Keeper of His Home

by Chelsea McCafferty

My Experience with Pain

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Pain. Anyone who has experienced a broken bone, has had to pass a kidney stone, has given birth, has suffered severe injuries or has chronic illness understands pain. Everyone goes through times of physical pain. People get arthritis, back aches, muscle pain, headaches, etc. Pain is a part of life. For some, pain is a part of daily life. For the chronically ill or those who suffer from lifelong injuries, pain is a constant enemy that tries very hard to beat us up physically, emotionally and even spiritually.

I’ve suffered from pain for the last six years. That’s about when I believe my Lyme Disease started. It began with arthritic-like pain in what they call the cross area of the back (neck and shoulders). Pain was the first symptom and it has never left me….not in six years. I’ve had good and bad days, but it’s always there and it’s always getting worse.

Over the course of the six years I saw many doctors in search of answer and help. I had other symptoms as well and so I was tested by GPs for markers for lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and more. They would run blood panels and find no answers so eventually they would tell me I was fine and to go home. I knew I wasn’t fine. I also saw many specialists. Over the six years I saw a cardiologist, a neurologist, a gastroenterologist and two rheumatologists. They did x-rays of my neck and saw arthritis. One rheumatologist told me I just have a bad neck (forget about the rest of the pain) and just to take good care of it. The other gave me a shot in the shoulder and then sent me to a few months of physical therapy. The pain continued and got worse.

All of these doctors and still there were no real answers for the pain, and definitely no solutions. It was hard but for a long time the pain was tolerable. It wasn’t fun, but I could pretty much do what I needed to do. The other symptoms (dizziness, heart issues, numbness and tingling, stomach problems, headaches, etc.) were also frustrating but not terribly bad. Then I went through a tremendously stressful event in my life and it put my symptoms into overdrive.

The past 12 months have been indescribable in many ways. How do you explain that kind of relentless and crippling pain? In the morning, before I’m fully awake, there is a brief period of intermission between sleep and awake where the pain hasn’t registered yet. I value those few seconds because in a moment all of the sensors begin to awaken, reminding my brain of the widespread pain throughout my entire body. I can tell you that in those moments when the pain comes alive again to plague me for another day, sometimes all I can do is weep just a little and cry out to the Lord for help.  I imagine it’s how someone might feel after being beaten up the night before by a team of boxers. Except there are no bruises…no evidence of the pain that anyone can see.

So this pain…the pain that never goes away and never lets up… it does leave you feeling beaten up. Obviously the physical pain is there. It also affects you emotionally and spiritually. Emotionally there are times when the pain gets the better of you. It steals joy away. It reminds you that your life isn’t what you thought it would be. You can’t do what you want to do. You feel alone (even with loved ones offering support). You feel like no one understands. It can affect your marriage and other relationships. With Lyme, you worry about finances and you’re never sure if you’re choosing the right treatment protocol. Sometimes there’s a lot of fear. And sometimes you just can’t handle the turmoil of knowing that you may be looking at a lifetime of pain. It never lets up. Never a break. Imagine having the flu forever. Every day. The pain can bring you to times of struggle with depression and anxiety for sure.

Any Christian who has experience pain, physically and emotionally, knows that it can be a spiritual struggle as well. Accepting that God is allowing you to suffer isn’t always easy. We know the He never promised an easy life here. His disciples all suffered. Jesus suffered more than we can imagine. Still, in those times when you cry out to the Lord for help and healing and yet it doesn’t come at that moment, it can be hard. We ask God why this is happening to us. Why me when I have strived to serve you? Sometimes we feel overlooked or abandoned by our churches, often because we don’t let them see how badly we’re suffering and that we need help. We don’t want anyone to know that we are struggling. We don’t want to complain or be a burden.

Pain beats you up but I fight back and I’ll never stop fighting. I’ve been a Christian for many years and I believe God has a purpose in the pain and suffering. He brings me comfort and He reminds me that this present pain is not worthy to be compared to the glory that’s coming. He gets me through day by day, step by step. I praise Him that I can still teach and that I can still go out and spend time with my daughter. I know that He can heal me completely, and of course that’s my daily prayer, but I also trust Him that if He tarries in bringing healing it’s for a reason. I know that He has abundant grace for me on those days when I take my eyes off of Him and have them focused on the pain. He loves me when I fail and on those days when I let the pain get the better of me. He never leaves me or forsakes me. He is my Deliverer and my Comforter! Thank You Jesus!

This blog may have some across as dark and miserable, but I leave you with words of great joy. Beloved, there will be an end to pain! Yes there will!!! Pain may attack us and beat us up while we are here on earth, but there is glory and healing and complete restoration coming when we put our faith in Jesus! We will not suffer forever. We will not be left in torment. We will be delivered and restored and every pain will be chained up and thrown into the pit. Pain loses! Jesus wins! He already has won. So, even in the hardest times here on earth, we must keep our eyes on Him. We must remember we have victory in Jesus over pain and sin and every other evil thing. Victory over pain!

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I Want Her to Walk in Purity

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“Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” 1 Timothy 4:12

Purity. The word used here in 1 Timothy is the Greek word “hagneia” that comes from the root word “hagnos.” It is translated “pure from carnality, chaste, modest, pure from every fault, immaculate and clean.” As the mother of a daughter, purity is something that I have on my mind often. I so long for my daughter to walk in purity throughout her life.

This scripture in 1 Timothy is one that I pray over my daughter. I pray that she sets a beautiful example of Christ’s power and glory in her life through her lovely speech, God-pleasing conduct, deep love, unwavering faith and purity. Purity doesn’t always mean sexual purity, but rather is a way of life in which one chooses not to mingle with the sin of the world, but rather to serve the Lord with a whole, uncompromising heart. Purity is a heart that’s sold out for God manifesting itself throughout the entire body…in speech, modesty, humility, chastity and grace.

While purity isn’t solely based on chastity, this is one of the most common and devastating ways in which young ladies surrender their purity. God says that the sanctification of a single person is their sexual purity.

 “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God…” 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5

I pray for my daughter’s purity, even now while she’s young. I pray that she will be able to hold fast to her purity and that my husband and I will be able to present her as a pure bride on her wedding day. That thought overjoys me and also motivates me in the decisions I make for her now. You see, striving to protect and guide our children sometimes requires sacrifice. We make choices that other people mock or belittle. We may say no to “dating” as the world sees it and yes only to modest apparel. Does that mean our kids have to cover themselves from head to toe? No, not necessarily. However, allowing our kids to wear revealing clothing is a way in which we send them out into the world with a target on their backs. Do we want our children to be like the world or like the Lord? That’s what we have to decide.

I’ve made that decision. I will train my daughter up to know that the Lord’s calling on her life is to abstain from sexual immorality. I will teach her the beauty of purity and God’s course for her life. I will not allow her to wear mini-skirts and tiny shorts or low-cut tops. I will educate her at home, where she will not be thrust into the hands of a secular and liberal education system that will issue great lies and confusion about sexuality, family life and so forth. Dating will look much different in our home than in others. We will treat her as a beautiful young lady and remind her all of the time who she is in Christ.

Now I know fine well that I can do all of these things only to find later in life that my daughter still stumble. I pray this isn’t the case, but I know it’s possible. I know that ultimately our children have to make their own decision to follow God. Still, I will labor and fight for my daughter’s purity. I will pray for her, teach her, exhort her and support her. I will be honest with her and show her the truth. I will do everything in my power to protect her purity, both for herself and for her future husband. She is worth that and we are privileged and honored to be the ones to raise her in the ways of the Lord.

Purity is important. For our kids, it’s crucial. It’s where so many families lose. It’s where so many are suffering. Teen pregnancies, abortions, drugs, sexual confusion, STDs….so much sin and so many devastating consequences. Our children need our protection and guidance.

Listen, my daughter won’t be missing anything by not attending the prom or by not wearing the same revealing clothing that some her friends do. She’s not missing anything by being removed from situations of bullying, peer pressure and the influences of worldly friends. You may want your child to be like the other kids. You may not want them to feel different, but I’m looking at a generation of kids in which most of them are having sex before they turn 18. I’m hearing the way these kids are speaking and behaving and I say, “Let our kids be different!”

Jesus didn’t make us new creations so that we could return to looking just like the world. He said not to be conformed to the world. He told us to be set apart. He wants us to be a shining light in a dark place. If you want your children to be like everyone else, no doubt they will be. They won’t shine for Jesus, but rather the world’s darkness will quench and put out their light. They won’t stand for purity and holiness, but rather blend right in with the others, pressing and sometimes shattering every boundary of purity they come across. This grieves the heart of the Father, and it grieves our hearts as parents.

By the time our kids get to this point, there’s little we can do but encourage them and pray. That’s why it’s so important that we start early. It’s crucial that we teach, guide and protect purity from an early age, so that it is a way of life. Praying for the purity of our young ones and praying that they will grow to be an example of God’s glory and goodness, walking in beautiful purity.

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I Want to Be Healthy….Because I Love Her

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I have struggled with weight problems all of my life. I’ve never been at a healthy weight, and I’m well acquainted with all of the negative issues that come along with weight problems….medical problems, insecurities, relationship struggles and more. I’ve tried many different diets and exercise plans over the years. Some have been fads. Others have been prescribed failures from doctors. I did fen-fen for a while before they knew it caused heart problems. I’ve done cleanses. Off gluten. Off carbs. Off anything that tastes anything like anything pleasant!

Suffice to say, the problem hasn’t been the diets, but rather a lack of commitment to the end goal. I have lost weight only to gain it back. Recent health concerns and chronic pain problems, coupled with other issues that have been on my heart (which I will share about here) have caused me to take this more seriously at this time in my life. I am blessed to have a sister in the Lord who is helping me with motivation, coaching and so forth. She asked me, as we start this journey, to write out my “Why?” Why do I want to get healthier? Why do I want to lose weight? Below is my response. I’m being honest and real. I am also going to print this out and post it around my home, in my car, and carry it with me, as a reminder and encouragement to keep moving forward and working hard. Here are my Why’s and they all have to do with love:

  1. Because I Love Her….my sweet daughter, Tabitha. I want to be the best mom I can be for my darling girl, and any other children the Lord blesses me with. I’d love to have more children, and getting healthy may help in that area. I want to be healthy so that I have energy to play with her. I also want to be a good example to her. Weight issues run in my family, so she may struggle too. I want her to be proud of me. I want to be here to see her on her wedding day and to see her hold her first baby in her arms. I want to be healthy because I love Tabitha.
  2. Because I Love Him…..my hubby, William. This man, who loves me just as I am, would never ask me to change. Still, I know it would bless our marriage for we both to be healthier. We would have more energy for each other. We’d be able to get our work done more efficiently and quickly, relieving some tension and stress on the home. We can enjoy each other more. I want to be healthy because I love my husband.
  3. Because I Love God’s People….the church family. I want to be able to serve more, without being so tired. I know I’ll have more energy when I’m healthier. I’ll be able to be more hospitable. I’ll be stronger and able to work harder in serving others. I want to be healthy because I love God’s people.
  4. Because I Love Freedom….breaking the chains. Being unhealthy and overweight sometimes feels like being wrapped in heavy chains. I feel limited. I feel self-conscious. I often feel tied down and restrained from doing what I want to do. I also sometimes feel judged, but that’s not why I want to change. I want to feel free. I want to be free to do whatever I feel called to do without health or weight being a concern. I want to be healthy because I love being free.
  5. Because I Love the Idea of Waking Up and Feeling Good. Chronic pain and illness is no joke. It’s not always associated with weight, and I know that getting healthy won’t necessarily mean all of my health issues will go away, but I do know I’ll feel better. I want to feel better. I want to wake up and not have pain. I want to fight back and not allow chronic illness to steal my life away. I want to be healthy because I love feeling good.

These are my main Why’s. I share them in hopes that they may bless and help others, and also that, by declaring them, I am speaking to my own heart a determination to accomplish my goals. I would love it if you would pray for me for success and continued endurance. Also, if you long to be healthy too, please join me. We can do this! Thanks to my coach Erica for being willing to invest in me. It’s time to get to work. God bless!

“I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Phil. 4:13

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I Wish I Could Make Her a Sister

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This is going to be one of THOSE blogs. One of those really hard to write ones. One that really exposes the heart of an issue. Being real isn’t always easy, but in doing so we are often able to minister to and relate with others. It brings a sense of community and a feeling of understanding. It promotes compassion and gives others some insight into the trials of others which helps us to love them, support them and pray for them. So this is a REAL blog about REAL issues of life and the heart.

Tonight’s topic is especially hard though. You see, if you’ve never suffered through the pain and frustrations of infertility, you probably haven’t considered the many ways in which it affects a woman, a marriage or a family. There are so many emotions, trials and challenges. I have been experiencing one lately, as I deal with secondary infertility. (For those who don’t know, secondary infertility describes a woman who has been able to have a child but hasn’t been able to conceive or bring to term and deliver more children.)

My daughter is such a beautiful gift from God. She is five years old now and I can barely stand to see her grow up so quickly. I try to cherish every moment and every experience with her. She makes my life so special. The Lord was good to us in giving us this precious little girl, and I thank Him for her daily. I accept that she may be the only child He will give us, and that His plan is perfect, though we certainly have prayed for another miracle baby over the past five years.

While I am able to accept His will, it’s not to say it is without the occasional tear or heartbreak. A few nights ago I experienced a new kind of pain and it was for my daughter. She was playing with her little cousin and his big sister at Grammy’s house. At some point my daughter heard her big cousin referring to herself as the little one’s sister, so my daughter started to profess that she too was his sister. She was gently reminded that she isn’t the sister but rather the cousin and my brother (her uncle) went on to explain to her how special a cousin is. Still, despite their efforts to encourage her, she was heartbroken. She wasn’t a sister.

When they told me about this happening (I was at a wedding at the time), I was so sad for her. You see, we are part of a family and church family that places great importance on family and most of the families have been blessed with multiple children. In fact, many of our friends have very large families. We watch as sisters and brothers share sweet moments, hold brand new siblings, teach each other and love on one another. It’s precious and I’m so happy for those families. At the same time, I can’t help but ache for my daughter, who wants so badly to experience those moments, but can’t.

Sadness isn’t the only emotion for me. Whether or not it’s how I should feel, I’m often filled with guilt. I sometimes blame myself for not being able to make my daughter a sister. I would so love to give her that experience someday, and it’s my prayer that this will happen, but for now I’m left feeling inadequate and like a failure for not being able to make my little girl someone’s big sister. It’s a hard feeling to describe, but I’m sure other’s who have experienced similar circumstances will understand all too well.

I know that, just as I have to accept that I may never be able to mother another child, my daughter will have to accept that being someone’s sister in the traditional sense may not be God’s plan. What I will strive to remind her and assure her is that in the family of Jesus, she is a sister to many of God’s children. She will have friends who are like sisters. She will have big and little sisters in the Lord. While it may not be exactly the same, with Christ’s help it’ll be enough.

Perhaps our dreams of adopting will someday come to fruition and we’ll be able to give her siblings, but for now we will teach our daughter that God is the opener and closer of wombs. He is the one who knits families together, whether naturally or by adoption. He will give her plenty of opportunity to love others and to be loved. I pray now for my little girl’s heart, that she will have understanding in this and, even at this young age, trust the Lord. I pray also for this mommy’s heart, that I would feel the hurt when it’s needed but then move on to joy and contentment. I pray that my heart would see the opportunities all around me to use my mother’s heart to minister to others. I continue to thank God that I got the tremendous privilege of experiencing life forming and growing within me, and that I get to gaze upon my daughter’s beautiful face every day. Thank You Jesus!

Thank you readers for being willing to go deep and real with me here in this blog. If what I share touches your heart, I pray you will share the blog with your friends and stick with me here. If you have never suffered from infertility, I pray you will be able to give understanding and compassion to friends and loved ones who have or do now. I pray that, as you look upon the faces of your children, you will remember to pray for those women who are aching for children they cannot have even now. Pray for them and thank the Lord again for His blessings.

“And He (God) will make the barren woman to keep house and to be the joyful mother of children. Praise ye the Lord!” Psalm 113:9

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Where Did “Holy Matrimony” Originate?

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Holy Matrimony. Where did the concept originate? What does it mean to be joined together in holy matrimony and how has the concept evolved? How does it affect marrying couples of today? These are the questions I had in mind as I read about the history of marriage in and outwith the church. The first issue we need to explore is the idea of being “joined together” and who has the right to do this “joining” of a man and a woman.

You may be surprised to discover that marriage was not always a matter of state or government. The government didn’t always have a say in whether or not a couple was joined together in marriage. Couples didn’t always require a state license to wed, nor be married by a person who was government-certified to do so. It wasn’t until the middle ages that marriage contracts permitted by the church or the state came into being. In fact, it may surprise you even more to learn that the church really had little to do with the contractual joining of a couple in matrimony for nearly 6,000 years.

Prior to the middle ages, a man and a woman were joined in marriage by vows that they took and pledged before God and private contracts between families. There need by no officiate present. No one did the “joining” except for the One who actually created marriage in the first place – God. A marriage declared by a couple and their family was considered valid and recognized up through the 1700’s.

 

“So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” Matthew 19:6

 

God is the Author of marriage and He joins a man and a woman in matrimony. He brings them together. He hears and receives the vows they present to one another and to Him. He blesses their union and gives them instruction through His Word as to how their marriages should work. This is how both the early church and early government saw the marriage covenant. Then, between the 17th and 18th centuries it all started to change.

As we have watched and experienced, various governments have grown in their roles and scope of authority over the years. In the history of America, and other countries as well, mankind has fought against unjust and bad governments. We have submitted to governments that seem to be more just and right. We have allowed them to take control of some aspects of our lives, and have pushed back against them when they have tried to go too far. We apply for driver’s licenses thereby asking the government for permission to drive and recognizing their authority. We offer up our taxes and fees. We pay for licenses to run businesses, keep dogs and to hold yard sales on our property. We ask their permission to enter into marriage by applying for a license, and we are “joined together” by a person who has asked for permission to do so by applying for a license himself. It wasn’t always like this, but that’s the way it is today. The government has seized control of God’s beautiful creation of marriage and therefore now assumes the authority to determine and change the very concept of marriage….one man and one woman.

We can expect nothing less. When we let the world in, it will twist and turn and re-invent what God did perfectly the first time. He formed the man and the woman to be perfect counterparts for each other, physically, spiritually and emotionally. He brought the woman to the man and joined them together in a truly holy matrimony. He declared that none should separate them. He desired that their covenant would be kept sacred and unbreakable. There were no officiates or state contracts involved. It was pure and it was exquisite.

As I write this, I find myself a little saddened by the way the secular world has worked its way into this sacred covenant. On the other hand, a marriage is still a very beautiful occasion, and there is nothing wrong with a couple submitting to government ordinances in purchasing a marriage license, throwing a big celebration and allowing someone to officiate by leading them through their vows and wedding traditions. As long as a couple understands that it truly is God who is “joining” them in marriage, the rest is just fun and romantic. We just need to remember to keep Jesus at the center of our wedding ceremonies and to make it very clear that it is God who does the joining.

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When I Hurt a Friend with my Words

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I’d like to tell you that I never say or do anything that would harm another person. I’d like to say that I was never insensitive or inconsiderate. I’d love to tell you that every word I utter or type is grounded in wisdom, kindness and love. I wish I could tell you that I’ve never hurt a friend, but that would be a lie. I’m here to say that I did hurt a friend, and I so wish it wasn’t true.

As a blogger, some of my blogs are written more off the cuff than others. Most are the result of study and prayer. I try to make sure I word things in a way that is truthful but also gentle and compassionate. I also try to be very clear about the tone, direction and meaning of what I’m writing. Sometimes I get it wrong. In a recent blog, I made a comment that brought hurt to the heart of a dear friend and sweet sister in the Lord. I was so glad that she made her feelings known to me in such a gentle and loving way. I’m glad we had the openness to talk about it and that she caused me to take another look at what I wrote. In doing so, I recognize so clearly where my words were both hurtful and also misleading.

You see, in an effort to encourage deeper relationships within the church (particularly within the sisterhood of the church family), I made a comment that would seem to readers to completely dismiss the close friendships and relationships that I have been so blessed with over the past seven or so years. As I re-read the blog, I got a clear picture of how hurtful those words could be. I immediately regretted ever penning them. As my eyes moistened, I was reminded by the Spirit that I can sometimes be so blind to how powerful words can be. They can edify or tear down. They can encourage or discourage. They can speak goodness or darkness. They can make a friend feel loved or they can make her feel like her friendship wasn’t what she thought it was.

I apologized to my friend last night, but I wanted to write this blog because I want to be real with you. As a blogger, I’m sharing words every day that can be powerful. It’s so important that we use those words wisely. It’s important that we think before we speak. I value my friend so very much. I’ve been so blessed by her friendship, love and support. Her and her family have been an encouragement to us, helped us when we were hurting and shown us the love of God. When I wrote those words, I didn’t even consider how they were going to be taken. I didn’t mean what they implied. Still, harmful words are hard to erase.

I’m blessed to know that my friend has forgiven me, and I so hope she knows how much I care for her and appreciate her friendship. I hope she knows I treasure her and her family. Life as a believer in Christ is all about growing, and we never stop learning….usually from our mistakes. I’ve learned a lot from this one. Hopefully you too can learn something from my mistake before having to make it yourself.

Words are powerful. Use with caution!`

Let all that you do be done in love.” 1 Corinthians 16:14

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What Selfies Don’t Reveal

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Ah the selfies! They are constantly flowing through the social media news streams and allowing us to see the side of people that they want to share. I know people who take a ton of selfies and others who never post pictures of themselves. Media reports talk about connections between producing massive quantities of selfies and such concepts as narcissism. I don’t know. I think ultimately there are two points that cannot logically be refuted:

1. People share selfies because they want others to admire them in one way or another; and

2. People only share what they want you to see.

Smiles, silly faces, glam shots….selfies can bring out many different characteristics and even emotions. Some people go for the goofy approach, giving us a sampling of their fun and playful personality. Others are clearly the result of careful calculation to make sure the best angles and lighting are achieved for maximum beauty. Some selfies are subtly sexy in nature. The pout. The big eyes. There are many variables. At the end of the photo shoot, hopefully you have something to share that will acquire tons of “likes” and be admired by many.

As eager as some are to take stunning selfies, they are just as keen and cautious to avoid pictures that are less flattering. We only share what we want people to see and we only want people to see the very best side of us. Yet, as I glance through the pictures, I can’t help but wonder what’s really going on in the lives of these lovely people whom I care about and love. What’s going on in their hearts? How are their walks with the Lord? Do they need prayer? Help? A hug? Selfies don’t tell us these things…in fact, they seem to often be more of a masquerade or charade.

Anyone can make a beautiful. photo-shopped picture, pop it up on their wall and make the world believe they’re happy. Then when the news breaks that there’s been marital problems, addition issues, illness and financial strain, we are all so surprised. After all, they looked so happy in those pictures. Their lives looked so together.

It’s not wrong for us to want others to see the best sides of us, nor to smile even when we’re hurting inside. I just think we need to be willing to be real with one another…at least those trustworthy people in our lives who can handle the raw, unfiltered ugliness that we ALL experience from time to time. You see, we live in a fallen, sin-infested world in bodies that are prone to breaking down. None of us have perfect lives. None of us have selfie-approved lives all of the time. Sometimes we’re a mess. Sometimes we have bad hair! haha Sometimes we are hurting far beyond what anyone can comprehend.

Friends, sometimes we are so desperate for people to admire us and look up to us that we refuse to admit when we need help, prayer or support. We need to strip off those chains and be willing to let others in. God never intended us to travel this narrow path alone. We need each other. Holding it all in will only cause us harm and additional pain. Share your burdens with each other and be available to help carry the burdens of others. That’s the true Christian way. That’s the Jesus way.

You know what’s awesome? God shows us in His Word that it is the beauty of the heart that matters. It matters so much more than the physical beauty that the world craves. I’m not saying we should stop taking selfies. They can be lots of fun to share and see. What I am saying is that I’m not content with selfie relationships that are based only on outward, photo-shopped illusions. I am willing to be real and show my beloved sisters in the Lord who I really am….the good and the bad. I know they will love me for all of me and they will encourage me, which will make me a better person in the end. As we edify one another in the Lord, the beauty of our hearts grow. That’s true beauty!

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613 Steps to Becoming a Holier You

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As I typed in the title to this blog, I had to have a momentary giggle at myself. Of course the title is ridiculous, but only because it is written that way. As Christians, we read those words and think, “yeah right! Thank God we don’t have to be bound by that extensive and harsh old covenant law.” Yet, even as those words spill out of our mouths, in many of our hearts we still live our Christian life this way. While our minds know we are saved by grace through faith in Christ Jesus alone, we tend to get confused about how we become holy and what that means. What do I have to do to be holy?

I heard a pastor recently say, “the only way to be holy is to live our life exactly the way God says.” While I agree that God wants us to live our lives according to His Word (absolutely!), I think that the definition of “holiness” and what it means to us today is getting confused. This confusion can lead to a works-based, legalistic type faith, and it can be dangerous. To understand being “holy”, one must look at the Old Testament and the New Testament to get a well-rounded view of the issue. By doing so, you see that there is a big change that happens following the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. It’s actually quite fascinating. Let’s talk etymology.

Old Testament “Be Holy”

In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word used most frequently in occurrences where God told his people to “be holy” is “qodesh” and it occurs some 468 times in the OT. It can be translated, “apartness, holiness, sacredness, separateness.” Sometimes that is in reference to people and other times to places, objects, etc. It is an adjective that describes someone or something that is set apart for God. It is sacred. It is untainted by sin and stain. Like a bride rightfully wearing white on her wedding day, it has been kept pure and separate for the bridegroom.

The word is used over and over in the OT. It is used many times throughout Exodus and Leviticus, where the law is being revealed and taught to the children of Israel. There are 613 commandments in the Torah. Before Jesus came to earth to die for our sins, the people of God had to work hard to live by the commandments, offering animal sacrifices when they inevitably failed. They really had to work to be holy and set apart for God. Their lifestyle in following the commandments was what set them apart (made them holy) before God and men. Along with circumcision, this was their mark that they were, in fact, God’s people.

After a long list of animals that could and could not be consumed, God said, “For I am the LORD that bringeth you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: ye shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.” Leviticus 11:45

The word for “holy” here is slightly different because it is made more personified to mean “holy one, saint, person set apart.” It has the same root meaning as qodesh. God tells His people that they must follow these rules to be holy, set apart for Him, because He is holy. So, in other words, in order for them to be connected to God, related to Him and set apart for Him, they had to follow the Law precisely. It was the only way they could be connected to God.

New Testament “Be Holy”

A search of NT references to “being holy” reveals that it is mentioned only a handful of times. This was interesting to me, because we view the NT gospels and epistles as something of a guidebook of how we Christians are to live today. While every verse of the OT and NT is profitable to us and important for us to study, we can relate more closely to the saints of the NT and how they built the church as models for what we should do today. The NT is filled with encouragements, commandments and teachings on how to live. We learn what we should and shouldn’t do as believers, and how to honor God in our lives. Yet, they don’t often talk about the need to “be holy”…not compared to the OT books.

“According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love…” Ephesians 1:4

The Greek word for “holy” here is the word “hagios.” It is the closest related word to the Hebrew qodesh, but the difference is that this word means: “most holy thing, a saint.” It is not talking, necessarily, about being set apart for God. In fact, the word is also used in the NT to describe the Holy Spirit, Father God and Jesus Christ. In other words, this particular word is used to describe something or someone who is, not in the process of being made holy and separate (or keeping one separate until that day comes), but rather someone who has already been transformed into a holy being/saint.

It’s like that spotless bride on her wedding day. This bride has kept herself pure and set apart for her groom. She arrives, they say their vows and are wed. Her name is changed to His. She is flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone. They are one. In the same way, when we come to Christ, we are transformed. We become holy because we are in Him and He is holy.

The context of the following verse is regarding the people of Israel. Paul is explaining the mystery of how the gospel came to the gentiles because of the rejection of the Jews, but there is still a plan for the salvation of the Jews. The Jewish people are called the natural branches, while the gentiles are branches that have been grafted in, blessed to be able to included in the master plan. Since we are grafted in, this is applicable directly to Christians.

“For if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy: and if the root be holy, so are the branches.” Romans 11:16

Do you see it? If the root is holy, so ARE the branches. Christian, we are not holy today because of anything we have done except for one thing: we have attached ourselves to the root – Jesus Christ. We are holy because we are attached and dwelling in the Holy One of God. Because Jesus is holy, so are we holy in Him. Notice the Word says “are” and not “will be” or “working towards” or “getting there.” The branches are holy because they are connected to the holy root. If we have given our lives to Jesus and been sealed by the Holy Spirit, we are holy because He is holy. It’s finished.

Praise the Lord, saint! We don’t have to work to be holy. We don’t have to worry that we’ll never get there. God has made us holy through Jesus, and we have a new mark. Before Christ, the people of Israel had to labor at keeping the law as their mark of holiness. Our mark of holiness is the Holy Spirit in us. We are marked and sealed by the Spirit showing that we are His. Hallelujah!

But wait a minute…should we use this liberty to sin? Are we still to be kept “holy” as in separate from the world and sin? Paul had an answer for that question too.

“What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.” Romans 6:15-18

There’s no question about it…we are to live our lives in a way that glorifies God. We are STILL to live in an OT “holy”, setting ourselves apart way. We don’t do this to earn salvation, and we don’t do it to earn holiness. We are already holy in Christ. The works that follow a transformed life are merely the evidence that we are already in Christ. Will we sin and fall short? Yes. 1 John says we lie if we say we have no sin, but it also says if we live in unrepentant sin, but claim to know Jesus, we are deceiving ourselves. The fruit we bear tells us whether we are branches on the good and holy root, or not.

“Either make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by his fruit.” Matthew 12:33

Are we holy? Yes. Right now, if you are in Christ Jesus, you are holy. How do you know if you are in Christ Jesus? There should be good fruit in your life. You should be walking in a way that honors God….not a slave to sin but a servant to Christ. Set apart not to “become holy” but because you ARE HOLY. Amen!

It’s like that beautiful bride. She says her vows, takes His name and becomes one with her groom. Then the groom must go away for a while to prepare a beautiful new home for his bride. While he is away, will she honor him still? Will she keep herself pure and undefiled? Will she live in a way that brings honor to the name of her groom for everyone around her to see? Yes, she will, because she is His bride. How lovely.

Be blessed, you bride of the Most Holy One. You are His. You are holy in Him. Now go and live like it bringing honor to His name!

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CLANG! CLANG! CLANG! Where’s the Love Brethren?

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Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned but have not love, it profits me nothing.”1 Corinthians 13:1-3

I’m not going to lie. I’ve found myself as of late being disappointed in the state of the “church” in general here in America. While I see God working in some wonderful ways, and while I love my brothers and sisters in the Lord earnestly, I find that as a body we are losing one of the key ingredients in the building of the church and God’s Kingdom….LOVE.

The church was built on Jesus Christ, the Chief Cornerstone. The foundation that He laid for His people was and is love. He is the author and perfecter of love. He is the beginning and total fulfillment of love. He demonstrated the greatest love of all as Jesus spread wide his arms and bore the agony of our sin and our death upon Himself. He loved us first. He loved us while we were yet sinners. His love sustains us and His love endures forever. God is love. God and love cannot be separated…as His followers we are called to a higher, deeper and unconditional agape love. That love is what astounds the world, draws in the lost and softens the hardest of hearts.

And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him. Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world.” 1 John 4:16-17

CLANG! CLANG! CLANG!

Here they come! The pharisees. The sadducees. The scribes. The religiously pious, They come with their knowledge and understanding, ready to enlighten us all. They come with their rules and legalism, ready to bind us with rusty chains of the law. They come to debate, to argue and to spiritually dominate. I know them all too well because, sadly, I’ve been one from time to time in my life. Yes, it’s true. I’ve been the person who is so into head knowledge and yet so lacking in love and grace. I’ve gone through times of such loveless, merciless intellectual assassination that I have probably done more harm than good, even as I wielded the Bible. I confess. I repent.

You see, I love to study the Word of God, which is good. There’s nothing wrong with knowing and understanding the Bible. That’s something we should all want and work towards. There’s nothing wrong with sharing the Word, teaching, encouraging and even correcting. These are all practices of the New Testament church. Yet there is often a problem, and it’s a problem of the heart.

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned but have not love, it profits me nothing.”

There it is. There’s the problem. It’s a heart disease. It’s heart failure. It’s a lack of love. Where’s the love? Where’s the love in your words? Where’s the love in your good works? If love isn’t the motive, the means and the result, than your many words are nothing but wasted breath. Your intellect might as well be a garbled mess. Your eloquent and rehearsed speech might as well be the stuttering of a fool. Even your God-given gifts are wasted without love.

Your knowledge… FAIL

Your spiritual gifts….FAIL

Your faith….FAIL

Your generosity….FAIL

Every good work…FAIL

Without love, you’re nothing but a clanging cymbal. I’m so tired of clanging cymbals!!! Maybe it’s because I’m a music teacher? When I see believers bickering with meanness, rudeness and complete indifference to their brothers and sisters in the Lord, I feel like covering my ears with my hands and running for cover. Oh dear ones…don’t you see it? Don’t you get it? Don’t you realize that God gave you your gifts, your intelligence, your understanding and the Holy Spirit so that you could walk in love? He is calling you to love. He says in His Word, clear as day, that love is more important than winning a debate or getting the last word in. It’s about love.

I’ve been there, my friends. I’m not saying you can’t discuss theological differences, share words of correction (when you have an appropriate relationship to do that) and speak the truth with boldness. There just needs to be love. Each motive and word should be marinated and dripping with love and grace. That usually means letting go of pride. It means not needing the last word. It means that you are more interested in the well-being of the other person than proving you are right.

Not sure if you’re speaking in love? Read on in 1 Corinthians 13:

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.”

So here’s your test. Ask yourself this…

Is what I’m saying patient and kind?

Am I motivated by envy or boasting in pridefulness?

Are my words flavored by arrogance and rude tones?

Do I have to have it my way?

Am I irritated at this person or resentful?

Am I happy if I see him/her fail?

Am I truly happy for him/her in success?

Am I willing to bear ALL things this person does and says? 

Do I believe this person in faith?

Do I hope nothing but the best for this person and our relationship?

Am I willing to put up with anything to show love and grace and friendship?

Does my love have limits? 

DO I LOVE THIS PERSON?

I pray that we can answer these honestly and be willing to confront ourselves. No doubt we have all failed in some way. I know that I have. I’ve utterly failed. Let us return to love. Let us inspire love and rebuild this church on Christ’s love. That’s what He wants. He makes it abundantly clear. It’s time to let go of our need to be right, our selfish motives, our pride and self-righteousness and let us LOVE ONE ANOTHER!

In Christ’s abundant, unmatchable, radical, deep, unconditional and everlasting love I leave you to it.

 

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Burdened for the Lost

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“Jesus died Mommy,” said my darling little five year-old Princess, having just returned from VBS last night.

“That’s true,” I replied. “And why did He die?”

“He saved us,” she answered. “He saved me, and my friends, and you!”

“Yes He did,” I said, blessed in my heart that she understood this concept. “And is that why we love Him so much?”

“At VBS I got to pet a chicken and a horsey and a turtle!”

Ah well! haha Lovely fleeting moment!

When I think about the cross, I’m reminded of my sin and how much it cost my Savior. I’m reminded that He paid a hefty price for my soul. He gave everything to redeem me. He saved me with His very life. It’s an overwhelming thought and one that always fills me with awe, gratitude and love for my Jesus.

There’s another emotion that always follows when I meditate on Christ’s death on the cross… it’s a feeling of burden. That may seem strange to you. After all, didn’t Christ die to free us from burden? Absolutely! We were freed from the chains of sin and death. Those burdens have been cast off and crushed by the death and resurrection of our Mighty God. Amen!

So what is this burden I feel?

It’s a burden for the lost. it’s a deep yearning for those who don’t know Jesus to open their hearts to Him. It’s a holy calling to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with others. It’s a need to fulfill that great commission and it breeds in me a commitment to follow Christ where ever He may lead me to bring the good news of His grace and mercy and love to the world. That’s the burden I feel.

When I look at this world, I see such darkness and devastation. We see addiction and depression. We hear of war and ruin. There is evil and despair and hopelessness lurking everywhere. Divorce is running rampant. Children are being seduced and abused. They are witnessing atrocities on the television and even worse in their homes. Sickness is growing and mutating. Lives are being ruined by sex trafficking, violence, abuse, drugs and alcohol, and every evil tool of the enemy and man’s wicked heart. it’s getting bad folks. This world needs Jesus now.

He saved us! My daughter said it so perfectly last night. He saved us from it all. He saved us from our sin…ourselves. So now that we’re saved, do we go on living as selfish, self-centered people? Wait a minute! That’s what we were before! We were selfish people who sinned to feed our greed and our lusts for the things of this world. So we give our lives to Christ and He changes our desires. We turn from sin and love not the ways of the world. Yet, so many Christians still maintain that selfish way of thinking, and it makes them ineffective in fulfilling the call of God to make disciples.

If you missed what I was trying to express there, let me put it another way: if you are a Christian, you should have a burden for the lost. You should feel called to share the gospel, disciple younger believers (in the Lord) and to go where God sends you. Being a Christian is not about receiving salvation and then building our own little heaven on earth. It’s not about keeping it to ourselves. If you are a Christian, you should be sharing the gospel. You should be discipling others. If you arent, you’re missing the mark, dear one. You’re missing half of the equation. You’re saved but you haven’t adopted the heart of Jesus. His heart was to saved His children. Your heart should be to take that message to the world!

I pray that we are never too busy to do that most important mission on earth…. to make Christ known and to make disciples. People are hurting. They need Him. We are called to do something about that!

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