Black Eyes And Faith

Colossians was a pivotal book in my growth as a new believer. The following is a snippet of my testimony. Maybe one day I will be brave enough to share all of my messy life. My life demonstrates what Paul writes in 1 Timothy 1:15-16 “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—and I am the worst of them. But I received mercy because of this, so that in me, the worst of them, Christ Jesus might demonstrate the utmost patience as an example to those who would believe in Him for eternal life.”

When I was nineteen, I came face to face with Jesus. In a sermon, the preacher asked us to turn to Luke 14. This is the passage about the Last Supper before Jesus would be betrayed by Judas and crucified. I’m not sure what the rest of the sermon was about because all I could see was Judas, and how I was just like him, trusted by the other disciples. I walked with them. I did good things like mission trips and Christian service with them, but in my heart, I was still living to please myself. All Judas seemed to care about was the money. All I really wanted was acceptance and approval without repentance. That day I walked down the aisle and humbled myself in repentance.

2 Peter says, “The Lord does not delay His promise as some understand delay, but is patient not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance.”

The Lord flipped on a little spot light of faith, I stepped into that circle of light because although I was a throw away girl, I was pretty sure I was still “any” and “all” means “all”. Right? What I didn’t deal with is my repeating cycles of abuse and deep need for love, acceptance and approval, which leads me to Bill.

Soon after coming to faith in Christ, I met Bill. He love bombed me! He said all the things I was dying to hear. He wrapped beautiful empty words around me like a spider web catching me in yet another cycle of abuse. When he asked me to marry him, I readily said yes, but that is where the dream ended and the physical abuse began. I would find myself paying for his drug habit. What’s worse is that I could deal with the blows, but I couldn’t give into living together before we were married.

One night, during an especially physical altercation, I cried out to the Lord to save me. To this day, I do not know how I got out of my apartment, or out of the building, or down the road to the gas station. I went in the gas station to ask the cashier to use the phone. He could see that I was in trouble and let me call my brother. I remember seeing Bill walking circles around the building, while I waited for my brother to come and get me. The next morning, while I knew Bill would be at work, I got as many of my things out of my apartment as I could, and moved into my brother and his wife’s basement.

But you remember how I said God pursues us. I didn’t have to live in the unfinished basement. God gave me a friend. I moved in with her and family (husband and son) on the condition that I would seek Biblical counseling. That’s where I heard the word co-dependent for the first time. During this time, I was overjoyed with the process of discipleship in my life. I went from being a throw away girl to redeemed in Christ. God was doing the hard work of peeling back my denial, so that I could see who I am in Christ.

The truth of the Gospel saved me from the cycle of sin-cry-repent-repeat.


I prayed through Paul’s prayer (Colossians 1:9-14) every day while going through counseling. What most people, myself included, are not prepared for is that healing hurts. Every time I pull weeds from my garden, I think, “This is what healing is like.”

You have to tug hard creating a lot pressure to pull up that weed up, ripping the roots, disturbing  the soil,  and leaving a small whole, where the roots were. Ew! And that ripping sound makes my stomach cringe. It hurts.

It hurts to confess the cycles and patterns of sin in our lives, and it doesn’t matter how they started. We still have to repent. We are all saved out of something. If we chose not to acknowledge the patterns, cycles, or systems of this world that influence us, we will continue to live out of them. God loves us enough to hurt us to free us from the bondage of the past.

Like the Colossians modern day Christians must, “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.”

I realize this post is too long for the background and history of the church at Colosse, so you’ll have to come back tomorrow for that.


Monday with a chance of rain

Waves mark 4 41

Monday rolls around, and instead of refreshed from a Sunday rest,  we drag ourselves into the  work week. This morning, I woke up reminded that the Savior I know commands the storms of my life.

Storms train me in patience.

Storms coach me in perseverance.

Storms drill me for long-suffering.

Storms hone my mercy for others and myself.

Storms educate me in compassion.

Storms ground me in tenderness.

Storms bring a deeper relationship with the One Who Rescued Me.

Do I like them?


Storms create the sweetest moments with Jesus! I appreciate the person that I have become because of them.

*Note… don’t say this to someone going through a powerful storm. It may discourage them! A friend in the middle of a wild, tempestuous storm may not be able to process that Jesus will bring good out of the frightening darkness she faces. I concentrate on what I have witnessed the Savior do in my life, and the most important thing to do, sit and listen without judgement. Unless you are able to fix yourself; don’t attempt to fix your friend (hint: you can’t fix either of you). Trust the work of the Holy Spirit in your life and hers for healing, teaching. We are instructed to correct a fellow believer, who is caught in sin, but that’s not the kind of storms I’m referring to.

Jesus saves us from being corrupted by this world, He doesn’t save us from the storms of this life.

sprouting seeds

A great lesson from the garden is that seeds germinate at different times even though one plants them at the same time. Some need more heat or water, or something. I don’t know why. God illustrated this point to me this morning in my garden with our green bean plants. Some popped up right away and have beautiful leaves. We thought some needed to be replanted because the seed was a dud. On our walk through the garden,  we saw the dud seeds peeking through the soil.

Don’t give up on yourself! Don’t give up on your friend! Just because you feel like a dud seed, you’re not. Maybe you need a little more heat or a little more water or a little more time. Don’t despair! I needed a lot more heat and a lot more water to come through the storm of grief and church wounding. Now, I say to my folks at Celebrate Recovery, “Keep coming back. Don’t try to jump a head. Take one step at a time! Don’t set arbitrary deadlines. Keep coming back!”

If you are looking for help, my Resource page has a link to a Celebrate Recovery locator and a link to find a counselor.

Tomorrow, I will post the history and background for my study on Colossians. Keep coming back!

Meditation: The Person

God draws us to himself through many different circumstances. Some of us come seeking healing. Some of us come needing the burden of shame and guilt lifted. Many come desiring fellowship and community. No matter why we come to faith, all of us come to God through Jesus Christ.

At some point in our growth, we must move from the infant stage of a focus on our needs to a focus on Jesus. Now, maybe you are very mature, and you moved from this stage quickly. I didn’t. Through various, very painful, trials I realized that I was stuck continually seeking healing from my past. Most of my pain grew out of wrong beliefs and unbelief.

As the Lord walked with me through grief and healing from a church wounding, I saw my folly as Jesus Christ became more and more of a real person to me. I saw more clearly his pain because his friends fell asleep in the garden as he prayed desperately “for this cup to pass from him”. The heartbreaking rejection of Judas surely cut. Jesus was betrayed by the kiss of his friend! Surely, my continual asking for forgiveness for past sins must make him shake his head as he presses 1 John 1:9 into my heart.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

I know how I would feel, if a friend who wronged me, continually brought up how they wronged me, questioning my faithfulness and justice. I wouldn’t consider them a real friend, but that’s because I am human. Thankfully, Jesus is not merely human, but also, “he is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth,” (Col. 1:15).

I was created in him and for him. He will never leave me, nor forsake me. Today, I will meditate on the person of Jesus Christ.


Meditation: The Person

Adapted from Hebrews 3:1; 4:15-16, 7:24-27, 10:11-14, 19-22.

Christ’s Priesthood

Therefore, holy brother, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the apostle and high priest of our confession, Christ Jesus.

For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.

Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Because he continues forever, He has an unchangeable priesthood.

Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.

For such a high priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens;

He does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for his own sins and the for the people’s, for this he did once for all when he offered up himself.

And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.

But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God.

For by one offering he has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.

Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the holiest place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which he consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, his flesh, and having a high priest over the house of God,

Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.



Rooted: A Study of Colossians

Horoscopes, mysticism, Chinese fortune cookies, yoga, and New Age influenced philosophies…

Can we use them to advance our knowledge? Can we adopt the good, motivational parts of the world to under-gird our faith in Jesus? Is there any room for an overwhelming emotional experience that forces an involuntary response to strengthen our faith?

A popular devotional writer wrote her salvation experience this way, “Suddenly I felt as if a warm mist enveloped me. I became aware of a lovely Presence, and my involuntary response was to whisper, “Sweet Jesus.” This utterance was totally uncharacteristic of me, and I was shocked to hear myself speaking so tenderly to Jesus. As I pondered this brief communication, I realized it was the response of a converted heart; at that moment I knew I belonged to him.”

I have never had an experience like that. Is something wrong with my faith?

Rescued 2

I long for deep relationship with God, but I have never had an involuntary response. Deep regret, guilt, shame, and humility marks my conversion experience. There was no warm mist. Daily agony over my continued pride disrupts anything involuntary. Nothing else works for me except deliberate submission to the Savior, where I wrestle with my will, thoughts, and emotions to bring them under the headship of Christ. Why isn’t my faith easier? The book of Colossians gives many answers to whether or not we can use worldly philosophies to strengthen faith in Christ.

The church has been fighting a few major philosophical fallacies since it’s foundation. These problems crop every generation compelling us to study Colossians, “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ,” (Col. 2:6-8).

Paul uses the word deceptive. If God, through the shed blood of Christ on the cross, transferred us from this dark world into the kingdom of light, then how easy is it for us to be deceived by the darkness we once lived in.  When tragedy strikes we use our own reasoning to make sense of our suffering. We use man-made philosophies to fill the bareness of our hearts.  Letting go of our patterns that soothed us in our past frightens us. The idea that we have everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3) in Christ and that we only need to learn to appropriate what we have seems too good to be true. We easily synchronize human traditions with our faith.

It makes sense. It was no different for the people of Colossae in Paul’s day. His solution was “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God,” (Col. 3:1-3).

How do we do this? In a series of blog posts, I will unpack the book of Colossians, so that we can be rooted and built up in Christ, abandoning our man-made traditions.

Meditations: The tenderness of God

In a male dominated world, we often lean on the man-ish characteristics of God. He is powerful and mighty. His strong arm is able to save. We call him Father.

In honor of Mother’s Day let us be encouraged by God’s softness. Let us celebrate that God is compassionate and tender with us.

We learn so much about God’s character through the names that His people gave to him. Today, I’m meditating on El-Shaddai. A few quick facts, some Hebrew scholars point out that Shaddai is likely derived from the Hebrew word for “breast” which is shad. Shaddai  is a compound word composed of the relative “she” and the word for “enough” or “the one (she) who is self-sufficient.” If this is the case then Psalm 91:1, which uses El-Shaddai and translates it as the “Almighty” pictures God as like a nursing mother who nourishes and sustains her infant child with her own life.

I’ve spent 7 years of my life nursing babies. I can give testimony to the time commitment that it takes. I found that my babies nursed for many reasons besides hunger. Sometimes they would just want attention or comfort, to be held close and snuggled.

The picture of God being our everything presses into my heart. He is the one who nourishes me, comforts me, teaches me, rejoices over me… This brings me indescribable joy!

I am encouraged to snuggle up close and allow God to comfort me.

mother and child

Meditations: God is as tender with us as a nursing mother is with her baby.

For this is what the Lord says,

“I will extend peace to her like a river,

And the wealth of nations like a

Flooding Stream

You will nurse and be carried on her arm

And dandle on her knees.

As a mother comforts her child,

So will I comfort you;

And you will be comforted over Jerusalem.”

Isaiah 66:12-13


Be Light

“Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”

Ephesians 5:14

Something changed in her, an innocence lost. As she looked out, the world seemed to be losing color, so she hung her head. The ground seemed to be shaking. She looked around. No one else seemed to notice. To her terror, she realized, she alone felt the tremors of her life falling into darkness. A secret she must keep.

We all have secrets. Those dark hidden places locked up in our hearts that we dare not venture to far into that void. These little reminders of deep agonizing pain fissures through our memories, terrorizing us with the past. Secrets we must keep.

“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.”

Ephesians 5: 8

In order for healing to come, some stories must be told. Stepping out of denial and into the light of God’s power gives me strength to tell my story of his saving grace. Slowly, it becomes less about my past and more about His rescue of a little wild girl caught between dangerous darkness and vivid fantasies.


I’m working through writing my story down. It’s sad, tough work revisiting painful places, and feeling the shame again is exhausting. Thankfully, I carry the truth that I was once darkness, but now I am light in the Lord with me to the void.  This truth becomes a salve to the fissures of pain in my heart, healing the brokenness, giving me wholeness in the face of my secrets.

I rejoice that healing is not for me alone, but every Friday night I share God’s rescue with hurting people at Celebrate Recovery. The darkness of my past becomes a light for others to find God’s grace in Jesus Christ. Imagine the dark becoming light!

Today, I want to encourage you that no matter how dark your secret, in God’s hands, it becomes light. As He heals our tattered souls, we become a beacon of light.

The first step is the hardest to make. The darkness we’ve known our whole lives feels familiar, safe even. We developed an arsenal of weapons to manage the shaking ground of abuse. We found ways to force our world to feel right, when what was done to us was so, so, so wrong.

Coming into the Light means, we have to let go of what we worked so hard to do. We must stop depending on ourselves and trust someone else. I don’t know about you, but this statement strikes fear to the core of my being. Trust someone else?

The God I knew in my childhood was a demanding tyrant. He was angry at everyone because no one could follow his rules. No matter how hard I tried I could never be good enough to be loved.

But then I meet the real Jesus, and through Him a compassionate Father, who ran to me.

Throwing his arms around my neck, he clothed me in the righteousness of Jesus Christ. I have no need to be jealous of other girls. Now, I am a princess in his kingdom. Gone are my days of envy. Now, I have a heavenly inheritance stored up for me, where moth and dust cannot destroy.

If you are reading this, and think, “I could never tell my secret. I could never trust Jesus to make me whole.” But, maybe you’ve come to the place, where your life seems unmanageable, and anything else is better than this life your living now.Find a Celebrate Recovery. It’s for every hurt, habit, or hang up. CR is place filled with a bunch of really messed up people, who found a real God, who is making them whole again. It’s a safe place to be really messy. It’s a safe place to be inconvenient. I’m a pastor’s wife, and they let me be messy, broken, and inconvenient. I didn’t have to pretend that I was more sanctified than I am. They allowed me to have problems. If you know anything about church, this is unusual. The pastor’s wife must be well-dressed, well-mannered, and darn near perfect to be acceptable. Even the people that said they wanted me to be real, rejected me and used gas-lighting. They said one thing, but then got very mad at me because I wasn’t grieving the exact way they thought I should grieve.

There is hope. Jesus said,

The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
    and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,

Luke 4:18 

Meditations: Worthy of Greater Honor

Hospitality is the most fun part of being a pastor’s wife. I LOVE people! I feel energized and more alive, when people are around. I don’t even have to be the one talking or in the spot light. I’m from a big family, and it’s one of my greatest treasures. I love going home to Florida, where I’m just another grandchild among the other 16.  I am part of something bigger than myself; that’s beautiful. When we all get together there is over 50 of us! It’s the best! You have 30 conversations going on at one time. You can sit and whisper with Gigi as she marvels at the energy and love in the house. You can completely disappear into the crowd with a feeling of contentment, just watching everyone around you.

Today, I get to feel that love with my church family. We’ve got lunch and dinner planned. I’m so excited at the variety that I get to love on today: family, close friends, and new friends. All this preparation for today made me think about the  body of Christ. We are all different. We have different gifts, areas of influence, backgrounds, and jobs, but in Christ we are one body. There are some members of the body that are fun and we delight to see. There are some members of the body that are inconvenient.

The kingdom of God sets everything in this world upside down, and sometimes we forget that. 1 Corinthians 12 was written to remind us of God’s values. Often, we honor the pastor, the rich, the people on the finance committee, or on the committee on committees, but God uses the foolish things of this world to confound the wise.

Who is to be given the greatest honor? “Those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor… while our presentable parts need no special treatment.” God wants us to labor for equality in the body.

What are the parts of the body that we need to love and honor today? We must sit with those that are grieving, suffering, and depressed. The poor, the lowly of this world should be loved the most. The ones who are inconvenient should be favored.

My Beloved, remember that this will cost us. Grace is free. Following Christ costs us not only our preferences, but also our lives. We all prefer to be rich, comfortable, happy, and enjoying our lives. To sit with the poor and lowly may cost us our time and money. To sit with grieving and suffering may make us feel their sadness and pain. To sit with the lowly will cost us our comfort.


Meditation: Worthy of Greater Honor Colossians 3:12, 14

Our hope is in Christ. He is even now working to make all things right.

As God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved,

clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness,

humility, gentleness and patience.

And over all these virtues put on love,

which binds them all together in perfect unity.

When Heroes Fall

I don’t know about you, but the recent outed allegedabuse and misconduct shook my world. I am trying to process, but right now, all of these hidden sins coming to light devastated my reality.

Early in our ministry, Jon and I read the book A Hill on Which to Die by Paul Pressler. This book gave us a foundation to know that there are some issues worth losing your church, reputation, and whatever else goes out the window, when one stands for the truth of the gospel. At the time, we were in a context that we faced racism. I grew up in the South. I knew there was a time that people elevated themselves over others of a different skin color, but I had never experienced the ugliness and pride of racism like we did in this context. More than once, I believed we would loose our position as Jon lovingly spoke out against this evil.

little-white-church-1115039__340Speaking the truth that we are all equals in God’s kingdom was a “hill on which to die.” Jon knew I supported him, even if the results ranged from at the least, uncomfortable for us and our growing family and at the most, devastating, I was prepared. On more than one occasion Jon used his quick whit to expose what was in the heart of “good” people. An example of this happened during a business meeting to discuss what to do with a rental house the church owned. The church debated on whether or not to have an outside company manage the rental property, but they feared not having a say on who rented it. From that, one person stated, “I’m not racist, but if a black person rents it, then white people won’t rent it afterwards.” Jon responded, “Then we should rent only to people of color to avoid renting it to any racist white people.” The church chose to allow a rental company manage it.

I share this story because the men who led the resurgence became heroes. I was confident that we too could stand against racism because of their testimonies of God’s goodness. Now, I sit in confusion. What is real? I’m standing on shaky ground.

I’m thankful for Ed Stetzer’s article on Christianity Today. He gave me perspective.

I am left with the question, When Heroes Fall? My answer is…

I choose to remember that my faith is in Christ alone. My eyes are on Jesus. He is the author and perfecter of my faith. No one is above struggle. I need to be all the more diligent to stand in front of the mirror of the Word of God, allowing Him to walk me through tough trials and suffering “because I know that the testing of my faith produces perseverance. I must let perseverance finish its work so that I may be mature and complete, not lacking anything,” (James 1:3-4).

Often the distractions of the “good life” keep me from embracing trials and suffering. I want my kids to have it better than I did. I’m not saying that this all bad. However, God reminds me that “For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.” (1 John 2:16), and I am not immune.

Ok. I think I’m feeling better. Blogging helps me clarify my thinking. I’m going to hide 1 John 2:16 in my heart, so that I might not sin against my Savior.

Meditation: Holiness

This week 1 Corinthians rocked my world! Often, we study single verses out of context, and they begin to reflect what is inside our hearts. When, we take the time to read through the whole letter, God uses his word to display himself into our hearts and supernatural healing begins.

See what I did there? Reflection is  natural to humans. We were designed to reflect God’s  glory as image bearers. We must admit, we are not God, even though we are made in his image. Like everything else, sin broke this too. Now that we know evil, we want to be God. It’s a constant struggle as we learn to submit our wills to God and to walk in the Spirit to reflect God and not ourselves. Psychologists call this projection, and it is very easy to project our thoughts, feelings, and motivations onto God, the scriptures, and even the people around us.

As I studied this week, God displayed his truth with clarity. Perhaps you have heard someone who hurt you say that you must look at her intentions. If it wasn’t her intention to hurt you, then you shouldn’t feel hurt. We, who believe that we are saved by faith alone, forget that our works display our salvation. Good works and obedience have a place in our faith. It matters how we live. It maters what we do. If we are judged by intentions alone, then how could God judge me? I intend to be obedient, but I keep messing up, even though I want to live right. The truth is that both matter, intentions and behavior. If my behavior harmed someone else, then I am responsible to apologize and make amends. Although, this person, who harmed me, may not have intended harm, however, she caused me deep pain that has taken three years for me to heal. God is good and faithful to heal us. Sometimes that healing happens now, and sometimes that healing will come in heaven, when God dries my tears and I see Kai again.

I can’t wait, but until then, God cautions me to be mindful of how I live.

Did you know that our works will be tested?

They will be tried by fire. If we have built with wood, hay, or straw, our good works will burn up, “the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved– even only as one escaping through the flames.”

Paul goes on to write, “Do not deceive yourselves. If any one you thinks you are wise by the standards of this age, you should become “fools” so that you may become wise. For wisdom of this world is foolishness in the God’s sight.”

I have gladly become a fool for Christ, so that I am humble to learn from him. In myself is self-righteousness and pride. In Christ is all wisdom and knowledge,” so that I may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God.” I have learned this is a painful process at times. It means I give God the right to chip away parts of me that do not bring him glory. Sometimes, I like those parts because they have brought me comfort, but they are not from God. Sometimes, they are the very coping mechanisms that I have relied upon to endure abuse. However, if I continue to use these coping mechanisms, I will not grow in my knowledge of Christ. I will not be able to fellowship with him in suffering, and my good works will burn up. I will be as one who escaped a fire.

knowing jesus

Meditation: Holiness 1 Corinthians 3:10-20

10 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. 14 If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. 15 If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.

16 Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple.

18 Do not deceive yourselves. If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age, you should become “fools” so that you may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness”[a]; 20 and again, “The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.”[b]

Asphyxiation, Choking, Strangulation

God provides real examples of real people. They are moral people with great intentions of doing good and failing miserably. However, God still uses them to accomplish his purposes. Almost every story in the Bible mirrors our own struggles with sin. Sometimes we want very good things, but they are still contrary to complete trust and dependence on God. Placing confidence in good works is so easy because by nature we want to be like God, knowing good and evil. When we place our confidence in the flesh, we choke the Spirit. We strangle the very relationship given to us to stand against sin.

Philippians 3 confronted my pride of self-reliance, that pesky plaguing sin. A situation confronted me with a choice, count as rubbish my good works or be offended because someone, who had never spoken to me, judged my ministry. Honestly, I wanted to be offended. This person, who passed judgement on a situation that he has only heard one side of the story (and that side was not my side), doesn’t know the sleepless nights spent in anguished prayer, the broken heart that cried out to the Lord for guidance, the difficulty to stand before a leadership that said that the Bible couldn’t be used as a foundation, etc.

I can sum up my response in one-word: pride.

We must never forget that sin is predatory. Consider the language God used to call Cain to obedience in Genesis 4, He said, “Sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.” Crouching like a lion in wait for its prey seeking the right moment of weakness. Sin desires. God wants us to understand the nature of sin. What is the weakness? Cain was downcast because he wanted to depend on himself. He wanted to define for himself what kind of offering to give the Lord. He became angry at Abel because Abel did what was right.  Cain allowed his feelings to rule his life. In his anger and frustration, he murdered his brother.


How does this story relate to Philippians 3? Consider our desires to be good enough or to do good works or be the right kind of person. If we want to put any confidence in our flesh, Paul lays out an argument that he is better in every way. He is a Hebrew of Hebrews. Born to the chosen of the chosen. He has the best possible family name. As to following the law, he’s been following the letter of the law since he was eight days old. As to education, he had the best. As to zeal, he persecuted those who disagreed with him. He writes that he is blameless, faultless before the law. And he counts everything that he once believed to be good as poop compared to knowing Christ.

Am I willing to think this way?

All my hard work, doing good, being righteous, working to be faultless before the law, standing against what God calls evil counted as poop. Do I after knowing Christ and experiencing forgiveness and the sweet embrace of freedom want to go back to being confident in my ability to do what is right? Therefore, the story of Cain and Abel is so relevant to us today. We easily fall back on our feelings. We become frustrated or angry, and forget that God desires for us to depend completely on him.

Our family name, reputation, education, good works, position in the church are poop! God wants you and me to come to the place where we will want the righteousness that comes from Christ, counting anything else as less than and worthless. Am I willing to rest completely in faith that my righteousness comes for God?

TODAY, I say an enthusiastic yes. Did I spend a few days in prayerful struggle, releasing whatever good works I thought were worthy to compare? Sadly, yes. I am one of those messed up real people just like the other characters in the Bible.

God reminded me that many people live as enemies of the cross, and I can choose to be one of those people. Philippians 3:19 says of them “their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is their shame.” The word stomach is the Greek word koilia, meaning 1, Belly, abdomen; 2, site of sexual organs, womb; 3, inner man. Here, Paul is rejecting more than the gluttonous and sexual excess, but also the undue estimation of this physical life because “their mind is set on earthly things.” These things may be good, worthy things, but they are of this world.

Our focus is to be on our heavenly citizenship. Do we eagerly await our Savior’s return? Or are we eagerly awaiting our earthly destiny to be fulfilled? Do we work for Christ’s return or is it about our purpose? There is a delicate line separating these two. We see it displayed in Cain. Cain wanted to give an offering. He wanted to do good. He had great intentions, but he wanted to serve the Lord on his own terms, in his own way. God gives us the same warning. Don’t let your feelings rule over you! Count as poop everything compared to knowing Christ. Let us participate in his sufferings, and stop running from suffering. Let us become like Christ in his death, completely obedient to the Father, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

Is faith easy? No, because we must learn to master our feelings and submit them to truth. There will be days that we struggle, but let us not lose hope. Even the Apostle Paul wrote that he had not obtained all this, arriving at his goal of knowing Christ and counting everything else as poop. Like him, we have to press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of us. It’s not that we have a hold of Christ, but that He has a hold of us! Therefore, we can forget what is behind and strain toward the prize for which God has called us heavenward in Christ Jesus. And one day by the power that enables Christ to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies, so that we will be like his glorious body.

Be encouraged!