person of Jesus Christ.
In my darkest moments of grief, I questioned God’s love. How could God love me and allow this much agony? Myself and many other women who have been victimized by sexual, physical, and emotional abuse cry out, how could God love me and allow this to be inflicted on a child? A well meaning person, who also struggles to believe God loves her, said to ask for a sign. For her, she believed that a beautiful pink sky says, “I love you.” I asked God for a rainbow. Thankfully, that rainbow never came for me.
I know I’ve written about this before, but this is the Thankfulness Series. I am thankful that God demonstrated His love for us by sending His Son to live under sin’s curse like us, so that Jesus is able to empathize with us in all our sufferings
For a moment, stop and think about what it meant for the Son of God to agree to be placed into the womb of a teenage virgin. We see Mary as the most blessed woman of God. But, consider what becoming pregnant out of wedlock meant for her. Scripture records for us that it took a dream from the Lord for her fiance, Joseph, not to put her away quietly (Luke 1). He married her, but people have long memories. And, people can be cruel.
Jesus Christ, the Son of the Most High God, subjected himself to be born under the curse of sin for me and you to redeem us, who are under sin’s curse (Galatians 4:4-5). If that doesn’t say, “I love you,” what will? Jesus was born into a family placing himself under the rule and authority of human parents. He had to live with siblings and go through puberty. In all of this, Jesus never sinned. Just thinking about having to go through puberty and Middle School makes me realize that Jesus must have a great love for me and you. He loves me!
Whenever I question God’s love because I experience suffering or affliction or the testing of my faith, I will think about Jesus as a baby, completely dependent on a woman. This Savior who didn’t think that equality with God as something to be held onto, but made himself nothing by becoming a baby (Phi. 2). Thank you Jesus!
I am thankful that through Jesus Christ, God makes evident His love for the insecure.
Abraham, a hero of the faith, a giant of trust, is a complex relatable character, if you don’t skip over his failures to his triumphal faith in God. We know the story. God called Abraham to leave his home country to a foreign land, where he was to be the father of many people, and through Abraham all the peoples of earth will be blessed.
If it where today, Abraham would have friends telling him to activate his faith and believe in his destiny. This is his year! Not so fast, don’t skip over the messy middle. Insecurities stem for our inadequacies, and just like us, Abraham tried to control his life. God journeyed with Abraham as he learned to trust God’s ways and not to trust in himself.
Famine forced Abraham to take his wife and servants to Egypt. Just like every one of us, Abraham allowed his insecurities to dictate his beliefs and changed his behavior to fit his beliefs. He lies and tells his wife to lie. Fearing that he may be murdered so that the Pharaoh could have his beautiful wife, the two conspire to say that she is his sister. Where is his faith? How come he didn’t activate his faith and believe in his destiny?
Insecurity. The consequences of Abraham’s and our insecurities effect everyone around us. Pharaoh’s whole household was inflicted with serious diseases. Abraham and Sarah sin. Later, their son would repeat Abraham’s sin. One thing doesn’t happen. God doesn’t reject Abraham, or take away his destiny, or change His mind to use Abraham to bring about His plan of salvation through Jesus.
God continues to love Abraham through all of his insecurities. God doesn’t even change His mind when Abraham listens to Sarah and tries to manipulate the blessings of God to bring about a child by committing adultery with Hagar, Sarah’s servant. Instead, God blesses both boys and promises to make both of them into two great nations. A great book on this is Healing the Broken Family of Abraham by Don McCurry.
Just like us, Abraham walked through many situations that he had to decide to believe God or try to control his life. When we feel insecure, we do this too. We manipulate, mistrust, and maneuver others to make us feel better.
Control over our world is ultimately an illusion, leaving no room for faith. Thankfully, we have our example Abraham. God still used him to bring about the family line that would give birth to Jesus, but God still tested him with the very blessing He promised Abraham from the beginning, his son.
Genesis 22 records the whole story. God tells Abraham to sacrifice his son, so Abraham took his son to the mountain that God showed him. When Isaac asked where the lamb for the burnt offering was. Abraham replied,
Now that is faith. How does this apply to us? In afflictions and times of insecurities, we may waiver in our belief that God loves us. May we look at Abraham and remember that God didn’t stop loving Abraham or change his mind to bless him even when his faith wobbled. God journeys with us through affliction and insecurities to strengthen us as we continue to trust Him. May we learn to say, “Even though I feel insecure, God himself will provide.”
Every good story-teller intentionally designs his story to lead the reader on his journey. When we read the Bible, we shouldn’t forget that these men would have been well practiced in the art of giving history orally through telling stories around the evening fire. Luke purposefully wrote Jesus’s life to convey the depths and lengths and heights that he went through to reach a world held captive in the chaos and consequences of generations of sinners.
The story line of Luke takes us from baby to the boy Jesus who said, “Didn’t you know that I would be in my Father’s house?” Didn’t you know Jesus would be about the Father’s business. From Jesus’s beginnings he amazes us with God’s truths. From here, Luke introduces John the Baptist, who teaches much like Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount. This is where the story gets good. Jesus goes to John to be baptized. What he does after is astonishing. He doesn’t proclaim a healing ministry and set himself up with a mansion. He doesn’t have a victory march into Jerusalem. Jesus walks into the wilderness led by the Holy Spirit to fast for forty days.
FORTY DAYS! I don’t know about you, but my husband bought me a t-shirt that says, “I’m sorry for what I said when I was hungry.” The last thing I would want to do when I’m hungry is walk into a time of testing, but because God loves you and me, that is exactly what Jesus did next. We will go into this in depth in a later post, but keep in mind all that Jesus walked through to get to the next point of Luke’s story.
Jesus returns to Galilee and begins his teaching ministry and from here goes back to Nazareth! Let down I know! Jesus is full of the Holy Spirit, he should be marching on Jerusalem. He’s the King of Kings, and he goes back to the conservative little town of no consequence, where farmers eked out an existence.
Nazareth! Nazareth is where Jesus stands up in the synagogue and proclaims his mission.
To the successful, the religious, well-connected, leaders, beautiful…. etc.
NOPE. Jesus demonstrates the love of God to the poor, prisoners, blind, oppressed, and brokenhearted.
If you are like me, this world has left you bruised, bloody, friendless, and brokenhearted. I don’t want to minimize the cross, but I hope you see all the other things that Jesus did to demonstrate God’s scandalous love for you.
Yes, scandalous love! The book of Luke documents how Jesus stood up to the religious people of his day. Religious authorities are often blinded by tradition. They gird themselves with education and knowledge without love, instead of crying out in their poverty. Even rich, well-connected, beautiful people can be oppressed and prisoners to the very way of life they live. Jesus came to free religious people from their man-made traditions. He came to free the rich from the pride of life. He came to free the well-connected from the lust of the flesh, and the beautiful from the lust of the eyes.
Jesus scandalously came to touch the untouchables and love the unlovable. His love hasn’t changed. Later, Luke tells the story of Jesus being anointed by a woman in town who everyone knew to be a sinner.
We can’t sanitize the Bible, demonize the Pharisees, and refuse to see ourselves in this story.
This story has 3 key characters: the sinner woman, the Pharisees, and Jesus. Let’s exchange Pharisee with “religious leader who upholds tradition.” They ask Jesus to come for a meal. During this meal the sinner woman began to wash his feet with her tears and dry them with her hair. The “religious leader who upholds tradition” questions Jesus’s authenticity as a prophet because surely he’d know that this woman touching him is a prostitute. The word for sinner that Luke uses has a connotation of a sinner in an immoral way, and the description of her unbound hair would alert the reader to her previous lifestyle as a prostitute.
In this story which one are you?
To receive the love of God through Jesus, we must first see the scandal of our sin. We in the church can so easily slip back into tradition. Paul warns us that if we slip back into the ways of law or today we’d call it legalism, we alienate ourselves from Christ and fall from grace (Gal. 5). There is a way to test ourselves.
1. How do we forgive? Don’t lie to yourself that forgiving is easy. Sometimes it’s not, especially, when we fall back on our good works. What I mean is that it’s easier to condemn others like the Pharisee in the story, when we hide ourselves behind our knowledge and good works. We say things like, “I went to that prayer meeting, but he didn’t.” “I’ve been at this church longer than you, so I should get what I want.” We slowly start keeping lists of others’ failings, missteps, and mistakes without love. We have no intention of restoring (with a gentle spirit) this person. We have no intention of winning our brother back. We can use our lists to bloody and bruise one another.
2. Are we willing to be uncomfortable so that the poor, prisoners, and oppressed can hear the gospel and be made into disciples?
3. Do we lack love for someone?
Have we stayed the prostitute? Sometimes we refuse the all consuming love of God because we continue to hide behind sins that God has already forgiven. “I’m just a sinner, God can never love me.”
I’ll never forget the feelings of being unloved, unwanted, and friendless because that’s where Jesus loved me.
God demonstrated his love to the poor, the prisoners, the brokenhearted, and the oppressed through Jesus Christ. Now, don’t miss it. God loves the “religious leader who upholds man-made tradition” the same. The point is that we must all see our poverty and allow Jesus to lift our heads as he says, “Therefore I tell you, your many sins have been forgiven; that’s why you loved much. But the one who is forgiven little, loves little. Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.” (Adapted from Luke 7: 47:50). Thank you Jesus!
In this world, we will have troubles. We know it. Jesus told us that we would, so that in Him we will have peace. However, we face every day faith shaking troubles, if we have misplaced hope. My faith began to flourish, when my focus changed from earthly blessings to spiritual blessings in Jesus. I sat down and listed out 30 blessings for which I am thankful.
Now, don’t misunderstand. My cup overflows with many physical blessings that God lavishes on the righteous and the unrighteous. I could spend 30 days of thankfulness on just my husband and children. My man is faithful, respectful, and humble. In his humbleness, he has grown both spiritually and emotionally more healthy, and I’ve enjoyed the ride on the crazy Glass roller-coaster of life with him. I’ve seen him fail and get back up again. I’ve seen him overcome through the life giving gospel and be obedient even when the wind was against him. For this and more I am thankful God gave me a faith filled man. We have beautiful children that are a joy to raise. We laugh during the difficult times as they mature into young adults. We’ve cried and overcome many troubles together. I am thankful.
But, at any moment these beautiful gifts from God can change. We are not promised that these gifts will always be there. If my belief that God loves me and blesses me with good gifts hinged only on these, when troubles come my faith will wobble. And it did! When my son died, the Father lovingly allowed grief and sadness to expose some wrong beliefs about His love. As He walked me through truth, my love for Him grew, and more amazing for me, my understanding of His love for me grew.
God does bless us with good things like family, friends, and food. We are far removed from truly being able to appreciate, God sends the rain on the just and the unjust (Matt. 5:45). However, there was a time that if the rains didn’t come, food wasn’t harvested, and people didn’t eat. Mothers saw their babies die in famine (just and unjust).
As I face a new year that may be filled with good rain, too much rain, too little rain, or maybe even no rain, I’m going to focus my thankfulness on how God loves. We quote John 3:16 so often that the life changing truth can get lost in familiarity as we face whatever life throws at us. We may be enticed to believe that God loves more because He’s given all the things we ask for, or we may be deceived to think that He doesn’t love us because He’s allowed something precious to us to be taken away. In either case, John 3:16-17 gives us one truth that never changes.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
How do I know God loves me? Because He gave me Jesus. I’ve given birth to four sons, and, although, I love many deeply, I wouldn’t give even one of them for someone else. I wept bitter tears as I understood not even a fraction of what it must have been like for God to give His Son to die. Through Kai’s death, I learned the agony and pain of losing a son. God gave us His one and only! We must never get over this truth. We can’t let familiarity let us skip over Jesus. God demonstrates His enduring love through Jesus Christ. Let us keep watch that the good things of this life don’t lead us astray thinking that God has demonstrated His love through the beautiful things of this world (husbands, children, good jobs, friends, beautiful homes, …etc.) Even more, may we guard our hearts against believing that troubles of this world demonstrate a lack of love from God.
The Thankfulness Series will be 30 blog posts of praise and thanksgiving for Jesus and how He demonstrates God’s love. When we begin to make Jesus the beginning of why we are thankful, we can broaden our understanding of what it means to be blessed.
I am looking forward to this series. God has demonstrated his love through Jesus, and I am thankful. May your faith be strengthened and made firm through the power of God’s love for you in Christ Jesus.
I haven’t blogged a lot lately. Being a freelance writer tests the outer limits of my faith. At the moment I’m not sure if those limits are growing or shrinking. From my point of view everyone would want to paint and write for a living. The paradox is that I am living, just not making the money for the living. In my anxiety, I focus on the things that are not in my power to control. Romans 8:28 woes me to my knees.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his son…”
I couldn’t read any further than “predestined to be conformed to the image of his son.” Often when comforting grieving or hurting people, we recite this passage and stop at, “God works all things for good.” We try to turn bad situations into feel good ones. We deny the pain and grief.
Being conformed to the image of a perfect, obedient son, who always knows the will of the Father does not feel so comforting or encouraging right now. It feels painful. It feels like grief.
Presently, I feel troubled and overwhelmed by hardship. Romans 8:35 assures me that neither of these will separate me from the Love of Christ. The real question is what if these two things are the very things that will conform me into the image of the Son.
I painted this picture. It feels off. Stormy. Chaotic. Why?
Because I don’t need to be reminded that “His eye is on the sparrow,” when everything is going well for me. I need it when I’m:
- in hardship
- cold and naked
- in danger
- or facing death
What about you today? Do you feel cold and hungry? Troubled? Persecuted? Remember, none of these things can separate you for the love of Christ. He is still watching over you. Standing with you. Crying with you. Rooting for you to be conformed to the image of the Son He loves. He’s cheering us on toward Christ like obedience.
Oh, how I wish God would remove this list from the believers life, but the question I asked remains. Maybe these are the very things that will conform us into the image of the Son. They do not feel pleasant or fun or good, but in hunger I find my soul fed by the Word. In persecution I begin to humble myself like Christ, and I am astounded once again at what Jesus Christ endured to save my soul. In trouble and hardship, I’m learning to depend on the Father. Learning to trust that even hardship is good has been difficult for me.
How much thought do you give to your soul? Self-care is really soul-care. Everything in this life will pass away, but our souls will be with Jesus.
When we meet Jesus, what condition will our souls be in?
Will we continue to beat our souls for past sin that Christ paid for? Will we continue to devalue our souls because someone used us for their sinful appetite? Will we continue to flog our souls for not being enough? Will we continue to submit our souls to the miserable forces of this world?
Soul-care is taking time to examine ourselves before the Lord.
While doing this for myself, I wrote the Abuse Survivor’s 23rd Psalm. As I sat before the Lord, I thought about my unique relationship with my Savior. I’m not a shepherd. I’m not tending to sheep. But, I am an abuse survivor. Surviving emotional, physical, and sexual abuse shaped my identity. It shaped my perspective of the world. It shaped how I experience others. It shaped how I came to know Jesus.
I needed Jesus to be Light for me. He’s the standard that I use when understanding what is appropriate behavior and what is sinful behavior. There is no darkness in Him. He is Light. The definition of Light is the absence of darkness. It doesn’t matter how his day went. He never gets angry with me because He’s tired, overworked, offended by someone else, frustrated with the normal frustrations of daily life in a fallen world, etc. He never flies off the handle. He never tells me to “run away from home”. He ever loses his temper.
God never ever tells me something that is untrue about who I am.
Soul-care is uncovering the false things that people have told you and realizing the false things that YOU TELL YOURSELF.
God is good. God is Light. God restores. God saves. God gives good gifts.
Take time to examine your natural talents that God gave you. Thank him for creating you with these natural talents. Consider your physical traits. Our bodies are marvelous. We move, dance, give birth… etc. Thank God for what your body is able to do.
Take time to be honest with yourself about your physical, mental, and emotional handicaps? List out what you believe to be disadvantages due to your background, education, or current circumstances.
Then consider how God may be using these weaknesses to bring glory to himself. God wants to restore us. I’ve battled depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem. When God wins the battle over anxiety in my life, I praise Him. When I looked myself in the mirror and I said, “I’m not dirty.” and for the first time, I believed it. I praised Him. Through studying the scriptures, I understand who I am in Christ. Finding out that I am a Co-heir with Christ, to be treated like the first born, that I have an inheritance, my heart over-flowed with thanksgiving. I’m a nobody in this world, but God loves me.
Chew on Hebrews 11:6,
He rewards those who earnestly seek him. What? You must believe that he exists AND that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
Here’s an article that has a little more to say about our identity in Christ: Identity in Christ Verses in the Bible.
Tip #5 Memorize Scripture
We can’t win the battle over anxiety by continuing to think the way we’ve always thought. We must change how we think. Memorizing scripture gives us the weapons to combat anxiety. I love this list from the above website. I’ve memorized all of these. They help me to battle anxiety with truth instead of emotion.
As with everything we do, take it one step at a time. Go slow. Take a verse a week. Take 2 weeks. It doesn’t matter. There’s no time frame. There’s no right way or wrong way. Just do it. Memorize a few verses and put me to the test.
There is no condemnation for us (Romans 8:1)
We can never be separated from God’s love (Romans 8:39)
We who are many form one body (Romans 12:5)
We have wisdom from God (1 Corinthians 1:30)
Our labor is not in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58)
We are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17)
We become God’s children (Galatians 3:26)
We have every spiritual blessing (Ephesians 1:3)
We have the forgiveness of sins (Ephesians 1:7)
We were also chosen (Ephesians 1:11)
We are for the praise of his glory (Ephesians 1:12)
We have been seated in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 2:6)
We’ve been given the incomparable riches of God’s grace (Ephesians 2:7)
We who were once far away have been brought near (Ephesians 2:13)
We are built together as a holy building (Ephesians 2:22)
We may approach God with freedom and confidence (Ephesians 3:12)
We are light (Ephesians 5:8)
Our joy overflows (Philippians 1:26)
All our needs are met according to his glorious riches (Philippians 4:19)
We are holy and faithful (Colossians 1:2)
All things hold together (Colossians 1:17)
We have our hope of glory (Colossians 1:27)
We become fully mature (Colossians 1:28)
Are hidden all treasures of wisdom and knowledge for us (Colossians 2:3)
We are rooted and built up (Colossians 2:7)
We have been given the fullness of the deity (Colossians 2:9-10)
We come into reality (Colossians 2:17)
Our life is now hidden (Colossians 3:3)
We will rise from the dead (1 Thessalonians 4:16)
We can give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
We have faith, hope, and love (1Timothy 1:1, 14)
We can gain an excellent standing and great assurance (1 Timothy 3:13)
We have the promise of life (2 Timothy 1:1)
Jesus is worthy! The Father glorified His name above all others, Worthy is the Lamb! This morning may we pause and remember Jesus.
Jesus, our Good Shepherd, laid down His life for us, in our place, because of what we did. He atoned for our sins, making us right before the Lord by His blood.
The use of the word atonement fell out of favor among Believers, but this week, I’m going to meditate on the deep truths hidden in this beautiful word.
In a culture that is striving to be enough, I’m thankful to surrender to my Good Shepherd. In His compassion, He didn’t ask me to be enough for anything or any one. With His death on the cross, He declared to me that His atonement is enough. He made me at one with Himself and the Father.
Do you see it? Atone… at one… The suffix “ment” means concrete result, object, or agent of a (specified) action. The concrete result of Jesus’ at one ment is unity. He brought me into unity with the Father as Christ is unified with Him.
The fullness of this word gives the truth that we have sin to atone for, and God sent His Son to atone for our sins. Jesus gives us atonement, at oneness with the Father. Forgiveness, peace, unity, all of this propelling us forward in love for God and one another, so that the world will know.
Lately, every Bible study, worship song, and discussion runs to the Gospel. I am not enough. I am a flawed, frail, fragile, and fickle soul, who needs a Savior. In the arms of Christ, I find that I am deeply loved, valued, and desired. (Jesus picked me!) And as these truths break my heart of stone, I begin to see every soul I meet the same as me, deeply in need. Jesus wants them too.
Jesus picks them, they, that sort, those over there,
and He’s picked me to tell them about the atonement He offers.
May the Lord ready our feet with Gospel because Jesus is worthy. He loves every down and out, needy, awkward person that is flawed, frail, fragile, and fickle.
God Highly Exalted Him from Philippians 2:1-11
If therefore there is any encouragement in Christ,
if there is any consolation of love,
If there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion
Make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the
same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.
Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind,
let each of you regard one another as more important than himself.
Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the
interests of others.
Have this attitude in yourselves, which was also in Christ Jesus-
Who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality
with God a thing to be grasped;
But emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being
made in the likeness of men.
And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by
becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on the cross.
Therefore also God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the
name which is above every name,
That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and that at the every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
To God be the glory great things He hath done! So loved He the world that He gave us His Son, who yielded His life an atonement for sin, and opened the life-gate that all may go in. Praise the Lord!— To God be the Glory (hymn)
“Then Jesus said to his disciples, “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
Following Jesus requires self-sacrifice. All through out the scriptures we are called to kill the flesh. How can these be in line with self-care?
Be killing the flesh or it will be killing you!
Self-care is not self-indulgence.
Most of what I read as good self-care involves trips to the salon to get nails painted, pedicures, and $300 haircuts. With hand raised and wounded heart, I confess I was one. None of these outward things changed my cycles of self-hatred, anxieties, depression, bitterness, jealousies, or loneliness. I felt just as worthless with pretty nails and new shoes.
Following Jesus requires us to read the scriptures, so that we know the truth. And, the truth is what will set us free to practice good self-care and to understand what it means to lose your life for Jesus so that you find it.
Others needs did not dictate Jesus’ schedule. Although everyone was looking for him, he didn’t stay in that village and continue to heal, he left for other villages. He did the will of the Father, and that means he left some people to go to other villages. Mark 1:38
Jesus says no to his friends. In Luke 7, John the Baptist, who is in jail, sends disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else? (Luke 7:20). Jesus gives John a great compliment, but does nothing to rescue him from being beheaded by Herod (Mark 6:14-29). Jesus didn’t save him.
Jesus points out, when some one is sinning against him. He doesn’t just let evil words “roll of his back”. Kindness isn’t always nice. Some people want to be nice and ignore sinful behavior. Jesus wasn’t co-dependently nice. He was kind. Matthew 12:33-37
All of these situations are difficult for those of us who want to be accepted and loved. Sometimes we feel like the more we do for others the more they will love and accept us. So we become yes people. The sad truth is that we lie with every yes.
If you say yes to some one and you really want to say no, then you’ve lied to them.
Jesus says let your yes be yes and your no be no. Anything else is from the evil one (Matthew 5:37).
Practicing self-care takes rigorous honesty. Are we following Christ? or Are we just trying to get our need for love and acceptance met by serving others in the church? This falls into the category of manipulation. We are using our service and sacrifice as a way to manipulate others into loving, admiring, or accepting us. Serving and sacrificing are good things. We’ve been called to it. But, when we serve others with the wrong motives we become bitter, angry, and entitled. Ask yourself, am I bitter when some one treats me as a servant? Am angry when some one doesn’t treat me the way I want to be treated after I served or sacrificed for them? Do I feel like I deserve something for my service or sacrifice?
We need to learn to say NO, and yes, that may mean that someone you love may reject you.
Take the chance. God has called all of us to do good works that He has planned for us to do (Ephesians 2:10). Jesus said no to his family in order to fulfill those good works. Jesus didn’t rescue his friend. Jesus slept, prayed, and took time for himself to be alone with God. We can do all of that too.
Self-care is admitting why we feel unworthy, bitter, jealous, lonely, and depressed. In order to do that we must face the sins that we have committed and the sins that have been perpetrated against us. When we declare the evil acts committed against us as sin, we are speaking truth. The truth sets us free. Call it a sin. When we confess it as sin, Jesus breaks the power of the trauma. We release our bitterness and anger.
There is just something healing in confession. Some wrongly connect condemnation with confession. However, when we finally come to the end of ourselves, we stop trying to hide our sin and denying that we’ve been sinned against, we acknowledge the truth. The truth sets us free, releasing us from bondage.
We acknowledge that we are valuable and should be treated as valuable. We are not worthless. The truth is this…The person who treated us as if we were worthless, sinned. They were wrong, not us.
Release the shame of their sin.
We acknowledge that we treated ourselves as worth-less than what God created us to be. We sinned. We treated others less than as loved and valuable as God created them to be too. We sinned.
Accept God’s forgiveness.
If the Creator forgives you, be humble enough to forgive yourself.
Tip #4 Learn to say NO!
Jesus says, “Let your yes be yes, and your no be no.” This means it is acceptable for you to say, “No, I can’t do that.”
It’s OK to say NO. We don’t even have to say why. We are unique and valuable and God has good works for us to do, and no one, except God, dictates what those works are.
*The next post will be on acknowledging our uniqueness before God.*