Let Me Direct You Elsewhere…

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Race, Political Partisanship, And The Unity Of The Church: This continues to be an extremely important conversation and it would do us all well to listen to these wise men speak about it.

Bed Sheets, Calendars And Prayer: Yes, yes more prayer!!! “When our churches become havens of prayer, our bone-dry world comes back to life. So do we. Our bed sheets and full calendars lie to us. But the believers’ reality? A room full of praying people – in duty and privilege – has the power to change the world.”

How To Teach Your Kids About Sex: Are you there yet in the world of parenting? I’m getting close and I hate how much it terrifies me. But these kinds of aids are very helpful to ease us fearful parents.

You Have On Life – Don’t Waste It: Its a constant battle in my soul this concept. I often feel like I’m wasting my life and it makes me sick. But I desire to be used – not greatly in some self-centered glory way – but in whatever big or small way God chooses. However it takes me stepping out. Anyway this short clip just helps me stay focused.

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Learn, Then Teach Contentment…

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Last week my kids came home from school asking…no not asking…begging in verbal-diarrhea form to go out and buy one of those new and exciting fidget-spinner’s. I’m sure you’ve heard of these, they’re all the rage and absolutely taking over the lives of kids everywhere. At first they were advertised toward kids who struggle with fidgeting in class as an aid to help them concentrate. Sure, ok. But then the appeal spread like pink-eye from child to child and school to school and now so it seems, home to home.

So there I was, listening to my kids talk about how Robbie has one and Abby has one, and this kid and that kid….and “mommy can we go get one”?…

All while I was internally raging.

Not because my kids were enphatically asking me to spend money on something I deem kinda silly, but because as I stared into their covetous little eyes, I saw myself.

Our children are little mirrors, aren’t they?

What they didn’t realize is that before they had come home, I had just been on a little website called Pinterest. It’s a place I frequent when I need a break from laundry and floor mopping. Its harmless right? I just scroll through picture after picture of homes that look more on trend than mine, and photo-shoots of families that are cooler than mine, and meals that are more scrumptious than mine and moms who are skinnier and hipper than myself.

And none of it has any effect on my soul.

Right?

Wrong.

No actually, slowly and with time, my soul suffers. And the burrowing roots of discontent grow deeper and with great force.

All of a sudden, when I look around the home that God has graciously provided for me, I believe I have more important needs that God has not provided, and I want them now. I want a different couch and new TV, a new body and an exotic vacation. All of those things I suddenly believe I deserve.

In the same way, my kids went off to school with every need met, then came home with a nagging desire they truly believed they deserved now.

Why? Because so-and-so had one. They looked in their neighbor’s yard and saw something they wanted.

“I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” ~ Philippians 4:10-13

What is Paul saying here? He’s speaking to the Philippian church who is facing persecution and he’s encouraging them in faith to stand strong. As well, he’s thanking the church for their care for him when they heard of his suffering and were concerned. He’s rejoicing in their love. But then he goes on to explain why they ought not be concerned for him, because in all the ups and downs of life he has found contentment.

And is he content because contentment just comes natural for him?

Of course not. He’s content because he learned it.

As humans we don’t have a default of contentment. It’s quite the latter. In our sin, we love to covet. This is why the tenth commandment is, You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s. Because although we may not envy ox’s anymore, our hearts will surely find something to itch for and we’ll fool ourselves into thinking our joy will be made complete when we get that new car…or that house…or those shoes…or that new toy.

We are wired to covet first.

So we must learn how to be truly satisfied in Christ alone. Not in the stuff He gives us. Paul repeats the word learned twice in these verses because he’s making an important point that in our circumstance God is teaching us, if only we would heed his instruction.

Paul learned the secret to enduring suffering and that big secret is…wait for it…relying on Christ to strengthen him. Because all things can be done when Christ is our strength. And by those “things” he doesn’t mean winning a basketball game or getting that promotion. He means in regards to what he just said, in enduring suffering, resisting the desire to covet and finding contentment in Christ alone.

You see if I never fully get this, I will always rush to fulfill all my kids covetous desires…because I will rush to fulfill mine also.

How many of us parents fight the battles of good manners and good grades in our children but never address the battle of materialism driven by their covetous hearts?

We work really hard at providing good nutrition, we pick the best schools, we expect good grades and a proper attitude all while spoiling them with every single toy, gadget or video game they want. Our homes are piled with stuff for our kids. But how often do we concern ourselves with the big green monster they have inside of themselves?

Rarely, if ever.

But first, we must learn ourselves. It begins with us. I have to learn when to exit Pinterest and walk away. I have to recognize when envy is invading my space and causing me to sin against my neighbor and God. I have to learn contentment in Christ by remembering what I deserve in judgement that was paid at the Cross. And in light of that great news, I have more than I will ever deserve, because what I deserve is death and judgement.

So therefore I am rich and in need of nothing more.

And it’s with that understanding that I can begin to teach this to my children. Then when I see the tenth commandment beast growing hungry in their little hearts I won’t want to feed it.

As tempting as it was for me to shut up the noise of jabbering children and go out searching for a good deal on fidget spinner’s, I did not. Because it wouldn’t have mattered if they were 50 cents a pop…it wasn’t worth the toll on their heart.

Contentment grows only in gratefulness and its right in that space that I want to live.

And I sure pray, my kids learn to live there also.

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Let Me Direct You Elsewhere…

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Grace And The Non-Instagrammable Church: This is true. When we can get over the fact that the church isn’t Instagram-ready, something amazing happens. When we own up to our messiness, we actually open the door for real, undiluted, unadulterated grace. I mean, the mess is exactly what grace is for! You wouldn’t need grace at an Instagrammable church.

Too Young To Cross A Street But Old Enough For A Sex Change: Goodness gracious, its a wild world out there. A new research study conducted at the University of Iowa has determined children younger than 14 do not possess the cognitive skills and judgment to safely cross a street. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) published an excerpt of the study in its Daily Briefing, a nod some physicians found ironic, given the organization’s support for transgender treatment.

Barcelona – Get Up: Its a very old song and super random…but I’ve been into it these days. So there. 😉

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Let Me Direct You Elsewhere…

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What Can The Church Learn About Sexual Harassment: The recent Bill O’Reilly scandal has opened up an opportunity for the church to think through how we respond to these matters. And this article is a great starting point to this conversation.

Beware Of Broken Wolves: Wow. Yes, this is sooo out there and extremely important to know how to spot. These are the false teachers who use their own authenticity, pain, and brokenness to attract believers who are also suffering and broken—and then using their “brokenness” to lead the sheep to turn away from God’s Word and embrace sin.

How Brainy Women Benefit The Church: In response to gendered notions of intelligence, it’s easy to overcorrect with celebrations of “girl power.” While buying my daughter’s spring wardrobe, I came across T-shirts emblazoned with slogans like “It’s cool to be smart” and “Epic and smart… like my dad” and shockingly, “Smart is the new pretty.” These celebrations of female intelligence are not a form of overcorrection so much as mis-correction, a superficial response to a much deeper problem. While meant to affirm women, such tropes simply replace one form of hierarchy for another and all too quickly, being “not like other girls” means being superior to them.

Why Christians Should Support Religious Freedom For All: This is so important for our current times and we really need to know why we are for and not against religious freedom. Since the freedom to know and follow God is foundational to our humanity, it belongs to both Christians and non-Christians alike.

Gospel Reflections From The Mountaintop: Its been a couple of weeks since the anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr’s death, so this is late. But please still watch this very powerful video remembering his work and his last speech. Let us never forget that racial harmony is a gospel issue.

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When Sin Gathers, So Must Love…

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My daughter has a habit of collecting things. However most of her collecting fondness is directed towards rocks. Some colorful, some smooth, big and small. Even the extremely regular or somewhat unexceptional ones she’s drawn to for whatever reason. She’ll fill her coat pockets or pass them off to me for safe keeping in the endless depths of my purse. Just one of the reasons mom’s tend to have big, heavy purses.

But she’ll gather her rocks together. She loves them.

At times I find this habit a bit of a nuisance, particularly when my hands are full with jackets, or back packs, or books and then I’m handed a somewhat useless rock that belongs on the ground – yet it’s absolutely necessary for her to keep it.

*sigh – “fine” I say.

However when her rocks are gathered together, each individual and unique I can see the appeal. There’s something charming about it.

When some things are gathered together in a beautiful collection, it’s a delight.

For the past few months I’ve been soaking myself in the book of 1 Peter. A book I’ve read and studied multiple times before but the Holy Spirit is always faithful to illuminate and open my eyes to new and wonderful depth’s of the heart of God through His Word.

One verse I’ve always loved is chapter 4:8…

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.”

Its nice isn’t it? Love is nice. And this verse is all about it and how it covers and clears up the darkness in this world. What’s not to love about love and by extension this verse? It’s the kind of verse we memorize and crochet on pillows – and we ought to.

And yet it all becomes more fascinating when we discover that Peter is writing these words to Christians in the midst of deep suffering and persecution. He’s giving them hard words and comforting words, and this is a surprisingly hard word. It’s more like a warning. Because he’s reminding these Christians that sin can creep through the cracks when suffering strikes.

Right before this verse about love is a long list of sins we should be avoiding (most of them really obvious) and its a reminder from Peter that sin is present in Christians – even in the middle of hardship. We are very likely to be tempted because the flesh is weak and sins appeal is luring.

Which means when Christians gather, just think of how many sins attend.

Multitudes and multitudes.

When we congregate on Sunday, so do our sins. Big and small, hidden or obvious, smooth and colorful – our sin piles one on top of the other. Cumbersome and excessive.

But there’s an antidote to this ample weight…and that’s love.

Church is a place where imperfect people congregate – where we bump into each other with disagreements, step on toes with harsh words and harden our hearts to difficult people. We are sinner’s on individual journey’s in sanctification.

And that journey can get bumpy.

Yet the church is also a hospital where hurting people get to come be ministered to, edified and equipped for the race God asks us to run. Because we are a community making up the body of Christ on a shared voyage of faith.

Individual and yet communal is the church.

And we commune because of the cross.

When the sins of humanity gathered onto Jesus on the cross…it was sacrificial and powerful love that won the victory.

And this is exactly why Peter implores the church to love each other. Christ love is so compelling we can’t let the burdens of this world numb our love for our brothers and sisters. We must love and care and help lift the load. Sin will tempt us away from affection for the body of Christ but God is calling us to have a default of love.

Because an abundance of sin needs an abundance of love.

Earnest, practiced and intentional…

love.

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Let Me Direct You Elsewhere…

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It has been such a challenge trying to get to this blog for some reason. Life has allowed little time and inspiration in order for good writing. So I apologize for the crickets over here. I’m hoping for a change of pace soon and some much-needed stimulated motivation.

Marriage Is The Gold Standard Of Family Stability: No surprise here. But studies are once again confirming the obvious. “So much for the argument that it is education, not marriage, that matters for family stability.”

God Loves Us Enough To Disappoint Us:What if God, in my season of waiting, is trying to show me that I am not powerful enough to do this on my own? What if He is inviting me to a deeper trust in Him, a better understanding of patience, and a real commitment to a long obedience in the same direction?”

The Surprising Role Of Guardian Angels: I’m fascinated by all things angels and I don’t think its taught enough in the church. So I found this articles interesting and maybe you will too.

Battle Hymn Of The Republic – Page CXVI: As I ponder this Holy week I just keep singing this song in my head.

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Women And Jesus…

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Last fall I had the privilege of speaking to one of the Women’s Ministries at my church about Jesus. More specifically I spoke about women and Jesus – a broad yet wonderfully heartening topic.

I got to study and dissect a piece of Scripture I had read and heard a thousand times before and yet knew very little about. What a gift it is – opening the Word. Searching, digging, interpreting, understanding, stirring, lifting up. As a woman I got to encounter something significant in my Savior. I learned a little better His love for me – a woman, a sinner and constant wanderer.

I’d like to share this Jesus here once again. Take a moment and read Luke 7:36-50, and we’ll go through it together also.

Let me start with a little context. The book of Luke is written by Luke, no big surprise there. He was a physician and travel companion of the apostle Paul. So far in this book Luke has been telling the stories of how Jesus travelled around healing folks of every kind and at this point in the book the Pharisees are wary of Him and keeping a close eye on what they think is Jesus disobeying God’s law.

In our text we have a prominent Pharisee named Simon deciding to invite Jesus to eat with him and controversy ensues. It says,

One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and reclined at table. And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment.

Our English translation doesn’t convey the shock the pharisees had over this woman. When it says “and behold a woman” it is literally “Look a woman!” And the shock would have been primarily because of her reputation and the fact that she was approaching Jesus.

It’s important to note that this woman is different from the woman who cracked open a bottle of costly perfume to wash Jesus’ feet in Matthew 26. That was the Mary of Mary and Martha. She had some knowledge of Christ’s coming death and was anointing Him in preparation for burial. Although the stories are similar, this is a whole different story and Luke is the only one who records it. This story we are in now takes place about a year before Christ’s death.

This nameless woman with a sexual reputation took advantage of a cultural practice that allowed people in need to join meals like this. And she did so in order to see Jesus. She may have been a prostitute. She was likely abused. And she was definitely broken.

The story goes on to say,

Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.” And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.” “A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.” Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” Then those who were at table with him began to say among[h] themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

Jesus is invited to a Pharisee named Simon’s home, an honor for sure, yet Simon clearly isn’t convinced Jesus is who He says He is, because he doesn’t give Him the most basic common courtesy of greeting Him with a kiss, washing his feet and anointing his head with oil. This seems excessive in hospitality for us today, but this was absolutely basic hospitality at the time.

It’s clear that at this point the pharisees already have a bit of contempt for Jesus, although nothing really tangible yet to condemn Him for. At least not yet.

And then a dirty lady approaches.
And what she begins to do is everything Simon wouldn’t.

Unlike Simon, this perfectly shattered woman was overcome by the presence of Jesus. His reclining position allowed her to out-pour her adoration in the posture of her spirit – humility. She washes His feet with tears of regret and kisses them in adulation, she anoints His feet with her own personal oils.

Her heart laid bare. Unashamed.
All in view of scrutinizing eyes.

Simon see’s and reveals his heart as he thinks to himself, If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.

His hardened heart hiding inside behind judgement and condemnation.

The contrast is stark between the heart of a beaten down repentant woman and the heart of a stoney law-abiding man. It’s an engrossing image of reckless grace.

But it doesn’t end there. Jesus hears the thoughts of Simon and answers them. Revealing exactly who He indeed is. He hears all and knows all. So He responds to these thoughts with a parable about money lenders and debtors. And by having this exchange and telling this story, Jesus gives Simon the opportunity to understand what’s really happening.

See Jesus knew that Simon had up-held the laws of Moses for probably what felt like forever. Jesus knows that the pharisees are rule following men, who deeply value personal purity. At least so they thought. And so their sins are seemingly few. But the hearts of these men have long become callous.

And Simon perceives what’s being taught in Jesus‘s parable, yet shows his reluctance to accept it by answering Jesus’s question with…”The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.”

He knows what the lesson means for him. And perhaps more alarmingly what it means for the woman. A woman who clearly does not value purity like he does. Plus – and this is the real kicker – she’s a woman. Which in the time would have put her at the bottom of the barrel in terms of value. The deck was stacked against her in terms of cultural worthlessness.

But Jesus see’s a contrite heart.

He doesn’t duck past her sin. He calls it out. Confirming its seriousness and need for forgiveness. He’s the one that said her sins are many. He just also see’s her faith. And she knows the debt of sin is high and the forgiver of that debt is reclining right in front of her.

You see, this story says so many things. But one thing that is essential to note, is how we see Jesus treat women in Scripture. His interactions with them are usually the same. He’s gentle, tender, straight-forward about the sin in their lives and he calls them to repentance and faith. This goes for the woman at the well, the unclean woman who touches the hem of His garment, Mary and Martha at Martha’s house, the widow who lost her son, the woman crippled by a demon in the synagogue. Just to name a few.

And it was women who He first revealed Himself to after he was resurrected back to life!

You see Jesus places value on almost every woman He meets in the gospels. In a time where women were under-valued and mistreated, Jesus see’s them differently. He shows us that men and women are valued equally and most importantly salvation is for all.

It was good news then, and its good news now.

We end this story with Jesus shocking the pants off the pharisees by saying He can forgive sins. It’s an audaciously blasphemous thing to say. Unless, of course, its true. Which, of course, it is.

We see Christ’s oneness with God here, and it’s the best news of this text and of the Bible in general.

It changes everything.

When I first came to the faith, I felt like this woman. I wasn’t pure. My sins were many. And boy oh boy was I burdened from the guilt and shame of it all. At times I felt worthless. But it was my knowledge of my own depravity that made the taste of resurrection forgiveness all the sweeter.

And now that I’ve been a Christian awhile I feel the pain of the pharisee. I relate to the struggle of relying so hard on my good works to keep my standing with God. But it doesn’t. We don’t earn Gods ear. We are saved by faith alone. That’s why Jesus said to this woman “Your faith has saved you”, not “your actions have saved you.” And there is nothing I can do that will make Him love me more. He already loves me enough.
He loves you enough too.

With all this in mind, I believe this story admonishes us to do three things.

1. We should be prepared to meet with Jesus. When we come to church on Sunday, or open the Bible for personal study, or come to Him in prayer – we must do so expectantly. This woman showed up to Simons house prepared with her oil, ready to do one thing – worship Jesus. She wasn’t looking for anything in return. She just wanted Jesus. How often do we have the same desire and out-look on our times with Christ? What I’m not saying is we should seek a warm and fuzzy feeling or seek an experience. If you have one…great, but don’t spend your life trying to find some spiritual high. What I am saying however is regardless of what your feeling that day, prepare your heart to be with Jesus. Sit at His feet in the Word and worship Him. Be a woman who feasts on Scripture. We have been given free rein to study Scripture. It’s not just for men. So indulge in it!

2. We should remember our sin and where we came from. We loose our thankfulness and desire to worship Christ when we forget our own depravity and that we don’t deserve what Jesus did for us. That was Simons issue. He didn’t know his heart was stoney. He thought as long as he was good enough in his actions, that’s all that mattered. But he neglected the work of the heart. On-going repentance and remembering our sin brings us into thankfulness and heart-felt worship of Christ. We begin to love much, because we remember how much He forgave. Which brings us to number 3.

3. Our response to this grace should be love. Always. Love for each other inside the church as well as those who are outside the church and in need of knowing Christ. We cannot be a people who believe anyone is outside the grace Jesus offers. Which means we must love all people, even the extra bad looking ones we deem more dirty than the rest of us. They aren’t.

It’s a magnificent thing to behold Christ’s redeeming love and head-long forgiveness.

Remember its goodness. And revel in it today.

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