When God Doesn’t Meet Our Needs

I think there is a burning question in each one of us, Christian or not. This question has been brought up over and over for years and it may even cause some doubt in believers or fuel the argument against Christianity.

Why does God allow suffering?

And just as many times as the question has been asked, it has been answered. There are many different views on this and I have read many of them but still never felt like I knew quite what the answer was.

During my quiet time yesterday morning, I didn’t mean to ask this question or to find any answers….I was simply reading Ephesians because I felt led to. An amazing thing happened…..I actually read the answer before I knew the question!

Phillipians 4:19 Says: “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.”

I know this verse has been both comforting and frustrating for many. Why doesn’t it feel like God is meeting my needs? I’ve read a lot about God’s timing being an answer….but I was enlightened when I read through the book of Ephesians! Maybe his timing is, indeed, now. Maybe we already have everything we could ever need.

I believe we tend to focus on the “meeting our needs” part and not the “according to the riches of his glory” part. We have this idea in our head of what it looks like to have our needs met, ask that “God’s will” be done, and then get frustrated when those two things don’t line up. All throughout Ephesians, God (through Paul) defines what this really means.

Starting in Chapter 1, Verses 7-8 Paul writes, “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us.”

I couldn’t help but notice the same language being used here as it was in Phillipians. According to his RICHES and glory. Maybe our idea of riches looks a whole lot different than God’s idea of riches. The cross is ONE. POWERFUL. WAY. God provides for us!  Imagine living weighed down by the chains of unforgiveness.

Need #1 ✅

He doesn’t stop here, though! We don’t need to read much further to see that he provides for us in yet -another- way.

Ephesians 1:8-9 says, “With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment – to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.”

Ephesians 1:13: “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised holy spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession – to the praise of his glory.

So here, he has provided us with the Holy Spirit and the promise of an inheritance! If we just stopped there…..I would be in absolute awe of all that God has freely given us, without ever even deserving any of it!

Need # 2&3 ✅

But he goes on!

Ephesians 1:18: “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people.”

He’s given us hope. Something to keep us on track. Keep our eye on the prize. We have something so valuable inside of us that there are no words to describe it. That last part made me feel treasured. This hope we have inside of us is described as being the RICHES of his glorious inheritance. I just see a jewel, reflecting this beautiful light in all of it’s brilliance, buried safe- deep down inside of us. HOPE. In order to make it through this fallen world, we NEED hope. We HAVE hope.

Need #4 ✅

Ending Chapter 1, in Verses 22-23 Paul writes, “And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.

His fullness. The feeling of being completely satisfied. Full, according to Google’s Dictionary, is defined as “not lacking or omitting anything; complete.” Ephesians just told us that Jesus fills us in every way possible. We don’t go without the important things. At any given moment we have access to (so far) forgiveness, an inheritance, hope and now fullness. This doesn’t mean we ate too much Thanksgiving Dinner and now we are full….but it can.

❤️Have you experienced God’s fullness? I’d LOVE to hear about this in the comments. ❤️

I can’t accurately describe the way that it feels. It’s a satisfying feeling that no other thing on this planet could ever come close to giving us. And not only does it satisfy us, it overflows and fills those around us! What a wonderful gift.

Need #5 ✅

Adding to the list of needs being met, we read in chapter 2, verse 4: “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved.”

verses 7-8: “In order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.”

Love, mercy, grace, kindness.

Needs # 6, 7, 8, & 9 ✅

I had to pause here and really dig into 4 definitions in order to wrap my head around this.

Forgive- Stop feeling angry or resentful toward (someone) for an offense, flaw, or mistake.

Mercy- Compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm.

Grace- The free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings.

Favor- approval, liking or support for someone or something.

So you’re telling me…..I get all of those things? Without having to earn or pay for them?

This world is so full of false promises…this drink will make you lose weight and make you happy, this car will impress your friends and make you happy, this house will make you look like you have it together and make you happy, this beverage will numb your problems and make you happy, this person will complete you and make you feel happy, this vacation will relax you and make you feel happy, this double cheeseburger will taste good and make you feel happy, this package on your doorstep will make you feel happy…..but it never does. Or if it does, it doesn’t last long. Not only that, but we spend our precious time CHASING these things. We work hard, neglect our family and friends, constantly compare ourselves and what does it get us? Back to where we started.

Ephesians 2:14 adds, “For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with it’s commands and regulations.”

Our world is in a state of war and murder. We could get bigger guns, get rid of guns, limit guns or protect our guns with guns but God tells us that he is the source of our peace. We can chase peace in this world in whatever way we think will work, but the only true peace is found in God.

Need #10 ✅

Chapter 3, verse 12 tells us, “In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. I ask, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory.”

It means so much to me that I can come to our Father at ANY time and he will listen. I can’t say this about one other person. It’s just the way things are…..we are people…..busy people and we can’t be there for everyone all the time. And even if we could…would we be as understanding, forgiving and full of the riches we NEED?

The last verse that touched me was Ephesians 3:16: “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being.”

3 things we have access to if we take advantage of them: freedom, confidence and power.

Needs #11, 12 & 13 ✅

Next time we sit down to pray about our needs, my hope is that we will remember the needs he has already met and continues to meet. I’m not sure there is much more we could possibly need to make it through this fallen world.

  • Forgiveness/ Redemption
  • An Inheritance
  • The Holy Spirit/ Discernment
  • Hope
  • Mercy
  • Kindness
  • Favor
  • Grace
  • Kindness
  • Faith
  • Freedom
  • Confidence
  • Power

If one person on Earth offered all of these things all of the time, how would our world be changed? If there were MANY people walking around (called Christians), that had all of these things inside of them and they shared them…..how would the world change?

If we listened to Him, truly used these riches for good….could we change our circumstances? I recently read a quote that has stuck with me.

“When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new.” -Dalai Lama

My prayer is that we will rest, and listen to God’s direction.

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Running For Our Lives

I was walking through the wilderness. I tripped a couple of times and got hurt, no biggie. Then, I heard a noise that scared me so I started to jog. I stubbed my toes on the branches and scraped my arms on the trees as I went by. The noise was getting louder so I started to run. As I ran, I started to get tired and each of the little scrapes I had were getting sore. I started to run as fast as I could and lost track of where I was going. All I knew was I was going fast and I was going far. I had to get away from this thing. As my body was starting to give up on me, I came to a body of water. “Great,” I thought, “I know how to swim and I can hide here!” I dove into the water like I had so many times before. This time it was different, because I was exhausted and fighting for my life. In a panic, I forgot all of the swimming techniques I had learned in years past and just started throwing my arms and legs around in a desperate attempt to catch my breath.

As a child, I was trying to find my way through a world I knew nothing about. In the midst of this, I tripped and fell as most children do. We burn our finger, we scrape our knees, we get in trouble for lying. But then the small scrapes started to turn into gashes as life as I knew it – fell apart. Feelings of isolation and fear of the unknown were cutting me. Things like yelling, fighting and divorce left me bleeding. The loud sound of “what are you going to do?” kept getting louder and louder, so I ran faster. I ran as fast as I could to the first thing that made me feel safe. Alcohol. Despite the numbing, the sound kept ringing in my ears, “You don’t know where you’re going.”

My first relationship appeared as a big body of water. I thought, “Great! I know how to do this, and I can hide.” I dove in. Turns out, I was so exhausted and mentally drained that I started flinging my arms and legs around, just trying to stay afloat. I forgot everything I had learned in the past, such as: put others first, stay faithful, set boundaries. I was moving left and right, up and down, but all it was doing was making me drown even faster. In between betrayal, black outs, abuse, and silent cries for help…..I could barely catch my breath.

There is a survival float in swimming called the “Dead Man’s Float” or the “Jellyfish.” The first time I was introduced to this float, was in middle school swim class. It is meant to be used when someone is trapped in a large body of water or has run out of energy to get to shore. In the midst of struggle and panic, the person is asked to float facing down and dangle their limbs. Slowly turning their face sideways, they draw a breath and hold it underwater until they need another breath. The idea is to remain calm, relax, and conserve energy (and oxygen) until someone comes to the aid of the swimmer or until they have renewed energy and can swim to shore.

2

While mastering this skill in swim class, I remember the instructor telling us that the more we fought it, the harder it would be. It was important to fully relax and just float. If we tried to come upright again, we would have to move in order to stay afloat. It was when we were horizontal that we were able to float without effort. It’s hard to do much but relax when we are horizontal, right? This exercise not only relaxes your body, but your mind as well.

 

I came to the point where I was forced to choose….continue fighting and sink to the bottom or relax into God and find life again. I married a wonderful man who accepted me exactly how I was but this is not what saved me. In fact, we continued to struggle with jobs, finances and connection. We were drowning.

It wasn’t until we came together, made a decision to change and trusted God – that things started to look up. We said, “Ok, God. I’ll rest in you. Even in the middle of the deep waters, exhausted and fighting for our lives – we will rest in you.” We moved across the country, far away from everything we ever knew and trusted that God had a plan.

Now we are resting. We are catching our breath. Two years later, we are building our energy stores back up. We are building our strength in order to swim ashore and live the life God has designed for us. Through connection, church family, godly friendships, transparency and surrender…..we are resting and restoring our strength. It goes against our instincts to fight, to blame, to hide, to numb. In order to rest, fully rest, we have to do something we’ve rarely done. Stop, and do the hard things like admit things, ask forgiveness, give forgiveness, listen, learn, be open, be raw and transparent and face all of the terrifying things that have haunted us.

How many of us are running? Overworking, numbing out on social media and netflix, hiding behind our busy schedules and fake smiles? We run and run until we find ourselves in deep water. Maybe something hits us like the shock of cold water or maybe we suddenly feel the overwhelming pressure of water pushing down on us. No matter what brought us to this place of drowning, all we know is we have to do something.

I believe our first reaction may be to panic. We just want to catch our breath and stay above water. As you probably know, when we panic we actually continue to sink more. It’s when we find our calm and move slowly that we are able to see things more clearly. If we can bring ourselves to float and just let the weight dangle, we can focus our mind on what’s important. If we can slowly draw in a deep breath and just relax, our body and mind can start to restore energy levels. If we make time for hobbies, quiet time, screen free time, fellowship, boredom, and most of all – time with the Lord…..we will hear things we have never heard and see things we have never seen. We may still be in the water, but it is no longer drowning us.

When life throws finances, marriage, children, work, school, friends, tragedy, loss, and heartbreak at us……we kind of tend to panic. We are just trying to survive; throwing our limbs about trying to stay afloat. The whole time, we are just using up our valuable energy and sinking even further. Maybe God throws us in the water to slow us down.

After all, the transformation of the butterfly happens in the cocoon.

 

Transparency: seeing through shame

I experienced a turning point this morning. Down in the very sacred parts of me.

I’ve shared with people who ask, that I was saved at a very young age. I grew up in church and never remember a time where I did not believe in the things recorded in the Bible.

I also, don’t remember a time where I was living a sinner and was suddenly overcome with forgiveness and shed my old self. This may not make sense to most, because that is pretty much the definition of getting saved. Giving one’s life over to Jesus.

I’ve listened to speeches from people who have survived prison and been born again. I’ve also attended conferences where women have come out of sex trafficking and are now using their newfound faith to reach people all across the planet. Because these were incredibly moving, I felt like I was somehow shorted. How could I possibly make a difference if I didn’t have a story like that? After hearing many, many testimonies of believers giving their life over to Jesus and the miracle that surrounds that…..I almost craved to hear my own story. Truth is, I didn’t believe I had a story as amazing as those.

Now, as an adult, having reached a point where I can really sift through my life and truly digest the horrors I have lived through – my eyes are being opened.

For the past few weeks, I have really been struggling. Iv’e been struggling with shame and forgiving myself for my past. I grew up a Christian, this is true. However, I went through a good chunk of time (7-8 years) where I was not following the Lord. Sure, I still believed in Him, but you would never know it by my actions. I was leading a life I was not proud of. I can’t really tell you one specific reason WHY I was doing the things I was doing, but I was. And in full force. There really wasn’t any stopping me. Most people who know me now, and didn’t know me then, may find it hard to believe when I tell them the things I have done.

I have felt this urge to be honest about my past as a part of the healing process, but I’m finding some difficulty in this. In the past, I was unashamed about my actions and would really tell anyone who sat in front of me. It really wasn’t shocking to the people I chose to surround myself with. They had all done them or knew people who had. I live in a new part of the country and have found myself surrounded by some of the most amazing people! I feel incredibly blessed to have found not only an amazing group of friends, but also a church home like none I have ever experienced before. I think just having those things, has allowed me to feel safe and supported. Stable.

With this, comes a downside. Because I am surrounded by amazing people who have standards…..I feel much more shame when talking about the things Iv’e done. Not because they are judgmental, in fact they are far from it. But, because they aren’t desensitized to it like the people from my past. They feel strong emotion when they hear things of this nature. It hurts their heart. Because they genuinely care. So with that said, I am in a constant state of confusion. Do I share what Iv’e been through and done? Do those things matter anymore? In order to know me as a person, must someone know about my past? The answer, I believe, is yes.

I think about the deep splinter our daughter got in her foot. It was probably 4-5 inches long and deep in the skin of her foot. I think about how I had to sterilize and cut the skin with a razor blade in order to get it out before I could even begin to clean the wound. She was so brave to sit through such a scary thing. In fact, I worked hard to steady my own hands. I was just as nervous.

Are emotional wounds different? How scary and painful it must be to get the bad stuff out. It literally feels like a cut to the heart in order to drain the bad stuff. It is certainly scary. The people who are a part of this journey with us may feel scared too. But once the bad is out, we can not only see the wound better but we can begin to treat it properly. It is then, that the healing can begin. It may leave a scar, but it doesn’t have to be painful anymore.

So when I tell people about how detached I became when my parents divorced my seventh grade year, or how numb I was when I had an abortion at the age of 17, or how betrayed I felt when I discovered my stepdad was masturbating to pictures of me in my room, or how I don’t remember losing my virginity, or how desperate I felt trying to escape my abusive relationship in college, or how much attention I was craving while I was having premarital sex with strangers, or how lost I felt as I binge drank myself into blackouts for years, or how I spent my four year college loan in one year, or how unsatisfied I was with my body as I went under the knife to permanently change my body through cosmetic surgery and tattoos, or how low I felt when I walked in on my daughter’s dad cheating on me for the 7th time, or how strange I felt to be a single mother who had never even been married, or how helpless I felt when I wasn’t there for my daughter as she watched her dad attempt suicide, or how I couldn’t accept that a wonderful guy would want to marry me knowing all of that…………….I don’t have to be ashamed. Jesus made sure of it. He shed his blood to forgive people like me.

This morning in church as the feelings of shame flooded every fiber of my being and the pastor and worship team followed the Holy Spirit’s lead, tears began to pour out. The church gave an open invitation to those who did not yet know Jesus to make their way to the front so they could pray together. The whole time I wept. Although I am already saved, I felt God’s forgiveness flood through my soul and wipe clean any harbored shame I have kept hidden for all of these years. And that, my friends is one of the most beautiful things I have ever experienced in my 28 years.

When the Love You Feel Doesn’t Match the Love You Show

For quite some time now, I have been battling a mystery illness. For years I have had off the wall symptoms and for months we have been looking for the cause as my symptoms continue to get worse. This post is not about my illness or who can guess what’s wrong with me. This post is about my husband, my children and those around me.

I love that I get to be a homemaker. I have an opportunity that a lot of moms don’t have. I get to wake up everyday and make our house a home. I get to daydream about the decorations I will make, the chocolate cake I will make every year for our children’s birthdays, the handwritten notes I will send in their lunch boxes, the clean house and warm dinner I will have ready for my husband when he gets home from working hard all day, the flowers we will plant and watch grow, the pets we will love on, the memories we will make as we have friends over, the forts we will make and the sleepovers we will have. And these dreams make me so happy! My heart just overflows with love and the thought of having a family that is close and has open communication. I love knowing that I have the very important job of making our home a safe haven to express our emotions and decompress in. The trouble with this lately is…. tends to stop at the dream phase.

Last night I went to the coffee shop to do some work for the Usborne Book business I just started (yet another thing I do to cater to my illness….to keep my mind off of it and earn money to pay the unending medical bills) and this morning when I asked our 4 year old how her night was and if she was ready for a great day at school, her answer made my heart shatter into a million pieces. She replied hesitantly, “I kiiinnddaa like dad more than yooouuu…..” I calmly asked her what daddy does that she wished I would do for her and she said, “He be’s nice to me.”

Well, that was hard to hear. I don’t know how I took it so calmly (probably the fatigue I’m fighting), but it made me think. A lot. Like women already do all the time anyway. I started thinking about how being sick has totally taken over my life and it is effecting those around me. My quest to find an answer has come before my family. My mood swings are becoming intolerable for those under my own roof. The safe haven I am supposed to be creating is crumbling before my very eyes.

How is it that I spend at least half of my day daydreaming about all of the wonderful things I want to do for my family to show them I love them and how I can’t wait to give them a big ol hug after school and how they are growing so fast and I’m so sad because of it……but what they see is a mean mom. A mom who doesn’t have time for them, is too tired for them, has to leave them and change their routine so she can go to yet another doctor’s appointment. They see me and they don’t understand because I don’t look sick. I’m not sneezing or coughing or holding my belly due to a belly ache. I have no scratches or needs for a Band-Aid.

Is it up to me to tough through it and stop searching for answers in order to restore peace in our home or is it up to me to tough through it until we find an answer so I can get better for my family? It’s really a toss up. Until I decide, I guess I will work on “be’s-ing nice” to our kids so they don’t hate me.

 

The “Definition” of Parenting

What does being a parent really mean? Why is being a parent so hard?

We’ve heard it a million times. Our children are not born with an instruction manual. Only they are. The bible. If you don’t consider yourself a Christian, hang in here with me. I will mostly be referencing the dictionary believe it or not. Common definitions of words you use everyday.Ready, this is going to be a doozy (definition: something outstanding or unique of it’s kind).

Definitions to be included are:

  • Discipline
  • Disciple
  • Guide
  • Practice
  • Training
  • Punishment

I’ll start with discipline. Discipline is one of the many hats a parent wears daily. One of those things we don’t really know how to do, but we are constantly doing. There are Facebook arguments, news stories, articles and many coffee chats about how to discipline your child and how -so and so- isn’t doing it right. Right?

dis·ci·pline
noun
1.
the practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behavior, using punishment to correct disobedience

So, how do we “train” or “correct” our kids? What “rules” do they need to follow? What is the correct form of “punishment?”

I can’t directly answer that for you. I can’t tell you if your child is allowed to have a Snickers bar for breakfast or if they are allowed to sit on the counter and eat in the living room. We get SO frustrated because we don’t know how to pick the “rules” that will mold a child into a responsible, productive member of society. Then when we finally feel good about our rules, we struggle with how to stay consistent with them! That’s way too much to put on a human who makes mistakes! Are you guys with me? *stress*

Let’s look at a word that is hidden, but not very well…..in the word DISCPILine. Yes I typed it funky like that on purpose. DISCIPLE is in the word DISCIPLINE! Wowza! The things we miss…..

dis·ci·ple
noun
a personal follower of Jesus during his life, especially one of the twelve Apostles.

a follower or student of a teacher, leader, or philosopher.

We all think of  Jesus’ 12 disciples.

What did they do?

They followed Jesus, they made mistakes, they lacked faith and they even denied Jesus. Sound a little bit like us? Sound a little bit like our children?

As parents we are to be disciples and we are to guide our mini disciples. We are constantly learning from Jesus through our mistakes and our children are constantly learning from us through their mistakes (and ours, unfortunately). But our ultimate goal everyday should be to follow Jesus first and apply his lessons to our parenting. We should be raising these children to have minds of their own, not to follow rules even if they don’t understand them. One day they may not have us as a physical guide but they will remember the lessons we taught them. If they only remember one lesson, I hope it is that God is our guide and he sent Jesus to not only forgive our sins but to guide us in our daily living. He physically walked this Earth and he was a daily representation of how we should act and react.

guide
noun
1.
a person who advises or shows the way to others.
“this lady is going to act as our guide for the rest of the tour”
synonyms: escort, attendant, tour guide, docent, cicerone;

Notice that a guide is someone who advises or shows the way (leaving the student open to CHOOSE), not forces the way. Just saying.

Side Note: If we ever question what the right thing is…..we can look in the Word and find our answer. Always.

If you have never opened the bible (or even if you have but got overwhelmed), I encourage you to start with the 10 commandments:

ten-commandments-kids-wall-quote-4

         http://www.enchantingquotes.com/tencoki1.html

Now- how should our kids be “punished” if they do not obey?

Punishment
1
: the act of punishing
2
a : suffering, pain, or loss that serves as retribution
b : a penalty inflicted on an offender through judicial procedure
3
: severe, rough, or disastrous treatment

THIS IS WHERE IT GETS STICKY. This is where moms stop becoming friends because they don’t agree on how to punish their children. This is where news stories start because a mom did or didn’t punish their children correctly. Oh boy.

Ok, this is just from personal opinion. Take it or leave it. But I find that this world can be punishment enough sometimes. (I am NOT saying never punish your children!!) We live in a harsh world and it has a way of reminding us of that often.

This is my take on it. I consider a home to be a safe landing. I believe it should be a place to come to when we are feeling emotion of any kind. If we are sad, we can come home. If we are happy, we can come home. If we are feeling lost, we can come home. If we want our home to truly be this place for our children, we need to serve as their GUIDE instead of the DICTATOR. The world will punish them enough. If they steal, they will be punished in one way or another. If they commit adultery, this world will find a way to punish them. Have we all not experienced trials? Have a lot of them been a result of our misguided actions? If not, were we hurt by someone who was misguided? Did that person’s parent try their best to guide them according to the bible and commandments?

prac·tice

1.
the actual application or use of an idea, belief, or method as opposed to theories about such application or use.
“the principles and practice of teaching”
synonyms: application, exercise, use, operation, implementation, execution More
2.
repeated exercise in or performance of an activity or skill so as to acquire or maintain proficiency in it.
“it must have taken a lot of practice to become so fluent”
synonyms: training, rehearsal, repetition, preparation; More
verb
1.
perform (an activity) or exercise (a skill) repeatedly or regularly in order to improve or maintain one’s proficiency

No matter which definition you look at they all carry the same message: the repeated application of an idea with the goal of improving or maintaining our proficiency. Parenting takes practice. Heck, being a human takes practice. It will til our last day. We need to make peace with that and accept the fact that we are always practicing at life and at parenting.

train·ing

the action of teaching a person or animal a particular skill or type of behavior.

synonyms: instruction, teaching, coaching, tuition, tutoring, guidance, schooling, education, orientation

I love that synonyms like coaching, tutoring and guidance are listed! I can’t recall many times that a math tutor showed up and started barking orders at the student! Tutors usually sit next to the student and guide them in figuring out math problems. This is often done in a library – quietly. It is much more effective to whisper a lesson than to yell it over and over again. Ever notice how kids don’t want to pay attention to you until you are sitting down quietly, ready to relax?! It is hard to avoid stress when dealing with children on a daily basis…..be kind to yourself as well. Remember the previous definition was PRACTICE! This takes practice.

That being said, sometimes we do have to “guide” our children with a little more force than we would like to.

Correction and Protection (link here)

A shepherd carries a rod and a staff, which he uses in different ways for different reasons. The rod is just a big, long stick with a little knob or bud at the top of it. A staff has more of a hook at the end of it.
The shepherd will practice endlessly so that he’ll be able to accurately chuck that rod at a predator or even at an unruly sheep to keep it in line. Sometimes an animal will wander off too far from the others. The staff is used to hook a wayward sheep and lead it back into the fold. At other times, it’s used as an examining tool to check the animals for parasites or other ailments.

The Holy Spirit sometimes has to use a rod of correction on us, doesn’t He? And it’s good to know that whenever we lose our way, He will use His staff to lovingly and gently guide us back onto the right path. -Joyce Meyer

 

 

 

 

25 Days of December: Matthew Chapter 23

Good Morning lovelies! I hope your day is off to a great start! If not, join the club haha. My day today is actually going well, but I have my share of bad days! When I get a chance, I take advantage of those days and use any spare time I may have to study, read a good book, look at inspirational quotes or get outside! These are all things that lift me up, I hope you have discovered things you can turn to as well!

Let’s get started on our study today! (Yes, Jeannie, I am behind by one chapter! Whoops! God sees my intentions right, lol) I can’t believe how much goodness is in the Word!

Main points for today are:

  • Don’t be a hypocrite!
  • Be humble
  • A promise is a promise
  • Look at the big picture
  • The outside is no representation of the inside
  • Stop blaming the generations before you

 

  • Don’t be a hypocrite!

Matthew 23:1-4 (The Message): “Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: ‘The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.'”

This hit me hard. The way this scripture compares being a hypocrite to putting a heavy load on someone else’s shoulders but not volunteering to help with the load, was big! I think to the lessons I try to teach our children daily. They are good lessons, and sure they should try their best to follow them……but do I try my best to do the same things I am asking of them? Or do I put great expectations on them and expect them to figure it out themselves? Do you see the word “disciple” in “discipline?” Guilty! I pray that I am constantly reminded of my job as a mother, to first and foremost be a disciple to our children.

  • Be humble

Matthew 23: 8-12 (The Message): “‘Don’t let people do that to you, put you on a pedestal like that. You all have a single Teacher, and you are all classmates. Don’t set people up as experts over your life, letting them tell you what to do. Save that authority for God; let Him tell you what to do. No one else should carry the title of ‘Father’; you have only one Father, and he’s in heaven. And don’t let people maneuver you into taking charge of them. There is only one Life-Leader for you and them- Christ. Do you want to stand out? Then step down. Be a servant. If you puff yourself up, you’ll get the wind knocked out of you. But if you’re content to simply be yourself, your life will count for plenty.'”

I LOVE the very first line. “Don’t let people do that to you, put you on a pedestal like that.” We are ALL following the same Teacher here. There may be students in class who are better at giving reports or some that are better at running the camera, but we all have the SAME TEACHER. In the end, we are all held accountable for the same assignment and have the same expectations regardless of our natural talents. Some people thought math was a breeze, others really struggled. The ones who were naturals could become tutors if they wanted to help the others, but they did not become the teacher just because they were quick learners.

I also, love the part that says, “Do you want to stand out? Then step down. Be a servant………But if you’re content to simply be yourself, your life will count for plenty.” I have become so passionate about the power behind just being yourself and being unashamed about being human. The people you are afraid of, have simply just learned how to put on a bigger show. They are just as broken as you are.

  • A promise is a promise

Matthew 23:16-22 (The Message): “‘You’re hopeless! What arrogant stupidity! You say, ‘If someone makes a promise with his fingers crossed, that’s nothing; but if he swears with his hand on the Bible, that’s serious.’ What ignorance! Does the leather on the Bible carry more weight than the skin on your hands? And what about this piece of trivia: ‘If you shake hands on a promise, that’s nothing; but if you raise your hand that God is your witness, that’s serious? What ridiculous hairsplitting! What difference does it make whether you shake hands or raise hands? A promise is a promise. What difference does it make if you make your promise inside or outside a house of worship? A promise is a promise. God is present, watching and holding you to account regardless.”‘

Good point. God is watching no matter where we are or what we are doing when we make a promise. We are held accountable after that. No excuses as to why that promise didn’t count.

  • Look at the big picture

Matthew 23:23-24 (NIV): “‘Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices – mint, dill and cumin. 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. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.'”

A lot of people make a big deal out of tithing, and it is important. There is so much more to giving tithe though. Do you think God gives us a pat on the back if we give our weekly tithe at church but then leave and do not follow the teachings? We get so distracted, arguing about the right way to tithe that we no longer have the time to concentrate on what really matters.

  • The outside is no representation of the inside

Matthew 23:27-28 (NIV) paints the perfect picture: “‘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 the bones of the dead 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.'”

Not only should we work on the inside of us instead of worrying about the outside, but we need to apply this to other people, as well. OK, we know that things aren’t always as they appear. Instead of saying “don’t judge,” let’s instead make it a point to get to know the very people we are (because we are human) judging. After all, the only way to see past the outside appearances is to really dig in deep and look at the inside. If the inside isn’t looking too pretty we have a few choices…..among them: pray for them, provide a listening ear, show them you are not judging, relate to them, break down the walls, simply be there for them, show them you aren’t leaving like other people have, or (if you must) set boundaries and remove yourself from the relationship if God lays that on your heart. I don’t see the last option being God’s first option. If we look at how Jesus behaved during his time on Earth, it was most often from grace and compassion, not hate, bitterness and envy.

  • Stop blaming the generations before you

Matthew 23:33-34 (The Message): “‘Snakes! Reptilian sneaks! Do you think you can worm your way out of this? Never have to pay the piper? It’s on account of people like you that I send prophets and wise guides and scholars, generation after generation – and generation after generation you treat them like dirt, greeting them with lynch mobs, hounding them with abuse.'”

I applied this to parents and grandparents. We try to worm our way out of things we’ve done by blaming our parents. Sometimes, taking it even further and holding grudges or resentment. There is no doubt that our childhood and past play a big part in how we were molded into the person we are today. The thing we get wrong, I think, is that we are just as mold-able today! For some reason we think that we were molded and then fired in the kiln, never to be reshaped again. Only broken if we are mistreated.

If we allow our experiences, the people who surround us, The Word and most of all -God- to mold us until our last day, that is where freedom shows up. Why do we get ourselves stuck in the past. Why do we allow our past trials to chain us up? Why do we feel better if we blame it on the way we were raised or not raised? The truth is, we are humans raising humans here and that is kind of scary! lol Our parents made mistakes and we will make mistakes. That’s just human nature. God is all about forgiveness and freedom! Take the very hard step of forgiving your parents or grandparents. First tell God you forgive them and ask for His forgiveness for your grudge, then forgive yourself, then let them know you forgive them (if appropriate or possible). I think this is important even for those who are deceased (someone deceased, whom you hold unforgiveness towards). It will change your entire world, I promise.

 

 

 

25 Days of December: Matthew Chapter 19

Still playing catch up! 🙂 I have been studying and going over this chapter ALL day. It is a tougher one for me than past ones. The big divorce word comes up and it hits very close to home. I love how God brings us to our biggest walls and the very things that make us squirm in order to teach us the truth! OK, it’s a love/hate type of thing but in the end I always come out thankful!

Main points from today’s chapter:

  • The art of marriage
  • What Jesus says about divorce
  • The true definition of “eternal life” and how we gain access to it

 

  • The art of marriage

Matthew 19:4-6 (The Message): “He answered, ‘Haven’t you read in your Bible that the Creator originally made man and woman for each other, male and female? And because of this, a man leaves father and mother and is firmly bonded to his wife, becoming on flesh – no longer two bodies but one. Because God created this organic union of the two sexes, no one should desecrate his art by cutting them apart.'”

I LOVE that this translation uses the word art to describe what God has created between man and woman. I am so saddened by how marriage is looked at these days. It is made so disposable. Vows seem to be just words people say while they stand in front of the decorations they took out a loan to pay for. I see young people who view marriage as just a thing you do and if it doesn’t work out, you just get rid of that one and upgrade like the newest iPhone. Couples getting together for the reason of simply not being lonely. ART is always unique. It is always handmade and put together with thought. Most times, art is worth a lot of money and people will pay hundreds if not thousands of dollars to get their hands on it. Art is inspired by moods, hardships, life experiences, nature and the beauty of what surrounds the artist. Marriage is similar in the way two people come together with two totally unique views on life. Their marriage is a unique blend of give and take, ups and downs and compromise. No two marriages will go through the exact same string of events nor will they go through the same reactions from both wife and husband. Each marriage is a work of art, gaining more and more value over time.

  • What Jesus says about divorce

Matthew 19:8-9 (The Message): “Jesus said, ‘Moses provided for divorce as a concession to your hardheartedness, but it is not part of God’s original plan. I’m holding you to the original plan, and holding you liable for adultery if you divorce your faithful wife and then marry someone else. I make an exception in cases where the spouse has committed adultery.'”

Matthew 19:8-9 (NIV): “Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.'”

I listed 2 translations of this scripture because it challenged what many believe these days, including what I believed before this. I guess I hadn’t really put a ton of thought into what was acceptable as far as divorce goes. I guess I had my own ideas about acceptable reasons for divorce, however, I am NOT God. I am just a single sinner living here on Earth trying my best to study and follow the Bible. If I am staying true to my beliefs that the Bible is our guide, then I suppose that means I better change the way I think about things according to what is in this guide I refer to!

  • The true definition of “eternal life” and how we gain access to it

Matthew 19:16-24 (NIV): “Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?’ ‘Why do you ask me about what is good?’ Jesus replied. ‘There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.’ ‘Which ones?’ he inquired. Jesus replied, ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother,’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’ ‘All these I have kept,’ the young man said. ‘What do I still lack?’ Jesus answered, ‘If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’ When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth. Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.’

This scripture threw me off as well! Wait a minute…..I thought all we had to do to earn “eternal life” was to accept Jesus as our Lord. I grew up thinking that we could not earn Jesus’ love but rather that it was given freely. I was at a loss and I certainly did not want to write a study on the matter if I didn’t understand the concept, myself. So I studied it all day and here is what I found! It makes TOTAL sense to me now. It may require some extra reading if you are as interested as I was in the “real” meaning of eternal life. Here is a link to a teaching I read on the matter and it cleared things up once and for all!

Basically, it says that eternal life does not refer to living forever in heaven but rather, the QUALITY of life we are given NOW if we get to actually KNOW our Lord in a close and intimate way. So our salvation is being forgiven for our sins and gaining access to heaven. “Eternal life” takes it one step further and enters us into a relationship right now. I suppose you could compare it to a marriage. You can say your vows and sign a piece of paper saying you are married and that may be good enough for you. But in order to actually experience a close and intimate relationship with your spouse, you must make a daily effort to put into that relationship what you hope to get out of it. It’s a constant work in progress but the reward is immeasurable.

This being said, YES – we do need to follow the commandments in order to EARN eternal life (a close and intimate relationship with our Father).