I Am Not Enough 

I have a confession to make. I am not enough.

I am not enough as a wife.

I am not enough as a mother.

I am not enough as daughter.

I am not enough as a sister.

I am not enough as a friend.

I am not enough as a Christian.

There is no area of my life where I can say I am enough. Not one. I don’t even have what it takes to write this blog post.

If I were enough, I wouldn’t need the Cross. I wouldn’t need Christ. I wouldn’t need God at all.

It’s not my complete lack of housekeeping skills, or the fact that I don’t know how run a blender properly, or my selfishness as a wife and mother that cause me to fall short.

I don’t measure up because no one does.

As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:‭‭ Romans‬ ‭3:10‬ ‭

For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Romans 3:23

No matter how hard I try, I will never be enough.

Here is where I pause. Here is where I stop for a minute and assess. Is this really what God wants me to write? Here is where I pray again that my words are not my own, but what my Heavenly Father wants to say through me.

Because, you see, I don’t want to criticize. I don’t want to fall into the trap of using my own judgement. I want to speak the truth, God’s truth.

Something has been happening that makes me afraid for us. The self-esteem movement has been around for a while now, but recently it is becoming more about self glorification than about self confidence, and more and more Christians are jumping on this bandwagon. Christians are slapping “I am enough” on a tee-shirt, and proudly wearing their self-affirmation for all the world to see.

I don’t think we need to go around feeling miserable about ourselves, or punishing ourselves. There is such a thing as false humility, which is just pride wrapped up in a different package. I think we need to be comfortable with who our Creator designed us to be. But I also believe that we need to understand the truth about ourselves.

We don’t like to hear the truth though. What we want is affirmation, even if it means being lied to.

Jesus didn’t come to give us affirmation. He came because He couldn’t give us affirmation without the cross.

He loved us too much to simply tell us what would make us feel good about ourselves. It was Christ who said, “there is none good but one, that is, God.” (Mark 10:18)

Jesus came because He knew that apart from Him, we could never be enough.

If I were enough, I wouldn’t need the Cross. I wouldn’t need Christ. I wouldn’t need God at all.Affirmation

I constantly struggle against this, against the belief that I am enough. When I believe that I have strength apart from Christ, I stray from His purpose. I wander back toward my own dreams and into the darkness of pursuing my own goals.

I remember saying to friend years ago, that God wouldn’t let me do the things I thought I would be good at. Instead He always seemed to put me in places where I didn’t have any confidence. He asked me to do things the He knew that I knew I needed His strength for.

Because He knows how easy it would be for me to put on the “I am enough” shirt, and advertise my sinful pride.

Do you see how mercy steps in, and grace continues to mold us even after our salvation? But grace can only step in if we are willing to let God work in us, only if we will acknowledge our continued need for Him.

When we as Christians claim to be enough on our own, we rob God of His glory. We are in danger of making ourselves into idols. We risk making ourselves equal with God. To elevate ourselves to being equal with God is a dangerous thing for a believer.

This was Satan’s lie to Eve. He appealed to her pride, and her desire to be enough. 

When unbelievers are deceived into believing they are enough, the danger is even greater. The danger is an eternity separated from God in hell.

Satan knew that if mankind believed they were enough on their own, they would have no need for God. 

When believers begin to preach that we are enough, we are in danger, not only of hindering The Holy Spirit’s work in us, but of leading the lost to believe they don’t have any need for a Savior.

The world is watching us for clues about what we really believe. When we live in such a way that says that we don’t need God every day of our lives, we send the message that we don’t need Him at all. We aren’t projecting weakness if we are looking to God to meet all of our needs; we are projecting the truth.

When we are asked if our faith is a crutch, the correct answer is, “Yes, because I can’t take one step without Christ holding me up.”

The world has their crutches too. Alcohol, drugs, sex, money, and any number of other things serve to hold the unbeliever up while he believes he doesn’t need Christ to hold him up. But those things only lead to greater brokenness and bondage. We as Christians know The One who can heal their brokenness, and free them from bondage, if we will let them see how much we need Him still.

If we can admit that we are not enough.

I’m linking up this week at Grace & Truth.

Sharing My Story

I’m excited to be part of The Unabashed Woman series over at The Unabashed Life. I’m sharing a part of my journey with you.

I used to think I was crazy. Not walked into a room and forgot what you came for crazy. Not “Where are my keys? Oh, they’re in my hand,” crazy. I mean certifiably insane. Like belongs-in-an-institution insane.

I was sure that if anyone ever saw what went on inside my head they run the other way and never look back. The thought terrified me. I lived in constant fear of someone finding out how crazy I was, especially my husband who has an aversion to all things weird.

The inside of my head definitely qualifies as weird.

Then a little over a year ago, I wrote this little story and posted it on Facebook. I had meant it to be an encouragement to my sisters in Christ. To show them their potential. I wanted the women of God to see themselves in a different light, to change their perspective of their position as daughters of The King.

But it ended up changing me.

Read the rest of my story here at The Unabashed Life.

Note: The photo is from a 1925 Peter Pan book given to my grandmother by her aunt, that she then passed on to me. The writing is from my great aunt and my grandmother. It reads, “Peter Pan looks very much like Jimmy Ann- And also like Marian-“

The Man Called Jesus

 

The Man called Jesus

  • December 1, 2015

The unbelieving world doesn’t know why we celebrate. They don’t understand the significance of Christ’s birth. To them, Christmas is just another reason to throw a party. Maybe instead of insisting that the world celebrate the birth of someone they don’t know, we should introduce them to the Man called Jesus. Instead of criticizing them for saying happy holidays, why don’t we simply show them who Christ is.

How I Sleep In On Christmas Morning: with a free printable

I honestly don’t mind getting up early with my kids on Christmas morning. I enjoy watching their excitement. But sometimes, like when there is illness in the family, or you have a new baby, or are expecting a new baby the week after Christmas, you just need to rest.

That doesn’t mean the kids have to miss out on Christmas morning fun.

Notice the title of the post did NOT say, “How I got my kids to sleep in on Christmas morning. It also did NOT say, “How I sleep till noon on Christmas morning.”

But, I did manage to get a few extra winks compared to other Christmas mornings.

I started this tradition two years ago and I plan to keep it going this year. I think adds another element of fun to the morning as well as the benefit of a few more minutes of rest.

I don’t recommend this if all of your children are preschool age. At least one of your children needs to old enough to read and play with younger siblings for a little while.

Two years ago my husband was hospitalized a few weeks before Christmas for a blood infection. He was sent home after a few days, but he had to make daily trips to the hospital to receive IV antibiotics. Yes, that included Christmas day.

(This time of year, health care workers, E.M.S, and police work just as hard as they do the rest of the year. Often without being thanked. Consider doing something nice for those serving in your community.)

At the time our youngest was just shy of a year old and still getting up several times a night. Sleep was a precious commodity. I knew my husband needed as much rest as possible, so I devised a plan.

I started with food.

I knew that we would have to leave for the hospital soon after all the gifts were unwrapped that morning, and wanted my kids to have eaten before we left. That was my main reason for doing this.

I picked up some cinnamon rolls from the bakery, and Christmas party ware. I stashed some eggnog in the fridge and set up the coffee pot to have hot water ready for making hot chocolate. I threw in some special holiday marshmallows for good measure.

Obviously if your kids aren’t old enough to handle hot beverages on their own you would skip that. You could add juice boxes instead, or have individual chocolate milks on hand. You could include Danish or muffins instead of cinnamon rolls, whatever your kids favorites are.

Next I threw in a game.

Two years ago it was Farkle. Last year I picked twister. Not sure yet about this year.

It really doesn’t matter what the game is. It could be one they’ve played at a friend’s house and have been asking for, or it could be one they haven’t seen before. It just needs to something that they can all play. Or someone gets left out of the fun.

If your kids are close in age and have the same interests, you could include something besides a game. A LEGO set or beading kit. You could also include individual treat bags with a few party favor type trinkets in them.

Then it was time to wrap it all up.

 I found a big box that everything would fit in, and wrapped it in such a way that they could just open the box without unwrapping it. I don’t remember why I wanted to do it that way, it certainly isn’t necessary.

If I had been thinking far enough ahead I would have found a box with a lid and wrapped the box and lid separately. But I didn’t think of that in time so I had to do the hard way.

I have no tips on doing it the hard way other than: don’t do it. Find a box with a lid. Basically what I did was fold the two sort sides of the box inside and tape them down. Then I wrapped the two long sides while they were folded out so they would be movable.

You could also just wrap it normally.

I used the fanciest paper I could find, and added the biggest bow I could find. I wanted this present to stand out. I wanted it to look like it was special.

One more thing.

I wanted to make sure my kids knew to open this box right away, but I wanted to a special way to say it.

In our house Santa Clause is a fictional character. We do talk about Santa, but everyone knows he’s pretend. We want our celebration to be about the birth of Christ, so Santa takes a back seat. But he’s not banned.

Since I wanted this to fun as well as practical, I made this present from “Santa.” I had “Santa” leave this little poem on the box explaining what to do, and added another reminder of what Christmas is about. There is a printable version below, or you can create your own.

It’s Christmas morning and Mom and Dad are late!
But don’t worry; I’ve worked it out.
Have some breakfast and play a game while you wait.
That’s the way to stop your pout!
Inside this box is all you need.
Open up NOW to start the fun!
Keep this in mind while you play
Christmas isn’t about what you get
There’s a better reason for this day!
I hope you wont forget…

“Unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.”

Of course we could have just ordered them not to disturb us until a certain time, and they would have obeyed, but I wanted to make it fun. There was the whole getting breakfast out of the way thing too.

Has your family started any new traditions? I would love to hear about them.

Get your printable poem here.

I’m linking up with Home For The Holidays, and From House to Home

Christmas Poem (1)

Giving Thanks In Dificult Seasons

Right now it seems like the whole world is spinning out of control. Almost every day we hear a new report that shatters our hearts. Our television and computer screens are filled with images of devastation and despair.

And it’s not just the outside world that’s falling apart. Many of us are experiencing things that have our lives turned upside down.

Maybe it’s a doctors report that wasn’t what we’d hoped. Or a bill that’s come due and you don’t know how to pay. Maybe you didn’t do as well on that test as you expected. Or you feel like all of your friends have turned on you. It might be that you’re watching a marriage fall apart.

The difficult seasons will always be with us. As long as we walk this earth times of trial will always follow us. There will always be days that make us feel like there is nothing to be thankful for.

work-to-become-1

 

But we’re not supposed to listen to our feelings. They lie to us all the time. And the devil lies too. He likes it when Christians feel depressed and defeated.

But even as we throw up our hands and say, “come lord Jesus,” there is always something to be thankful for.

The very air we breathe, every step we take, and the faces of our loved ones are all miracles.

Whatever we have it’s more than we deserve. We deserve death and hell, but we have eternal life through the blood of Christ.

The greatest miracle of all is our salvation. If we have nothing else to be thankful for, we should always be thankful God for the grace that led His Only Begotten Son to the cross.

As Christians, though, we’re not only supposed to be thankful when things are going our way. It’s not just the good things that God calls us to be thankful for.Give Thanks

We’re to be thankful for everything.

In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. ‭‭1 Thessalonians‬ ‭5:18‬ 

Yes, that means the bad stuff too.

There was a man in my parent’s church who would say, “Praise the Lord,” about literally everything. Leaky pipes? “Praise the Lord!” Dead car battery, “Praise the Lord!”

When we’re down and discouraged, and we feel like we have nothing to be thankful for, the devil will come and tell us to listen to those feelings. But we can stop those feelings in their tracks if we simply tell God how good He is.

When David was discouraged, he did just that.

And David was greatly distressed; for the people spake of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and for his daughters: but David encouraged himself in the LORD his God.                       1 Samuel 30:6

God is always worthy of praise no matter what comes our way.

Besides that, every situation and circumstance is an opportunity to let others see Christ in us. Every trial we go through is an opportunity to serve God in a new way. More still, it’s an opportunity for God to do a work in us. 

The past few years have been a difficult season for us. But even through the difficulty we’ve seen God work in ways that we never would have noticed or appreciated before.

While I still don’t know if I can say that I’m thankful that this season has come, I am thankful for the lessons I’m learning along the way.

One of those lessons has been simply to be more thankful.

I’m more thankful for quiet moments with my husband, and time with my children. I’m thankful for normal days. I’m thankful for every day, even the bad ones, because there’s hope and opportunity in every day.

The more I see the news from around the world, the more I feel compelled to embrace a season of thankfulness.

While I’m seeing my newsfeed fill up with images of Christmas trees and stockings, I’m holding off hauling out the holly for just a few more days.

Cause I think we need a little Thanksgiving. We need to remember to be thankful for that Savior we’re preparing to celebrate. Any true celebration begins with a heart of thankfulness. So I’m choosing to view this Thanksgiving as an introduction to Christmas. The set up if you will.

I’m realizing that the key to focusing our hearts on Christ at Christmas might just be to focus on thankfulness at Thanksgiving.

Me versus the pumkins

A couple of weeks ago I did an insane thing. I took all five kids to Walmart. Yes, I said five. Even my husband asked what I was thinking.

Honestly with all but one of my children being in double digits, it wasn’t the nightmare it could have been if they were all under ten. I did however, get a lot a requests to buy things. Even my almost seventeen-year-old managed to find stuff to ask for. (Note: When it’s almost your birthday, expect a “no” when you ask for stuff.)

Among the 287,987,982 other things they found that they had to have, were the pumpkins that my ten-year-old foodie spotted. I said “no” to almost everything else. At least I thought I did until I got in the checkout line and watched my money disappear.

But the pumpkins were another story. Even though I do love pumpkin pie and pumpkin muffins, I’m not one that has to put pumpkin in everything just because the leaves are changing, especially not my coffee. But I do happen to have a weakness for pumpkin butter. So Foodie and I picked out two pie pumpkins and put them in the basket before I had a chance to think through what I was doing.

In the end, it all comes down to grace. The grace that pulled us out of our sin, keeps pushing us forward to the finish line, helping us along the way, and turning us into a masterpiece for His glory.

The next morning I grabbed the biggest sharpest knife I had, and a rubber mallet from the garage, and went to work. I sawed, I hammered, and I pounded, but these pumpkins were resisting my efforts with everything they had.

It took me at least a half an hour to get two pumpkins split in half, and another half an hour to scoop out all of the seeds. Finally they went into the oven for an hour. Then it was time to purée.

It was at this point that I realized I needed a food processor, and remembered that mine is broken. Has been for a few years. (I recently replaced it with one like this from Amazon. It’s not fancy, but it gets the job done.) So I reached for the blender, thinking it should work just as well.

It didn’t.

A few rounds of the blade and whatever was on the bottom got puréed, while everything else got pushed into the top of the blender jar. Obviously I needed a spatula to push it all back down. Doing this while the blender was running seemed like the most efficient method.

It wasn’t.

Blender: 1 Spatula: 0

I spent a few minutes fishing blue silicon out of the blender, and then reached for a wooden spoon. Please don’t make me tell you what happened next.

Sometimes I’m a slow learner.

I spent the next hour fishing wood chips out of my still-not-puréed pumpkin. I threw away more than I probably needed to because I was terrified of my family eating a splinter.

Next up a big metal spoon. I don’t even care anymore if the spoon tears up the blades. I will conquer this pumpkin.

I should probably mention that although Foodie loves food and loves to eat, he also tends to develop strong attachments to things like fruits and vegetables. I bought a watermelon over the summer, and he objected every time I started to cut it, until I finally told him it was cut it or let it rot and throw it out.

He relented, but I had to take his picture with it first.

He mourned when the zucchini he picked from my mother’s garden became zucchini bread. Until he tasted the zucchini bread.

But I had to take a picture of the zucchini remains before I put it in the bread.

It was at this point that Foodie came in and demanded to know what I was doing with his pumpkins. I calmly explained to him that I was making pumpkin butter, and he would love it. He wasn’t convinced. There were tears pending. I might have promised to buy new pumpkins.

After several more minutes of blending, which both spoon and blender somehow survived, I finally had enough pumpkin puréed to make my pumpkin butter. With Foodie’s help, I got the pumpkin, the sugar and spices, and some lemon seeds, into the slow cooker for the prescribed three hours.

When the three hours were up I went into the kitchen with high expectations. All of my hard work was about to be rewarded with sweet spreadable goodness.

Or not.

One taste and my heart sunk. The texture was off, and it tasted like somebody had left apple juice out on the counter for way too long. I was so disappointed with it I wanted to chuck the whole thing in the trash, slow cooker and all. I walked away and left it sitting on the kitchen counter planning never to have anything to do with it again.

But as I sat in my chair, exhausted and licking my wounds, I remembered my Savior.

I remembered that He never gives up on me.

Not even when I’m being stubborn. Or when I’m holding onto something that He wants to use to mold me into His image. He started a work, and He plans on finishing it.It all comes down to grace

Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ: Philippians 1:6

No matter how much I resist Him, no matter how many times I fail Him, He’s still there, gently prodding me and guiding me. Sometimes I’m hardened to His efforts, and He has to use the mallet. And sometimes I have to be willing to give up my pumpkins, or my zucchini, and let Him purée them and shred them to make them into something that will nourish me and give me strength for the journey.

It’s not always an easy process, but it’s necessary. I cant do what I’m put on this earth to do if I won’t let Him do a work in me first. And He never quits trying. He’ll never write me off as lost cause.

In the end, it all comes down to grace. The grace that pulled us out of our sin, keeps pushing us forward to the finish line, helping us along the way, and turning us into a masterpiece for His glory.

Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen. Jude 1:24-25

As for my pumpkin butter, I didn’t give up on it either. Even though I still kind of wanted to. I put it in the fridge that night, and in the morning I put it back in the slow cooker, added a little water, and let it cook some more. A couple of hours later I ran it through my handy chopper. (Basically a miniature food processor like this one, also from Amazon. I got it as a wedding gift 18 years ago and it’s still going strong.) I don’t know why I didn’t think doing that before. I cautiously gave it a taste.

It was perfect.

Foodie loved it, and wanted toast for every meal just so he could have pumpkin butter. I call that a win.

It had just needed a little more time and little T.L.C. and a little grace.

I’m linking up at Grace and TruthTell It To Me Tuesdays, and A Little R & R!

 

 

Jesus Loves The Little Children: When Prayer Doesn’t Feel Like Enough

But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 19:14

He gave me a penny. I don’t know why he gave me that penny, but I remember him holding it out and saying, “this is for you.” It wasn’t a shiny new penny. It was dull and brown, and its face had been worn down through years of use. The edges were rough as though it had been scraped along the ground or escaped an encounter with a garbage disposal.

His body language as he dropped it into my hand indicated he was trying to be casual about it, but his eyes told me that this little penny was an enormous gift.An enormous gift

That was somewhere around a year ago. He stopped coming abruptly a little while after that, only to turn up again recently. I’ve treasured that penny like the priceless gift it was, and kept it as reminder of its giver. Whenever I thought about that penny, I said a prayer for that little boy and his family.

Maybe I should have prayed more.

There are days when I want to get rid of all of the stuff in my house, line the walls with bunk-beds, open my door, and say to the hurting children of the world “come in you’ll be safe here.” Wednesday was one of those days. After all when you already have five children, what’s one more? Or seven. And maybe a very nearsighted grandmother.

One room for the girls, one room for Grandma, and the basement for the boys. Should work out just fine, right?

Except that it doesn’t really seem really possible right now. My life has it’s own craziness and uncertainties.

As I made a note to myself to pray for two families in need, it didn’t feel like enough. I felt like I should do more, like I should do something. And praying didn’t feel like doing anything. In that moment saying a prayer felt like a cop-out.

Yes, there are canned goods and clothes being collected, and someone is having Grandma’s broken glasses replaced, but that doesn’t feel like enough either.

It feels like a band-aid. And hurting hearing hearts need more than a band-aid. Especially little ones.

For many, if not most, first world Christians our “can do” far exceeds our “will do.” I admit that’s been me on more than one occasion, and I’m sitting here wondering if this is one of those situations. Surly there is something I’m missing.

Sometimes though our “will do” exceeds our “can do.” Sometimes we have to accept that we have limits, and that what we want to do is impossible.

But here’s the thing about God, there is no limit to His “can do.” There is nothing that is impossible for Him.

And the best thing we can do is pray.

The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. (James 5:16)

I am a firm believer in the power of prayer. I’ve seen lives changed, marriages restored, wayward children find their way, and situations beyond the control of any man resolved, all through the prayers of righteous men and women.

In those situations God gets all the glory.

None of us can sit back and say, “Look what I did,” because we didn’t do anything. Except pray. We pray and cry out to God and He does everything else. 

None of us is tempted to rob God of the glory that belongs to Him in every circumstance.

God desires us to abandon our plans and trust Him to do more than we can imagine.

Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen. Ephesians‬ ‭3:20-21

Praying is doing something, and sometimes it really is the only thing we can do.

There will times though, when God asks us to put feet to our prayers. There will be times when He moves on us to be the change we are asking for. Sometimes it will be us that hear the whispers from that Still Small Voice prodding us to reach out to the broken and hurting.

Maybe those are the times when our prayers don’t feel like enough.

We need to be ready for those times. While we’re doing all of our praying over those impossible situations, we need pray for ourselves too. We need to pray that God would not only give us the ability to respond, but also a heart that is willing to respond.

I can’t give those children what they really need, but I can be there for the few hours a week that they are in my care. I can find out what they need right now, and help them get it. I can call them by name, and offer them a kind smile. I can tell them, and show them, that God loves them, and they are special to Him. I can point them to the cross where they can find forgiveness of sins, which is the greatest need any of us have.

Maybe I can’t do everything, but what I can do I will do.

As I made a note to myself to pray for two families in need, it didn’t feel like enough. I felt like I should do more, like I should do something. And praying didn’t feel like doing anything. In that moment saying a prayer felt like a cop-out.

What about you? Are there things that you could do, or are you frustrated by what you can’t do? Don’t be discouraged by what you can’t do. Give it to God in prayer and find out what He can do. Then ask Him to show you what you can do.

 

 

Whose Armor Are You Wearing?

Have you ever tried wearing two sets of armor at once? It can be a real challenge. The first hurdle is deciding whether to put on one whole suit of armor and then layering the other on top of it, or to layer each individual piece.

Whichever way you do it, just getting the armor on is problematic. Then there’s actually wearing it. All those pieces rubbing and bumping together, making movement extremely difficult.

It’s nearly impossible to see when you’re wearing two helmets. That’s if you can turn your head at all.

Two swords sounds like a good idea. You’ll be able to whack at your enemies with two hands just like a fantasy movie ninja. Awesome! That is until you realize that you also have two shields.

Okay so I don’t actually know from experience what it would be like to wear two sets of armor. I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that you don’t either. Most of us probably won’t ever have the opportunity to try on two sets of armor. Probably. So lets put it in more reasonable terms.

Would you wear two pairs of shoes at the same time?

What about two winter coats?

Two hats?

Of course there are exceptions, but for the most part we wouldn’t try to wear two of any of those things. It would bulky and impractical. In the case of the shoes, I’m having trouble picturing how you would even get two pair on.

The same is true for spiritual armor as well. We can’t wear two sets. It won’t work.

Yet before I’m even out of bed in the morning I find myself already fastening on my own armor.

We can't be affective soldiers if we are wearing faulty armor. The armor we wear must be the best. It must be God's armor. He provides for us everything we need. But we have to be willing to give up our own armor first.

Instead of having on the girdle of truth, I’ve bound myself up in lies. The lies of the devil, the lies the world tells me and the lies I tell myself.

Instead of the breastplate of righteousness, I cover myself with my own self-righteousness.

I don’t have my feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace, but with the preparation of criticism.

Instead of taking up the shield of faith, I take up the shield of my own reasoning.

Instead of the helmet of salvation, I’ve forged a helmet of good works.

The sword I carry is not the sword of the spirit, but I carry a sword forged of my own stubborn will.

None of this armor will help me. None of it will protect me or prepare me to stand against the wiles of the devil.

My own armor does nothing for me except make provision for my flesh. Something that God’s word warns us not to do. Instead we are to put on Christ.

But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof. Romans 13:14

Instead of our own armor, we need the armor of light.

The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light. Romans 13:12

In order to put on the armor of light, God’s armor, we have to take off our own armor first.

That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. Ephesians 4:22-24 (Emphasis added.)

We can’t be affective soldiers if we are wearing faulty armor. The armor we wear must be the best. It must be God’s armor. He provides for us everything we need. But we have to be willing to give up our own armor first.

Then we put on the girdle of truth that keeps us from falling prey to all of the lies surrounding us.

We cover ourselves with the breastplate of righteousness that protects our hearts, and keeps them from growing cold.

Our feet we protect with the Gospel of peace that allows us to see others as Christ sees them and to love them as Christ loves them.

Then we take up the shield of faith that will quench the fiery darts of the wicked.

We put on the helmet of salvation that gives us peace to know that we are safe in His hands.

The sword we carry is the Holy Spirit of God working by His Word in us and through us, cutting away the old and making all things new again.

Then there is prayer. The piece of the armor that we absolutely cannot forget.

Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; Ephesians 6:18

We often hear that our armor must be prayed on, and that is true. But prayer is so much more important than that. The verse above says: “praying always.” We pray on the armor, but we can’t stop there.

Prayer is not only how we put on the armor, it is the underpinnings of the armor, a vital piece of the Prayerarmor, the fastenings that hold it all together, a weapon to use in battle, the ground we fight the battle on, and the battle itself.

Instead of relying on myself, I must rely constantly on God. No matter how hard I try, eventually my own efforts will fail. My armor will let me down every time. But God never fails, and His armor is never faulty.

But we have to make a conscious choice each and every day to take off our armor, and to clothe ourselves in God’s armor. Only then can we have hope to stand against the wiles of the devil.

Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. Ephesians‬ ‭6:11‬

 

 

 

Monuments, Landmarks, And Bridges: A Pause To Reflect

Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set. Proverbs 22:28

Can I just talk to you for a while? Will you allow me to paint pictures in your mind before they fade out of mine? Can I share with you the thoughts swirling in my head that I don’t quite know how to put into words?

Do you remember that place? That place where the light shines through the trees a little differently? The place where the air is lighter, and the atmosphere sets you at ease?

Remember the creatorHave you ever been to a place where the noises that surround you are ducks and geese conversing about the weather, and the wind rustling the leaves? Where the loudest sound is the river babbling and running into another river, and running into the sea, and the laughter of children fills the air.

Have you seen the green hills as they fade into purple mountains that fade into grey heights that fade into the sky as their peaks pierce through the clouds and laugh at the rain falling below?

Do know the tree, the very old tree that stands by the river and offers shade for all who pass by? How he wishes to be heard, and to tell those who would listen the stories of the generations that have gone before, and their trials and triumphs. When night falls he stretches his arms toward the sky and points to the stars and The One that hung them and keeps them in place.

Do you remember a time when you took your cues from the rising and setting of the sun, and you own stomach, instead of the clock and the calendar? When the most important thing you had to do was watch a nine-year-old bond with a basset hound.

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Have you taken the time to pull down from the shelf the book of an old friendship and dust it off? And have you marveled at the grace that has kept it bound throughout the years?

Do you know the feeling of sitting down to a card game with old friends, and having your sons join you for the first time? That’s what children are for after all; learning what we know and passing it on to their children. The important things, and the not-so-important things.

If you know that place, will you go there with me for just a moment? Will you stand on the mountaintops and bask in the goodness of God? Gather some stones and build a monument there on that mountain.

The first court west of the Alleghanies

The stump of the tree that the first court west of the Alleghenies was held under.

Go back in your mind to a time when The Lord Of Creation showed Himself to you, and conquered the enemy you faced.

The monuments in our lives show us where we’ve been, and what we’ve been through. They point to the old ways and what was good about them, and what needed to change. And they remind us of The One who pulled us through when hope seemed lost.

There are landmarks too, that show us where we’re going. They point out the path we should take so we don’t get lost. Because when it’s one mile south of the Big Chicken, you can’t miss it. And if it’s right next to Twins Stadium, everyone should know where it is. Even if they’re from out of town.

No matter how far we think we’ve come, or how successful the trip, we’ll always need the monuments and landmarks. Because there will always be bumps in the road, twists and turns along the way, and unexpected road blocks that stop us in our tracks.

And we never know when we’ll wake up one morning to discover another heartbroken wife, or another town devastated by tragic loss. In those moments we always wonder why, and we want to know what made them do it.

The wrong side of townWhatever we reasons we find to explain it, at the root of it all, there is always someone who forgot the monuments, ignored the landmarks, and burned the bridges that connected them to their fellow man, and The God that formed them in their mother’s womb.

And when they were lost, they took directions from the one with the greasy smile and the bad intentions, and followed them to the wrong side of town.

When you find yourself lost on the wrong side of town, it’s so easy to stay there, and so hard to leave.

So it’s up to the ones who remember the monuments, and followed the landmarks to the Narrow Way, to be the bridge builders. To help the lost ones find their way back to The Light. Bridge Builders

And when the bad days come, when the thing we were so hoping for doesn’t happen, we’ll need to look back on the times when we knew God’s hand was working. We’ll need the monuments to help us remember. To tell the story one more time of when the doctor looked at your husband and said “You should have died from this.”

Then you can find the peace that tells you that The God who hung the stars is still in control. And always was.

In those moments of looking back, you’ll sometimes find that the things you thought were important weren’t after all, and the things that seemed unimportant meant the world.Landmarks

Remember the mountains, and the peace that was there on those hilltops, where the sunlight danced in the trees. And remember The Creator of those mountains, Whose presence is infinitely greater, and Who holds even the tiniest sparrow in the palm of his hand.

Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee. Isaiah 26:3

No matter how far we think we’ve come, or how successful the trip, we’ll always need the monuments and landmarks. Because there will always be bumps in the road, twists and turns along the way, and unexpected road blocks that stop us in our tracks.

No Lone Soldiers 

So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. (Romans 12:5)

In Christ we are never alone. We are never abandoned. And we are never left to fight our battles on our own.

But sometimes it can feel like we are.

The presence of God is very real, and there have been many times in my life when after a prayer over a horrible situation, I’ve felt the peace that passes all understanding wash over me.

But there have also been times when I’ve desperately wished for another human being to reach out to.

God promised He would always be with us, but it was never His plan for us to go through life without any human contact. In the very beginning God decided He didn’t want man to be alone.

And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him. (Genesis 2:18)

I don’t think it’s taking scripture out of context to say that this verse is talking about much more than marriage. From this union would come children and grandchildren. The first couple were told by God to make more of themselves, to fill the earth with people. In giving Eve to Adam, God gave all of us the gift of companionship.

In Ecclesiastes we see the same theme repeated.

Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour.  For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up. (Ecclesiastes‬ ‭4:9-10‬)

In the New Testament we find again the reminder not to isolate ourselves.

Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. (Hebrews‬ ‭10:25‬)

Yet as I look around me I see more and more Christians living in a bubble.

We are so busy with our lives that we don’t have time for anyone else. We’re so focused on our needs and desires that we hardly notice those around us. We go through life with blinders on not recognizing the suffering of others.

We are fighting our battles alone, and we’re leaving our brothers and sisters to fight alone.

Everyone I know is fighting a battle. Everyone. I don’t know anyone who is just cruising through life taking in the scenery.

And you don’t either.

Maybe you’re thinking of someone who seems to have it made. That’s just it, they only appear  to have it made. I promise you they don’t. I promise you that they’re battling something that you don’t know about. Because everyone is.

Just because they aren’t wearing their troubles on their sleeve, doesn’t mean they don’t have any.

We don’t see it because we aren’t looking, and we aren’t listening. Our lives have become all about us. What we want. What we need. How everyone else can understand us better.

Our culture has become entirely self-centered.

But Christ followers are supposed to be different.

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. (‭‭Romans‬ ‭12:1-2‬)

What do these verses have to do with loneliness? With caring for the needs of others? With helping the hurting?

If you read the rest of the chapter you’ll see the answer is: everything.

For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. (Romans‬ ‭12:3-5‬) (Emphasis added.)

We could sum these verses up this way; don’t be like the world, be like Christ. The rest of the chapter contains an instruction manual for how the members of the body of Christ should behave toward each other.

Don’t try to do everyone else’s job. (Romans 12:6-8)

Don’t show a false love. (12:9a) When our love for others is false, we present a false image of Christ.

Don’t focus on the bad; focus on the good. (12:9b)

Treat everyone like a brother. Give preference to each other. (12:10)

Don’t be lazy. (12:11)

Be hopeful. Be patient in hard times. Pray for each other. (12:12)

Meet each other’s needs. (12:13)

Even the ones that have done you wrong. (12:14) This is hard I know. Especially when you feel like they’ve gone too far.

But this is the essence of grace living. The first three chapters of Romans tells us we are all the same. We are all guilty of the same crimes, and all bought with same blood.

We are all guilty

The writer points out some very nasty sins, and then tells us that we are all just as dirty, and just as defiled. We are all covered with the same spots. Before we accepted Christ we were all equally messy. But the grace of God makes us all equally clean.

If God can forgive my sins, surely I can forgive a brother of sister when they disappoint me with their behavior. Grace doesn’t mean much to me if I won’t extend it to those that have hurt me.

Often those that hurt us, do so because they are hurting themselves. They are in pain and lash out because of it. They need to be shown real Christian love that puts others first.

In mirroring Christ we put our own needs on the back burner, trusting God to meet those needs, while we let Him use us to meet the needs of others. Christ told us to love each other the same way He loved us.

A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. (John‬ ‭13:34‬)

Christ loved us so much that He died for us. He laid down his life so that we could live.

But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

He calls us to love each other with that same intensity.

Most of us won’t be asked to die for the church. But there are other ways we give our lives.

We give our time, our talents, and our resources. We let someone else take the credit. We lay down our pride and forgive. This is presenting our bodies a living sacrifice. Our reasonable service compared to all that Christ gave up on the cross.

This is how we are not conformed to this world.

No one should have to fight their battles alone. No soldier in the army of God should be without the support of their fellow soldiers.The members of the body of Christ must learn to stand together, or we will fall alone.

The way of the world is to look out for number one. The way of the church should be to look out for each other.

We are so busy with our lives that we don’t have time for anyone else. We’re so focused on our needs and desires that we hardly notice those around us. We go through life with blinders on not recognizing the suffering of others.

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