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.

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Grace & Peace,

Christina

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.

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?

All Things Work Together

This isn’t the first time God showed me that He kept me from something for a reason.

A couple of years back, I realized something I thought to be perfect wasn’t so perfect after all. It was almost as if I could hear Him saying, “See? That’s why I didn’t let you go down that path“.

And a couple of days ago, I got that same revelation from a different circumstance: What can sometimes seem to be a punishment from God is actually protection.

I know this isn’t a new revelation for some (or even for me). I’ve often referenced in the past that God’s protection is much like a parent protecting a child. A parent will say “no” to a child who wants to run in the street to protect them from getting hit by a car. Even if that child wants nothing more in that moment than to play in the street, the more loving thing to do, as a parent, is to protect them from danger.

But a few days ago, that truth hit me a bit harder.

Through a conversation with a friend, I realized that, during a tough time in my life, God isolated me, not to punish me, but to prevent me, in every way, shape, and form, from doing something I would later regret. At the time, I was too emotionally vulnerable to realize that heading down certain paths would lead me away from God. So, being a loving Father, He isolated me.

It wasn’t punishment. It was protection.

Also a few days ago, the church we were attending decided to go in a different direction. I could write an entire blog post on this topic alone (I won’t, so don’t worry), but suffice it to say while some Christians would be perfectly fine with a decision they recently made, I am not one of those Christians (and we can love each other, yet respectfully disagree).

I tried to join this church multiple times (In other words, get involved, serve, lead groups, etc), but something always came up. The night service we went to as a family would be suspended for summer, my husband’s work schedule changed (making him unable to attend morning services or small groups), etc. I kept wondering why God was seemingly putting up road blocks at every chance to prevent me from getting involved with this church.

Once again, something I thought to be perfect wasn’t so perfect after all. And again, I could hear Him saying, “That’s why I didn’t let you go down that path“.

Back to square one we go.

But this time, I’m not so dismayed.

Even though my church made this decision, it is still a great church led by amazing people who love God and love the city of Phoenix. I still learned and grew as a follower of Christ there.

I don’t know where God is leading us, but I do know one this: All things work together for the good of those who love God.

All things are working together still.

 

We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.
Romans 8:28

The Road Is Narrow

Yesterday, I was scrolling through my Facebook feed when I came across an article about Michael and Lisa Gungor. Honestly, I probably would have scrolled passed it had one word not been in the preview; Atheist.

Surely, “atheist” and “Christian artist” typically don’t go together, so I clicked the link and decided to see why this publication chose to use that word. They used it because that is what he considers himself now; an atheist.

This isn’t a blog post bashing Gungor (by all means, please spend time in prayer for him and his wife and pray that God opens their hearts and eyes to Himself once again). What this post serves as is a sobering realization that no one is safe from falling away from God.

I don’t mean to say that salvation is dependent on us or that we can lose it (because I think both of those are false), but what I do want to point out is (1) we are never in a “safe zone” with our faith and (2) there is no leader, celebrity, etc that is immune from sin.

To be honest, it hurt to see that someone like Michael Gungor had turned away from the faith. Someone who wrote songs like “Beautiful Things” and “Dry Bones” now would renounce those very words (based on my understanding of a few of his tweets and an article from his wife, but nonetheless).

It a sobering thought; any one of us could easily head down a slippery slope that could take us away from Christ and bring us to believe lies.

Enter through the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who go through it. How narrow is the gate and difficult the road that leads to life, and few find it.” – Matthew 7:13-14

As much as we may look up to Christian artists, pastors, teachers, etc, we need to realize that, at the end of the day, they are human beings with their own struggles and temptations. They are far from perfect, just as we are. They need community, the church, and most importantly Jesus Christ, just as much as we do.

I’ve often thought about those I started my Christian journey with. For those who don’t know, I had a blog on Tumblr and joined a community of fairly well-known Christian bloggers (within our own little community, of course). We were all young, restless, and reformed, ready to lead “the resurgence” in our own cities and spearhead this giant “revival” of sorts.

Many of those people have fallen away from the faith. Some have joined strange sects (that the reformed community would call heretical). Others just lost their passion for the Word of God.

Early in my walk with Christ, I met a group of college students who were passionate about the Word of God. I thought “surely”, these will be my life long friends who I stand with side by side to preach Christ to the world (or, at least, the city of Miami).

Some of those have also fallen away, lost interest, claimed heretical doctrines, etc.

And yet, some others have fallen into sin and fallen away from ministry (which is part of my husband and I’s story, if you didn’t already know that).

The road is narrow.

Man, pray for your leaders. Pray for those “celebrity pastors” that you listen to (Matt Chandler, John Piper, etc). Pray for the artists you enjoy music from. Road life is hard and the temptations are plenty. Pray for those you admire in the faith. Pray that your church stays away from false doctrines. Pray, pray, & pray, because only God has the power to keep a person. We get to contribute by praying, serving, loving, etc, but only God can keep a heart in His hands. Only God can change a heart to begin with.

May God keep us all until the very end so that we may hear those words, “well done, good and faithful servant”.

 

 

 

The Comparison Trap

I really struggle with comparison. 

I don’t know if it’s in my DNA or if it’s a result of the way I was raised, but one thing I know for sure is that I have always, and still do, struggle with comparison.

And only recently have I truly realized just how ugly that can get.

The ladies at my church are currently going through “Comparison Trap” by Sandra Stanley and, let me tell you, it has really opened my eyes to some darker places in my heart.

I’ve learned a lot, but one devotional in particular really stood out for me. In it, Stanley says “Every minute you spend comparing yourself to others is a minute you spend subtly accusing God of short-changing you“.

Think about that: Every time you compare your life to someone else’s life, you are telling God “Hey, You got this wrong. You owe me.

How stupid are we?

How stupid am I?

Let me tell you, I’ve had some messed up stuff happen to me. I, by no means, have had a perfect life…but I haven’t lived a terrible one either. I’ve been blessed beyond all measure. And just like the Rend Collective song, I’ve been learning to count all of my blessings. 

I’ve learned that if God keeps something from me, it was something that would have taken my attention away from Him. Maybe I don’t have that shiny new house or a really popular blog, but what I have is Him. He has blessed me in incredible ways. But He knows my heart more than anyone (the good and the bad).

Is it my dream to become like Beth Moore or Jen Wilkin? Yes. Do I still want to write books and give speeches? Yes. Would I love an opportunity to teach Christians how to navigate political spaces like Russell Moore? Yes.

But my dreams, realized or not, don’t define me. Christ does.

God uniquely crafted my gifts for a specific purpose (a purpose I haven’t fully realized yet, to be honest), and I plan on using every inch of my talents to bring Him glory and to spread the Gospel, but I won’t get to live that out if I waste my time comparing myself to others.

That road leads to sin, not sanctification, and it’s not a road I want to go down anymore. 

As Stanley often says, “There is no win in comparison”.

Let’s take that lesson to heart.

Grace & Peace,
Christina

The Gates of Glory


Sin is a cancer and we are all sick.

The other day, my husband and I finally got around to watching Annihilation. For those who haven’t seen the film, it’s centered around this mysterious life-force called the Shimmer that appeared out of nowhere and is spreading. Fearful of what could happen when it overtakes towns and major cities, teams of various military personnel are sent in, but no one ever comes back out. Long story short, a team of women end up going in (each for their own reasons) and, well, things happen.

Later in the film, the main character has a discussion with the psychologist on her team. She states that she doesn’t understand why her husband, one of the military men who had previously entered the Shimmer, would volunteer for what is inevitably a “suicide mission”. The psychologist explains that there is a difference between committing suicide and self-destruction. She states “Almost none of us commit suicide, whereas almost all of us self-destruct. Somehow. In some part of our lives. We drink, or take drugs, or destabilize the happy job…or happy marriage“.

After a bit of dialogue, she says “self-destruction is coded into us“.

Self-destruction is coded into us. 

When you think about it, we are all naturally prone to self-destruction. We don’t always choose to do what would benefit us in the long-term. In fact, we often trade-off the joys of the long-term for the short-lived pleasures of the short-term, inevitably destroying the possibility of those long-term joys ever coming to fruition.

The only humans to ever know what it was like to live without this sickness were Adam and Eve, and even they made the choice to self-destruct. The moment they bit that forbidden fruit, paradise fractured. Sickness swept over Creation like a tsunami, eroding mankind slowly and steadily.

And we are still stuck somewhere among the waves.

All around us, we see sick people. Sometimes, like with some illnesses, it’s obvious. But other times, like with other illnesses, it’s not. We are all dying slowly. We are all born slaves to vices, addictions, temptations, sins, and struggles. When we are born, we are born into a prison cell, incarcerated with a bail too high to pay.

At the end of the movie, we are left with many questions (and I will leave it there so as not to reveal spoilers).

But where Annihilation leaves us hopeless, Christ leaves us hopeful.

When Christ took his final breath, after enduring the wrath of God and taking on every sin ever committed (and the ones that would be committed afterwards), Matthew 27:50-51 tells us “the curtain of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom, the earth quaked, and the rocks were split“. See, a second fracture happened across Earth that day, but this time, it wasn’t in the hearts of men. No, this time, the fracture was in the chains that held us bonded to our sin and shame. Broken, these heavy chains dropped to our feet and the prison doors violently swung open. We were no longer slaves to our own self-destruction.

Finally, there was a glimmer of hope. 

Self-destruction is still programmed within us. Many Christians who genuinely love Christ fall and stumble. All of us struggle in some way, shape, or form with something. We all get tempted and, even knowing the long-term joy that is in Christ, the short-term pleasure of our vices somehow still manages to grab our attention and pull our eyes away from Him.

Yes, sin is a cancer, but Jesus isn’t a treatment; He is the cure. 

Even so, there is a place we can run when tempted. There is a place to run when we stumble and struggle and fall. When we feel our sickness within our bones, when we shiver with the fever of sin, there is a place to run to be welcomed and comforted; the Throne of Grace.

Lift your head weary sinner, the river’s just ahead
Down the path of forgiveness salvation’s waiting there
You built a mighty fortress 10,000 burdens high
Love is here to lift you up, here to lift you high

All who’ve strayed and walked away, unspeakable things you’ve done
Fix your eyes on the mountain, let the past be dead and gone
Come all saints and sinners, you can’t outrun God
Whatever you’ve done can’t overcome the power of the blood

If you’re lost and wandering
Come stumbling in like a prodigal child
See the walls start crumbling
Let the gates of glory open wide

Let the gates of glory open wide

 

 

 

All My Hope Is In Jesus

Today, I don’t have a fancy post. I don’t have a verse I want to focus on or a direction for a blog post. Really, today, I just want to remind you, my brother or sister in the faith, of one truth that God has been reminding me of lately:

God is good. 

Our God is so good and so trustworthy. Even in the midst of the most difficult trials, He is working things for our good. There is a freedom that doesn’t compare to anything else when we sit back and say, “My entire life, 100% of it, is yours Lord. Do as you will“.

This song has really reminded me of that truth, so today, I just want to share it with you and pray that it will encourage and inspire you as well.

May all of your hope also be in Jesus.

Grace & Peace,
Christina

Fear Is A Liar

“Fear, he is a liar.
He will take your breath.
Stop you in your steps.
Fear, he is a liar.
He will rob your rest.
Steal your happiness.
Cast your fear in the fire,
‘Cause fear, he is a liar.” 

Have you ever felt afraid?

Maybe you were afraid for you life. Maybe you felt anxious, your palms sweating and your lungs short of breath.

Maybe it wasn’t such a “dramatic” moment, so to speak. Maybe you were afraid of what others would think of you. Maybe you were scared that nobody liked you and you were alone in this world.

Let me drag that fear into the light and say FEAR IS A LIAR.

Our feelings are real, but fear twists our perception and distorts the truth. It lies to us, shames us, and deceives us into making the situation 10X worse than what it is.

I remember the first time I heard that song I quoted earlier on the radio. It was as if God Himself wrote that song and sent it to the radio with a note attached that read “one of my daughters currently feels scared and anxious. Play this right now“.

At the time, I was feeling scared. The devil had whispered a lie in my ear and I took the bait. I was driving in my car, a million thoughts racing through my head, but when this song played, it’s as if God had said, “Daughter, none of that is true. You’ve been lied to. Just trust Me.” And He was right. It was a lie. Fear had taken something small and distorted it, robbing me of my peace and joy (If even for just a moment).

Today, I was looking at old pictures of myself and I realized something. (I’m about to get really transparent, so bear with me). See, I bought the lie that I was somehow unlikable. I truly believed, for years, that people just didn’t like me and never truly would. I believed that lie as recent as a few hours ago. People liked everyone but me, and because of that, I retreated. I didn’t go to events with friends, I spoke very little around people I didn’t trust fully, and despite being an extrovert who needs interaction with others, at the first sign of rejection, I completely abandoned friendships (for fear of them outright rejecting me first).

The fear of rejection had completely crippled me. 

But the pictures I found told a very different tale than the one I had chosen to accept as reality.

Here were a ton of pictures with groups of people. Tons of events I had been invited to, that I showed up to, had been documented. Things I had completely forgotten about. I was a bit saddened that I had chosen to hide these pictures in the first place, but it also brought me joy to know that it was a LIE that I was completely unlikable.

Had some people rejected me because I “fell” and wasn’t a “good Christian” anymore? I’m sure some did. Had some people stopped talking to me because I no longer had anything to offer them? Maybe. Do I think some people tried to rekindle a friendship with me after years of pretending I don’t exist because I was suddenly married to “Lawren” and it would benefit them? I think so.

But even so, it was not as prevelent as I thought. A small percentage of my “friends” were like that. Most weren’t.

I had been lied to, but the revelation of the truth felt like FREEDOM.

What lies have you been believing brothers and sisters? Where has the enemy managed to warp your worldview and steal your joy? We have FREEDOM! Look behind you! Your chains have been BROKEN! Fear can no longer hold you captive; neither can shame, sin, doubt, etc! Nothing can cancel out the cross!

Brothers and sisters! Read these verses from the very Word of God and take a breath from the fresh air of freedom!

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” – John 14:27

I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take courage; I have overcome the world!” – John 16:33

I sought the LORD, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.” – Psalm 34:4

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 8:38-39

The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” – Psalm 27:1

Confess your fears and rip them of their power over you.

Lay your fears down at the cross.

Choose freedom today.

Grace & Peace,
Christina