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?

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

 

 

 

The Terrible Lie

This past week, I bought my daughter the Jesus Storybook Bible (which I highly recommend, by the way). We’ve been reading a couple of stories each day and one particular line really stood out to me.

In the story of Adam & Eve (named “The Terrible Lie” in her Bible), after Eve encounters the serpent and takes a bite of the fruit, it says:

“And a terrible lie came into the world. It would never leave. It would live on in every human heart, whispering to every one of God’s children: ‘God doesn’t love me’.” 

God. Doesn’t. Love. Me.

I can’t tell you how many times I believed this lie in my heart, both before I came to really know Christ and after. Sometimes, my jealous heart sees people experience certain things that I never did (and probably never will) and that small, cruel voice whispers once again “See? God just doesn’t love you like He loves ______“.

But it’s a lie. A terrible lie.

Adam & Eve, people who had direct contact with God, sinned against Him and hid from Him in fear. Even after this, God loved them enough to make garments for them so that they would no longer be naked. They sowed together fig leaves to make clothes that probably barely covered them and God lovingly made them better clothes, even after they sinned against Him.

It says in Genesis 3:21 that God made “garments of skins” to clothe them. If you think about it, God had to take an animal, a sacrifice, to be able to clothe Adam and Eve. Something had to die, because God loved them so much, He didn’t want them to be naked. God would, once again, send a sacrifice to cover His chosen ones, but this time, the sacrifice would be His son and He would lay down his life to cover (and pay for) their sins once and for all.

God did this because He loved you that much.

I hate saying the phrase “everything happens for a reason”. It’s really cliché and, when someone is suffering, it’s not something they want to hear. Nobody wants to hear “everything happens for a reason” when a loved on has passed away or when they are going through a tough trial, but the truth is the Bible preaches a similar truth (though the differences are noteworthy).

It’s actually my favorite verse.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” – Romans 8:28

This is not true for those who don’t love God. But for those who do, for those who are called by Him, all things work together for good. It is so very hard to see that sometimes, especially when we go through the toughest of trials, but this rich Biblical truth is there for the taking.

It is God Himself saying “Don’t believe the terrible lie. I love you.”

But God proves His love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” – Romans 5:8

He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also, along with Him, freely give us all things?” – Romans 8:32

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” – John 3:16

Don’t listen to that voice. God loves you.

Don’t believe the terrible lie.

The Instagram Gospel

Like that Bible verse. Retweet that Christian quote. Share that story about global missions. The perfect formula to “look like you believe in Jesus”.

But looking like you believe in Jesus doesn’t save your soul; actually believing in Jesus does.

I’ve often written about the dangers of social media, but I haven’t put much emphasis on the Church and social media. I love social media, and I think it could be a great modern tool to reach people, but it can also lead people to put on masks in order to get the most likes, retweets, and shares. The truth is, social media often portrays a life that doesn’t exist. 

There are just some of the unattainable ideals I often see portrayed on social media by the church:

  • Everyone has time to read the Bible for hours, despite having spouses, children, and responsibilities. And they always hear the voice of God every single time. Every single time I open the Bible, angels come down and worship God with me. That must be what reading God’s word is like.
  • Nobody ever sins. Ever. Not even once. They’re not even tempted. If you’re tempted, something must be wrong with you. That must be what following Christ is like.
  • Everyone has a perfect spouse. Nobody ever argues with their spouse. They get spoiled by their spouse every single day. That’s what marriage must be like.
  • Kids never act out. They’re always perfect. They never fight with each other. That’s what having kids must be like.
  • Friends are ALWAYS there for you, always ready to hang out somewhere, and the relationships are always perfect. That must be what community is like.
  • The church doesn’t judge. At all. If you do happen to be the only person on the planet that is tempted (or worse, that sinned), then you will lose no friends (ever), everyone will look at you the same, and people will pour in to pray for you and love on you during dark times.

I’ve seen more over the years, but that covers the basics. The truth is, none of these things are real. That’s not to say these things don’t happen from time to time. Surely, they do happen, but not as often as social media may make it seem. Sure, there are days when I have a good hour to read the Bible or a book, but there are also days when I don’t have time for a cup of coffee, let alone time to read. I have days when my kids are great, but I also have days when they drain me of all my energy. I’ve had some great friends who stood by me through thick and thin, but I’ve also had friends who left me the SECOND they found out I sinned (and the truth is, years later, I still haven’t fully healed from having such close “Christian” friends treat me like a stranger).

Ed Stetzer has a great phrase pinned to the top of his profile that says “Beware of practicing your righteousness before Twitter.” Personally, I feel like many people use their social media to portray this Christianity that simply doesn’t exist. Following Jesus isn’t a piece of cake.

Following Jesus is hard. Relationships are messy. Marriage is difficult. Kids go crazy sometimes. Friends aren’t always true friends.

Don’t practice your righteousness before Instagram for the likes. Don’t practice your holiness before Twitter for the retweets.

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” – Matthew 7:21-23

God isn’t going to be looking through your Twitter feed or your Instagram story on the day of judgment. He’ll be looking at your life. Saying you believe in Jesus won’t be enough.

You must actually follow Christ. 

When Your Brother Sins

We’ve all been there.

We’ve all sat across from a brother/sister in the faith at Starbucks, our favorite drink in hand, having a normal conversation when out of nowhere, they say something that you know will have a profound impact on all those involved. It’s those three words that breaks hearts, tears ministries apart, and cause some to walk away from the faith.

What three words could possibly hold so much weight that some would count the faith as a lie and walk away?

It’s simple. The three words that will test your friendship the most are “I messed up”.

It doesn’t matter what that other person did. It could be something that personally affects you (like someone cheating with your partner or lying about you) or it could be something that has nothing to do with you (like sexual sin or an addiction of some sort). Either way, hearing your brother or sister admit to you that they have fallen into sin is heartbreaking (for many reasons). For one, it grieves the heart of God when His children chose sin over Him. In addition to that, you know that engaging in sin bears consequences, some of which there may no coming back from fully. There is now mistrust, gossip, false assumptions, and all sorts of things your friend will now be at the center of.

And take it from someone who was personally in the middle of that circle at one time: when falling into sin isn’t handled well by the church, it can do irrefutable damage to an already hurting soul. 

So then, what should we do when our brother/sister stumbles?

  1. First and foremost, PRAY. Pray with them, right there and then, and pray for them every day afterwards. Ask for a heart to understand what they are going through. Ask God to allow you to see them as He does, no matter how hurt you may feel. While your feelings are valid (especially if it was a personal offense against you), understand that they now find themselves in the center of a storm and most likely feel betrayed by a lot of people.
  2. Encourage them. This will adjust to their specific situation, but look for ways to encourage them, get them back on their feet, and help them walk towards Christ again. For example, if they fell into sexual sin, have that “tough” conversation (in love). Help them set up boundaries so they can’t fall again. Be their accountability. Then encourage them along the way and be there for them when they’re tempted.
  3. Look for tangible ways to bless them. This doesn’t always mean monetarily, but it’s important for them to see tangible proof that they are loved. When I fell into sin back in 2013, I felt so alone and unloved. This couple from our church blessed my (now) husband and I with a completely unexpected gift towards our baby. Some of my closer (former) best friends couldn’t even show up for my baby shower, but this couple’s generous gift was a huge neon sign of God’s love to me when I began to doubt it most. Even if you can’t afford something like that, look for ways to serve your brother or sister.
  4. Most importantly, be there for them. You most likely will be the one initiating the conversations with them. I can’t speak for everyone, but I didn’t want to contact anyone after I sinned. I was ashamed. I felt like an embarrassment. The only conversations I had for a while were ones initiated by other people. I had few friends during that time, but I am thankful to God for those conversations and relationships. Call them. Text them. Show up at their house with pizza. Just be there for them.

The worst thing you could do now is turn your back on them. Are there some people who aren’t actually saved at church and sin without caring? Yes, they exist in every church. (You should still love those people, by the way). However, I’m referring to a believer that falls into sin and is repentant. You should love everyone, but you should especially love your brother/sister that is repentant of their sin and in need of the tangible grace and mercy of God.

Simply put, what should you do when your brother sins? The same thing you should do every single day of your life.

Be Christ-like. Be Gospel-centered. Be Jesus.

My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.” – James 5:19-20

 

End of the Year Thoughts

 

Good Morning Everyone (or “afternoon” if you’re on the East Coast).

Usually, at the end of the year, I like to reflect. I think it’s important for everyone to take a look at themselves and see where they succeeded, where they failed, and for the Christian, see where God has taken us throughout the year and how that has sanctified us. But this year, I’d like to do something a little different.

This year, I’m going to call YOU to do something. I’ll be doing it along with you, but this year, my “end of the year” post will be about you.

Continue reading “End of the Year Thoughts”

Sweet Victory

I feel thorns where my crown was. I am weak but I’m alive. From the dusk until dawn, I’ll survive ’cause I got sweet victory. Nobody can take it from me.

But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9

You are my shelter and my shield; I put my hope in Your word” – Psalm 119:114


Some things are simply out of our control.

It doesn’t matter how often you pray, how many people you’ve “brought to Christ” (truth is, the answer is zero, but that’s a discussion for a different day), or all the ministries you serve in. It doesn’t matter if you’re a pastor or if you’ve been saved for three seconds. It doesn’t matter if you’ve served God for two days or if you’ve served Him for decades.

Nobody is immune to (as Paul puts it in 2 Corinthians 12) “weakness, insults, catastrophes, persecutions, and pressures”.

Paul, considered to be the greatest man who lived besides Jesus, wasn’t immune. In order to keep Paul humble, God sent him a “thorn on his side”. Nobody knows exactly what that thorn was. There are a few theories, but truthfully, when it comes to God’s Word, it’s better to take something at face value than try to fill in the gaps with “theories”. That said, Paul prayed THREE TIMES for this thorn to be removed, but God denied the request.

Could Paul have benefitted from the removal of the thorn? Most likely. If it was a physical ailment, certainly a better physical state could have helped the spread of the Gospel. If it was a mental ailment, certainly a clearer mind would have helped his ministry. No matter what his “thorn” was, it is arguable that the removal of it would have brought glory to God somehow.

But we’re not the ones who get to determine that: God is.

One day, I hope to look back on days like today and say “I’m glad that’s over”…but what if it isn’t? What if God doesn’t remove the hardship I’m dealing with right now? I used to think my hope was in a “better day”…but what if, in God’s infinite wisdom, that “better day” never comes?

Just yesterday I stumbled upon a blog of a sister in Christ who has had many more years dealing with this same “thorn”. Reading just a couple of her posts brought me to tears. Finally, I had an explanation, an answer to all of my questions. Things suddenly made sense to me. God used her pain and her struggle to help others in the faith. Her thorn was ultimately removed (or so it seems).

But what if God says “no” to me?

I spent some time praying specifically about this yesterday and one verse kept coming up. Ever since, the verse has popped up in numerous places, leading me to believe God really wants to drive this point home in my heart.

But He said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness. Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9

If the healing never comes, His grace is sufficient for me.
If I never go back to the person I used to be, His grace is sufficient for me.
If everything in my life slowly derails, His grace is sufficient for me.
If nobody knows about my pain but me, His grace is sufficient for me.
If nobody ever understands the depths of my hardships, His grace is sufficient for me.
If nothing truly ever seems “redeemed”, His grace is sufficient for me.

God CAN remove this hardship. I believe God WILL remove this hardship, but even if He DOESN’T remove this hardship…I will still have SWEET VICTORY in Him.

You are my shelter and my shield; I put my hope in Your word