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!
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.”
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
I don’t want to write this post. I don’t want to let the world know that I am struggling. I’m okay, but I am struggling. I’m joyful, but I’m sad inside. I’m numb, but I’m trying.
The past few years have been a roller coaster of emotions for my husband and I. And though I feel like a broken record talking about our infertility struggles, it’s where my heart is right now. And I’ve learned that being anything other than real gets pretty draining.
So, here’s the deal: In the past few years, I’ve struggled with sadness, bitterness, numbness, and depression. And because I so desperately want to glorify God through this battle with infertility, I subsequently struggle with shame that I have let myself hit such low points instead of perfectly, at all times, trusting my unknown future to a known God.
I got tired of being let down each month when pregnancy wasn’t achieved, so I tried to convince myself I might be better off if I didn’t care so much. In my efforts to become more apathetic about being a mom, unfortunately, other good, healthy emotions hit the road as well. The “protective” wall that surrounded my heart quickly became hardened and impenetrable. Not only did relationships suffer because of my lack of effort in maintaining them, but my home suffered. I could only muster up enough motivation to do the bare minimum. What that looked like for me was basically just doing the laundry so we would have clothes to wear. I also became good at putting on a facade of a clean house by straightening up but never actually cleaning. My dishwasher ran on schedule, but my floors never got mopped. The bathroom sink might have gotten cleaned, but maybe not the shower. Whatever I could muster up enough stamina to do for fifteen minutes every few days got done. Otherwise, my couch and I shared a lot of wasted, quality time together.
At this point you’re probably wondering why I’m putting all this out there. To be honest, I’m wondering the same thing myself. The only thing I can figure out is that my heart doesn’t want to fake it anymore. I’m done with facades, shame, and secrets. I believe it because I’ve experienced it: secrets lose power over you when you bring them to the light. I know I’m not the only person trying to act like I’ve got it all together on the outside while I’m dying on the inside.
So, in the spirit of being real, I’m going to share a snippet of one of my journal entries from September of last year:
I’m too scared to say it out loud and don’t want to add another burden to a busy world’s plate. But I think I’m depressed.
I lie on the couch, warm tears softly streaming down my cheeks, thoughts cascading through my mind of my dirty bathroom, unmade bed, half-completed projects, and dust-ridden furniture. My disdain for my laziness is strong, but I’m immobilized by a numbing, dull pain.
I’m tired. Annoyances have become heavy burdens that I feel in my chest. Simple tasks have become laborious exertions.
I’m surrounded by people, but I’m all alone. I’m left behind. I’m not a mom.
Lord, I’m so tired. My soul yearns for you, but I can’t muster up a cry out to you, only a whisper of your name. I continue shoveling food into my ever-swelling face.
God, give me joy. Give me energy. Give me faith that moves mountains.
May I some day be brave enough to share these words with someone to help them.
Though I may be in a pit now, my God won’t leave me here.
Every morning, the sun rises on a new day. Every day is His. I am His.
So…are you guys still cool with knowing me, or did I take it too far? This is one of those awkward, I’ve-said-too-much-I’m-just-going-to-walk-backwards-out-of-the-room moments.
But in all seriousness, if you see me on the streets, I probably appear super joyful. That’s because I am. The joy of the Lord is truly my strength, and because he lives in me and I have a strong support system, most days are good.
I am no longer in the pits of depression; thankfully, the Lord carried me through that pretty swiftly. I do, however, still struggle to overcome the numbness. These days, I rejoice when I snot-face cry because that means I’m feeling something. I still entertain the idea of mopping my floors without ever actually getting it done, but Lord knows I’m gonna get there some day.
I have allowed hope to regain entry into my heart, even though that means disappointment could possibly follow on its heels. I’m learning that I can’t feel the good without feeling the bad, and after not feeling much of anything, I’m totally ok with strapping myself back into the roller coaster of emotions and just letting go. I know my God’s got me in the valleys just as much as he does on the peaks.
I take comfort in knowing God knew we would walk through dark days while on this earth, so he filled his word with many encouraging verses such as Romans 12:12, which says: “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” That is just one verse out of many that encourage patience through trial; standing firm; relentlessly trusting; and never growing weary.
To those who have been struggling like I have, God’s grace is big enough to cover the mess we’ve been swallowed up in. And when we get to the place where our strength runs out, His is there to carry us the rest of the way.
He is sovereign and perfect. May we all find rest and healing in his massive, loving arms.
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.
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.
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!
Today is June 5, 2016. I remembered the significance of today while sitting in church this morning. I realized that today is going to be just another day. A day where I’ll attend church with my family. A day where my husband will rush off to work after lunch. My daughter will nap. Our small group will meet. Nothing earth-shattering will happen today. Today will not go down in history like I thought it would one year ago…
It was June 5, 2015. I was enjoying a women’s ministry event in my community. At the end of the night there was a time of prayer. My sister wasn’t there because she was attending a friend’s wedding. But she was on my mind that night. As I prayed, I found myself pouring my heart out to God and asking Him that by June 5, 2016, something would be different in Martha’s life. That she would have a baby or be pregnant within the year.
My little sister is BraveGirl Martha. She’s a gifted writer with a hilarious and gentle soul. In my opinion, she’s one of God’s best creations. You may have read her recent BraveGirl post HERE where she talks about her struggle with infertility. For years I’ve watched her as month after month the waves of disappointment crash around her. Sometimes she stands strong against that fierce tide, but other times she gets taken under by the current. I’ve never once heard bitterness in her voice. I’ve seen nothing in her but a quiet dignity, a strengthened faith, and the spiritual growth that only occurs when you’re in the middle of a storm. She’s right in the thick of it, and she’s a beautiful testament to how God can and will work on His children when they cling to Him.
I admire the way she deals with the pain of waiting because I walked the road of infertility myself – very impatiently and with WAY less fortitude than Martha has shown over the years. One of these days I’ll write about my own infertility struggles, but today it’s not about me.
Today is June 5th. The day that God was supposed to show up, make His miraculous power known, and be praised for answering my selfless prayer. Because that’s the way He works, right?
We pray. We ask. We pass the time. Then God moves, swooping in, handing out answers to prayer the way Oprah gives away cars. And He’s also supposed to adhere to the deadlines we impose on Him…right? Am I the only one who secretly treats God as if He’s a genie in a lamp, just waiting to grant me my every wish?
It’s days like today that leave me questioning. Doubting. Wondering why, and why not? My faith feels a little shaky when I’m confronted with the idea that God didn’t come through. He failed to show up. I mean, He could have easily answered my prayer and today would have been a day of rejoicing and bragging on my Savior’s sovereign power and love. I tell myself, I would have given Him all the credit.
“God, you really missed an opportunity to be glorified,” is what my sulking heart wants to say to the One who loves me, my sister, and you beyond measure. Days like today make me feel like a toddler on the verge of a very loud and public meltdown.
Ever felt that way? Ever wanted to shake your fist at God over some unanswered prayer? Maybe you’ve already walked away because He never showed up for you when you thought He should.
Maybe today you get how I’m feeling. As I sit here writing, in the midst of my questions and hurt feelings, I know it’s decision time. It’s time for me to make a choice that perhaps you need to make as well. I’m choosing to remember my place. To remember who my God IS and who He ISN’T.
I’m choosing trust instead of a tantrum. I’m choosing what I know to be true over what I feel in this moment of doubt.
God IS NOT a magical genie. My Heavenly Father doesn’t exist to please me or you. He doesn’t sit around waiting on one of us to tell him what we want and when we want it so that He can bend His will to match ours. He doesn’t have to prove Himself because He already has.
Christ IS faithful. I’m choosing to stand on that truth today. And He isn’t faithful because of some prayer He has answered or will answer – He is faithful because HE IS FAITHFUL. It’s inherent to who He is. Even though it might seem like He didn’t show up today, He did.
He put breath in my lungs.
He surrounded me with people who care about me.
He gave me His living, breathing Word.
He chased hard after me today to remind me of the things He has promised me, Martha, and you! Promises He keeps. Promises like the one found in Proverbs 3:5-7:
So that’s what I choose to do today. If you’re mad at God, disappointed in prayers that have gone unanswered, or just doubting His existence altogether, try something with me.
Let’s send up a new and different prayer to the heavens. Let’s admit that we are small but arrogant in our view of God. Let’s honestly bring our doubts, fears, and desires to the foot of the Cross. Let’s stop treating the King of Kings and Lord of Lords as if He’s nothing more than a well-stocked but faulty vending machine for our lives. I’m in…are you?
And on the days I forget to remember just who my God is, I’m going to follow the example of Martha and others like her, who are waiting faithfully, acknowledging their Savior at every turn, and allowing Him to direct their paths in His own perfect timing.
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.
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.”
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!
There I was, driving down the highway with all these questions in my head about life that were STILL unanswered. I get tired sometimes waiting for God to reveal answers to questions I KNOW He has the answers to.
It’s just not happening fast enough and I’m tired of waiting.
Sometimes I flat out rebel and go my own way which usually leaves me in a pity party with my friends frustration, bitterness, and resentment. They’re all really fun for awhile and then I realize they’re actually poisoning me instead of comforting me. They feed off each other and slowly but surely separate me from the voice of God. I stop caring, stop praying, stop getting into God’s word, start being rude to others, and worst of all, stop hearing from God…and He’s the one with the answers.
Do you ever find yourself there? If you’re like me, you need a game plan. You have to recognize what’s happening and then take action. I don’t know about you, but I rather hear from God than my buddies at the pity party. He’s so much wiser and when He reveals himself, it’s better than any party I’ve ever been to. And trust me, I’ve been to a lot of parties. His are the BEST! So here’s my action plan for hanging at His house and not the other one.
1) TALK TO HIM
God’s word says to pray without ceasing (1 Thess 5:1), not just when we need a favor or because it’s meal time. It’s a never-ending conversation going on between me and God. Prayers of thanksgiving and gratitude, prayers asking His will, prayers pouring out my heart to Him, prayers to guide my next step and lead me every day. He WANTS to hear from me…and YOU.
Ask yourself, “Is God an acquaintance in my life? or is He really my best friend? my “go-to”?
The answer to those questions reveals a lot about our level of intimacy with God.
2) LEARN ABOUT HIM
God’s word is His voice. It is “God breathed and is useful for teaching and training in righteousness.” (2 Tim. 3:16)
If we want to hear Him, we have to KNOW HIM…and His word is where it starts. My mom’s voice sticks in the back of my head more than most people because of the connection we have. It’s the same with God. We’ll be able to hear Him because we KNOW how and what He thinks.
3) HONEST CHECK-UP
I continuously need to check where there is sin in my life. When we are living in disobedience to God, it’s REALLY hard to hear what He wants to say to us. This is a piggy back on my first point about prayer.
“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23-24)
When I am struggling to hear God, I get in prayer and get honest…
“Where am I messing up? Where am I wrong? What is in my life that is not of you? Show me where I am not listening. Show me where my heart is hardened.”
After a prayer like that, 9 out of 10 times, people or things pop into my head where I know I have been hurtful, stubborn, selfish, prideful, etc. (we don’t have to list all my shortcomings here ok).
I try and deal and go head to head with those areas God showed me in that honest check-up.
Then I pray for strength to change my actions in those specific areas so that they are lined up with God’s will. This is a daily need for me and a lifetime process of pruning and being renewed so that I can walk in obedience to Him.
It’s a domino effect because obedience leads to hearing His voice.
If we want to hear the spirit, we have to walk WITH the spirit. This isn’t easy, but it’s necessary.
5) BE PATIENT
We are in an instant gratification society…we don’t understand the concept of patience. We are patient..just for a little while. Ha…which isn’t patience. This is where it can get tough, but it IS possible. We have to be patiently focused on God. It’s a day by day process of living for Him. It’s a learning process which can feel really slow and even painful at times, yet then it becomes freeing, fulfilling and life changing.
At God’s party, we will be changed from the inside out and that’s where we will find Him, His voice, and ultimately ourselves. And the best part…we’re ALL invited.
Remind me God of who you are.
The one who speaks to the waters,
Who calms the storm.
A God who is gentle,
a good father and my friend.
A God who is my forever Savior until the end.
Remind me of your faithfulness
because I cannot see.
My mind is covered by my enemy.
Your truth shields my thoughts,
Your word refreshes my soul.
Breathe Holy Spirit into these dry bones.
Remind me of your everlasting love
that runs as far as the east is from the west
A love that does not fail
But guides me through every test.
Remind me of your protection
Your legion of angels standing guard,
to defend me in all my ways
Even when the path seems hard.
Remind me of your grip
that you hold me so tight.
When I am weak and I fail,
You are there to fight.
Remind me of the power of your unbelievable name
Let it be the first word from my mouth
JESUS I will proclaim!
No other name
will silence the fear,
calm the chaos
and draw you near.
Remind me Lord,
Because I am drowning without you.
I need you desperately…
without you, I cannot move.
And you gently respond with a whisper to my soul….
REMEMBER my Truth.
I am the God who SAVES.
My love NEVER runs out
and is NEVER delayed.
My arms stretch out to ALL in need .
I am your GOOD FATHER and will ALWAYS be.
You can TRUST me in the deep
when your heart is overwhelmed.
Reach out for my hand,
I will NOT fail.
You can REST in my faithfulness,
you can TRUST in my love,
Let go sweet child…I will NEVER give up.
You have my PROMISE
that I will Never EVER leave.
I am right here with you,
open your EYES and see.
COME with me and see
what I have in store,
my plan for you EXCEEDS that
and even MORE.
Taste my Goodness
because it NEVER runs dry,
stretch out your WINGS
and prepare to FLY.
Cheryl is passionate about Jesus and making Him known. She serves as a leader in women’s ministry and on the worship team of her church. She believes that by His stripes we are healed and we are nothing without Jesus, but EVERYTHING with Him. She believes there is freedom that awaits all our brokenness, all our mess, all our shame, and all our past if we turn our lives over to Him. She is married to her college sweetheart and they are blessed with three beautiful children.
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.
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
When you at first do not succeed, what do you do? “Try, try again?”
Or, do you slip into a self-loathing monologue?
Early in my marriage, I made a financial decision that was unwise. And, it affected us both. My husband and I worked through it, but I did not speak to him immediately when the problem arose. I wanted to solve the problem by myself. This led to lies of omission—which break down trust. Recently I was reconciling our account and discovered a missed transaction. Since it had been a month, we’d thought there was a surplus in our budget and the money had already been spent. When I caught my error, I made like Eve and grabbed my leaves. The fear and shame of making mistakes crippled me—I want to be dependable and never let people down. (but, I’m not capable of perfection. Only God is.) I was internally upset for a few days before telling my husband. When I mustered the courage to tell him (shame from the last time), he was gentle in his response.
I was sobbing and he soothingly said, “We’re on the same team.” “I’m “for” you, Tammy.” “I just want you to tell me right away.” “I love you.” “When you wait to tell me, it separates us.”
As he said these things, I had a revelation that God is also speaking this to me—and to you. He is “for” us. When we avoid Him, it separates us. Not because He is stern or upset, but because we are trying to hide something from Him. It eats us up and robs our peace and steals our joy. We don’t trust Him, and fear an unloving response.
1 John 1:9 says “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (NKJV)
God knew us in our mother’s womb. He knew what we would need help with, and He’s cheering us on as we try to take steps, even if we totter and tumble. We’re trying and He’s cheering.
Confession frees us from the burden of our sin. We are not free from consequence, but the weight of shame and guilt will not be there. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. Jesus told the woman, “neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.” Grace is not a license to keep doing wrong, but a key to the locks on our chains. We do not have to be locked in to the cycle of sin any longer!
Take heart, friends, we are being perfected and transformed to look more like our Maker every day. As long as He is our strength and perfection, then we can rest in the fact that He created us to do His good works. “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10 NIV)
Recently, I failed to run the entire 5k portion of my “try”athlon, but I was not a failure. I still finished. You and I are here to glorify God’s name. We may be failers, but we’re not failures, and we’re not going to give up.
“What would Jesus say to you if He were sitting at the table?”
That question floored me. I immediately heard/felt/sensed the Holy Spirit giving me my answer: Jesus would tell me He misses me.
My relationship with Jesus has been on-again, off-again for most of my adult life. It’s not His fault – He’s been pursuing me, loving me, and waiting for me every time I separate myself from Him. And I don’t mean to…I truly want to be close to Jesus. I love Him for who He is and what He’s done for me. He is a real and undeniable presence, coming to my rescue when I’m desperate and lavishing blessings on my undeserving life.
If Jesus were physically standing right in front of me, I would undoubtedly fall on my face in awestruck reverence, worshipping the one who paid it all so I could even have the chance to know Him.
But He is here. And I’m not living up to my end of the deal. Instead of having a consistent conversation with my Savior, I’m checking Facebook, Instagram, and my email. Instead of falling at His feet in daily praise, I let my thoughts wander to what I’m wearing tomorrow or to the next thing on my to-do list. Instead of acknowledging His presence, I whisk right past Him, slamming the door in His face as I take care of business on my own.
I wouldn’t dare treat anyone I love with that distant, thoughtless attitude. But I do it to Christ multiple times a week.
And He misses me. I feel it. I hear a still, small voice whispering my name, urging me to stop, drop everything, and just be with Him. Some days I comply, and the peace, joy, and assurance I gain from time spent communing with Jesus makes the biggest difference in the rest of my day. I’m more like myself when I start the day with Him.
So I’m trying something new. A wise friend told me to pray everyday and ask God to give me a desire to meet with Him daily. Ummm, hello…lightbulb! I have never done that…but I’m ready for a new approach. My way (making a plan, setting a schedule, gathering supplies, and basically trying to regiment my time with Christ) hasn’t worked. Jesus wants to be more than a 20-minute appointment I pencil into my schedule. He wants me to desire Him the way He desires me.
The reason I’ve been so inconsistently connecting with Him is because I’ve depended on myself to make it work. I haven’t asked God to give me a desire for Him that overwhelms everything else vying for my attention. Until today. I’m saying a prayer I’ve never uttered before, and I’m going to keep repeating it until I don’t need to anymore.
What about you? What would Jesus say to you if He were sitting next to you in this very moment? Can you hear His voice?
Jesus Christ loves you. He wants your heart, your worries, your sorrows. He’s strong enough to handle whatever you might throw at Him.
Listen. Respond. Rest. Seek Him – He’s been missing you!