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Krav Maga and the Wimp That Used to Be

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Aloha Grill is my favorite spot for lunch.  I love me some teriyaki chicken and rice with mac salad!  My lunch hour last Spring started out like any of the dozens of times I squished into that packed hole-in-the-wall restaurant.  But didn’t end the same.

Two blue-collar men entered right behind me and stood so close that our arms were touching.  Everyone who knows me knows how much I loathe being touched by anyone, let alone strangers, so I looked around the waiting area for room to move aside.  Out of nowhere, one of the men grabbed my arm so hard I thought that maybe he was trying to keep from falling, but when I turned toward him, the look on his face said it all.  He was a sleazy predator and I was at the unfortunate place and time to be chosen as his play thing.

Continuing to squeeze hard enough to leave bruises on my arm, he made a comment to me about the place being so crowded today followed by a wink and dirty smirk.  I just stared at him in disbelief of what was happening while his friend snickered behind him.   He finally let go of me when it was my turn to order.  The tiny room was full of customers, mostly men who were oblivious to what was happening right next to them.  When the cashier asked for my ID to use my debit card, I took it out and showed it to her in a way so the men still standing close behind me couldn’t see it.  I was afraid they would see my name and try to find me.

I had always thought that if the time called for it I would be tough enough to do and say what needed to be done.  But in that moment, when I was being assaulted, every ounce of feminism I thought I had left me, and I desperately hoped that any of the other men around me would swoop in and save me.  That didn’t happen.

By the time I got back to my office, I had lost my appetite and sat down on the bathroom floor and cried.

I thought about that moment every day for the next few months.  Why didn’t I say or do anything?  Why didn’t I stick up for myself?  What would I have done different if I could go back and re-live that day?  I thought of a million ways that hindsight would have changed that scenario, but I knew in reality that the only way that would have gone any differently, was if I was different.

So, I decided to be different.

Krav Maga was something I had been researching for years.  I heard about it on an episode of How I met Your Mother and loved to watch YouTube videos of Krav Maga fighters in Israel and training clips from different gyms and would imagine what it would be like if I were strong enough to do something like that, but that was laughable.  I mean, you’re looking at the girl who would sit out of PE if we were playing volleyball that day because I didn’t like the way the ball hurt my arms.

I was afraid of pain, both physical and the embarrassment of failure.  I’d never really worked hard for anything, pushed through anything, or fought for anything.  I like my comfort zones, things that are safe, familiar, and EASY!  And to top that off, it had been 14 years since the last time I exercised. (Yes, you read that right.  14 years) So obviously the most aggressive form of martial arts was not for someone like me, but I couldn’t shake the burning desire for it, and knew I needed to do something drastic to not be that person anymore.

krav-title-imageLast July I went to our local gym, Krav Maga Spokane, for a consultation.  I had decided that I was going to enroll before I walked through the doors, no matter the cost or how scary it looked.  My mind was made up, It was time to rip the band aid off the wimp and  jump in with both feet.

I asked my husband to drive me to my first class for moral support.  The cardio was incredibly intense, and if I looked as ridiculous as I felt, I’m sure it was comical.  But I kept going and did the best that I could. When the hour was over, I climbed into the car and let out a victory cry!  I did it!  Not only did I survive, but felt like I could fly.  (The next day, however, I was so sore I had to crawl up my stairs on my hands and knees.)

Now here we are in February, and I am still madly in love with Krav Maga. I’m in it for the long haul and would even love to be an instructor some day.  After a few months I stopped going to classes because of the man at the restaurant and started going  for me.  Its lessons have spilled over into unexpected areas of my life, drastically improving my mental health, reviving my sense of adventure, and even strengthening my relationship with God.  Here’s just a few:

  1.  Comfort zones are cages holding us back from our God-given potential.  God gives us our dreams and desires, and He wouldn’t do that if He wasn’t willing to give us His strength that we need to reach them.  If your calling is bigger than your abilities, or in contradiction to what is safe and familiar, step out anyway.  It’s not going to kill you, and you’ll be surprised at what you can actually accomplish.
  2. It’s OKAY to stand up for yourself.  No, establishing healthy boundaries, like delivering a palm heel strike to the face of someone with a death grip on your arm, does not make you a bitch.  It means you value yourself, and that’s healthy because God values you too. Empathy is my biggest strength so this was a hard one for me.  I try not to come across as rude to others, sometimes at my own expense.  But kindness and compassion do not mean we should take abuse.  God cares about us, it’s okay to care about ourselves, too.
  3. Stop comparing yourself to others.  A foot injury this winter took me out of class for nearly 5 weeks.  I lost a lot of fitness progress during that time and got really discouraged by the setback.  Because of it, I’m won’t be ready for the upcoming belt test, which many of my classmates, including those who started after me, will be taking.  But as much of a bummer as that is, I am happy for them and will be there to cheer them on, because the only competition I have is myself.  Likewise, there are a lot of folks much younger than Donnie and I who are serving full time at churches as Pastors, and we are not yet, but everyone’s journey is unique.  If I choose each day to surrender my mind, attitude, character to Jesus, to renew my mind in God’s word, to do one more rep than the day before, to hang on the bar a few seconds longer than last time (no, I can’t do a pull up yet, but it’s coming), then each day, by God’s grace, I can be a better version of myself than I was the day before.

It always irks me when people use Philippians 4:13 for just about everything, but in this case, I think it’s appropriate to say that what I’ve really learned is that “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” and if God had to use a medium like Krav Maga to help me really understand that deep down, then that’s okay.

If you’re looking for something that is going to challenge you and push you out of your comfort zone in ways you can’t imagine, consider trying krav Maga.    You won’t regret it.  You’re stronger than you think.

krav2          krav3         krav1

 

 

 

I Love America, But My Country Is Heaven.

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“But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” – Philippians 3:20

Folks, I love America.  I mean, Let’s be honest, it’s freaking awesome.

I am the proud granddaughter of a heroic Iwo Jima Marine, faithful voter, and my home decor is Americana. I am apple pie, cheeseburgers, the second amendment, country music, and football (the real American pastime).  I tear up every time the National Anthem is sung, and lose it completely when the families of fallen soldiers carry their photos in our local parades.  I love this place.  This place where I live as an ambassador to my true homeland: the Kingdom of Christ.

Social Media is both a blessing and a curse.  The benefits of being connected to my family and friends comes with the high price of having intimate knowledge of everyone’s politics.  It’s like the infamous Thanksgiving-table heated political debate, but every day, all day.  And if you spend a lot of time on Facebook, like I shamelessly do, it gets old fast. Even though I am a conservative Christian, a lot of what I have grown weary of are posts and comments from other conservative Christians. (This is where I really stick my foot in it)

One day, while scrolling through the feed, a question hit me out of no where like a ton of bricks.

Heavenly Citizenship“Does Jesus really care about our gun rights?”

“What about the right to collect rain water on our own property or graze our cattle on federal land?” 

“What about immigration? Does Jesus care?”

It really started to bother me.  I used to love watching Fox News because those were my people.  But I just stopped feelin’ it when I couldn’t see the Kingdom in any of it.  Maybe they weren’t my people after all. I used to read every article posted about which agency was infringing on so-and-so’s constitutional rights, and feel overcome with a passionate, “Oh no they didn’t!”, but then I slowly became disarmed when I didn’t see the Gospel in any of it.  Maybe it wasn’t my fight, after all.  Over time I began to notice a disinterest in politics all together, which was a huge shift from where I had come.

About a year ago I actually posted about my newfound disinterest and was met with some surprising comments.  One of which was that I needed to be political because Jesus was. Was Jesus political?  I was confused, so I had to go to the Word and see exactly where this was.  And you know what?  They were right.  Jesus was political.  But not in the way referenced.

When Jesus talked about government, He talked about His government. Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world – John 18:36

Even though His own people were being occupied, over-taxed, and mistreated by the powerful godless Roman Empire, Jesus’ message to the people was always about His own Kingdom, and when asked specifically about an issue pertaining to local government, He replied, “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.”

Jesus never tried to reform government. He wants to reform our hearts.

I love our great constitution.  I wish our current leaders felt the same.  I believe it is a beautiful document with roots stemmed deep in biblical principals that when followed, brings great success, security, and freedom to the people.  But such security and assurance of a certain way of life has caused God’s people to shift our reliance off of Him, and on to the system we’ve created.  Great as it may be, no government is going to last forever.  Jesus’ government is going to replace them all.  Even America.

So what is going to happen when that which holds our security begins to fade, is attacked, abandoned, or destroyed?

Our hope is not in the constitution, our hope is in Christ alone.  If we all wake up tomorrow to the confiscation of our weapons, open borders, and the enforcement of socialism, I will not be shaken, because I am nothing more than an ambassador of the homeland.

What about my rights? “My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” – Galatians 2:20

What about my property? “The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it;” – Psalm 24:1
What about the American dream? “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33

What about all the Muslims coming into our country?

Yep.  They’re coming.  If it’s of grave concern to you, just pick up a book or two on how to share the gospel with them.  The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few. The truth is, there are thousands of Christians living in the Middle East who are not afforded the luxury of living a life free of Islamic exposure.  So let’s bring the refugees in and be ambassadors of Christ to them.

“Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” – 1 Timothy 6:12

So, if it’s not upholding the constitution of the United States or our conservative way of life, then what is the good fight?

If you were to read through the New Testament, some repeated themes start to stand out.

  1.  Keep Jesus as the head.
  2. Love/ serve people
  3. Make disciples
  4. Hold fast to solid doctrine/ teaching
  5. Live by the Spirit.
  6. Minister to the ‘least of these’/ widows/ orphans / poor (slaves, unborn, oppressed)

This is the fight.  This is Kingdom work.

But what about when the law of man in contrary to God’s law? I’m glad you asked!  I love this response from GotQuestions about Acts 5:29

“From this, it is clear that as long as the law of the land does not contradict the law of God, we are bound to obey the law of the land. As soon as the law of the land contradicts God’s command, we are to disobey the law of the land and obey God’s law. However, even in that instance, we are to accept the government’s authority over us. This is demonstrated by the fact that Peter and John did not protest being flogged, but instead rejoiced that they suffered for obeying God (Acts 5:40-42).”

If our lives, our identity, and what we give ourselves to is wrapped up in who we are in Christ and in our Heavenly citizenship, then we never have to be shaken by the tumultuous changing tide of the world around us.  We will, like Paul did, long for our true home, but understand that our time here is valuable, belonging to the Lord for His work and His Kingdom and use our time to advance His purpose.

I love America.  But my country is Heaven.

“Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again. – Philippians 1:19 – 26

There Is No Fear In Love

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There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. – 1 John 4:18

Last week, my friend gave me a copy of Hinds’ Feet On High Places for my birthday. To be completely honest, I little piece of my heart sank when I pulled the book from the gift bag and gazed down at the cover.  I knew exactly what this book was.  I had heard plenty about it over the years from folks who had read it:  another book that was going to show me how to overcome fear in my life. I had a decent understanding of the premise from friends who credited this allegory with their truly learning how to trust the Lord, and, to me, it sounded like the exact opposite of something I wanted to read.

It’s not that I don’t love a good story.  In fact, my favorite writings are always those that communicate biblical truth through storytelling.  For me, the aversion came from the subject.

Overcoming fear.

The difficult thing about fear is that it is the very obstacle that prevents you from conquering it.  It presses one down under the weight of endless, locked chains, causing one to believe that the most terrifying thing of all is the very key that frees them.

But there I sat, staring at the cover of a book that had been chasing me everywhere I looked for months, almost as if the Lord were gently whispering to me, “It’s time”.  So I begrudgingly conceded.

The world is a scary place, folks.  There’s cancer, terrorists, robbers, GMOs, bees, floods, droughts, oh, and in case you haven’t heard, apparently the entire West Coast is all set to drop off into the ocean in a massive earthquake.  Now, add being a parent to all of that (bad drivers, sharp objects, peer pressure, child molesters, kidnappers, broken bones), and you’ve got good reason to bolt the doors and never see the light of day again.

These fears of the mind come to us from real and logical sources, life, news, people, experiences, and therefore, could possibly happen to any of us.  But there are even deeper fears of the heart that hold us back from where God wants to take us, setting our entire lives on a foundation of anxiety.

“I want to become more like Christ, but what if He teaches me perseverance through suffering?  What if He teaches me trust through famine?  What if He teaches me patience through unanswered longing?  What if joy through unspeakable loss?  What if humility through embarrassment?  What if He has to hurt me to grow me?

And what if… just what if the prize isn’t worth the cost?”

“… perfect love casts out fear…”

The book opens with this verse from 1 John and has caused me to really meditate on it and its practical application.  As an anxiety-lifer (medicated and all), I’ve turned all the “fear” verses in scripture over and over through the years.  But suddenly, there has been freshly breathed revelation through this verse of how God wants wants to deal with fear in my life.  It happened by answering two questions.

1.  What casts out the fear?

Do I have to cast out the fear?  Should I just muscle it up and put on a brave face?  Do I have to force myself, through will of thought, to break my own chains?  No.  Because I am not responsible for casting out the fear.  That’s perfect love’s job.  What a burden is lifted to know that I can pass that task onto perfect love!

2.  Where do you find perfect love?

This question brings the issue of practicality to a verse that seems to offer such an abstract, unreachable  solution to the problem of fear.  Okay, perfect love casts out fear.  Great.  How the heck to I get that?  Do I already have it?  How to I access it?  Is there a button I can push to make it do the casting-out-of-the-fear thing?  No.  There is no button.  But there is a place you can go where this love is freely given to us.  A place that is so full of perfect love that fear can not even enter it.  It is in the very presence of the Father.

“…God is love”

– 1 John 4:8

If God is love, and perfect love casts out fear, then we become fearless as He pours his Holy Spirit into us.  The sweet, sweet place of His presence brings us more than the feels, it drives out fear from the deepest recesses of our hearts and sends it fleeing with it’s tail between its legs.  Fear can not exist in the presence of the Father, so that’s where I want to be.  While holding the hand of Jesus, there is nothing we can’t face.  Abiding in Christ and being continually filled with His spirit doesn’t take the troubles away.  In fact, the Bible promises us that “In this life you will have trouble” (John 16:33).  But instead of being bound by the chains of fear, we can take refuge in the secret place, climb onto the lap of Christ and rest our head against His chest.  And I think that John would know what he’s talking about when he describes this relationship between love and fear as he is the disciple who reclined against Jesus and laid his head on Jesus’ chest. (John 13:23)

And it’s really not that difficult to get there.  Scripture tells us to draw near to Him and He will draw near to us. (James 4:8)  All you need is a few minutes of privacy, a good worship CD, and presto! Distracted mind?  Try praying in tongues.  (She said what??? Yes, she did.  It’s in the Bible.)

The idea of blind faith has always seemed irresponsible to me.  Yet, this is what we’re taught to have in face of fear.  If you have blind faith and trust in God, couldn’t you just have it for anything?  I’m going to have faith that when I say the magic word, a purple unicorn will appear because someone told me so. Obviously that’s silliness. The Bible tells us to “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8), to actually experience God for ourselves.  If the saying is true that trust always has to be earned, a few minutes in the throne room of the King will earn it real quick, and tasting and seeing will give you assurance in every fiber of your being that that prize is indeed worth the cost.

Then we can approach life boldly, with confidence and joy, without fear of whatever may come.  Not because of who we are, but because of who He is.  Because we know Him.  Because we’re His.

I am so thankful for a Father who pursues me and calls me to Himself in spite of my weaknesses.  What a beautiful week this has been!  The Lord is calling you, too, to a life free from fear.

“Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.” – Psalm 34:8

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. ” – Psalm 23:4

The LORD is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” – Psalm 118:6

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”  – Deuteronomy 31:6

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” – Isaiah 41:10

For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “”Abba,” Father.”‘ – Romans 8:15

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” – 1 Timothy 1:7

 

Dear Children, This Is My Prayer For You…

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Last week, after my son couldn’t find his iPod for several days, the whole family embarked on a deep-cleaning, every-corner-of-the-house search and rescue mission to locate his beloved device (which turned out to be in my purse the whole time).  But something pretty great turned up in the process.

In the back of a cupboard in the basement laundry room, I found the journal I had started for my firstborn, Samuel, when I was pregnant with him.  The first 12 pages had been filled, before it was lost, with prayers, hopes, and dreams for him.  Even though it’s not full and is missing several years, I can’t wait to be able to give this to him someday.  It got me thinking about what message I want to pass along to all of my children today.  As a mother, there’s so much I want them to know, and so much I want for their lives, but when it comes right down to it, there’s really only one thing that matters.

Dear Samuel, Silas, and Adalie,

My prayer for your life is that you would follow Jesus.

AdalieAt night, I come into your rooms while you’re sleeping pray for protection over you. I pray for your health, I pray for wisdom and guidance as your mother, but above all, I pray that you would love and follow Jesus.

As a parent, there’s so much that I wish for your life.  I want you to experience incredible love, great adventure, hope, wholeness, family, stability, fulfillment, and providence.  But the best and greatest of all those things is found in following Christ.

Yes, there will be pain.  There will be trials, and there will be hardships.  Your faith will be stretched and tested and the refiner’s fire will burn and sting.  But keep following Jesus, because the product at the end can never compare to anything this world can offer.

SamuelI pray that you will see the Lord the way Isaiah did, and that the awe of Him would be all consuming, so that when those difficult seasons come, you would keep your eyes on and Jesus, knowing that your life is not your own.

I pray that all your successes and achievements would be done for the glory of the Lord, and in the midst of the accolades and praises your prayer would be John 3:30 “He must become greater, I must become less”. 

The solution to everything I could ever worry about as your mother can be found in following Jesus.

I could worry about what career path you will choose, but if you’re following Jesus, I can rest knowing you’ll seek His will for your life.

I could worry about your finances, but if you’re following Jesus, I can rest knowing that you’ll want to make biblical decisions with your money and strive to be good stewards of what God gives you.

I could worry about who you will choose to marry, but if you’re following Jesus, I can rest knowing that whomever they are, they will be following Jesus, too.

I could worry about your marriage, but if you’re truly following Jesus, I can rest knowing that you will always fight for your wives and husband and never stop working toward becoming the spouse the Bible calls you to be to them, even in the tough times.

I could worry about your safety, but if you’re following Jesus, I can rest knowing that whatever happens, you are right in the center of His good and sovereign will.

I could worry about your character and your heart, whether or not you will love others, show kindness, and uphold justice, but if you’re following Jesus, I can rest knowing that the more time you spend with Him and read His word, the more He will cause you to see others with the same love and compassion that He does.

Screen shot 2015-02-02 at 2.48.01 PMI could worry about whether or not your children will know the Lord, but if you’re following Jesus, then I can rest knowing that you will be purposeful in showing them how to walk with Him, contending for their hearts and minds.  And know that I will be contending along with you.

Many people love Jesus, but not many people follow Him.

I pray that you would follow Him.  Jesus first called out to His disciples saying, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men”.  (Matthew 4:19)  My prayer for you is that you would follow Jesus and allow Him to make you.  Place your whole life on the Potter’s wheel and let Him make you as you follow Him.

“Seek first the Kingdom of God and all these things will be added to you”. – Matthew 6:33

That is my prayer for you.

What I’m Not Will Never Compare to What I Am Because of Christ

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Do you ever think about all of the things that you’re not?  Have those thoughts ever held you back from friends, family, church, careers or dreams?  Do you ever get the feeling that some of the people in your life think less of you because of where you fall short?  I know I do.

photo credit:  https://www.flickr.com/photos/spjwebster/3617811672/
photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/spjwebster/3617811672/

In all honesty, this is one of my biggest personal struggles.  Insecurity has been a companion of mine my entire life. Focused on the things that I am not, I know I have missed out on fully enjoying some of life’s greatest moments and greatest people.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.  A few years ago I decided to really make an effort to develop relationships with others, despite my sometimes crippling social anxiety, and in doing so I made an incredible discovery:  Many people struggle with the same insecurities that I do!  In fact, it’s rampant.

Here’s the short-answer solution.  The more time I spend with Jesus, and the more I read His word, the more He reveals to me how He sees me, making me a little more confident in the skin I’m in.  It isn’t until we begin to understand the truth about who we are in Christ and why, that the what-we’re-nots seem to carry less weight.  Let me give you just a few examples from my list:

I’m not exactly normal

I’m extra-strength quirky around with a dysfunctional filter. I don’t always say the right thing (or the appropriate thing) and kick myself a lot.  I once sat at a table with a group of people I greatly admired and listened with a broken heart as they laughed about a person we all knew for being weird, and all I could think was, I’m weird, this must be what people say about me when I’m not around. 

I’m not a Pinterest housewife

I don’t cook or make crafty things.  I can’t decorate my home to save myself and my clothes usually come from Walmart or a thrift store.  And speaking of clothes, did you know you are supposed to separate laundry?  I just found that out (then decided I didn’t care.  They’ll all get clean)  The few things I have that I feel confident in were either gifts or ensembles I copied off a manikin, which Value Village doesn’t have a lot of.

I loved this blog about common themes of women’s ministry because that is an atmosphere where I have always felt the most awkward.  Is there a place for a dorky girl who is nerdy for history and apologetics and could care less about scrapbooking and tips for applying mascara? (Yes, that was an actual topic of a women’s ministry event I attended.)  One of the things I love most about my amazing church is that we take “Come as you are” very seriously. PJs, yard-work clothes, homeless, it’s all good.

I’m not wealthy

Donnie and I married at 17 and 22 and had children right away, before either of us had a college education.  So you can imagine why we’re not going to make the cover of Forbes Magazine anytime soon.  I get self-conscious about my house or the activities we have to pass on and often think that our finances are being judged as a poor decision to start our family so young, instead of just being thankful for everything that God has blessed us with.

Like so many people, I’ve spent too many years allowing my insecurities to define me instead of basking in the freedom and wholeness that comes with belonging to Christ.  What Jesus did for us on the cross allows us to have some pretty incredible labels.  All of which are better than anything we could ever put on ourselves:

 summerfield-336672_1280I am God’s child.
Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God. John 1:12

I am a friend of Jesus Christ.
I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.  John 15:15

I have been justified.
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 5:1

I am united with the Lord, and I am one with Him in spirit.
But he who unites himself with the Lord is one with him in spirit. 1 Corinthians 6:17

I have been bought with a price and I belong to God.
Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own;you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.  1 Corinthians 6:19-20 

I am a member of Christ’s body.
Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.  1 Corinthians 12:27

I have been chosen by God and adopted as His child.
For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.  Ephesians 1:3-8 

I have been redeemed and forgiven of all my sins.
For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.  Colossians 1:13-14

I am complete in Christ.
For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.  Colossians 2:9-10

I have direct access to the throne of grace through Jesus Christ.
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.  Hebrews 4:14-16 

I am free from condemnation.
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1 

God works for my good in all circumstances.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

I cannot be separated from the love of God.
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:31-39  

I have been established, anointed and sealed by God.
Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.  2 Corinthians 1:21-22 

I am hidden with Christ in God.
For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.  Colossians 3:1-4 

I am a citizen of heaven.
But our citizenship is in heaven.  Philippians 3:20

I have been given a spirit of power, love and a sound mind.
For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1:7 

I am a branch of Jesus Christ, the true vine, and a channel of His life.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.  John 15:5

I have been chosen and appointed to bear fruit.
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.  John 15:16 

I am God’s temple.
Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?  1 Corinthians 3:16 

I am seated with Jesus Christ in the heavenly realm.
And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.  Ephesians 2:6 

I am God’s workmanship.
For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.  Ephesians 2:10 

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

I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.
I can do everything through him who gives me strength.  Philippians 4:13

What you are not will never compare to what you are in Jesus!

 

She Preacher? – A Different View On An Age Old Debate

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A short time ago, this video of Victoria Osteen went viral on Social Media, with most sharers expressing their disapproval of the famous couple’s “Health, Wealth, and Happiness” doctrine.  In the weeks following this, I noticed an online resurgence of the age-old women-in-ministry debate that was sparked by this video for one peculiar reason:  She.  Blogs bounced all over the internet from many of our country’s most renowned Pastors that the heretical comments were allowed to happen because a woman was allowed to teach on stage in the first place.

I thought that implication was grossly unfair considering all of the bad theology you can get from countless male preachers just about anywhere.

Full-Bible believing theologians have been arguing about a whole array of things since the early church, including this.  If you’re curious as to where I stand:  I am a tongue speaking, medium-rare Calvinist, who is egalitarian in my view of men and women (Women can preach and teach).  My husband and I feel we have been called to Pastor someday and are firm believers in the “ministry team” approach.

But if you passionately disagree with that, don’t worry.  This isn’t a blog to try to get you to join our side.  In fact, if anyone is going to get offended here today, it’s going to be the women who militantly fight for time in the pulpit and female leadership in the church.

This issue has long been mislabeled the “women in ministry” debate, when the specific acts of service in question are preaching to, teaching, and holding leadership positions over men.  But real ministry, the kind that transforms lives and helps people to grow in Christ, doesn’t happen in the pulpit.

I have been a believer for 16 years.  Between Sunday service, youth group, camps, conferences, and Podcasts, I have heard well over 2,000 sermons.  In all honesty, I can’t point back to one specific one and say, “This changed me”, or, “This speaker made me who I am”.  Instead, it was the intentional discipleship that my Church family offered me:  The late night talks with my friend’s parents who made me a part of their family, the time my Youth Pastor’s wife picked me up and took me shopping with her for their baby furniture and would ask me how my Bible reading was going and what God was teaching me, and all the countless coffee dates with my mentors.  People showed me Jesus and were there when I needed them.  My leaders loved me when I was unlovable and walked with me through failures and victories.

I am all for women speaking and teaching, but let’s be very careful that our fight is for the cross and not the crown.  All of the ministries that count, that make the greatest impact on individual lives are already available to women.  No one is going to tell you not to have that new family over for dinner.  No one is stopping you from taking a youth out to coffee.  No one is telling you you can’t give someone a ride, groceries, or go pray with someone who is hurting.

But there’s no glamor in that.  No crown.  No one to tweet your catchy phrase.  There’s no credit, and often no thanks.

I’m not saying that everyone who teaches and leads in church does so because they’re seeking praise and fame.  almost all of the Pastors I know are humble shepherds who love Jesus and just want to serve their sheep.  But there’s no denying that there’s a temptation to desire positions that come with authority and accolades at the expense of looking past the people God has put right in front of you to serve.

And what if?  What if the traditionalists are right, and God speaks from Heaven in a loud voice for all to hear, “Just to clarify things, I don’t want women preaching”!  Do you stop serving Him?  I hope not.  We have to ask ourselves, honestly, if we’re looking for promotion or just taking joy in serving the Lord because our lives are not our own, but His.

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. – Matthew 16:24

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. – Matthew 28:19-20

 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace – 1 Peter 4:10

And whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. – Mark 10:44-45

Why Purity Pledges Don’t Work

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We’ve all been there.

That summer camp, youth conference, or special guest speaker at church that passionately communicates God’s best for your life and body, telling you their special secret to enjoying the great married sex life that God made you to have, and the the sure consequences that will come to those who chose not wait.  The atmosphere is worshipful.  Your Pastor and leaders are all there with you. You’ve spent 4 days on a remote campground free from worldly distractions while a whole church full of people back home have been praying for you.

Then, the invitation comes.  Will you make a decision to wait?  Will you take the pledge, promise the Lord, and sign the form?  There’s an awesome “pure” rubber wrist-band and/or wallet card in it for you if you do, in addition to the guarantee of an awesome future marriage, of course.  You stand up and take the vow.  I mean, who could pass all that up?

There’s just one problem.  This whole process has absolutely nothing to do with reality.

It’s not a bad thing, or even a thing that should be stopped.  But the process by which these pledges have been “sold” and implemented for decades is not only ineffective,  but can actually contribute to destructive sexual decisions.  Not because of what is said, but because of what isn’t said or done.  And those missing pieces are huge, if not the most important.

1.  The pledge is typically where the conversation ends, even though desire and hormones don’t end there.  We too often look at having the talk with our kids as something we “just get it over with it, then we’re done.”  But we’re never done.  You can’t ensure the sexual health of your child or student in one 30 minute sermon once a year, then ignore the fact that they have a sin nature the other 364 days.  Once we begin to have honest conversations about sexual issues with our students, those conversations shouldn’t stop.

2.  The timing sucks. It’s really easy to commit to starting a diet at the end of a Thanksgiving meal when you are stuffed and can’t stomach the thought of more food, but come Monday, when your co-worker walks in with KFC and fills the office with the aroma of crispy chicken, your diet commitment is a whole different story.  In the same way, I don’t often hear young people say at the end of an emotionally charged service, “You know, after everything that God has done for me this weekend and all that I have experienced, I still think I’m going to have sex before I get married”.  Of course they don’t say that.  They can no more fathom it then a stuffed stomach can fathom a cheeseburger.  I have to wonder if that is the time or place to bring that up at all.  What if “the talk” was instead a regular part of ongoing discipleship?  What if it happened when real life and real temptation was happening?

3.  It gives people a false sense of invincibility.

“Oh, you want to wait until marriage to have sex?  That’s great.  What’s your plan“?

“Plan?  Well…I signed this promise card and wrote a letter to my future spouse”.

Face palm  “You need to establish your boundaries ahead of time and surround yourself with people who are going to be able to help you carry those boundaries out.”

“That’s not necessary, I really love Jesus”.

Oh good for you.  Did He also create you without hormones”?

A look at 2 Samuel 11 shows us something interesting.  King David, “A man after God’s own heart”, sees a married woman bathing on her roof, has his people bring her, sleeps with her, gets her pregnant, murders her husband to try to cover it up, and is busted by the prophet Nathan.  Waaaaa??????  The passage starts off saying, “In a time when kings went off to war, David was looking out on his balcony” (or something).  If the kings were supposed to be at war, and David was king, why was he at home on his balcony?

Sin often begins in us when we’re in places we shouldn’t be.  Many people, who earnestly love Jesus and want to live for him break boundaries because we trust in our own righteousness and create an opportunity.  Never, of course, intending for it to lead to sin.  But the enemy of our souls is ‘crouching like a lion’ and never misses out on a good opportunity.  And all that righteousness of ours? The bible says our righteousness is like fifthly rags before the Lord, and for good reason.  It can’t be trusted to keep us from sin, because we’re sinners.

The hope of saving yourself for marriage is only as good as your boundaries and the accountability you seek out, no matter how many pledges you sign or how big your purity ring is.

4.  It creates shame when the mark is missed.  Imagine for a minute that you are a 19 year-old college sophomore, away at school, and even though you had pledged to wait, you’ve recently started having sex with your boyfriend.  You want to talk to someone about it because inside, you still want to please the Lord, but who do you go to?  The youth leader who was standing next to you when you signed your card and told you how proud of you she was?  The speaker who said that the only way to have a good marriage is to wait?  Your parents?  Probably not. The shame from not living up to your commitment can be so strong that many young people just stop going to church all together.  Now, youth leaders, pastors, and parents are exactly the people to go to when we’re struggling with any kind of sin.  But the famous 30-minute “purity sermon” can’t establish the relationship that is needed to be a safe place for people to share their struggles.  We have to clearly communicate to our young singles that 1.  There is nothing they can say or do that is going to make us be ashamed of them and 2. There is no such thing as “too late”.

My husband and I were engaged for 18 months, which turned out to be about 12 months too long, if you catch my drift.  As the “poster children” of each of our youth groups, we had made enough of these pledges that I could have made sleeves out of my “Pure” arm bands.  But because all of the things above were missing, those were just words with good intentions. If we really want this generation of Christians to experience God’s best for their relationships, we have to change the conversation.  We have to be involved, honest and transparent.  We have to both continue the conversation in discipleship, and establish ourselves as safe places.  We have to talk about the how-not-to and the restoration when it happens, because purity doesn’t stop at “I do”.  It’s a process we’ll walk out forever.

Like what you read?  Then check these out, too!

That Lovin’ Feeling – The Key to an Incredible Marriage

Is Prince Charming Really Dead?