Finding Satisfaction

So. I’m supposed to be cleaning my house and doing some studying today, but I was really hit with the Word, and I wanted to write it down for future reference… so I thought I might as well blog it, since I haven’t done it in a while…

You know that story in the Bible about the rich man who comes to Jesus and is like “what do I need to do in order to inherit everlasting life?”, and Jesus tells him he has to give up all his worldly belongings- and he leaves sad because he can’t do that… and all of us reading that story are like, “what a greedy jerk!” (ok, maybe not ALL… but definitely not just me)

Well, I was eating lunch, complaining about all the food I’m being told I need to cut out of my diet. I DO want to be healthy. I DO want to lose weight. I DO want to feel better and have these weird symptoms stop popping up all the time. But… I DON’T want to cut out: Grains, Dairy, Fruit, Caffeine, Sugars/Sugar Substitutes and Red Meat. (Most current list of things my doctor has told me to limit or eliminate completely from my diet.)

And that made me think… do I REALLY want to be healthy then? If I’m not willing to give up these things to get what I want… how badly do I really want it?

And the line “At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.” (Mark 10:22) came to mind.

I asked the question, “What do I need to do to live a healthy life?” and my doctor gave me the answer. In my mind, I’ve already given up a lot for the sake of my health. But apparently it’s not enough…

And I can only imagine what this rich man was thinking after he heard Jesus’ response… because at the beginning of the story, he tells Jesus that he has kept all of the commandments his whole life- since he was a little boy. Wasn’t that enough? And wouldn’t those of us today argue that all it takes to be saved is to confess our sins and declare and believe that Jesus is our Lord and Savior? This man addressed Jesus as “Good Teacher” and Jesus replied to him ” Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone.” So this man  basically already confessed before men that Jesus was God.

So now what? This man did everything he was supposed to do – but then Jesus tagged on one more thing. I feel like almost every Christian who is earnest and honest in their walk has experienced this. “God, I prayed and I fasted and I believed, but You have not healed me… what ELSE do you want from me?” “God, I have repented for my sin and read my Bible and go to church… WHY am I still struggling with the same issues over and over?”

We all come to a place where we are comfortable with our effort in our walk with God… we just set the cruise control like it’s auto-pilot and are surprised when we hit a wall at full-speed… But God is always going to ask just one more thing of us… usually something we think we cannot do. Some will walk away sad- like the wealthy young man.

But maybe there’s a better option.

The verse Philippians 4:13 is so overused it’s almost cliché. And it’s often misused because we as humans have an odd way of making everything about us. Obviously God had Paul write it to reveal to us that we are all amazing and capable of doing everything we’ve ever imagined we wanted to do, right?

The verse is not about accomplishing amazing, super cool, death-defying feats… “I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me” is about finding contentment in any situation. Paul LITERALLY was like “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:11-13 (emphasis mine)

So many times we hear this verse used when someone is struggling or striving towards a personal goal… but this verse is about finding contentment. It’s about finding comfort and contentment in Jesus. Not in religion or the things of this world.

So back to the original text, what Jesus was really asking of this rich man was for him to trust that He would be enough to sustain him. I do not believe that Jesus was demonizing wealth. I believe He was revealing a hurdle in this man’s journey to the everlasting life that he sought.  I believe God still does this, for the simple fact that many times I have had people tell me that they fell away from God because He asked something of them that they believed they could not do, or do without.  More and more, we are becoming accustomed to a comfortable life. We still have minor worries, but in the grand scheme of things, many of the things we think we lack, we lack only in our minds. Like my diet… when I started writing this, I felt like I had no options left… but then I realized I have so many more options than the Israelites who were stuck with just manna every day… but at least they had something… and not just something, but Someone. (And they would have had something better had they not been terrible complainers who whined about how good they had it as slaves… ungrateful wretches!… but that’s a story for another day, I think)

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Isaiah 41:10

 

 

 

 

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Speak Up.

I really love my mama.

She knows who I am, but sees who I was created to be, and she reminds me of who that is all the time.

This used to drive me nuts.

I am a person who is very black and white. Things either are or they aren’t. So when I would say “I’m sick.” and she would come back with “No, you are healthy and strong. You walk in perfect health.” I felt like she didn’t listen to me. When I would complain about someone or something, she would always counter it by reminding me of something good. And I would think “MOM. I JUST WANT TO COMPLAIN.”

And that’s the problem. Why would someone want to complain?

Because there are power in our words, and if we can keep speaking negatively about ourselves and our situation, the enemy holds the power over those things.

If something is clearly wrong, I don’t need to say it’s wrong. If someone is bothering me, I don’t need to tell someone else about it. The phrase “misery loves company” is so true. Bitterness breeds like rabbits and spreads like wildfire.

Almost all of James chapter 3 talks about taming the tongue. He compares the tongue to the rudder of a ship, and how such a little piece of the ship can completely change its direction. James also points out that you cannot get fresh water from a salt spring, or an olive from a fig tree. So if you are speaking negative things, it’s a pretty good indication of what is in your heart.

Even if you don’t consider yourself a “believer”, think about people who recite affirmations to overcome depression and eating disorders. Think about how when something terrible happens, people say “It’ll be ok.” Compliments, praise, encouragement… we like to speak into others’ lives.

Words have power to change us.

In America, I think sometimes knowing we have the “right” to say something prevents us from asking ourselves if it’s right to say it. I’m not trying to suggest that speech should be censored by other people, but I am saying, should we be censoring ourselves?

As a Christian, I believe that what I say does matter. It not only changes a situation, but it also reveals my heart.

As someone who has a very sarcastic sense of humor, I have a hard time taming my tongue… because even though I don’t really mean what I’m saying, I’m still putting those words out there for someone to misunderstand and see me in a light that I never wanted to be seen in.

As someone who is non-confrontational and vents to release frustration, I have a hard time taming my tongue… because sometimes I convince myself that it’s better to air out my frustrations, not realizing that I’m planting a seed in someone else’s ear that can grow into a whole different issue…

So is making a joke or venting really worth it? No.

Words have the power to change things.

God spoke the world into being. Jesus cast out demons just by telling them to get lost. The apostles just said “Get up and walk” to a lame man, and he did.

So what would happen if we all started speaking up instead of down?

What if we started realizing what is coming out of our mouths is a reflection of what’s inside us… and maybe realize the problems around us aren’t being solved by our negativity… One of the seven habits of highly effective people is to begin with the end in mind… so if we look at something and say “it’s never going to happen” are we really going to work as hard to see that it does happen?

I’m not talking about lying to ourselves just to make us feel better… I’ve been really disappointed by some things going on lately. But instead of saying the country is doomed… I can instead use that breath to say a prayer. I haven’t been the best at doing this- especially lately- but I know it is better to pray than to complain… so this is my new goal…

 “All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind,  but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. (James 3:7-8)”

sigh… I never said it was going to be easily achieved… help me, Lord…

 

A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. –Luke 6:45

 

 

 

 

What Are The Chances?

God is so cute.

That’s a phrase the worship pastor at my church likes to use when God does something unexpected… and not seemingly in a good way, but in the end, it’s better than you first thought it was going to be.

I’m sure there’s a better way I could’ve written that last sentence, but I’m heavily medicated from having major surgery. So cut me some slack, yeah? Because I’m going to tell you an awesome story.

Remember that post… the one where I was yelling at God… yeah. That was fun. And probably pointless for anyone reading, but very therapeutic for me to write. Who knew 4 months after the post, and 8 months total of waiting… I would finally have a praise report about my stupid, dumb, deteriorating ankle.

But I do.

Because I did not want this doctor. I wanted my doctor that I’d had for the past 11 years to do my surgery. Not someone new who I didn’t know and didn’t care how highly recommended he came.

But apparently- this doctor is one of the top in the world for this procedure. And you know what? He said my surgery was the best he’s ever done and he’s the most excited about my recovery than he’s ever been. And he wasn’t just saying that…

Because I apparently not only had a deteriorating ankle bone, but it also is deformed (go figure) in that it has a very odd (unique, maybe) shape…

And two months ago, when they called and said they had a donor, only to call back 20 minutes later to tell me it wasn’t viable, turned out to be a good thing, even though I was upset at the time…

Because the donor bone I got, had the exact same deformation in the bone, and fit perfectly, kind of like Cinderella, but more gross and kinda creepy if I think about it too much (but I am very grateful for the donor and hope to reach out to the family if that can be done with a bone… it’s not really the same as an organ… but just as life changing for me).

And I can’t stop asking myself, what are the chances?

There is no way for all this mess to come together in the end, and have an outcome far exceeding any expectation I ever had.

There are so many unexplainable things in my life. Things that are just too good to be true, and too good for me to have even imagined. I know there are probably some who would look into my life and still see all the mess… but for me, I’m choosing to see the blessings and praise Him while I’m waiting for the rest to catch up to the promises He’s already declared over my life.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[b] have been called according to his purpose.  For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters –Romans 8:28-29

Trusting The Shepherd

This isn’t your average New Year’s Eve post… Sure, most people take stock of the year, what went well, or not so well, and turn them into resolutions for the next year…that they probably won’t even keep…

But sitting here tonight, I find myself desperately looking back over the year and wondering what God is trying to do in my life…

Because just last night, driving home with my sister after going to the movies, I told her how frustrated I feel with my whole leg situation…

It’s been 4 months…

4 months since I found out that my ankle is basically deteriorating…

4 months of waiting on God to heal me…

4 months of waiting for the doctors to tell me more than just “well, we don’t really know what to do”…

4 months of being told that I don’t have enough faith…

4 months of being told to “suck it up.”

And after complaining to her, she asked me “Well, what do you think God is trying to do through this situation?”

And I kind of just disregarded her question, because honestly, I just wanted to vent last night…

Fast forward to this afternoon: My knee on the opposite leg is sprained and they want to send me for an MRI in a week, and told me I should stay off my feet for a while, because obviously I already have the other leg to worry about.

What?!

No.

This is not ok.

I do not have the time, nor the patience for this to be happening right now.

So now I’m asking:

God, what am I missing? Who are you trying to be for me in this moment? What are you trying to tell me? I promise, I’m listening!

Stop.

Stop what?

Stop complaining.

Stop worrying.

Stop getting caught up in the busy work of life, and just sit with Me.

I literally can’t do anything but sit right now, God.

I know.

So, a little less Martha, a little more Mary?

Yes.

I don’t know how to do that…

That’s why I’ve had to go to extreme measures…

…The Shepherd sometimes has to break a wandering lamb’s leg in order to teach it to stay close…

 Now do you see?

Did You have to be so literal?

Did you have to be so stubborn?

Touché.

 

Here’s to 2015… a year that’s starting with me stopping… and listening… and learning… and Trusting The Shepherd.

Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
 He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord
Forever

 

 

 

 

 

Windows.

Heartache. Grief. Loss. Pain. Fear.

I think a lot of times, people think that upon accepting Christ they receive an immunity from these things. The reality is that there is nothing that makes us immune to feeling the full spectrum of human emotions. And frankly, there are plenty of places in the Bible that basically say “life is going to suck” (We’ve already established my paraphrasing of scripture sucks, go read your Bible.) But right after those places where it says life is going to be hard, God says “Hey, chin up! I’m still right here and when you get to the end, you’ll be fabulously skinny.” Or maybe that’s what I tell myself to get my butt on the treadmill…  The point is Christians simply have faith that there is a purpose for the pain.

But that doesn’t always make it easier to handle the moments when the shock wears off and your stomach is churning and it feels like your lungs are shriveling up and you can’t get enough oxygen to breathe, let alone cry, which you know you should be doing but you simply can’t.

It doesn’t stop your mind from racing and trying to process every single scenario of “coulda, shoulda, woulda” at the same time until you feel like a medically induced coma sounds like a delightful vacation.

Knowing there’s a purpose doesn’t always mean you can  keep from shutting down and shutting out the world.

And sometimes,  it starts to feel kinda good to be away from everyone. When you just get to be sad without having to hear someone say “it’s going to be alright.” … because sure, they mean well enough, but let’s be real… you’d like it better if they just shut up. Words aren’t going to fix what’s broken or bring back what’s been taken from you.

But then, it happens.

Someone takes a chance and cracks a joke. The corners of your mouth betray you, and you can feel it. Your first smile. It feels a little bit foreign and even a little wrong.

But instead of just cracking a joke, it’s like they’ve cracked a window into the dark room you’ve shut yourself into. And once that little bit of light breaks through, you realize that the dark room doesn’t feel as cozy and nice as it used to… you realize you don’t want to stay there forever…

And maybe you’re not quite ready to walk out the door yet, but slowly you start letting more and more people open windows until you can finally look out and see that things are going to be ok.

That’s what my faith is to me; a window that lets light into the darkest situations in my life. I can’t always see exactly how things are going to be ok… but I know that they will be.

 

“Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.” — Hebrews 11:1

 

 

 

I Am.

Today, as I was driving to caregroup, I was talking to myself… like I always do when I drive. (what? it’s just thinking aloud, right?)

But today, I wasn’t being very nice.

I’m lazy.

I’m ungrateful.

I’m undisciplined.

I’m judgmental.

I’m too negative.

I’m a complainer.

I’m fat.

I’m dumb.

I’m not like this other person.

I’m just…not enough.

God calls Satan “the accuser.” The Accuser likes to tell us all the things we’ve done wrong to make us feel bad and keep us stuck in our sin. If we are convinced that we are “bad” we stop seeing the point in trying to do good. We don’t have a reason to struggle against our chains.

Just a warning, this isn’t going to be a very sophisticated blog post.

But isn’t that what we want? Something simple to fix all our problems? A lot of times when we think of encountering God, we have an expectation of discovering something deep and profound, instead of something that’s been staring us in the face all along. And tonight, simple was just the thing I needed to keep the accusations of the enemy from sinking into my heart and condemning me into feeling like less than I am.

Tonight, all we did was have prayer and worship. No fancy lesson with a profound message… just singing and talking to God who, despite everything, delights in me.

By the end of the night, when I got in the car to go home, the first thing that came out of my mouth was:

“Thank You, God.

Thank You that Your mercy is fresh every morning.

Thank You that You provide for me.

Thank You that You comfort me.

Thank You that You surround me.

Thank You that You love me, even when I’m bad, even when I’m angry, even when I don’t deserve it.

And thank You that Your love is enough to pull me out of wherever I have been.”

And that reminded me of Exodus 3:14, when Moses asks God who he should say sent him and God answers “I am.”

God could have been more specific… and yet He couldn’t have been more specific. He could have gone down the list of all that He is…

I am your Provider

I am your Healer

I am your Banner

I am your Creator

I am your Savior

I am your Redeemer

I am your Peace

But in an effort to save time, He just said, “I am.” Because He is everything. He is the giver of the very breath we breathe, and He created us with the intention of being involved every time we take a breath.

And isn’t it comforting to know that the same God who was with all those people throughout the Bible is the same God who is with us today?  He never changes and His promises are true. So on those days when you can’t seem to remember anything good about yourself, or you have someone reminding you of all the times you’ve failed… start remembering who God is, and He will remind you of who you are.

 I am praying to You because I know You will answer, O God.
    Bend down and listen as I pray.
Show me your unfailing love in wonderful ways.
    By Your mighty power You rescue
    those who seek refuge from their enemies.

Psalm 17:6-7

Holier Than Thou

There are days when people are jerks.

Being human, I want to be a jerk back.

But I’m usually not.

I usually vent to a close friend (or 9), and move on.

I tell myself to be “the better person”, turn the other cheek, and forgive (that pesky F word!).

When it’s the same person doing the same thing over and over and over and over again… I remember that Jesus said to forgive someone 7 x 70 times (That’s 490 times)…

When I start keeping track, God tells me that I should love those who hate me…

And then I remember that verse in  1 Corinthians that says love keeps no record of wrongs…

And I’m back where I started telling myself to be “the better person.”

Maybe some would call this a “Holier Than Thou” attitude… except I’m not trying to be better than the person who is harassing me…  I’m trying to be better than myself.  I want to be “the better person” that God pulled me out of my sin to become. I am not self-righteous, but I was given the righteousness of Christ to walk upright, no longer a slave to sin. And while I’m still getting my bearings from being chained down for so long, God has grace enough to catch me every time I stumble.

So every time that I get upset and want to give to someone what I think they “deserve” I remind myself that I deserve hell. If God hadn’t pulled me out of my old life, I would still be headed in that direction. It is with that heavy conviction that the desire to pray for those who persecute me begins to stir in my heart. It is with that knowledge that I can willingly forgive any trespass against me, because I know that the same was done for me when I didn’t deserve it.

Sometimes I wish God wouldn’t give me the things I ask for in the moments when I’m feeling pretty strong in my faith… because it’s in those moments when I ask Him to make me more like Him… but God doesn’t just snap His fingers for requests like that. He will give opportunities to grow into those characteristics. And even though I don’t enjoy the opportunities themselves, I’m thankful that He loves me enough to refine me a little more each day, so that I can be a little more like Him.

But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do;  for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” — 1 Peter 1:15-16

Cheap.

Valentine’s Day bothers me. Not because I’m terminally single, but because it feels cheap. It’s an opportunity for companies to make money by defining love as a transaction. And I’m not upset because people capitalize on our own willingness to sell ourselves for temporary enjoyment of fleeting pleasures…

It upsets me because that’s all people think love is.

Love is not a debt. We don’t owe it to anyone. It can’t be bought. It’s a gift that is freely given… without expectation of getting anything in return.

But who does that these days?

We’re all jaded and only looking out for Number One. That attitude turns “I love you” into “I love you because…” That is conditional love. It’s why we see more divorce in this generation than ever before.  I love you because you make me happy. I love you because you are beautiful. I love you because you make me feel safe… But once the conditions are no longer fulfilled, we decide we’re not in love anymore and are free to walk away.

The real problem is that we are trying to find fulfillment in another person. We all have deficits in our lives, holes that have been created by our past experiences that we desperately try to fill so that we can feel at peace. Peace meaning nothing is broken and nothing is missing. So we go to the junk pile of human solutions to try and complete ourselves. Ultimately, you can find something that will tide you over for a while, but it’s never enough and it never lasts. We seem to have a stupid cycle of settling for a while, then searching for the next thing as soon as we can’t stand settling any more. Like we believe that if we just wait long enough, that the love story from the movies will be played out in our own lives.

But that’s the point, isn’t it? The devil always plays the same trick on us… making us believe that we’re missing something… when we’ve had all we needed from the very beginning… And we buy it every time…

In this generation, people think of God and they think He’s all about rules and regulations… No drinking and partying, no sex until you’re married… and it has to be with the same person for the rest of your life! (gasp! the horror…the horror… (heart of darkness reference! +10 points from my 12th grade English teacher!))

But it’s  funny that Jesus boiled down all the “rules” into two commandments in Mark 12:30-31

  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.

And it’s also funny that God boiled down the sins of the world into two wrongs in Jeremiah 2:13

 “My people have committed two sins:
They have forsaken me,
the spring of living water,
and have dug their own cisterns,
broken cisterns that cannot hold water.”

God is love. He loved us first so that we might love one another. He loved us so much that He sent His Son to die for our sins… even the sin of forsaking Him. That doesn’t even make sense in my tiny human brain. He told Hosea to marry Gomer (what an unfortunate name) so that He could illustrate how He loves His people, though they continue to whore themselves out to other gods, false idols that cannot give life, and to show that He would take them back no matter where they have been…

Where have you been? Did you even know that you are dearly loved and cherished by the Creator of the Universe? That there is no price He wouldn’t pay to have you back? And this love is given even without your reciprocation. It’s unconditional, no strings attached, you don’t even have to say “The Sinner’s Prayer” (though if you feel compelled to accept Christ, I highly encourage you to do so.)

So if you are so loved, why would you want the fake candy-coated version that eventually leaves you with wide hips and tear-stained cheeks?

That’s what this blog post is really about… our willingness to pay for a cheap imitation of love, when the real thing is free and waiting for us.

Another thing I feel like God has taught me a lot about His love is the chance to give it out. I work with kids with autism.  A lot of people would call my kids  “unlovable” because they break every nice thing you buy them, they throw disproportional temper tantrums when they don’t get their way, some kids will never speak or show any sign of affection towards you…

But it’s when I am forced to listen to all the faults of my kids, I start to look at myself… I’ve wasted countless blessings in my life, I complain to God when my “plan” for my life isn’t going the way I think it should, and if I’m really honest… I forget to pray more times than I remember… but God still loves me, even though I don’t deserve it. And it is because He loves me that I am able to give love to those who some would deem “undeserving” of love. And it’s not a love that can ever be repaid or reciprocated… it’s simply given because I have it to give.

So, based off of that knowledge, that is why I think Valentine’s day is cheap. It’s commercialized and done up to make you feel like you HAVE to do something… I’m not saying that you can’t buy your wife flowers or write down all the things you appreciate about your husband… but maybe ask yourself where that love is coming from… is it from a broken well? Or is it from the wellspring of life? Is it Living Water or radioactive water? All I’m saying is that if you need a “holiday” so that you can buy a greeting card with words someone else wrote to express how you feel about your significant other… you might want to check your heart… And if you think buying someone a Vermont Teddy Bear is a good idea… it’s not.

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.  Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. — 1 John 4:7-8

Secrets.

“What’s the one thing you can’t say in church?”

Anne Jackson asked that to her bloggers, which exploded so much that she actually wrote a book called “Permission to Speak Freely” based on her own experience. Her story was especially interesting because she talked about how she battled a porn addiction after an unhealthy relationship. You don’t normally hear about women struggling with porn, maybe racy romance novels, but not pornography. It was really eye-opening for me to realize that there are no stereotypical struggles. We’re all vulnerable to the tricks of the enemy.

So many times we hear about how church isn’t a place for perfect people. It’s a “hospital for sinners”… but is it really? We all like  to put on a front at church. A “holier than thou” image that’s just as bad as any Pharisee in the Bible. I don’t think that church is the place where we hang our dirty laundry, but I don’t think it’s a place for judgment either. So where does the healing come? If we’re all just playing pretend, are our lives really being changed?

James talks about how we are to confess our sins to one another, to share the burden. Is this happening in the church today? Do you even know the people you go to church with? Do they know you enough to know when you’re spiraling out of control?  The early church in Acts met DAILY in people’s HOMES. It wasn’t the once a week drive-thru carwash service that we’ve come to expect every Sunday. 

Secret sins are the ones the enemy uses to keep us down. The whole idea of “suffering in silence” is a lie that we buy in to because we don’t want people to know how messed up we really are, how in need of a Savior we really are. When we look at people in church, often times we are comparing our blooper reel with their highlight reels. The person sitting next to you has their own struggle, even if you’re sitting next to the pastor. We need to just get over that fear and do what the Bible says and share our burdens and confess our sins. You know how the Bible says the truth shall set you free? Well,  sometimes, as Glenn Beck says, “It’ll make you miserable first.” But once you are free from that burden, you can start living in victory.

I am blessed to have a church family that does the whole “small group” thing well. I have close personal friends who keep me accountable, whether I ask them to or not. If your church doesn’t have this, I would suggest bringing it up to the leaders and let them know that it’s an area that could use improvement, or even finding another church. Or finding another small group in your area. We have had a few people come to our small group who don’t even attend our church, just because they needed to connect on a deeper level with other Christians. There are options.

I know it’s scary to put your trash out on the curb for all the neighbors to see, especially if it’s been piling up for a while in your house. My advice is: don’t be a hoarder, because their houses are the ones that get condemned. (Maybe it’s just me but I think this is a clever analogy…) God gives us grace when we fall, so we don’t have to worry about the landing, but maybe you aren’t aware that He also gives us His righteousness so that we can stand back up without being under the weight of our mistakes.

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. — James 5:16

Burn It Down

King Josiah is the ish, guys. I used to dread reading the Old Testament (don’t act all high and mighty on me). The genealogy especially bored me to tears. I was like, “who cares about who was whose son?” … But then I realized that the whole time, it was keeping record of the coming of Jesus to the earth. I get excited now. Like maybe God’s got this whole crazy world under control afterall and I can truly be free of worry.

Anyway, this is about King Josiah.

Josiah became king when he was only 8. When he was 16, he began to seek after God. When he was 20, he crushed and burned the idols of Baal. He even burned the bones of the priests on the alters they worshiped at. When he was 26, he began to rebuild the temple of God. And then he heard the Book of the Law for the first time and he was so distraught that he tore his clothes and wept. (You can read 2 Chronicles 34 for more reference).

When I was asked to lead a caregroup (that’s what my church calls a small group Bible study), my first excuse to not do it was that I was the youngest person in the group. My second was that I had been there the least amount of time and it was weird that someone else wasn’t picked. My last resort was that I was afraid. But then halfway through my first year of being the “leader”, my friend and I wrote a lesson together about Josiah. He was young, but he was faithful. And he was chosen.

I feel like even though I am “young”, I have an ancient soul. I have always mother-henned my friends. I have never wanted to do what the world thinks is “fun”. I don’t smoke, don’t drink, never saw the appeal of drugs. I’m not promiscuous and I don’t listen to a word that the media-crazed culture tells me about how I should live my life. I sometimes feel like I would be happiest to have been born in the 30s, raised my babies in the 50s, and died long before we ever got into the mess we are in now.

I would have preferred that, but if I believe that God has always had a plan, then I must accept that there is a reason for me to have been born, here and now, in this city.

I think I like King Josiah so much because he didn’t compromise. He lived to please God. He recognized that he was insufficient, but he knew the Sufficient One. He knew that his generation was crumbling, and he did everything in his power to turn it around. He lit a match and set the world on fire. But if you know how the story goes, you know that it wasn’t enough, Judah got their stuff together too late.

I don’t want it to be too late for this generation. I don’t want to labor in vain. I want to know that what I am doing matters. If I’m called to speak to this generation, I’m going to make every word count. If I have to lose friends because I’m unwilling to give up this ground, well, no war was ever waged without casualties. I’m not saying I’m going to be a belligerent, miserable person, or that I’m callous enough to drop people like they’re hot. I mean that I don’t want to take my eye off the prize. I want to wage spiritual warfare against the lies of the enemy that this generation has clung on to for far too long. I want to fight, and I want to win.

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 3:12-14