Thursday, June 25, 2015

Make the Play: It's time to stop sitting on the sidelines

Softball season is in full swing. Yes, that pun was intentional. With four daughters who love to play, I’ve sat through a combined total of 26 seasons of softball games. I’ll probably sit through 37 more seasons unless one of them plays in college. In that case, I’ll have even more.

I didn’t know much about softball when my oldest started playing ten years ago. I played one season of t-ball when I was little and that was the extent of my career. My skills weren’t impressive and didn’t show signs of improvement. My knowledge was minimal as well. Seven innings, three bases, single, double, triple, and hit the ball with the bat when the pitcher throws it.

I know a lot more now. I know the batter shouldn’t drop their shoulder when they swing. If they do, they’ll have a pop fly that’s easy for the other team to catch. I know the pitcher should release the ball at their hip and follow through with their lower arm up to their chest. Release too early, the ball will be too low. Release too late, the ball will soar over the catcher’s head. Don’t follow through with the arm, the ball will fly to the right. Unless the pitcher is left handed in which case it will fly to the left. I know the outfield players are important for backing up throws from the catcher to 2nd or 3rd base when an opponent is trying to steal a base. Here’s an important one – the catcher, not the pitcher, has the most control over the game. If they’re good, they have a picture of the whole field in their mind during every pitch and they know exactly how they’ll respond to each scenario without a moment’s hesitation. They often set the attitude and pace of the game by their actions.

I could go on but my point isn’t to write a softball technique manual. It’s this…

My skills are still lousy on the softball field. I know the batting position but I can’t hit a line drive. A pop fly hit in my direction would probably land on the ground beside me. I’d break my ankle if I tried to slide into home.

I’ve sat in my portable, folding arm chair and watched from the sidelines for all those seasons. I’m usually the one with the score book on my lap.

I’ve sat… learning and learning… but never doing a thing with it. My head is jammed full of softball knowledge but I've never put it into use to make a play of my own.

Churches are full of people doing the same thing. They’ve sat and watched the sermon and worship team for years. They’re loyal, dedicated fans of the church game who give a loud cheer when a great play happens such as a new adult small group, youth mission trip, or adventurous VBS week. They’ve never tried to be part of a great play out on the field, though.

Their experience is a lot of understanding about what it means to be a follower of Christ but no actual game time. They’ve never developed or tested their gaming skills.

On the softball field, those skills are batting, running, catching, and throwing. It involves a comprehension of the whole game and how it all comes together in one play. Following Christ is really no different. The Christian’s gaming skills are prayer, Bible study, discipleship, and living as a witness. They also need a good understanding of the whole game and how it all came together in one play on the cross.

I’ve heard a lot of teaching on prayer but it didn’t become an intimate, active conversation with a loving Savior until I started doing it. I learned how to make the play on the field of prayer when I set aside time every day to talk to Him. That’s when things became real as the power we wield through prayer humbled me.

I sat through a lot of sermons on Bible passages but never remembered much later. I remembered the plays of the game, though, when I started opening the Bible and studying for myself. The Spirit prompted my memory with a verse appropriate to a difficult situation. The hard parts of His Word started to make sense rather than appear as a contradiction as the whole picture began coming together in my mind. I realized I could help another player on the team as they struggled in a certain area just as others have been there to help me.

I’ve read a lot of lists of do’s and don’ts for a good Christian lifestyle; lists created by men to control others. Prayer and Bible study naturally create a lifestyle of good plays without a list of rules. Loving your neighbor comes a lot more easily. Trusting in God’s provision starts to make a lot more sense. We understand the importance of a faithful marriage between one man and one woman as we learn how it all aligns with God’s design. Until we’re on the field and making the plays, however, the list of rules won’t make sense.

I’m not the MVP of this game; many better players are out on the field with me. Paul was a pretty good player and yet he wrote, “For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by God’s grace I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not ineffective” (1 Corinthians 15:9-10). The goal isn’t to be the star player on the team. The goal is to be a part of the team, to learn to make the plays, and bring honor and glory to the Coach.

Because then, when the game is over, we’ll be part of the huddle out on the field where He’ll tell us good job, we’ll put our hands together in the middle of the circle, and we’ll all yell His name as we rejoice in victory. We won’t still be sitting on the sidelines.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

I'm Too Busy: How will God view our excuses when eternity comes?

The church is full of hypocrites.

A God of love would never send people to hell.

Everyone has their own truth and their own path to God.

My teacher told me God doesn’t exist.

I went to church when I was little so it’s all good. Or, I’m a member of the local church so it’s all good. I’m covered.

I’ve done too many bad things. God doesn’t want me.

I’m a good person. God will let me in.

I can take care of that some other time. I’m too busy right now.

I don’t feel like it.

All that Bible stuff is too hard. I’ll just wing it.

I went to church but someone there made me mad. I won’t go back.

I’d go to church but someone already there hurt me. I’ll never go somewhere where he/she is at.

They are just after my money. They don’t care about me.

We’ve all heard these excuses for why people reject Christianity. We’ve probably even said or thought some of them ourselves.

I’m not even going to offer a rebuttal to them. Instead, I’m going to skip the debate and go straight to the point. I’m going to focus on the heart of the issue. These are all excuses we use so we don’t have to face the truth. However, when the moment of truth comes, our excuses won’t matter one single bit.

I’m not going to sugar coat this or try to make it politically correct. I’m going to put it out there and leave the rest up to you.

You will stand before God at some point. He’s not going to consider your excuses and make allowances for them. God won’t say, “Yes, I know. The church was full of hypocrites so I understand why you didn’t go. Please, enter into eternity with Me.”

You’ll never hear, “Your teacher told you I don’t exist so it’s not really your fault that you rejected Me. We’ll blame your teacher instead. Heaven awaits you.”

God isn’t going to look at the calendar on your smartphone and reply, “Wow, you’re right. You were really busy with your career and your children’s activities and civic responsibilities and taking care of your home and still trying to fit in some fun stuff. I can see why you never took time to learn about Me. Sure, we can make an exception. I have a spot prepared for you in heaven with Me.”

Do you see where I’m going with this?

We throw out excuses for our rejection of God’s truth as if they’ll make a difference in our eternal outcome. We actually think God will consider those excuses as valid “Get out of jail free” cards in a cosmic, eternal Monopoly game.

I mean, after all, God is love and His is a message of grace, right?

This is God’s Love

“God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent His One and Only Son into the world so that we might live through Him. Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:9-10).

God is a God of love. As Creator of the universe, He has the privilege of defining love. He defined it as a sacrifice made by one person for the benefit of another person. He played it out by sacrificing Himself to pay the penalty for our sin so we might receive the benefit of forgiveness and eternity in heaven.

This is God’s Grace

“Since by one man’s trespass [Adam], death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive the overflow of grace and the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ. … But where sin multiplied, grace multiplied even more so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace will reign through righteousness, resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 5:17, 20-21).

God is a God of grace. Grace doesn’t make excuses and exceptions to get around the truth. That’s called lying and deception and they’re trademark signs of Satan, not God. God’s grace recognizes our sin for what it is without excuse. Instead, He forgives it completely and totally because of the blood sacrificed by Jesus.

A difference exists between excusing an offense and forgiving one. To excuse an offense means to pretend as if it wasn’t actually offensive or didn’t hurt you. To excuse an offense gives power to the offender. To forgive an offense means to recognize that the person’s action was wrong, it did hurt you, but you choose not to hold it against them. To forgive an offense gives the power to the one offended. The latter is God’s grace.

No one will hold your hand

When that moment comes and you stand before God, I won’t be there to hold your hand and offer false promises of security. Your excuses won’t be there still promising false justification. That moment will be between you and God alone; all that will matter is what you did with the message of love and grace offered by Jesus. Did you accept it or did you excuse it away?

Please click here to read a full explanation of what it means to accept Jesus’ gift of love, grace, and salvation. It’s eternally significant.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Take that Step: Healthier, stronger, and moving forward

Jimmy recently downloaded a fitness app on his phone. Among its many “smart” capabilities, it tracks the number of steps he takes each day. I guess we can add pedometer to the list of many gadgets now replaced by smartphones. The health and fitness app guided him through setting up a series of health goals, including how far he’d like to walk each day. He set the goal at 10,000 steps/day.

Health and fitness aren’t going to just happen in our lives. We won’t wake up some morning and find we’ve arrived at a certain weight, cholesterol level, or body mass index unless we take regular, active steps to make them reality.

We all know walking is a good, safe option to help us achieve our desired health and fitness goals. As we walk, we become stronger, healthier, and reach our destination.

I started thinking about these three outcomes that walking has on our lives after I posted last week’s article, Don’t Stand Still. The American church is familiar with a phenomenon we call pew sitters. They are people who come to church, sit in the pew for the sermon, and leave again with no real impact on their lives. Well, last week I classified another group of us – the standers. We’re involved in a few activities, have some Christian influence outside the church building, and try to live a fairly good life.

Maybe you read that article. Maybe you thought, “Isn’t that what we call the Christian walk? Isn’t that what we’re supposed to do?” Maybe you’re right.

But I think there’s more.

Think about that app Jimmy downloaded on his phone. After several weeks of use, yesterday he finally reached his goal of 10,000 steps in one day. It didn’t happen because he sat at his desk all day nor did it happen because he stood around talking. He reached that goal because he was up, moving, getting things done, and being active.

When we walk, we become healthier, stronger, and we move forward. That’s why I see a difference between those who are spiritually standing still and those who are spiritually walking. I see lots of us doing a lot of Christian things each day but we’re not becoming healthier, stronger, or moving forward.


We all deal with stuff; you know, the baggage we carry around due to bad experiences in our past. We have those experiences because we live in a messed up world that does everything it can to fight God’s design.

God’s Word doesn’t lay out a twelve-step program for overcoming drug addiction. It doesn’t give us three steps to recovering from divorce. You can’t turn to a certain page and find out exactly how to deal with various forms of child abuse, depression, or negative self-image.

But, if we’re walking with God – rather than sitting or standing still – then we’re going to become mentally and spiritually healthier as we learn to let go of the baggage that weighs us down. We’re going to be in an active, growing relationship with the one who can bring health through prayer and an understanding of various Scriptures. We’re going to see truth in His Word come to life in a way we never would have believed possible.


We’re all unsure; we all have doubts. We all look at the path that lies before us and feel inadequate to the job. Our weakness overwhelms us.

The Bible doesn’t give us a mathematical formula to incorporate faith into our life. It doesn’t promise trust will come to those who say a certain prayer. The Bible doesn’t give power to those who at most skim through its topics.

But, if we’re walking with God – rather than sitting or standing still – then we’re going to become mentally and spiritually stronger. We’ll see God work in our circumstances even in the midst of our hard times; our faith will grow as we realize His strength will be sufficient for us in future trials. We will face impossible situations with the recognition that our only option is to trust Him. It will make us almost sick to our stomachs as we empty the situation of our own ability and trust completely in Him. And yet, we’ll look back and know that is when the trust in our relationship grew stronger. We will face insurmountable odds; rather than become weak and overwhelmed, we will remember a Bible verse we studied and claim its power and authority for that moment. We will see the power of God work mightily in our lives to conquer and destroy that which would hold us back from all God desires.

Move Forward

We all want to stay where we are because everything is safe, secure, and familiar. We know what to expect and how everything works in our current location. It’s easy to stand still because it doesn’t require us to stretch ourselves or step out into the unknown.

But, if we’re walking with God – rather than sitting or standing still – then we’re going to move forward. We’re going to look back 5 or 10 years and realize we’re closer to God now than we were then. Our spiritual illnesses and weaknesses will be fewer and farther behind us than they once were. We’re going to look forward with excitement, trust, and faith at where God might lead us. We’ll look forward and see that God didn’t seem as far away as He once did.

Take that Step

God gave us everything we need to start a revolution of love… an overflow of hope… an explosion of faith. But we’re not going to see any of it until we change some things in our own lives. God gave us a message of faith, hope, and love with which to transform the world, starting with ourselves. We won’t have the privilege of seeing that message go anywhere until we stop standing still and start walking – to become healthier, stronger, and closer to Him who gave His life to deliver us.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Don't Stand Still: Make the journey and face the enemies

God didn’t deliver us so we could stand still.

That was my take away from a verse I meditated on this week as I posted it on Grow Barefoot social media (Facebook, Twitter, Google+). The verse was Psalm 56:13.

A lot of us are content standing still. Hey, at least we aren’t just sitting in a pew – we’re standing! We serve a little in our churches, we pray occasionally, maybe open a Bible sometimes on a day other than Sunday, and pretty much try to live a good life. Sometimes we go a little crazy and put a Christian calendar on our desk at work or a Christian bumper sticker on the back of our car. They fit in real nice between the chrome fish and the stick figures of our family members.

It’s all good. We did those things five years ago, and if God doesn’t return, we’ll be doing them five years from now. And ten years. And twenty years. We’ll keep doing them and never stop doing them because we’re standing still.

So, in the midst of all our standing around, in comes a verse like Psalm 56:13, “For You delivered me from death, even my feet from stumbling, to walk before God in the light of life.” It invades our comfy little standing-around gathering and reminds us all what God did for us. It even has the nerve to go a step further and point out an appropriate response on our part.

Considering Psalm 56

Psalm 56:13 is the conclusion of a brief Psalm written by David when he was in dire circumstances. We have to consider the whole thing to fully understand David’s conclusive call to action.

Introduce the Problem
David is in the midst of his enemies; the Philistines have taken him captive. He knows his life is in danger. Fear overwhelms him despite God’s promise of a future kingship in Israel. The Philistines gasp and pant for the opportunity to crush him. They can almost taste his destruction as they know his defeat will bring them victory against the Israelite army. In their arrogance, they actually think they can stop God’s plan (Psalm 56:1-2).

The Response to Fear
David’s afraid – very afraid. He didn’t allow fear to paralyze him, however. He didn’t let it control his thoughts, actions, or emotions. As waves of fear came over him, he purposely chose to place his trust in God. That’s not a normal human response; David must have had enough life experience by this point to discipline his response to fear. He knew to trust, not panic or doubt God’s promise. After all, he had the very Word of God – a promise given through the prophet Samuel – that God had a future for David. In response, he could quiet his fears, assess the situation, and proclaim to his captors, “What can man do to me?” (Psalm 56:3-4).

The Six Attacks of the Enemy
The Philistines didn’t come at David in only one way. They attacked him relentlessly from six different angles. They tortured him with words as they twisted and distorted the truth to which he clung. They schemed and connived every sort of evil against him. His enemies gathered together under a common cause of stirring up strife in David’s life. They hid themselves away in the deceptive shadows. They watched him from those shadows. As they schemed together, hidden and watching, they panted for a chance to crush and destroy him (Psalm 56:5-6).

God’s Response to David and his Enemies
The stage has been set, David’s attention has been focused in the right direction, and the enemies are scheming their evil plan. With that, we reach the climax of the Psalm. “Will they escape in spite of such sin?” David’s trust in the surety of the Word of God empowers him to prophesy his enemies’ demise – God will bring them down. Their outcome is certain.

David’s outcome is different, though. The same Word that promises the destruction of the enemies of God’s chosen people promises a future for those He has chosen. For them, God has a record of our walk… our journey… our wanderings. He has our tears preserved in a bottle. Our whole walk, including every tear, every moment of fear, every rejection, and every attack by the enemy, is recorded before God’s throne (Psalm 56:7-8).

The Outcome
David’s enemies imprisoned him; his situation looked bleak. Yet, he knew God’s Word and therefore he knew the outcome that awaited. He didn’t cower in fear. He didn’t stand still. He rose up against his enemies. He called out to them knowing they would retreat because he also knew that God was for him. He didn’t need to know the details. He only said, “This I know: God is for me” and that was enough.

Not just any God either. When David entered his dire situation and fear threatened to envelop him, he relied on the Word of God. He trusted the Word and even reached a point of praise in his prison. By the end, though, he had grown. He found victory from the threats and evil intents of the Philistines. He experienced the comfort and compassion of a God who keeps each of our tears in a bottle. He put God to the test and found Him faithful. The experience of his journey led him to add a new line to his song of praise. He not only sang “In Elohiym, whose word I praise” but now the victory of his test leads him to sing, “In YHWH, whose word I praise.” Yahweh, Jehovah, the one and only true God was the source of David’s victory and assurance for the future. With even more confidence and power, I believe he loudly dared any who might rise against him, “What can man do to me?” (Psalm 9-11).

Our Response
Here we are – almost to the verse that began this whole grand saga. God provides epic defeat of the enemy. He not only freed David from captors who lusted for his death; He delivers us from an even worse torment imprisoned in Satan’s lair. He offers us a walk of victory where our feet won’t even stumble. All that He asks is that we take that walk – make that journey. Rise up against those enemies and boldly declare, “God is for me… What can man do to me?”

We’ll never make that walk if we keep standing still.

What might happen if we start walking? We'll become healthier, stronger, and we'll start moving forward. Click here to read more.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Loving the Unloved: Life's lessons outside the classroom

One of my teenage daughters had a story she wanted to tell… so I’m giving her a platform to do it. I hope you enjoy but even more I hope we can learn as adults what she’s learning as a teen.

A few months ago I went on a service day trip to a local Christian school for underprivileged kids with my small group from school. Being a first year school, they had one kindergarten class of 14 and they plan to grow one class per year. This trip opened my eyes to the poverty in our own community, not just third-world countries.

When we arrived, they put us straight to work cleaning three of the classrooms. They didn’t have time to clean them since they only have 5 or 6 regular staff members, so we jumped at the opportunity to help in this area. Once we finished cleaning the rooms, it was close to lunch time so three other girls and I went to prepare lunch for the kids. However, we didn’t know we would be able to actually eat with the kids!

After lunch was ready we went into the cafeteria to wait for the kids. I sat at a table with some friends and we talked about our experience until the kids came. After a few minutes, the kids came running in with huge grins on their faces. You wouldn’t even know these kids lived rough lives at home by their expressions when they saw us. The three kids with us at our table were Kistin, Markiel, and Brendan. Kistin and I sat together and talked the most. She was the kindest, sassiest, funniest little girl. About half way into lunch she turned to me, took out one of her hair clips - a navy bow - and said with a smile, “You are awesome, take this and keep it!” I later heard her telling one of my friends about how that was a good bow, not a cheap one. Even a girl who had so little was so generous with what she did have. I still have that hair clip and always will.

After lunch we went outside for recess. This was my favorite part of the day. The kids had little bikes they would ride down the hill. Daniya asked if she could ride down the hill with me. So – keep in mind that I’m about 5’9” – I sat down on the tiny bike that didn’t even come up to my knee. Daniya climbed on my back and we rolled down the hill together at least 5 times. But it was totally worth the awkward discomfort of a tall girl on a short bike to see the smile on that girl’s face and hear her beautiful laugh. To most people, this may seem like a common thing. I mean, she’s a little girl; of course she’s going to smile and laugh all the time, right? That’s what I thought too until I saw her crying inside one of the tunnels on the playground. I figured she had fallen or something. I went in to try to calm her down and I asked what was wrong. She said, “I’m just having so much fun here with you and all your friends and I don’t want it to end because I know what’s going to happen when I go home.” I was brought to tears. Right then and there I knew why we were sent there – to love the unloved. I had noticed before how skinny and possibly malnourished she was, but I didn’t think too much of it until she said those words. “What’s going to happen?” I wondered. I could only fear the worst. I wanted to scoop up her little body right then and there and take her home with me. The people who seem happy all the time still have struggles and pain in their lives. The people who smile the brightest are usually the saddest; that’s why it is such a beautiful thing to see them laugh.

The kids showed us how to whip and “nae-nae,” play basketball, and ride a bike. They also made us “salads,” and some even gave us parting gifts. They impacted our lives so much and they don’t even know it. I can only hope we impacted them as well and they remember the 12 girls that love them and will always have them in their hearts and prayers. Even more, I hope they remember that God loves them with a never ending love.

Just imagine how all of those kids are treated at home: neglected, abused, starving. They are beautiful children who don’t deserve any of this. If it wasn’t for the wonderful ladies and volunteers that teach, cook, and clean to make the school possible, they would be in that environment all day, every day. Instead, they are taught the alphabet, counting, and shapes at school. Some kids came to the school not even knowing how to spell “cat” and now they can read and write sentences as kindergarteners!

It’s been awhile, but I contacted all the girls that went on the trip and asked them what they remember most about the kids…

“They were so lovin’ and sweet and I remember one saying, ‘Come at me, I’ll beat you at basketball!’ and another one saying, ‘I love God and the world.’”

“I thought it was cool how the school leaders said the kids have such hard lives but you wouldn’t know it by how they act and by their innocence. Their sweetness was so genuine.”

“The thing that stuck out the most to me was Daniya talking about her abusive life and everything going on in her life.”

“I mostly remember the fun times we had just playing with the kids and letting them forget everything that has happened in their lives for a little while. I remember them saying they didn’t want to go home and even one child whose parents sold all her stuff so they could pay their bills.”

“I remember playing with them at recess and eating lunch with them. That was a party! Then I remember my girl Armya saying they took her daddy and her other daddy and then they took her stuff like her fishing pole. That’s what I remember and seeing the beautiful innocent little face she had. It’s making me almost cry thinking about her; I don’t know what’s going on in her life but I’m praying for her.”

Sometimes we have to get out of the classroom to learn the most important lessons. My day with these kids helped me realize that poverty isn’t only a third-world problem. It’s right here with us. We think we have so little when we actually have so much. If an underprivileged kindergartener can be generous with a hair bow, how much more can I give to others? If they can be happy in such a hard place in life, then I can be happy in the circumstances my life has given me. Finally, it’s easy to love those around us in our normal life. Most people are scared or don’t think they can love people who are different or in not-so-easy lifestyles. It turns out it’s easy to love those in different places and conditions. All you have to do is love like God loves – by loving the unloved.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Common Thread: Finding Jesus on every page

I spent last week studying for this week’s section of our current, ongoing study through the book of Hebrews. We’ve been studying Melchizedek, and quite honestly, his place in Scripture is about as difficult as his name.

I worked through a hard passage and ended at the same conclusion where I always end up. It’s happened so often that, if I don’t end there, then I go back and check my progression through the passage because I probably missed something.

Here it is – the conclusion I reach on virtually every Bible lesson I teach – God loves you and wants a relationship with you through His Son, Jesus.

That’s the whole message of God’s Word – from Genesis 1:1 through Revelation 22:21 – from the days of Adam about 6,000 years ago until the days of Messiah’s reign sometime in the future. The whole thing is the story of how He expressed that love and made that relationship possible. I reached that end this time and thought, “That’s the same conclusion I reach every time. Why keep studying? I know the point of the book… God loves me and wants a relationship with me through Jesus.” We can learn this truth reading John 3:16; why spend hours studying?

Let’s use a thread to represent this statement. We’ll call it our John 3:16 thread because you can simply read John 3:16 and know everything you ever need to know, “For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” It’s simple and direct; with a few abbreviations we can even make it fit within the 140 character limit of Twitter.

Yes, this one statement has enough power to change the world. But it’s only a thread; it’s only a single strand of power and truth.

When I questioned why Jesus might possibly be troubled, I found it was because He loves us and wants a relationship with us.

When I wondered why Jesus had to go against all conventional wisdom, I learned it was because He loves us and wants a relationship with us.

When I struggled to understand Jesus’ parables, I found buried within them that God loves us and wants a relationship with us.

When I wondered what it meant to soar on wings like eagles, I realized we only can do so because God loves us and wants a relationship with us.

When I freaked out because a great cloud of witnesses surrounds me, I learned they are there because God loves us and wants a relationship with us.

When I was curious why the Bible sometimes calls Jesus the Rock, I discovered it’s because God loves us and wants a relationship with us.

When I wanted to know more about the name Immanuel, I learned it’s His name because He loves us and wants a relationship with us.

When I wondered why Isaiah prophesied that the Messiah had to suffer, I realized it’s because He loves us and wants a relationship with us.

Those are only the topics I’ve blogged about. More are in my books and many more sit on my shelves from old studies I’ve written and taught. Maybe someday I’ll get more of them posted here. Things like finding this message hidden in the garments of the priest in the Old Testament.

Or finding it in the complex person of the priest Melchizedek, which is where I found myself last week.

These topics all contain the common message of our John 3:16 thread. Each one is a powerful message of grace, love, and relationship restored. God wove each of these threads and countless more into an intricate and deep blanket that spans thousands of years and reaches every person of all time. We call that blanket the Bible.

The John 3:16 thread is enough but the whole design is so much more.

The world is a hard, cold place. When I need warmth and comfort, I’d rather wrap up in the whole blanket than try to curl up in a single thread.

The pits of inadequacy, despair, and depression can be deep, dark, foreboding places. I need the whole blanket to pull me up out of the pit. I may lose my grasp if I hold onto only a single thread.

The enemy’s attacks come at me from every direction. A single thread may not block every fiery dart but if the whole blanket covers me completely then the power of the Word can stop every attack.

Weaving it in to your life

The John 3:16 thread is all you need in your life. It’s simple and reveals God’s plan for our relationship. So much more awaits though when you start searching through the rest of Scripture’s pages to find that thread woven throughout the whole story, from beginning to end. I encourage you to open His Word, start studying it, and weaving His threads together into your own life so you’ll have the whole blanket when you need warmth and comfort, a pull out of despair, or defense from the enemy.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Priorities: My Children aren't that Important

You probably think my title is an attention grabber to pique your curiosity. Sorry, that’s not the case. My kids really aren’t that important.

Let me explain before you skip the rest of the article to leave me a nasty comment. But before I explain, I want to share some of this year’s Mother’s Day moments.

Fourth Child

My youngest is a pure expression of creativity. Her unique views of the world never cease to amaze. Many people create acrostic poems for Mother’s Day – even the well-known Proverbs 31 passage is an acrostic! Leave it to my youngest, however, to make an acrostic based on the second letter of each word. Maybe I’m wrong, but I think that’s kind of impressive for her age.

Third Child

My younger middle child thrives on the beauty of musical order. She mixes structure with creativity and rhythm with emotion to bring music to life. She’s had a song in her heart since the day she was born. No wonder that she shared her feelings in poetry.

Second Child

My older middle child gets it – whatever “it” is. Her quick mind, sharp wit, and logical comprehension not only make her hysterically entertaining but also provide a deep understanding of situations. She was the first to find me Mother’s Day morning to share her love. Also no surprise that she was the one that turned to social media to further share her feelings. Yeah, I know, I need to work on my "duck face."

First Child

My firstborn and I have something I’ll never have with my other daughters. For her first years, it was her and I each day. She’s always been a daddy’s girl but we made many memories those first years before my second daughter joined us. Her independence level will soon take a final giant leap as she branches out into God’s plan for her life. However, we still remember those first days together; they influenced her gift this year.

My Korean Daughter

She’s been with us for two years and, God willing, she’ll be with us two more. She’s part of our family, though. She’s the one to take care of what needs done – how else could her grades average 100% for all classes while learning in a second language? No surprise, then, that she found time and opportunity to buy a card. She’s also as sweet as she is smart as you’d see if you read her message inside the card which began, “Dear My American Mom.”

How can I say they aren’t that important?

They’re amazing – beautiful, creative, intelligent, compassionate, expressive, and all the things we hope for in children. I love each of them to the moon and back.

But they aren’t the most important.

God is. I love Him more.

I’ve been seeing these cute little graphics on social media recently. They say things like,
  • “Your children are the greatest gift God will give to you.”
  • “Children aren’t a distraction from the most important thing. They are the most important thing.”
  • “The most magical day of my life was the day I became a mom.”
They all seem pleasant and sweet on the surface but lies, failures, and disappointments hide in the details of each one.

Greatest Gift
My daughters are each a great gift, but they aren’t the greatest. My husband is a great gift, too. He ranks right up there with my girls. I won’t insult him by saying they are a better gift than he is. Even he’s not the greatest, though. Only one of God’s gifts is the greatest – that of His Son. That’s the only gift in my life that covers all my inadequacies, forgives all my mistakes, and keeps giving grace and love no matter what situations come.

Most Important
They are each so important. God created them unique to fulfill a role in His kingdom. I know He has an incredible plan for each of them – just like being their mom is part of His incredible plan for me. However, being Jimmy’s wife is also part of His plan for me and it’s every bit as important as them. Only God’s plan is the most important; I’m blessed that He chose to include them as part of that plan. His is the only plan that can meet the needs of a hurting world, bring salvation to the nations, and give us significance and importance through serving rather than exaltation.

Most Magical… or Amazing
God doesn’t work with magic, so let’s use the word “amazing” instead of “magical.” I think it still fits with the original intent. I clearly remember the moment each child lay in my arms for the first time. All four were absolutely amazing. They were incredible. But they weren’t the most amazing moments of my life. I remember standing at the front of a church, facing Jimmy as we promised our lives to each other. That was pretty amazing. I remember the moment each daughter accepted Jesus as her Savior. Those moments of spiritual birth were even more amazing than the ones of physical birth. My own personal moment of spiritual birth was amazing as well.

In fact, every time I consider God’s offer of grace and expression of sacrificial love through His Son, I experience the most amazing moment. I’m amazed that the Creator of the universe could love us so passionately that He couldn’t allow sin to separate us from Him. I’m amazed that God the Son lived in holy, perfect beauty with the Father and Spirit and yet chose to leave heaven to come to this dirt-clod we call earth. I’m amazed by His power that willingly laid down His own life and defeated death by resurrecting back to life. I’m amazed by His power to someday return to the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem with footsteps that will split the mountain in half. Jesus is the most amazing moment.

Finding Balance

I love my girls… they are a great gift, they’re important, and they’re amazing. However, only God is the greatest, most important, most amazing part of my life.

I base my identity on my position as a child of God, not on my position as someone’s mother. My success in life is loving and serving Him, not my ability to bear or raise children.

As women, we have seven different roles. We stay busy as wives, mothers, businesswomen, friends, servants, and homemakers. They’re all important but none of them is most important. Can we say an unmarried woman is less because being a wife isn’t part of her roles? Are women without children less because they’ve never birthed or raised a child? Are women who don’t engage in the workplace less because they don’t earn a paycheck? Are women with a messy home less because they don’t live in spotless perfection? Of course not!

Only the seventh role is the most important – our role as the beloved daughter of God Most High. It’s the umbrella that covers, protects, and sustains the other six. Then we can say, “Many women are capable, but you surpass them all! Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord will be praised” (Proverbs 31:29-30).

For more on finding balance and women's roles, please check out Seven Roles, One Woman: You Expect Me to do All That?