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.

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”.

 

 

 

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

Run Devil Run

Lately, it’s been hard to sit down and write (for many reasons).

My last real post (that wasn’t a book review) was in November 2017. I’ve been hit with wave after wave of discouragement, disappointment, and despair. I kept dwelling on things that happened yesterday, choosing to stay in those feelings instead of face the day’s new mercies that God graciously provided me with. I chose to dwell on people who walked away from me instead of be grateful for the people who still stood by me. I chose to define myself by the things I had (and the things I didn’t).

And I’m not perfect. Sometimes, I’ve been the lousy friend. Sometimes, I was the one who was too wrapped up in the things of this world to love someone like Jesus asked me to. Sometimes, I’m the one who idolized something I shouldn’t have (like politics, amongst other things – hey, I keep it real) and placed it on the throne in place of the only One holy enough to be seated there; Jesus.

At times, I used to look back at who I used to be when I was first saved, full of fire and passion, and wonder just how to get back to that person. But the truth is, I don’t want to be that person! That person was prideful and was so wrong on so many things! Sure, I “felt” God closer, but just because we don’t “feel” God doesn’t mean he’s not there.

As Well Watered Women puts it, “Your nearness to God is not limited to ‘mountaintop moments’ or seasons where you may feel close to Him. He is always near.

I used to wish for those “mountaintop moments” because I felt if I didn’t have them, then maybe I was doing something wrong and needed to fix it before God could be close to me again.

But today…is different. Today I say ENOUGH.

Enough dwelling on my past.
Enough looking for meaning in things that are temporary.
Enough bowing down to modern-day golden calves.
Enough living in a spirit of fear.
Enough living in a spirit of defeat.

Enough acting the Savior hasn’t resurrected and death & sin have not been defeated!

So, why did I title this post “Run Devil Run“?

Because, as David Crowder puts it, “I’ve got something make the devil gon run“.

I heard this song not too long ago on the radio for the first time and fell in love with it. I can’t credit it entirely for really making me realize how I was living (because Jesus gets that credit), but it really put into words how we should live as Christians and co-heirs with Christ.

I’ll link the video towards the bottom, but if you feel defeated today, I encourage you to read these lyrics from the song and realize just what you have that will make the devil run:

I got the King of kings and the Lords of hosts
I got angel armies and a Holy Ghost
I got spirits here that are tied by fire
I got a valley of bones that came alive
I got a cross, a hill, and an empty grave
I got a trumpet sound and one sweet name
Shake the gate of hell, the sinners and dogs
I got my Jesus and the devil gotta run!

What power! Not only do the demons tremble at the very name of Jesus (James 2:19), not only to the winds and the waves obey him (Matthew 8:27), not only did He heal the sick (Matthew 9:6) and the blind (John 9:1-12), but He has sent the Holy Spirit to live within us and convict us, counsel us, testify to our salvation, and so much more.

We are weak and wretched, but God?
Not God!
But Jesus?
Not Jesus!
But the Holy Spirit?
Not the Holy Spirit!
And we have all three on our side.

So be encouraged brother or sister! Whatever you may be facing today, the devil holds NO power over you if you are in Christ! Got secrets? Confess them and be freed! Got sin? Confess it and be freed! Got fear? Confess it and be freed! The devil has no power over you at all. He has already been defeated and he awaits his judgment day in terror! Live in freedom and victory and live life as Christ intended, with abundant joy!

A thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.
I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance.”
John 10:10

We are not promised an easy life (far from it), but rest assured that no matter what can possibly happen to us in this life, we have a joy in Christ that can not be robbed from us. Live in that joy, brothers and sisters.

And may we all come together tomorrow and celebrate our resurrected Savior that made such a joy possible.

Happy (Early) Easter everyone!

Grace & Peace,
Christina

 

My Favorite Study Bible: The ESV MacArthur Study Bible

(The following post contains affliate links). 

When I was first saved, I didn’t know many other brothers and sisters in the faith. Because of this, I ended up walking into the nearest Christian book store and buying whatever I could find (which led to me reading some “questionable” things, to say the least).

Because of this, one thing I never want to stop doing on my blog is recommending theologically solid resources that will help you grow in your faith. So, without further ado, I present to you my favorite Bible study reference tool:

The ESV MacArthur Study Bible.

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I can not recommend this study Bible enough. It is my number one go-to resource for questions I have about scripture. While I will admit that I don’t agree 100% with John MacArthur (or any teacher, for that matter), he is an incredibly gifted Bible teacher. Every time I set out to read a chapter a day of scripture, I include a quick reading through that chapter’s commentary.

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Using an extremely detailed, verse-by-verse approach, John MacArthur breaks down just about each and every verse, giving full context and history details within the commentary. For those who don’t know, he is a pastor that is famous in the Reformed community for his expository preaching.

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You can also find maps and charts throughout the Study Bible. The one above charts out the miracles of Jesus and where you can find them specifically mentioned in the Gospels.

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You can also find maps in the back of the Bible visually depicting a variety of resources. Pictured below is a map of the twelve tribes of Israel.

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As I mentioned earlier, it is my go-to resource when I want to dig deeper into a specific passage or chapter. If I have a question and want to know the full context of something said, I usually pull out this Bible. I would recommend it for everyone and anyone looking to dig a little deeper into scripture (which should be all of us).

Not fond of the ESV? John MacArthur has a version of this Bible in NKJV and in NASB, if you’d prefer those translations.

As time goes by, I’ll be recommending more of my favorite resources for those interested!

Grace & Peace!

The “Golden Cows” We Still Worship

Right now in my “One Year Bible”, I find myself in 1 Kings. Over and over again, it amazes me to see the people of Israel, knowing very well the God they serve, choose to serve Baal instead. I mean, truth be told, this has been happening since Deuteronomy, but it seems to hit a peak in 1 Kings. No matter how many prophets God sends, the people are still so attached to their “false gods” that they reject the living God Himself. Even after He brings fire from the sky, and the people are terrified and say “The Lord, He is God!” (1 Kings 18:39), they still eventually forget about that ever happening (how do you forget that?!) and go back to their false gods.

While I am tempted to think “Oh, stupid Israelites! How on earth could you abandon the God that has done so much for you?“, I find that I myself have had times where modern-day “golden calves” have attracted my attention more than the Lord that rules over all. And the Church? They too have done the same. I think we all have times in our lives where we have let sins creep in. For some of us, they are small and secret and not always widely known. For others, they lead to a downward spiral that becomes obvious. While sins are an obvious “golden calf”, there are some less obvious ones that also can glitter so brightly, they take our eyes off of our Lord.

These are just some examples:

  1.  Politics (usually the GOP, but applies to Democrats, Libertarians, and any other political party): (As Matt Chandler would say, don’t email me. Hear me out before you get offended and hit that little “X” in the corner to close the window). I used to be Republican. I was a Republican for about 20 years of my life. I only watched Fox News and Glenn Beck. I get it. I thought Democrats were all demons or heretics and couldn’t possibly know Christ. I really do get it. But there is a difference between being a Republican (just because you agree with them on policy) and finding your identity in being a Republican. And the same goes for Democrats, Libertarians, etc. I know so many Christians that talk more about how “taxation is theft” than they do Jesus. They are known for being Libertarian, not for being Christ-like. I’m not saying they’re not saved or don’t know Jesus, but to strangers, they are known as “my Libertarian friend”, not “my friend who is Christian”. American Politics are an American thing, not a Christian thing. You understand that martyrs for Christ on the other side of the world don’t call themselves Republicans or Democrats, right? They don’t pray that America becomes more Republican ruled or more Democrat ruled. Instead, they pray for the people, that they may know Christ and bring Him glory. The biggest golden calf I see today is our partisanship. It’s okay to like politics (I love politics and I love debating, in love, with people), but it’s not okay to call other brothers and sisters in the faith “demons” because they don’t agree with you. YES, there are Christians who are Democrats. And YES, there are Christians who are Republicans. American politics are important, but they will not outlast the Earth. The Bride of Christ will live for eternity.  Which one has more value to you?
  2. Religion (and by this, I mean religious traditions more than religion itself): While I do mean religions like Catholicism that add something to the requirements for salvation that shouldn’t be there, I also mean adhering to things like “guitars are from Satan and shouldn’t be used in music“. I mean things like “if you’re not a Calvinist, you’re not saved” (I was guilty of worshipping that golden cow for a while). The Word of God is clear in some things, and we should always defend Biblical truth, but there are “close-handed issues” (“Who is Jesus?”) and there are “open-handed issues” (“Should I only wear skirts or can I also wear pants?”). Using the same zeal for the later that you would normally reserve for the former is wrong. Let me say that again: Treating someone’s decision to wear skirts (or not wear skirts), like you would treat their decision to say “Jesus isn’t God” is WRONG. Some Christians drink. Some Christians don’t. Personally, I fall into the “one drink maybe once or twice a year” category. I don’t shame the Christians that have a beer with dinner every so often, nor do I shame the ones that don’t drink. My husband doesn’t drink at all. I am a strong believer in Calvinism. It gave me a lens to view God in a way I never could. It made Grace that much sweeter for me. But for me to say someone who doesn’t believe in election (or, at the very least, believes “free will” and “election” co-exist) automatically isn’t saved is ridiculous. Shall we call on the name of Jesus Christ for salvation or should we call on John Calvin? Whose words do you treasure more?
  3. Reputation: This one is pretty straight forward and to the point. Sometimes, Christians will avoid being associated with “certain people” because they value their reputation more than they value the Word of God. They worship themselves over worshipping the Creator of the Universe. Case in point, a brother or sister committed a “big sin”. All of sudden, all those church friends suddenly are “too busy” to hang out. If they see them in church, they either don’t say “hello” or they make sure they aren’t seen saying “hello” (and this happened to me, so I know it happens). I could write a whole blog post on this alone, but to put it simply, make sure you aren’t valuing yourself over the Word of God. Jesus didn’t condemn. What makes you think you have the right to condemn? Point out sins (in love), yes. Win back your brothers and sisters, yes. But condemn? If you are without sin, go ahead and “throw the stone”, but if you are without sin, you wouldn’t need Jesus in the first place. 
  4. Race: This is a hard one to write. I really want to argue that some who value their race over Christ aren’t Christian to begin with, but perhaps this applies more to ignorance of racial tensions than it does those who are in the “White Supremacy” movement (the Alt-Right). While I would recommend that every Christian watch this sermon by Matt Chandler on the issue of Racial Reconciliation, I’d like to take a couple of his points (because most won’t watch it). If you are a Christian, then you should believe in the story of Creation; Being that we all came from Adam and Eve. That said…how, in any sense of logical thinking, could you look at someone of a different skin color and say “they are inferior to me?“. I’ve known people who profess Christ who have said things like this! Where is the logic in that statement? I do believe in Adam and Eve. I do believe we came from the same two earthly parents. How, then, is my African brother different from me? How is my Italian brother different from me? How are my Indian brothers, Chinese brothers, Australian brothers, Canadian brothers, Puerto Rican brothers, Brazilian brothers, etc, different from me? We are all the same, human beings made in the image of God. For example, the death of an African-American brother should pain and burden you the same way the death of someone of your own race would. If it doesn’t, this is the point that you need to admit to worshipping the “golden cow” of race and repent. Right now. Heaven will be filled with every race, nation, tongue and dialect. If that’s something you’re not comfortable with for all eternity, maybe it’s because you don’t know that God that made this so. And that, my friends, is a much bigger problem.

There are many other types of “golden calves” that we worship, but may it not be so, brothers and sisters! May we pray tonight for God to reveal to us the pagan gods of our lives and may we repent and seek guidance in those areas that we are weak. May our full focus, attention, and devotion be on the Lord, the Creator of All. May He receive all the glory and all the praise forever.

Grace & Peace.

My Top Three Online Christian Resources

You may think it’s odd that a blog writer would tell you “Hey, go see these other websites instead of mine”, but I’m a Christian before I am a blog writer, so I think it would be wrong of me to withhold valuable resources from you that would help you grow in your faith.

These three websites have really encouraged me and helped me in my walk with Christ, so I am sharing them with you as well.

  1. Desiring God: What can I say about Desiring God? It’s a collection of John Piper’s articles, sermons, videos, etc, but there are also incredible contributing writers. This is a website I find myself visiting at least once every other day (if not everyday). It is an incredible resource for anyone looking to really grow in their faith and, at times, be challenged. There is a field to search for different topics and, more times than not, there is an article for every topic possible. There are even videos under the “Ask Pastor John” series with commonly asked questions and John Piper’s responses. It is a good theological resource I would recommend to anyone and everyone!
  2. Blue Letter Bible: I don’t remember who first introduced me to this website, but I absolutely love it. What makes Blue Letter Bible special is its Greek and Hebrew Lexicon. Search any Bible verse, click Interlinear, and you’ll find each and every verse broken down in its original text. Let’s say you search Genesis 1:1 and you want to know more about what “In The Beginning” meant. You’d find that it’s translated into the Hebrew “re’shiyth”. Click on the word and it will not just give you valuable resources, but also show you where else that very same word is used in the Bible.
  3. Got Questions: The resource I have been using for the longest has been Got Questions. I even think I was using it before I was saved, but I’m not entirely sure about that. Regardless, this website has a Biblical answer for just about any question you can possibly think of. Whenever I need a quick answer for a question of mine, I use this website. The answers are in-depth with Bible verses to back up every single answer. I like to do a bit more research after finding any answer, but for a quick question, it’s an incredible resources.

Those are my top three. What are your top three resources? Let me know in the comments!

Grace & Peace!

Sight Through Stained Glass (Part One)

The other day, my daughter received an interesting toy at a fast food establishment. It was a set of cards with animal facts on the backs of them written in blue ink. However, the facts were hidden by a red pattern. In order to make it clear and legible, you had to put this red “glass” on top of the card. By doing so, the “red” in the glass would make the red in the card invisible, allowing you to read the text clearly.

Deep into my thoughts this morning, I remembered this toy as I thought about the way I viewed my life, which made me realize something: At times, I live my life by “sight through stained glass”. That is to say, I see the lives of others through this colored and tinted glass, a glass that removes the “bad” in the lives of others, leading me to think every one lives the perfect life I just simply can’t seem to attain.

Think “rose-colored glasses” in reverse.

My heart naturally lifts others to this “super human” level, all the while wondering why I am incapable of achieving the same ascension.

I am writing about this because I know I’m not the only one who scrolls through Instagram wondering how other people live these “perfect” lives. I know I am not the only one tempted to compare my life to the lives of others, tempted to believe the demonic prompting that “God doesn’t love me like He loves _______” because of what I am seeing solely through stained glass.

No, I know I am not the only one. So if that’s you, let me speak to you (and by doing so, I also am speaking to myself): The stained glass isn’t giving you the whole picture. You are seeing a distorted image. It is not real. Perhaps the events in the picture did happen. Yes, that could very well be true. Feelings can be real. Intentions can be real. But the perfect life someone else is living? That is not real. 

People fight with one another and they don’t tweet about it. People feel disappointed, slighted, used, cheated, etc, and they don’t “at” (@) the person to let them know this publicly (I mean, sometimes this happens, but usually not in the “Christian” world, so to speak). People don’t go on and on in their Instagram story to tell you about how their marriage is failing or how their kid is rebelling against them. Husbands don’t take pictures of their wives gossiping with the girls. Wives don’t take pictures of their husbands cheating on them.

You get the picture (no pun intended).

Remember when I said that I can raise others to a “superhuman” level? Well, one of those people I tend to forget to see as human is Matt Chandler. God always uses him to speak to me (through online sermons, anyway), so I tend to forget he’s also a human that struggles and gets tempted.

I recently saw this clip from one of his sermon series. You can watch it for yourself here, but he tells the story of when he was diagnosed with a brain tumor and was about to undergo chemotherapy. He found himself looking at a family Christmas card of a man he knew was an adulterer and coward. And what did he think to himself? What were his thoughts during trial and suffering?

“That clown gets health, but not me?”

Matt Chandler became human the day I heard that story. 

To quote him, he goes on to say “When we’re enduring trials, we become hyper aware of the prettiness of others lives and we begin to resent them. And James here, via the power of the Holy Spirit, is going ‘no no no, it’s all level in the end’. Don’t believe the Instagram hype. Everyone endures trials. Everyone struggles.” 

Matt Chandler, an incredible man of God, struggles.

Then I really sat down and began to mentally list all of my “heroes” and realized they all have human struggles, struggles that get lost in the day-to-day posts of perfect families, friends, churches, and homes. And wouldn’t you know, some of them even sinned?

C.H. Spurgeon, the man whose quote I write on every Bible I use? It’s widely known that he struggled with depression (so when I am in “my lows”, I can find myself in good company). Matt Chandler? He publicly talks about how his marriage was terrible for the first seven years (not to even mention the whole brain tumor thing). Friends of mine that I look up to? They are tempted by anxiety, lust, jealousy, envy, fear, etc.

And some of our greatest theological heroes? They weren’t perfect either. They messed up in big ways. Here is John Piper talking about some of his heroes and their moral failures:

“But here’s what we have in mind, Martin Luther and his virulent anti-Semitism. John Wesley was not your most attentive husband—neither was [George] Whitefield. Whitefield and Edwards both owned slaves. Edwards, one or two all of his life, probably. Martin Luther King Jr.—unfaithful to his wife repeatedly in his sexual misconduct. And, of course, the list could go on and on.” (Emphasis mine).

Everyone endures trials. Everyone struggles. Everybody messes up. Nobody is perfect.

I was getting really discouraged, thinking that I was missing the mark somehow and was flawed for being unable to attain “perfection” like others seem to do. For me, remembering that Spurgeon found himself in the same pits I recently found myself lit a fire in my soul that I haven’t felt in a while.

I can agree with Job when he says “Though He slay me, I will hope in him” (Job 13:15).

We need to constantly examine our worldviews to make sure we have not believed a lie that will not only strip us of our joy in Christ, but will cause us to walk away from Him, believing that we are the only unloved ones. No, in the trials, we need to press further into Him, clinging to Him knowing that, at the end of the day, it doesn’t depend on our ability to hold unto Him anyway. He’s the One holding unto us.

And He will never let go.

I Want A King

“No, God. I don’t want what you have for me. I know better. I want what I want for myself instead.”

I want a king. 

For those who don’t know, I am currently going through the Good Morning Girls “1 Samuel” series (though, I am very behind, I am still going!). I’ve never read 1 Samuel before (yes, there are books of the Bible I haven’t yet read), so it’s interesting to see “new” parts of God’s word.

One thing I’ve consistently noticed is Israel’s rejection of God and His plan for them. Despite everything that God has done for them up to this point, they chose to focus on the negative and demand things from God. They are ungrateful, blasphemous, and selfish.

I don’t want to be Israel. Ever.

But the truth is, we are often like them. Maybe we don’t ask for a physical king like they did (even though they had the Lord as their King), but we ask for other things with the wrong intentions. We ask for more money, not to bless others more, but because we think it will make us “happier” to be richer. We ask for girlfriends and boyfriends, not to lead into marriage and paint a picture of Jesus and the church for the world, but merely to have someone there to meet our needs.

In essence, we say to God “No, I don’t like your plan. Mine is better. I don’t want what you have in store for me.

I want a king.

I want THIS relationship, THIS house in THIS city, THIS salary, THIS career, etc. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not wrong to pray for the things we want. Proverbs 15:8 says that “God delights in the prayers of the upright”. However, this should warn us to also pray for our hearts, that we would not value those things over God and over His will for our lives.

Sometimes, God doesn’t want us to have a “king”. It may be a season where those things, good in and of themselves, wouldn’t bring glory to God. Maybe we would end up worshipping them. Maybe God needs to keep them away temporarily to bring attention to a sinful part of our lives. There are many reasons why God allows certain things in our lives (and by extension, keeps some things away). Our ways are not his ways. We usually won’t understand right there and then what He is doing.

But He is doing something. Know this.

He may not give you the “king” you pray for. He may, in fact, give you something much greater; Himself. 

Grace & Peace.