I Am a Sinner. How About You?

Christian.  Failure.  Fake.  Which one of these words doesn’t belong?  That’s a trick question, if you ask me.  Someone, somewhere, one day decided that the word Christian was synonymous with the word perfect and it appears the whole world has bought into this idea.  I’ve never been accused of being the sharpest tool in the shed but this is horrible for a couple of obvious reasons.  First, no one on this Earth has ever been perfect except the Son of God.  Second, even it it were possible to attain perfection, the definition of what that looks like is a moving target.  It’s like you tell people you are a Christian and people immediately place unrealistic standards on your behavior that set you up for eventual failure.  Now here my out when I say that I absolutely think Christians are held to a higher ethical and moral standard and people should see us as ‘different’.  What I am talking about here are the unrealistic standards of perfection people seem to hold you to when you mess up and are *gasp* human.  And what’s worse, we Christians do it to other Christians all.the.time.  They look something like this:

  • You are a Christian but you lose your temper and post something on social media out of anger/hurt/betrayal.  *Let the stone throwing commence.
  • You say you are a Christian but you are in a bad mood (because we do occasionally get in those), you’ve been waiting in the check out line at Walmart for thirty blessed minutes and your hormones are all out of whack because you messed up your birth control (again).  You lose it on your kids in the check out line when they ask you for a Skylander/Shopkins mystery box for the fifty ninth time in three minutes.  *Elderly couple from your church standing in the next line whisper about how you need to “get yourself to the alter next Sunday” because surely you are a backslider with a temper like that.*
  • You are a Christian and you stand your ground and tell people when they are participating in sin or refuse to buy into the idea that if the world accepts something, we should too.  Even at the cost of going against our own biblical standard.  *You are a judgmental, hypocrite and need to get off your “high horse” and recognize your own sin*
  • You are a Christian but you stand up for yourself when someone wrongs you and cause a disagreement.  *You must not be a Christian at all because no Christian would ever cause a disagreement or speak up for themselves*.

The list could literally go on forever.  Maybe you’ve been in one of these situations I’ve mentioned above.  People love to use the word hypocrite, judgmental and self-righteous; just to name a few.  But here’s a news flash for all you folks reading this blog.  A Christian is a sinner SAVED by grace.  That’s it.  And you know what grace means?  It means “the free and unmerited favor of God”.  So basically, we get the favor of God, even though we don’t deserve it.  Even though we sometimes do things we shouldn’t.  Even though we sometimes say things we wish we hadn’t.  Once we accept Jesus into our spirit, he resides there.  Our spirit then, by default, is perfect because Jesus is living there and he makes it new.  It’s our flesh that we wrestle with daily.   We sin, we fall short, we are undeserving.  It seems like this grace would be easy enough to accept and also give but we’ve placed these unrealistic expectations on each other and our enemy uses them like a deadly arrow, piercing us right through the heart.

I often think of my walk with Christ more like a run in a race.  I imagine myself running along, the sun shining on me, the wind blowing my face like a cool breeze, I can see the finish line and I am feeling great but then out of no where, and I trip and fall over a giant rock right in my path.  It’s not just a graceful fall either, it’s a dramatic, somersault, broken bone, bloody shins kind of fall.  I almost got to the finish line but got the wind knocked out of my sails and didn’t make it.  Can anyone relate?  Those rocks in our path as we are running our race with Christ can be the lies the enemy tells us when others place unrealistic expectations of our Christianity on us.  He takes what that elderly couple whispered behind your back in the check out line and he manifests it until it takes up so much room in your thoughts that you believe you are a fake, a failure in your walk with Jesus.  Pretty soon you aren’t focusing on the task the Lord has for you on this Earth, or the talents he has given you.  You are focusing on other lies that the enemy is feeding you through this measure of perfection that we hold each other to.

Maybe nobody has told you this today but I’m here to tell you that the devil is a LIAR and the father of it.  As a matter of fact, the bible says there is no truth in him.  Let me say that again.  There is no truth in him.   So that means that all those lies you believe about yourself, all those measures of perfection and criticism that we hold each other to, they are all lies.  The bible tells me Satan is literally incapable of telling the truth.  Any negative emotion or feeling you have about yourself is an untruth from the pit of Hell. You feel worthless because Satan is using others to convince you that it’s true?  Well, sister, let me tell you, you are worth far more than rubies in the eyes of the Lord.

I have felt like a failure in my own walk with the Lord recently.  I have been made to feel like I am a fake.  And it has been a terrible struggle of spirit and flesh ever since.  I questioned who I was in Christ.  I pondered my walk with him and reflected on my words and actions to see if I had veered off the path of righteousness.  This morning, I was even contemplating going to church at all.  I was having a pity party in the largest fashion.  But as I was talking with God, he reminded me of Peter.  Peter was a disciple of Jesus and his list of accomplishments was great.  He was one of Jesus’ inner group of three.  He wrote two books in the bible.  By all means, he was a true follower of Christ.  But you know what else Peter did?  He also often spoke without thinking and was impulsive.  He DENIED Jesus three times, even after Jesus told him he would do this.  What a failure and fake he must have felt like denying Jesus as he was being nailed to the cross!  Peter was a human and by all standards, humans are subject to the attack of the enemy.  I can’t be sure but I can bet that the devil had a hay day playing with Peter’s heart and mind over the denial of Christ.  If he would have believed the lies of the enemy and given up on his walk with Christ, he would not have been able to go on and preach the gospel after Jesus’ ascension into Heaven.  And what a shame that would have been.

I am a sinner.  Through and through.  I’ve never claimed to be perfect or to know it all. I will mess up again probably before I post this blog.  BUT I am also saved by grace.  I have a God who gives me forgiveness and mercy especially when I don’t deserve it.  You are a sinner too.  You can also be saved by grace, if you aren’t already.  But let’s agree on something, ok?  Tomorrow let’s wake up and begin truly seeing others through the lens that God uses.  He knows we are sinners.  He loves us anyway.  He knows we are sinners.  He gives us grace we don’t deserve.  He knows we are sinners.  He forgives us even when we don’t deserve it.   My study bible describes Peter and sums his life lesson up like this: It is better to be a follower who sometimes fails than one who fails to follow.

John 8: 44 ” He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for their is no truth in him.  When he lies, he speaks his native language, for his a liar and the father of lies.  

 

We are Warriors (yes, even you!)

5th grade just ain’t what it used to be. I mean, I know it’s been like 25 years since I was actually in the 5th grade but still. And my 5th grader is a talker so I know absolutely more than I want to about what is going on with the kids in his wing on the school. Just this week I have had to answer questions about what a transgender person is, why two boys kissed and licked each other during recess and what a condom is. Bet you didn’t see any of that coming in the fourth sentence of this blog. Yeah. I didn’t see it coming either. I’ve wanted to spend the vast majority of the week curled in the fetal position, rocking back and forth, refusing to adult until my husband gets home from work. But alas, somebody’s gotta answer these questions and it might as well be me. Matter of fact, if I want to parent my kids and raise children capable of dealing with the pressures of this ‘anything goes’ world we live in, it BETTER BE ME. No matter what your opinion is on anything I’ve mentioned thus far, I’m betting we can agree that 5th grade is way to young to have to deal with and emotionally process these issues. In the 5th grade, the biggest thing I had to worry about was if I was going to get a bomber jacket at Christmas and how to play in the woods without finding all the poison ivy patches. I shudder to think how much less awesome I would be today if I would have had to tackle half the problems this school year has manifested for my kid. Poor guy. And I know it’s not just him. Lots of kids are dealing with this kind of stuff. I could be philosophical and list likely reasons for the decline of parental responsibility and the rapid maturing of today’s youth but it would do no good and be extra super boring. The thing to be really concerned with is that our children are dealing with, and being exposed to, issues that we just can’t relate to. Sure, we learned about all these things eventually but our childhoods were vastly different, much more innocent and carefree, than our children’s are shaping up to be.
Anyone who knows me and my hunky hubby know that, to an extent, we shelter our kids. We made a choice to follow Jesus and we try not to leave any of the “following” part out. We don’t drink or cuss, we don’t let them play video games that are violent or not age appropriate and we don’t listen to mainstream music when we drive. I don’t allow them to check out books that I believe are questionable or “dark” for their age and the list could go on. You might be rolling your eyes here but let me mention just a couple things before you cast harsh judgement. First, our kids are happy and well adjusted despite their parents ruining their lives with our rules (feel free to insert sarcasm where necessary) and second, God entrusts each set of parents with the upbringing of their children and we get to decide the morals and values we instill in them. The ability to shape their future is a great and monumental task and one I know none of us take lightly. In the long run, my kids not hearing cuss words on the daily or playing Call of Duty until their eyes are bloodshot will not damage their ability to be productive members of society. Unless of course the apocalypse comes and in which case, my bad. So, we have all these rules and we run a pretty tight ship as far as matters of the heart are concerned but you know what? They still know all the mainstream songs (even my kindergartener swears his favorite song is Uptown Funk), when someone references the “F” word, they instantly know which one it is…and it’s not fart, just to be clear. Sadly, I continue to have to run defense and counteract all that they are being taught in the 8 hours they are gone from us at school. My control-freak self has obsessed and analyzed situations looking for way to’fix’ these issues until recently. while I was praying about some of these things the Lord revealed something to me. It occurred to me that I have been spending all this time running defense when I really need to pick up my offensive game. I can continue to try to ‘unteach’ all the things they are learning at school or I can turn to the Lord in prayer and FIGHT for my children. I can arm them with scriptures, help them memorize scripture until it is tucked so far into the depths of their hearts that it becomes a part of who they are. I can reassure their broken hearts that when people are cruel and mean to them it is because of one simple and profound truth, hurting people hurt others. I can show them how to let their lights shine for Jesus and feel empathy for those who are hurting their feelings. Instead of getting flustered by the fact that I am having to explain what a condom is to my 5th grader, I can choose to see these issues as divine appointments that give me an opportunity to teach my children how to breath, speak, live and love like Jesus. Sure, I could give in and be like most other parents and let my kids have, act and talk however they want but I’d be letting Satan have them. I’d practically be handing him over parental rights. Instead, I can take each of their specific problems and FIGHT for them on the front lines. God knows what they are facing each day and I can take comfort in the fact that even when I can’t be with them, he is there. Warriors have one job, to go into battle and fight. As such, a warrior is either in a battle or preparing for the next one. If a warrior slacks off and isn’t prepared, the enemy will attack and gain ground! God’s warriors have no off time if we don’t want our enemy to advance. We are the warriors in our homes, mamas! We must fight for our children, our husbands and our homes. We cant’ leave it to chance and hope they turn out alright. We must be intentional and dedicated to our battle plan if we want to save our families. If you don’t fight for them, who will? With all the battles they are facing today I know one thing for sure-Satan sure thinks they are worth fighting for…

“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” Ephesians 6:12

Testimony Tuesday but on a Sunday.

For a week and a half, I’ve had this one scripture on my mind.  I really thought it was what I was supposed to write about but while reading tonight, God put a different message in my heart.  So, let’s talk about Jesus feeding the 5,000.  I’m sure some of you reading this are already having a difficult time thinking about Jesus taking five loaves of bread and two fish from a little boy and feeding 5,000 people.  I’ll admit, that is a lot of hungry mouths.  It makes me cringe to think of feeding my 20 or so people at Thanksgiving each year.  In our human minds, it seems nearly impossible.  Some want to argue that events like this one are merely symbolic for some greater meaning because they can’t possibly fathom it actually happening.  Others use events like this to discredit the bible completely, you know, since it doesn’t seem plausible and therefore isn’t.  Me?  I choose to read the bible and believe exactly what it says.  If it says Jesus fed 5,000 people then I believe that was one happy, and full, crowd.  Who am I to put a limit on what is possible for the Almighty God?  I mean, I can’t even remember to put the clothes in the washer into the dryer.  I’m in no place to put a limit on my Creator. In my humble opinion I think it is us humans who put a limit on what God will do in our lives.  We exist on choice.  We have a choice to believe in Jesus Christ, Buddha, Allah, or nothing at all.  We have a choice to believe what God is capable of, or is not capable of, and we have a choice to exercise faith.  As I used to tell my students, and still tell my own children, while we are free to choose, we are not free from the consequences of our choices.  So, if I “put God in a box” so to speak, and don’t allow him to move freely and miraculously in my life, I will live with the less-than-miraculous consequences.  I know and speak with experience because I have been guilty of stifling God and his mighty power and I have freely enjoyed the benefits of wholly believing in his goodness, faithfulness and merciful nature.  Let me just tell you a little about what God has done for me.

There are a million and one small things I could tell you about that have happened over the years, mine and Nick’s salvation for example (because I’ll be honest, we used to enjoy being the last ones to leave the bar) but I’m going to try to condense it down to a few of my favorite moments with God that were nothing short of divine intervention.

About a year after our middle child was born I found myself surrounded in darkness at every turn and completely overwhelmed in one of the scariest situations in my life.  I have never, even to this day, talked about it with anyone but God.  It’s deeply personal to me and it’s only because I feel led to share with someone who might need to hear that there is a way out of the condemnation and fear that I am even discussing it now. I can’t describe the feelings that overcame me but it was as if I had the blackest, darkest spirits in hell smothering me and I was consumed with an unwelcome fear and dread.  It was much worse than what I would describe as depression and yet not suicidal, although I did find myself consumed with death and dying.  It’s hard to even type that from where I stand today.  I had been pressing in closer to Jesus and was maturing as a Christian but yet here I was, with these feelings.  I heard Joyce Meyer say one day, “new level, new devil” and I immediately knew I was under a spiritual attack.  (ha! I know some of you science-y people are reading this and thinking, ‘no, you were depressed’ but I’m telling you it was much deeper than that).  I did what the bible instructs us to do.  I fasted and prayed.  I gave up food completely for two days and prayed that God would lift this feeling from me.  Each time I would be struck with fear or dread, i would sing whatever hymnal came to mind and praise the Lord without ceasing.  When Wednesday night finally came around, I ran to the alter to be prayed for.  My bible tells me to let the elders of the church pray and anoint you with oil and that is just what I did.  I even remember what i was wearing.  As soon as my pastor laid hands on me, I fell to the floor, slain in the spirit.  Now, I know I’ve probably got some eye-brow raising but that’s okay.  I’m here to tell you that spirit of darkness broke off of me and I was delivered completely from it.  Never again did I feel, nor have I felt, that dreadful and consuming spirit.  Chris Tomlin sings a song that says, “my chains are gone, i’ve been set free, my God my savior has rescued me…” well, that is what happened to me on that day.  My fear was replaced with the joy of the Lord. Testimony 1.

Fast forward a few years and Nick and I made a series of decisions without consulting God.  We up and moved to Tennessee.  Nick was traveling all the time, I had no friends, no family and three small babies.  Every church we went to was as dead as a door nail. Ugh.  After a few months, I convinced Nick that we would all be happier if we moved back home to our family and our church.  Because he is awesome, he agreed.  We rented the house in Tennessee for a year, not quite sure we didn’t want to keep it.  Ultimately we decided we were going to put it up for sale and buy a house in Kentucky.  We fasted, again, and prayed before we put it on the market.  We knew it would be a long shot since it was in an up-and-coming community that a buyer could custom build a house in.  Eight days after being put on the market, a buyer bought it with CASH.  Just like that.  Testimony 2.

Three years ago, I began having blurred, cloudy vision.  I would be in a room and it would appear as if everything in the room was foggy, only no one else saw it.  This got me concerned so I went to the eye doctor.  The eye doctor did some tests and told me I had significant optical nerve damage and was on the fast track to having full-blown glaucoma.  He began aggressively treating it but cautioned me to educate myself on it because there was no cure.  I’d be lying if I said this news didn’t rock me to my core.  Once I realized that glaucoma ultimately leads to blindness, I couldn’t look at my babies without sobbing.  I mean I cried ugly cries for like a week.  I know it doesn’t always lead to blindness but in my mind, I was going to go blind.  I was reading my bible and found a scripture in Acts that spoke directly to my heart.  Peter was going up to the gate called Beautiful and a lame beggar was asking for money.  Peter says, “silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you.  In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” The scripture moved me so much that I claimed it as my own.  When I was afraid, i would hold my hand over my eyes and repeat the scripture except I would say, “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, I can see.”  I made an appointment with a glaucoma specialist and you guessed it: fasted and prayed.  For three weeks, I claimed healing over my eye through that scripture and prayer.  I happen to believe that the bible is a living document that I can freely use for my life at the expense of Jesus Christ and his death and resurrection.  And for that, I am so thankful.  I also went and was prayed for by my pastor and other’s in my church and was slain in the spirit for the only other time to date. I believe I received a full healing at that moment.  Nick was out of town so I took my mom to the eye doctor with me.  He ran all the same tests that the previous doctor has used but he couldn’t understand why I was there.  He looked at me and said that I had, ‘textbook perfect’ eyes and no sign of glaucoma.  I wept and explained to him what had happened.  He looked at me like I had antlers growing out of my forehead as I told him of my miracle but I told him, nonetheless.  I told the ladies at the checkout, I told my barista at Starbucks, I told anyone and everyone who would listen.  My eyes were healed because I made a choice to stand FIRM on the word of God.  I did not put a limit on what God could do and he proved limitless, just like always.  Testimony 3.

Okay, last one.  I promise.  As many of you know, I was not very content my last year of work.  I loved my co-workers and my students but I was exhausted and felt guilty for how little I had leftover to give my husband and kiddos.  I guess you could say I was emotionally spent.  I remember thinking, Lord, this can’t be what you mean when you say you want us to be filled with joy.  The life I was living was hurried and mentally exhausting, I was cranky and worn out.  In November we began praying that God would make a way for me to stay home if that was in his will for our lives.  We had some land in Jeffersonville that we didn’t really need so we decided to put it up for sale.  We didn’t need to sell it so it was kind of one of those go-big-or-go-home situations with the price.  I remember standing in my classroom on the last day of school thinking, “okay, Lord, my mission field is at school and this is where you must want me” when the realtor called.  A couple from Colorado had bought it for FULL ASKING price.  They thought it was a bargain because land in CO is so expensive.  Huh.  I hurried and typed up my resignation and that was that.  Well, when Nick and I sat down to re-work the budget for one income, we couldn’t believe what we found.  We used the profit to pay off some big bills and when we added up our monthly saving from the debt elimination, it equaled my salary after taxes right down to the dollar!!!  Now, go ahead naysayer and tell me that wasn’t a God thing.  Testimony 4.

God is good, ya’ll.  Don’t put him on a shelf or limit what he can do in your life.  I told you all these things not to highlight me and what I did (because let me tell you, for every one thing I do right, I do about 10 wrong so yeah…) but to show you what God can and will do when you stand on his word and have faith that he can do what he says he can do. Nick and I definitely don’t deserve any of the things he has done for us because we are sinful and faulted, but we trust God to do what his word says he will.  That is literally all it takes. And the t-shirts are right, ya’ll do need Jesus.

Matthew 7:7 Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened for you.