The Upside of Conflict:7 Ways to Look at Your Next Disagreement

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So, here’s the thing with conflict, I hate it.  It makes me uncomfortable mainly because I am awkward with it. I want to talk my feelings out and I know most people are not good with that mainly my husband.  I usually have no filter when talking my feelings out because I feel that communication is good therapy, again not everyone agrees.

I mostly hate conflict because I see it as a negative, I usually want to run and hide from it. I don’t like to face it head on because I know I can be a bulldozer when I really want to be a sweet, gentle little lamb.

Let’s define conflict, it’s a noun and it’s also a verb.  As a noun it is a sharp disagreement but as a verb its to be{come} incompatible (according to dictionary.com) It can easily stay a noun but depending on your personality (not mentioning any names) it can quickly climb to verb status.  I am gonna be more real here than when I mentioned my shoe addiction, obsession, habit {denial:} It’s gonna hurt my pride but it has to be done.

As I moved from South to North East I realized the stark difference in “Christianity”.  I am having to come to terms with what God’s people really look like.  Why! I thought they all looked just like me! HAHA not really.  Does this sound familiar?  I’ll admit quickly that mercy is not high on my spiritual gifts and yet it isn’t an option.  I’ve been stuck in a theological bubble for a really long time, not a bad thing when you’re growing and learning God’s word but at some point you’re going to meet other Christians who don’t really believe like you do theologically or practice their faith like you do and yet God still loves them.

When I took my Meyers Briggs personality test there was a big fat J at the end of my letters. (Gotta take the test to know) If you don’t know what the big fat J is it’s for judger. Well, it’s true. I am.  I hate to admit that but I know I am not alone.  This isn’t just a confession it’s also a challenge for you reading this where ever you’re from (North, South, West, where ever!); we all got some judgement genes.  No one’s immune, not if your democrat, republican, poor, rich, a minority or not, judgement comes in all shapes, sizes, political platforms and the best bible study groups.

And so moving here has not just been a mission trip of sorts but a seminary class on the subject of love and acceptance.

At the root of conflict is difference, not bad but when not kept in check it can escalate to  judgement and pride. I’ll show you what I mean. Let’s take one of the most godly people in the bible, Paul and his best bud Barnabas and let’s dissect the disagreement they had that was apparently note worthy for Luke to mention (the writer of Acts) or else we wouldn’t be reading it today;)

Read: Acts. 15:36:41

Paul and Barnabas agreed on the most important part, their mission together: to visit other Christians in the towns they had preached to and encourage them.  But when it came to the details Luke notes that they disagreed sharply. In Hebrew the word is ‘irritation’.  Conflict arose because they had a difference of  opinion that resulted in irritation.

Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. Acts 15:37-38

At this point in the passage there is a crossroad.  Paul could’ve A.) agree with Barnabas (that’s called a stuffer, stuff your feelings and go with the flow…totally not encouraged;) B.) disagree but submit his will to Barnabas and take Mark anyway (or vice versa) but I mention Paul because he is the beloved Apostle and our fearless leader. C.) Disagree, sharply (apparently), tell him your point of view, be logical in the situation and break away from the situation.

Paul was obviously the logical one in the relationship (not bad, just different), Barnabas was the one who could overlook flaws. Maybe he was an enabler (I don’t know!!!) but he was willing to overlook what happened in Pamphylia and welcome him back into the circle of friends.

The point is this, yes there was conflict and scripture doesn’t reprimand either man for the conflict that took place.  The point of the conflict is for us to see God’s greater plan at work even in this.  When we study scripture we can find countless passages on dealing with difficult people.

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Romans 12:18

Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you Eph. 4:32

Maybe Paul felt it wise not to proceed with Mark because he’d hold them back from the real mission God called them too.  Maybe, that was his way of keeping peace by going his own way.  I don’t know!!! But friends separated, opinions were voiced, different paths were taken.

But because God’s purpose in our life and mercy is so much greater than our messes and stupidity and foot-shaped mouths there can always be a turn around like in the case of Paul, Barnabas and yes, even Mark.  Happy Endings are God’s idea.

We see this turn around in 2 Timothy 4:11b.

…Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry.

Paul’s heart softened towards Mark.  The book of Timothy marks Paul’s last words and with this small statement we can conclude that there was much growth since the first remark Paul made about Mark.  Both men has grown in the faith and love for one another.

Here’s the take home, conflict hurts but we can have a different perspective next time it occurs, as in we can keep the conflict a noun, something that occurred but keep it from {be}coming a verb, incompatible. Cause who likes incompatible people anyway?

During your next disagreement remember the outcome that is possible in Christ; keep your mind on these seven:

  1. Reconciliation.  We say separate, He says reconcile.

Matthew 18:15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.”

I know a little about this because you know the last article I wrote about, the one about my husband leaving me,  well, the turn around on that story is that 3 years later we were reconciled and married again. Long story, that’s for another blog post but in the end God won and he is still winning in our marriage after 13 years.

2. Hope.

We have real hope in Jesus. When I was newly divorced I had heard a story about a wife that was left by her husband for drugs, women, and the night life but she remained faithful and prayed for him for seven years.  Now, he is a renown evangelist who loves Jesus and his wife.  Because of their story I had hope to pray for my husband. Although I didn’t expect or want reconciliation at that time I prayed for peace and salvation. We always hope that conflict can have a positive outcome.

3. Keep your eyes UP.

We shouldn’t stop doing God’s will or living out His purpose simply because we’ve hit a rough spot in our road of life.  Had Paul stumbled on his way and given up his purpose we wouldn’t have most of the New Testament. Paul went on to write 10 books of the New Testament (indisputably).

He went through Syria and Cilicia strengthening the churches. Acts 15:41

So the churches were strengthened in the faith and grew daily in numbers. Acts 16:5

Separation can be used for good in God’s economy. When Christians divide we can spread God’s love more abundantly and thoroughly.  God uses that time to strategize on spreading his Word by using His people even when they are in the midst of conflict…if we let Him.

Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus. Acts 15:39b

4. A softened heart.

At the end of Paul’s journey in Timothy we see Paul’s heart towards Mark changed and softened to the point he wanted Mark with him because he had been helpful in his journey. God had a chance to work on Paul’s heart.  Paul gained hind sight and perspective on the loss of a brother in the work of God.

God has a way of doing that.  The last words my {ex} husband told me was that he wasn’t in love with me.  In the 3 years that we were apart God had radically changed his heart. My husband’s heart not only softened towards me but I became the woman of his dreams, not because of anything I had done but because of the time we had spent alone with the Lord.

5. Stronger Relationship(s).

Not only did God restore the relationship between Mark and Paul; we see their relationship stronger than in the beginning of their journey together.  Paul is now requesting for Mark to be by his side for the last stretch of his mission.

A few years ago I sat on a ministry team where there were many differences of opinions.  Nothing revolutionary when you get a bunch of women together;) At one of our meetings our mission was side tracked due to confusion about the mission and the passion some of us had for a different direction. The team was in trouble.  One of the women on the team said that conflict thickens relationships.  I was hoping she was right.  I liked the team I was on and I wanted more than anything for there to be resolution and for us to get back on track on the main mission of the team.  It never happened.  The team dissolved, feelings were hurt and relationships broken.  The leader moved away, many of the ones left behind had some issues to resolve on their own and many were hurt long after the team broke up.  Although the leader of the team never got to experience the “thickening” she talked to me about the rest of us did because we were willing to stick it out and not quit. We didn’t leave church, we stuck to the mission He gave all of us and were willing to love.

6. Spiritual Growth.

It’s obvious from this story that everyone grew not only in age but spiritually.  This doesn’t always happen after conflict.  Conflict often leaves us angry, disillusioned, sad, broken, separated, and scarred but it doesn’t have to be that way.  Conflict can make us stronger in our walk with God and mature us enough to handle the next big things in life.

As the years go by with my man I realize there are things we can handle easier now than we could’ve in the past.  We realize we can’t make our relationship work on our will, we need God. Remember his last words to me? Funny how God always has the last laugh!! Marriage is hard and every year can make us stronger not weaker but we need Jesus.

7. Love.

We can agree to disagree agreeably.  Disagreement doesn’t have to mean hate.  Disagreement doesn’t have to mean incompatibility.  We can disagree and love at the same time.  We disagree and agree to act loving any way.  Love doesn’t equate agreeing.  When Jesus came to earth it wasn’t because He agreed with us, on contrary, He came because He disagreed with the darkness we were living in and came to rescue us from it.  Conflict can lead to love if we let it.  More than ever our country needs to realize this truth. Christian, we can love and disagree, remember it’s the thing that sets up apart.

The challenge here is to choose the 7 outcomes of conflict.  When our perspective changes we can begin to see past the yuk of conflict.

 

 

The Scandal With Jesus: Four Things You Should Know

 

Read: Matt. 1:1-17

Family drama anyone?

Jesus’s genealogy is an important part of the Christmas story, yet many times never mentioned.  If we look closely, we can see family drama as early as the 1st patriarch, and it doesn’t get any better the farther down we travel.  Jesus’s family tree is sketchy at best; He comes from a line of cowards (Abraham, willing to give Sarah to a foreign kings to save his life), sell-outs (Esau, Jacob’s brother Gen. 25:27-34), attempted murderers (Judah and brothers Gen. 37:17-19), liars, womanizers (King David), a harlot (Rahab), idolators (Solomon), and men who completely turned away from God entirely (Josiah’s sons).

So why did God chose to send His one and only Son into the world to claim DNA, or, at least in part, amongst such colorful characters?  Why did Jesus chose to give up His throne to be part of a family tree of ancient, middle-eastern yeehaws?  What does it mean for you and me?

1. What He says is True, and He sticks to His Promises.

Only God can fulfill prophecy; no ordinary person can make miracles happen out of nothing, nor can they orchestrate circumstances in time to play out just right so ancient prophetic tales can come true. Here are a few prophecies that point to Jesus, spanning 2,000 years before He was delivered in the small, desert town of Bethlehem, in a dingy, lowly manger:

Messiah would be a descendent of Abraham: Gen. 12:3 – Matt.1

Messiah would be a descendent of David: 2 Sam. 7:12-16 – Matt.1:6

Messiah would be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14, fulfilled in Matt. 1:18)

Born in Bethlehem Micah 5:2 fulfilled in Matt. 2:3-6)

Here is an extensive list of many prophecies fulfilled by Jesus.

2. God loves real people.

Whether you’re crazy, weird, drama-filled, dumb, fearful, cowardly, mean, or just plain full of yourself, God came for you (and me)!  He came to break the chain of spiritual darkness of family ties to chaos, unrest, sadness, fear, selfishness, lust, sexual addictions, lying, cheating, stealing, murder, hate, pride, and conceit.

I have a “once was lost and now am found” story.  I was raised in a Christian home from the time I was 6. My family was heavily involved in church and we had an extensive Christian community we surrounded ourselves with.  However, by the time I entered high school I had decided that God was just not cool enough for me to identify with.  I called it religion.  I stuffed it in my back pocket and closed the door to the closeness I once had with Jesus.  I told my close friends if they asked but my lifestyle was contrary to living a life of obedience to God (more on that later;) He waited for me.  When I was 19 I married, someone I thought was the man of my dreams but he was not God’s dream for me.  Eleven months and 3 days shy of our 1 year anniversary he told me I wasn’t the one for him. He said I couldn’t possibility be all there is to offer in a wife. OUCH! I told him we needed Jesus (it had finally hit me a little too late) and he said that if we couldn’t fix us God couldn’t fix us. (HUH! little did he know).  By the time I was 22 I was already divorced. Not a very good track record for someone who really wanted to meet Mr. Right one day. I walked further from God.  I filled my heart and life with things that pleased me but never filled me.  I tried to satisfy a void in my soul that was insatiable by human effort.  It was a void that could only be filled by true love.  The love of a God that not only knew me, chased me for 12 long years, pursued me, but was relentless in not letting me go down a dark path (even if I didn’t really think it was dark at the time).

I prayed. I asked God to come back into my life. I surrendered my will. My pride. My way. My plans. Everything. I just didn’t want to carry around the ugly, black, lonely baggage of divorce, the baggage that screams you’ve just been rejected and you’re unlovable and damaged and good luck finding love again.   And the only way I knew to do that was to turn to the only One I had heard really loved me.

“…but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”- Romans 5:8 ESV

3. God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things for Him.

Although almost everyone in His lineage has infamous claims to the “wall of shame”, God turned their lives around by using them to be part of His epic love story for humanity. If we let him, we too, can be the paragon of what He can do with you and me.

In my loneliest moment God touched an area of my heart that hadn’t been touched before.  He let me know I wasn’t alone.  I began walking in Him, surrendering moment by moment.  See, I had walked a God-less life for 12 years I had no reassurance of what a Christian’s walk should feel like; I hadn’t quite felt “Christian” in a long time.  It’s been 13 years since I made the decision to follow Jesus.  I get now that he uses the ordinary to do the extraordinary.  He’s been using the simple life of a very ordinary girl to do great things for Him.  They might not seem big to anyone looking in but for me to know that a God so big can be so present, that a God so mighty can take one small little life and turn it into a victory dance for all to see is totally extraordinary.

4. He can forgive anything…ANY.THING. (Just read about King David and Rahab), and I mean ANYTHING.

Grace is a real thing. If you haven’t read my article on grace , you need to do that 😉

Christians love to give away: John 3:16 (“For God so loved the world that he gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life”) , but we forget to give away John 3:17, the proceeding verse:

“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:17 NIV)

Jesus came to rescue us from our own depravity and fill the void within that only He can fill.  He wants to change us from within and make us new.

“I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.” (John 12:46 NIV)

The scandal in Jesus’s family tree gives us proof that He can turn sad endings into (eternal) happily ever afters. It demonstrates that even though He is perfect, He loves imperfect people, even to the point of dropping His crown and coming to our muck and dwelling amongst us in order to give us a dose of heavenly love, so that one day we might chose to love Him back.  The scandal is this: how can anyone have the sense, the dignity, the logic to give someone a second chance when everything about the person calls for persecution not redemption.  The scandal starts with a King who gave humanity a chance based on true love not performance.  I love how He’s using this simple, once scandalous, girl to do things for Him here on this imperfect earth.

What’s He doing in your life that is extraordinary?

Finding Rest in the Rush: Preparing your Heart for Christmas

mvhd5qvldww-anna-dziubinska How do you prepare your heart for Christmas?  Is it another holiday or is sacred?  How do you find rest in rushing during this season?

I have to admit sometimes I get caught up in the mix of commercialized Christmas.  My mind quickly shifts from Thanksgiving, thoughts of Pilgrims who came to this country on a hard journey, endured sickness, cold and death, forged friendships with strangers, shared a meal in gratitude and friendship with the ones who lent their hand of skill and survival to Christmas Crazy! All in one month. Christmas can quickly become distorted because of the rush and expectations of it all.  With a little rest I think we can regain the meaning of this season. {Jesus}

At this time of year I ask myself how can I slow-down with so many committments? How can I put Christ first when business distorts that and I wind up with more of a whole lotta things I didn’t bargain for like a ragged woman staring right back at me in the mirror.

And here’s what I came up with:

1. Prioritize

If it’s on my calendar I ask is this necessary right now, this month?  Is it dire? Will I die if it doesn’t get done, will someone else die if it doesn’t get done (and if so do I like that person, which might change your response to question 2…kidding;) Like dental and OBGYN appointments, necessary but maybe doesn’t have to be this month even if your due, as in due for an appointment, not due as in going into labor due. Cause by all means get yourself to the nearest hospital and have that baby and enjoy the little vacay. (If you have more than 1 kid you know what I am sayin;) The point: rid your calendar of all {un}necessaries, the goal: spend time with family, spend time with Jesus, after all isn’t He the one we celebrate.

Ultimately, what’s important this month? Minimize to make time for things that matter. The rush is only a rush if you’re in it.

2. Be Still. Be Quiet.

Can I say that? We’re friends right? If it’s not our mouths that are always running, it’s our minds.  And if you’re a woman reading this you have 1 or both of those problems goin on. Don’t even try to deny it. I am not judging; Let’s face it being busy wins us some sort of honorary place in society that labels us worthy of respect simply because we’re busy, we’re just like everyone else, we fit right in.  And we wear our badges of honor proudly as we gather round chatting about just how busy we are  and sighing our little sighs of disbelief as we add more and more to our already cramped calendar.

3. Go Less. Stop More.

Hectic starts with a capital G and ends with a big fat O.  In my opinion the rest begins at home, in the quiet moments (if you’re a stay-at-mom with littles running around those are far and few in between but there is still simple moments to be had in the crazy of home life with kids around).  It’s in the stillness of a sunrise peaking in the kitchen window before everyone arises, or the stalling of a head on the pillow before small feet hit the floor, or snuggling on a couch with a good book or the embrace of a loved one.  Rest isn’t found in r-u-s-h. If your stage of life beckons you to move, rush, go, run, walk faster, eat quicker, stay out later, than you need to fight for your rest more forcefully.

“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy…for in 6 days the Lord made the heavens and the earth…but he rested on the seventh.” Exodus 20:8-11

Our choosing to rest sets us apart from the world.  The world doesn’t rest.  America      doesn’t rest. We work. We work hard. And we are very proud of it.  Rest (we think) is for sissies and we are not sissies! And yet God set an example for us to rest after a long week of work.  I wonder what our bodies would be like if we took His advice. Rest, ultimately, is found in s-t-o-p-p-i-n-g.  Do what you gotta do and don’t what ain’t gotta.

Challenge yourself to get your Christmas shopping done in 1 day, all online or one trip to the store. Let me know how you do?

4. Remember

In the old testament we see God always asking his people to remember.  He asks them to remember the good times and the bad times.  (Deut. 8:2, Joshua 4:1-7, Jeremiah 7:12) Why? Because remembering helps us focus on the One who brought us this far, who delievered us from darkness, from trials, and danger and the One who even, while we went through pain, heartache He was there.  Remembering is a powerful tool for putting perspective on a very busy season. On the other hand forgetting leads to complacency.  If this season is a mere holiday of stacking gifts under the tree, checking off lists, attending office parties and chruch events than we missed it.  If we remember, {Jesus} the reason we are so busy than this whole list makes sense.

Don’t let Christmas lose it’s luster for cheaper things like rushing around tyring to get it all done, gift giving and reciveing, and the other distractions this commerciallized month brings.  Be set apart.  Let the world see that the celebration of His birth is the reason we do this thing.  Let them see that He’s worth it. Let us be different.

5. Play

Let’s face it which mom has time to play?? As much as I dream and think about how I need to play more with my growing babies who are now 8,9 and 4 (and my awesome husband) I don’t.  I want this season to be a time when we play and spend more time together.  Here are things we do to slow down this season. This list if for grannies too and young couples with no kids, we all fall into the rush if we’re not careful.

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-Christmas Book picnic by a fire

-Bust out the Christmas china (garage sale finds) and have a fancy tea time over Advent verses

-Cuddle on a couch and watch a Christmas movie together (sounds easy but trying doing with a sink full of dishes and see how tempting it is to wash instead of watch)

-Take your man out

-Bake for your neighbors, and yourselves

-Make homemade gifts for each other (mom’s do it too;0)

-Chop wood together (a chore that needs to be done is a chore better done together;)

How do you find rest during this month?  How do you chill during the chaos? How do you play? Add to my list.

 

 

 

The Cure for Fear Lies in 2 Simple Antidotes

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We moved homes in 2010 from city-life to country -life and I was in for a big surprise.  Up until then I had been raised in a big city and never lived in any other type of environment except a big city.  The lights, the noise, the bustle, yes and even the pollution (that you don’t even realize you miss until you move to the middle of NO WHERE) were all craved luxuries.  I’ll preface that by mentioning we had lived in a rural town, rural as in it only had 5,000 people in the entire town, a Piggly Wiggly, and a Walmart. We moved right after college  due to my husband’s first job.  We tried to get out of there as fast as we got there. Because again, I am (at heart) a city-girl. Ain’t no shame in that.

But after moving back to the city we began to miss the quiet of the country, the stars ( I had no idea you could actually see them so close or at least they appear that way when smog is not invading the view) and the space, oh the space and need I mention the privacy.  Oh! the irony of hindsight!

So, naturally we decided to buy in the country, a beautiful home on 2 acres with wide open spaces and a little creek to boot in a small country town in Texas not too far from city life and yet definitely rural enough you could hear cows mooing and giving birth (as I’ve come to understand the noise to be).  Maybe we were growing up.  It was time to give this country thing a chance.

The first day of move in I excitedly began unpacking and putting my beautiful country kitchen together. As I opened our first box and reached in to grab a pot I suddenly jumped 10 feet back (yes, 10 feet people, ok, don’t argue!) I screamed and ran across the other side of the house and I would not come out of the room I ran to.  I saw a spider. The size of a shoe. Yes a shoe! Listen, size doesn’t really matter…in this situation.  It was a spider and I had never seen one like that before.  I called my dad (not sure why, he lived 8 hours away not sure what I thought he could actually do for me at that point) I was sure he had some reason I had to hear however.  He always does. He’s one of those dads.  He did manage to calm me down and did remind me that it wouldn’t kill me.  He also reminded me that it is probably more afraid of me (remember those annoying little talks when you were little and you were afraid of mice and roaches and they’d {the voice of reasons in your life} would tell you that they’re more afraid of you.  I wasn’t buying that one but it made logical sense. I eventually came out of the room and mustered up the will power to get some windex and windex him to death. Eventually they were EVERY WHERE. EVERY. WHERE. After an entire week of knots in my stomach and anxiety and missing the city,  I had to figure out who these spiders were and what they wanted with me.  Found out actually they aren’t poisonous at all, they weave the most beautiful webs and they actually help me out by killing and eating more gross things and pesky things.  So I decided we’d be distant friends. I overcame my fear. Her name? The Orb spider.

When I read the Apostle Paul’s story in Acts 21 I thought about fear in a very real way…not like my pathetic city-girl fear of spiders way.

Acts chronicles Paul’s journey from Christian slayer to Christian martyr.  His transformation is no doubt the invisible hand of God at work in a man whose purpose in life was to glorify God by telling ordinary people about the extraordinary love of Jesus, to give the European and Asian world a taste of the love of a Savior even unto death.  He faced shipwrecks, beatings, imprisonment, black-balling, stoning, hate and eventual death.  He always knew he was going to die for Christ.  One of those most astonishing things he says is in verse 12. His friends are crying because he tells them he might not see them anymore.  He’s headed to Jerusalem and the Jews want him dead.  Paul is forewarned of his imminent death and yet knows he has to face Jerusalem.

And he says, “Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? “

(Not sure bout you but I’d be weeping and bawling, wrapping myself in my friends arms, throwing myself on the floor, trying to escape reality, it would be an outright drama scene) but he continues,

“I am ready not only to bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.”

I believe that Paul just like Jesus feared death.  But fear was overcome with 2 powerful weapons: knowledge and perspective

  1. Knowledge (of the “unknown”): he knew the “unknown” possibility because God prepared his heart for it.  I believe God wants to prepare our hearts for the bumps and bruises, sufferings of life and yes even death if we let him.  When fear grips us it’s usually because we have no knowledge of our purpose in Him.  Know your purpose and fearful situations won’t keep you from walking in {His} strength.
  2.   Perspective: Paul knew what was important.  He saw life as a gain and he saw death as a gain.  If death is the worse thing that could happen to us then the outcome is pretty victorious. I’d take one day in heaven over a million here. However if you are on the other side and you don’t know what the outcome of your death will be then fear can be crippling.

Let’s live like Paul!

“I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have complete boldness, so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. So what shall I choose? I do not know.…”

What is your hope in fearful situations?  What’s your biggest fear? Do you get crippled with fear?  How do you handle fear? What steps do you take?

 

Main Mission of The Church: Why does it matter to me

fzv8esa7gkc-lee-key-2Read Acts 1 on your own. (should take about 3 min. or less)

The first simple truth we learn is that Jesus is still alive (v.3)!! Physically gone, spiritually present.

He leaves his disciples a mission before he died, to spread the gospel (Matt. 28:19).  The book of Acts is a continuation of this command,  it is a book about the acts of God during the formation of the 1st body of believers after Jesus ascends to heaven, the essentials of the 1st church and an example to us within the body.

Truth 1: Meeting together is essential.

Church was God’s idea (not mans), being part of a church was Jesus’ hope for us.

Doing the ‘Christian thing’ is part of a unity that can not be substituted with anything else.  Is it a sin not to go to church? Absolutely not! But we are better together.  The church is a place to grow, to be sharpened (yes, the uncomfortable blending and mixing of different and difficult personalities) and to do the spiritual things that can only be done in groups.  There is a reason Jesus chose 12.  There is credibility in numbers, there is accountability in numbers, there is unity and strength in numbers. Different personalities,  weather complementary or clashing, that was God’s plan and when you’re missing it isn’t the same.

Truth 2: The discipline of prayer is essential.

What is your prayer life like?  I know I can’t say I am in constant prayer like his faithful few  in v. 14.  But in order for us to grow and to hear the Holy Spirit (referred to as The Advocate by Jesus in John 15:26) we must pray (more on that later).

Truth 3: The main mission of every church and every believer is to spread the good news about Jesus.

Jesus came to tell people that He loved them and that there is way to forgiveness, a rescue and savior from their sins.  He wants to us to carry on that message (per the commission given by Jesus in Matt 28:19 and the words he told Peter in John 21:17).

“…Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.” John 21:17

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and surely, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. Matt. 28:19-20

  1. Where do you stand with the church?  Do you attend church?  What are you thoughts on church?
  2. What is your prayer life like?  On a scale from 1 to 10 where are you? (1 do not pray at all, 10 I pray constantly)
  3. In what ways does the commission given to the disciples effect you?  Is it still relevant today?

 

 

Pursuing Your Spouse For Christ: A Higher Calling

If you read my testimony page you’ll discover that Chuck and I are a reconciled couple, as in, we were once married to each other, we divorced and now we are remarried, God’s way.

I have been asked to share some encouragement with a group of divorcees at a big church on Thursday night. I have been praying and remembering the dark time I walked alone, the time I reunited with the Lord and then the time when my Chuck found us both.

I searched scripture for the right words and God’s insight on this topic.

When a spouse leaves and the other is left behind there is a tempting nudge to chase, pursue, to call, to beg, to plead with your spouse not to leave and at times to seek revenge.

So if you are that girl who has just been left or you are that wife who has the burden of pursing your husband to Christ here are some steps that might guide your through this tough journey.

In God’s power and strength I hope you can find rest and the desire for holy things.

If you are in the process of separation, divorce, or anything in between start your journey with:

Prayer

Although it sounds like the obvious it may be a hard thing to do, the way God wants us to do it.

1 Corinthians 7:5 tells us that if we are separated from our spouse (and it is referring to sexual separation) that we should only be separated for a time for prayer. Now, I understand that when we are in the situation of being left behind it is not a choice. I am suggesting that we treat the separation the same way we would as if it were; for our behaviour to be as if we are only separated for a time and that we indeed devote ourselves to prayer.

The NIV version uses the word “devote,” in greek the same word is to: empty our selves. What’s interesting and revealing about this word is that it’s definition is only used once in the entire Old and New Testament, at least I could not find it repeated anywhere else no matter how hard or how long I searched. There are many definitions for devotion but only once it is defined as “emptying” our selves.

If the definition infers to emptying ourselves than there is an assumption that we are full of something.

God is calling you to empty yourself of anything that is hindering your relationship with Christ such as:

-Obsession/idolatry of your spouse (is he/consuming more of your thoughts, anxiety, time etc. than God) or anything else.

Although I was brought up in a Christian home, I went to church and loved God I was obsessed with the idea of being married to my husband. I didn’t know it at the time but I was. It was everything to me. When my husband and I divorced my world shattered because I had given him a position in my heart that was meant only for God.

Some women I talk to about this topic have made an idol of the lifestyle their husbands have provided for them and are unable to reconcile the idea of living a life separate from the lifestyle.

-Unconfessed Sin (is there something you contributed to the departing of your spouse, an act, a lifestyle, forsaking of God’s principles in your marriage, anything…

-Unforgiveness

-Hidden sin

-Bitterness and anger

-Resentment

Other things to pray about may be: salvation for your spouse and prayer for yourself and God’s direction for your new life.

In The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, it defines “emptying” as imagining yourself on a vacation or holiday.

Picture yourself at your favorite vacation spot, the beach, the lake, mountains, some peaceful place, sitting there with absolutely nothing on your mind. NOTHING! Your heart, light, content, well, rested, peaceful. Let this time apart be like that. Unmoved in Christ. If you don’t know Jesus get to know him.

Our heart’s were designed to be filled, filled with Jesus, but in order to give it to the proper recipient we must empty it of its current holder.

Freedom,

we can pursue our spouses by giving them freedom.

It means giving them the freedom to leave. By saying, “ok” in your heart. You’re not saying you like it or even that you’ll be happy about it but you’re giving him/her the freedom to give in to his/her own sin.

Scripture tells us in Romans 11:32 that “God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.”

Wow! What a plan. If I had only read and believed that while I walked life alone, separated from God and divorced from my spouse my life and decisions would have been so different.

I made some regrettable choices while I was a divorced woman. I dated ungodly men, I choose to seek revenge, I wanted my husband to see what he was missing by allowing him to see me with other men. Boy did that back fire. My husband and I were in battle to see who could hurt the other next. I could’ve changed the course of our divorce or separation by actions to believe quickly that God had a plan to show Chuck mercy and ultimately me too.

If you are praying for your spouse and believe in reconciliation I am telling you, your relationship will be even sweeter if you allow God’s plan to pan out in your spouse’s life.

This calls for the good ol’ Christian cliché: “Let go and let God.”

Do not call him, text, tweet, face book, social media him in any kind of capacity If you have children talk only children and as little as you possibly can.

In 1 Corinthians 7:15, Paul tells us that if the unbelieving spouse leaves to let him do so.

I held on to my husband emotionally for a very long time after our divorce, it plagued me, near paralyzing the girl the Lord was trying to reinvent in me.  God was trying to do a work in me (and in Him) but I “kicked against the goads” by refusing to let him go in my mind. This doesn’t mean to forget him/her, or even to “move on with our life,” it means to refocus your thoughts and desires on Christ.

The question in our minds should be, ‘Is my passion for reconciliation greater than my passion for his/her need for salvation?’ If your heart’s desire is greater for reconciliation with your spouse than God is trying to use this time in your life in a  much different way than you imagined.

The 3rd and most important thing a divorcee can do (on her/his own) is…

Reconciliation with God

I wasn’t necessarily bad. I was a Christian when my spouse left but I wasn’t on fire for God. I was walking a fence of giving into the world and merely going to church. Although I wanted my spouse to become a Christian and live a “Christian” life I wasn’t obedient to things God was trying to call me out of completely, I was half-hearted at best.

God bounded me over to my sin (even though I didn’t consider it to be sin at the time) so that he could show me mercy.

And mercy he showed me!

Remember that God is the master of reconciliation, he wants you and your spouse together. He hates divorce, Malachi 2:16 (read 2:10-16 on unfaithfulness)

Also, 2 Corinthians 5:17-19.

God hates divorce so much that he would ask us to remain with an unfaithful spouse than to leave. Read the entire book of Hosea and you’ll see a perfect and holy example of how to pursue your spouse.

Now, I am not going to be the person to tell you to stay seated and “put up” with a cheating spouse (it’s not my place to say) because I believe in boundaries and consequences when they are broken but I equally believe in winning over our spouses by our obedience and love and passion for Christ and ony through that can we survive these circumstances. Only when Christ is your passion, front and center will it make sense to pray, to let go, and reconcile with your first love, Jesus.

How to reconcile:

  1. By being transformed by the renewing of your mind as it says in Romans 12:2. (If you are a Christian this is for you too, even a small hint of worldliness is sin. Think belief systems, materialism, obsession, pride etc.)
  2. Pursuing holy things, I don’t mean wearing long skirts and humming prayers all day long. (You can still chase after Jesus in high heels;) It’s a heart issue. In all situations search your heart and think how your actions affect God’s point of view.

Use this time for eternal things not temporal.  Paul compares marriage to temporal things (although it is a Holy thing, why?) because when we marry our focus is now on our spouse. When we battle with our spouse the focus shifts to earthly things and how to gain favor with our spouse and not necessarily how to gain favor with the Lord.

Be busy with things of God.

Seek first the kingdom of God and His rigdead-rosehteousness and all these things shall be added to you. Matt 6:33

There can be no true reconciliation without Christ. You can try to and it will fail again.

Man’s heart, when in the flesh is bound to give into the flesh time and time again. Only trust a man’s heart when it is bound to Jesus.

In the mean time bind yours over to Him

Grace Defined

grace-cloulds-and-rainI am sure you hear it every where too, the 5 letter word thrown around in Christian circles, the one that makes your shoulders less tense, drop, relax, makes you take a deep sigh of relief, the famous little word, most delightful, feel-goodish, excusing little word, written in pallet board that adorns our homes, the one used to calm the chocoholic inside all of us, when we’ve indulged way too much and need just a little grace on the calories (wink, wink).  It’s the little word that excuses you when you’ve just bought your 61st pair of shoes that you DIDN’T NEED.

The word grace is a word that contains power and honor and authority.  I’ve been bothered by the humdrum way we use it and throw it around.  So I decided to probe and dig deep and see what grace really means.

In scripture we see 2 types of grace.  In Esther 2:17 King Xerxes finds grace {favor} in Queen Esther.  This type of grace is man-given and man-earned.  It has two criteria, one is subjective and the other objective.  The king found favor in the queen because of her beauty (subjective) and she met the kings criteria (objective).  She earned his grace.

In the New Testament we see a new type of grace. A grace that is God-given, impossible to be man-earned.

In John 1:17 we see the definition of grace and the difference between earning grace and it being given to us despite our condition.

“For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”

We received the Ten Commandments through Moses that revealed we can not earn grace because we aren’t “good” enough.  Hence, addictions like shoe shopping and chocolate eating. And fill in the blank with your own issues (we all got ’em). The grace that Jesus brought was this:His favor (taken from the greek work used in John 1:17:charis pronounced har-es) for humanity because of simple, unadulterated, love.  Not earned- given simply because He made you.  You are His even if you don’t accept that yet.  It is His spirit impressed on our spirit that influences us toward Christ and the Christian faith- the enabler of strength that pushes us to live out love even when people don’t deserve it, nor ask for it, nor think they need it.  It is the spiritual stuff that has hands that support us  from behind as we trudge through this life in the darkness, as we walk through quiet deserted valleys, and high mountains without jumping off a cliff.  And yes the stuff that that changes a shoe addict into a recovered shoe addict.

There is one small but big caveat to this grace.  And it is accepting it.  Grace is a noun.  It’s a {spiritual} thing.  It is something you can accept or you can reject.  But you gotta do something with it.  It’s the gift that keeps on showing up, like the image of the fruit cake except good tasting.  It’s the gift that will keep on popping up on your door step that you gotta figure out what to do with, cause it ain’t going away. You either make fruit cake turn into filet-mignon (and if you’re a Christian walking in grace already you know exactly what I mean) or you throw it in the trash.

Grace is played out in John 8:1-11. The adulterous woman got more from her experience with Jesus than she thought she’d ever get. She not only got forgiveness (she thought she get condemnation), she got grace.  His last word to her was ‘go and sin no more’.  He didn’t just want to forgive her he wanted to change her.  Here, we see the impact of God’s grace…change.  We become different.

Grace is a gift of forgiveness and change.  He didn’t tell her “Go on girl I forgive you, keep on doing your thing” or “It’s all good do what makes you feel good”. No, because its impossible for grace to reside in our hearts without change. A good Father never encourage us to live a life that is harmful or destructive or dishonoring to Himself.  Change is the evidence that grace lives in us, that we have put this beautiful little noun on our backs and it now clothes us from head to toe, inside and out.

The take home (in a shoe box), God-given grace is forgiveness and change.

So, how are you doing in the grace department?  Are you living in the true grace of God?  What does grace look like in your life?  What have you misunderstood about grace?