A Case for Transformed People (and a word about judging)

I’m sure sometime within the last week or so, you’ve read a facebook meme or social media post along the lines of “Don’t judge me.” It’s a relatively popular way to shut down any form of disagreement with any person’s lifestyle choices.

Unfortunately, being a Bible-believing, truth-defending, Christ-follower is no longer popular even in many Christian circles.

Somewhere along the line, some of us Christ-followers have become so conformed to this world that we are afraid and/or unwilling to take a stand on issues that the Bible clearly addresses.

Some believers even go so far as to throw their total support behind worldly ideology, political correctness, tolerance  – whatever you want to call it – and then condemn their fellow believers for being judgmental, close-minded, or intolerant.

They’ve decided that man’s wisdom outweighs God’s Holy Word.

While criticism from the world about our biblically based beliefs is to be expected, criticism from fellow believers often catches us by surprise.

We are not accustomed to being labeled (dare I say “judged”?) by those who should be our support.

How warped is it that Satan has convinced some of us that simply standing on the truth of God’s Word is being judgmental, and is therefore wrong and un-Christian?

Allow me to clarify: the Bible does speak strongly against judging others and becoming self-righteous. We are all familiar with the words of this verse that is usually taken out of context:

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” Matthew 7:1

And of course the following verses in this passage that reference the plank and the speck, and so on.

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However, those who quote the verse above often fail to mention the remainder of that chapter. From verse 13 of this Matthew passage and beyond, much more time is spent addressing the fact that the gate to Heaven is narrow, and not all who call themselves Christians will enter it (v. 21)!

For a chapter that starts off with “Do not judge,” it turns out to be what the world would call pretty judgmental.

Yet only God can rightly see, and therefore judge, the motives of the heart. Therefore, we should not pre-occupy ourselves with the sin of others; rather we should be busy dealing with our own sin.

At the same time, God also calls us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds and to be bold in our witness as transformed people.

How then do we confront in truth and love while avoiding acting like a Pharisee?

How do we uphold God’s Word without incorrectly “judging?”

Unfortunately, so-called Christian extremists (like Westboro Baptist Church) have often given others good reason to cry “foul.” Their hatred toward sinners has given Christian living a bad name.  Furthermore, we often see Christian brothers and sisters actively ridiculing those with differing beliefs on social media, adding to the world’s negative perception.

While I fully support upholding God’s Truth, when we haughtily share truth with a sarcastic turn of phrase, a witty cartoon, or a picture that belittles others, we end up conforming to the world and looking just like it.

How can we then be salt or light to a world that is in dire need of God’s truth?

I believe Satan has seized hold of this shame over others’ behavior. He uses it to confuse believers (as well as the world!) and convince many of us that upholding God’s truth is wrong in and of itself, when the reality is that the fault lies in the method of delivery.

We have only to study Christ’s example to see how he gently revealed truth to people, often with a single phrase or sentence (“Go and sin no more.” Jn. 8:11), and always while caring for their needs, whether physical or spiritual.

Jesus did not skirt sin issues, neither did he humiliate the lost.

And when it comes to believers who are mired in sin, the Bible makes a clear case for confronting fellow Christians in the hopes of restoring them into right relationship, too.

“If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.” Mt. 18:15

We must follow Christ’s example in our efforts to live as transformed people.

When the Bible speaks clearly on issues of right and wrong, we are called to uphold God’s Truth with – and this is the key – both love AND respect.

The key lies in our delivery – a delivery which requires a balance between Truth and Grace, not the absence of either or both. A total-grace perspective leads to conformity, while a total-truth perspective leads to self-righteous bullying .

Is it wrong to bully others into sharing our beliefs?  Yes!

Is it also wrong to be silent on issues that the Bible clearly addresses?  Yes!

Why then have we allowed the world, the Great Deceiver, and even fellow Christians to tell us that it is un-Christian-like to uphold Christian beliefs? Ironic, isn’t it?

 

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My purpose is this: consider carefully how your life and your actions or statements appear to others (especially in regards to social media). Do they see a difference in you?

Are you being transformed by Christ, or are you choosing to conform to the world?  There is no middle ground!

We cannot claim the power of a risen Savior while simultaneously dismissing His written Word, for if His Word is somehow untrue, then He cannot possibly save us!

I recognize the risk in voicing the unpopular Biblical perspective on many current issues, but then Christ wasn’t all that popular with the worldly and falsely religious leaders of his day, either.

You may lose friends.

You may even be judged by the very people who accuse you of “ being too judgmental.”

Have the courage that Paul wrote of:

“But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him…” Phil. 3:7-18

Amen?! :)

If at the moment you find that you’ve been conforming to the world (and haven’t we all at some point or another??), remember that God’s grace is immediate and His power to provoke change in us is immeasurable.

On the other hand, if you are already actively trying to live out a transformed life, take heart. You are not alone!

I encourage you to look to God’s Word and the Word alone to form your opinions and allow the Holy Spirit to transform your thinking.

4 questions to ask before sharing a “truth” statement via social media:

  1. Is your audience one you love and one who loves you in return? In other words, will your message be received in the manner in which it was intended?
  2. Is your message one of God’s truth rather than man’s truth? In other words, do you have contextual biblical support for your message or is it merely your opinion?
  3. Is God leading you to share this truth at this particular time in this particular fashion? In other words, has the prompting come from Him or do you just love your soap box? (ouch – yes, I know – it pains me, too!)
  4. Have you achieved a balance between truth and grace? In other words, how is your method of delivery – gentle or smug?

As ambassadors of Christ, we need to be cautious of how we portray Christians online. Ask these 4 questions before sharing truth online with others! social media and Christians, Christian witness on social media, facebook, twitter, instagram, faith, sharing faith online, sharing beliefs, judging others, standing up for your faith, bible study, devotional thought

Telling the truth in grace and love is such a delicate balance to achieve, but as Christ’s image-bearers, we must work toward that balance!

We have amazing technology and a unique opportunity to show the world what Christ-like love truly is, so let’s allow Christ’s love to shine through us without diminishing the light of His message.

Don’t conform.  Be transformed.

Because of His love,

Jen :)

Sharing with: Salt and Light

Why Reading Isn’t Enough ~ Study the Bible

As work-in-progress Christians, we have several tools at our disposal to help us grow closer to God and bear more fruit.

The one tool we often fail to use to its full potential is the Bible!

Some of you may be thinking that you use your Bibles daily or even weekly, so why would I say the Bible is under-utilized?

I say the Bible is under-utilized because I’ve experienced that in my own life as a young Christian.

At the age of fourteen, I moved with my family to a third-world country so that my parents could do missionary work. As you can imagine, it wasn’t an easy move for a teenager, especially considering that I lived away from my parents during the school year.

At that age, I often read the Bible because I knew I was supposed to, but I didn’t feel like I was getting much out of it.

Bible reading simply became an item to check off on my to-do list.

However, after the move overseas, though, I really struggled with being separated from my parents and adjusting to a new life in a foreign country. I felt alone and uncertain. In my teenage awkwardness, I lacked confidence in myself and in my faith.

I wrestled with some deep, unanswered questions – like why? Why was God allowing this hardship in my life?

I began to turn to my Bible for comfort and understanding rather than just as a daily chore. My mom would send me verses that spoke to my circumstances, and I would read them over and over again.

Instead of just reading the Word and then walking away from it, I began to actually study the Bible.

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I began to read with questions, meditate on verses that stuck out to me, write notes and look up cross-references. The more time I spent studying, the more I realized the very real power of God’s Word to transform me, to comfort me, to give me wisdom for real life!

During that time of hardship, my faith became real to me because instead of simply believing what others had told me about God and His Word, I discovered those truths for myself.

My new appreciation for God’s Word led to a period of tremendous spiritual growth that formed the foundation of the faith I have today.

When I look back over my life, I see how the times I felt most connected to the Lord were also times when I really dug into His Word.

Likewise, the seasons when I struggled the most in my faith were often marked by a reluctance to study the Bible or perhaps even a busyness that kept me preoccupied with little time to really dig in.

Consider these verses from Psalm 119:9-11

How can a young man keep his way pure?
By keeping it according to Your word.
With all my heart I have sought You;
Do not let me wander from Your commandments.
Your word I have treasured in my heart,
That I may not sin against You. (NIV)

When you study the Bible, you don’t just gain knowledge about God’s characters or how to make wise choices. According to this Psalm, studying the Bible actually helps to keep us from sin!

I have to admit, taking time to study the Bible is still a work-in-progress in me – an area that can use constant improvement.

I wonder if you might be able to relate, friend?

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Maybe you’re a work-in-progress woman who isn’t getting much from the Bible lately. Maybe you find it hard to understand or just wish that you knew the Bible better. I’ve been there, friend!

Or maybe you’re really struggling in your faith right now, feeling distant from the Lord, and you’re not even trying to study the Bible? I’ve been there, too.

What I can tell you is that the more you invest your time and energy into studying the Word rather than just reading it out of a sense of duty, the more you’ll experience the abundant Christian life that God has planned for you. 

Matthew 4:4 claims that the Word of God gives life itself – it sustains us!

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

That sounds like a good reason to study the Bible!

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So here’s my best advice on how to really study the Bible – treat it like you would any other text that you are going to be studying.

Get serious about it!

  1. Grab a notebook and highlighters. Don’t be afraid to write in your Bible, either
  2. Grab tools that can help you understand what you are reading, such as concordances, Bible dictionaries, Hebrew-Greek keyword study Bibles, parallel Bibles, etc. (You can actually find many resources for these tools for FREE online at sites like biblehub and biblegateway.)
  3. Don’t just read a verse and walk away! Ask questions about the background for that verse. Read the surrounding context (verses before and after). Find out the audience that particular book was written to so that you can understand the purpose of the words on the page.
  4. Learn how to do verse-mapping (one of my new favorite methods!) and other methods of bible study until you find one or two that work best for you.

And if you need help doing those things, I highly recommend the Bible Study Methods course!

My friend, Arabah Joy, has created a spectacular course to help people around the world learn to study God’s Word for themselves – it’s called Bible Study Methods: 7 Ways in 7 Days. (Disclosure – this is my affiliate link. Should you choose to purchase through this link, I will receive a commission. Thanks for helping to support the ministry of Being Confident of This!)

This practical, self-paced course comes with a printable workbook and teaching videos to show you exactly how to use the various methods being taught so that those of us who are visual learners or who need a little hand-holding can actually see how the methods work!

Do you feel like you're not getting much when you read the Bible? Is it hard to understand, or are you not really sure where to start? This Bible study course will teach you how to find a method that works for you. Don't just read it - instead, really study the Bible!  better bible study, christian women, how to study the bible, study God's Word, how to read the Bible, ways to study the bible, spiritual growth, growing in Chirst
You can expect this course to:

  • teach you 7 different Bible study methods
  • streamline the learning process so you don’t spend weeks or months figuring it out
  • give you tools for going deep into God’s word in as little as ten minutes a day (perfect for busy moms!)
  • provide ready-made templates and printables you can choose from
  • show you exactly how to do each method with the daily videos
  • revolutionize your time in God’s word and discover fresh intimacy with God in the process.
  • equip you to nourish yourself with the Scriptures
  • teach you how to develop your spiritual senses
  • help you establish a Bible study habit!

Do you feel like you're not getting much when you read the Bible? Is it hard to understand, or are you not really sure where to start? This Bible study course will teach you how to find a method that works for you. Don't just read it - instead, really study the Bible!  better bible study, christian women, how to study the bible, study God's Word, how to read the Bible, ways to study the bible, spiritual growth, growing in Chirst

If this is your first time here at Being Confident of This, you should know I’m very picky about the resources I recommend to my readers because I value your trust (that’s why you won’t see ads all over this site). However, I’m happy to recommend this course because I know Arabah Joy has spent years refining these methods as a missionary overseas and now a writer at arabahjoy.com. Since I’ve known her for several years, I also know her motives are genuine – to help children of God grow in their faith so that they can live out their God-given purpose in this world!

Friend, whether you decide to purchase this course or not, I pray you will seek to study the Word for yourself. I firmly believe that if more Christians better utilized the living Word of God, we would all have the confidence we need to live out the plans God has for us.

Bottom line: don’t just read your Bible, really dig into it.

Study the Bible for yourself!

All because of Christ,

Jen :)

Sharing with: Salt and Light

A Christian’s Responsibility on this Inauguration Day

Today is Inauguration Day for our new president Donald Trump. Some celebrate while others weep. I’m not here to say which camp you should find yourself in as a Christian because I’m honestly not sure how to feel myself – perhaps concerned yet hopeful best describes today for me.

Friend, whatever feelings you are experiencing, know this – we Christ-followers have a job to do. The election of 2016 showed all of us, whether republican or democrat or independent or undecided, that America is deeply divided and susceptible to a fall from within. Even now, on this Inauguration Day, we see the division, the disunity that plagues our country.

But what we really need isn’t another political post.

No, what we all really need is a call to prayer because our best hope doesn’t lie in the hands of any president, past, present or future. Our best hope lies in the Lord alone, the God who sets up kings and kingdoms and also tears them down, the God who directs a king’s heart like He directs streams of water (Prov. 21:1).

Fellow Christians, take heart in these words from 2 Chronicles 7:13-14:

“When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”(NIV)

When the Lord brought this passage to mind yet again today, I was curious about the context of it. What was going on with the Israelites when He offered them this promise?

As Christians, we have a responsibility this Inauguration Day, but it's probably not what you think! In 2 Chronicles, we read both a promise and a warning... as Chrisitans, we have a choice this Inauguration Day, regardless of whether we like President Trump or not, to follow God's commands. Will we heed both God's promise and warning?

In 2 Chronicles, we read that it was the day of the dedication of the temple, an Inauguration Day of biblical proportions. Solomon was leading the nation of Israel in a week of celebration during which the very glory of God descended into the temple, and the Israelites worshipped Him with praises and sacrifices.

The Lord God gave these words to King Solomon in the evening immediately following the final day of that week-long celebration. Imagine,  Solomon in the cool of the night, ready for rest. Imagine the glory of the Lord before him and this promise for tough times – that if God’s people would humble themselves and pray and walk in His ways, He would raise them up and heal their land.

We’ve likely heard these words before, but did you know that this promise is also followed by a sharp warning?

Later on in chapter 7, verses 19-21, we read these sobering words:

“But if you turn away and forsake the decrees and commands I have given you and go off to serve other gods and worship them, then I will uproot Israel from my land, which I have given them, and will reject this temple I have consecrated for my Name. I will make it a byword and an object of ridicule among all peoples.  This temple will become a heap of rubble. All who pass by will be appalled and say, ‘Why has the Lord done such a thing to this land and to this temple?'” (NIV)

The Lord God himself warned Solomon that if the king and his people followed God’s ways, there would be blessing, but if they turned to their own ways and the world’s ways, there would be destruction.

Just as the Lord warned, over four hundred years later Solomon’s temple was destroyed, a result of Israel’s continual sin and rejection of God’s ways.

Friends, we stand at a crossroads today.

The health and safety of our nation, our leaders, our churches, our communities, even our families, depends not only on our new president but on us as a nation of people who have a choice: will we humble ourselves, repent, and choose to follow God, or will we decide that we know what’s best for humanity, forsake our Creator, and bring destruction on our land?

We don’t need another political post or any more of man’s wisdom. No, what we really need is a call to prayer!

“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” 1 Tim. 2:1-2 (NIV)

Fellow Christian, whatever your opinion is of President Trump, let’s bow low before the Lord today and humbly confess our own sin. Let’s beg the Father for healing for our land. Let’s put our trust where it belongs, not in presidencies but in the God of the Universe.

That’s our responsibility this Inauguration Day.

Will you join me?

Jen :)

Sharing with: Grace and Truth

The Spiritual Fruit Test

Lately, I’ve noticed something lacking in our home… well, a few somethings, to be honest. Patience and kindness seem to be in short supply, as well as joy and self-control.

And peace… yes, peace doesn’t exactly describe our home at the moment, either.

I’m not just talking about the kids who live here – I’m talking about this mama, too. I’m not seeing much evidence of the spiritual fruit that should be produced by the heart of a Christ-follower who is abiding in the Vine.

It’s a red flag, really, that something is amiss.

Have you ever tested your spiritual fruit?  Held it up to the Lamp, the faithful Word of the Lord?

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness,self-control; against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23

In my bible, beside this passage I have written two small words: The Test.

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Do you want to know if you are walking with the Lord? Examine your fruit!  Do they pass the test? Or are you striving to produce fruit all on your own that just aren’t quite holding up?

All too often I find myself trying to produce these spiritual fruit all on my own. I wake up in the morning thinking, I’m going to be patient with my children today.  I’m going to be kind and loving to my husband.  And later in the day, when strength runs low, I feel frustrated and out of control. I wonder, “Why am I acting this way?  What is the matter with me today?”  as if some sort of spell has come over me, and I’ve been rendered incapable of obedience.

In truth, my fruits show that I’m not out of control, but I’m off of the vine.  I’m not abiding, not remaining in Christ.  Instead, I’ve chosen my own path, my own methods, my own power.

I’ve chosen doing rather than being, resisting rather than submitting, striving rather than resting.

I’ve somehow forgotten that most basic truth of Christianity, that we cannot produce spiritual fruit on our own, for there is nothing good in us.

For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh;
for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not.
Romans 7:18
When I lift my spiritual fruit up to the Lamp, I see it – that bruise there when I chose to be selfish rather than selfless.  The wormhole caused by putting off time alone with God.  The blackened area of sin left hidden and unconfessed.
Surprisingly, some of my fruit appears to be pretty and polished, but on the inside the core rots, the result of a valiant effort to do things in my own strength.
It’s ugly fruit.
It’s rotten and worthless.
It reeks of sin and self.
I have to toss the bad fruit out and start anew: reconnect to the Vine, drink the Living Water, break the Bread of Life.

 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. 2Timothy 3:16-17

Only then, in the hands of the Master, can I produce beautiful and bountiful spiritual fruit, sweet-smelling fruit.
The good news is that no matter how often I fail the fruit test, He is faithful to forgive, faithful to redeem.  His grace is sufficient for my weakness and for yours, too, friend!
Today are you feeling weary, impatient, overwhelmed, dissatisfied, or out of control?
Test your spiritual fruit.
Hold them up to the Lamp of Truth and see what they reveal.
Matthew 11:28-30
 “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (emphasis mine)
We have no power to produce spiritual fruit on our own!  Instead of trying and toiling, why not take His yoke and find rest?
Turn to your Maker and Sustainer for the power to produce.
Jen :)
Which fruit is most lacking in your life?  What verses help you to rely on the Spirit rather than self?

Letting Go When They Are Grown

It happens every time I see his name neatly typed out on mail from colleges: my throat begins to ache as I blink rapidly to stem the pending flow.

He’ll be our first to leave the nest just as he was the first to be birthed, and this year marks the beginning of that long, painful goodbye that I wish to avoid altogether.  Couldn’t time just stand still for a year or so?

Why does the letting go hurt so?

Knowing our time is limited taps into a grief that never quite left me after my years growing up as an MK (missionary kid).  My tendency is to just shut it out, pretend like it’s not happening, find comfort in denial, because that’s what I did for so many years without even realizing it. It’s easier to cut ties than to live with loss, after all.

But hiding away from loss means missing these bittersweet moments where pride and joy collide with that heavy sense of the approaching goodbye. If I let go of one, then I must let go of the other, and I don’t want to miss the joy of witnessing our firstborn take flight.

For the mama whose firstborn is nearly grown. Letting go takes all of the strength a mother can muster, but as Christian parents, we have a hope for their future that the world can't offer. Why then, is the letting go so difficult?

We’re losing little bits of him already in this, his junior year. He works hard at his high-level classes, and spends time on quite a few extra-curricular activities. Some nights we don’t even see him until after his younger siblings go to bed.

There’s this fierce, nearly primal, part of me that desires to cling, to hold him back, to draw my proverbial apron strings tighter. On the other hand, my more rational side recognizes that this is good, that he thrives on new-found independence, and that I was doing much the same at sixteen years of age.

 

And oh, have we been blessed with this boy, no…. this young man now. He’s been a firm yet gentle leader for his younger siblings, always encouraging them to do right. He loves the Lord and often willingly bears the burdens of others. He is slow to anger and respectful of authority. He’s not embarrassed to use his gifts for the Lord’s glory, either, not like I was at sixteen.

I admire his resolve and his confidence in who he is in Christ.

We really couldn’t have asked for an easier teenager, not that there haven’t been bumps in the road, but he’s never derailed.

I know I have to let go of my claim on him, for he was never mine to begin with, was he?

Children are a heritage from the Lordoffspring a reward from him.       Psalm 127:3 (NIV)

Why must letting go be so insanely painful?

It’s not that I don’t trust the Lord with my boy, I do. I know our Father has great plans for his future that I can only begin to imagine.

It’s not that I’m worried about who this young man will become because I already see hints of Master Potter’s hand at work, and I’m thrilled with the molding and shaping taking place in our young man right now.

The letting go hurts because the love is deep and real, and it’s had nearly seventeen years to grow in this body of mine that was once overtaken by his tiny life growing in me.

The letting go hurts because he is me in so many ways and his father in so many others.

The letting go hurts because somehow it feels like our family of six will never quite be the same again, as if this year is the catalyst for a chain of events that will forever alter the fabric of not only his life, but our lives, as well. One part of us will always be missing.

The letting go hurts because this mothering has become so entwined in my own identity that it feels as if a small part of me is slowly dying inside. I know my son will always need me, but not in the same way that he needs me now.

I suppose I expected to be used to it by now, this slow loosening of pieces of myself. After all, we’ve been experiencing firsts and lasts for over sixteen years on this wild yet exquisite journey we call parenting.

But somehow, these firsts and lasts feel so different. So final.

I know the letting go will hurt.

It hurts already.

The best comfort I have is knowing that our Father God once let go of a Son, too.

Our Great High Priest understands. He knows what is best.

I believe He will bring joy from this pain just as He brought joy from the pains of childbirth all those years ago.

For now, I will rest in that truth.

Jen :)

 

Let Go of Holiday Guilt: Stress-free Advent for Families

If I have to add one more thing to my to-do list in the month of December, I just might spontaneously combust. For real. Am I the only one who finds it ironic that the season of “Peace on Earth” and “Joy to the World” is also known for being the most stressful time of year?

The last thing we all need during the holidays is one more thing to add to the to-do list, right?

Don’t get me wrong, I want to be the mom who does all of the fun things – the cotton ball crafts, the handmade Christmas ornaments, the sugar cookies from scratch – and especially the mom who does the important things, too, like teaching our children why we celebrate Christ’s birth.

After all, what mama doesn’t want to give her kids a good Christmas?

But there are only so many hours in a day, and I’m weary of this holiday guilt before we’ve even really begun!

Honestly, until a few years ago, we had never really attempted any kind of advent for families other than reading the Christmas story from the Bible, mostly because I knew my perfectionist tendencies would make it a burden rather than a blessing, a duty rather than a delight.

After all, I’m a professional at making lists and checking off boxes, but I also find lists and boxes stressful because, let’s be honest, how often do we create a list of things to do today that will really take an entire week to complete? :)

So, if the program of advent for families involves complicated daily activities, I’m bound to get behind at some point: cue the holiday guilt.

Here’s the thing about guilt, friends – it is counter-productive. Guilt doesn’t motivate; rather it incapacitates.  The enemy knows this all too well, and he is a master manipulator, the king of guilt-inducing thoughts, man-made rules, and unrealistic expectations.

Yes, I want to teach my children about Christ’s birth and our family traditions, but not at the expense of experiencing Christmas joy.

But I’ve found a stress-free solution…

Join me over at my friend Sarah Ann’s blog, Faith Along the Way, to find out more about avoiding holiday guilt and a simple, stress-free advent for families (plus FREE printables!).

As the season fills with busyness, how you can possibly fit in advent? Here's a simple, stress-free plan for avoiding holiday guilt. Stay focused on the true reason for the season with this simple, stress-free advent plan for families.

 

Sharing with: Grace and Truth

The Dangerous Lie You Believe About Your So-called Sin

They say the most dangerous lie is that which contains a sliver of truth, just enough to make it sound good and appeal to our conscience while deftly leading us astray.

I fear some such lies have permeated Christian culture to the point that we have turned the gospel upside down, backwards, and inside out to make it mean the opposite of what it truly is. What a coup for the enemy to use God’s own well-meaning people to pervert the greatest sacrifice this world has ever seen.

What is this lie, you ask?

It’s the dangerous lie that we’re good, that we’re enough, that we somehow deserve the Savior’s love.

I’ve heard this lie before in bits and pieces, but always mixed with that sliver of truth that caused me to question, Maybe they didn’t mean that the way that it sounded…

But when those who call themselves Christ-followers begin to say things like, “Jesus wouldn’t have died for you if you weren’t good enough,” when Christian leaders deny the Word of God and call sin “acceptable,” I feel a hollow in the pit of my stomach, an ache that won’t easily be ignored.

It’s a lie, my friend, a dangerous lie that leads to a false gospel, one meant to keep you enslaved rather than freeing you to be the child of God you were created to be.

The Bible is clear that we are all sinners and deserve death (Rom. 3:23, Rom. 6:23, Rom. 3:10-12, 1 Jn. 1:8-10). This false idea that we can be good enough on our own is as old as the Garden of Eden when Adam and Even attempted to cover their shame after their disobedience.

Have you fallen for this dangerous lie about your sin? Find out the truth about how we are often deceived about our so-called sin and why it matters so much. As Christians, we should be telling the full truth about sin and the gospel.

You see, when Adam and Eve disobeyed and their eyes were opened to their own sin, they immediately felt the shame of being not good enough. They recognized their offense to a holy and righteous God, even as they busied themselves trying to cover it up.

It’s our natural tendency to downplay our sin and exaggerate whatever good we can find in ourselves. It’s our natural tendency precisely because we are imperfect beings in need of a Savior, imperfect beings who wish with our whole hearts to be good, to be special, to be loved.

The irony is that we were created for exactly that kind of relationship – to love and be loved, to walk in communion with our Father God.  So when we walk away from Him and from His ways, we find ourselves an empty, needy, downright desperate people who are stubbornly determined to prove our worth, our rightness.

You and I see and hear examples of this every day, especially in these politically and morally tumultuous times. Every one wants to be right, right?

The danger that lies in calling ourselves “good enough” is twofold: it either tempts us to deny our need for a Savior in the first place, or for those who see so clearly their own imperfections, it tempts us to embrace a works-oriented salvation by wasting this one life we have trying to “earn” a status that is freely offered.

If the lie is true and we are so good that Jesus died for us, then why would we need His death?

Why would we need Him at all?

Thus the dangerous lie inverts the gospel, turns it topsy-turvy until we begin to believe that we must somehow save ourselves.

And that’s exactly what the enemy wants us to believe, my friends. He certainly doesn’t want us to acknowledge Jesus as our Rescuer and Redeemer. He certainly doesn’t want us to experience the power of a gospel that is both redemptive and transformative in our lives.

Instead, the enemy would love to keep us focused on…well…us.

Listen closely, friend, the heart-stopping beauty of the gospel is that we. are. not. enough.

We are not good.

We are not worthy.

We are helpless sinners who offend the holiness of our Almighty God.

Yes, that is who we are at our core apart from Christ, but praise God, it doesn’t stop there.

While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. He died for us, a gruesome, painful, suffering sort of death reserved for the worst of criminals.  He laid down his life willingly because He loves us too much to leave us as we are, hopelessly enslaved by our own sin (Jn. 8:34, Gal. 5;1. Acts 13:39)

What’s so beautiful about such a horrifying death?  It’s beautiful because He sacrificed for all of us, for the worst version of us, for the hidden parts that we don’t dare show to another human being because we can barely admit to ourselves the ugliness of what lies within us.

He died even for the worst of humanity – the kind of people who do things that make us sick to our stomachs. Yes, He died for them, too.

The dangerous lie about your so-called sin doesn’t lead you or others to salvation, friend. It leads you to more of the same-old, same-old – trying to cover up the darkeness within that we don’t want anyone else to see, that we won’t even admit to ourselves.

Even we who are already in Christ fall for the dangerous lie from time to time.

We fall for the lie when we tell ourselves this one little sin won’t hurt.

We fall for the lie when we abuse grace.

We fall for the lie when we choose the world’s wisdom over God’s Holy Word.

We fall for the lie when we tell ourselves we have to earn His approval.

I’m tired of falling for this dangerous lie, and seeing others fall for it, too. How about you?

Let’s start telling the whole truth instead.

Let’s tell how great the love of Jesus is, but let’s not leave out how sinful we are. If we leave out our sin, we deny the full power of the gospel. After all, how can one save someone who doesn’t need saving?

Let’s remind each other of our position in Christ – fully loved, fully accepted, always cherished, continually pursued - but let’s make it clear that these labels are for those who have actually accepted Christ. Otherwise, we unintentionally teach others to believe what is not yet true for them.

Let’s stop teaching others to be confident in themselves and teach them to be confident in Christ instead.

Let’s not be afraid to admit the depth of our own sin because when we do, we’ll fall even more in love with the Savior who chose us first, who died for us even when we despised Him and His ways.

Let’s be willing to count ourselves a needy and desperate people, hungry for a righteousness that comes from God alone and not ourselves (Eph. 2:8-9).

Let’s quit telling dangerous lies about our so-called sin.

All because of Jesus,

Jen

Sharing with: Grace and Truth

 

What You Need to Know about Your Work-in-Progress Status

It’s Friday and you’ve survived another week, maybe even another month. Sometimes you wonder how much longer you can keep at it, how much longer you can grind your way through the hard work we call life.

And some days, the hard work defeats us, owns us, and we become less than – less of a wife, less of a mother, less of a daughter of the King, less than we truly desire to be.

We’re tempted then to blame the weariness, the dead weight we’ve been dragging for so long, on our hectic lives.

I’m just too busy.

The phrase slips into my mind so easily, yet I know it’s only a half-truth. Yes, I’ve been busy, but not just with the family schedule. My mind has been busy, too – busy with worries, thoughts, plans, dreams, and even dissatisfaction.

We’re weary women, you and me, and we long for some space to smooth down our frayed edges and quiet our souls, yet we’ve somehow lost the way.

If I’m honest, I have to admit that my biggest problem isn’t my hectic schedule, though. No – the biggest problem is that when my schedule is crazy, my perfectionism and need to control kicks into overdrive. I’m tempted to think if I just work harder and longer, then I can keep myself afloat. 

If I just do everything right….

Unfortunately, I’m not perfect and neither are you. No matter how hard we try, we’re bound to fail at something along the way.

And fail, I have.

I’ve been a grumpy mama and a distracted wife. I’ve offended others in my haste and frustration. I’ve neglected to connect to the only Power Source who can really keep me going in the tough times. I’ve been trying way too hard to do something I cannot possibly do on my own, and boy, is it painful!

Why do we do this to ourselves, my sisters in Christ?  Why do we expect the impossible rather than resting in what we already know to be true?

~I’m sharing three of my favorite truths to fight against the pull perfectionism over at my friend Kaylene’s blog today. It would make my day if you’d hop on over there to find out what you really need to know about your work-in-progress status (and how to get a freebie)!

Sometimes you wonder how much longer you can grind your way through the hard work we call life. You feel too busy, like you're always failing at one thing or another. What you really need to know are these 3 truths about your work-in-progress status.

 

 

Sharing with: Grace and Truth

 

 

When You Just Want to Be Left Alone

The truth is, I just wanted to be left alone. After all, we weren’t getting along, we were bickering about everything – or so it seemed, and the last thing I wanted was to have to spend time with him. I didn’t want his usual greeting of a hug and kiss. I just wanted him to go away.

As I watched him walk away, shoulders drooped due to my cold shoulder, I felt a twinge of guilt and remorse. Then I remembered the stress he’d caused me, the fear he’d brought into our home, and I pushed the guilt aside. This mess was his fault, and he needed to fix it.

It wasn't someone or something else separating my husband and me. It wasn't another man or woman, it wasn't job stress, or even distance. It was me...   The Time I Just Wanted to Be Left Alone

Sadly, this has happened too many times in my marriage.

I was the one doing the damage that is warned against in Mark 10:9 –

Therefore, what God has joined together, let no one separate.

It wasn’t someone or something else separating my husband and me. It wasn’t another man or woman, it wasn’t  job stress, a crazy boss, or even distance. It was me.

I was letting the enemy come between us through bitterness that I was letting take root in my heart.

One day, out of the blue, my husband texted me to ask if we could start praying together. I was confused because we do pray together.

He listed a few things that he wanted to begin praying about, together, intentionally.

I took my time answering because…I wanted to be left alone.

I wanted to just ignore his request and wallow in my own feelings.

But that’s the thing about a covenant relationship – God gently and lovingly reminded me of my part of the commitment while I sat there telling Him about how my husband broke his part of the commitment.

Despite all that happened, I firmly believe God called me to stay in my marriage, to see my husband get the necessary help he needs, to champion redemption inside these four walls.

And that’s why I had to check my attitude. I could not continue to let the enemy weasel his way into the marriage that I was fighting for. I couldn’t write about redemption and then stand in the way of it.

Despite my feelings, regardless of the fact that I really just wanted to be left alone, I picked up my phone and responded to my husband.

Yes, I will pray with you.
Yes, we’ll pray specifically for the things that you want to pray for.
And yes, we’ll move forward trusting God together.

In order for our marriage to grow together, and actually in order for any marriage to move forward, we have to set self aside. We have to be looking out for the best for our spouse and for our marriage.

I’m thankful for the Lord’s conviction in my life, to gently remind me that selfishness really isn’t going to get me anywhere. Even though I wanted to be left alone, even though I set up barriers to connecting with my husband, the Lord gently worked in our hearts to draw us back together.

Friends, if the Lord is working in your heart in this manner, trust me when I say that it’s better choosing His way. Set aside your feelings, even just for a moment, and let Him work in your heart.

 

Rebekah M. HallbergRebekah has been completely overwhelmed by the grace and mercy of the Lord in her life. He has proven His faithfulness in every area of her life, especially in her marriage. She has come to understand the power of redemption and God’s work in her own marriage. Her goal is to be Sharing Redemption’s Stories – encouraging wives who are praying for redemption in their marriage.

How to Overcome a Bad Day

Some days just getting started in the morning is the most difficult challenge we’ll face all day long.  It’s hard to overcome a bad day, especially when it starts out rough from the very beginning!

You know, the days when:

  • the kids wake up way too early
  • you feel overwhelmed by your to-do list
  • you didn’t get enough sleep
  • you’re so grumpy you feel out of control
  • it’s dreary outside
  • all you want to do is get back in your comfy bed and hide

Overcoming a bad day seems nearly impossible once it has already started!

What do you do when you wake up with zero motivation?

How do you get past a grumpy mood so early on in the day?

What do you do when you wake up with zero motivation?  How do you get past a grumpy mood so early on in the day? Try these 10 tips for turning a bad day around.

10 Ways to Jumpstart Your Morning (and overcome a bad day):

1. Go to bed earlier the night before! I know, I know – that’s the most obvious advice ever.   But it’s true.  When the twins were infants, I forced myself to go to bed not long after they did. I knew that if I didn’t go to bed right away, the next day would be miserable and difficult.  However, now that they are a little older, I’ve gotten out of the habit of early bedtime.  One of my work-in-progress goals is to go to bed earlier so that I can get out of bed earlier the next morning, (overcome the bad day before it even starts)!

2. Shower (or at least splash some cold water on your face). I know there are many mornings that showering first thing just isn’t an option, especially if you have little ones in the house.  I have found that on the days when I have to wait for my shower (or even go without), washing my face goes a long way toward helping my sleepy eyes stay open. The more awake I feel, the easier it is to overcome a bad day.

3. Spend time…

To read the rest, follow me over to Sharing Redemption’s Stories here!

You woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning, and apparently the little people who live with you did, too. All you want is a few more minutes of sleep, but the to-do list beckons. How will you overcome the rough start? Try one of these 10 tips to jumpstart your morning!