Wearing Labels

I saw an article the other day all about a certain celebrity speaking out on behalf of the #MeToo movement and singing the praises of modern feminists. Before #MeToo, it was #BlackLivesMatter. And before hashtags became the way to start a social movement, it was gay rights, and civil rights and Women’s Lib. These causes have become labels that are like umbrellas over our identities. Looking for something to define us, we separate ourselves based on gender, color, age, political party, abusive experiences and favorite sins. But unfortunately, wearing the world’s labels will not make us feel better about anything. The truth is, if a woman passionately embraces modern feminism because of her experience as a victim of sexual abuse, it becomes the cornerstone of her identity. She thinks about it daily. Talks about it constantly. She can’t get away from that experience now; it literally defines her. What we think about ourselves and say to ourselves becomes what we believe about ourselves.

Therefore, as God’s chosen ones, holy and dearly loved, put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience…(Colossians 3:12, CSB)

Christians are not immune to this, either. Walk in to any church and you’ll see the same social patterns and cliques you saw in High School. Our natural state is sinful, so gossip and slander and bitter rejection happen in the church as well as in the world. People divide over everything: age, marital status, gender, work status, age of children and more. I remember earlier in my marriage being so hurt by other women my age in the church because they never included me in their plans, whether it was a Bible study or coffee date, simply because I didn’t have children and they did. Their rejection stung. Why would having or not having children be a divisive factor? Now that I have kids, I’ve experienced rejection by women in the next stage of life; their kids are grown, and they don’t want to talk about them anymore. It is a hurtful cycle that breaks my heart. Because regardless of how much I love my children or my husband, or how convinced I am that my role as a stay-at-home-mom is a charge from the Lord, those aren’t the labels that define me. There is only one label that is worth being the subject of my thoughts, conversations and subsequent beliefs about myself: I am chosen of God. The Almighty Creator chose me as His own and set me on a course of life that would glorify Him, causing all things to work to the good. I’m not basing my identity in my gender, race or life experiences. It doesn’t matter that I’ve been rejected, hurt, slandered or abused. The only label I am wearing is HIS.

Love, Katie

#CHOSEN

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Seek the Lord

My husband is in the military. In the ten years we’ve been married, we have lived in four states, two countries, weathered one year-long deployment and many months apart for temporary duty assignments. We have also lived far from all our extended family for the entire span of our marriage. After a while, we started to feel the strain of not being able to pop over to our parents’ houses for Sunday dinner or Christmas or a birthday. And by far the biggest struggle has been raising children far away from their grandparents, depending on FaceTime to foster those relationships. Our life has been an adventure, and we are grateful; but sometimes, a person just needs her family.

Martin Luther, the father of the Protestant Reformation once said, “the Bible is alive, it speaks to me; it has feet, it runs after me; it has hands, it lays hold of me.” This is what God has done for me in this military life. He’s brightened my perspective of the power of His Word, and understanding how it is truly alive (Hebrews 4:12). He pursues me through the Scriptures, shows me how He knows me and hears me and is at work in me. In those moments when I have wished my family was just across town, God has drawn me to Himself in stronger ways. In the quiet dark of lonely nights, He whispers to my heart. His Word truly refreshes me and drags me away from dark clouds of depression. God has used the military life to teach me how to be flexible, to have joy in all circumstances, to feel His presence in His Word. How can I ask for a different life, when He has done so much in this?

Where do you turn when you feel alone? When you wish your life was different? Do you seek comfort in people? Or do you turn inwards, giving in to the darkness of depression? When David was made king of Israel, he brought the ark of the covenant to his city and celebrated. He also wrote a psalm encouraging all the people to join him in celebration, saying, “Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his face always” (1 Chronicles 16:11). David knew that God was the only One who could offer strength, stability, refuge, and help in all things, and he knew that remembering the works of the Lord was the key to survival in this life. We must saturate our lives with the Word, so that in our dark nights and lonely days, we can be like David, like Martin Luther – finding our light, comfort and strength in the Lord.

Love, Katie

A Warning

I saw a meme the other day that made me LOL, literally, laugh out loud.  It was a picture of George Washington with a quote next to him that said something like “Don’t believe every inspirational quote next to the picture of a famous person that you see on the internet.”  I.  Lost.  It. Laughing.

While this is so true for George, it should be a giant caution sign to Christians as well.  About a year ago, my ladies Bible study group dove into 2 John and wow, John does not mince words!  Towards the end of his life, John began to see the rise of the Gnostic church and the vulnerability of Christians to be so easily swayed away from the gospel.  These were people who had either seen Jesus themselves or their parents had and yet they so quickly turned away.  Seeing the threat, John offers this warning:

“Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son.  If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting; for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds.” (2 John 1:9-11, NASB).

Who are we allowing into our homes?  Probably no one scary looking, I’m sure, but what about through our screens?  What are we watching on tv?  Who are we following online?  Who are we allowing our children to be exposed to?  Are these people aligned with Christ?  Are they preaching God’s unaltered word or are they leaving out all the convicting parts?  This was a hard truth for me.  It was a real “rubber meets the road” moment when a favorite tv show of mine finally went too far when it glamorized abortion (in fairness, the red blaring sirens had been firing since episode one, but I just made excuses because it was so good addictive).  That was the last episode I watched; remove from queue!  I will not receive that sinfulness into my house.

And what about what we read? So many celeb-bloggers out there like to slap the name “Jesus” somewhere on their “About Me” section and claim to be a follower of Christ.  What they write about sounds nice and (sometimes) non-controversial so it’s likely a-okay, right?  The Apostle Paul was certainly anything but non-controversial, and he warns us in his letter to Timothy that people will seek out false teachers to hear what sounds good to them, rather than the truth God is trying to tell them: “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires…” (2 Timothy 4:3, NASB). So, before we hit “follow” or “auto-play” shouldn’t we ask who we are allowing to tickle our ears?

Love, Bri

dont-believe-everything-you-read-on-the-internet-just-because-6888156

A Mind at Peace

After my first son was born, I expected to feel the thrill and joy of being a new mother, totally in love with this new little person. And while I was so thankful for my boy, I found myself feeling overwhelmed, anxious and distressed a lot of the time. There was so much I didn’t know about being a mother, handling sleep deprivation and finding a new sense of “normal” after having a baby.

I was reminded of this verse from Isaiah, and on some of the hard days, it brought hope.

“You will keep the mind that is dependent on you in perfect peace, for it is trusting in you.” Isaiah 26:3, CSB

I wasn’t experiencing much peace. My mind wasn’t dependent on the Lord. I wasn’t leaning on Him, turning my mind towards Him during the dark of nighttime feedings or the frazzled hours of inconsolable crying. I was allowing my mind to stay focused on those feelings of exhaustion and worry and fear, which only led to more distress. In whom was my trust? In myself? In the wisdom of mommy-blogs and parenting books? I was being led by how I felt, and my feelings were a product of sleep-depravity and a post-partum hormonal roller-coaster.

If I wanted the perfect peace Isaiah spoke about, I needed to turn my mind to the Lord, trusting and depending on Him in every moment. I needed to tear my focus away from the feelings long enough to breathe in the Word of God, being refreshed by a perspective that wasn’t awash in the stale air of anxiety and exhaustion. I needed to lie down in the green pastures and beside the still waters where He would refresh my soul with His word (Psalm 23:2-3, Psalm 119:25).

In the years that have followed those newborn days, I’ve found myself returning again and again to this verse in Isaiah, remembering the peace that is possible when I rest my mind on the perfect, eternal Truth in God’s word. Whatever circumstances tempt me to despair – a broken dishwasher we can’t afford to fix, mystery medical problems, long work hours or being far away from those we love – I know that the relief I desire comes only from Christ my Savior. How wonderful that we have a Savior that frees us from the bonds of anxiety and fear!

Love, Katie

Obey the First Time

“Obey the…”

“First time!”

This is daily communication between my children and me.  Yes, we repeat this phrase constantly, yet still it seems to be only a suggestion rather than a discipline.  *head desk*

When our children are young, we need them to obey immediately when told.  Sometimes this is a life or death situation.  I remember when our first child was a baby I had these completely irrational visions of an 18 wheeler running over her the moment she stepped a toe over the edge of the driveway.  With this disaster on loop in my first – time – mom brain, I needed her to obey when I would yell “Stop!”  Now, the reality of violence in our world dictates different reasons for our children to obey the first time.  Nine years ago before Bookworm was born, I did not envision having a very real conversation about how she and her siblings need to obey the first time in a crisis situation.

The thing is, this practice is not exclusive to children.  God demands this of His children (even the adults ones) as well.  So often we justify our disobedience to God by claiming our partial obedience.  Uh, no!

James reminds us that partial obedience is complete disobedience, “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.” (James 2:10, NIV) He’s talking to you and me!  Yikes!  That’s some conviction, right?!

We like to convince ourselves that God needs us, but He doesn’t.  I mean, he created-the world!  What can I bring to the table that God needs to complete any plan?  Nuthin’. Buuut, He does want us to love Him.  What does that look like?

“If you love me, keep my commands” John 14:15 NIV

Yeah, all those very clear rules that he gave us so long ago still apply today.  Each person’s struggle with obedience is different.  I, uh, ahem, need to focus specifically on, ahem, closing my mouth (a lot) more.  I know that if left unchecked, my mouth can spew the most venomous words that devastate others permanently. I love Him because He first loved me. He loved me so much that Christ died for me.  He’s not asking ME to get on the cross.  He’s asking me to shut my trap.  I have no other choice but to apologize to him for my disobedience when I choose not to obey the first time and pray for his guidance to help me.  Help me obey.  Help me show Him I love Him more than I love my sin.

Love, Bri

 

Truth Warrior

Every night, my husband and I pray with our son, and then ask him what song he wants to sing. Lately, his little 3-year-old response has been “How about ‘The Bible Tells Me So!’” and he starts singing “Jesus Loves Me” with great fervor. I love that the phrase that stands out in his mind is the one that holds the Bible up as the authority for truth, and I pray that his heart always returns to that bedrock in his life.
We live in a society where the word “truth” has no firm definition. Even among Christianity, it is starting to become a fluid concept, pushed around by popular opinion. This is not a new problem for followers of Jesus. In Colossians, Paul warns believers not to be led astray by the wisdom of the world rather than the message of Christ (Colossians 2:8). Those believers were being inundated with the teachings and philosophies of religious deceivers, losing hold of their grasp of the supremacy of Jesus Christ and His gospel. They needed the warning and challenge from Paul to lay aside what they were hearing from these others who sounded so convincing and focus instead on the One who saved them. We need the same warning and challenge.

For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, will multiply teachers for themselves because they have an itch to hear what they want to hear.  They will turn away from hearing the truth and will turn aside to myths. (2 Timothy 4:3, CSB)

Jude says these deceivers creep in unnoticed. John calls them antichrists. Peter says they bring heresies and will exploit their listeners out of greed. As he was preparing to die, Paul wrote one final letter to his disciple, Timothy, ending it with instructions on how to remain strong. His commission is one of perseverance for the truth, keeping ready at all times to rebuke, correct, patiently encourage and teach the truth of Christ, because there is a need for truth warriors. Deceivers will continue to multiply, preaching a gospel that is comfortable and inoffensive, tickling the ears of their followers, leading them away from the truth. Today, we have a multitude of bloggers and authors and speakers all trying to convince us that their version of the truth is correct. Some may be speaking sound, Biblical truth, but the only way we will be able to separate the good teachers from the wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matthew 7:15) is to truly know the Word of God ourselves.

When popular Christian leaders start teaching a gospel contrary to the Word of God, it is time to let go.  It is time to separate ourselves from the falsehood; we must guard the truth and compassionately work to save the victims of those deceivers. This is the challenge I am putting to all of us today – let go of these teachers who deny Christ as their Master and turn again to the Word alone. Be renewed in childlike faith, seek the Lord through His Word, do not be led astray, because the Bible tells you so.

Love, Katie

Living by Grace

After Moses came back, he summoned the elders of the people and set before them all these words that the Lord had commanded him. Then all the people responded together, “We will do all that the Lord has spoken.” So Moses brought the people’s words back to the Lord.” (Exodus 19:7-8, CSB)

I read this verse this morning, and it made me stop and consider the times I’ve said the same thing. After how many poignant sermons, powerful worship nights or refreshing quiet times with the Lord have I felt the power of His spirit and said, “I will do all that the LORD has spoken”? In those moments, I have the purest and most sincere intentions, and yet, inevitably, I soon find myself again struggling against sin.

I am a recovering perfectionist. Since Christ called me, I am familiar with the temptation to live out my faith by obeying a set of commands. And I am unfortunately intimate with the sense of failure that comes from the realization that I just don’t measure up; I always fall short. I find myself trapped in legalistic thinking, running down lists of “shoulds” that, while originating from Biblical truth, fail to capture the real spirit of what Jesus desires for His children.

When I try to live my life this way, I am attempting to live up to God’s standards through my own strengths, which will always result in failure. Israel is a shining example of the weakness inherent in a life lived under obligation to the law. Out of heart-felt conviction, they promise, “We will do all that the LORD has spoken” and yet they turn around and immediately sin. Moses points out the unfortunate reality of the Israelites rebellious hearts, underscoring the misplaced arrogance in trying to obey God out of their own strengths.

 You have been rebelling against the Lord ever since I have known you (Deut 9:24).

It is a simple truth, that I have been rebellious against the Lord from day one. My flesh actively rebels against the Spirit of God within me. As long as I am in this world, I will experience the war between Spirit and flesh. And I try to make it an effort of my own will and strength, a goal to be achieved. It’s no wonder I find myself discouraged and disheartened when I live like that. The blessings of the Mosaic Covenant depended on the Israelites’ performance. But when Jesus died, he freed us from that law and covered us with His grace “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus, because the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:1-2). Thank God for His covering of grace; a relief to this struggling perfectionist.

Love, Katie