All posts by Jude

Amazing, Uncontainable, Irrefutable Grace part 1 why can’t we give it away?

Amazing, Uncontainable, Irrefutable Grace  Part 1 why can’t we give it away?

We have only lived in Germany for 1-½ years.   However, even in that short time, it has become apparent to us that generally speaking, Germans are guarded, protective of self, and rather isolated within their network of family and very close friends. We have been greatly privileged to become very good friends with two of our neighbors and even closer friends with a family who lives just a couple farm roads away. We hang out together a lot, and our kids play together.   You might be thinking, “Well, they have reason to be so guarded and reserved.”  After all, we did endure two “great wars” on the opposite side of each other.  And their sins have followed them ever since.  When we first moved here, I was encouraging one of my friends to visit us. This friend happened to be Jewish. She said she wasn’t sure if she could do that.  I also know that often times when our German friends travel abroad to bordering countries, they are treated disrespectfully and discriminately.  Finally, their schools also play a role in reminding these precious children over and over of the sins of the past. History and education are important. Self-deprecation is not.  Sad or as we would say in German, “Sharda.”  Pity.  So what part has the church played in Germany in not only removing that stigma, but also spreading the message of grace, forgiveness and joy? I would humbly submit that the “state church,” as it is so referred-has not done so well in its 500-year existence.  Why do I say this? Because when the church is transformed, so are the communities.  When the church is transformed, then they shout from it from the rooftops, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has God removed our sins from us.”  And when the church believes that about itself, then so can those outside the church. If those of us IN the church have not bought into this message of grace, then we can’t expect those outside of the church to do that.   

So you can imagine how utterly emotionally moved I was this past weekend when I sat in an arena filled with 8500 people worshipping God together.  With the exception of a few hundred Americans, Dutch, and French present, the remaining 8000 or so attendees-all German. Germans who are sold out for Christ. Sisters and brothers in Christ who have “received the message with eagerness,” (Acts 17:11) and are Christ centered. German Christians saying emphatically “Here am I, Send me.”  My heart was so speechless, stunned, and utterly impressed.  Young, middle aged and older folks all present at this Leadership conference praying and listening for new ways to reach the lost of not only their communities, but also churchgoers themselves all over this beautiful country.  

You know we think we are so different.  USA evangelical churches have spent decades trying to convince other evangelical churches what they are doing wrong.  We have done this at the expense of our next-door neighbor’s lost soul, at the expense of single parents who can’t feed their kids, and alas, while violence and addictions continue to destroy families.  Yes, while I am in a debate with another churchgoer over contemporary versus traditional, or while I am up to my ears with trying to reconcile the coexistence of dinosaurs and Christians, thousands of human souls are paying the price for my ego driven spiritual quests.  Last weekend John Ortberg made a very bold and courageous statement,  “There are too many undiscipled disciples-too many who think spiritual growth is trying to follow rules in the bible.  We have held up the wrong people as spiritual examples for so long, we have produced churchy people, but not transformed people.”  Here is the thing, I wouldn’t agree with Ortberg’s statement just for the sake of believing it, if it were not for the fact that I have experienced this first hand. For most of my life, my own spiritual examples have been Pharisees in form, fashion, speech, and demeanor.  They have been so in every way with the one exception of what they believe about the Messiah.  It is only in the last decade that this has steadily changed for me. And it certainly has had a great impact in my marriage, my parenting, where we serve and worship, and what we believe about the infinite, incredible, uncontainable grace that Christ offers us. 

This is a Part One Devo. Because I think this is important.  Next time, I am going to talk about removing the masks that we wear and stepping into not only God’s incredible grace for our lives, but also into the journey, the joy, and the mission that He purposed for us even before we were born. 

Thanks for reading

An old Friend Revisited

An Old Friend Revisited

If someone said to you  “who is your favorite author in the whole world,” what would you say?  Would you say Stephanie Meyer, Stephen King, or maybe CS Lewis?    There are truly some great authors out there, and some equally great books.  Reading is assuredly one of my greatest pastimes.  So many classics, so little time is how I feel.  Whenever I pick up a good book, I always feel like I am basking in the company of a dear old friend.  So how do we feel about the bible?  What allure does it have for us? Does it have any?   Is it too complicated or overwhelming for you?  Are you too busy to delve into it with the fervor that you think you should?  There are many reasons why we don’t read our bible with the same intensity we might another book.  But did you know that the authorship of the bible is God himself? Yes, it is true there were many who wrote and recorded the truths we find there, but according to 2 Timothy 3:16, these men were all chosen and inspired by God himself.  This passage tells us “all scripture is God breathed.”  There are other places in Scripture where we see the breath of our Lord giving life.  Genesis 2 tells us that the “LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.”  The same breath that gave us life also gave us the Word of the Living God.  In John 20 Jesus is anointing the disciples with the Holy Spirit. We read there “And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”  Wow, so when we see that our lives were borne out of the breath of God, and the Holy Spirit was given by the breath of Christ, does this give us new insight about the bible which is “God breathed?”  The same breath that has given us life has given us the words to live that life. This is indeed “life with God.”  According to Richard Foster in his book, “Life with God, Reading the Bible for Spiritual Transformation,” we often read the bible for two main reasons, (1) to gain knowledge and information, even information to affirm what we believe and used to admonish others or (2) to address a specific issue in our life in an attempt to “solve whatever the pressing problem” in front of us.  These two reasons are not inherently wrong.  But Foster goes on to say, “But what we must face up to with these two objectives is that they always leave us or others in charge.”  Foster goes on to say that if we truly read the bible for spiritual transformation then we must be prepared to “call into question our dearest and most fundamental assumptions about ourselves and our associations.”  In other words, start reading the bible with a clean slate. Many of us have had churches, parents, grandparents, and pastors who have taught us for years from scripture, and Praise God for them. But when was the last time you read the bible without any pre-conceived notions or prior associations? (Acts 17:11) Just read; listen with your heart, and soak in God’s teaching, his comfort, his peace, and the love of his Son.  Only when we approach the Word with this attitude of humble submission, can personal transformation truly happen.  It is the inside out approach that God uses to change us with his Son-the Word of God. (John 1:1) Not the outside in approach with which we often employ in our bible reading.  So the next time you have a moment, revisit an old friend-your bible.  In the words of Richard Foster, “It is the loving heart of God made visible and plain. And receiving this message of exquisite love is the great privilege of all who long for life with God.”
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When the Wall Came Down

When The Wall Came Down

Recently on a trip to London, a sweet employee in a bookstore engaged me in conversation.  She asked me where I was from.  I told her “Oklahoma.”  She innocently replied, “Is that in Ohio?”   Caught off guard by her confusion, I sputtered briefly before explaining to her that indeed Ohio and Oklahoma were two different and independent states.  “Oh,” she said as she nodded in new understanding.  Later I got to thinking, it is true that our knowledge of US Geography is different, but there is something else that unites us: we are both children of the living God.   

This year is the 65th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge, a defining battle in WWII, that cleared the way for victory for the Allied forces over Germany.  65 years later, my husband proudly serves along side many Germans.  We eat dinner frequently with our German friends.  Moreover, this year marks the 20-year anniversary of the Berlin wall coming down. The wall had been a rigorous and hostile barricade separating the East Germans from the West Germans.   There were actually families divided on either side of that wall.  

But long before this, there was another wall that was destroyed almost 2000 years ago.  The words of Ephesians 2 are so timeless, powerful, and evident in humanity today. But for all of us, it is paramount to our faith that we understand what Christ did for us-Gentiles and sinners.  When He died on the cross, He once and for all, destroyed the “barrier” between the Israelite nation and us.  We should see ourselves in this scripture, and for sure we should see our fellow man.  We should understand that because of this, as God’s people, we are “being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.”  

Who do you need to share the gospel with this week? Is there a “dividing wall of hostility” between you and a loved one or a co-worker or a neighbor?  Remember what Christ did for you.  

Ephesians 2:14-22
For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.
Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.
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The Land of Plenty

THE LAND OF PLENTY
After 9 months of being in Germany, we made our first trip home to the States. (If you are reading this, and saying, “hey, we didn’t see them while they were home,” just know I am SORRY! Feel free to register your complaints.)  Speaking of “home,” when we stepped off the plane in Dallas, I am a little embarrassed to say that the first thing we did was go to Sonic.  The next thing we did was arrive at our friends’ home eager to visit. Well, first things first right?   Our friends have been back from Brazil for only a few months. In Brazil, they lived as missionaries for the last 10 years.   Having just arrived from another country, we had very stimulating conversation about the challenges of sharing our faith abroad.  The truth is, coming back to America is like getting a great big hug.  It’s sort of like going home at the end of a long day at work and being greeted by your family.  America is indeed “the land of plenty.” In fact, convenience is dispensed on every corner in nearly every town in America. 7-11s, restaurants, Kinko’s, medical facilities, shopping, churches, and the list goes on and on.   After being gone for a while, the vast and immediate availability of “everything” can be overwhelming.  I never realized before just how much it is the land of “educational freedom” either until moving overseas.  And believe it or not, it is still the land of “religious freedom.”  The problem is most Americans simply don’t realize that they live in either the “land of plenty” or the “land of religious freedom.” 

Freedom comes in every size and color. Freedom to eat, drink and be merry, and the freedom to be whatever you want to be.  Freedom to tell your child, she can be whatever she wants to be.  Freedom to home schools your kids (illegal for German citizens). Freedom to go back to college at the age of 80 to change your career field.   Freedom  freedom freedom!  (Can’t you just hear Aretha belting the song out?)   No doubt about it, the “land of plenty.”  The question is what do we do with this freedom?  My focus is not what the unbeliever does with this freedom, but what do Christ followers do with this incredible gift they have been given?   Many believers in churches all across America are exercising their “freedoms” in negative ways. Their growth is happening from within, not without. Furthermore, Christians are often fighting amongst themselves about how to get it “just right” in the Sunday morning service.  (In Galations 5, this argument was about circumcision or uncircumcision, but now it often surrounds how, when, and where we worship; or the methods with which we deliver the gospel; the old or the new; the traditional or the contemporary) It is indeed true that you have the freedom to debate such useless arguments.  But do you have the time?  Buildings and steeples all too often take the focus off of the lost and place that focus on us.  The truth is, in other countries, reaching the lost takes on a whole new meaning when you are trying to overcome language barriers and cultural differences that have absolutely no regard for whether or not we have 3 songs, a prayer and an invitation or just two songs and a prayer.  Differences that have no regard for wooden pews or metal chairs, but are very skeptical about a church that meets in someone’s home.  Shameless dependence on our God, the only one who can bridge the gap between our neighbors and us, is what runs the show around here. We don’t have a staff, a steeple, or a building.  We don’t have baptismals, fellowship halls, or jungle gyms.    And we don’t have an endless selection of upscale restaurants to choose from for lunch on Sunday after church.  But we have the Creator of the Universe, God, revealing Himself to us and going ahead of us on the journey. As we returned to our home and our life here in Germany jet lagged and disheveled, but also energized and refueled from our visit with friends and family, (and all of our favorite restaurants,) I had a message on my home answering machine. It was a new couple that just arrived here from the states, wanting to attend our church.  And actually, a few weeks ago, we had our first German family join us. I don’t know if there will be more to follow, but I am trusting that God will resource and equip us to bring more. 

I am grateful for all of my freedoms in America and these who have paid such a great debt of sacrifice for me to have them. I am grateful and thrilled that we have buildings to congregate and worship in and kitchens to cook meals for the needy.  I am grateful for places to fellowship together. I am grateful that we have passionately devoted staff members who daily sacrifice their personal time and agendas in order to spread the gospel to so many. I am grateful for all the wonderfully equipped children’s’ ministries at churches all across America.  I am deeply grateful for the Internet campus and the incredible resource they are in helping us be a part of the LC vision in bringing the gospel to folks all around the globe.  And also for our local chapel who lends us support and encouragement.  I am simply saying this with regard to all of the “haves” you have in the “land of plenty.”  It “ain’t” like that everywhere else.  How do you exercise your freedoms? How do you spend your time sharing Christ? Are you the gloom and doom Christian political activist convinced that Christians will start behaving the way they should when all is as it should be in American politics?  Are you the one on a personal mission to see that the order of worship is identical to the New Testament church (hmm, good luck with getting that exactly right!) Maybe you are the “people server patrol” (whether in an official or unofficial capacity:) who will lead the singing, who can participate in the worship service, who takes up the offering, or how often do we serve communion?  I realize that there are tons of logistics to cover and master in order for the church body to run smoothly, of course.  But when our agenda becomes more important than the lives of God’s people, then we have exercised our freedoms recklessly and without considering what else God may want us to see in the situation right in front of us.  If it has done nothing else for me, moving to a different country has indeed given me a different perspective on what really matters.  Sometimes all you have is a plate of cookies and an encouraging scripture.  Or sometimes it is just a smile and a few awkward words “hello, my name is…and I live just down the street….”  “Greater is He that is in me…..”

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Galations 5:1

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cummin. (Judy’s insert:  in other words you cover the logistics, the outward commands of the law, but……) But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. Matthew 23

But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.  2 Cor. 3:16-18

What are you so afraid of?

What are you so afraid of?  

Fear has a way of entering into the deepest recesses of our minds. There it sets up camp and occupies a lot of space.  We can be fearful of little piddly things like learning how to use a new camera, or you can be fearful of much bigger issues like marriage and commitment, moving, sharing your faith, fear of rejection, fear of failure, fear of this, fear of that.  In 2 Timothy 1:7 we are told “God did not give us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, of love and of self discipline.”  Wow. That kind of puts a crimp in the fear camp.  
I have found that often times we are most fearful of what we don’t understand and fearful of people or situations that are different than we are.  Recently, I was shopping in the Netherlands and happened upon a very friendly woman who is Dutch, but lives in Germany.  So she is fluent in her native language Dutch as well as German and English.  As we spoke, she said that she loved meeting new people and often was praising of God for that opportunity. She asked me with curiosity if I was American (politely I am sure since I know my voice had long since given this away.) She then admonished me somewhat, and pleaded with me to be sure and talk to my neighbors. She added that she had some American neighbors who hurried into their houses and pulled their shades down when they got there. “Get to know others around you, and mingle she said. This is so important for you and for your German neighbors.”  Her English was very good, but the message she was sending me was even better. Don’t be afraid of someone who is different than you.  In the same manner, on many occasions, I have known of churches of different denominations that simply refuse to come together for a community mission or purpose, or even a potluck meal.  Why? What in Heaven’s name are we so afraid of?  If we go out of our way to speak kind words to our German neighbors, is that going to make us “un-American?”  If we have a fellowship meal or a ministry project with the other local churches, is our faith or our witness going to shrivel up and die?  Are we less of a Christian for joining hands with other church bodies or are we better for it?  I know that my faith is contingent upon the blood of Christ, not on me or any other person I come in contact with.  Let “us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.”

What about you?  Are you afraid of something or someone who is completely different from you? Does it render you helpless in some areas of your ministry? Maybe for you, it is a fear of commitment to a person or a ministry, or failure, or rejection.  There are at least two kinds of fear spoken of in scripture that are worth addressing here. One is found in Deuteronomy 10:12 “And now, O Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?

Here the original Hebrew word for fear is Yare which translates to revere; be dreadful or to be held in reverence. And we know by reading this in context that this was a healthy fear, a fear that embraces and acknowledges God’s power and omnipotence.

On the other hand the original Greek word for fear in 1 John 4:18 is the word Phobos that translates “exceeding fear, terror, alarm or fright.”   As we read this in context, we see that this fear is not connected to God or to His Son, but rather has a different source.  Satan undoubtedly loves to inflict Phobos.  (Yes, you can see where we get our word “Phobia.”)

1 John 4:18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 

So while it is true we are commanded to “fear the Lord” with a Yare or reverent fear, we are also taught that God is not the author of Phobos fear, a fear that holds us in terror and fright, a fear that renders us helpless and hopeless.  Truly, this is the “fear of timidity” that as Paul stated in 1 Timothy God has NOT given us.  

Finally, I want to add that your faith is not defined by what you know, but rather by your trust in the Savior.  Your faith is not contingent upon knowing the outcomes of every venture, event, ministry, or other journey you undertake in this life. Our faith compels us to believe in the power of God working through us in all things as we DO his will, as we do what He has called us to do. At the same time, we understand that even though I don’t know how it all will turn out, God does. Fear, which we allow to set up a stronghold in our minds, will set up camp, and relegate our faith, our Hope in the Creator of the Universe, to a spectator position.  We should be so bold as to ask God to remove this “Phobos” from our hearts and minds and replace it with “Yara.”  For so it is true:  “Greater is He that is in me, than he that is in the world.”
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Which is better? To be driven by guilt or to be driven by conviction?

Which is better? To be driven by guilt or to be driven by conviction?

Recently, a very good friend of mine exclaimed to me, “I was doing so good on my bible study, but then I just quit. I feel so guilty.”  I challenged her to channel her “guilt” in a different direction. Perhaps as believers, we should acknowledge the Holy Spirit’s nudging in our lives: His counsel John 14:26; His conviction John 16:8; His discernment John 15:26; and His teaching John 14:26. Just as I suggested to my friend, I would humbly submit to you that guilt paralyzes us while conviction compels us.  Guilt all too often renders self-deprecation, apathy, and passiveness; a “no can do” spirit.  On the other hand, spiritual conviction renders repentance, a love for Christ, and in essence, spiritual conviction renders purpose and meaning.  Paul said in 1 Timothy 1 “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the worst…”  But he did not leave it there. He did not wallow in the very guilt from which he had been saved.  No indeed, in verse 16 he says “But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.”  In fact in 2 Corinthians 5, Paul wrote “And Christ’s love compels us…..”  Satan is the father of lies (John 8:44) He loves to get a stronghold in our lives and render us ineffective for Christ. And what better way to do this than by guilt?  But wait, what is the good news anyway?  The Good News is that we were found guilty, but Jesus rendered that verdict innocent by His death on the cross.  So the next time you feel guilty, read this scripture that you have posted on your bathroom mirror (Colossians 2:13-15) and understand that as believers, we have this confidence that God has taken away our guilt “once for all.” Therefore, if we allow guilt to be our guide, then we are abdicating the gift that God gave us through the sacrifice of His son. Moreover, it is the love of Christ that should “compel” us, not guilt.  If we falter or sin or fall short on some of our responsibilities as Christians, than let’s acknowledge the conviction and counsel of the Holy Spirit in our life when we feel sorrowful for that and so repent, and so be renewed with passion and purpose.  In other words, move on and do the “next right thing.”  But don’t allow guilt to be the one that prevails.  Don’t give Satan such a stronghold. Colossians 2:13-15 “When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.”
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Dead Giveaway

 “Dead Giveaways”

In Germany, you can often spot an American in an instant.  Here are a few “dead giveaways” that you are an American.   
1 You are standing at the check out counter waiting for someone to bag your groceries.
2 You are studying the chained grocery carts trying to find where to put your euro to release one of them.
3 You have your American dollars mixed in with your Euro dollars and your American coins mixed in with your Euro coins.
4 You don’t drive your bike. You ride it. And you don’t ride it everywhere. Mostly you take the car. 
5 You drive a Honda Odyssey Mini Van.
6 You drive a Honda Odyssey Mini Van with an OU Sooner sticker on the window. (My husband says I am an easy target.)
7    You leave a big tip.
8    You use your turn single to enter a roundabout, but fail to use them when exiting the roundabouts.
9   You have on average, 8 yellow bags of trash for pick-up on yellow bag day, and your German neighbors have only 2 or 3.  
10  You open your mouth and speak.

I didn’t even get into how we dress, drive, or shop. I love the humor in this. I have mostly enjoyed this clashing of cultures. It has taught me much and stretched me spiritually and mentally. But as I thought about this, I wondered am I a dead give away for a Christian?  What would that list look like?   Here are a few thoughts.  Servant, generous, thoughtful, shows interest in others, giving of your time, a picture of peace in chaos, friendly driver, not a gossip, mostly optimistic, Godly speech, a sense of Godly priorities, conviction and passion for God and His Word, repentant, humble, able to say “I’m sorry,”  trusting of God.  
Galations 5 outlines for us the “fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”  These are DEAD GIVEAWAYS for spotting a Christian. “Dead Giveaway Christians” are always pointing people to Christ whether they say it out loud or not. Their lifestyle and habits will preempt any words from their mouth. If this is true, then it only follows that our lifestyle and habits can also negate our words or affirm them. 

I was especially convicted in two areas during the series “The Vow,”  (Lifechurch.tv)  1 For true intimacy to happen between me and my husband, I must trust God to trust him (Paul) with secrets, hopes, fears, anger, joy, everything!  In the same way for us to have intimate friendships, we must trust God to enable us to trust others.  The second thing I was convicted of during this series, was “act like a Christian.”  These days, it is often the case that the word Christian conjures up so many negative thoughts, stereotypes, and preexisting secular images and ideas, and not all very appealing or complimentary.  But the truth is “Christian” is a very scriptural word first used at Antioch. (Acts 11:25-27) Personally, when I think of “Christian,” I think of “Christ like.”  Maybe it is time, we started showing the world the true definition of Christian. Are you and I a “dead giveaway?”

The Value of a Woman used by God


The Value of a Woman used by God

In preparing for a speaking engagement at an upcoming conference, I have struggled with the title of my given topic:  “The Value of a Woman used by God.”  Hmm… If you dissect this title, you could reach two very different conclusions.  
1 A woman’s value when she is used by God.  OR
2 The Value that results from a Woman who allows herself to be used by God.  

You guessed it. I am formulating my lesson around the latter interpetation.  Here is what we need to understand as women.  Our value in Christ is intrinsic.  It is not earned. It is not rewarded on the basis of what I “do.”  It is not conditional. 
1 John 4:19 says, “We love because he FIRST loved us.”  God knew us in the womb. Before we were born, all of our days were ordained by God.  He knew us in that secret place.  (Psalm 139:13-17) Our value in Christ is not contingent upon how many sins we have committed in our past or in our present.  If it were, I would be of no value to God.  (Psalm 103:2-12)  Romans 5:8 says “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this:  While we were YET sinners, Christ died for us.”  

For those of us who have children, do we love our children because of their good looks, their athletic ability, or their artistic skills?  Is our love to them doled out conditionally, based on their performance?  Do we hold our love back until they meet our needs or until their efforts meet with our approval? As convicting as these questions are for us, our answer must be a resound No!  We love our children simply because they are ours.  They are a part of us. They belong to us.  This doesn’t mean that we don’t discipline them, expect excellence from them, and charge them with responsibility.  But rather, it means that no matter what, we love them unconditionally and unselfishly.  And so it is for God our father.  “We love because He first loved us.”  Our value is intrinsic in our “sonship” with the Father.  John 1:12-13 says  “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” 

And then, when we realize from whence comes our value in God, when we embrace this truth that we are a daughter of the King, first and foremost because He chose us to be, then just watch the “value” that is yielded when we yield our lives to the One who loves us the most.  Marriages will be restored.  We will have Godly offspring-not only biological but spiritual offspring; we will be comforted; Forgiveness will be granted and received; the church will grow; individual spiritual growth will abound; Joy will be had by so many.  Lives will be transformed beginning with your own.  If you are reading this, I don’t care who you are, where you have came from, or what path you are on.  You are a child of the King.  You are His and He is yours.  He is waiting for your response.

Two Faced


Two-Faced 

I just finished a book entitled “How to Solve your People Problems: Dealing with the difficult people in your life.”  It is a great book written by a Christian author (Alan Godwin) who for years has counseled people in conflict resolution, and how to deal with the difficult people in one’s life-both the “reasonable and the unreasonable.” But one thing that alarmed me as I read this book was the number of people in ministry positions, leadership positions in the church, who act one way at home and quite another way at church.  There was a true story of one man who was an elder in his church, yet for all of his married life had verbally abused his wife. He was one way at home, but quite another way in front of the flock or at a potluck meal. I find this Jekyl and Hyde facade very appalling.  Lest you think we can only READ  about such undetected atrocities inside the church, I should share a few of my own stories. I know of one church elder who each Sunday goes through the motions as a pillar in his church, speaking, sharing, serving, but on his own time, he gambles, mistreats his employees, and betrays his wife’s trust.  I know another leader in the church who verbally abuses his wife, controls her in an unhealthy and harmful way, and yet leads the “charge” each Sunday as he sets his “Sunday best” in motion. I know of women who project themselves as saints inside church circles, but they treat their adult children with such disrespect, manipulating them for their own selfish gain by employing guilt, shame, and sarcasm in order to solicit the behaviors they desire.  Essentially, these so called Christians are living a lie.   And then there is me. I serve in my church. I serve on a local chapel board. I lead bible studies.  But at home I am often disrespectful to my husband, impatient with my children, and self-righteous about  the “charges” I lead from this base of operations I call home.  I like to think that I am transparent. My motto is often “what you see is what you get.”  But sometimes I know that I am misleading others, projecting the false belief that (1 ) I have it all together or (2)  My family should be lucky to have me and/or  (3)  I am rarely, if ever wrong.  As I read Alan Godwin’s book and pondered some of these true scenarios while considering some of my own experiences with similar persons, I felt sick.  I thought to myself, “It is perhaps the worst kind of sin to act one way to the masses, while privately abusing those who are closest to you, OR anyone who takes a stand opposite your position.”  Then I started a closer examination of my own life and realized there were many areas where improvements could be made and spiritual growth could ensue.  And finely, I was left with this nagging thought.  We (Christ followers) have to look different. It is imperative that we “become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life….”Philippians 2     

Jesus had much to say about the sin of “two-faced.” in Matthew 23: “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean. “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness. 

Paul said about himself and his missionary companions in 2 Corinthians 10 “Such people should realize that what we are in our letters when we are absent, we will be in our actions when we are present.”  Paul the apostle was the same guy in person as he was in when absent.  We should follow suit with this divine example. We should understand that if we are not for God, then we are against Him.  If we abuse others, physically, mentally or otherwise, then we are abusing the positions we hold in ministry, in our community, and in our homes.  Belonging to Christ and serving in His kingdom doesn’t grant us licenses to treat others with malice and disrespect. Leadership in ministry and “saintly” labels do NOT give us a free pass to trample down everyone in our path. Nor does it excuse us from the consequences of such behaviors.
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Freedom-Do you have it?

Freedom. Do you have it?

Recently my family and I had the privilege of traveling to Moscow, Russia for vacation.  If you know anything at all about Russian history, you might know something of its tumultuous past and volatile leadership dating back to the 14th or 15th century and well through the WWII era.  Then there was the cold war, the Soviet Union as it was, and the ensuing oppression of its people, still, after having already suffered so much loss and tragedy in the war. We had an incredible tour guide, a lovely Russian lady named Lydia who took us through both Red Square and the Kremlin sharing the minutest details of her country both past and present.  Lydia was herself a young girl during the days of the USSR regime.  She and her family grew up in a one bedroom, one bathroom flat along with 3 other families!  They would alternate the days each family used the bathroom. Still this was luxurious compared to what Lydia’s parents had endured during the war.  Lydia recalled with detail how their travel was limited if not made impossible by the government, how their thinking was distorted and manipulated by government ideology, and even their movement around their own city was hampered.  As we visited with Lydia and toured her beloved city for hours, the contrast between my upbringing and hers became undeniably obvious to me.  Later when Paul and I were alone, we marveled how “In her whole entire life, Lydia had never known freedom in the way we had.”  In her whole life, more than 60 years, and she has not tasted freedom like you and I! Needless to say, the spiritual lessons were undeniable.  Most of us have enjoyed lives free of political oppression.  Most of us.  More importantly as Christ followers we have found true freedom in Christ. Freedom from our sin, from a life in bondage to the flesh, freedom from fear.  Undiluted, glorious freedom.  Galations 5 says  It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.  Yet how often do we allow Satan a stronghold in our lives. Guilt, shame, bitterness, anger, and/or hurt. Even our overcommitted schedules and many of our worldly pursuits hold us in captivity, and prevent us from fully embracing the abundant life with Christ.  All of these things can take root in our souls, and when they do, we are no more free than that little girl who grew up in the USSR in a one bedroom flat. Perhaps less so.  We live like captives.  But indeed Christ has set us free.  We should be singing this from the hilltops.  The thief has truly come to “steal, kill, and destroy,” but Christ has come to give us life “and to give it abundantly.”  Christians of all people should start acting like free persons. We should show the world that we are Christ followers, and our lives have been transformed by the One, the only One who gives us true freedom.

Psalm 119:45
I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts.

Luke 4:18 The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed.

Romans 8:20-21 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.

2 Cor. 3:17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

Ephesians 3:12 In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.