The Beauty in our Flaws

I have a feeling that by the end of quarantine, people will be sick of the dreaded “zoom call”. What started out as a cool way to see people in real time no matter where they live, has become the only means of seeing those you used to spend time with in the flesh. Replacing all of our in-person interactions with a screen is not nearly as satisfying. I am filled up by being alone, but I am coming out of this season knowing I am not a recluse.

I was made for community and being in contact with other human beings. I am sure you are coming away from this with similar realizations about yourself. Maybe you have found being at home to be extra trying or the lack of close, social interaction to be particularly hard on your emotional/mental health. Despite what you think of it all or how it has impacted you, I hope you see that God is still working and moving. I am hopeful that when we come out of this, we will be different for the better. I can’t speak for our country or the population as a whole (I have asked God more than once if He would just let me in on how this particular chapter in our lives was going to end up…I’ll take His silence as it is better that I don’t know.), but I believe as individuals, we have a high percentage of coming out of this better connected to God. 

He has never and will never need to socially distance Himself. I don’t care if you just gave me an eye roll for flipping a secular term into spiritual concept, it’s true. He is closer than the air we breathe. We are the ones that put distance between His heart and ours. We run to things of this world to tell us who we are, what to do, when to act, and where to put our focus. The world feels incredibly loud right now, and the sheer volume is only matched by the number of splintered opinions flying around. Like pieces of straw in a tornado whipping around and doing destruction to our peace and safety. I have spoken to so many that feel like nothing is as it seems, everyone has an agenda, and no one knows who to trust. 

Ultimately, our trust isn’t in this world. Our government is flawed. Our healthcare is flawed. Our church is flawed. You are flawed. I am flawed. But this assurance that we are all flawed qualifies us as a candidate for Jesus’ ministry. In Luke 19:10, he says, 

For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost. (NIV)

The even better news is this is an individual call. You don’t have to wait for your President or Governor to release you to choose a life pursuing Jesus. We get to do that on our own. You don’t have to worry if your neighbor will approve, you get to decide this purely for yourself. 

Regardless of where you started when the world began coming unglued, you get to take time to make sure you’re anchored in the unchanging, ever-present power of the God of the Universe. 

For those barely holding on, can I speak some life over you?

We have access to the Holy Spirit and He can minister to your heart and bring you God’s peace.

But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have told you. Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled; do not be afraid. You heard Me say, ‘I am going away, and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved Me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. (John 14:26-28 NIV)

You have a purpose.

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. (Philippians 2:12-13 NIV).

He has saved us and called us to a holy life–not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, (2 Timothy 1:9 NIV)

He uses all things to good 

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. (Romans 8:28 NIV)

You are loved

This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:12-13 NIV)

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. (1 John 4:7-8 NIV)

I hope this encourages your heart and spurs you on to a deeper connection with the Father. He loves you and as I like to remind myself daily: Nothing surprises God. He has the whole world in His hands and those who put their trust in Him can know that in the end, we win. If you feel stretched too thin or depleted in energy because of the current events of this world, take time to unplug from those sources and saturate yourself in life-giving verses of the Bible and in worship songs that lift you up and shift your perspective.

Is Love Winning in the Church?

islovewinning

Lately, my focus has drifted to how Christianity has come to be known as a religion. Furthermore, how did we become defined by ourselves and the world by the tasks we do (or don’t do). If you stopped someone on the street and simply asked them “What is a Christian?” what do you think they would say? If you asked a hundred individuals this same question, do you think the majority would rattle off a list of things that Christians (should) do? Or is is something that is simple?

Isn’t a Christian a follower of Christ?

Yet in the western culture (probably not exclusively, but I would hate to lump the whole world into something that I can only speak of for certain in the culture in which I live) we have all of these preferences and requirements within our church walls. We are afraid of tainting the integrity of our church culture so much that we have actually tainted our reputation of love. The intent of this trend was—I believe—humble and beautiful to start. But the Enemy in his cunning ways, has partnered with the church in the name of keeping pure. He has polluted the Church into genocide mentality of keeping out those who can’t live up to the standards of the ideal Christian. People are being cast aside for their dirty sins because somewhere along the line come as you are lost its importance.

Although this seems like I am hating on the Church, I am not. I LOVE church. I am a lifer. I was raised in church and for all its warts and scars, I find it to be one of my favorite places to be. But I am pursuing it with eyes wide open. No church is perfect. As long as people are leading people, it will be done with flaws included.

The coolest thing to me is that Jesus chooses to use broken people to lead broken people. I think it is to show off His glory, but I could be totally wrong. I mean if we succeed in life change at all, and we see people choose eternity with God through anything we do. Well if that doesn’t declare miracle at work I don’t know what does! And by our efforts I mean our actions coupled with God. Our efforts—in my mind—actually taint God’s perfect ways, yet He lets us be involved anyway.

This makes me think of when I let my kids cook with me. I can execute a recipe without their help at all. As a matter of fact, it will turn out better if I do not have to involve them in the preparation at all. But when I let them help, I risk mistakes and things not turning out the way they were supposed to. But the joy of letting them help and be involved in the process multiplies the joy of the whole project. See, we are God’s kids and he wants to let us help. Not because he needs our help, but He enjoys joining forces and doing it with us. The memories created and the intimate moments of coming alongside each other are priceless. They are the heart of God. Intimacy, co-creating, being WITH Him. He craves our relationship.

Which brings me back to the start. If you are following a religion, where is the fun in that? What is the purpose? I am a Christian because I fell in love with Jesus and have been eagerly trying to live a life that pleases Him. As I dive into scripture recalling the life of Jesus, love seemed to be the highest thing on His list of things to focus on. He even set love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind, and with all your strength as the most important command. One of the key parts of loving God is allowing Him to love you. Opening your heart to His love will be the most life changing thing you ever do. I promise!

As the Church, we have work to do. But Jesus is patient and kind and cheering on our progress.

Summer is a Time to be in His Presence

 

summer is His Presence

Cindy is a talented writer and a fellow contributor to Inspired Mom’s Club. She has been gracious enough to provide wisdom to fellow moms who are in love with summer and all it brings, but struggle with balancing the flow of summer with the discipline of daily time with the Father. I took great comfort in this guest post as she gives me peace about the fact that my “quiet time” looks different in these three beautiful months of the year. I am looking at my time with God very differently now. Please enjoy this post and check out lifeunfolded.com for more from Cindy


 


 

As moms, we wait for it all school year long, the slowing of the separate schedules of our children, not being held to the time constraints of a ticking clock reminding us of the hours and minutes left in the day, pushing through with exasperation to the end when we finally hear it, the last school bell ringing loud the end of yet another school year. We let out our desperate sighs or should I say moans of relief with the realization it is finally here ………ahhhh summer!

Summer brings in a different kind of busy, one I treasure as a mom. I trade the stresses and multiple schedules of my children during the school year for more concentrated family time and connection, games, barbecues, travel, late nights and later mornings. It’s music to my ears! With that being said, there are some things such as fellowship with other moms in addition to staying connected in God’s word that seem to come to a standstill. The varying summer schedules don’t coincide with others within your fellowship group therefore causing a lull in your connection that you have come accustomed to over the school year with God. So how do you stay connected to God during the summer when your usual way of connecting is at a standstill and your life surrounded with loved ones every second of the day?

I would love to be able to give you a list of things you can do but if I’m being honest another list isn’t something I want to add to my summer schedule. I want to be able to break free from the lists that so easily ensnare me during the school year and just live in His presence. I want to break away from the same old routine and take Him with me where no clocks, timers, ding of a Facebook notification or whirl of the washing machine can distract me. Where is this place?

Summer brings a commonality to many of us as the majority of the things we do bring us to the great outdoors. I like to think of it as God’s way of calling me to get out and experience Him in the very midst of His creation!! What wonder and awe inspiring things He wants to reveal to you as you connect and commune with Him in nature! (with the exception of mosquitos and chiggers) Pay close attention as He desires to reveal something about himself that is new to you whether it is in the way your child plays at the pool or in summer games. Maybe He will capture your heart as you watch a breath-taking sunset or sunrise in the horizon. He may even speak to your heart as you do that dreaded impromptu camp-out you really don’t want to do but instead find yourself head over heels in love with Him again as you look longingly upon the beauty of the stars and hear the crickets and toads overwhelming your senses as He lulls you to sleep. The longing of a prayer spoken during the school year may come to realization as you focus on Him in creation and can clearly see and hear without all of life’s circumstances screaming at you, causing your heart to be overwhelmed with encouragement reminding you of His faithfulness. And maybe…just maybe all the family time you share whether it is with immediate or extended family will show you something new and exciting He is working on and growing in one or more members filling your heart with overflowing joy for them.

There are many ways to connect with God during the summer months and as you do, it has been my experience that He floods you with particular verses or brings to mind the ones you are wondering about and what they truly mean. His creation serves as a great reminder to who He is and that His word is alive and thriving among us just waiting for us to experience Him outside the normal places we set aside for Him. So put the lists away, they only serve as a distraction to what you don’t get done and try to control you all over again. Instead pick up the One who calls you to experience Him and desires to show you new and exciting things as He awaits your presence in His creation.

Go After the Person, Not the Practice

 

go after the person (1)

If you spend much time in the Christian faith, you will quickly become aware of the common disciplines that we as a people attribute to the strength of our relationship with God:

  • prayer
  • reading the Bible
  • tithing
  • attending church

These things are good. I have been in church my whole life and I wouldn’t cross a single thing off that list—I would probably even add a few. I cherish the foundations I was given and the emphasis on certain pillars of the faith. I found myself leaning on these things to get me through tragic times in my past when I had no emotion left to be led into an encounter with God. I relied on the rhythm of daily prayer to keep me attached to God when I was operating out of hurt and making choices that were not His best for me. These disciplines saved me when I was a shell of a woman in a spiritual coma.

Although they were a lifeline at one point in my life, I hope that I am coming at them from a different angle with my kids. As a child, I was taught the disciplines as the pathway to holiness. I was pressured to do these things out of loyalty to God—a respect for the religion of Christianity—not from an outpouring of my love for Him, or even a celebration of His love for me.

If you spend your days perfecting a discipline to ensure that it is engrained in your being, you have fallen prey to religion. This thing that you look to perfect, will become what you anchor your hope. You stir up a sense of entitlement that if you hold up your end of the bargain—if you execute your discipline—things will go your way. You enclose yourself in a fortress of manmade accomplishments. Pride and pious thinking creep in like fog in the evening. They shroud your fortress to keep humility far from it’s doors. As the walls grow and get stronger, it becomes harder and harder for you to fathom that you are living anything but a holy life. The Enemy has been given space in your heart because he has become your biggest cheerleader. He pats you on the back and sings your praises for the work you are doing for God. Standing tall and strong for righteousness and hating all those deplorable actions of those who “claim” to love God.

The heartbreak of it all is that you have accidentally changed masters. You now serve holiness. You are seeking to be holy out of fear of being perceived as unholy, not out of adoration for your savior. These small pivots of the heart, these 1° changes in direction are hard to spot.

The reality is God doesn’t want your disciplines if they come from a place in your heart that says, “I’ve done these things—thus, I have earned your goodness.” The order is important. He wants you to long to be about His business and His purpose. This may require you to get in His word, or worship, or give sacrificially. He is not so one dimensional that you are going to be able to anticipate what He wants from you every single day. Disciplines have a strange allure to them that says you have all the tools and methods needed to create a holy life.

Having daily habits are great. I like routine as much as the next guy (okay, maybe not my type B will not be denied). We must examine our intent and be open to redirection in our motivation for the disciplines of the faith. Holy Spirit can bring this to our attention if we ask. We may also get a small conviction while reading God’s word or in a random conversation that we have with a friend.

The truth is Christianity was never meant to be a religion. It was freedom from the bonds of religion and an invitation to a relationship. We need to keep the religious habits in proper perspective. Jesus said in Matthew 6:33 to, “Seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” The Message version refers to His Kingdom as God-reality, God-initiative, and God-provisions. The best way to do this is through the channels of the disciplines listed above! The key difference—and the point I am trying to make is that you need the active relationship with the Holy Spirit to orchestrate those disciplines in such a way that you get the most out of them for the season you are in. Seek His presence and will for your time with Him first and the discipline will be a by-product of your time with him. Just seeking and asking each day what thing to dive into (worship, praying, reading the Word) will be great for your prayer life. Being led to a passage or book of the bible to camp out in is one way to be strengthened in your ability to hear Holy Spirit’s voice. Being led to listen to worship music and just sit is the discipline of quieting your spirit.

Whatever you feel more drawn to (by the Holy Spirit), go and be free to saturate yourself with it. Do not worry about the other disciplines or see them as tasks to be completed. They are by-products of the intimacy. We are to become Christ like. If you search the scriptures, you will not find a point-blank formula for holiness outside of accepting that we are only holy through the blood of Christ. Jesus had tendencies and habits that he held in high regard, but He knew that it was not the habit itself that gave him access to the Father. It was His heart’s desire to be about whatever the Father wanted Him to be about. It was His willingness to immerse himself in anything Heaven oriented. That mindset gave him a hunger for the Word, for quiet time with God, and a desire to share what He knew with others. He desired to know God. As much as I value the practices of Jesus, I want to be after Him more than His practices. I want to press into who He is and gain a greater understanding of each individual member of the Trinity. Revelations of this will come from all avenues (disciplines) of the Christian faith, my priority is to keep my eyes on the goal and not the practices themselves.

Hope: A Give Away

The lovely Heather Bixler (heatherbixler.com) is having a give away of her four-week mini Bible study on hope. Enter below!

 

51W0AbgiILL._SL500_AA300_PIaudible,BottomRight,13,73_AA300_

Enter for your chance to win 1 of 25 FREE audible copies of the audiobook “Hope – Four Week Mini Bible Study: Becoming Press Mini Bible Studies by Heather Bixler!

About the Book

“Then I think about my own little desires. The desire that my husband would be completely healed from his disease, and how he is still suffering through this every day. It is all hurting my heart, and then I think about hope…”

Take this four week journey to challenge and renew your thoughts on hope.

Enter Giveaway Below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway