These are not the words often uttered by very many conservative evangelical Christians, but I say them unapologetically. I say them sincerely, and I say them sorrowfully. The massacre in Orlando is a horrible travesty. It was an evil act of hatred. It is unjustifiable. I condemn the murder of these fifty people. People. People created in the image of God. People, like me.
To the grieving broken families who have lost loved ones, I am so sorry for your loss. I stand with you. I pray for you. I hurt and mourn with you.
To my LGBT neighbors, far and near, I stand with you. If these are days of fear for you, you are not alone. I stand with you. Among the voices swirling around you, I hope you hear a voice not your own, but still speaking out for you. I hope you hear my voice saying, “I stand with you.”
To my fellow Christians, will you join me and stand with our grieving neighbors? Today they are oppressed. Are they not then, those who Jesus came to free? Today they mourn, shall we not be the channel through which the Comforter comes to them? They hurt, shall we not be the healing hand of Jesus reaching out to them?
I’m tired. It’s 3:30 AM and I’m awake and tired. These morning hours seem to haunt me lately. In the wee hours of the morning I try my best to be the super mom/woman I desire to be and save the world. By 6 AM, though I discover just how lacking I am in the super hero department. It’s been a long week and it is only just 3 hours into Tuesday. My spirit, though thankful, is feeling the crushing blows that have been coming one after another lately. My exhaustion runs to the bones and, sadly, comes out in hateful tones throughout my day. My feet, I feel, are having to be constantly reminded that with each blow Satan administers that they are firmly planted in Jesus.
I want to stop.
I want to quit.
I want to throw my hands up and say “ENOUGH”.
It’s too hard.
I’m too tired.
I’ve had enough.
You may think I’ve got it all together. I’m serving, smiling, trying, and trucking along. I know that’s not the case, though. So does Jesus. This is why I need Him. I’ve struggled with Jesus through some tough issues this past year. Many which have left me feeling frustrated, desperately sad, scared, and (truthfully) unloved. I know Jesus loves me but sometimes I choose to not feel it. Sometimes I allow the painful blows from hell to shake who I think He is. Sometimes I wonder if He is truly good. Does He truly love me? Do all things work together for good to them that love Him and are called according to His purpose? If so, why does He let this stuff attack me? Why can’t I catch a break?
In my moments of unbelief, He graciously meets me. Not for coffee, not for a chat, not for a hug. No. Jesus sits beside me, holds my hand and allows me to feel right where I am. He gently reminds me of who I am in Him. He lets me cry about feeling alone then tells me He will never leave me. He allows me to share my struggles and frustrations and He tells me He understands (He has to deal with me, so I know He understands frustration!). He lets me get mad and tell Him that I don’t feel like He’s loving me like He’s loving “so and so” and then He lets me place my hand into His nail scarred hand and feel how deeply He loves me.
This is why I need Jesus. Life is hard. People fail. My family, while I adore them, are sinners. Jesus is perfect. He has perfect love for me. Despite what has come, is here, and is yet to come, Jesus has His perfect love cocooned around me. Satan, while is just flat out mean, can’t have me. The world will fail, Jesus won’t.
So, while I may sit awake at 3:30 in the morning thinking about all the “stuff” going on, I’ll rest easy knowing Jesus has me and always has. I don’t have to be a super mom/woman. I can be weak. I can need Him. I can tell Him all things. I can know that His perfect love has conquered whatever may come my way. I need Him and He wants me and that is enough for me.
I’m a homeschool momma. Some days that’s awesome some days, not so much and some days, I learn more than the kids do. This week, we have begun studying about the community around us and those who help to make it awesome. The curriculum encourages an attitude of gratitude for those who put the time and effort into making our world a brighter place. I began thinking: am I thankful? No, I don’t mean like “I’m so thankful my kids are healthy” or “I’m tired but I’m glad I’ve got a nice bed to sleep in at night”. Those attitudes of gratitude are fine. What I mean though, is deeper. To those around me, do I express my true and genuine thankfulness? Do the ones whom I love know that their presence has made my life sincerely better? Am I simply giving lip service without putting my words to action?
Truthfully? Yes, many times I am simply offering lip service. I don’t like that about myself. Often, I say thank you and don’t truly mean it. Colossians 3:15-17 says this of gratitude:
“And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
Ouch. Yet, I find in the midst of this verse thankfulness is found in the community of believers. So, am I truly loving the brethren if I have no gratitude for those around me? No. So many times we look at love and say that it is a feeling, the warm fuzzy you get when your love walks into the room but that’s not true. True love isn’t a feeling it is an action. True love sacrifices, walks through the fire, gives more than takes, shows appreciation, and considers the other before considering self. I don’t do that enough with the brethren. So often I take for granted those who make up the church. I don’t do it with a spirit of spite but many times I’m too involved in my own issues to look around for a way to show gratitude. These people have made my life brighter and today I wonder if they know that? I can say thank you a thousand times but have I shown my appreciation for the service and love given to my family from the church?
I need an attitude of gratitude to flow from my actions to those around me. Far too often the one who encourages us is the one who needs encouragement themselves. Jesus, help me to see them. The one who shows gratitude knows what it is like to be forgotten. Jesus, let me remember them. The one who silently walks through fire desperately needs a hand to hold. Jesus, let me reach out my hand in friendship and love. The one who never receives a thank you feels like no one cares. Jesus, help me to show them their worth in you.
Let us be a people who are seeking to show gratitude to those who sacrifice and love regardless of their situations. Let’s be a people who see each other. Let’s look past the smiling faces on Sunday morning to see the pain of their sacrifices. Let us be a people who are thankful and then show it.
Okay, you got me, I don’t want to go to jail. I don’t want to be charged with any criminal offenses. But there is something I want to be found guilty of… being a good dad and having a deep and growing relationship with my kids for the rest of our lives.
I’m betting you want the same thing, but do you ever find it hard to connect with your kids? Maybe you have these little ankle bitters that are barely knee high, maybe your’s are hitting middle and high school, or maybe they’re in college, no matter what age your kids are, connecting with them can be hard.
So I challenge you to break in to their world. That world may be filled with dolls, dresses, and tea parties. It may be a land of dragons and knights. It may be digital, wrapped around an Xbox. It might be a world of cars and keys, basketballs and footballs, or cheer squads. It really doesn’t matter what your child’s world looks like, it is time for you to break into it.
I’m not talking about charging in and taking it over and changing it. I don’t mean trying to make their world look like yours. What I’m talking about is connecting with them on their turf. Getting on their level and speaking their language. Building your relationship with them through their interests.
We’re often tempted to try to get them to do things that we like to do, and then if they’re not interested in the things that interest us, we get frustrated with them. But breaking into their world means forgetting about what you’re interested in and focusing on what interests them. Remember, they are little people (or they may already be big people), they have their own likes and dislikes.
What does your kids like? I mean what do they really like? Now, how can you experience that thing with them? Yes, you might have to step outside your comfort zone. You might have to try something you’ve never tried before. You might have to learn to operate that game controller that has so many buttons it looks like it was designed by NASA. Instead of sitting in front of the TV watching the game, you may find yourself endlessly changing Barbie’s outfits.
This can be so hard, and each stage of parenting brings it’s own challenges. You may be worn out from a hard day at work, or stressed to the max from the pressures that you’re under and you might not feel like doing anything, much less something that doesn’t interest you personally.
But isn’t it worth it? I mean right now as you think about it, not then when you’re longing for the easy chair. Of course it is, so make the decision now, rather than then, to break into their world and speak their language through the things that they love.
When you take up their interests just so you can be with them, you’re saying something to them deeper than all the words in every language ever could. Your actions are shouting “I want you,” “I am proud of you,” “I value you,” “I want to be close to you so much I’ll do whatever it takes to be there,”. It will build the relationship. It will give you real speaking privileges into their life, the kind where they listen to you and not just hear you talking.
You see, this is what the perfect Father did. The relationship was a mess. His children were in rebellion. So what did God do? He broke into our world, He came to where we are in the person of Jesus. He sacrificed His comfort to be near us and to build a relationship with us. It may not be easy and it may come at a cost, but when it builds a relationship that lasts forever, it is definitely worth it. I wonder if that is just what Jesus thought when He came into our world and hung on our cross?
Feeling alone or forgotten is one of the most discouraging things we can encounter. It can darken blue skies and the longer you think about it, the bigger and more foreboding the storm clouds become until you’re cold, soaked, shivering in the rain of despair.
One of the most amazing things about being a Christian though, is that you’re never alone or forgotten. God knows right where you are. His Word says as much…
When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, then You knew my path… Psalm 142:3 NKJV
God knows your path. He knows right where you are. That means that He sees you. You’re not forgotten to Him. He knows your struggles. He is not blind to them. The things you are experiencing, even the secret things, the things that no one else knows about, God sees them. He knows your path. God knows right where you are.
God also knows your path in that He sees what lies before you. He knows what’s coming before it gets there, and He is never sitting in heaven wringing His hands worrying about it. Nothing catches Him by surprise. I often pray and thank God that He cares enough to hear me and is powerful enough to answer. That’s kind of how it is with Him knowing your path. You don’t know what is coming, but He does and there is comfort in that. Someone once wisely said that you can trust an unknown future to a known God. God knows right where you are and what is coming toward you. And here is the thing, Jesus said that not even the sparrow falls to the ground without God knowing, so how much more confidence can you have knowing that nothing comes to you without first passing under the watching eye of God?
But not only that, He understands. He knows your path because He has traveled it. In Jesus, God became a man and experienced what you and I experience. He gets it. God knows right where you are! You’re not alone!
Rest in that. Take comfort in that. Be encouraged in that! God knows right where you are.
I have only been a pastor’s wife for 5 years. I still have no idea what I’m doing or why Jesus felt like I was the best candidate for this title. More often than not, I’m pretty sure that I’m a complete screw up who has no business in the ministry. Yet, here I am, 5 years deep and I’ve learned a few things from this roller coaster journey that my husband and I have been on. Let me share a few things that I wish people, whether in the pews or sharing an aisle at Wal-Mart, knew about our family.
Perfection will not be found, and we will disappoint you. I can not tell you how much this breaks our hearts. My husband is just simply one man, he can not be everywhere for everyone. Trust me if he could, he would. Tough decisions are often made in the race of the week and we are deeply sorry if you feel as though we weren’t there for you. We are human but we try to be super-human as much as possible because we love you.
We do love you. We carry you with us throughout our weeks. You are never far from our minds. We worry about you when you have been absent, we cry when life hits you hard, we giggle with joy when life is great. We hold your new babies, weep at the deaths, rejoice when your loved one gets saved, pray and cry with you when one goes astray. We do this not because it’s “a part of the job” but because you are knitted into our hearts. You aren’t just another member to us, you are our family.
We break. Seasons in ministry can be very hard. Often we carry the spiritual weight of the church on our back. We get hit hard by the enemy. Our marriage and family is constantly under attack because Satan knows if he can destroy us then it will be easier to get to you. We often stand before you in spiritual warfare battered and bruised but refusing to give in or give up. Sometimes, though, our bodies are worn and our spirits are down-cast. We can and will break. Don’t feel as though we are pitiful Christians for that. Life hits us hard too sometimes.
Your appearance matters to us. No, I don’t mean the clothes you wear. You are vital to our church. If you are a member you made a covenant with the church to be in attendance. As a pastoral family, we take that seriously. Life does happen: kiddos get sick, vacations are needed, there are times when you try but simply can not make it to church. We understand. Please, though, consider the reasoning behind your absence and ask yourself: would I be okay with my pastor if he used this excuse? Yes, it is his job. Yes, he should take it seriously. Christianity is the job of every person who claims Christ as their Savior, though. We are all held accountable by Christ.
When you leave the church, it is painful for us. Many times we are personally invested in those who have left. We have spent time ministering to them, their families, or just enjoying their company. So when they leave we are hurt deeply by that. It does feel like a personal attack and often we remember those families and hurt all over again. Leaving a church should not be a split decision or a decision dealt with in private. Talk to us! While we may hurt for a moment, we love you enough to pray with you for where the Lord would have you to be. We truly do want the best for you.
Ministry is lonely. Your extended hand of friendship is priceless to us. When you love us, we will jump hurdles to love you. We can’t always share all the details of the latest member who is going through a hard time or who is currently mad so please don’t see that as a lack of trust. We try to keep drama at a minimum as well as protect the privacy of those who are hurting. When you love us even though we can’t spill our guts, it blesses us beyond what we can say thank you for.
We love your kids. If we feel as though they are being mistreated, we get protective and mad. When they shine, we swell with pride. When they fall, we are devastated too. We had a lot of kids graduating from 6th grade this week and my husband and I each attended a graduation. We took pictures, smiled when their names were called, beamed with pride at how talented and gifted these kids were and then came home to swap pictures and gush about what amazing kids we have at church. We love them. We would go to bat over these kids. They are precious and priceless to us.
Your effort and encouragement matters to us. We want you to feel the same desire and drive that we do to see the church grow and develop. Your effort and work ethic are beyond important to us. As a church, we are in this together and we don’t view you as a work horse, we know you are strapped for time. We appreciate you beyond words and we thank Jesus for you. Your simple thank you or good job never gets old. We would do this whether or not anyone ever said thank you. My husband keeps a folder of cards and notes that precious church members have written to us so that when times get tough he can look back and reread how you feel. It really does mean something to us.
As a ministry family, we don’t see ourselves as anything extra special. In reality we see you, the members, as something extra special. When you love Jesus, it makes us want to be better and do more. You inspire us! To our church family at Park City Baptist, you will never know the impact you have had on us. You have seen us win and lose and you continue to love us. We are so unworthy but so grateful for your presence in our lives.
I want to live in the presence of God. I want to walk with Him in every part of my day. I want to be near to Him, and if you’re a Christian I’m betting that you do too.
Psalm 15 asks the question in verse 1, “Lord, who may abide in Your tabernacle? Who may dwell in Your holy hill?” Both of these place speak of the place where the presence of God would be in relation to His people. Today, through the blood of Jesus, believers have become “living temples” where God’s presence is. So how can I live in His presence continually? Psalm 15 gives 6 things about the one who lives in the presence of God.
1. His walk and his works are right with God
“He who walks uprightly, and works righteousness…” – v.2 NKJV
2. His tongue is right with God
“[He] speaks the truth in his heart; He who does not backbite with his tongue…” – v.2-3 NKJV
3. His relationships with others are right before God
“Not does evil to his neighbor, nor does he take up a reproach against his friend;” – v.3 NKJV (underlining mine)
4. His evaluation of good and evil is in line with God
“in whose eyes a vile person is despised, but he honors those who fear the Lord;” – v.4 NKJV
5. His word is his bond before God
“…who keeps his word whatever the cost…” – v.4 HCSB
6. His attitude about money is right before God
“who does not put out his money at interest and does not take a bride against the innocent.” – v.5 ESV
It is every parent’s nightmare. Your palms are sweaty and there are butterflies in your stomach. It is time for “the talk”. You know it’s important, but where do you begin? What do you say? How much do you explain.
First, let me say good for you! The fact that you care about having the talk with your kids is great! Way to be a parent! Now, let me, in honesty and humility, admit that my kids are all under the age of 5. That’s right, I have not had the talk yet as a parent. But as I think about teaching my children about sex in the coming years, here are three ways that I want it to go.
Just take a step back and breathe for a minute. Having the talk is not the end of the world, nor is it the end of your kid’s childhood. You may feel a bit awkward about it, but don’t freak. And don’t let that awkward feeling keep you from teaching your kids about sex. Remember that they are probably feeling a little awkward too, so be the adult. As you teach them, you’re not just teaching them about the act of the sex, but you’re teaching them about their bodies, which are changing. So, put your big girl panties on and lead them with a cool head.
You may feel like you don’t know where to begin (go back to calmly). But you do, otherwise you wouldn’t have a child to be having the talk with. Teach them physically what takes place obviously, but don’t stop there.
Clearly communicate with them what your expectations are for them about sex. Tell them, don’t drop hints, don’t expect them to know, tell them yourself. But don’t only tell them the what, teach them the why behind your expectations too. (And “Because I said so” is not an acceptable reason)
I want my kids to know that I expect them to be virgins until they get married. I want them to know that I expect this because God expects this, so I want to teach them from what God says in His Word about sex.
(You may not agree with me here. You may not be a Christian. Your worldview may be different than mine. Okay. So what do you expect and why do you expect it? Whatever that is tell them.)
I want to warn my kids about the dangers and consequences that come along with having sex outside of marriage. I want them to understand physically what can happen, from pregnancy to STD’s. I want to warn them about the psychological consequences too. It is not just a physical act, but it involves and effects every aspect of their being. I want them to understand the gravity of it and understand that it is more important than one moment of surging hormones. I want them to understand the spiritual ramifications of what having sex outside of marriage are. I want them to know that if they engage in premarital or extra-marital sex they are sinning.
So be clear with them and teach them.
Keep the line of communication open. This is not a one and done talk. Don’t just drop a bunch of facts on them and leave them to navigate their feeling and relationships on their own. You want them talking to you about how they are feeling, and about who they are with, and what others around them are doing and/or wanting them to do. You want to know if someone is pressuring them. You want to know that they are safe. I mean can you imagine your daughter dealing with a guy who is pressuring her and she is refusing until he forces her? You want to remind them about those expectations and the why behind them. You want to encourage them… oh encourage them! Be their cheerleader, their biggest fan, build them up, fill them with courage!
Ultimately, the only way this is going to happen is if you are constantly building a relationship with them. A relationship where they trust you and you don’t just tell them what to do, but you have real speaking privileges into their life. Invest in them. Gain their ear, and once you have it, talk. And then give them your ear so they can talk.
We’ve started to catch the fever. I haven’t been a huge sports fan ever in my life. I can watch them if someone else is and get into them, but if I’ve got the remote it will probably be something else, until recently.
My wife and I have started getting into Kentucky basketball! (Sorry U of L fans) We’re not bleeding blue yet or tweeting #BBN, but we’re watching and enjoying the games. I even caught myself looking up their schedule the other day to see when they played again.
Inevitably with any kind of sports come the refs. I wouldn’t want to be a ref. Nobody likes the refs. Those guys have a pretty hard job sometimes. They have to make the calls. They don’t get to see instant replay zoomed in, in slow motion before they do it. Sometimes the calls are tough.
Wouldn’t it be nice if every decision was black or white? But that’s just not the case is it? There are times when the right decision is clear, though it may take courage to make, but then there are other times when you really don’t know what to do. Sometimes the right thing isn’t as easily seen. Then there are some decisions that aren’t about right or wrong, but about choosing the wiser of things. Most of us have experienced what it is like to make a tough call, and if you haven’t you most likely will. What do you do when you really don’t know what to do? Here are a few suggestions.
Pray It Out
Ask God about it. This seems so simple but it is often overlooked. God desires to give us direction. Jesus constantly invited people to follow Him, that means He is leading the way. There is a promise from God in Proverbs 3:6 to you that if you will acknowledge God in all your ways, He will direct your paths.
Search It Out
What does the Bible say about it? What is the Biblical thing to do in the situation? Sometimes when we pray it can be difficult to discern clearly what God is saying from what we want God to say. One thing is sure, God’s will and God’s Word never contradict each other. If you feel like God is leading you to do something, but the Bible says otherwise you can be sure that you’re mistaken and God is not leading you to do it.
Weigh It Out
Sometimes actually taking time to think through the possibles outcomes can make a big difference. Ask yourself hard questions. Will it honor God or dishonor God? Will it lift up or damage the name of Jesus? Will it help or hurt my neighbor? What is my motive? Is it wise? Who will my decision impact and how will it impact them? Don’t play games with your answers, be honest with yourself and with God.
Talk It Out
Seek out the advice of other people. Make sure they are the right kind of people. Don’t ask people who will tell you what you want to hear, but ask those who have already walked the road you are traveling. Look to people who are mature, wise, and who care about you. Look to people who will help you weigh it out and who will point you to what God has said. But involve other people when you still don’t know what to do. Proverbs 24:6 says that there is safety in a multitude of counselors.