Humility & Grace

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.” – John 4:10

“Therefore it says, ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’ “ – James 4:6

Ever since I got saved, I felt like God wanted to use me in “big ways”. Maybe we all think that, but I really felt like I was meant to be the next Beth Moore. I dreamt of traveling around the world to preach the Gospel and see people come to Christ.

I got a taste of that my first year of knowing Christ. At the time, I had a blog on Tumblr. It was a popular place for Christians to post and meet one another. I had a few posts go viral, and suddenly, I found myself in an influential group of like-minded Christians. Every day, I was being asked to answer theological questions (yes, as a baby Christian) and it felt amazing to be “leading” people to Christ.

Within that first year (partially due to Tumblr and the friends I made there), I discovered what Reformed Doctrine was. Suddenly, that became the hill I wished to die on. I read the Bible, not to learn more about Jesus, but to find verses to defend myself with (I marked them with “tulips” in a compact Bible so they’d be easy to spot when I’d get into an argument). I found like-minded friends in person who would reinforce my zeal for sound doctrine.

I angrily fought my fellow brothers and sisters in the faith, claiming they couldn’t possibly know Christ if they didn’t ferociously believe in TULIP fully (Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, and Perseverance of the Saints). To deny one was to deny all, which to me, meant you were denying Christ.

I was arrogant in my knowledge and haughty in my attitude.

But God didn’t leave me like that. 

He would humble me through trials. He’d refine me through fire. He’d strip me of the comforts I had learn to worship instead of Him. He’d teach me He was the only solid thing I could count on. He’d show me that nothing was guaranteed in life but Him.

Finally, He’d show me that He was truly all I ever needed and all I’d ever need. I could lose everything I’d ever loved, but nobody, not even Satan himself, could remove the joy found in Christ. 

Throughout all of this, I still counted myself as something “special”. I was still holding on to that dream that I’d speak on stages be the next Beth Moore, Lysa Terkeurst, or Jen Wilkin.

It was only a few months ago that I spent some time reflecting on that and let those dreams go. I (metaphorically) placed them on an altar and said “Lord, you do what you wish. I’m not pursuing this anymore, because if I’m honest, I’m pursuing this to make much of myself, not make much of You”.

Not too long after that decision, I felt God use me more that He has in years in a variety of ways.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I have NO tolerance for those who purposely abuse the Gospel for personal gain. Those who would twist scripture to get people to give them money and prestige are deplorable and God will hand them the cups of wrath they have earned when their time comes, whether it be on this side of eternity or not. I will fiercely protect my brothers and sisters in the faith from those that wish to use God for their own personal gain. And I am thankful that God gave me that sense of discernment early in my walk with Him so that I, myself, wasn’t fooled by them.

But I’ve learned to be careful just who belongs in the category of “false teacher“. Just because you disagree with me doesn’t make you a false teacher. I can disagree with a brother or sister in the faith and still call them a brother or sister.

Right now, God is doing something. He is at work in a way we can’t yet fully begin to see. Many are suffering. Many are anxious. Many are beginning to question their own mortality and morality.

May we all approach the Throne of Grace with humble hearts, asking Him to use us and, if we should need it, to humble us and expose any sin in our hearts.

Lord, use Your saints to shine a light in a dark world. Teach us to number our days and utilize each and every opportunity to bring You glory.

Lord, humble us so You can use us!

Grace & Peace,

Christina

COVID-19: Calm Yet Wise

When I worked at Amscot, a check cashing place in Florida, we were often told the phrase “trust, but verify“. It meant that, which we were to trust our customers when they gave us checks to cash or proof of a job for payroll advances, we were to also verify that the checks were real or that the job/bank account were current.

It was the idea that we could simultaneously trust the client while also making sure to verify that the information they gave us was correct.

With two groups of people dominating social media with regards to COVID-19 (those who think it’s nothing more than another cold and those who are stockpiling toilet paper and preparing themselves for the zombie invasion), I think Christians should be at the frontlines of pushing a third narrative; Calm, yet wise.

We are calm because we trust in God, the Creator of the Universe. He is Sovereign. Not a thing comes to pass that doesn’t get approved through Him. He numbers our days and He chooses when our time has come. Until then, we’re untouchable. Satan can’t do anything to defeat God’s plan. We can’t do anything to defeat God’s plan. God always plans 100+ steps ahead of anything we possibly could, weaving together infinite stories with precision.

But we must be wise as well. I wouldn’t “test God” and jump off a bridge just because I believe He is sovereign. That doesn’t indicate a lack of faith. The Bible says not to put God to the test (Matthew 4:7). He invented physics and gravity. If I jump of the bridge, I will fall to my death. PERHAPS I may live (because of His intervention), but it’s a slim chance.

Just the same, if someone threw a knife at me, I’m not going to stand my ground and say “GOD HASN’T GIVEN ME A SPIRIT OF FEAR”. That’s ridiculous. I’m going to move out of the way to avoid getting hurt. Again, God has invented physics. I know, if I move out of the way, I won’t get hurt. I don’t have to call upon God for divine intervention to avoid getting stabbed; I just simply have to move out of the way.

If you are in need of food, the answer isn’t to simply say “I trust God will provide me with  food” and never make a trip to the grocery store. Again, CAN He rain manna down from Heaven? Sure, He has before. But if Publix is around the corner, He’s most likely not going to rain down Cuban bread for you. He might provide the money somehow, but you’re going to have to get to the store to buy it.

So that brings me to COVID-19.

We should be calm and trust God. The world is in a panic and is watching how we are reacting. God’s people shouldn’t be marked by fear. We should not be those “doomsday prepping” (especially those hoarding resources for themselves at the expense of the sick and elderly), acting like a zombie invasion is around the corner.

But we should also be wise. We should consider those whose immune systems may not be as strong as our own and do our best to “flatten the curve”, as the medical professionals say. Wash your hands often. Cough into your elbow. If you’re sick, stay home and rest. Keep yourself away from immunodeficient people. Stay away from crowded areas (which is why I support churches closing and keeping their congregations safe).

As one wise man put it, love thy immuno-compromised neighbor. 

Let’s be calm, but let’s also make wise decisions.

And please join me and others in the SBC on March 15 to pray for those affected by the Coronavirus worldwide.

ES_pc4PWkAA7UVH

Grace & Peace,

Christina

Are Your Beliefs Biblical?

Shortly after I was saved, I bought a Bible and told myself that I would treat it as if I had never read it before. Slowly, but surely, I reread the stories I was told as a child and saw them through fresh eyes.

When I came to learn what Reformed Theology was, I hesitated (because I was scared that it was heretical), but I knew the beliefs I grew up with weren’t biblical. So I read the Bible for myself and, sure enough, the evidence for Reformed Theology was everywhere. “Chosen”, “elect”, and “predestined” were sprinkled everywhere, but I had skimmed over them and never noticed them before.

Just recently, when I questioned my Cessationist theology, I asked “what does the Bible actually say?”. And after months and months of researching and searching the scriptures, I had to admit that I was wrong and switched to a Continuist theology.

So I ask you now…are your beliefs Biblical? The things you believe about God, Jesus, salvation, the Holy Spirit, etc…can verses support your beliefs? When read in context, are your beliefs in contradiction with the Bible or are they in line with the Gospel?

If we hold the Word of God to be the inerrant Word of God, and “all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,” (2 Timothy 3:16), then we must also take a look at our own beliefs from time to time and question whether or not they are in line with the truth of the Gospel.

Francis Chan puts it this way: If you were stranded on an island with a Bible and you had never read it before, what conclusions would you come to simply by reading it? No teachers. No theology books. Nobody else to influence you. If all you ever did was read the Bible…what would you believe?

So, are your beliefs Biblical? If you think so, can you prove it with the Word of God?

If not, it may be time to pick up the Word and see what God has to say.

10 Years of Sanctification

This April will be a special one. It will mark 10 years that I have been following Christ.

I truly can’t believe this anniversary has come so soon. That fateful day feels like just yesterday.

Many of my anniversary posts are just a recounting of my testimony, and while those are great, this time, I’d like to do something a little different.

Because while God opened my eyes to His glory and Lordship on April 25, 2010, I am not the same person I was in 2010, 2011, 2012, and so forth.

God gave me some kind of spirit of discernment early on in my walk (I never like prosperity gospel preachers and, back then, I really couldn’t explain why, but something [the Holy Spirit] told me to be weary of their teaching), but that same gift and zeal for sound doctrine was abused for a few years as I bullied brothers and sisters in the faith for not holding to the doctrines ol’ important me thought were most important.

I thought I was strong and able to “handle difficulty”, but I didn’t realize just how powerless I was until I was thrown into a barrage crazy trials some years ago. And yet, during some of the darkest times of my life (as a believer), I realized I wasn’t nearly as hopeless as I had been during an earlier trial in my life (one that happened before I was truly saved).

And those trials humbled me. I began to realize some of those Christians I disagreed with understood the love of God better than my own “clique” did. I began to realize it is okay to disagree on certain things. We are a family. Family will never agree on everything, but that doesn’t change the fact that we are all brothers and sisters.

10 years is quite a vantage point.

From here, I can look back at things I asked of God and say “I am so thankful You didn’t answer my prayers the way I wanted You to”.

It’s encouraging. And humbling.

My pastor recently said “I am not where I want to be, but thank God I am not who I used to be” and I couldn’t agree.

10 years ago, I thought I’d be this well learned theologian. I thought I’d written a book, be some kind of teacher, etc.

But 10 years ago, I was also too zealous for John Calvin and wasn’t zealous enough for Jesus Christ.

Am I still reformed? You bet.

Do I still think TULIP is the most accurate interpretation of scripture? Yup.

Am I still Cessationist? Well…I don’t really know. I’m beginning to lean Continuist, but I don’t really understand how the gifts work for the modern day church.

And that’s okay to say I don’t have all of the answers.

I do have one answer though: the Word of God is living and active, inerrant, inspired by the Holy Spirit, and is the foundation for all of our lives.

As long as it doesn’t contradict something clearly laid out in scripture, we can have some friendly debates on things, but let’s remember that our unity is more important to God than getting to say we won an argument.

“Nobody has ever been argued into the Kingdom, but many people have been loved there.” – Chad Moore

Grace & Peace Saints,

Christina

Fulfill Your Ministry

One of my favorite Matt Chandler clips is the one where he talks about Mark Driscoll.

Chances are, most people nowadays don’t know who Mark Driscoll was. If you do, that’s awesome. But if you don’t, he used to be the pastor of Mars Hill Church. He was also the founder of the Acts 29 Network (which Matt Chandler now leads, ironically.)

Any who, if you do know Driscoll, you also know he had a pretty aggressive way of preaching (which I won’t get into now because it’s besides the point).

Well, in this clip, Matt Chandler is coaching pastors and, in essence, he tells pastors that, though Mark Driscoll is very good at what He does and God uses it, we are not all called to be Driscoll.

We can not emulate him and expect the same results because God didn’t call us to be Driscoll.

God calls us to be ourselves. 

We aren’t called to fulfill Driscoll’s ministry. We’re call to fulfill OUR ministry.

God has shaped you specifically for a specific purpose. Though it may be tempting to look at “success stories” and want to emulate them, the truth of the matter is that what worked for Matt Chandler, Beth Moore, John Piper, etc, may not work for you.

You’re not called to fulfill their ministry.

You’re called to fulfill YOUR ministry.

Your ministry may be at home, with macaroni and cheese covered fingers. And yes, do I know it gets tiring changing diapers and trying to constantly entertain children, but it may be where God is calling you for this season. 

Your ministry may be at that job you don’t like, surrounded by those people who always gossip about their sins around the water cooler. Sure, you can’t wait to get out, but maybe, you’re called to be the light in a dark place. You’re called to point one of God’s future saints to the light. 

Your ministry may be in a not-so-great marriage. We’re not meant to divorce one another at the first offense. Maybe God called you to a marriage that starts a little hard, but as time passes, you grow from the trials and your love becomes an example of God’s power and healing.

(And don’t read what I am NOT saying. I’m saying that, for some, the trials serve to strengthen a marriage. I am not saying not to divorce an abusive spouse. Just throwing that disclaimer out there).

Simply put, we are all called to different ministries.

Fulfill YOUR ministry.

What Is Your Witness?

A friend of mine and I were recently talking about work and she told me a story about her former boss that I would never forget. Let’s call my friend “Nicole” (to protect her identity).

Nicole worked as a secretary at a large firm. Now, Nicole’s boss claimed to be a Christian. He went to church (and drank of out of the church’s coffee cup every morning), had pastors as clients, and had bible verses hung up in his office. From what Nicole saw of him her first couple of days there, he was, in fact, a believer.

But his WITNESS didn’t match his WORDS.

See, people were scared of Nicole’s boss. He screamed at the secretaries that didn’t work to his liking (too slow, too many errors, moving things around the office, etc). He often yelled curses at them too. He was often in an angry mood. He was so bad that one of the paralegals at his firm quit, on the spot, after he berated her in front of the others in the office.

No, his witness didn’t match his words at all.

After hearing this story, I began to reflect on my own life. Do MY words match my witness?

Surely, I don’t go around cursing at people at work (or in general), but do I do things that endanger the validity of my witness?

What about the time that I didn’t give that homeless man something to eat?

Or what about the time I lost my patience with one of my kids in public?

What is my witness?

Now, I’m not saying that if you’ve messed up and “sinned” in public that you’re not a believer. We will struggle with sin until the day we die, so none of us will attain perfection on this side of eternity. We will all mess up in one way or another. Perhaps we’re short with our spouses or quick to snap at our kids one day. We haven’t suddenly “lost our salvation” because we snapped at our kid for refusing to pick up their room.

What I am saying is this; PEOPLE ARE WATCHING.

You may be the only Bible some people read. 

We live as ambassadors for Christ, representing Him everywhere we go; School, work, hobbies, among family, among friends, etc. Everywhere we are, there are people who do not know Jesus watching us and attaching our actions to Jesus.

What we do and say reflects on Christ and, when we act wrongfully, we give the wrong witness with our words.

And again, I’m not saying “do your best to never mess up so people think Jesus is awesome”. That’s unrealistic. We all mess up.

What matters is what you do WHEN you mess up. How does your witness speak to the ones you have wronged?

When you wrong someone (kid, spouse, friend, etc), do you pridefully stand your ground or do you humble yourself and seek forgiveness for not loving them the way Jesus loves you? 

What is your witness? 

Why You Should Sponsor A Child

By the time your done reading this blog, at least 150 children around the world will have died due to poverty.

(According to UNICEF, 22,000 children die each day because they lack the means to afford proper care).

Their deaths are preventable.

Organizations like the one I work for (Expect Hope) make it their mission to rescue children from poverty and provide them with food, clothing, shelter, access to healthcare, and most importantly, love.

But WHY does your sponsorship matter?

Well, for one, not every country is the United States. Many countries do not have the means to help orphaned children, so many of them end up on the streets, naked and begging for food.

Many of those same children are targeted by terrorist groups like ISIS or Abu Sayyaf who promise them the same things Expect Hope does, but asks them to pay a hefty price; psychological abuse and, at times, sacrificing themselves for the terrorist groups cause.

There is no Child Protective Services to call in many third world countries. There is no Medicaid, no Free or Reduced Lunch, and sometimes, there isn’t even an option for free “public school”.

There are children right at this moment, walking along the streets naked and barefoot, with tummies rumbling, lacking ONE thing above all else; HOPE.

You could bring HOPE to a child today. You can change a life forever.

Some may say “well, $35 a month is a big ask”, but is it really?

My HULU subscription costs more than that.

Taking my family of four to Chipotle just once a month costs more than that.

Buying three new shirts at Ross costs more than that.

The truth is $35 equals to about $1.17 a day. We spend more than that on Starbucks, McDonalds, or whatever brand’s coffee you enjoy.

Think about that. Skipping Starbucks for 8-9 days a month will literally rescue an orphan from property and give them HOPE.

You can literally be someone’s hero for just $35 a month.

If you’re interested in sponsoring a child, visit Expect Hope today and sign up to sponsor. Still have questions? Comment below and I’ll do my best to get them.

Somethings you just don’t have to pray for.

Jesus said when you care for the least of these, you cared for Him.

Will you?

The Perfect Church

I miss my church in Phoenix. A lot.

It’s called New City and it’s located in Central Phoenix, which is about an hour or more from where we live now.

The pastor’s name is Brian Krukenberg. He doesn’t preach on a screen; he’s live at the only “campus” in Phoenix. There’s no fancy expensive backdrops behind him. He preaches the word and he does so on mission and with conviction.

The people are incredible. Everyone is doctrinally sound, loves Jesus, and loves people. It is a welcoming church that is on fire for Jesus.

But it is not a perfect church…because there is no such thing.

Lately, I’ve really been missing so much about my “old” church, but it’s too far to attend regularly. I can’t be in a community with believers that live an hour away. It’s just not how “church” is supposed to work.

I was this close to leaving the church I currently attend because I missed it so much. The pastor at this church preaches at the “main” campus in Gilbert (we watch a pre-recorded video on a screen every Sunday here in Casa Grande). This church is non-denominational. We don’t throw words like “election” and “reformed” around. They use money on things I wish they didn’t, and don’t use resources on things I wish they did.

And when a leader at the church said “God doesn’t violate our will, so I won’t either”, I swear, I almost lost it right there and then (but that has more to do with my fervor for sound doctrine, which I acknowledge can bend towards “Cage Stage Calvinism”, so I stayed quiet, but I digress).

They are not a perfect church…because there is no such thing.

Today, I said to myself “I will give this place one last try”, and my, did the Holy Spirit move in my heart.

See, I failed for a moment to remember that church is not a building; it is a people. We are all flawed. We are all sinful. We all have our own interpretations of things.

There is disagreement even among my fellow reformed brothers and sisters.

I’m a Charismatic Reformed Baptist. I mean, let’s be honest…there is no home for me. The only home I have is at The Village Church with Matt Chandler and I’m not moving to Dallas for one pastor, but that is neither here nor there.

New City was close. I felt at home. But it was never perfect. And with time, I’m sure I would have become well acquainted with their flaws.

But today, God gave me the confirmation I needed about this church.

THIS is where He wants me.

No, it’s not New City Church. It’s not supposed to be.

God has me in Casa Grande. God has me here to impact THIS community for His glory. He wants me to love THESE people, help THESE people, be a light in THESE lives.

And God wants me at THIS church. And it’s not because I’m anything special. I’m not Spurgeon. I’m not Paul. I’m not going to lead a reformed revival. I wouldn’t want to anyway.

I’m not a perfect person.

It’s not a perfect church…because there is no such thing.

But there is a perfect God and I trust in Him and His purpose for my life.

Church Bathrooms

I’ll never forget that day when I hid in a church bathroom for an hour and cried.

It seems kind of ridiculous looking back, but at the time, it really affected me.

See, it was my first time leading a small group. I was so excited to be with girls who wanted to learn more about Jesus (and I was happy to teach them). It was our third night meeting together and the time came for the students to find their group leaders and head off into their separate rooms.

Except none of my girls showed up. Not a single one.

For whatever reason, it completely set off my anxiety. Not wanting to be shamed as a “unwanted” group leader, I hid in a bathroom for an hour. I couldn’t leave (my then boyfriend, now husband, was in charge of leading the student small groups, so they would notice if his girlfriend suddenly went home), but I didn’t want others to know that I was THAT bad of a group leader that nobody showed up, so I hid.

And I sobbed. Over and over again.

I’ll be honest, I haven’t led a group since, in any capacity. Many times, it’s because circumstances haven’t really allowed for it. But other times, if I’m honest with myself, I’m a little scared to relive that again.

And I know that’s the enemy whispering in my ear. 

That’s not Jesus.

Because I have a passion to teach people about Jesus. I love connecting the dots of scripture and helping others grow in their knowledge of Christ. And I love teaching people about transparency and authenticity and showing them the TRUE way of Christ (not this “only perfect people go to Heaven” gospel that often get preached, but the REAL gospel that saves imperfect people like you and me).

I love teaching people.

It’s why I blog.

But every now and then, that voice whispers in my ear and says “nobody cares what you think“.

Nobody wants to hear from you“.

You’re not interesting enough“.

You know nothing“.

The truth is that I, unfortunately, am not Matt Chandler. I’m not John Piper. I’m not John MacArthur. I’m not Beth Moore, nor am I Jen Wilkin. I am nobody.

And God is 100% okay with that.

If we listen to our fears, they will cripple us and we will never step in faith to do the work of God.

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
-Ephesians 2:10

God has prepared us to do good works! He has predestined it! And nobody can usurp the will of God.

It doesn’t mean we will never have bad days. It doesn’t mean we are shielded from disappointment or hurt, but what it does mean is that God prepared us for good works and we can be confident that, if we remain in Him and seek His will, He will use us!

We don’t have to hide in church bathrooms.

The Creator of the universe has our back. 

 

When We Assume

“Your assumptions are your windows on the world.
Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in.”
Isaac Asimov 

We all know that saying: “Assuming makes a [butt] out of you and out of me”.

And yet, we all have preconceived notions of what other people are like, especially those we tend to oppose.

That point really hit home today for me.

You see, I happen to work next to a politician’s office. His door is literally feet away from my office’s door. And today, there was a protest right outside our window.

Since I already know how assumptions work, I won’t tell you what they were protesting (or why me and my coworkers were ferociously laughing at times), but I will say this much; they had some assumptions about us.

For example, one of the members of my organization is a young adult. He decided to venture out and take photos of the protest (because he likes photography). People automatically assumed, because he was young, that he was a Democrat. Some people weren’t happy about a “Democrat” on their turf. Once he briefly said he wasn’t, they automatically assumed he was a Republican and suddenly welcomed him with open arms.

He is neither. He is independent.

And being an independent myself, I decided to stay indoors and watch from afar as two sides battled it out.

But isn’t it funny how they automatically assumed he must have been a Democrat simply because he was young and he had a camera?

My coworkers and I had some good laughs over this protest, but the truth is we ALL have our assumptions about others. Whether they be racially, gender-based, political, religious, or something else, we all see people on the “other side” and have assumptions about them.

As Christians, we can do this a lot with other Christians with whom we disagree.

“Oh, Bob doesn’t believe in reformed theology. He is a bad Christian because he thinks he saved himself by accepting an invitation!”

No. Bob can still be Christian and not be reformed.

“Sarah thinks baptizing babies is okay! What a heretic!”

No. Sarah is just a Paedobaptist. And that’s okay. It’s okay to be a Credobaptist too.

In that quote I posted earlier, he said “your assumptions are your windows on the world“, but what he says next is the reason why I chose that quote:

Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in“.

How can the light of Jesus Christ shine through you if your windows are filthy with incorrect assumptions about other people?

How can you love someone if you think they are your enemy?

“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” – Ephesians 6:12

Our enemy isn’t the coworker you disagree with or the weird neighbor with THAT flag in his front yard; it’s Satan.

That’s it. Every other person you meet is in need of Jesus Christ and needs His light in their life. EVERY other person, no matter their background or beliefs, is a sinner in need of a Savior, just like you are. Just like I am.

Will you show them the light of Christ or will you cling to your assumptions of others?

The choice is yours, but you will be held accountable for that choice.

Are your assumptions really a hill worth dying on?

Because if they’re not, If I were you, I’d start getting to know some people on the “other side” of the fence and learn how to humanize them.

Jesus died for them too.