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Ends and Beginnings
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Bless Her Heart
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You can’t tread water forever
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Stop Loving God More
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Children and their Questions

Ends and Beginnings

Today, I turned in my key to Union University as well as to Shelter Insurance. The days following my two weeks notice have been filled with joyous celebrations as well as scattered tears for the relationships I must leave behind. But in the words of my wise husband, “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” (Sometimes I forget he loves 90’s music because apparently this is a quote from a Semisonic song).

As I did my best to prep my emotional stamina last night, I was reminded of Paul’s words about running a race in such a way that you may win (1 Corinthians 9:24).

My finish line is not at Union right now. It was just a stop along to race route. In fact, my two part-time jobs were not really the race at all. My obedience in walking with Christ is the good race.

When Christ calls us to end a beginning, it’s so that He can start a new beginning in us. And during the transition, we have the opportunity to cling to Christ and trust that He will work all things together for our good and for His glory.

Bless Her Heart

“My friend Jane, bless her heart, wears boy shorts; she refuses to wear dresses or skirts.”

How is it that sentences like the one above get shared during prayer request time? Galations chapter six tells us to “carry one another’s burdens.”  We’ve all got a lot of stuff happening in our lives. We have situations where we need wisdom and guidance as well as moments of praising God for working in our lives. And yet, it’s a constant battle to keep prayer request time free from gossip.
Actually, it’s a war to keep our everyday chit-chat free from gossip.

The tongue is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men who are made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things should not be this way. – James 3:7-10

Since the line between truth and gossip can be tricky to navigate, here are three questions to decide whether or not to share that piece of information you just learned.

  1. Is it true? The answer to this question is usually yes. After all, the juiciest gossip is always at least based on truth. Just because something is true, does not mean it is right, or in this case, righteous.
  2. Is it kind? This question is harder to answer. Maybe ask yourself, would I say this to her face? Or How will other people knowing this information affect the person it is about? We have all messed up, but not everything needs to be public knowledge.
  3. Is it necessary? Our words should not be background noise that go on and on without anyone paying attention to them. Rather, we strive to add valuable insight to conversations without attacking or insulting other people.

If you can honestly answer “yes” to all three questions, then most likely you are safe to share your story. However, if you answered no to even just one question, then you should keep it to yourself. Above all, ask the Holy Spirit to convict you before you even open your mouth.

You can’t tread water forever

 

Goggles from Walmart. Check.

One-piece swimsuit from Marshall’s. Check.

Two weeks ago I began my career as an Olympic swimmer. Forget the fact that I haven’t swum laps since I was eight and taking swimming lessons. And the fact that I barely passed the “Goldfish” class even then.

I jumped feet first into the shallow end and shuttered as my swimsuit absorbed the cool water. I pushed my goggles against my eyes and tested their suction to my face.

Gold medal time. I pushed off the wall and let my arms go into auto pilot with the freestyle stroke. As my feet propelled me through the water, I was feeling confident. My feet kicked a rhythmic splutter behind me while my arms counted left, right, left, breathe; left, right, left, breathe.

Suddenly, my left foot cramped, pulling my foot at an unnatural angle. The rhythm fell apart. I couldn’t straighten my foot, couldn’t kick, couldn’t get my arms under me enough to tread water. Sputtering chlorine-filled water from my mouth, I doggy paddled myself to the edge while the seventy-year old man in the next lane swam smoothly along. Fail.

Life lesson: swimming is awesome. Drowning is awful.

When we talk about our walk with God, we use the phrase that we are drowning in our sin. I remember the pain of basing my self worth on good grades, only to realize that no one liked me any better with A’s than with C’s. I even remember the helplessness of trying to get out of big problems by my own power. There are some situations in life that are too big for us to handle by ourselves.

I recently reread the story of Jesus with the woman at the well in the gospel of John. The conclusion of the story occurs in John 4:39-42. Without the woman admitting it, Jesus knew that she had five husbands and that she was currently living with a man who was not her husband. She was drowning in her sin. Yet she came to believe that this man, Jesus, was the Messiah.

She could have kept it all to herself. But she didn’t. Rather, she testified to the Samaritans that this man, Jesus, had told her everything she had done. What was the result of this confession?

Verse 39 says many believed based on her testimony. After that, Jesus Himself went to those people. Verse 41 says that many more believed. They came to understand and accept Jesus as the Messiah! Did Jesus act in their lives? Absolutely! But this woman’s testimony sparked people’s interest. They were perhaps even more willing to listen to what Jesus said because they had heard her tell her own story.

I’m wondering; how many times have I told my swimming story? But who is in my life that may need to hear my testimony about how God has rescued me?

Stop Loving God More

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My husband loves football, the whole sport. When we started dating, I knew that this “hobby” had the potential of being a deal-breaker in our relationship. I could pretend to love football for a year maybe, but not much longer than that. At some point, if I did not start loving it for myself, I would stop liking it altogether.

It’s the same way with Christ. We are not called to love Christ more than we love ____ (fill in the blank with your own example). We are called to love Christ. Period.

Let’s go back to football. I can love football more than I love soccer. But loving football more than loving soccer falls short of loving football period. Because the moment my husband asks me to get off the couch, drive eight hours, and sit on cold bleachers to watch a football game live, I’m out. I no longer want to associate with him. By no means do I condemn him, it just suddenly becomes evident that I have been pretending. At that revelation, it’s too late to go back, my husband and I would be confronted with the truth – I do not love football.

Look at our relationship with Christ. We have to stop loving God more than ____. 1 John 15-16 says, “Do not love the world or the things that belong to the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in him. Because everything that belongs to the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride in one’s lifestyle – is not from the Father, but is from the world.”

We have to start loving Christ period. It’s not enough to love God more than I love my car, my popularity, or even my husband. I love God. Because I love God, I obey Him. God calls me to respect my husband. I love my husband because I love God just like I have learned to love football because I love my husband.

God has given me a car and allowed me to be well-liked. So what? I am wasting both if I do not use them to show my love for God to people. I give friends a ride because I love God and God has told me to love my neighbor.

Don’t get it backwards. I do not love people so that God will love me. It doesn’t work that way. We can never work our way into God’s grace. God first loved me. And now I love God.

Children and their Questions

Last week I got to spend the morning with a mother from our church and her two young children. At the kitchen table, we began to discuss what Kevin’s job entails. I began by explaining that he works at the Star Center, a place that helps adults and children with disabilities. Not missing a beat, her three-year-old daughter asked me, “Mrs. Renae, what’s a disability?”

Children ask great questions. When they encounter new objects, people, or concepts, they don’t hesitate to ask about them. Some questions catch us adults off-guard and leave us stammering through unrehearsed answers. But there is one question that we should always have a ready answer for, “Why do we do all this “Jesus stuff?”

In a recent sermon at my church, one of our pastors used Deuteronomy 6 to support his main point. After referencing the Shema, he pointed out the difference between the word “when” and the word “if” in the proceeding passage.

20 “When your son asks you in the future, ‘What is the meaning of the decrees, statutes, and ordinances, which the Lord our God has commanded you?’ 21 tell him, ‘We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, but the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a strong hand. 22 Before our eyes the Lord inflicted great and devastating signs and wonders on Egypt, on Pharaoh, and on all his household, 23 but He brought us from there in order to lead us in and give us the land that He swore to our fathers. 24 The Lord commanded us to follow all these statutes and to fear the Lord our God for our prosperity always and for our preservation, as it is today. 25 Righteousness will be ours if we are careful to follow every one of these commands before the Lord our God, as He has commanded us.’

I have never been a slave of Pharaoh in Egypt. But I have been a slave of sin in death. I have never seen the blood turn to water, locusts fill the sky, or any of the other plagues, but I have watched houses and lives ripped apart due to living selfishly.

God has brought us out of sin with His strong hand. And He anticipated the day that our children and youth turn to us and ask, “Why do you follow Jesus?”

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