The God You Know

The God You Know

While reading in my Bible the other day, I stumbled across a verse that struck me. I’m sure I’ve read this verse many times before, but on this particular day, it pierced my heart afresh. It was Judges 2:10:

“Another generation arose after them who did not know the Lord nor the work which He had done for Israel. “

Just to give some context – the generation coming of age in Judges 2 follows the generation who lived through the parting of the Red Sea, wandered with Moses in the desert, saw God as a pillar of fire and a cloud, partook in Joshua’s victory at Jericho…in short, a highly unique and privileged generation to have experienced a Holy God in such an intimate way. And yet, this generation failed to pass on to their children and grandchildren all the wonders they had seen.

This up-and-coming generation of God’s people did not learn to appreciate the miracles He performed. They did not know the Lord.

Why didn’t they know?

What communication gap caused the elders in this community to fail to mention their personal experiences with a real God who made His presence fully known? How did an entire generation come of age without hearing these compelling stories of survival and victory? Maybe it’s because the adults in the room were too busy complaining about current circumstances or trying to forge their own path – one without the Father. Perhaps they were so wrapped up in the drudgery of daily life that they just forgot to tell the younger ones in their midst who couldn’t remember or who likely weren’t even born yet all the incredible things God had done for them.

So the younger generation grew up without hearing about God. They did not know Him. They had no reason to follow Him.

In our modern society, we might not experience seas parting or pillars of fire. But in each of our lives, God has been and is continuing to work. As believers, we have all uniquely encountered a REAL Heavenly Father – and we each have a story to tell. Failing to recognize and articulate how He weaves the pieces of our days together is failing to raise up the next generation to love and seek Him for themselves. It’s our responsibility to pass on to our children the story God has written in our own lives. They need to hear of His goodness, His faithfulness, and His love. If they only hear complaints and grumblings…if they see us chasing after other gods besides Him, how could the next generation possibly want to follow Christ?

How are you representing your savior to the youth around you? Are you inspiring them to worship with awe the One who worked miracles in your life, or are you pushing them towards idols of this world with your misrepresentation or avoidance of talking about Him altogether?

Let’s be a generation of believers committed to unabashedly proclaiming our devotion to and worship of the God of the universe. Let there be no room for doubt in the minds and hearts of the ones who will follow after us. Let’s introduce them to the God we know!

May this generation be a living witness to

His majestic mercy,
His glorious grace,
His time-tested truth,
His pervasive power, and
His limitless love.

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Adoption: God’s Will For Your Life

Adoption: God’s Will For Your Life

Adoption has been on my mind lately. I have a few friends who are adopting, and hearing their stories has made a significant impression on me. For weeks I have been mulling over what it means to adopt, and I’ve reached the conclusion that adoption is God’s will for every Christian.

When you think of adoption, you probably imagine actresses bringing home children from third world countries. Maybe, like me, you personally know someone who is adopting or has adopted. A less common viewpoint is the adoption we experience as children of God and how the word “adopt” is a perfect picture of the Gospel in action. This is what I can’t stop thinking about.

According to the dictionary, to adopt is to choose or take as one’s own, to take and rear as one’s own child, to take or receive into any kind of new relationship. Because of what Jesus Christ did on the cross, a door was opened that allows any human being to be adopted into His eternal family. He takes us as His own when we put our trust in Him. He calls us His children. He eagerly receives each one of us into a new relationship with Him. In short, adoption is taking those who are without and bringing them in.

The Bible puts it this way:

“God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.”
‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭1:5‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

“So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.”
‭‭Romans‬ ‭8:15‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

“But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children. And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father.” Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child. And since you are his child, God has made you his heir.”
‭‭Galatians‬ ‭4:4-7‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

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Adoption is the Gospel lived out. What Christ set in motion with his life, death, burial and resurrection can and should be emulated among His followers. What adoption looks like in your own life depends on a few things…your place, your passions, your possessions, and your perspective.

1. Your place

Where has God located you? You live where you live for a reason. Your job is no accident. Each community, city, state and country is filled with people who are struggling – those who are outsiders to the knowledge of Jesus. The people you see on your daily commute or at the supermarket might desperately need the Light you carry in your soul. They aren’t part of God’s family – yet. There is not a place on this earth untouched by sin and therefore anywhere you happen to do life is going to be filled with people in desperate need of adoption.

2. Your passions

What stirs your heart? When God created you, He made you unique with specific talents, interests, and passions. They are not random. These gifts are an intentional part of who you are and are best displayed as you wrap adoptive arms around someone else who needs you.

Who do you love? Is your heart drawn to children? Perhaps literal adoption or foster care is perfect for you. Do you have a soft spot for the elderly? Think of the difference maker you could be just by listening to their stories or caring for them. Is your heart broken for the homeless? Restore a piece of lost dignity to these downtrodden people by making eye contact, serving a meal, or volunteering at a shelter.

There are countless groups of people who need adopting. Victims of sex trafficking and domestic violence. The physically or mentally disabled. Civilians living in the midst of war and violence. Inner city youth. Single parents. Widows. The neighbor across the street. The list is endless, really. You know where your heart is, and if you don’t, make it a point to find out. Who do you notice and then can’t stop thinking about? Just as God the Father sought you, it’s time to pursue that person or group who tugs at your heartstrings the most.

3. Your possessions

As you read this, you might be thinking to yourself, “This all sounds good, but how much can I help with my limited resources?”

It’s so easy to talk yourself out of making a difference when you believe you don’t have that much to give.

While we can’t all give millions to every cause we believe in, most of us have a few extra dollars on hand. Donate to a local non-profit. Pay for dinner. Buy groceries for a stranger. There are so many tangible ways to make a difference for the Kingdom with your money.

Time is your number one resource. Nothing else you possess will make much of an impact if you can’t or won’t sacrifice some time. Adoption takes time. Relationships take time to grow into something real. Be patient with yourself and the process – in the end it will be worth it!

4. Your perspective

What life experiences have shaped you? Good or bad, what you’ve lived through thus far is often the perfect catalyst to guide you on your adoption journey. Abuse, poverty, even affluence and celebrity can be used for good.

I’m thinking of professional football players who grew up on the streets and who now use their wealth and status to go back to their old neighborhoods and mentor young kids.

I’m thinking of abuse survivors who passionately rescue and support other victims.

I’m thinking of men and women who went to law school or medical school and who use their skills to advocate and care for the least among us.

I’m thinking of women who may seem unremarkable to strangers, but who are actively changing the lives of those around them. The world would not mourn their departure, but to the ones these women have adopted, the void left in their absence would be severe, aching, devastating.

I’m thinking of you. I’m thinking of me. Alone we seem insignificant. But each story, every talent, each heart – they all matter to the Father. They matter to someone out there who needs what only you can offer. The most significant thing about you is what you will do with this whole idea of adoption.

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Everyone who believes, who has a personal relationship with Jesus, is called to adopt. As Christians our life’s work is meant to glorify God, point others to Him, and continue to be molded into His image as our lives progress. I can think of no better way to follow Christ’s example than to adopt someone or some group into your life, and ultimately, into eternal life.

Where has God placed you? Who around you is without? What are you passionate about and how can you use that to bring someone new into the family of God?

Who needs you to adopt them today?

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Staying In Your Lane

Staying In Your Lane

This past week, I sat down with a dear friend who set me straight. She is a friend who speaks truth even when it’s hard. An iron sharpens iron kind of friend. We all need one (or two) like this. It’s good for our souls…whether we like it or not.

Lately, I have been running high on emotions and strong opinions have been flying out of my mouth and I didn’t even realize it.

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My dear friend listened as I talked to her about “my opinions” and the realization that my heart was in a mess. She gracefully listened and when I was done she said, “You need to stay in your own lane.”

And there it was. Bam! (And ouch)

“STAY IN YOUR OWN LANE?”

Everything inside of me wanted to defend myself and not take full ownership of my pride, my control…my sin.

I genuinely do love people, especially those I am close with and I desire God’s absolute best for them and their lives. I don’t want them to stumble and fall. I don’t want destruction and sin to overtake their lives. I don’t want to see them go down a path that God never intended.

BUT…

It’s NOT MY LANE

&

I AM NOT GOD.

Ladies – I know I am not alone here. And sometimes it comes out in very ugly ways. How many of us are covered in frustration because we believe we know what’s “best” for everyone else around us? In fact, we know better than they do about their own lives, right??!

I have been trying to run someone else’s race that God never intended me to run. When I jump lanes, I am left burdened, weighted and upset because it’s not going the way “I” think it should.

My own personal life lesson today…We are fooling ourselves if we believe we know better than the Creator Himself. And chances are, there is a deeper issue going on within us that is causing us to jump lanes in the first place.

I realized that at the root of my frustration is control, pride, and a lack of trust that God will take care of them…even if they mess up. He has taken care of me plenty of times when I have messed up. In fact, He’s doing it right now as I write this post.

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We were created to run our race with EVERY stumble. EVERY fall. EVERY bad decision…so that we can get back up, chasing hard after Jesus again…and again…and AGAIN. This was one of those stumbling moments for me. I’m getting back up though…and I’m looking ahead towards Him.

Let’s love those around us when they stumble. Encourage them and run beside them. Pray for them. Speak the truth in LOVE when it needs to be spoken allowing the Holy Spirit to guide us. Maybe they will receive it, maybe they won’t. Ultimately it’s NOT up to you or me. Release them into our Father’s hands and LET IT GO.

So…will you come along side me? Lets stay in our lanes, love like Jesus, and FINISH WELL.

Then when we finish our race, we will hear Him say, “Well done good and faithful servant.”

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Sometimes I’m a Bad Driver

Sometimes I’m a Bad Driver

Wow. This wasn’t the post I wanted to write. I wanted to encourage and inspire and share something that would bless other women from my own comfort zone.

Instead, I’m going to tell you something real and exercise the bravery that we try to encourage here at BraveGirl.

I grew up in a Christian home. I was involved in Christian groups at my public college. I even worked at a Christian bookstore (and am currently employed as a schoolteacher at a Christian school).
Honestly, I have really embraced Jesus as my Savior on my own since the year 2000, as a college freshman.

But when it comes to my vehicle, I’m incognito…I don’t claim my Christianity.
I don’t have a window sticker of any of the ministries I support displayed on the back. No artistic rendition of the one cross, or the three crosses. No fish emblem. No Bible verses.
I only have stickers from my local chain coffee shop that I’m very supportive of (they give out really great window stickers btw!)
I have a generic white minivan. The lack of window stickers have helped me avoid awkward moments in the parking lot more than once.

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Why am I telling you this? Because there’s a reason I don’t have any Christian representation on my car.
I’m afraid.
I know that once in a while, I have been going too fast to stop and it’s questionable if I was all the way through when the light was green or yellow.
I know that sometimes I have changed lanes and cut somebody off.
I am afraid that if I drive poorly, and I am supposed to be representing Jesus, then I will turn people away from Him.

So instead? I hide my faith behind my tinted windows and sunglasses.
There are two solutions to this problem. The first? Become perfect.

Perfect. Driving. Every. Time.

And though I may have good reason to reconsider some of my habits, I don’t think that this is the real answer.

How many of us are waiting to share our faith until we’re perfect examples of Jesus?

Thinking that way means I won’t be sharing Jesus with anyone. EVER. The truth is…our imperfections highlight the NEED for a Savior. Hiding my imperfections says ‘once I needed Him and now I don’t.’ When we claim Him, in spite of our failings, others realize they can also come to Him now. They don’t have to wait until they stop making mistakes.

Plus, it denies them the opportunity to see how Jesus changes us. By letting others see us as the imperfect humans that we are, they will also get to witness Him As He changes us. THAT’S how people see Him most.

So, if I cut you off accidentally or don’t keep my speed in check approaching a traffic light, I apologize in advance. Just know I’m a work in progress. All of us are.

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TammyIf you want more mini van stories…check out clean on the outside and acci”dents” . It seems this van is one of God’s tools for helping me grow.

 

 

The Sin Good Girls Won’t Name

The Sin Good Girls Won’t Name

I showed up to a get-together with a covered dish and some juicy news to share. It was an opportunity to shock my friends and therefore receive some odd sense of satisfaction, attention, and praise for revealing such scandalous information. Before I could get it out, one of the ladies asked,

“Who has some good gossip?”

Now I was the one who was shocked! We can’t “gossip”. That’s so sinful! How dare she just come out and say that!

Oh, wait…

At least my friend wasn’t in denial about it. She called it what it was. She named it and it made me think twice about what I was about to reveal. Good southern Christian girls like me don’t like to name our sin because acknowledgement brings that uninvited guest named Conviction to spoil our party.

Gossip seeps its’ way into my perfectly innocent conversations, even ones that start out to be godly and life-giving. It is anything but harmless and we have to stop.

“Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein

on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.”

-James 1:26

I didn’t recognize gossip as a problem in my life until my own filthy laundry became the hot topic. When people have been whispering about you, it is beyond hurtful and embarrassing. It permanently damages friendships and deteriorates trust. It’s anything but harmless.

God, help me not to harm others with my desire for entertaining conversation.

Being highly experienced in this area, I’ve narrowed gossip down to four types so it will be easier to recognize the next time it sneaks into your conversation.

1. Secret Telling Gossip
“Promise you won’t tell.”
Even if you are dying to spill someone else’s secret and you know you can trust your best friend, it’s still gossip. If it’s not YOUR business, keep it to yourself.

“He who goes about as a slanderer reveals secrets,

therefore do not associate with a gossip.” -Proverbs 20:19

2. Prodding Gossip
“How’s Sarah? I heard she’s going through a tough time…”
If you are on the receiving end of a gossipy loaded question, you are not required to answer! People will respect that you politely refuse to give up information and you will prove yourself to be trustworthy.

“For lack of wood the fire goes out, And where there is no whisperer,

contention quiets down.” -Proverbs 26:20

3. Angry Gossip
“Her marriage is falling apart, so she’s taking it out on me!”
Someone hurts you so you tell others all of the unattractive things you know about her life. Don’t let your short term emotions cause long term effects. You will regret it later.

“Argue your case with your neighbor,

And do not reveal the secret of another.” -Proverbs 25:9

4. Concerned Friend Gossip
“You need to pray for our friend because you won’t believe what happened…”
Of course we need to pray for and support each other. Just always make sure to keep your motives and your sincerity in check when you reveal anything personal about someone else’s life.

As you go back to your workplace, play dates, and PTA meetings, keep in mind what God’s Word says about gossip. Learn to recognize it, call it by name, and put a stop to it. Don’t let this “innocent” sin creep its’ way into what could otherwise be sacred spaces of trust, encouragement and friendship.

“Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth;

Keep watch over the door of my lips.” –Psalm 141:3

BraveGirl Robyn

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The Back Room

The Back Room

Jesus stands at the door. He knocks. I answer and let him in.

He takes up residence in my home, and I willingly grant him freedom to access the front rooms – those I’ve already cleaned out. But I’m a bad hostess. I don’t interact with Jesus because I’m too busy guarding the back room.

The back room is locked and barred. It’s where my darkest secrets lie. I’m trapped in that room, stuck in a mess of my own making. My shame and guilt are stacked high like moving boxes. There’s barely room for me in there, but still I sit. Surrounded by my failures, I spend my time categorizing and alphabetizing so I can easily rewind and remind myself of what a dismal disappointment I must be to my most prestigious house guest.

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So Jesus finds himself knocking again – this time he’s at the door of the room where I hoard and cling to my garbage. He’s gently trying to coax me to just open up. He’s telling me that it’s not as bad as I think. That my boxed sins aren’t scaring him at all. That he’s better company than the depression I’ve found in that cramped space.

And I hear him. I want to open the door, but I’m paralyzed with fear. What if he takes one step in and the depth of my darkness is fully revealed? Will he change his mind? Will he consider me too far gone and run away? Will he look at me with disappointment and condemn me to a lifetime lived in isolated despair? Will he force me to get rid of the sin I’ve worked so hard to store away and hide? Will he make me bring it all out in the open and show the neighbors just how filthy my living situation has become?

What if I allow Him to enter that room and cleanse it? What if I give each box over to him and release the hold it’s had on me for so long? What then? What do I do with all that free space? Will I fill it with new sins the first chance I get? Will I run out to the dumpster and salvage whatever remains of those soiled boxes?

I decide I have to know.

In tears, I slowly unbolt the locks and ease the door open a crack. I see Jesus smiling and reaching his hand out towards me. I’m shaking all over as I step aside and he enters that black room. I can’t meet his eyes, but if I could I would see love overflowing and overwhelming me. I can feel it, even though I can’t rip my gaze from the stained floorboards.

He begins to unstack each box, one by one. He takes them as far away as the east is from the west, working steadily and carefully. He sweeps the cobwebs aside, opens the shutters, and light floods in. He fills the emptiness left behind with peace and mercy.

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In the far corner I notice new boxes I’d never seen before. Hidden behind my hoard I now glimpse beautifully wrapped packages, gleaming bright and begging to be opened.

So I tear the paper and open each box expectantly. Inside I find the house warming presents Christ delivered on that first day I allowed him into my heart-home. These talents and passions that make me who I am have quietly been sitting in that corner, unable to be fully accessed. Not until I allowed Christ to come in and clean up the mess that overwhelmed me could I begin to put these gifts to use.

I’m clean. I’m forgiven. I’m healed. There’s no place for guilt and shame to take up residence in my heart anymore. That once-barred door is wide open. I’m finally allowing Jesus Christ to have full admittance and free reign in my home. I’m inviting him in. I’m admitting that there’s nothing I can do to improve my darkest places without his help.

My friend, Jesus is a master restorer and maker of new things. He’s at work in my heart, demolishing my past and recovering each surface with new grace. Are you living in that grace? Do you have a back room? Open the door!

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Decorate Your Mansion

Decorate Your Mansion

God cares about decorating.  I’m convinced of this.

He decorated the earth with countless majestic and beautiful things that are unique to each region and vary with each season.

Proverbs 31 speaks of the value in caring for a household. Making your home look clean, welcoming, and yes, even decorated is a part of that.

If you’re like me, you’ve jumped on the Joanna-Gaines-Fixer-Upper-Wood-Metal-Shiplap train and you’re not looking back.  I’ve spent more time than I like to admit pursuing stores for little pretties to display in my own home since that show came into existence. I enjoy picking out color schemes, patterns, and accents that define my personal style and tell every visitor to my home who I am.

I know God cares about the smallest of details. He wants me to honor Him with every aspect of my life and do everything to the best of my ability, even something simple like making my house look presentable. What I struggle to remember most days is how much MORE He cares about the effort I’m putting forth down here to “decorate” my mansion up in Heaven.

Because I’ve got one…a mansion, that is. And you do too if you’re His child.  John 14:2 says, “In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.”

Jesus was speaking to His disciples, comforting them before He went to the Cross. And as a modern day disciple-in-training, these words also apply to me. Other translations use the word “room” instead of “mansion.” Maybe it’s both: maybe there’s one ginormous mansion with a stellar room for each of His kids. Either way, I’m good. My point is, I’ve got a reservation, a place to call my own, up in Heaven with Christ. So do you!  That truth should make each of us giddy with anticipation.

So what am I doing to decorate my permanent dwelling place? How do I even begin to spruce up a home I’ve never seen and can’t physically get to in this life?

It has to do with treasure. Sound far-fetched? Bear with me, friend!

Treasure by definition is something of value or worth that we seek. Think about how many hours you spend hunting for earthly treasure. Home décor isn’t your thing? You’re not off the hook!  Maybe it’s your physical appearance. Perhaps it’s your vehicle or even your phone. Your treasure might be the number of likes or follows you receive on social media. Possibly it’s the number of dollars in your bank account. The unhealthy relationship you cling to. We all have something here on earth that we value and find our worth in – that one thing in our life that we spend the most time on and sacrifice the most money for. We pursue it because we treasure it.

Matthew 19:16-22 tells the story of a rich man who wanted to follow Jesus. In verse 21, Jesus said, “If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” The next verse reveals what this rich man really treasured…he went away sad because he had many possessions.

How many times do we neglect to follow Jesus because of our possessions?

Jesus speaks again in Matthew 6:19-21: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Where is your heart today? What do you treasure?

There’s a clear delineation between earthly treasure and heavenly treasure, according to the Bible.  Let’s compare three differences between the two.

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1. Earthly treasure is all about STUFF. Heavenly treasure is all about SACRIFICE.

When your heart is focused on earthly treasure, you think about what’s yours to take.  You are consumer-minded. It’s all about getting what you want or think you need. When your heart is focused on heavenly treasure, your stuff just isn’t as important. Instead of always taking, you’re the one giving to others. You sacrifice the pursuit of making your earthly life more comfortable in order to help someone else have a brighter day.

2. Earthly treasure elevates your STATUS. Heavenly treasure elevates your SERVICE.

When your ego is stroked or your chest is puffed out because of the latest rung you’ve climbed to reach some man-made status quo, I hate to tell you, but your treasure may be earthly. Pride is dangerous because it can sneak into the depths of your soul, hidden even from you. One cure for pride is to lose yourself in service. There’s not a lot of immediate gratification in volunteering to help those on the fringes of society. But the humility one must have to serve like Jesus will refocus your mindset back to the treasure that counts for eternity.

3. Earthly treasure is like SAND.  Heavenly treasure is like STONE.

When your confidence is in your earthly treasures, it can be taken away and gone in a heartbeat.  What then? Do you think you’re worth nothing if you have nothing? Your possessions make for shaky footing. If and when the ground caves in, wouldn’t it be nice to have a firm, solid foundation holding you up? If your most valued possessions exist in the heavenly realms, you’ll barely feel a tremor when the avalanches of this life come barreling your way.

1 Timothy 6:17-19 says it best:

“As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.”

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This world is not my home. I don’t want to get so comfortable here in the temporary that I forget about the permanent, beyond-my-wildest-dreams forever home I have with my Savior. How sad would it be to get up to Heaven and have the most sparsely decorated place in the joint? That just won’t do.

I want to honor the sacrifice He made at Calvary by freely giving myself and my stuff away. I want to follow Christ’s example of service and humbly reach out to those in need. I want to stand with my feet so firmly planted on His truth that nothing shakes me. This is how I will store up that valuable, eternal treasure in Heaven and decorate my mansion above. More of Him. Less of me.

What about you? Have you been challenged, like I have, to live according to 1 Timothy 6? I’d love to hear about it!

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Whose Flag Are You Flying?

Whose Flag Are You Flying?

Who do you love? What do you love? How would those closest to you describe you?

Each of us have two identities: one public and one private. Sometimes the two coincide; often the image we project is vastly different than who we are in our heart of hearts. For me, it’s so much easier and seemingly less painful to keep the “real-ness” of who I am a secret to most people. But it’s time to get real. It’s time to shed the mask and fess up to my sin of idolatry.

You see, we do all kinds of things to project the image we want to be known for. As I type this, I’m sitting in a coffee shop wearing yoga gear and Chacos. Earbuds are in place, and a made-to-order caffeinated drink sits in front me. My Jeep is parked right outside the door. It’s like I just came from the gym and now I’m luxuriating on my iPad and checking out the latest bands before I meet my friends for some outdoorsy adventure. Problem is, all of the above is false. I’m sitting inside because it’s too hot to be outdoors, much less go hiking or rock-climbing. I don’t take yoga classes or even belong to a gym. My earbuds are playing classical music. I couldn’t tell you the name of one song on the pop charts. And my Jeep has features that will never be used…4WD, anyone?

What a poser, you may be thinking. I’m going to go out on a limb and say I’m not the only one…any of this sound familiar?

We wear brands and styles that sell the lifestyle we want to emulate. And we wait for people to notice.

We drape ourselves in jerseys to let everyone know what team we support. We plaster bumper stickers on our cars. And we fight tooth and nail defending our side’s merits.

We drive vehicles that tell other motorists how important we are. And we impatiently overlook the less-fortunate drivers whose cars can’t keep up.

We fly flags proudly to represent our nationality, our sexuality, our faith, or our heritage. And we cause misunderstandings and misgivings when the flag we fly is controversial or offensive.

We sacrifice daily on the altar of public opinion, all too quick to ignore or cover up the thing that makes us who we are in order to make everyone else think we’re something more – more adventurous, more attractive, more spiritual, more well-off, more right.

So what is it that makes us, well, us? And why is it so easy to ignore our deepest, truest parts?

It’s been said, “You don’t have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.” Your soul is the essence of who you are. Wrapped up in your soul is who God created you to be, all uniquely yours. The depths of our souls cry out in worship. It’s what they were made to do. In a perfect world, we would worship only our Father God. In our fallen reality, we worship everything but Him.

God knew when He gave us free will that this was likely to happen. I remember reading in the Old Testament the account of Israel being led by God through a pillar of fire and a cloud of smoke as they escaped captivity and made their way towards the Promised Land. Just pause and absorb the reality of how closely this group saw, heard, and felt His presence! One part of this story always dumbfounded me. In Exodus 32, Moses is up on the mountain talking to God. Everyone down in the valley got tired of waiting, decided to take matters in their own hands, and formed a golden calf to worship. These people, who had witnessed the undeniable power of Jehovah with their own eyes, who walked on dry land where there should have been sea, who had received daily provision from Heaven, these people crafted a statue and declared it their new God. I mean, really?? How could someone who had experienced the true, miracle-working presence of a Holy God be so quick to deny Him?

And yet, even as the people were melting their jewelry, God was handing down the rules to Moses. Exodus 20:3 gives the first commandment: “You shall have no other gods before Me.

Back in the day, and in some cultures still today, idols have been worshipped in place of God. When we hear the word idolatry, we most likely envision statues in temples. The Bible clearly states in various places just how common and dangerous idolatry really is. Isaiah 2:8 reads, “Their land is full of idols; the people worship things they have made with their own hands.

Because most of us don’t physically bow down to some graven image, we think we’re off the hook. We fail to recognize the immense tendency we have to worship anything and everything besides the only One who deserves our adoration. We must own up to the fact that as modern-day Americans, we are a most idolatrous generation. We too have experienced miraculous redemption and transformation, provision and grace. We live with His presence IN us! And just like the Israelites, we have focused our worship on creation rather than the Creator. It’s time to take some personal inventory and examine our hearts for traces of hidden gods. Because as Dr. Phil likes to say, “You can’t change what you don’t acknowledge.”

So what’s the big deal? Who really cares if we drive a nice car, spout off football stats to win an argument, wear the latest trends, or fly a flag from our porch, our car, or our Facebook page? I’m not hurting anyone and it’s none of their business anyway! No harm no foul, right?

The problem with that line of thinking is that it’s wrong. Satan is deceiving you if you’ve convinced yourself that what you choose to project into the public eye has no bearing on anyone else’s life but your own.

Especially if you proclaim the name of Christ.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying that rooting for the home team or being interested in fashion is wrong. I’m definitely not saying you shouldn’t defend your convictions. And if God has blessed you with nice possessions, who am I to tell you not to enjoy His gifts?

My point is this: these things aren’t wrong in and of themselves. They become sinful when they dethrone Jesus and take His rightful place as the thing we worship…

When we spend more time shopping than we do with our Heavenly Father.

When we know more about our favorite players on our number one team than we know about the character of our Savior.

When we constantly seek approval from our peers but never seek God’s will through prayer.

When the flag we fly (literally or figuratively) causes pain, shame, fear, or anger but we fly it anyway.

The unsaved world scrutinizes believers, looking for a reason to follow Christ. Sadly, we give them plenty of reasons to reject Him instead. The gods of our hearts look and sound just like theirs.

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So what do people see when they look at you? Better yet, what does God see when His eyes rest upon you?

Psalm 106:36 speaks of idols becoming a snare to those who serve them. What’s got you trapped and ensnared?

Jonah 2:8 says, “Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love.” Is your hope and conviction that God loves you diminishing? Have you forsaken your soul’s deepest desire by paying regard to vain idols?

Mercifully, God is all about second, third, hundredth chances. He’s a living, breathing, REAL being who responds when we put Him back where He belongs in our life. I know from first-hand experience how precious Christ becomes when I give up the idols that keep me from loving Him.

When we die to self and bow in surrender to our King of Kings, something miraculous happens: suddenly it doesn’t matter so much what we’re wearing or who we’re impressing (or not impressing). We gain the ability to lower any flags that previously flew higher than the cross and in their place unfurl the flag of the Gospel. When we realize that NOTHING is worth proclaiming more than the name of Jesus Christ, we lift up our Creator in all we do and say. We worship the one true God instead of false idols made with our own hands.

So what idols are you struggling to dethrone in your own life? I’m praying for you as you ask God to reveal hidden idols in your heart and seek the courage to worship Him alone as King and Lord of your life. Victory is found in Christ!

“Little children, keep yourselves from idols.”
1 John 5:21

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You Make Me Brave

You Make Me Brave

We love because he first loved us. 1 John 4:19

BraveGirl Tammy ran her first triathlon this weekend.  I’m sure her family was there watching and cheering her on to the finish line.  I can picture it now, “Go Mommy, Go! You’ve got this! You can do it!” And then finally, “Congratulations! You did it!” at the end.

Each one of us has our own race to run.

In the heat of the race we all need encouragement.  We need endurance.  We need to hear our names and remember who we are.  We need the reminders, “Keep going!  Don’t give up! You’ve got this! You’re almost there!”

You are deeply loved.

God planned for you and loves you as a parent loves a child from the very idea of conception. He thinks about you all the time. He has been your cheerleader, advocate, and supporter since the beginning of time.

He loves you so much that He let His own Son die for you, so that you can live with Him forever.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16 (NIV)

He loves you right where you are. Yes, even in our mess, He loves us.

God is love.  1 John 4:8 (NIV)

His perfect love casts out fear. His love casts out jealously. His love casts out anger. His love forgives.

When His love fills your heart there is no room for past hurt or pain.

You are deeply loved.  When you love the One who loves you a champion is born within.

He calls out your name and says, “You’ve got this! Hang on! Don’t give up!”

Do not be afraid today.  By our faith we know who wins.

For every child of God defeats this evil world, and we achieve this victory through our faith.  1 John 5:4

His love gives you courage.  Let the past go so that you may be healed and set free.  Let the present go if it is keeping you from Him.  You cannot move forward if you continue to hold onto the past.

His love gives you the courage to do the right thing.  Make the right choice.  Christ will draw you away from the shore into His embrace and His love will crash over you, fill you, and make you brave.

God is for you.  God is not against you.  God created you and He loves you.

When you know you are completely loved you show love to others.

May your hearts be encouraged and your souls nourished by the depth of His love today…

In Christ,

Mindy

 

 

 

 

How to Win Every Fight

How to Win Every Fight

Would you believe me if I told you I have learned in the past year how to win every fight? Especially if it’s not my fault? All I have to do is picture a traffic light.

I’m sure that you have had somebody close fight with you. You don’t know where it came from, or the magnitude surprises you. Your knee-jerk reaction is one of pain and perhaps retaliation.

This is when you need to visualize a traffic light. Big time!

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Green! (Quick to LISTEN)
Stop all noise. Virtual and otherwise. Turn off your phone, get away from people, find some solitude and quiet. Especially if you are reading a comment on Facebook or a text message. Take time to come down from your initial emotional reaction. Ask the Holy Spirit to speak to you. Maybe go for a walk. Pray. Remove yourself from the situation for a minute. Perhaps you are just an unfortunate recipient of somebody’s pain and hurt, and it has nothing to do with you at all. Are they under a lot of stress? Have there been recent changes or losses in their life? What may have caused them to lash out?

Yellow. (Slow to SPEAK)
We want to answer immediately. Often, though, our emotional response is less than gracious. Giving yourself a day or two (if possible) before responding can also open an opportunity for explanation. Maybe their intent did not come through in their words. What they meant to say and what they actually said could be two different things. You can ask questions to clarify, giving the benefit of the doubt, and possibly receive a resolution immediately.

If you are genuinely upset, a vague “rant” on Facebook will stir up curiosity from many not involved. Leave them out of it. Instead, if you must talk to someone—choose only one. Speak to them directly if you can. The digital age often results in misinterpretations with lack of facial expression. Emojiis just don’t cut it compared to tone of voice.

Red. (Slow to become ANGRY)
Assume the best about this person. If you’ve had a great relationship until now, a fight is upsetting. Why? You are afraid of losing this friendship. You clearly value this person and what they think of you—which is why you feel so wounded.
Don’t throw away what you have in a moment of pain. Remember why you like them. Pray for them. Ask for reconciliation. Will this matter a month from now? A year from now?
Love prospers when a fault is forgiven, but dwelling on it separates close friends.” ~Proverbs 17:9 (NLT)

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If you didn’t immediately recognize our traffic light, it’s found in James 1:19. “Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.”
This, my friends, is how we win the fight. We choose love.
Sometimes, we will have to love from far away, but often “hurting people hurt people.” There is a hurt inside that person that is spreading like a wildfire. You can choose to respond in love and stop the cycle of hurt.
How can we pray for you?

Tammy